This Week in the American Civil War: May 20-26, 1863

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

( and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)


Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday May 20, 1863

Confederate President Jefferson Davis was improving after being ill for the past several weeks.

Federal Major General Ulysses S. Grant contemplated the problems he was facing regarding a direct attack on the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Two blockade-runners arrived safely at the port of Charleston, South Carolina, from Nassau with valuable cargo. However, two others were captured, including one off the Neuse River, North Carolina.

Skirmishing occurred at Salem and Collierville, Tennessee; at Cheneyville, Louisiana, and at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory.

Thursday May 21, 1863


A portion of Major General Nathaniel Bank’s Federals moved out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the Clinton Road towards Port Hudson. The main army, coming from Alexandria, approached Bayou Sara on the west side of the Mississippi River. Minor action occurred at Plains Store near Port Hudson, although Federal operations were not complete, the siege had begun.

A Federal flotilla went up the Yazoo River to Yazoo City, Mississippi, but before they arrived, Confederates destroyed their shops and the navy yard, including two steamboats and an unfinished gunboat.

Friday May 22, 1863


Federal Major General Ulysses Grant’s forces attacked a three-mile section of the crescent-shaped defenses at Vicksburg with all the power that he could muster. At 10 A.M., the Federals surged forward against the Confederate lines extending from Stockade Redan on the north to Fort Garrott on the south. The charge over deep, narrow ravines that added to the man-made defenses of the city was against six strong points and a line of high breastworks protected by dirt and logs. One breakthrough at Railroad Redoubt was briefly successful, but Confederate counterattacks closed the breech. Federal gunboats and mortars also bombarded the area. Later, Grant regretted making the “suicide attack.” Of the 45,000 Federal troops engaged, 502 were killed; 2,550 wounded and 147 were missing for a combined loss of 3,199. Confederate aggregate losses were under 500. The result of the failed attack was a long siege with Federal troops digging approach trenches and building artillery positions. 

Saturday May 23, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln conferred with military and naval officials about the unsuccessful attack on Charleston, South Carolina.

In Ohio, petitions circulated protesting the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham.”

Near Bayou Sara, Federal Major General Nathaniel Bank’s force crossed the Mississippi River at night and headed for Port Hudson in a heavy thunderstorm, while skirmishing occurred on the Springfield and Plains Store roads near the town.

Sunday May 24, 1863

After a month of major military activity, the war entered a period of relative quietness. Lessor actions continued, as always, but the armies rested and waited, otherwise.

In Virginia, Federal Major General Joseph Hooker faced Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg; Federal Major General William S. Rosecran’s regrouped at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, while his Confederate opponent, General Braxton Bragg, who remained near Tullahoma, Sparta and Wartrace, Tennessee. The siege at Vicksburg, Mississippi was just beginning, while Major General Nathaniel Bank’s Federal forces began siege operations against Port Hudson, Louisiana.

Major General John A. Schofield was ordered to command the Federal Department of the Missouri, replacing Major General Samuel R. Curtis, who was reassigned to the Department of Kansas and Indian Territory.

President Abraham Lincoln spent the day visiting with wounded troops in the hospitals around Washington, D.C.

Monday May 25, 1863

Confederates failed to evacuate Port Hudson and Federal efforts to surround the post got fully under way. There was a skirmish at Thompson’s Creek near Port Hudson and Federals captured the Confederate steamers Starlight and Red Chief on the Mississippi River.

Federal military authorities in Tennessee turned over former Ohio congressman Clement L. Vallandigham to the Confederates His prison sentence had been changed by President Lincoln o banishment from the United States after his conviction of expressing alleged pro-Confederate sentiments.

Tuesday May 26, 1863

Federal troops under Major General Nathaniel Banks completed setting up siege operations at Port Hudson below Vicksburg on the Mississippi River.

Gold was discovered in Alder Gulch by William Fairweather, Barney Hughes, Thomas Cover, Henry Rodgers, Henry Edgar and Bill Sweeney on Crow Indian lands in what is now the State of Montana. A wild boom followed in Alder Gulch, which relieved Federal authorities who feared a threat to the California gold mines. Alder Gulch became the epitome of a frontier mining down and was soon renamed, Virginia City.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of May 20-26, 1863 

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Bivouacked near Banks Ford, Virginia until June 1863.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Chapel Hill, Tennessee until June 4, 1863.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Heiman, Kentucky until June 2, 1863.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Assault and Siege of Vicksburg until July 4, 1863.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Siege of Vicksburg until July 4, 1863.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Camp Pope near Iowa City, Iowa until June 16, 1863.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Mankato and other points in Minnesota until June 1863.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Marched to Fort Ridgely for duty until June 5, 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in various frontier Minnesota communities until June 1863.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Regiment on detached service for garrison duty at various outposts in frontier Minnesota until June 1863.

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Organized at St. Cloud, St. Peter and Fort Snelling for frontier duty against Indians until June 1863.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Donelson, Tennessee until June 5, 1863.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty during siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, until July 4, 1863.

2nd Independent Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty at Murfreesboro Tennessee until June 4, 1863.

3rd Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – Organized at Fort Snelling, Minnesota from the enlisted men of the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiments. On duty at Fort Snelling until June 16, 1863.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Bivouacked near Falmouth, Virginia until June 1863.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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