The American Civil War, day by day - Page 53 - Politics | PoFo

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November 15, Saturday

The start of Army of the Potomac’s campaign as planned by General Burnside is propitious. Sumner’s grand division leads the way, setting off from the Warrenton area at dawn—a day ahead of the other two grand divisions—and moving fast.

General Lee knows that something is afoot, but he cannot decide just what it is. He has a reputation for being able to divine an opposing commander’s intentions, but then McClellan has been extremely predictable. In fact, Lee has lamented McClellan’s departure. “We always understood each other so well,” he remarks to Longstreet. “I fear they may continue to make these changes till they find someone whom I don’t understand.” It is beginning to look as if Burnside is such an opponent. Lee learns of Sumner’s departure this same day, but is uncertain what it portends. His confusion, augmented by fragmentary and false intelligence reports, lasts for several days. At one point Lee seems to believe that Burnside intends to take his army to Alexandria, put it aboard ships, and sail it to North Carolina.

There is an action near Warrenton at Sulphur Springs; another on the Guyandotte River in western Virginia; and at Yocum Creek, Missouri. November 15-20 Federals carry out a reconnaissance from Edgefield Junction toward Clarksville, Tennessee.

President Davis quickly accepts the resignation of his Secretary of War, George W. Randolph, which comes without prior notice. President Davis’ Secretaries of War have had trouble over many things, but especially with their chief’s virtual operation of their department.

Confederate General Earl Van Dorn is brought before a court of inquiry to face charges brought by one of his most capable subordinates, Brigadier General John S. Bowen. The accusations include incompetence, drunkenness, and “cruel and improper treatment” of his troops. The court will last a week, at the end of which Van Dorn is fully acquitted. But he will soon be removed from his post as commander of Vicksburg’s defenses and placed in charge of Confederate cavalry in northern Mississippi, a job for which he is better suited by virtue of his prior cavalry service and his reckless zeal in combat.

President Lincoln calls for “orderly observance of the Sabbath” by officers and men of the Army and Navy.
November 16, Sunday

Burnside moves his headquarters from Warrenton to Catlett’s Station as his army shifts toward Fredericksburg, closely watched and followed by part of Lee’s army. The movement involves a small fight at US Ford on the Rappahannock.

Other fighting is at Gloucester Point on Virginia’s Peninsula; and November 16-21 there is a Federal expedition from Helena against Arkansas Post, Arkansas.
November 17, Monday

Just after dark, Sumner’s Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac arrives at the town of Falmouth, situated on the north bank of the Rappahannock little more than a mile upriver from Fredericksburg, Virginia, with light skirmishing. At the same time, General Lee learns that Sumner is approaching Fredericksburg. “I do not know whether this movement on Fredericksburg is intended as a feint or a real advance upon Richmond,” he admits to Confederate Secretary of War George W. Randolph. In the latter case, Lee promises, “this whole army will be in position.” Lee orders Longstreet to send out two divisions from Culpeper in the morning. Brigadier General Robert Ransom is to move south along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad toward the North Anna River, south of Fredericksburg, to get into position to block the Federals there if need be. Major General Lafayette McLaws, along with General Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry brigade and General Lane’s artillery, is to march eastward toward Fredericksburg. Lee also sends a suggestion to General Jackson—he seldom gives his gifted subordinate a direct order—that he might move a few of his divisions east of the Blue Ridge to be closer at hand. And the cavalry under Jeb Stuart is sent north across the Rappahannock to scout the enemy movements.

But Lee is still unsure of Burnside’s intentions, and remains unwilling to have Jackson abandon the Shenandoah Valley entirely. Jackson has reported that the Federals might be advancing from Harpers Ferry, and Lee is worried that with Jackson gone, the Shenandoah could be laid waste. Lee is certain of only one thing: He doesn’t want to fight at Fredericksburg. He prefers to make a stand against Burnside 25 miles farther south along the North Anna River. There his men would have a more favorable position to defend and there, too, the Federal lines of communications would be greatly extended. But as always, Lee will remain flexible. Much will depend on what Longstreet finds.

