April 1864


Federal General Nathaniel Banks | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Federal General Nathaniel Banks | Image Credit: Flickr.com

In the Red River campaign, skirmishing occurred at Arkadelphia, Arkansas as Major General Frederick Steele’s Federals continued moving south to meet Major General Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana.


In the Red River campaign, skirmishing occurred at Grand Ecore, Louisiana. Eight gunboats and three other vessels brought Federal reinforcement to Nathaniel Banks’ expedition.


Major General Philip Sheridan became the new cavalry commander for the Federal Army of the Potomac. He was one of several western commanders whom General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant brought East. Sheridan replaced Brigadier General David McM. Gregg. When an officer remarked that Sheridan was too small to head the cavalry, Grant replied, “You will find him big enough for the purpose before we get through with him.” Several other corps command changes were made in the Federal armies.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a joint resolution declaring the U.S. would not allow France to set up a monarchy in Mexico. This intended to stop Napoleon III from naming Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg as the Mexican ruler, which violated the U.S. policy of refusing to tolerate European colonization in the Americas as stated in the Monroe Doctrine.

The New York Sanitary Commission Fair opened, eventually collecting $1.2 million for soldiers’ needs.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong… And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling.”


Nathaniel Banks’ Federal expedition slowed on the Red River due to low water; skirmishing occurred in Natchitoches, Louisiana.


In Louisiana, a pro-Union convention in New Orleans approved a new state constitution that included abolishing slavery in the state.

The Federal Department of the Monongahela was merged into the Department of the Susquehanna.


In the Red River campaign, Nathaniel Banks’s Federal Army of the Gulf advanced to near Mansfield, Louisiana. General Richard Taylor’s Confederates skirmished with Banks near Pleasant Hill before pulling back.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Confederate corps was ordered to leave eastern Tennessee and return to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet had been detached from Lee since last September, but he was now needed for Lee’s upcoming spring campaign.


The Battle of Sabine Crossroads (or Mansfield) occurred in Louisiana. Richard Taylor’s Confederates had formed a defensive line at Sabine Crossroads, about three miles south of Mansfield, to stop Nathaniel Banks’s advance on Shreveport. Banks’s 12,000 men were spread along a dangerously thin 20-mile line. They also had no naval support due to the low water level on the Red River. The Federals were outflanked and forced to retreat in panic and confusion. A wagon train blocking the retreat route added to the panic. Banks finally established a defensive line at Pleasant Hill.

The U.S. Senate voted 38 to 6 in favor of adding an amendment to the Constitution permanently abolishing slavery.


In the Red River campaign, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals formed a defensive line near Pleasant Hill after their defeat yesterday. The Confederates skirmished, then launched a main drive this afternoon, but the Federals held them off to avoid a complete rout. This fight at Pleasant Hill was a Federal victory, but Banks was prevented from advancing further west.

Meanwhile in Arkansas, Confederates blocked Federal forces under Major General Frederick Steele from reinforcing Banks’s campaign. Steele’s Federals skirmished at Prairie D’Ane. And when General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi District, moved to reinforce Richard Taylor in Louisiana, Banks decided to withdraw back down the Red River.

Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant began finalizing his plans by issuing campaign orders to be carried out once the roads dried:

  • Major General William T. Sherman’s Military Division of the Mississippi would invade Georgia and confront General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee, which guarded the vital industrial city of Atlanta.
  • Major General Franz Sigel’s Army of Western Virginia would invade Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and deprive the Confederacy of vital foodstuffs being harvested there.
  • Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Army of the James would advance up the James River in Virginia and threaten Petersburg, south of Richmond.
  • Major General Nathaniel Banks’s Army of the Gulf would abandon the Red River campaign, instead moving east to capture Mobile, Alabama.
  • For Major General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac, Grant instructed Meade, “Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.”

All the Federal armies were to advance simultaneously to place overwhelming pressure on the undermanned Confederate forces.

10 APR

In the Red River campaign, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals withdrew toward Grand Ecore. In Arkansas, Frederick Steele’s Federals began returning to Little Rock amidst skirmishing. Edmund Kirby Smith ordered Richard Taylor’s Confederates to advance from Pleasant Hill to Mansfield.

11 APR

Nathaniel Banks returned to Grand Ecore after suffering one of the most humiliating Federal failures of the war. Meanwhile, Admiral David D. Porter’s supporting naval flotilla was in the most danger due to unusually low water levels on the Red River. The boats were under continuous fire by Confederate guerrillas on the riverbanks, and if Porter did not withdraw quickly, his flotilla could be stuck in mud and easily destroyed.

In Arkansas, a pro-Union state government took office at Little Rock, led by Governor Isaac Murphy. In Virginia, a pro-Union delegation approved a constitution for the “Restored State of Virginia,” which included abolishing slavery in the state. The pro-Union government in Virginia, led by F.H. Pierpont, represented only the northern and coastal regions under Federal occupation.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates raided Columbus, Kentucky on the Mississippi River.

12 APR

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry captured Fort Pillow, Tennessee, about 75 miles north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. Forrest had targeted the fort as part of his campaign to destroy Federal communications and supplies; he also sought to avenge Federal atrocities against local civilians. Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, the fort commander refused to surrender, and the garrison was quickly overrun.

Federals later charged that the Confederates slaughtered men as they tried to surrender, particularly black troops. Confederates maintained that the Federals continued firing as they fled, forcing the fight to continue. Of the 557 Federal defenders, Forrest’s men inflicted 331 casualties while suffering only 14 killed and 86 wounded. Of the Federal losses, 204 of the 262 black troops were killed. The high death percentage among blacks sparked northern charges that the Confederates had committed a massacre. Fort Pillow became one of the most controversial incidents of the war.

