The Civil War – Half-Way through and Naval Action

Submitted by C.J. Johnson

According to one source, the War Between the States lasted 1,549
days. April 10,1863 marked the half-way point for the political
leaders, military officers, soldiers, sailors, artillerymen, and
cavalry, as well as the folks left behind at home, to fend for
themselves, and wonder and worry about their loved ones away at war.
However, none of them knew they were only half-way through the war…
half-way to the end of the war.

Food riots continued as the women of Richmond, Virginia rioted in
early April. According to Associated Press reports at the time, “The
rioting on April 2, 1863, began when hundreds of women demanding
emergency provisions became the flashpoint for a mob protest that
surged across the city’s business district. Many shattered windows
and looted storefronts before the rioting subsided.

The New York Times quoted a newly released Union prisoner in a
dispatch April 8, 1863, as saying he witnessed the upheaval through
the window of a prison where he had been held in Richmond. The former
POW told the newspaper he saw a crowd that swelled to hundreds —
several armed with clubs, guns and stones. The account quoted the
witness as saying: ‘They broke open the Government stores and took
bread, clothing and whatever else they wanted.’

Military action in Virginia had depleted food stocks and conditions
for civilians crowding Richmond were severe. The report said order
was restored only after Confederate President Jefferson Davis warned
his militias could use force to intervene. But ultimately his
government released more food for the hungry.”

A few days later, Fort Sumter, South Carolina – where the Civil War
began, was visited again, this time by a Union flotilla firing upon
Confederates. Nine Union ironclad vessels took aim, with shot
raining down on the fort. Unlike the 1861 response, the fort
answered with a barrage significantly heavier and more damaging that
what the flotilla was offering.

While Fort Sumter received little damage, the Union fleet lost one
ship, which had been hit a number of times, and a second vessel was
disabled. Casualties were low on both sides. This time, Fort Sumter
had little significance.

However, about a week later, during the night of April 16, General U.
S. Grant succeeded in moving an armada downriver past the fortress
city of Vicksburg. For months, Grant had been trying to figure out
how to take this stronghold. His earlier effort failed.

But on this night, a flotilla of twelve vessels (ships and barges)
loaded with men and supplies, commanded by Union Admiral David
Porter, made it through the gauntlet, losing only one ship and two
barges during the two hour ordeal.

Precautions had been taken. Cotton bales were stacked onboard to
soften the blow of any direct hit, while the exhausts of the
steamboats were muffled. The vessels were staggered in positions so
any damaged vessel would not slow the progress of the others.

When Rebel pickets spotted the flotilla, word was sent to the gun
batteries, and General Pemberton, who was attending a ball, was
summoned to the scene.

According to, “Some Rebel soldiers even rowed across the
Mississippi River to set fire to the trees on the western bank and
provide backlighting for their gunners on the eastern shore.”

In spite of the heavy artillery fire from the batteries that
surrounded the city, the Union vessels successfully moved past the
bluffs, and Grant could proceed with his plans to take Vicksburg.