There is another fight near Carrsville, Virginia; operations about Cassville and Keetsville, Missouri; and a Federal expedition from Sparta, Tennessee, into Kentucky.

President Davis, without a Secretary of War after the hasty resignation of George W. Randolph, names Major General G.W. Smith temporary Secretary of War of the Confederacy.
November 18, Tuesday

Franklin’s Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac soon reaches Stafford Court House, eight miles from Falmouth, and General Hooker halts at Hartwood, just seven miles away. This is a stunning change from the McClellan days. As a correspondent for the New York Tribune writes this day, “Officers wont to believe that a great command cannot move more than six miles a day, and accustomed to our old method of waiting a week for the issue of new clothing or a month for the execution of an army to advance, rub their eyes in mute astonishment. We have marched from Warrenton forty miles, in two days and a half.”

Burnside seems to be justifying the trust placed in him: In command for less than two weeks, he has formulated a plan, reorganized his army, and commenced a campaign, and now his troops stand poised at their first objective. Better yet, Fredericksburg and the heights beyond it are held by just four companies of Confederate infantry, a cavalry regiment and a battery of light artillery. Longstreet’s corps is still thirty miles away at Culpeper, and Jackson’s corps remains in the Shenandoah. All Burnside has to do is get his forces across the Rappahannock quickly and the town is his. The ingredients for a major Federal triumph are all there. Yet Burnside hesitates. Two of his generals urge him to strike immediately. Sumner, who has learned of a ford not far upstream from Falmouth, asks permission to cross at once and occupy Fredericksburg. But the weather is threatening, and the rivers are already high; Burnside worries that any force crossing the river might be trapped on the opposite bank by high water, and rejects Sumner’s request. General Hooker also proposes to cross, even farther upriver at a place called United States Ford. Then, according to a scheme of his own devising, he would strike out for Bowling Green, south of Fredericksburg and only 35 miles from Richmond. Not content to make the suggestion to Burnside alone, Hooker—in an act of stunning insubordination—will send a letter directly to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton explaining his idea and criticizing Burnside for his hesitancy. Hooker proposes that the Secretary take a hand in arranging for supplies. Stanton will never reply, Burnside rejects the proposal as premature, and Hooker’s gaffe is ignored—for the time being.

One of the two shipments of pontoons Burnside requested, commanded by General Woodbury, was supposed to be shipped down the Potomac River to Belle Plain, then be hauled overland to Burnside. On the way, however, the steamer towing the pontoons was delayed and only today reaches Belle Plain. Burnside, is just eight miles away.

Longstreet rides out at the head of McClaws’ division on their way to Fredericksburg.

As the Federal and Confederate armies in the east march toward Fredericksburg and in the west are concentrating at Nashville and Tullahoma, there is minor fighting at Franklin, Virginia; Doboy River, Georgia; Double Bridge and Rural Hill, Tennessee; and Core Creek, North Carolina.
November 19, Wednesday

General Lee orders the divisions of Major Generals George Pickett, John B. Hood, and Richard H. Anderson to move toward Fredericksburg. The road from Culpeper leads across the Rappahannock at a ford where the icy water is three feet deep. Many of the men remove shoes and pants before they brave the numbing cold of the water, only to learn that they must cross the deeper, even colder Rapidan one mile ahead. So they simply march on, carrying their clothes, bare limbs glistening in the weak winter sun. At the Rapidan, Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw of South Carolina rides across and waits for his men on the other side. “Go ahead, boys, don’t mind this,” he shouts, warm and dry atop his steed. Then he begins reminiscing about the days of the war in Mexico, when campaigning was really tough. His troops will have none of it, however. “General,” one of the men shouts, “it wasn’t so cold in Mexico.” Another chimes in: “Nor did they fight a war in winter.” That’s enough to silence Kershaw, and the troops shiver their way along the road to Fredericksburg.

