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The Civil War Month by Month: May 1863

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.

May 1863

This Month's Events

  • 1-6 May. The Battle of Chancellorsville rages on only 50 miles from Washington, D. C. Union Army Major General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac is fighting an army half its size, General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Due to Lee's superior tactics, the Confederates win a major victory. However this triumph is greatly weakened by the wounding of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson by friendly fire along with the deaths of other officers and 25 per cent of the Southern troops -- losses the Confederacy can ill afford. Jackson's last order is to General Dorsey Pender. "You must hold your ground, General Pender, you must hold your ground, sir!"

  • 10 May. Days after the amputation of his arm, Stonewall Jackson dies of pneumonia. He is buried in Lexington, Virginia.

  • 12 May. Today the Western Democrat in Charlotte, North Carolina is urging people to grow the common garden poppy, extract the juice, and forward it to the "nearest Medical Purveyor". The lack of drugs and medical supplies is an increasing problem.

  • During this month the city of Vicksburg is a strong point that controls the Mississippi River and prevents shipping to New Orleans. On May 19 and May 22 two bloody assaults by Union armies on the city's fortifications are unsuccessful. The armies settle in for a seige which will last more than 40 days.

  • 22 May. U. S. War Dept. General Order No. 143 establishes a Bureau of Colored Troops. Eventually there will be 175 regiments of the USCT and more than 178,000 men will serve in them.

  • 23 May. At the Tuckasseegee Ford on the Catawba River, 700 pounds of gunpowder explode at the North Carolina Powder Manufacturing Company. Five men die and most of the factory is destroyed. The blast rattles windows almost 10 miles away. The Confederacy's need for powder dictates that the mill will be rebuilt, only to explode again in August 1864 with 3 fatalities. Ruins of the mill still exist in a Mecklenburg County park.

  • 25 May. A commission as a captain in the U. S. Army engineers is issued to Ely S. Parker of New York. Before the war Parker, who was a civil engineer, had built lighthouses for the government and occupied other government positions. He was also a captain in the New York state militia. However, his repeated applications for a commission had been rejected because he was an Indian and therefore not a citizen. He will finish the war as a lieutenant colonel and later rise to brigadier general. At Appomattox when General Lee is introduced to Parker, Lee remarks, "I'm glad to see one real American here." Replies Parker, "We are all Americans."

  • 30 May. Lee reorganizes his Confederate army into 3 corps commanded by Generals James Longstreet, Richard Ewell, and A. P. Hill.

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

The Gallant Mrs. Stonewall; a novel based on the lives of General and Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, by Harnett Thomas Kane, pub. 1957, 320 p. "Anna Morrison was a North Carolinian girl, destined- her relatives feared- for spinsterhood, for she would not compromise with her ideals. When Tom Jackson met her, in Lexington, he was engaged to another girl; but with their marriage and her early death, he turned to Anna who has never forgotten him, and they were married. Those were difficult years, with Jackson a focal point of trouble at the Institute, with war clouds on the horizon, with funds limited and opportunities circumscribed. But their devotion never flagged and when war came, Anna met it with stoicism- joined him when she could- suffered with other women of the Confederacy-and met the ultimate test of courage." [Kirkus review, 1957.]

Young Adult Fiction

The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg, by G. Clifton Wisler, pub. 1997, 133 p. In this story based on the experiences of real-life drummer boy and hero Orion Howe, who served in the 55th Illinois Infantry Regiment, Wisler captures well the confusion of battle and the participants' fears of both cowardice and heroism. He doesn't water down the harsh realities, from battle wounds to those who died of illness. A picture of the real Orion is included.

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Children's Nonfiction

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