Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Cruelest Year

Dear Readers,

"Year in Review" type posts theme to be popular on blogs around this time of year.  That poses a problem for this blog since we deal with Civil War topics and not modern rounds.  Along about midnight last time, I had an idea.  So why don't you hope into my Civil War Addict time machine with me?  We will travel back in time to New Year's Day 1864.  Instead of reviewing 2013, we will have a year in review of a different kind.  1863.

In many ways, 1863 was the cruelest year for the Confederacy.  The Confederacy rang in the New Year by recapturing the port city of Galveston in a daring military operation.  At the time, Galveston was the best deep water port available west of New Orleans.  It is significant because it is one of the few battles fought in Texas.  On that same day, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect though I imagine that fact went largely ignored in the South.

In March, Lincoln signed the Enrollment Act into law.  Widely unpopular in some parts of the North, it was intended to supply fresh troops for the Union war effort.  It had a couple of provisions that gave most people grief.  First, it allowed for "substitutes" to replace the person actually drafted.  Second, a man could pay $300 to avoid service.  That money represented a year's wages for a working class person in New York City.  No wonder they called it a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

In April, Quantrill's Raiders raid Lawrence, Kansas.

Things really got rolling in May.  Early in the month, General Lee's troops mauled the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville.  It was a bittersweet victory, as General Thomas Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men and died a short time later.  In the West, General Grant won a victory at Jackson, Mississippi opening the way to Vicksburg which he would put under siege later in the month.

West Virginia became a state in June.  We also had the Battle of Brandy Station that month, the largest cavalry engagement ever fought in the Americas.

All Civil War Addicts can recite what happened in July of 1863.  We have the Battle of Gettysburg which did not work out so well for the Confederacy.  Worse yet, at least in my opinion, was the surrender of Vicksburg on the 4th of July.  Port Hudson fell just a few days later.  Tensions over the aforementioned draft law exploded into outright violence in New York City.  For days, angry mobs roamed the city doing all sorts of misdeeds in the worst case of urban violence this country has ever seen, though it was downplayed by the government at the time and the history books in the future.  Later that month, the 54th Massachusetts saw combat at Fort Wagner.  To round out the month, John Hunt Morgan raids Ohio but is captured with a few hundred of his men near Salineville.

Both sides seem to have collapsed out of sheer exhaustion in August, though Quantrill launched a larger and more notorious raid on Lawrence, Kansas towards the end of the month.

September started off well enough for the Confederacy as a gallant, noble, and intrepid band of Irish-Confederates turned back a invasion fleet destined for Texas at the Battle of Sabine Pass.  In the west, the Battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest of the war, ended with a rare (for the west) Confederate victory.  Best rest assured, with Braxton Bragg in command, he will figure out a way to screw up a victory!

Said victory is screwed up in November when Grant combines his troops with Sherman's and routes Bragg's troops after heavy fighting at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.  But on the bright side, John Hunt Morgan escapes from prison in Ohio and makes his way back to the South.  Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg Address in November as well.

The year comes to an end with the war no closer to being over than when the year started, though from the looks of things, the South's star is falling fast.  1863 started with such hope and promise for the Confederacy, but all that as gone now.  Tens of thousands of men who were alive on New Years Day 1863 did not live to see 1864.  Sadly, the same is true for tens of thousands more on New Years Day 1864.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything important that happened that year.  I tried to pick out a mix of major and minor events that I find to be important.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.

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