Confederate forces of Longstreet’s corps take position on the heights above Fredericksburg after marching from the main base at Culpeper. Federal General Burnside arrives the same day, making his headquarters near Falmouth.

The second pontoon shipment to Burnside at Falmouth, to be sent by wagon train from Washington, has been as bungled as the first one. The harnesses that Major Spaulding ordered for the teams arrive unassembled in boxes and have to be put together before they can be used. Then some of the 270 horses furnished by the quartermaster turn out to be unbroken to harness. As a result, Spaulding doesn’t manage to get the wagon train under way until the afternoon. And by now, the heavy rain has turned even the best roads into mires of clinging Virginia mud. The teams will manage five miles a day at best.

There is fighting at Philomont, Virginia; Tunnel Hill and Tomkinsville, Kentucky; and Pineville, Missouri. November 19-20 there is a Union expedition from Grand Junction, Tennessee, to Ripley, Mississippi, as Grant continues to probe the Confederate defenders of Vicksburg.
November 20, Thursday

By the time General Lee arrives at Fredericksburg, Virginia, today, President Davis has made it clear that he wants Burnside stopped here rather than at the North Anna River, closer to Richmond. Although Lee doesn’t like the look of things, he obediently deploys his army for the defense of the city. He doesn’t for a moment consider mounting a defense of the town proper; Federal artillery deployed along Stafford Heights, on the far bank of the Rappahannock, makes that impossible. But just behind Fredericksburg a long, wooded ridge offers an excellent natural defensive position. Beginning at the Rappahannock north of the town, the ridge forms a gentle crescent that curves south and east for a distance of about seven miles. Rising at its highest point to 150 feet, it is for the most part beyond the range of the Federal guns, and can be made formidable by the construction of rifle pits and earthworks. Jackson’s Confederate corps is still in Winchester, about to move toward Fredericksburg. As the Confederates are taking up their positions on the heights behind Fredericksburg, they find the town’s inhabitants “in a state of great excitement”—the Federals are across the river.

General Bragg’s army is renamed the Army of Tennessee by President Davis when he places General Kirby Smith’s forces under Bragg’s jurisdiction. Today the lead elements of that army arrive in Murfreesboro. Although the Stones River valley through which those elements have moved on their journey was foraged by General Buell’s Federals during the summer, Bragg’s lead elements find that he has managed to gather an ample supply of food. Slowly, the men begin to recover from the rigors of their transfer from Knoxville to Murfreesboro and the unsuccessful Kentucky campaign that preceded it.

There is an affair under Matagorda, Texas, and a Federal reconnaissance until the twenty-third toward Van Burn and Fort Smith, Arkansas.
November 21, Friday

President Davis appoints James A. Seddon, prominent Richmond lawyer, former US and Confederate congressman, as Secretary of War. Seddon, who appears to be anything but warlike, is to prove the most able of the Confederate War Secretaries, though subject to abuse and criticism.

In the West Bragg sends Forrest to cut communications of Grant’s army in western Tennessee.

The agitation of Fredericksburg’s populace increases when the Union’s General Sumner dispatches a curt note to the town’s mayor and council. It reads: “Under cover of the houses of your city, shots have been fired upon the troops of my command. Your mills and manufactories are furnishing provisions and the material for clothing for armed bodies in rebellion against the government of the United States. Your railroads and other means of transportation are removing supplies to depots of such troops.” If the authorities do not surrender the city, Sumner continues, he will give them sixteen hours to evacuate noncombatants and then he will begin a bombardment. Longstreet, for his part, assures the townspeople that he doesn’t intend to occupy Fredericksburg for military purposes, but warns them that he will not permit the Federals to enter it without a fight. In the end, the mayor promises to stop the sniping and the furnishing of military supplies to the Confederate troops, and Sumner withdraws his ultimatum.

