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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 arm.”

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.