By March 1863 the American Civil War had been going for nearly two years and the South was experiencing major economic problems as a result of the North’s blockade of its ports. However, the North was not without its own problems as Lincoln had to sign into law what was effectively a call-up of all able-bodied men between 20 and 45 – a move that was not a popular one among the North’s male population.
March 1st: Lincoln met with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to discuss future military appointments.
March 2nd: Congress approved the President’s list of promotions but also dismissed 33 officers for a variety of offences.
March 3rd: Both Senate and House passed The Enrolment Act. All able-bodied men between 20 and 45 were to serve for three years. The act was unpopular with the public because of its compulsion. Congress must have sensed this as in 1863 only 21,000 men were conscripted and by the end of the war conscription only accounted for a total of 6% of the North’s army. Congress also suspended habeas corpus on this day – much to the anger of the Democrats in Congress.
March 6th: One of Hooker’s attempts to develop the Army of the Potomac was to ensure that it had the most modern weapons available. By this day, his men were starting to be equipped with the Sharp’s breech-loading carbine. This rifle gave Hooker’s army unrivalled firepower at close range.
March 10th: Such was the problem of desertion across all armies of the Union, that Lincoln pronounced an amnesty on this day for all those who were absent without leave. Any deserter who returned to duty before April 1st would not be punished.
March 13th: 62 women workers were killed in an explosion in a munitions factory near Richmond. The Confederacy was to become more and more reliant on female workers as the war progressed.
March 24th: The last Union attempt to take Vicksburg failed. The Mississippi River was very high for this time of the year and it made navigation very difficult. Grant wanted to use the many waterways that surrounded Vicksburg to his advantage – but his plan failed.
March 26th: West Virginia voted to emancipate its slaves.
March 30th: Lincoln announced that April 30th would be a day of prayer and fasting throughout the Union.