The economic blockade of the South during the American Civil War started to really hit home by February 1863 with the South’s currency worth just 20% of its pre-war value. The weather meant that important military issues were kept to a minimum though the intelligence network of the Army of the Potomac was completely revamped.
February 1st: The dollar used in the Confederacy was worth just 20% of what it did when the war broke out. Such was the success of the Federal Navy in the rivers of the South that a decision was taken to remove any stores of cotton away from rivers. Any cotton that could not be moved was burned to save it falling into the hands of the Union.
February 2nd: Grant started his attempt to build a canal around to the rear of Vicksburg using the Yazoo River as his source of water. By doing this, Grant’s men would avoid the Confederate artillery stationed in Vicksburg.
February 3rd: The French continued to offer attempts at mediation. Secretary of State Seward met the French ambassador in Washington DC to discuss such a move.
February 5th: The British government announced that any attempts at mediation would result in failure. Their lack of action was in stark contrast to the pro-active stance of the French government.
February 6th: The Federal government officially announced that it had rejected French offers of mediation.
February 9th: General Hooker started his reorganisation of the Army of the Potomac. He decided that his first task was to improve its intelligence gathering. On his arrival at his headquarters he found no document that could inform him about the strength of the Army of Virginia. General Butterfield wrote: “There was no means, no organisation, and no apparent effort to obtain such information. We were almost as ignorant of the enemy in our immediate front as if they had been in China. An efficient organisation for that purpose was instituted, by which we were so enabled to get correct and proper information of the enemy, their strengths and movements.”
February 11th: Hooker then turned his attention to the conditions his men lived under, which he linked to the high levels of desertion. New huts were built that could cope with the winter weather and fresh fruit and vegetables were provided. Medical facilities were also improved. The impact on desertions was dramatic and even men who had deserted returned to their regiments.
February 12th: The Union’s naval blockade had a disastrous impact on the South’s economy and the river patrols of its flat-bottomed boats were equally as successful. However, the sheer size of the fleet operating meant that the Federal government faced a supply problem no one had encountered before. It was estimated that the North had to supply 70,000 bushels of coal each month to keep the fleet on the move. Food and water could be obtained locally but there was little chance of getting hold of large quantities of coal.
February 13th: General Hooker made what was to prove to be one of the most important changes to the Army of the Potomac during the war. Scattered cavalry units were amalgamated into one corps. No one was immediately appointed to command it as no army commander had ever had access to one concentrated cavalry unit. Hooker was willing to wait to appoint the most suitable candidate – he later selected General Stoneman to command it.
February 16th: The Senate passed the Conscription Act, which was passed, as volunteers for the Union army were not forthcoming.
February 22nd: Hooker believed that his changes were starting to have an impact as the levels of scurvy and intestinal diseases dropped quite markedly.
February 25th: Congress authorised a national system of banking.