This Day in the Civil War

Saturday May 18 1861

Things were getting very confusing in St. Louis. Technically the military chief in the city was Gen. William S. Harney. He had been relieved on April 21. Then he was reappointed May 8. Then Lincoln had sent a letter to local politician (and known Unionist) Frank Blair, telling him to relieve Harney again, suspecting him of excessive tolerance of Confederate elements. Today Lincoln sent Blair yet another letter, rescinding the first one.

Sunday May 18 1862

The USS Oneida steamed up to the docks of Vicksburg, Miss., today and her commander, S.P. Lee, went ashore. He carried with him the joint request of US Flag Officer David G. Farragut and Gen. Benjamin Butler for the surrender of the city. Unlike New Orleans and Memphis before it, the city was defended by the army of Confederate Gen. M. L. Smith. He declined to surrender, and the city was put under siege.

Monday May 18 1863

Last year the Union had asked. This year they asked in force for the surrender of the city of Vicksburg, with the armies of U.S. Grant surrounding the town to back it up. Gen. Pemberton’s army, originally 20,000 and now missing some 5500, mostly prisoners, had retreated as far as they could go, into town. Gunboats blocked the river, and now Grant invested the city, completely surrounding it with fortifications. The siege was now absolute.

Wednesday May 18 1864

Action had been comparatively slow for several days around Spotsylvania Court House. This ended today with an assault at dawn by the corps’ of Hancock and Wright on Robert E. Lee’s left flank. Unfortunately for many brave Union soldiers, the Confederates had spent the days of quiet building fortifications and entrenchments. The attack, and several more, all failed, and Meade ordered a halt. Grant renewed his motion around Lee’s right flank.

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