Lee is dismayed to find that with his few divisions he is facing the entire Army of the Potomac across the river. He is also puzzled by the Federals’ inactivity. For 48 hours, Burnside’s grand divisions have confronted only token opposition in Fredericksburg. Why have they not attacked?

Jackson is now marching from Winchester toward Fredericksburg.

There is skirmishing at Bayou Bonfouca, Louisiana.

President Lincoln tells Union Kentuckians that he “would rather die than take back a word of the Proclamation of Freedom,” and again urges support of his gradual-abolishment plan.
November 22, Saturday

In Virginia, Major Spaulding decides that he will never be able to get his shipment of pontoons to General Burnside overland, and determines to instead tow the pontoons down the Potomac to Belle Plain like the first shipment. He asks for a steamer to meet him at the mouth of the Occoquan Creek, fifteen miles south of Alexandria.

Federal General E.V. Sumner agrees not to bombard Fredericksburg, despite the ultimatum of the day before, “so long as no hostile demonstration is made from the town.” General Stonewall Jackson, anticipating that General Lee will have need for his troops, marches out of Winchester on his way to Fredericksburg.

At Winchester, Virginia, Federals skirmish with Confederates while Southerners attack Halltown, western Virginia, but are driven back. There is a reconnaissance from Williamsburg, Virginia, by Confederates. Twelve Southern salt works are destroyed, along with a number of vessels, in Matthews County, Virginia, on Chesapeake Bay. In Louisiana there is an affair at Petite Anse Island.

Federal Secretary of War Stanton discharges nearly all political prisoners held by the military.
November 23, Sunday

General Woodbury finally reaches Falmouth, Virginia, with the first shipment of Burnside’s pontoons, and the furious Burnside orders him arrested and held until he can give a “satisfactory explanation” of the delays. The astonished Woodbury quickly does so, and Burnside calms down. Woodbury is released, but both he and General in Chief Halleck will be blamed by the press.

The last of General Longstreet’s divisions has arrived at Fredericksburg, and General Lee has placed four of those divisions along the ridge around the town, from his far left to just behind Fredericksburg itself, across a low-lying area on either side of a creek called Deep Run, then on the far right. There is a division in reserve, and a single brigade is deployed in the town to harass any attempted crossing.

Federal Naval Lieutenant William Cushing with the steamer Ellis goes up New River, North Carolina, and at Jacksonville captures two schooners. However, while returning he runs into a shoal and loses his own vessel, but escapes in one of the captured schooners.
November 24, Monday

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston is assigned to the major command in the West, embracing western North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana. In President Davis’ view, Richmond is too far away to decide the issues of troop allocation and campaign objectives that continually arise among the armies and departments. He wants Johnston to oversee the operations of both Bragg’s forces and Pemberton’s army at Vicksburg in Mississippi. Almost immediately, the new arrangement generates more difficulties than it solves. Johnston and Davis have been at loggerheads since the beginning of the war. Indeed, some trace their acrimonious relationship to a fistfight the two men had over a girl while they were both West Point cadets. Johnston sees at once that his task is impossible. While Rosecrans is gathering his resources to move against Bragg, Grant is preparing to advance on Pemberton at Vicksburg; the two Confederate armies are isolated from each other, undersupplied, and undermanned. Before leaving Richmond to establish headquarters at Chattanooga, Johnston proposes that Pemberton’s army be brought to central Tennessee and combined with Bragg’s army to drive Rosecrans from the state, thus forcing Grant to abandon his advance into Mississippi. Davis not only brushes aside Johnston’s suggestion, but a few days later will propose strongly that Johnston send some of Bragg’s men to reinforce Pemberton. Instead of complying, Johnston points out, as he has before, that Vicksburg can be reinforced more sensibly by the 30,000-man army that is presently in Arkansas, doing nothing. Bragg cannot deplete his army further, Johnston says, “without exposing himself to inevitable defeat.”

Bragg is now moving his three corps to Murfreesboro southeast of Nashville.

