On January 20, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, tried to march on Richmond. In part, Burnside was seeking to reverse the sting of the Battle of Fredericksburg, a largely one-sided engagement in the previous month that had seen appalling Union casualties.
On January 17, 1863, Assistant Adjutant-General J.B. Eustis wrote an urgent letter, instructing his subordinates to petition the Confederate government to send arms to Central Texas. In justifying his request, Eustis warned that Union forces might infiltrate the Rio Grande.
He also worried that local Germans were plotting insurrection. There is little doubt that many Germans, who had established Hill Country communities like New Braunfels, Comfort and Fredericksburg in the 1840s, were lukewarm in their support of the Confederacy.
With the rapid flow of information—the American Civil War became a global event. On January 17, 1863, the Illustrated London News carried an article that celebrated President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as long overdue.
Questioning the President’s motives, however, the author noted that slavery had been long prohibited in the British Empire, and bewailed the reality that a bloody internal war was required before America followed suit. The American Civil War badly polarized Britain, then the world’s premier power.
On January 16, 1863, Walt Whitman wrote a pained letter to his brother, Thomas Jefferson Whitman, in which he bemoaned the Union’s recent defeat at Fredericksburg as the most “complete piece of mismanagement perhaps ever yet known in the earth's wars.”
On January 14, 1863, Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio gave a speech to the House of Representatives, which was highly critical of President Lincoln’s handling of the Civil War. Vallandigham denounced the President’s alleged suspension of civil liberties and due process. He also predicted: “You have not conquered the South. You never will.”
In response, President Lincoln asked why simple soldiers must be shot for desertion, while alleged traitors like Vallandigham would go unpunished. On May 5, Vallandigham was arrested and eventually deported to the Confederacy.
On January 12, 1863, President Jefferson Davis addressed the Confederate Congress in Richmond. Since the Union offensives in the western and eastern theatres had stalled, Davis remained confident that the Confederacy would prevail. He called the recently enacted Emancipation Proclamation, “the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man.”
On January 11, 1863, the Confederate vessel Alabama squared off against the Union’s Hatterasa* in the vicinity of the Galveston Lighthouse. The Hatteras had initially given chase and overtaken the Confederate raider.
When Union Captain Homer Blake demanded that the Alabama’s crew identify themselves, they instead opened fire. The thirteen minute exchange of cannon fire ended with the Hatteras sinking, and with most of its crew taken prisoner.
On January 11, 1863, Union Major General John A. McClernand concluded a joint naval/army operation against the Confederate Fort Hindman, also known as Arkansas Post, at the mouth of the Arkansas River. The battle saw the capture of approximately 5,000 Confederate troops, mostly from the states of Texas and Arkansas.
While the American Civil War engulfed some parts of the country, life elsewhere continued as usual. On January 8, 1863, ground was broken in Sacramento, California for the nation’s first continental railroad.
While conducting the war, President Abraham Lincoln found time on July 1, 1862 to sign the Pacific Railroad Bill, promising generous land grants and 30-year government bonds to help finance the effort.
On January 8, 1863, Confederate forces failed to dislodge Union supply and medical facilities in Springfield, Missouri. The attack force of approximately 1,700 Confederates was commanded by Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke.
Facing the attack was a Union force of 2,000, which had the advantage of solid defensive fortifications and the higher ground. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the slaveholding state of Missouri had declared itself to be an “armed neutral.”