This Week in the Civil War: Feb 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, February 11.  In Great Britain, Confederate envoy James Mason addressed a Lord Mayor’s banquet in London to push for British assistance.

Thursday, February 12.  On the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed Confederate wagons and supplies. On the White River in Arkansas, U.S.S. Conestoga captured two Confederate steamers. In the West Indies, the commerce raider C.S.S. Florida captured a clipper and cargo valued at $2 million.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Friday, February 13.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal gunboat Indianola under Lieutenant Commander George Brown passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg with two barges unharmed.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Saturday, February 14.  After veering down the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed a Confederate army train and captured New Era No. 5 before running aground. The crew escaped by floating to the Federal steamer De Soto on cotton bales.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Sunday, February 15.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Monday, February 16.  In Mississippi, skirmishing occurred as General Ulysses S. Grant tried moving gunboats and troops down Yazoo Pass. Confederate opposition prevented Grant from reaching Vicksburg.

Tuesday, February 17.  The Federal gunboat Indianola was posted at the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi below Vicksburg to confront nearby Confederate vessels.

General Ulysses S. Grant rescinded the military order closing down the Chicago Times for allegedly publishing “disloyal statements.” In response to Federal General William S. Rosecrans’s complaints about Confederate raids on his camp in Tennessee, President Abraham Lincoln suggested that he conduct counter-raids. In Virginia, heavy snow covered the Federal and Confederate armies.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Feb 4-10, 1863

Wednesday, February 4.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee expressing concern about the Federal threats to the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Thursday, February 5.  Queen Victoria of England In Great Britain, Queen Victoria informed the British Parliament that Britain had refrained from trying to “induce a cessation of the conflict between the contending parties in the North American States, because it has not yet seemed to Her Majesty that any such overture could be attended with a probability of success.”

In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker began reforming the Federal Army of the Potomac after assuming command. Hooker removed former commander Ambrose Burnside’s system of “grand divisions” and reinstated the army corps system. Hooker also worked to restore troop morale by providing better food, equipment, and camp sanitation.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Friday, February 6.  U.S. Secretary of State William Seward informed the French government that the offer by Emperor Napoleon III to mediate an end to the war had been declined.

In Virginia, a corps from the Federal Army of the Potomac was transfered to Newport News to threaten the Confederate capital of Richmond from the east.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 7.  General Samuel P. Heintzelman assumed command of the recreated Federal Department of Washington.

In South Carolina, three Confederate blockade runners broke through the Federal blockade on Charleston.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Sunday, February 8.  Circulation of the Chicago Times was temporarily suspended by a military order for publishing “disloyal statements.” General Ulysses S. Grant later rescinded the order.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Missouri.

Monday, February 9.  The Confederate Southwestern Army was extended to include the entire Trans-Mississippi Department.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 10.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal ship Queen of the West headed toward the Red River.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 28-Feb 3, 1863

Wednesday, January 28.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Theophilus H. Holmes, commanding west of the Mississippi River, “The loss of either of the two positions–Vicksburg and Port Hudson–would destroy communication with the Trans-Mississippi Department and inflict upon the Confederacy an injury which I am sure you have not failed to appreciate.”

Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and Tennessee. In St. Louis, a mass meeting approved the Emancipation Proclamation.

Thursday, January 29.  The Confederate Congress authorized the Treasury to borrow $15 million through French financier Emile Erlanger.

President Davis wired General John C. Pemberton, commander of Confederate forces at Vicksburg, “Has anything or can anything be done to obstruct the navigation from Yazoo Pass down?” Davis was concerned about Federal efforts to attack the vital stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi from the north.

In the Utah Territory, U.S. forces defeated the Bannock Indians at Bear River or Battle Creek. Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, and Federal naval forces bombarded Galveston, Texas.

Friday, January 30.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant assumed full command of the Vicksburg campaign and began developing plans to attack the fortress.

In South Carolina, the Federal gunboat Isaac Smith was captured by Confederates forces on the Stono River near Charleston. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Saturday, January 31.  Confederate gunboats temporarily broke the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina by damaging Federal steamers. The Confederacy issued an international declaration that the blockade had been lifted, but this proved to be only a temporary disruption.

In Indiana, Federal cavalry intervened to stop resistance to the arrest of alleged military deserters in Morgan County. After shots were fired, the rioters were dispersed or captured, and the deserters were arrested.

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Tennessee.

Sunday, February 1.  On the Georgia coast, Federal naval forces unsuccessfully attacked Fort McAllister, south of Savannah. In North Carolina, a Federal expedition left New Berne for Plymouth.

Monday, February 2.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal ram Queen of the West ran past the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg in an effort to attack enemy vessels. The ram passed without serious damage, despite being struck 12 times.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Tuesday, February 3.  On the Mississippi, Queen of the West captured three Confederate ships below Vicksburg and seized food, cotton, and prisoners, including ladies.

In Mississippi, Federal forces opened the levee at Yazoo Pass in an effort to reach Vicksburg via the Yazoo River. In Tennessee, Federal forces repulsed an attack by General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates at Fort Donelson.

In Washington, French Minister to the U.S. M. Mercier met with Secretary of State William Seward and, on behalf of Emperor Napoleon III, offered to mediate an end to the war. Seward later informed the French government that the U.S. declined the offer.

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 21-27, 1863

Wednesday, January 21.  In northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac remained paralyzed by the driving winter rains that turned roads into impassable mud and slime. In Texas, two Federal blockaders were captured by Confederate steamers at Sabine Pass.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis dispatched General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Western Department, to General Braxton Bragg’s headquarters at Tullahoma, Tennessee to investigate criticism that Bragg had unnecessarily retreated from the Battle of Stone’s River. Davis was concerned that Bragg’s subordinates lacked confidence in their commander.

