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)