January 1863 saw arguably the most important non-political act of the American Civil War. On January 1st 1863 President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration that abolished slavery throughout America. To many in the Confederacy, this was seen as an open attack on the perceived way of life in the South and any chance of peacefully bringing the American Civil War to an early end based on diplomacy vanished with the Emancipation Declaration.
January 1st: President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration. Burnside accepted responsibility for the defeat at Fredericksburg and offered to resign. Lincoln told him to reconsider.
January 2nd: The Confederates suffered a defeat at Stone’s River, Murfreesboro. They lost a total of 14,560 killed, wounded and missing. However, the North also suffered major losses with 11,578 killed, wounded and missing. This, along with appalling weather that made the movement of troops and horses all but impossible, meant that The North could not follow up its success.
January 5th: The defeat at Murfreesboro gave the North control over much of Tennessee though Confederate raiding parties were a continual problem in the state.
January 10th: The French government made it clear that it was willing to mediate in the war should the government in Washington wish it to do so.
January 11th: A Union force commanded by General McClernand captured Fort Hindman on the Arkansas River. Nearly 4500 Confederate troops were taken prisoner.
January 13th: McClernand was ordered to blow up Fort Hindmand as it had no strategic value to the Unionists.
January 16th: The Confederate commerce raider ‘Florida’ evaded a Union blockade and slipped out of Mobile Bay. In the next 18 months the ‘Florida’ sank fifteen Union ships, mostly off the waters of the West Indies.
January 19th: General Burnside made preparations to move the Army of the Potomac against Richmond.
January 20th: It soon became clear that the Army of the Potomac was in no fit state to campaign. Snow had turned to heavy rain and the barracking arrangements simply were not good enough. Many men fell ill due to the conditions they lived in; food was poor, water frequently unsanitary and the whisky that was provided of dubious quality. One senior Union officer wrote: “I have ridden through a regimental camp whose utterly filthy condition seemed enough to send malaria through a whole military department, and have been asked by one colonel, with tears in his eyes, to explain to him why his men are dying at a rate of one a day."
January 21st: A rainstorm that lasted 30 hours made a crossing of the Rappahannock River extremely hazardous. However, Burnside had to do this if he was to reach Richmond.
January 22nd: Burnside gave up on trying to cross the Rappahannock River as it had become too dangerous. Frustrated that he had not been given all the support he believed he should have got from his senior officers, Burnside decided to sack a number of them.
January 24th: Burnside met with Lincoln and gave him a list of those he wanted dismissed. Burnside told Lincoln if he did not get the support of the President, he would tender his own resignation.
January 25th: Lincoln removed Burnside from his command of the Army of the Potomac. The post was given to General Hooker. Burnside was very supportive of the President’s decision as he had always felt that he was out of his depth and he offered Hooker his full support and loyalty.
January 26th: ‘Fighting Joe’ Hooker formally took charge of the Army of the Potomac. Whereas Burnside had never been confident about his ability to command a whole army of 100,000+ men, Hooker was fully confident about his own ability.
January 28th: Hooker was told that desertions in the Army of the Potomac were at 200 men a day, nearly 1500 a week or 6000 a month. Hooker had to stem this but it was a serious problem. He was also not popular with senior officers, as he had played a major part in undermining General McClelland’s position when McClelland was commander of the Army of the Potomac.