President Abraham Lincoln endorsed a letter from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to General Ulysses S. Grant explaining why Grant had been ordered to revoke his General Order No. 11. The controversial order had expelled all Jews from Grant’s military department. Halleck explained that Lincoln did not object to expelling “traitors and Jew peddlers,” but “as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.” The expulsion order was never enforced.

Lincoln officially cashiered General Fitz John Porter from the U.S. Army and forever disqualified him from holding any government office. This came after a January 10 court-martial convicted Porter of disobeying orders during the Battle of Second Bull Run the previous August. The ruling was reversed in 1879, and Porter was restored to the rank of colonel in 1886.

Thursday, January 22.  In northern Virginia, Ambrose Burnside’s Federals were stalled in mud, unable to cross the Rappahannock and attack General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Trains and wagons were stuck, horses and mules were dying, and the Federals were demoralized.

Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Federal troops in Arkansas. Within this, President Lincoln ordered General John McClernand’s Army of the Mississippi to return from its unauthorized expedition to Fort Hindman and become a corps under Grant’s command. This eventually caused resentment between the two generals, though Lincoln asked McClernand “for my sake, & for the country’s sake, you give your whole attention to the better work.” Grant renewed efforts to cut a canal across “Swampy Toe” opposite Vicksburg that would move boats and men around the fortress city.

Friday, January 23.  In northern Virginia, severe storms continued as Ambrose Burnside’s Federals pulled back to their winter quarters. The “mud march” ended in miserable failure. Many of Burnside’s subordinates criticized his leadership, but his harshest critic was Joseph Hooker, who called Burnside incompetent and the Lincoln administration feeble. Burnside responded by issuing General Order No. 8, charging Hooker with “unjust and unnecessary criticisms… endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers… (including) reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions…” Burnside asked permission from President Lincoln to remove William B. Franklin, W.F. Smith, and others from the army, and to remove Hooker from the service entirely. Burnside also requested a personal meeting with the president.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Lincoln began preparing orders to return General Benjamin Butler to New Orleans, replacing General Nathaniel Banks. The orders were never carried out.

Saturday, January 24.  In northern Virginia, the Federal Army of the Potomac settled back into its gloomy winter quarters across from Fredericksburg while dissension among the ranks increased. President Lincoln conferred with General-in-Chief Halleck on the military situation and awaited Ambrose Burnside’s arrival. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Virginia.

Sunday, January 25.  President Lincoln conferred with General Burnside this morning, who reiterated his demand to remove several generals from his command, otherwise he would resign. Later this morning, Lincoln resolved the dilemma by removing Generals Edwin V. Sumner and William B. Franklin from command. He also accepted Burnside’s resignation and replaced him with Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had reluctantly accepted command of the Army of the Potomac in the first place, and his ineptitude, first at Fredericksburg and then during the “mud march,” sealed his fate. The army was neither surprised nor disappointed by his removal. However, many were surprised that Hooker had been chosen to command, considering Hooker’s insubordinate comments about his superiors. Lincoln explained that he needed a fighter, and unlike Burnside, Hooker wanted the post.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Mississippi. In Arkansas, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates reached Batesville. The organization of the first regiment of Federal Negro South Carolina soldiers was completed on the Carolina coast.

Monday, January 26.  General Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Federal Army of the Potomac. In a letter, President Lincoln explained why he had been chosen to lead: “I have heard… of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”

Skirmishing occurred in Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia. The Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama seized a Federal vessel off Santo Domingo (the present-day Dominican Republic).

Tuesday, January 27.  In Georgia, Federal naval forces led by U.S.S. Montauk attacked Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah. The squadron withdrew after several hours of bombardment. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The proprietor of the Philadelphia Journal, A.D. Boileau, was arrested and brought to Washington to face charges for allegedly printing anti-Union material. President Davis complimented Georgia Governor Joseph Brown for reducing cotton cultivation and urging produce farming: “The possibility of a short supply of provisions presents the greatest danger to a successful prosecution of the war.”

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 14-20, 1863

Wednesday, January 14.  In Louisiana, Federal gunboats and troops attacked the Confederate gunboat Cotton and land fortifications at Bayou Teche. After a sharp fight, Cotton was burned the next morning. General Edmund Kirby Smith was given command of the Confederate Army of the Southwest.

Thursday, January 15.  In Arkansas, Federal troops burned Mound City, a center of guerrilla activities. The Confederate commerce raider Florida set sail from Mobile in a campaign against Federal shipping. Confederate President Jefferson Davis suggested to General Braxton Bragg, who had retreated from Murfreesboro to Tullahoma in Tennessee, “For the present all which seems practicable is to select a strong position and fortifying it to wait for attack.” President Abraham Lincoln demonstrated his interest in inventions and scientific developments by requesting tests for a concentrated horse food and a new gunpowder.

Friday, January 16.  In Tennessee, a Federal expedition began from Fort Henry to Waverly. In Arkansas, the Federal gunboat Baron De Kalb seized guns and ammunition at Devall’s Bluff.

Saturday, January 17.  President Lincoln signed a congressional resolution providing for the immediate payment of military personnel. Lincoln also requested currency reforms, as the war was costing $2.5 million per day by this year. The cost was financed by selling war bonds, borrowing over $1 billion from foreign countries, and issuing paper currency called greenbacks. These measures caused a massive increase in the cost of living through a new economic term called “inflation,” as well as enormous interest payments after the war that threatened U.S. economic stability.

Following the capture of Fort Hindman, General John A. McClernand’s Federal Army of the Mississippi began moving down the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend, north of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred at Newtown, Virginia, and a Federal expedition began from New Berne, North Carolina.

Sunday, January 18.  Skirmishing occurred in the Cherokee Country of the Indian Territory and along the White River in Arkansas.

