CHRISTMAS DURING THE CIVIL WAR
Dec 24, 1861.
Washington. Congress passes duties on such luxury items as coffee, tea, sugar and molasses. Orders are given at the War Department, to suspend enlistment of Cavalry soldiers. The President prepares for Christmas Day with meetings between members of the Cabinet and himself, on means of resolving the Trent Affair*.
The President and Mrs. Lincoln entertain guests for Christmas Dinner. A decision concerning the disposition of Mason and Slidell* is discussed.
Eastern Theatre. The fighting continues near Fort Frederick, Maryland - also at Cherry, Western Virginia.
Dec 26, 1861.
The United States agrees to surrender Confederate Commissioners John Slidell and James Mason into the keeping of Great Britain. The Cabinet acknowledges that the seizure of the Diplomats was illegal and terms the action as a misunderstanding on the part of Captain Charles Wilkes. Lord Lyons receives the statement made by the United States and the Secretary of State orders that the men are released from Fort Warren, Massachusetts.
Trans Mississippi. St. Louis, Missouri is placed under martial law, which also included all railroads in the State. This order was given by General Henry Halleck. Fights between Confederates and pro-union Creek Indians at Christianahlah in Indian Territory, resulting in the Creeks fleeing to Kansas after suffering extensive losses.
Naval. Union blockaders are attacked by a small group of Confederate vessels on the mouth of the Savannah River. The Rebels only succeed dislodging the blockade temporarily.
Dec 25, 1862.
Washington. Lincoln and his wife visit the military hospitals where injured soldiers convalesce.
Western Theatre. John Hunt Morgan's raiders clash with Union troops near Bear Wallow, Kentucky. Glasgow, Kentucky is taken by Confederate troops. There is inconclusive fighting near Brentwood, Tennessee and along the Edmondson Pike. North of Vicksburg, Sherman's forces continue their operations.
Dec 26, 1862.
Western Theatre. General Sherman's troops position on the Yazoo River to the north of Vicksburg. There are some minor fights near La Vergne, Franklin and Knob Gap by General William Rosecrans troops as they push towards the Confederate lines at Murfreesboro.
Winter Quarters. Although minor hostilities continue in various theatres, most of the military celebrate Christmas the best they can.
Naval. At Johns Island and Stone River, South Carolina, Federal vessels see action with the USS Marblehead being badly damaged by shore batteries.
Western Theatre. Skirmishes at Fort Brooke, Florida. Federal troops destroy salt works factory at Bear Inlet, North Carolina.
Trans, Mississippi. Federal troops skirmish with Indians near Fort Gaston, California.
Naval. Rear Admiral Porter starts his bombardment of Fort Fisher. The Union command believes that by depriving the Confederates of this fortress would effectively shut the last major port available to Confederate blockade-runners. During the day, troop transports also arrive with the plan to storm the fort after the naval bombardment had sufficiently weakened its defences.
Western Theatre. There are skirmishes near Lynnville and Richland Creek, Tennessee between the Federals and Hood's retreating Army.
Naval. With close to sixty ships bombarding the fort, the Federal troops commanded by General Butler, land north of the fort and move within 75 yards of it, capturing Half Moon Battery as they advance. Strong fire from the Confederates garrisoning the Fort check the Union advance and they never renew the attack because General Butler, after hearing that Confederate reinforcements were within five miles, decides the assault would be too costly, and withdraws.
Dec 26, 1864.
Washington. Lincoln sends a congratulation message to Sherman for his success in Savannah, also for Thomas's victory at Nashville. Lincoln admitted he had been apprehensive about the march to the sea, but left it to the Generals' judgement and for that reason, he explains, that all the honour must go to Sherman himself.
Western Theatre. Hoods Army starts to cross the Tennessee River. There is some fighting at Sugar Creek. The retreat of the Confederates back over the Tennessee, symbolically and effectively brings to an end Hoods plan to take is army all the way to Ohio River.
*Trent Affair - The British Packet ship Trent, was stopped by the USS San Jacinto, under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, in the open waters of the Old Bahama Channel. Wilkes demanded that two Confederate Commissioners, James Mason and John Slidell, who were travelling to Britain, be turned over to Him. This accomplished, the San Jacinto sailed to Hampton Roads, Virginia. The British Captain and crew made their way back to Britain with the families of Mason and Slidell still on board. It became an international incident of such magnitude, as to provoke a possible armed conflict between the United States and Britain. The British Navy sent two ships to Canada, in case it should necessitate formal military action against the United States.
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, December 1997