Union ships pass Vicksburg - HISTORY
Year
1863

Union ships pass Vicksburg

Union Admiral David Dixon Porter leads 12 ships past the heavy barrage of Confederate artillery at Vicksburg, Mississippi. He lost only one ship, and the operation speeded General Ulysses S. Grant’s movement against Vicksburg.

Grant had been trying to capture Vicksburg for six months. A first attempt failed when General William T. Sherman’s troops were unsuccessful in attacking Vicksburg from the north. Grant now planned to move his army down the opposite bank of the river, cross back to Mississippi, and approach the city from the east. The soggy spring conditions slowed his advance to a crawl as his force had to build bridges over the bayous on the Louisiana side of the river. To speed the operation, Grant called on Porter to take the ships loaded with men and supplies and run past the powerful Vicksburg batteries.

The flotilla quietly moved down the river on the dark night of April 16. The exhausts on the steamboats were vented into the paddle wheel housing to muffle the noise. The boats were positioned off center so that if a ship were hit, the following craft could pass safely. The ships were stacked with cotton bales to act as a soft armor in the event of a direct hit. Confederate pickets spotted the flotilla and sent word to the batteries, and the bombardment began. The commanding Confederate, General John Pemberton, was attending a ball and was quickly summoned to the scene. Some Rebel soldiers even rowed across the Mississippi River to set fire to the trees on the western bank and provide backlighting for their gunners on the eastern shore.

It took over two hours for the ships and attached barges to pass. The Union lost only one ship and two barges, and Grant’s plan proceeded. Within six weeks, he had locked up Vicksburg from the east and the siege began. Vicksburg would surrender on July 4, 1863.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Virginia Tech shooting leaves 32 dead

In one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, 32 people died after being gunned down on the campus of Virginia Tech by Seung Hui Cho, a student at the college who later committed suicide.The Virginia Tech shooting began around 7:15 a.m., when Cho, a 23-year-old senior ...read more

Lenin returns

On April 16, 1917, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the revolutionary Bolshevik Party, returns to Petrograd after a decade of exile to take the reins of the Russian Revolution. One month before, Czar Nicholas II had been forced from power when Russian army troops joined a workers’ ...read more

Texas City explodes

At 9:12 a.m. in Texas City’s port on Galveston Bay, a fire aboard the French freighter Grandcamp ignites ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials in the ship’s hold, causing a massive blast that destroys much of the city and takes nearly 600 lives.The port of Texas City, a ...read more

Apollo 16 departs for moon

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apollo 16, the fifth of six U.S. lunar landing missions, is successfully launched on its 238,000-mile journey to the moon. On April 20, astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke descended to the lunar surface from Apollo 16, which remained in ...read more

Hallucinogenic effects of LSD discovered

In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. After taking the ...read more

Johnson arrives in Honolulu

At a series of meetings in Honolulu, President Johnson discusses recent Allied and enemy troop deployments with U.S. military leaders. He also conferred with South Korean President Park Chung Hee to reaffirm U.S. military commitments to Seoul and assure Park that his country’s ...read more

Bob Feller throws no-hitter

On April 16, 1940, the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller pitches his first no-hitter. He went on to throw two more no-hitters in his career; only two other pitchers in baseball history have recorded more no-hitters.Feller, who grew up playing catch with his father on his family’s ...read more

Bat Masterson’s last shootout

On the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fights the last gun battle of his life.Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the wild ...read more

Kingsley Amis is born

British author Kingsley Amis is born to a lower-middle-class clerk and his wife.Amis’ mother encouraged him to write at an early age, and he later attended Oxford, where he was known as an outspoken radical. In World War II, he served with the Royal Corps of Signals and later ...read more

Charlie Chaplin born

On April 16, 1889, future Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin is born Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England.Chaplin, one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood, was introduced to the stage when he was five. The son of London music hall entertainers, young ...read more

Fertilizer explosion kills 581 in Texas

A giant explosion occurs during the loading of fertilizer onto the freighter Grandcamp at a pier in Texas City, Texas, on this day in 1947. Nearly 600 people lost their lives and thousands were injured when the ship was literally blown to bits. Ammonium nitrate was used as an ...read more

Bernard Baruch coins the term “Cold War”

Multimillionaire and financier Bernard Baruch, in a speech given during the unveiling of his portrait in the South CarolinaHouse of Representatives, coins the term “Cold War” to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The phrase stuck, and for over 40 ...read more

Arthur Chevrolet commits suicide

On this day in 1946, Arthur Chevrolet, an auto racer and the brother of Chevrolet auto namesake Louis Chevrolet, commits suicide in Slidell, Louisiana.Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland in 1878, while Arthur’s birth year has been listed as 1884 and 1886. By the early 1900s, ...read more

General Sir Henry Clinton is born

On this day in 1738, Henry Clinton, the future commander in chief of British forces charged with suppressing the rebellion in North America, is born in Newfoundland, Canada. Henry Clinton’s father, George, was the royal governor of Newfoundland at the time of his birth. He was ...read more

Lenin returns to Russia from exile

On April 16, 1917, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the revolutionary Bolshevik Party, returns to Petrograd after a decade of exile to take the reins of the Russian Revolution. Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870, Lenin was drawn to the revolutionary cause after his brother was ...read more