Monday, January 19.  In northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac began its second attempt to destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. Hoping to redeem himself after his disastrous defeat the previous month, Burnside promised to strike “a great and mortal blow to the rebellion” by moving north along the Rappahannock River and attacking Lee’s left. By evening, the Grand Divisions of Generals Joseph Hooker and William Franklin reached were prepared to cross the river.

President Lincoln responded to an address from workers of Manchester, Great Britain. He said he deplored the sufferings among mill workers in Europe caused by the cotton shortage, but it was the fault of “our disloyal citizens.” The Confederate government had unofficially banned the exportation of cotton, its greatest commodity, in the hopes that cotton-starved nations such as Britain and France would help the Confederacy gain independence so the cotton trade would resume. This became known as “King Cotton Diplomacy.”

Tuesday, January 20.  In northern Virginia, Ambrose Burnside changed his plans for crossing the Rappahannock, and icy rain began falling in torrents. Burnside later said, “From that moment we felt that the winter campaign had ended.” During the night, guns and pontoons were dragged through the muddy roads as a winter storm ravaged the East.

In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates captured Patterson in continued raiding. General David Hunter resumed command of the Federal Department of the South.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

Lose the Lost Cause by David Patten

I was contacted by Mr. Patten, who asked me to post his essay considering the topic of the “Lost Cause” and its level of influence on our understanding of the war since its conclusion. I know that this may spark some vigorous discussion and debate, as this is a subject that historians have argued over for well over one hundred years. I hope you will all give Mr. Patten’s essay consideration and thought.

LOSE THE LOST CAUSE

BY

DAVID PATTEN

As we journey through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and with the release of the movie Lincoln, and particularly with the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation upon us, Americans have been well motivated to deeply assess every aspect of the time period that tore our nation apart. While we ponder those times and analyze why our nation plunged into such strife, we will, as always, be exposed to the continuing drumbeats of the “Lost Cause”. Southerners, and many Northerners alike, will regale us with the noble reasons that actually motivated eleven states to secede. We will be told that they were fighting for their liberties and for their proud heritage. The Southern states, in fact, stood up to an overreaching, draconian national government bent on crushing individual freedoms and destroying states’ rights.

Have I missed any of the other lies the “Lost Cause” might tell? The lies actually never seem to end. They started just after the smoke cleared from the battlefields that revealed Southern defeat and they continue to this very day. Only now, they are magnified by the moment.

One issue dominated the politics of the Civil War time period and everything else spun off of that issue. The issue of racially specific slavery caused the Civil War and the “Lost Cause” revisionists, from 1865 to the present, cannot change or sanitize the true reason for Southern secession. Can any of us today honestly imagine our nation splitting apart in 1861 had there been no slavery? What other issue or issues so captivated the imaginations of the people back then that could have caused the Union’s destruction? Only one issue had that kind of power and anything else anyone could cite would be a mere corollary. Even a cursory reading of the thoughts of the Southern leadership exposes their obsession with the issue of slavery. Dig deeper and their obsession over that singular horror becomes pathological.

Jefferson Davis lauded slavery as a great institution through which “a superior race” changed “brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers…worth thousands of millions of dollars.” He proclaimed that “the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable” and he bridled at any attempt to interfere with that system or limit its extension.

Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s Vice President, declared that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” In addition, he unequivocally stated that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”

State after Confederate state declared in their “secession resolutions” that slavery was the primary cause of their departure. Mississippi summed it up best, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” “There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union…”

The Confederate Constitution enshrined slavery and forbade its states and territories from banning it or interfering with its spread. In addition, Section 9 of the document extended the same prohibitions to the national government, “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.” As a result, there was no avoiding slavery in the C.S.A., not even through secession, for curiously, no such right was provided. In effect, the Southern leaders created exactly what they wanted; a slaveholding nation well insulated against those who would seek to alter or abolish the peculiar institution.

Northerners of the time period were hardly confused as to the origin of the conflict. Lincoln unlocked the deep non-mystery in his Second Inaugural Address, “All knew that this interest (slavery) was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war…”

In his memoirs, Grant came right to the point, “The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery.”

The Confederate dream of an exclusive slaveholding nation crashed in 1865. But, out of the ashes of Confederate defeat emerged a victory of sorts; it was the “Lost Cause”. History is supposedly written by the winners, but not this time. Rebel writers such as Edward Pollard, Alexander Stephens, Jefferson Davis, and so many others seized control of the narrative and transformed the ugliness of the slaveholding cause into a fight for liberty and rights. Both the Confederate journalist Edward Pollard and the former Vice President Alexander Stephens began their assault on history directly after the war was over. Slavery ceased to be an issue. Rather, valiant struggles for freedom by gallant Southern cavaliers facing overwhelming odds became the norm. Davis waited a few years, but then in 1881, he joined the club with his memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. In volume one, he wrote, “The truth remains intact and incontrovertible, that the existence of African servitude was in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident.” Views such as these found enormous audiences and sparked a tidal wave of historical distortion that tragically gained acceptance.

One Southerner wasn’t fooled by any of it. Colonel John S. Mosby, arguably the finest partisan raider the Confederacy produced stated, “The South went to war on account of slavery.” He found the “Lost Cause” sentiment repulsive and wrote, “I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery.” But then he added something very interesting, “After the fight is over they invent some fanciful theory on which they imagine that they fought.”

Now we see the “Lost Cause” fully exposed. With slavery abolished upon the ruin of the South and labeled as the filth that it was, how then do the losers cope? Looking at the reality of the war, the South endured destruction on a scale few could ever have imagined, and for what? They shed blood and lost all defending a system of horror and disgust, thus myth became their only refuge. Given their situation, the so glorious, so holy “Lost Cause” could have turned out so no other way.

We now have the perfect opportunity to set things straight and see the conflict as it truly was. Only time will now tell if we can finally put the “Lost Cause” myth away and face the brutal truth of our past while celebrating the new birth of freedom that gave meaning to all the destruction.

