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)