On January, 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced the final Emancipation Proclamation, officially freeing all slaves in the United States and Confederate States. Many focus on the freeing of the slaves but Lincoln also stressed the recruitment of blacks and urged them to join the Union Army.
On January 25, 1863, Lincoln removed General Ambrose Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac and replaced him with General Joseph Hooker.
On January 29, 1863, Lincoln made another military move by placing General Ulysses Grant as Commander of the Army of the West.
On May 1-4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats Hooker’s Union forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson suffers a mortal wound in the battle. Losses on both sides were heavy. Of Hooker’s 130,000 Union troops, they suffered 17,000 killed, wounded or missing. Of Lee’s 60,000 Confederate troops, 13,000 were killed, wounded or missing.
On June 28 1863, Union General George Meade was assigned the command of the Union Army of the Potomac. Meade had joined Hooker’s command a year earlier, replacing General John Reynolds. He led a division of the Army of the Potomac at the Battles of South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, so he was familiar with the army he had been given command, which was to be tested quite soon.
On July 1-3, 1863, Meade led 93,700 Union troops against Lee’s 70,000 Confederate troops at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Over the next three days, the Union and Confederate troops clashed in and around Gettysburg and Cemetery Hill. The air was filled with the smoke from cannons, rifle and musket fire. In some areas, the ground was hidden from view because of the number of dead and wounded lying on the battlefield.
Meade’s forces held off the Confederate charges and eventually drove them back. The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the Union and General Meade.
After the fighting had ended, just over 23,000 Union soldiers were dead, wounded or missing. Lee’s forces, which were smaller at the onset, suffered heavier casualties with just over 28,000 dead, wounded or missing. With over 51,000 casualties. Gettysburg was the by far the bloodiest and costliest single battle in the history of America and all of North America.
On November 19-20, 1863, Union General William Rosecrans, Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, met the Confederate forces of General Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee, at Chickamauga. The battle was a Confederate victory. The 2 days of fighting at Chickamauga was costly for both sides with the Union losing around 16,000 dead, wounded or missing and the Confederates losing about 18,500 dead, wounded or missing. It turned out to be two of the bloodiest days of the Civil War.
Rosecrans was forced to retreat to Chattanooga where Bragg and his Confederate forces held them under siege.
On this day, November 23, 1863, Union General Grant attacks the Confederate troops of Bragg that had held Chattanooga under siege. The battle lasted for 3 days. In a surprising and unauthorized move, Union troops reportedly charged up Missionary Ridge yelling ‘Chickamauga! Chickamauga!’. Their surprise attack caught the Confederate by surprise, sweeping through their impregnable position. The Confederate troops were forced from Tennessee south to Georgia, just in time to be defeated by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on his March to the Sea.
The Battle of Chattanooga involved 56,400 Union troops up against 46,200 Confederate troops. In the end Union casualties (killed, wounded or missing) totaled around 5,800 and the Confederate casualties were around 6,700. One Confederate soldier later stated that the Battle of Chattanooga was ‘the death knell of the Confederacy.’
Sources for the above includes: The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865; Today, May 1, 1863: Beginning of Lee’s Greatest Victory; Today, July 1, 1863: Largest Military Battle in North America Begins; Today, September 20, 1863: Confederate Victory at Battle of Chickamauga; Chattanooga; Battle Of Chattanooga; Battle of Chattanooga; Fighting Commenced in the Battle of Chattanooga November 23, 1863; Chattanooga; American Civil War: Battle of Chattanooga; Battle of Chattanooga;