The Civil War This Week: Jan 7-13, 1863

Wednesday, January 7.  Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote to General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, emphasizing “our first object was, not Richmond, but the defeat or scattering of Lee’s army.” Halleck strongly backed Burnside’s plan to attack across the Rappahannock.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, asking Lee to call on the Federal commanders to “prevent the savage atrocities which are threatened.” If the Federals did not comply, Lee should inform them that “measures will be taken by retaliation to repress the indulgence of such brutal passion.”

In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates captured Ozark and advanced on Springfield. A group of 450 women and children left Washington, DC for Richmond and the Confederacy with permission from the Federal government. The Richmond Enquirer called the Emancipation Proclamation “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history… Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

Thursday, January 8.  President Abraham Lincoln wrote to troubled Ambrose Burnside, “I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the command of the A.P. (Army of the Potomac) & if I did, I should not wish to do it by accepting the resignation of your commission.”

Defending the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln wrote to General John A. McClernand that “it must stand… As to the States not included in it, of course they can have their rights in the Union as of old.” President Davis wrote to General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Western Theater, “To hold the Mississippi is vital.”

In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed by the Federal garrison at Springfield. In Washington, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Lincoln’s appointment of John P. Usher of Indiana as Interior secretary. Usher replaced Caleb Smith, who resigned due to poor health. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas.

Friday, January 9.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans reorganized the Federal Army of the Cumberland into three corps commanded by George H. Thomas, Alexander McD. McCook, and Thomas L. Crittenden.

In Missouri, the Federal garrison at Hartville surrendered to John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates. Boat crews from U.S.S. Ethan Allen destroyed salt works near St. Joseph’s, Florida.

Saturday, January 10.  John A. McClernand’s Federals closed in on Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, about 50 miles up the Arkansas River from its junction with the Mississippi. McClernand drove in on the outer earthworks, and naval bombardment stopped Confederate artillery. Land units were poised to attack the besieged Confederates under General Thomas J. Churchill.

President Lincoln wrote to General Samuel Curtis in St. Louis about his concern with the slave problem in Missouri. A Federal military court-martial dismissed General Fitz John Porter from the U.S. Army for failing to obey orders during the Battle of Second Bull Run the previous August. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas, and Federal warships bombarded Galveston, Texas.

Sunday, January 11.  After a two-day naval bombardment, John A. McClernand launched a Federal ground attack on Fort Hindman on the Arkansas River. The overwhelmed Confederate defenders quickly surrendered. The Federals captured nearly 5,000 prisoners, 17 cannon, 46,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, and seven battle flags. While this was a Federal success, the fort itself held little strategic significance. Moreover, it diverted troops from the primary campaign against Vicksburg.

The prominent Confederate blockade runner, C.S.S. Alabama, sank U.S.S. Hatteras off Galveston, Texas. Hatteras had been on blockade duty when she was attacked by the stronger Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Missouri. In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates withdrew from Hartville. On the Mississippi River north of Memphis, Confederates surprised, captured, and burned U.S.S. Grampus No. 2.

Monday, January 12.  The third session of the 1st Confederate Congress assembled in Richmond and received a message from President Davis. The message criticized the Emancipation Proclamation because it could lead to the wholesale murder of blacks and slaveholders, thus revealing the “true nature of the designs” of the Republican Party. Davis requested legislation amending the draft laws and providing relief for citizens in war-torn regions of the South.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas. General John E. Wool assumed command of the Federal Department of the East.

Tuesday, January 13.  The U.S. War Department officially authorized the recruitment of blacks for the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, to be commanded by Colonel Thomas W. Higginson.

In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began from Helena. In Tennessee, a Federal reconnaissance began from Nashville to the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers, and another Federal reconnaissance began from Murfreesboro. U.S.S. Columbia ran aground off North Carolina; the vessel was captured and burned by Confederates.

At the Harpeth Shoals on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, U.S. gunboat Slidell surrendered to General Joseph Wheeler’s Confederates. Three transports with wounded troops were also seized; Wheeler put the wounded all on one transport and allowed it to proceed, then burned the other two.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 31, 1862-Jan 6, 1863

Wednesday, December 31.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) began, as Federal General William Rosecrans and Confederate General Braxton Bragg resolved to attack each other. Both commanders planned to move left and crush the enemy right, but Bragg moved first and put the Federals on the defensive. After several Confederate assaults, the Federals withdrew to the Murfreesboro-Nashville Pike, pinned against Stone’s River.

Both sides inflicted heavy casualties, but the fighting was inconclusive and the Federal lines held. Bragg and Rosecrans remained within range of each other, each hoping that the other would withdraw. The Confederates entrenched, and the Federal command discussed the situation. Bragg prematurely wired the Confederate government that his men had scored a victory.

In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals continued exploring various plans for attacking the bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry was surprised by Federal forces at Parker’s Crossroad. After raiding General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines, Forrest was confronting a Federal force in his front when a second force unexpectedly attacked from behind. When his staff asked for orders, Forrest said, “Split in two and charge both ways.” They followed the order and escaped, losing 300 troops.

Thursday, January 1.  In Washington, the traditional New Year’s reception took place in the White House. After receiving guests, President Abraham Lincoln retired to the Executive Office, where administration officials witnessed him signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Copies were sent to the press, and news of the signing was spread throughout the world. Although the proclamation technically freed nobody, it gave the U.S. a foreign relations advantage over the Confederacy. It also opened the path to permanently abolishing slavery. And perhaps most importantly, it authorized the recruitment of blacks into the military, giving the North an overwhelming manpower advantage. Celebrations and salutes were held among free blacks, former slaves, and abolitionists in Boston’s Tremont Temple.

