President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which states, "All slaves in areas still in rebellion are freed." The proclamation also enables the recruitment of federal regiments of African-American volunteer soldiers. The best-known battle of the Civil War is fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1-3. General Robert E. Lee sustains 20,400 casualties and retreats to Virginia. The Union army fails to capitalize on the victory and the Confederates escape. On July 4, Vicksburg, Mississippi surrenders to General U.S. Grant, thus opening the Mississippi River to U.S. forces.
January 1863 -- Emancipation Proclamation. In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans for complete abolition. Yet some Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler, declared slaves escaping to their lines "contraband of war," not to be returned to their masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.
January 1 Major General John B. Magruder, who became the Confederate commander of military forces in Texas on November 29, 1862, gave the recapture of Galveston top priority. At 3:00 am on New Year's Day, 1863, four Confederate gunboats appeared, coming down the bay toward Galveston. Soon afterward, the Rebels commenced a land attack. The Union forces in Galveston were three companies of the 42nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. Isaac S. Burrell. The Confederates captured or killed all of them except for the regiment's adjutant. They also took Harriet Lane, by boarding her, and two barks and a schooner. Cdr. W.B. Renshaw's flagship, U.S.S. Westfield, ran aground when trying to help Harriet Lane and, at 10:00 am, she was blown up to prevent her capture by the Confederates. Galveston was in Confederate hands again although the Union blockade would limit commerce in and out of the harbor. Galveston. Soon afterward, the Rebels commenced a land attack.
March 1863 -- The First Conscription Act.
Because of recruiting difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.
April -- Charleston Harbor
Maj. Gen. David Hunter prepared his land forces on Folly, Cole's, and North Edisto Islands to cooperate with a naval bombardment of Fort Sumter. On April 7, the South Atlantic Squadron under Rear Admiral S.F. Du Pont bombarded Fort Sumter, having little impact on the Confederate defenses of Charleston Harbor. Although several of Hunter's units had embarked on transports, the infantry were not landed, and the joint operation was abandoned.
The ironclad warships Keokuk, Weehawken, Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, New Ironsides, Catskill, Nantucket, and Nahant participated in the bombardment. Keokuk, struck more than 90 times by the accurate Confederate fire, sunk the next day.
May 1863 -- The Battle of Chancellorsville.
On April 27, Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of casualties.
The series of controversial events that define this crucial battle.
May 10 Stonewall Jackson dies
Stonewall Jackson dies of pneumonia following amputation of his arm at Chancellorsville
May 1863 -- The Vicksburg Campaign.
Union General Grant won several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered essential to the Union's plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.
June 9 -- Battle of Brandy Station, 1863.
The victorious Confederate Army of Northern Virginia streamed into Culpeper County after its victory at Fredericksburg. Under the leadership of General Robert E. Lee, the troops seemed invincible and massed around Culpeper preparing to carry the war north into Pennsylvania.
By June 5, two infantry corps under Longstreet and Ewell were camped in and around Culpeper. Six miles north of town, holding the line of the Rappahannock River, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart bivouacked his cavalry troopers, screening the Confederate Army against surprise by the enemy.
June 13 -- The Gettysburg Campaign.
Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.