“The American Civil War -- 1863: Year of Decision”
Convention Theme – HISTORICON 2013
(July 18 - 21)
The dawn of January 1, 1863 found the United States of
America torn, for almost two years, by bloody civil war. Eventually crossing
five Aprils, the war would settle for our country moral, economic, and
political issues of such import as to cause brother to fight brother and father
to slay son. Thousands died.
1863, the focus of Historican 2013, was a pivotal year in
the war, a year of decision. The Emancipation Proclamation took effect on
January 1. By year’s end, the Union and Confederacy would fight more than one
hundred engagements, on land and by sea.
In recent years, many of the most famous battles have been
memorialized in print and on the silver screen and, thus, indelibly stamped on
the American psyche. Here are a few examples.
Who can forget Stonewall Jackson’s victory, in May, over General "Fighting Joe"
Hooker's Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville? Or that, shortly after the
battle, Confederate soldiers, mistakenly, shot and killed Lee’s “right
What about the Vicksburg Campaign? Remember, when
Confederate General John Pemberton sent word to Grant asking for terms, Grant
replied, “unconditional surrender.” The Union captured Vicksburg and, soon
thereafter, Port Hudson, Louisiana, so that by mid-year, it controlled all of the
Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy in two.
Of course, every school child knows that with “four score
and seven years ago…” Lincoln began his stirring address commemorating the
fallen at Gettysburg. Although the battle was a Union victory, it was the
bloodiest three days of battle the country had experienced in its history, with
massive casualties suffered by both sides. Significantly, with Pickett’s
ill-fated charge, European nations decided not to recognize the Confederacy’s
independence, or to provide funds and materiel to support its cause—support
that the South desperately needed.
After Gettysburg, the Battle of Chickamauga in September,
1863, was the second bloodiest battle of the war. On the Tennessee-Georgia
border near Chickamauga Creek, the gray engaged and trounced the blue resulting
in the most significant Union defeat in the western theater.
Following Chickamauga, the Union retreated to Chattanooga.
Confederate General Bragg’s army occupied the mountains that ring the vital railroad
center there. In November, Grant broke through the Confederate blockade in a
series of brilliantly executed attacks, the most famous of which is now
remembered as the Battle above the Clouds. If it hadn’t been for the fog,
would the results have been different?
The list goes on and on. We know what history says happened
at these places, but what would the outcome have been if other people had been
in charge…like you? What would have resulted from a different roll of the
dice? Who knows? Come find out. Maybe, YOU can rewrite history.