Federal General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, met with Lincoln to discuss a new plan of attack following the disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg the previous month. Lincoln informed the general that several army subordinates had no confidence in him. Burnside offered to resign, but Lincoln refused because he had no practical replacement. Hoping to redeem himself, Burnside promised to strike “a great and mortal blow to the rebellion” by moving north along the Rappahannock River and attacking Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s left flank. Lincoln reluctantly approved the plan.

In Texas, General John B. Magruder’s Confederates landed at Galveston to free the town from Federal occupation. Improvised gunboats landed on the lowlands, while cotton steamers attacked Federal ships in Galveston Harbor. When the Federal flagship was run aground, the naval flotilla abandoned the town, and the Federal garrison at Kuhn’s Wharf surrendered. The Confederate capture of Galveston temporarily broke the Federal naval blockade.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland and General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee remained in their positions from the previous day, poised to strike each other at Stone’s River. In South Carolina, Robert Yeadon of Charleston offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of Federal General Benjamin F. Butler, dead or alive.

Friday, January 2.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) resumed after a one-day respite. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates resumed their attacks, but the Federal lines had been strengthened and the attacks were repulsed. By nightfall, both armies fell back, and rain turned the battlefield into a quagmire.

Saturday, January 3.  In Tennessee, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began withdrawing to Tullahoma. William Rosecrans was surprised by Bragg’s withdrawal and did not pursue. This prompted Bragg to claim a tactical victory, but it soon became apparent that this was a significant Confederate defeat. The Battle of Stone’s River secured Kentucky and Tennessee for the Federals. It also boosted the morale of pro-Union eastern Tennesseans and demoralized Confederate sympathizers in central Tennessee and Kentucky. Many Confederates saw this as a missed opportunity to destroy the northern war effort after the Federals had been so soundly beaten at Fredericksburg the previous month.

In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals began withdrawing from the bluffs north of Vicksburg across the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend. Their effort to capture Vicksburg ended in failure, but the overall commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, soon began developing another plan of attack. John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates recrossed the Cumberland River after raiding Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton after attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines.

Sunday, January 4.  General John A. McClernand’s 30,000-man Federal force began an unauthorized move up the Arkansas River with 50 transports and gunboats commanded by Admiral David D. Porter. McClernand’s force included the corps belonging to William T. Sherman that had just withdrawn from Mississippi, and this move sought to avenge the Federal defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs last month. Their target was Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, on the Arkansas River.

Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Ulysses S. Grant to rescind his controversial General Order No. 11 expelling all Jews from his military department. President Lincoln endorsed Halleck’s order, and Grant complied on January 7.

In Tennessee, various skirmishes occurred as Braxton Bragg’s Confederates continued withdrawing from Murfreesboro. In the New Mexico Territory, Federal forces began operations against various Indian tribes that continued until May. U.S.S. Quaker City captured a Confederate blockade-runner carrying important dispatches off Charleston, South Carolina.

Monday, January 5.  In Tennessee, Federal troops entered Murfreesboro as skirmishing continued. President Lincoln wired William Rosecrans, “God bless you and all with you… I can never forget… that you gave us a hard-earned victory, which, if there had been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.” Rosecrans soon began planning a Federal advance on the vital railroad city of Chattanooga.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis returned to Richmond after completing his southern tour. Davis told a serenading crowd that the Confederacy was the last hope “for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded–the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.” Davis added, “Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader.” Noting the recent victory at Fredericksburg, Davis quipped that the only Federals who had reached the Confederate capital thus far had been prisoners.

Tuesday, January 6.  General John Marmaduke’s Confederates raided Missouri and fought skirmishes at Linn Creek and Fort Lawrence, Beaver Station.

Today marks anniversary of Dakota War hangings-Grand Forks Herald

To add to Walt’s mention of the anniversary in his post, I wanted to share part of this lengthy article that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald yesterday (Dec. 26). It is particularly interesting to me, both as it occurred in Minnesota, and related to the larger conflict between the Dakota and the Federal government, which included the siege of Fort Abercrombie, which was commemorated this past September, including participation by several reenactors (myself included).

Today marks anniversary of Dakota War hangings

MITCHELL, S.D. — They were Dakota warriors. They met their fates with courage 150 years ago. The 38 condemned men, their hands bound behind them, rushed to the gallows that had been specially built for them on the edge of the Minnesota River in Mankato, Minn. They danced in place as the rough-hewn nooses were pulled over their heads. All wore white muslin caps with flaps on them, pulled down to obscure faces adorned with ceremonial paint.

The 1862 Dakota War was coming to a deadly climax.

According to an eyewitness report in The New York Times of the largest mass execution in American history, most of the men on the scaffold sang a slow Indian death song. Some of the condemned, including a few of mixed blood who had embraced Christianity, sang a song of their faith. Several had worked their hands free, and clasped a final grip with the man next to them.

Meanwhile, about 4,000 people watched. They were being monitored by more than 1,400 uniformed soldiers in the Minnesota Sixth, Eighth and Ninth regiments, there to ensure the warriors died of hanging and not of a mob attack.

Just after 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 26, 1862 — 150 years ago Wednesday — a drum was sounded three times. Capt. William Duley stood ready with a knife at the base of the platform.

Duley had been wounded, had lost three children during the conflict, and his pregnant wife and two other children had been taken hostage. Laura Duley later said she was repeatedly assaulted and lost the child she was carrying during captivity, he would learn when they were reunited.

As the final drumbeat echoed, Duley severed the heavy rope on his second try, releasing the traps beneath the warriors’ feet. All plunged down from the 20-foot-high platform.

Some died instantly, their necks snapped. Others writhed in agony as they choked to death. One man, known as Rattling Runner, plummeted to the ground, the rope around his neck having broken.

As he was brought back to the platform and a second rope placed around his neck, the crowd — and the soldiers — cheered long and loud when they saw all 38 bodies swinging in the frigid morning air.

