United States History: Early 1863 The Civil War & The Battle of Gettysburg

About the history of the United States in early 1863, the Civil War, Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, riots over the National Draft.


--Ebenezer Butterick invented the paper dress pattern.

Mar. 2 Congress authorized a track width of 4'8 1/2" as the standard for the Union Pacific R.R. This gauge became the accepted width for most of the world's railroads. Notable exceptions: Spain, Russia.

May 2 Milestone Battle: Chancellorsville. Lee won his greatest victory and lost his greatest general, "Stonewall Jackson," shot in the dark by the 33rd North Carolinians. Jackson had many strange dietary beliefs. He continually sucked lemons as a palliative for his "dyspepsia," and often supped on a simple meal of raspberries and milk. After being wounded--this cost him an arm--Jackson began to recover, but had a servant apply cold towels to relieve his persistent "dyspepsia." The moist packs encouraged both pleurisy and pneumonia, which led to his death.

July 3-4 Milestone Battle: Gettysburg, Pa. Confederate General Pickett's charge, in which he lost almost half of his 15,000 men, was largely the result of a terrible tactical error. Lee, believing the Union Army's center on Cemetery Ridge was weak, had ordered a frontal assault. Lee guessed wrong. The Union commander, Hancock, had 80 cannon and 9,000 men, well entrenched there, plus the advantage of holding higher ground. In the ensuing slaughter, 21 Union and Confederate generals were killed or wounded.

The attack began slowly, with Pickett's 3 brigades halting on the gently-sloping terrain which led down from Seminary Ridge, to assemble in parade formation. On a one-mile advance across the open field to Cemetery Ridge, Pickett's ranks were steadily decimated by rifle and artillery fire. Only a few hundred ever went the full distance up the reverse slope to reach the Union line, and they were promptly killed or captured. General Longstreet, Lee's corps commander, had told him the attack was impossible to carry out, but Longstreet was overruled. The magnificent but futile infantry charge helped to fill 17 mi. of ambulance wagons in Lee's retreat into Virginia the next day. His casualties: over 28,000.

The Gettysburg battle took place by accident. Most of Pettigrew's North Carolina brigade was marching barefoot, its shoes long since worn out. On June 30, the Gettysburg Compiler had blithely carried an advertisement for men's fine calf boots, Wellingtons, brogans, and other footgear. Pettigrew was ordered on a 9-mi. forced march from Cashtown to seize the shoes. The Confederate presence drew Union eyes, followed by Union skirmishers, and the inevitable full contact. Neither Lee nor Meade wanted a confrontation at Gettysburg. Meade had chosen a site near Pipe Creek. Lee preferred Harrisburg, 30 mi. away.

July 11-14 The working-class Irish of New York City touched off 4 days of riots that left hundreds dead and caused property damage of several million dollars. The conscription act, passed March 3, made money the key to exemption: For $300, a man could be passed over on a specific quota call, or he could evade the war entirely by buying a substitute who enlisted for 3 years in his place. For the Irish, to whom $300 was nearly a year's wages, neither alternative was feasible. Infuriated, they burned 2 provost-marshal offices, the Colored Orphan Asylum at 5th Avenue and 44th Street, and an entire block on Broadway. Their anger escalated into a race riot against the "nigger" they believed to be responsible for the war.

It is estimated that as many as 50,000 people took part in the fighting. The rioters injured 50 policemen--3 of whom died--and they killed 18 others, mostly blacks. Police retaliation, utilizing soldiers hastily brought in, accounted for an additional 1,200 deaths while quelling the disturbance.

In the 4 national drafts held in 1863-1864, some 776,829 names were called. Of these, 200,921 men evaded the draft by buying substitutes, and another 400,723 either paid $300 to be passed over, or were declared physically unfit for service. Voluntary enlistments, for which a bounty was paid, reduced the State draft quotas further. The 4 calls netted only 46,347 draftees, or 6% of the total draft pool. Aug. 21 A band of gunmen, led by William C. Quantrill, known as the "Bloodiest Man in American History," invaded Lawrence, Kans., killing every man in town and burning 185 buildings despite the fact that they encountered no resistance. Quantrill's gang included Frank and Jesse James and Cole Younger and his brothers.

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