This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Aug. 25: South Carolina fighting, violence in Kansas.
The Associated Press reported in a dispatch dated Aug. 25, 1863: “The bombardment of (Fort) Sumter still continues, and the south wall has been demolished almost to its base.” For weeks now, Union forces have been attempting to smash through heavy Confederate defenses on islands ringing Charleston Harbor off South Carolina’s coast. The AP dispatch added that rebel batteries have answered the Union’s artillery bombardment with bursts of return fire at short intervals.
Federal forces reported that their casualties are few and that “every confidence in success is felt by the officers and troops.” At one point the bombardment became so intense, AP reported, that the entire southwest side of Fort Sumter has been reduced to rubble — “nothing but a heap of ruins.” Even the Confederate flag flying above the fort was shot away during one barrage, The AP reported. In Kansas, meanwhile, authorities report the discovery 150 years ago this week of 28 bodies — part of the sectarian violence that the war has touched off in the West. Witnesses said in dispatches that the discovery of murdered civilians in one town was “heart-rending and sickening.”
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 1: Confederates abandon Morris Island off Charleston, S.C.
Sporadic shelling of Confederate defenses on Morris Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, S.C., have taken their toll this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The night of Sept. 6-7, 1863, the Confederate garrison at Battery Wagner on Morris Island was evacuated — leaving the Union to control the barrier island near the harbor entrance. The battery was the object of a failed and bloody assault in July 1863 by African-American soldiers who fought courageously but were driven back by Confederate foes in fierce combat. One far bigger prize remains elusive to Union leadership: Confederate-held Fort Sumter. On Sept. 1, 1863, a Union frigate and other warships attempt to bombard Fort Sumter, which has been sporadically shelled for weeks from nearby vantage points. But Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began in April 1861, remained firmly in Confederate hands even as it was being pounded to rubble. Attempts to take the fort, including an attempt in early September by hundreds of Union forces, have all failed.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 8: Union victorious in Little Rock, Arkansas.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, a Union army led by Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele forced the last Confederate troops from the Arkansas capital of Little Rock. By Sept. 2, 1863, Union forces had swelled to some 15,000 troops nearing Little Rock. The Union columns were arrayed against nearly 8,000 Confederates commanded by Sterling Price. Steele ordered his fighters to swing into action Sept. 9, 1863, along the Arkansas River east of Little Rock. Fighting erupted a day later and an overwhelming fusillade of cannon and artillery fire by advancing Union forces began pushing the Confederates into retreat. Union cavalry relentlessly repulsed their rivals, sending the Confederates in the direction of southwest Arkansas. As Union fighters swept into Little Rock, the city’s remaining civil authorities quickly surrendered that capital city on Sept. 10, 1863. Victory by the Union in Arkansas meant the federal forces were taking control of yet another capital city once under sway of the secessionists.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 15: Lincoln suspends writ of Habeas Corpus throughout U.S.
President Abraham Lincoln, bidding to gain the upper hand in the Civil War, issued Proclamation 104 on Sept. 15, 1863, suspending the writ of Habeas Corpus throughout the United States. He wrote in his proclamation that “this suspension will continue throughout the duration of the said rebellion, or until this proclamation shall, by a subsequent one to be issued by the President of the United States, be modified or revoked.” Such a writ is a right under U.S. law allowing a prisoner to petition to be brought before the courts to determine if that person’s continuing detention by authorities is lawful. Constitutionally, it can be suspended only in extraordinary circumstances such as ensuring public safety in times of rebellion or invasion. Lincoln’s move to suspend the writ was controversial at the time.