One little boy, who reportedly had lost his parents in the 1862 Dakota War, was heard to shout, “Hurrah! Hurrah!” according to The New York Times report.

That mass hanging was the culmination of the 1862 Dakota War, also known as the Dakota Conflict, the Sioux Uprising of 1862, and Little Crow’s War, among other names. The executions were held after weeks of attacks, skirmishes and battles between white settlers and soldiers and Indians angry about the loss of their homeland and being denied access to food.

Hundreds, many of them settlers who were surprised by sudden attacks, died in August and September 1862. The Mankato hangings were intended to put the war to rest, but it has remained a heated topic among many Indians and some whites for 150 years, while others, even some who live in the region, are completely unaware of the bloody late summer of 1862.

Lyle W. Miller Sr., a Crow Creek teacher and 1993 Dakota Wesleyan University graduate, spoke on the 1862 Dakota War during a Dec. 14 presentation at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

“When I think about that time in 1862, and I think about the reasons why it started — it had to happen,” Miller said. “A lot of people think war isn’t ever supposed to happen, but at this time, let’s put it this way: There’s no good about a war, but sometimes it has to happen. The little ones were starving. What do you do when you’re faced with a position like that?”

Read more from the Grand Forks Herald.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 24-30, 1862

Wednesday, December 24.  In Texas, Federal forces occupied Galveston, which had already been partially occupied by naval forces since October. Galveston had been used as a port for Confederate blockade runners, but it was too far from the Confederate heartland to be an effective base.

In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders occupied Glasgow. A portion of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal army under William T. Sherman moved down the Mississippi River from Memphis toward Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Thursday, December 25.  In Washington, President and Mrs. Lincoln spent Christmas Day visiting wounded soldiers at local hospitals. In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Milliken’s Bend, north of Vicksburg. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished with Federals at various points. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Friday, December 26.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals landed on the south bank of the Yazoo River near Steele’s Bayou, seven miles from its confluence with the Mississippi River and four miles northwest of Chickasaw Bluffs.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland moved out of Nashville to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. Rosecrans was slowed by attacks on his Kentucky railroad lines by John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry withdrew after disrupting major parts of General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines in Tennessee and Mississippi.

In Minnesota, the largest mass execution in U.S. history took place, as 38 condemned Dakota Sioux Indians were hanged at Mankato for participating in the Dakota Sioux War earlier this year. The bodies were buried in a trench on the riverbank. The other 265 Indians convicted for participating in the war remained in military prisons. By this time, there were over 1,000 Dakota Sioux imprisoned throughout Minnesota for various crimes.

Saturday, December 27.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals continued moving slowly through the swamps, marshes, and bayous north of Vicksburg;  Confederate General John C. Pemberton began rushing troops in to defend the town. In Tennessee, various skirmishing occurred as William Rosecrans’s Federals continued advancing toward Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Elizabethtown. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Sunday, December 28.  Various skirmishes occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals advanced on Vicksburg and William Rosecrans’s Federals advanced on Murfreesboro. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federals evacuated New Madrid, Missouri. In Arkansas, James Blunt’s Federal Army of the Frontier defeated Confederates at Dripping Springs, drove them through Van Buren, and captured about 40 wagons, four steamers, and other equipment.

Monday, December 29.  In Mississippi, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals were repulsed by heavy fire from John C. Pemberton’s Confederate defenders on the foot of the bluffs near Chickasaw Bayou. The Federals suffered 1,776 casualties, while the Confederates lost only 207. Fog disrupted a second Federal attack, and Sherman admitted failure. To many northerners, this battle seemed painfully similar to Fredericksburg. This defeat, combined with constant raids on Federal supplies, marked a discouraging beginning to Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to capture Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, skirmishing continued between William Rosecrans’s Federals and Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished at Johnson’s Ferry and captured a stockade at Boston.

Tuesday, December 30.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals remained pinned at the foot of the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg. In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals came within range of Braxton Bragg’s Confederates at Murfreesboro. In eastern Tennessee, S.P. Carter’s Federals captured Union and Carter’s Depot. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates fought various skirmishes as they began withdrawing.

In Washington, President Lincoln presented a draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation, to be issued on January 1. He also wired General Ambrose Burnside about dissension and low morale within the Army of the Potomac: “I have good reason for saying you must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

The first Federal ironclad warship, U.S.S. Monitor, sank in stormy seas while being towed off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen men died in the sinking ship, while 47 survivors were rescued by nearby steamer Rhode Island. Though Monitor had defeated C.S.S. Virginia in the famed Battle of the Ironclads in March, she had never been very seaworthy.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

A Civil War Christmas: Santa Claus on the battlefield

Hat tip to Ethan Rafuse at Civil Warriors for sharing this interesting story yesterday.

A Civil War Christmas: Santa Claus on the battlefield.

VIENNA, Va., December 18, 2012 —  It’s difficult to write about the Civil War at Christmas time, since during that time of war, battles and skirmishes, most folks just did not sit down and commit their thoughts of Yuletide observances to paper and ink, that is if they had ink.  But Christmas was celebrated to some extent both in the North and in the South.

However, you can never talk of the Civil War and Christmas without bringing up the name of Thomas Nast, who was a newspaper cartoonist and a rabid Northerner. It was Nast to whom we owe the word-picture and the actual drawing of Santa Claus, which flowed from his prolific pen.

He published his first Christmas-related cartoon in “Harper’s Weekly” during Christmas,1863, showing a bewhiskered gent passing out gifts to Union soldiers. A couple of fairly young looking boys are pictured on the floor, opening boxes.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 17-23, 1862

Wednesday, December 17.  General Ulysses S. Grant issued a controversial order expelling all Jews from his military department in Tennessee and Mississippi. Grant sought to end the widespread illegal speculation along the Mississippi River, but his order equated peddlers and speculators with Jews. This caused resentment among the Jewish people and carried social and political consequences for years.