Major General Simon B. Bucker assumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, wrote to President Jefferson Davis, “… I cannot see how we can operate with our present supplies. Any derangement in their arrival, or disaster to the R.R. (railroad) would render it impossible for me to keep the army together…”

13 APR

In the Red River campaign, David D. Porter’s Federal naval flotilla reached Grand Ecore, and Nathaniel Banks’s Federal retreat continued. In Arkansas, Frederick Steele’s Federals were bogged down with no hope of reinforcing Banks.

14 APR

President Lincoln reviewed 67 court-martial cases and issued several pardons.

15 APR

The Richmond Examiner assessed what could be expected in the upcoming spring campaign: “So far, we feel sure of the issue. All else is mystery and uncertainty. Where the first blow will fall, when the two armies of Northern Virginia will meet each other face to face; how Grant will try to hold his own against the master spirit of Lee, we cannot even surmise.”

At a large pro-Union meeting in mostly pro-Union Knoxville, Tennessee, Governor Andrew Johnson voiced strong support for slave emancipation.

16 APR

A Federal report on prisoners of war stated that Federal forces had captured 146,634 Confederates.

17 APR

Ulysses S. Grant ordered an end to prisoner exchange. This harmed the Confederacy more, but Grant was harshly criticized by both sides.

Confederate women defied local troops in a demonstration demanding bread at Savannah, Georgia.

18 APR

Confederates under John S. Marmaduke attacked Federals and a foraging train at Poison Springs, Arkansas. The Federals withdrew after harsh fighting and abandoned 198 wagons. This was another Federal failure in the hapless Red River campaign.

General P.G.T. Beauregard was given command of the Confederate Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. Beauregard’s objective was to guard Richmond, southern Virginia, and northern North Carolina, a region threatened by Benjamin Butler’s Federal Army of the James.

Addressing the Baltimore Sanitary Fair, President Lincoln said, “We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”

19 APR

A Confederate assault on Plymouth, North Carolina began in earnest when C.S.S. Albemarle rammed and sunk U.S.S. Smithfield, then drove off other nearby Federal ships. Meanwhile, Confederate troops surrounded Plymouth.

20 APR

Federals surrendered Plymouth, North Carolina. The Confederates under Robert F. Hoke captured about 2,800 men and vast amounts of supplies. This was one of the few major Confederate victories on the Atlantic coast, and it prompted the Federals to abandon nearby Washington, North Carolina.

Major General Samuel Jones was given command of P.G.T. Beauregard’s former command: the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

President Lincoln ordered the commutation of death sentences by courts-martial to imprisonment at Dry Tortugas off Key West, Florida. Lincoln also conferred with General-in-Chief Grant, who was planning the spring offensives.

21 APR

President Lincoln conferred with the governors of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, and he reviewed 72 court-martial cases.

In the Red River campaign, Nathaniel Banks’ Federal Army of the Gulf continued retreating to their base at Alexandria, Louisiana. They faced constant harassment and skirmishing from pursuing Confederates.

22 APR

The first two-cent U.S. coin was minted, on which the phrase “In God We Trust” was imprinted for the first time. Reverend M.R. Watkinson had suggested the phrase  to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase due to the strong religious sentiment during the war.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, commander of the Confederate Army of Mississippi, “If the negro soldiers (captured) are escaped slaves, they should be held safely for recovery by their owners. If otherwise, inform me.” Davis added, “Captured slaves should be returned to their masters on proof and payment of charges.”

23 APR

Confederates continued harassing retreating Federal troops on the Red River, with a hard fight occurring at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana.

24 APR

Frederick Steele’s Federal forces in Arkansas faced strong resistance from Confederates in their effort to advance out of Camden and link with Nathaniel Banks’ Federals on the Red River.

25 APR

Confederate Major General Robert Ransom was assigned to command the Department of Richmond, Virginia.

Confederate harassment continued against Frederick Steele’s Federals in Camden, Arkansas and Nathaniel Banks’ Federals on the Red River. Banks’ Federals began arriving in Alexandria, Louisiana after their retreat.

26 APR

Nathaniel Banks’ Federals finally returned to Alexandria, where skirmishing took place for nearly a month. Meanwhile, the Federal vessels on the Red River above Alexandria suffered extensive damage from Confederate guerrillas as they struggled through low water to return to their base. Also, Frederick Steele’s Federals began retreating from Camden, Arkansas after failing to join Banks on the Red River.

Federal troops evacuated Washington, North Carolina after the Confederate capture of Plymouth last week.

27 APR

President Davis dispatched Jacob Thompson to Canada as a special commissioner on an unofficial mission to discuss a possible peace with Federal officials.

The Maryland constitutional convention assembled at Annapolis.

28 APR

President Davis wrote to General Edmund Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi Department, “As far as the constitution permits, full authority has been given to you to administer to the wants of your Dept., civil as well as military.”

Federals began a minor bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor; 510 rounds were fired at the fort over the next seven days.

29 APR

The U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution raising all tariffs 50 percent for 60 days; the rate was later extended to 1 July.

30 APR

President Davis wrote again to General Leonidas Polk, commanding the Army of Mississippi, “Captured slaves should be returned to their masters on proof and payment of charges.”

Davis’ five-year old son Joseph died after falling off the second floor rear balcony of the Confederate Executive Mansion. The Davises were inconsolable. Davis could not concentrate on dispatches from Robert E. Lee, and First Lady Varina Davis screamed for hours. Both Presidents Lincoln and Davis lost young sons during the war.

President Lincoln wrote to Ulysses S. Grant, expressing his “entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it.”


Last Updated: 11/17/2014


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