Major Spaulding has had a time getting his shipment of Burnside’s pontoons to Belle Plain, Virginia. First he had to build a bridge with the pontoons to get his horses and wagons across the Occoquan so they can go on to Belle Plain by land. Then he dismantled the bridge and made rafts of the pontoons. Once he floated this makeshift fleet to the mouth of the creek, he had to wait for high tide before he could get his rafts through the shallows and out to the waiting steamer in the Potomac. The pontoons finally reach the Belle Plain wharf just before dark, where he finds the teams waiting for him.

There is skirmishing at Newtown, Virginia, and Beaver Creek, Missouri. An expedition November 24-25 by the Federals from Sharpsburg, Maryland, to Shepherdstown, western Virginia, will fight several skirmishes. In western Virginia, November 24-30, there will be an expedition from Summerville to Cold Knob Mountain by the Federals.

President Lincoln writes politician Carl Schurz, “I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not.”
November 25, Tuesday

At 10 am Major Spaulding sets out on the last leg with the second shipment of Burnside’s pontoons, and five hours later they roll into Falmouth. Burnside at last has his pontoons and can build his bridges. Moreover, the rail line from Aquia Creek is open, thanks to the herculean labors of the quartermasters and the Army of the Potomac’s Construction Corps. But time has run out. Burnside, watching the steady swelling of the Confederate forces across the river, is having second thoughts about an immediate frontal attack through Fredericksburg. Now the Federals will have to cross the Rappahannock “in the face of a vigilant and formidable foe.”

General Stonewall Jackson has, as usual, set a grueling pace for his troops—an average of twenty miles a day—as they have marched southwest from Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley for New Market, then east across the Blue Ridge at Fisher’s Gap to Madison Court House today.

President Lincoln requests a meeting with General Burnside in an exceedingly gentle telegram: “If I should be in boat off Aquia Creek at dark tomorrow evening, could you, without inconvenience, meet me and pass an hour or two with me?”

Confederate cavalry crosses the Potomac at Poolesville, Maryland, and seizes the government telegraph office briefly. Other fighting is at Pitman’s Ferry and Cane Hill, Arkansas; Henderson’s Station and Clarksville, Tennessee; Calhoun, Kentucky. There is a Federal expedition November 25-29 to Yellville, Arkansas.

Confederate Major General Samuel Jones is assigned to command the Trans-Allegheny or Western Department of Virginia.
November 26, Wednesday

President Lincoln goes down the Potomac to Belle Plain for a conference with Burnside. General Lee sends for General Stonewall Jackson.

President Davis writes the governors of the Confederate states appealing for aid in enrolling conscripts and forwarding them to rendezvous, in restoring to the Army all absent without leave, and in securing more supplies for army use. He also calls for use of slave labor on defense works.

There is a skirmish near Somerville, Tennessee; a Federal reconnaissance from Bolivar Heights to Charles Town, western Virginia; an affair in Jackson and La Fayette counties, Missouri; and in Tennessee these last days of the month there are operations about Springfield, a Union reconnaissance at La Vergne, and a Federal expedition from Edgefield to Clarksville.
November 27, Thursday

President Lincoln spends the morning at Aquia Creek, Virginia, conferring with General Burnside. The general favors a direct assault on Lee at Fredericksburg, while Lincoln proposes building up a force south of the Rappahannock and another on the Pamunkey for a three-pronged attack. Burnside turns down the President’s plan.

There is a skirmish at Mill Creek, Tennessee; and another at Carthage, Missouri; while a Federal expedition that will last until December 6 probes near Grenada, Mississippi.
November 28, Friday

After the repulse on October 4th of the Confederates that had occupied Newtonia, Missouri, General Schofield, sick and thinking the season too far advanced for further campaigning, returned to St. Louis, leaving General Blunt in command of what was now designated the Army of the Frontier. Meanwhile, the Confederate hold on Vicksburg, Mississippi, is being threatened by General Grant, and Brigadier General Holmes received orders to send 10,000 men across the Mississippi to reinforce that strategically critical city. He directed General Hindman to bring his army east. But Hindman won permission to eliminate the Federal threat to the Arkansas River valley first.