Secretary of State William H. Seward and his son Frederick submitted their resignations due to ongoing political conflicts with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. President Abraham Lincoln did not accept the Sewards’ resignations.Ongoing Federal expeditions continued in North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri.

Thursday, December 18.  In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates defeated Federal cavalry in Forrest’s ongoing campaign of disrupting Ulysses S. Grant’s supply and communication lines. Grant’s army was formally organized into four corps led by William T. Sherman, Stephen A. Hurlbut, James B. McPherson, and John McClernand.

President Lincoln met with a caucus of nine Republican senators at the White House who demanded that he reorganize his cabinet, including dismissing Secretary of State Seward.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his southern tour by visiting Chattanooga. He wrote to Secretary of War James Seddon that the troops at Murfreesboro were in good spirits, but he expressed concern over anti-Confederate sentiment in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, as “there is some hostility and much want of confidence in our strength.”

The South Carolina legislature passed a law allowing the use of slave labor to bolster defenses.

Friday, December 19.  In Washington, President Lincoln met with the Republican caucus and all his cabinet members except Secretary of State Seward. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, another target of the “Radical” Republicans, offered to resign. Lincoln also summoned General Ambrose Burnside to Washington to discuss the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Virginia, with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines at Jackson, Tennessee.

Saturday, December 20.  In Mississippi, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attacked Ulysses S. Grant’s huge supply depot at Holly Springs, captured at least 1,500 Federals, and destroyed about $1.5 million in military supplies. North of Holly Springs, Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked railroads and skirmished at Trenton and Humboldt. These raids forced Grant to withdraw his forces to La Grange, Tennessee. The raids also disrupted Grant’s plan to send William T. Sherman’s corps down the Mississippi River to the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Chase submitted his resignation to President Lincoln. This gave Lincoln political leverage because the Radical Republicans supported Chase, and Lincoln informed them that if they insisted on removing Secretary of State Seward, then Chase would go as well. The Radicals relented, and Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would accept no resignations.

Sunday, December 21.  In Tennessee, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders left Alexandria to begin a raid on Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Virginia. Various Federal forces also began expeditions in Virginia and Arkansas.

In Mississippi, President Jefferson Davis visited Vicksburg, where he wrote to General T.H. Holmes that it seemed “clearly developed that the enemy has two principal objects in view, one to get control of the Missi. River, and the other to capture the capital of the Confederate States.” However, Davis believed that the Federal defeat at Fredericksburg had stopped moves against Richmond for the winter. To prevent the Federals from capturing the Mississippi and “dismembering the Confederacy, we must mainly depend upon maintaining the points already occupied by defensive works: to-wit, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.”

Monday, December 22.  In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with General Burnside about the Fredericksburg debacle and the widespread blame going around for it. Lincoln issued an order congratulating the Army of the Potomac for its brave performance and called the defeat an “accident.”

John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders crossed the Cumberland River and invaded Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Tuesday, December 23.  President Davis visited Jackson, Mississippi, where he issued a proclamation calling Federal General Benjamin Butler a felon, an outlaw, a common enemy of mankind, and if captured he should not be held prisoner under articles of war but hanged immediately. This was a response to Butler’s tyrannical and corrupt military occupation of New Orleans; he had recently been replaced as commander of occupation forces by General Nathaniel Banks. Davis also wired Secretary of War Seddon, “There is immediate and urgent necessity for heavy guns and long range field pieces at Vicksburg.”

General Simon B. Buckner assumed command of the Confederate District of the Gulf, and General E. Kirby Smith resumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Primary source: The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 10-16, 1862

Wednesday, December 10.  In Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac increased activity at Falmouth, indicating that an attack on Fredericksburg was imminent. In North Carolina, Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Plymouth. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill approving the secession of the western part of the state from Virginia. The Senate had already passed a measure creating the state of West Virginia on July 14.

Thursday, December 11.  In Virginia, Federal engineers began constructing pontoon bridge for Burnside’s army to cross the Rappahannock River and enter Fredericksburg. The engineers were under fire from Confederate sharpshooters until Federal artillery cleared them out. Federal forces crossed into Fredericksburg on two bridges and drove the Confederates out of town. Confederate General Robert E. Lee awaited the invasion; the only mystery was where the Federals would strike. In northern Mississippi, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led about 2,500 men in a raid on Federal General Ulysses S. Grant’s communications.

Friday, December 12.  In Virginia, Federal troops continued crossing the Rappahannock and entering Fredericksburg. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson positioned his corps on Lee’s right flank, while General James Longstreet’s corps assembled on the left. It was apparent that there would be a Federal attack the next day. On the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Federal ironclad Cairo struck a mine and sank; the crew escaped. In response to rumors of peace overtures, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to New York Mayor Fernando Wood that if the southern states ceased resistance to national authority, “the war would cease on the part of the United States.”

Saturday, December 13.  The Battle of Fredericksburg took place as the Federal Army of the Potomac attacked the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia outside town. Federal attacks on “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps were repulsed. The Federals then attacked Longstreet’s corps positioned on a ridge outside town called Mayre’s Heights. After brutal, desperate fighting, the Federals were easily repulsed and their assault failed miserably. Ambrose Burnside’s eagerness to fight Robert E. Lee had led to one of the worst Federal defeats of the war.

In Tennessee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his tour of the South by reviewing General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro and conferring with the generals.

