August 1863

Washington: On August 18, President Lincoln fired a few test rounds of the new Spencer Repeating Carbine, which would later give the Northern forces a distinct advantage against Confederate muzzle-loaders.

Richmond: On August 1, President Davis offered amnesty to those away without leave, in an effort to fill thinning ranks. On August 8, Lee wrote Davis offering to resign; the offer was, of course, rejected.

Eastern theater: The last major engagement before August of 1863 was the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.

Cavalry forces skirmished again at Brandy Station. There was generally little activity in August, 1863, as the two armies continued to recover from the major battle at Gettysburg.

The next major engagement was the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864.

Western theater: The last major engagement ended with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.

On August 1, Union forces in Charleston Harbor began organizing efforts to try to retake Fort Sumter. On the 4th, Federals in Charleston prepared the "Swamp Angel" for service; it was a 200-pound Parrott gun that fired incendiary shells. On the 11th, these Federal efforts were forced to stop by heavy firing from Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner, but Federal efforts resumed the next day, supported by accuarate Parrott guns.

On August 16, the Chickamauga Campaign finally began as Union General Rosecrans began moving his Army of the Cumberland east from Tullahoma toward the Tennessee River; the objective was Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. At the same time, Union General Burnside left the Lexington, Kentucky, area and headed for eastern Tennessee. Bragg, not wanting to be sandwiched between these forces, began reorganizing his troops and requested reinforcements. Union Generals Thomas and McCook were brought up to threaten Bragg's railroad links.

On the 17th, Union guns began to hit Sumter, but while its walls were beginning to fail, there were no holes that could be used to enter the fort.

On the 21st, Rosecrans's forces reached the Tennessee River outside Chatanooga.

Also on the 21st, 400 irregular Southern soldiers under Willliam Clarke Quantrill raided Lawrence, Kansas, killing 150 and leaving the town in burned ruins. (See the Official Record of the Month below.)

On the 22d, the "Swamp Angel" blew itself up firing its 36th round; it did more damage to Union gun crews than the Confederates! On the 23rd, Union guns stopped firing on Sumter, which was in ruins but still in Confederate hands. On August 25th, a Union effort to overrun the Southern rifle pits below Battery Wagner failed, but a similar effort the next day succeeded. On the 30th, Federal guns again hit Fort Sumter, and the Southern forces began digging the guns out of the rubble to move into Charleston for its later defense.

The next major engagement was the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19 and 20, 1863.

Naval: On August 6, the CSS Alabama captured the Federal bark Sea Bride near the Cape of Good Hope. On August 29, the experimental Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sank on a test cruise in Charleston Harbor, killing its five crewmen. (The ship was later raised and saw further action.)

Source: The Civil War Day By Day, edited by John S. Bowman, 1989.


Official Record of the Month

LEAVENWORTH, KANS., August 24, 1863.          
Major-General SCHOFIELD,                        
Saint Louis, Mo.:                                

SIR: Disaster has again fallen on our State. Lawrence is in ashes. Millions of property have been destroyed, and, worse yet, nearly 200 lives of our best citizens have been sacrificed. No fiends in human shape could have acted with more savage barbarity than did Quantrill and his band in their last successful raid. I must hold Missouri responsible for this fearful, fiendish raid. No body of men large as that commanded by Quantrill could have been gathered together without the people residing in Western Missouri knowing everything about it. Such people cannot be considered loyal, and should not be treated as loyal citizens; for while they conceal the movements of desperadoes like Quantrill and his followers, they are, in the worst sense of the word, their aiders and abettors, and should be held equally guilty. There is no way of reaching these armed ruffians while the civilian is permitted to cloak him.

There can be no peace in Missouri, there will be utter desolation in Kansas, unless both are made to feel promptly the rigor of military law. The peace of both States and the safety of the republic demand alike this resolute course of action. I urge upon you, therefore, the adoption of this policy, as the only policy which can save both Western Missouri and Kansas; for if this policy be not immediately adopted, the people themselves, acting upon the common principle of self-defense, will take the matter in their own hands and avenge their own wrongs. You will not misunderstand me. I do not use, or intend to use, any threats. I tell you only what our people almost to a man feel. The excitement over the success of Quantrill is intense--intense all over the State--and I do not see how I can hesitate to demand, or how you can refuse to grant, a court of inquiry by which the cause of that fatal success may be fully investigated, and all the facts laid before the public. I go even further. I demand that this court of inquiry shall have power to investigate all matter touching military wrong-doings in Kansas, and I do this most earnestly, to guarantee alike our present and future safety.

As regards arms, we are destitute. There are none at the fort, and none in the State. I telegraphed the Secretary of War this fact asking him to turn over to me here arms in sufficient quantity to meet our wants. He ordered it done, and replied, further, that anything the Government could do to aid Kansas should be done. This being so, will you not express to me arms for cavalry and infantry sufficient to arm three regiments?

I inclose the copy of the dispatch of the Secretary of War to me, that you may see its purport and understand its spirit.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,                    

THOS. CARNEY, Governor.                    



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