Hoping to whip Blunt before that Kansan can unite the Army of the Frontier’s 1st Division with Brigadier General Herron and the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, Hindman sent two brigades of horsemen—about 2,500 troopers—under Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke to Cane Hill, a long, low ridge north of the Boston Mountains, near Blunt’s position in northwest Arkansas. The tall, aristocratic Marmaduke, son and nephew of two Missouri governors, was educated at Yale, Harvard, and West Point. His mission is to draw Blunt away from Herron so that Hindman can defeat the two Federal forces in detail.

Blunt learns of Marmaduke’s arrival at Cane Hill and moves aggressively to the attack. Stung by Federal artillery fire, the outnumbered Confederates retreat to the foot of the Boston Mountains. Bold charges by Kansas infantry and dismounted cavalry and a Cherokee home guard regiment force Marmaduke to retreat again to a gorge along a road leading to Van Buren. As night comes on, Marmaduke makes a final stand. Three companies of Kansas cavalry charge wildly into the defile to try to seize the Confederates’ artillery. Ambushed by a rearguard made up of Colonel Shelby’s Missourians, the Kansans are hurled back, fighting their way clear with sabers and pistols. A flag of truce sent by Marmaduke to recover his dead and wounded ends the fight, and during the night the Confederates withdraw to Dripping Springs, eight miles north of Van Buren. Only a clever covering tactic by Shelby saves Marmaduke’s force from destruction. During the withdrawal, Shelby divides his companies, stationing them about 250 yards apart along the line of retreat. After each company fires, it mounts and gallops to the rear of the others, then dismounts and takes a new position, forcing the Federals to fight through a gauntlet of fire. It is dangerous work, and Shelby himself has four horses shot out from under him. His outfit will soon become known as Shelby’s Iron Brigade for its vigor and spirit.

There are skirmishes for two days at Holly Springs, Mississippi, where the Federals are beginning a build-up of supplies for their advance on Vicksburg. There is also a skirmish in Mississippi at the junction of the Coldwater and Tallahatchie; skirmishes on the Carthage Road, near Hartsville and Rome, Tennessee; near Hartwood Church, Virginia; and a three-day Federal reconnaissance from Chantilly, Virginia, to Berryville.

In Virginia, General Burnside travels to Washington to speak with President Lincoln and General in Chief Halleck. Oddly, no records are kept of the details of either conference. But Burnside has at last formulated a new plan of attack, and presumably takes the opportunity to clear it with his superiors. He then calls a council of his grand division commanders and announces that instead of crossing at Fredericksburg, he will make his move downstream at Skinker’s Neck, which his engineers have recommended as a crossing site. Sumner, ever the faithful subordinate, says he will do what he can, and Franklin expresses his readiness. But the obstreperous Hooker flatly opposes the idea, protesting that to attempt to cross a river in the face of the Confederates is preposterous. Burnside brushes aside Hooker’s objections.
November 29, Saturday

In the midst of a heavy snowstorm, General Stonewall Jackson arrives at General Lee’s tent at Fredericksburg—only three days after Lee sent for him. Lee quickly deploys Jackson’s troops, sending one division eighteen miles downriver to Port Royal; another to Skinker’s Neck, twelve miles downriver; a third division to Yerby’s House, six and a half miles southeast of Fredericksburg; and the fourth at Guinea Station, four and a half miles south of town. The four commands are to guard against any attempt by Burnside to cross downstream and outflank the Confederates. Meanwhile, General Jeb Stuart’s four brigades of cavalry guard the army’s front and flanks. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, 72,564 strong, is at last in place. It faces, across the Rappahannock, 116,683 men of the Army of Potomac. Never before in this war have so many armed men confronted each other.