Sunday, December 14.  In Virginia, Ambrose Burnside ordered a renewed attack on Fredericksburg, but his officers persuaded him to change his mind. Robert E. Lee was criticized in the South for failing to counterattack, even though his men were vastly outnumbered. In Washington, President Lincoln held conferences with his generals and advisers. In North Carolina, Federal forces under General John G. Foster captured Kingston. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Monday, December 15.  In Virginia, the beaten Federal Army of the Potomac completed its withdrawal back across the Rappahannock River and away from Fredericksburg. Many army officers complained about Burnside’s decisions. In Louisiana, General Benjamin Butler relinquished command of the Federal Department of the Gulf, headquartered in New Orleans. The city’s residents were ecstatic to see the controversial general leave. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri.

Tuesday, December 16.  In Virginia, the Federal Army of the Potomac established positions on Stafford Heights overlooking the Rappahannock. In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks assumed command of the Federal Department of the Gulf. In North Carolina, John G. Foster’s Federals skirmished with Confederates at White Hall and Mount Olive Station. President Lincoln postponed the execution of Dakota Sioux Indians (imprisoned for conducting the Dakota Sioux uprising this summer) from December 19 to December 26.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

The debate over the language of Lincoln

First off, it’s good to be back to blog with you all, as the last few weeks have been extremely hectic for me preparing for my doctoral comprehensive exams, which I am now through the written portion (cue Hallelujah Chorus). Thanks to intrepid fellow CWH blogger Walter Coffey for keeping up some interesting posts the last two months.

Now, I did find a little time to go see the Spielberg film Lincoln with my two friends and fellow reenactors Stuart Lawrence and Den Bolda. Den dressed in period civilian trappings, while I dressed as a soldier for the event (Hey, if folks can go to comic book movies, etc. dressed as the characters from those films, why not us?), which was fun, as one couple who were visiting relatives in the area, but were from Indiana took their picture with us.

My thoughts on the film are mixed. I felt that Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Honest Abe was pretty good, aside from being a departure from the classic Hal Holbrook rendition in North and South, or Gregory Peck in The Blue and the Gray (which were good also, but not necessarily as accurate). I also enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more on Lincoln’s conduct of the war as Commander-in-Chief, which did not have to mean another Civil War film full of battle scenes, but just more on the course of his presidency. I thought the debate over the 13th Amendment was interesting and one of my colleagues noted that he hoped it would get people into the documents surrounding the debate on that legislation. Den and I both enjoyed the costuming, as the material culture presented in the film was quite good. Overall, I thought the film presented a real conception of Lincoln, more human as opposed to being on such a pedestal.

That said, one other area that I thought was a bit off, and has apparently became a topic of debate between historians is the foul language that appears a few times. Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book Team of Rivals was an inspiration for the movie did not have much problem with the profanity used in the film. In contrast, James McPherson argued that Lincoln did not approve of such language and likely did not use it to the degree that was portrayed, especially the utterance of “f—” by W. N. Bilbo, one of the lobbyists for the 13th Amendment. Another who argued that Lincoln likely did not swear as much as was portrayed in the movie, but would not have had as much issue with swearing around him was University of Richmond president Edward Ayers.

Overall, I have to agree with both McPherson and Ayers on their assessment of Lincoln and colorful language. I wonder if Spielberg chose to keep such language to resonate with modern audiences, who are used to such things, and if that is so, what does it say about our society. Further, the movie would have been just as good without it, which would have allowed parents to take younger children to see the film. One wonders how many stayed away because of the language issue. It would have been interesting to see, were he still alive, what David Donald would have said about this issue.

While swearing has become increasingly pervasive in our culture, this does not mean it was so in earlier times. I think the work by Richard Bushman called The Refinement of America is particularly relevant. While focused on the eighteenth century, it also explored the nineteenth century, charting the desire of Americans to achieve elements of refined culture, which extended to personal behavior, including manners and decorum.

It is interesting that this has become a mini debate among respected scholars, but it is good, as it allows historians to interject their knowledge and insights on a given topic into the larger culture. Much like the earlier kerfuffle over how Day-Lewis vocalized Lincoln, the issue of swearing by Abe will be another in a series of appraisals on the film in the coming weeks. Such is the nature of the beast when movies based upon historical events and actors are produced. I encourage everyone to at least go and see Lincoln, but also pick up a good biography of him (I recommend Lincoln by the late David Donald).

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 3-9, 1862

Wednesday, December 3.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and western Virginia. Three Confederate blockade runners were captured off the coast of North Carolina. In Mississippi, Federal forces under General Ulysses S. Grant continued pressing Confederates along the Yocknapatalfa River.

Thursday, December 4.  General Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of all Confederate forces in the West. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. In Minnesota, settlers attacked Indian prisoners in a continuation of the Dakota Sioux War that had erupted in August. In Kentucky, Confederates captured supplies at Prestonburg.

Friday, December 5. In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal cavalry was defeated in a skirmish at Coffeeville.

Saturday, December 6.  President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution of 39 Indians among the 393 convicted in participating in the Dakota Sioux War. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Missouri.

Sunday, December 7.  The Battle of Prairie Grove occurred about 12 miles southwest of Fayetteville, Arkansas on Illinois Creek. Confederate General Thomas C. Hindman had hoped to destroy two Federal armies before they could unite. However, the Federals had joined forces by the time the Confederates attacked. After intense and confusing combat, the Confederates held their ground, but the bitterly cold weather forced them to withdraw during the night.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, concerned about Vicksburg, wired General John C. Pemberton at Grenada, Mississippi, “Are you in communication with Genl. J.E. Johnston? Hope you will be re-inforced in time.” The Confederate Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana was organized with Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price commanding the First and Second Corps. Confederate John Hunt Morgan and about 1,400 men surprised and captured a Federal garrison at Hartsville, Tennessee.

Monday, December 8.  President Davis informed General Robert E. Lee that he was going west to address the dwindling Confederate prospects in Tennessee and Mississippi. Davis also expressed regret that he could offer no more manpower to Lee’s outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia.

Tuesday, December 9.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. Federal expeditions began from Ozark, Missouri and from Corinth, Mississippi toward Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)