April 1863 saw the start of the third year of the American Civil War. The economic plight of the South was taking a heavy toll. Coupled with this, the Army of the Potomac started to finalise plans for an attack on Richmond, the Confederacy’s capital.
April 2nd: Riots occurred in Richmond where people were becoming desperate at the economic plight of the Confederacy. Food in particular was in short supply. The riot was termed a “bread riot” by locals though it turned into a general looting session. It was only quelled when the rioters listened to Jefferson Davis who spoke to them in person and then threw the money in his pockets at them. It was a sufficient gesture to disperse the rioters.
April 3rd: Lincoln visited Hooker and pressurised him into an attack on Richmond. In response Hooker put in for 1.5 million ration packs.
April 4th: Hooker prepared the Army of the Potomac for an attack on Richmond. The Army’s Secret Service Department was ordered to prepare updated maps on the defences at Richmond.
April 5th: Several Confederate ships were detained in Liverpool docks, as it was believed that they were blockade-runners.
April 10th: Lincoln reviewed the Army of the Potomac at its winter quarters in Falmouth, Virginia. The troops he met expressed their full confidence in Hooker – a view not totally shared by the president. Lincoln had to dampen down Hooker’s rhetoric about capturing Richmond and remind him that defeating Lee’s Army of Virginia was far more important and that Richmond was the bait to lure Lee into battle.
April 13th: General Burnside issued his General Order Number 38, which threatened the death penalty for anyone found guilty of treasonable behaviour.
April 17th: This day saw the start of Colonel Ben Grierson’s Union legendary raid into the Confederacy. With 1700 cavalrymen, Grierson roamed 600 miles during his raid deep into the South. The raid lasted 16 days and within the Union army Grierson became a legend.
April 20th: Lincoln announced that West Virginia would join the Union on June 20th 1863.
April 21st: Hooker finalised his plan of attack. He hoped to fool the South into thinking that Fredericksburg was his main target while moving three corps of troops against Lee’s left flank. 2000 mules were acquired by Hooker to speed up the movement of his army.
April 24th: The Confederate Congress passed a tax set at 8% on all agricultural produce grown in 1862 and a 10% tax on profits made from the sale of iron, clothing and cotton. There was much public hostility to these new taxes but a general acceptance that they were needed. The biggest problem facing the South’s economy was the fact that much land was used for the growing of cotton and not for food.
April 26th: Hooker’s offensive against Lee’s Army of Virginia and Richmond started. However, torrential rain turned many of the roads/tracks he used to mud and made movement very difficult.
April 28th: The rain has made movement so difficult that engineers had to lay logs on the surface of roads/tracks to allow wagons to move.
April 29th: Lee’s scouts informed him that it was their belief that the attack on Fredericksburg was a feint and that their observed movement of many men on Lee’s left flank was the real target of Hooker. Lee accepted the advice of his scouts and ordered Stonewall Jackson not to attack Union troops at Fredericksburg – despite Jackson’s request to do just this.
April 30th: Hooker ordered 10,000 cavalrymen to raid Lee’s communication bases. The raids, while impressive with regards to the number of men involved, achieved very little and if anything served to boost the confidence of Lee’s Army of Virginia.