This Week in the Civil War
(AP) - This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 2: Union offensive continues on the Mississippi River.
Union forces 150 weeks ago during the Civil War continued raining cannon shot and rifle fire down Confederates ensconced behind defensive works at Port Hudson, La. For 48 days the siege of the enemy garrison at Port Hudson would go on even as Union forces sought to dislodge Confederates defending Vicksburg, Miss. In May and June of 1863, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant mounted the prolonged siege of Vicksburg, a city on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Grant knew that taking control of the Mississippi River's entire lower stretch was a major key to splitting the Confederacy and turning the momentum of war to the Union side. Ultimately Grant would succeed in that operation, eventually forcing the capitulation of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and inducing the surrender of Port Hudson days later. His military achievements along the Mississippi also would serve to catapult Grant to the post of general-in-chief of the Union armies.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 9: Battle of Brandy Station, Va.
While Union forces were besieging points along the lower Mississippi River, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was beginning to look for an opening to strike at the North. On June 9, 1863, Union cavalry corps unleashed a surprise attack on Je.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry forces at Brandy Station near the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The fighting rage for an entire day and marked the largest battle of the war predominantly pitting cavalry against each other. Though the momentum swung repeatedly from one side to the other, Union fighters failed to detect a major infantry camp of Lee's nearby in Culpeper, Va. The fighting at Brandy Station would mark the prelude to Lee's push northward into Pennsylvania that would culminate in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 16: Fighting in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
More fighting rages in Virginia 150 years ago during the Civil War after the major cavalry battle at Brandy Station, Va., Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee dispatches a sizable column of soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia to scatter Union rivals from the Shenandoah Valley. The valley that slants northeastward in the shadow of the Appalachian mountains will in coming weeks become a corridor for Lee to march his army into Pennsylvania, where the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg will be fought in July 1863. Thousands of his troops massed at Winchester, Va., and fighting raged from June 13 to June 15, 1863. All told, hundreds of federal troops eventually surrendered and were captured in what was an important Confederate victory. For Lee, the importance of victory meant the Shenandoah Valley would now be largely clear of Union troops, opening a door for his second invasion of the North and the eventual showdown at Gettysburg.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 23: New Leader for Union's Army of the Potomac.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Joseph Hooker was sacked as commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac, replaced by George G. Meade. Hooker had served only months in the leadership post, promoted there by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863 in place of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside after Burnside's disastrous stint at the helm. Hooker was felled by infighting despite his deft moves to reorganize the Union army and better supply it with arms and rations for the fighting still ahead. But his undoing began at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., in early May 1863 when Confederate Robert E. Lee outsmarted and divided a far larger Union force, seizing a key victory. Only days ahead, Meade would meet and defeat Lee at the historic Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Already there were ominous signs that Lee's invasion of the North was on track. The Associated Press reported in a dispatch June 21, 1863, that Confederate cavalry had captured a number of horses near Hagerstown, Md., and that some 6,000 Confederate troops were on the northern side of the Potomac River. A second AP dispatch this week reports "rebels, in heavy force, were advancing on Pittsburg(h), Pa." In fact, Lee had been moving forces forward for days, poised to redirect fighting away from war-ravaged Virginia to the North- moving within potential striking distance of several Northern cities that also included Philadelphia and Baltimore.
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