Union General-in-Chief Joseph Hooker was furious over the late February 1863, Confederate cavalry raid near his Fredericksburg, Virginia headquarters.
On Tuesday, March 17, 1863 twenty-one hundred Union cavalry commanded by General William Averell crossed the Rappahannock, but General Fitzhugh Lee, who ironically was one of Averell’s closest friends at West Point, counterattacked near Kelly’s Ford with a Confederate cavalry brigade of approximately 800 men.
On Monday, March 16, 1863, while the Yazoo Pass expedition was ending in front of Fort Pemberton on the Yalobusha* River north of Confederate held Vicksburg, General Ulysses Grant and Admiral David Porter launched yet another movement against the city via Steele’s Bayou.
Eleven Union vessels supported by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infantry would spearhead the drive through some two hundred miles of tortuous, twisting bayous from the Yazoo River to Steele’s Bayou at the rear of Vicksburg’s main defenses.
In March 1863 California adventurer Ashbury Harpending, with Confederate blessing, joined other San Francisco members of the Knights of the Golden Circle to outfit the schooner J. M. Chapman, as a Confederate privateer.
Their object was to raid Union commerce on the Pacific coast, capturing gold and silver shipments for the Confederacy. Their attempt was detected, and they were seized on the night of their intended departure by the USS Cyane, revenue officers and San Francisco police.
On Saturday, March 14, 1863, utilizing the dark of night, Union Admiral David Farragut in his flagship Hartford led his squadron past the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
While the Hartford and Albatross succeeded in getting through without significant damage, the Monongahela and Richmond were badly damaged and forced to withdraw. The Mississippi, under severe fire, was run aground, set ablaze, and ultimately abandoned; she soon exploded in the river.
General Grant’s relentless march against Confederate held Vicksburg continued as Federal gunboats and troops attempted to traverse the tangle of bayous from Yazoo Pass on the Mississippi to the Yalobusha River, ninety miles from Vicksburg. To stop this, Confederate General W.W.
Loring built Fort Pemberton near Greenwood, Mississippi. The fort, constructed of earth and cotton bales on low lying, flooded ground, successfully repelled several attacks by Union gunboats on March 11th and 13th.
During the Civil War desertion within the ranks was fairly common for both the Union and Confederate armies but worse for the North. One estimate suggested that 200,000 Union soldiers deserted during the Civil War; records of the Army of the Potomac revealed in December of 1862 that no less than 180,000 of the soldiers listed on the Union muster rolls were absent without leave (AWOL).
Ulysses Grant’s relentless march toward Confederate held Vicksburg continued into March of 1863. Since the end of January Union troops had been digging a canal at “Swampy Toe,” opposite Vicksburg in an effort to move boats and men around the fortified city.
On Monday, March 9, 1863 in Charlestown, South Carolina James Louis Petigru* died. An accomplished lawyer and long serving member of the state legislature, Petigru had opposed Calhoun and his nullificationists in the 1830s, preferring to believe in the supremacy of the national government over the states.
He also opposed the secession of South Carolina in 1860, remarking that "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum." He remained an avowed opponent of the Confederacy.
On Sunday, March 8, 1863 Union Brigadier General E.H. Stoughton and his garrison at Fairfax County Court House, Virginia were asleep when twenty-nine men under the command of Confederate partisan ranger John S. “the Gray Ghost” Mosby entered the town, Stoughton’s headquarters, and then his bedroom.
On Wednesday, March 4, 1863 a reinforced Union infantry brigade left Franklin, Tennessee to reconnoiter* southward toward Columbia. Near Spring Hill the Union brigade attacked a Confederate Army force composed of two regiments.
The Federals were repelled, but Confederate General Earl Van Dorn seized the initiative. On the following day Van Dorn ordered a frontal attack, while General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry swept around the left flank and into the rear of the Union force.