Between the two mighty engines of destruction huddles the forlorn little town. “No people were in the place,” General Longstreet will later write, “except aged and infirm men, and women and children.” When it becomes obvious that a battle is inevitable, the Confederates tell those civilians remaining in Fredericksburg that they had better leave. “The evacuation of the place by the distressed women and helpless men was a painful sight,” Longstreet will write. “Many were almost destitute and had nowhere to go, but, yielding to the cruel necessities of war, they collected their portable effects and turned their back on the town. Many were forced to seek shelter in the woods and brave the icy November nights to escape the approaching assault from the Federal army.”

While General Burnside ponders his next move and Lee waits for him to make it, an unofficial truce prevails among the soldiers on either side of the Rappahannock. Occasionally a picket fires across the 400-foot-wide river, rarely with effect, and usually just to taunt the foe. When shots rang out above Falmouth one night, a Confederate picket yelled across the water, “Say, Yanks, there are some fools shooting across the river up above, but we won’t shoot if you don’t.” And so it was agreed.

Major General John B. Magruder, CSA, assumes command of the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

There are skirmishes at Lumpkin’s Mill and Waterford, Mississippi; and at Stewart’s Ferry and Baird’s Mills, Tennessee, near Stone’s River.
November 30, Sunday

A quiet end to a month of lesser fighting, command changes, and preparations for things to come. There are skirmishes, however, at Oklahoma, Mississippi, and on the Tallahatchie; and a Federal expedition operates from Rolla to the Ozarks in Missouri until December 6.
December 1862

The last month of the first full year of the Civil War shows a military picture quite different from that of the summer and early fall. While Confederate arms have been victorious on the Peninsula, at Second Manassas, Antietam, and for a time in Kentucky, the long-term outlook is anything but bright for the new nation. Everywhere they are even more on the defensive. In mid-Virginia Burnside’s Army of the Potomac is obviously preparing for direct action against Lee at Fredericksburg, in mid Tennessee Bragg at Murfreesboro is confronted by a readying Rosecrans at Nashville, and on the Mississippi Grant is building up for a drive by land or by river against Vicksburg. In Arkansas, from New Orleans, and along the Carolina, Georgia, and Texas coasts lesser forces are plaguing the Confederacy. Offshore there is always the blockade, not to be upset by the spectacular roaming of the CSS Alabama.

President Lincoln faces negative reactions to his Emancipation Proclamation. Democratic victories in the fall elections, resistance to the draft, and sensitive military commanders present additional problems. At Richmond President Davis is trying to direct all the operations of the Confederate government, obtain men and supplies from the governors, and protect the many vulnerable points of his nation. He well sees the threat of the poised Northern armies and attempts to gather his widely spread forces together despite lack of men and matériel.

December 1, Monday

The third session of the Thirty-seventh Congress of the United States convenes and receives the State of the Union message from the President. President Lincoln reports that foreign relations are satisfactory, commerce is generally in good shape, Federal receipts are exceeding expenditures. Most importantly, he recommends three constitutional amendments: first, every state which abolishes slavery before 1900 would receive compensation; second, all slaves who have gained freedom during the war would remain free, and loyal owners compensated; third, Congress would provide for colonization outside the country of free Blacks with their consent. He concludes, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.... In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best, hope of earth.”

Early in December there are skirmishes near Oxford, Hudsonville, and on the Yocknapatalfa River near Mitchell’s Cross Roads in Mississippi, as Grant continues to move southward. In Virginia there is a skirmish at Romney and a ten-day Federal expedition toward Logan Court House. On the Rosecrans-Bragg front in Tennessee there is a skirmish at Nolensville.

After their march from Shenandoah Valley, troops of Jackson’s corps are moving into position to form the right of Lee’s army at Fredericksburg.
December 2, Tuesday

Along the Rappahannock at Leeds’ Ferry there is a skirmish as Burnside and Lee face each other. Other fighting in Virginia is on the Blackwater near Franklin, near Dumfries, and December 2-6 a Federal reconnaissance operates from Bolivar Heights to Winchester. In the Indian Territory there is a skirmish at Saline.
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