~ Today in Civil War History ~

December 24th

1860- Monday

Gov. Pickens of SC issued a proclamation declaring the state separate, independent, free, and sovereign.

1861- Tuesday

"Gen. William T. Sherman Insane" was the headline in the Cincinnati Commercial. Gen. Halleck reported, " I am satisfied that Gen. Sherman's physical and mental system is so completely broken by labor and care as to render him for the present entirely unfit for duty. Perhaps a few weeks rest will restore him. I am satisfied that in his present condition it would be dangerous to give him a command here. Sherman's powerful in laws, the Ewing family, organized a response to the newspaper insanity charge and insisted that Sherman was simply exhausted from heavy command responsibilities. Finally, on this date, Sherman was given a safe command--supervising Benton Barracks, a camp of instruction near St. Louis where he trained troops and sent them forward into the war.

It was a good Christmas eve for Lt. Irvin B. Baxter and his crew aboard the gunboat USS Gem of the Sea who captured and destroyed the British blockade runner Prince of Wales off the coast of Georgetown, SC. The holiday of the Englishmen was further dampened when their ship was not merely confiscated but destroyed.

Skirmish at Wadesburg, MO:
MISSOURI - Cass County Home Guard Cavalry.
U.S.A. - 1 Killed, 2 Wounded
C.S.A. - Casualties Not Reported

The Federal Congress passed a bill increasing duties on tea, coffee, sugar, and molasses.

1862- Wednesday

With Burnside's army remaining at Stafford Heights, Lee struggles to feed his army, which he is forced to keep concentrated at Fredericksburg. Finding adequate forage for his artillery and draft horses has been particularly difficult. To ease this burden, Lee orders most of his artillery to positions behind the front lines.

At Galveston, TX:
Union troops enter and occupy the island city.
MASSACHUSETTS - 42nd Infantry (Cos. "D," "G," "I").

Skirmish at Glasgow, KY:

Col. John H. Morgan and his raiders entered Glasgow. They encountered a battalion of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry and the two sides began to skirmish. There were only slight losses for each side.

MICHIGAN - 2nd Cavalry (Co's "C," "H," "L," "M").
KENTUCKY (U) - 12th Cavalry
U.S.A. - 1 Killed, 1 Wounded, 16 Missing
C.S.A. - 3 Killed, 3 Wounded
Conf. Win

Action, Middleburg, MS:

Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn and his Conf. force attacked a Union blockhouse at Middleburg. The blockhouse was being commanded by Col. William H. Graves. Van Dorn sent a surrender request to Graves, who immediately refused the request. Graves replied the he "would surrender when whipped." The Conf. attack lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Federals repulsed the Conf. attacks.

ILLINOIS - 4th and 6th Cavalry, Battery "K" 1st Light Arty.
MICHIGAN - 12th Infantry.
TENNESSEE. (U) - 6th and 7th Cavalry
U.S.A. - 0 Killed, 9 Wounded
C.S.A. - 9 Killed, 11 Wounded

Aware that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is only days away, Jefferson Davis takes the opportunity to issue a proclamation of his own. "I...do pronounce and declare... Benjamin F. Butler to be a felon, deserving of capital punishment. I do order that he be considered... as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and...in the event of his capture...he is to be immediately executed by hanging." After dealing with the "Beast," Davis turns his attention to Lincoln's impending proclamation.

1863- Thursday

Gen. Grant organizes a cavalry force to run Nathan Bedford Forrest out of West Tennessee.

Admiral Buchanan got a letter from Selma today that the guns for his ship Tennessee would be sent to him--as soon as the gun foundry was repaired from an explosion that took place while trying to cast the bottom section of a gun pit. Commander Jones, who was there when it happened and lost his hat, coat and pants in the ensuing fire, felt he was in more danger there "than if I were in command of the Tennessee."

Action, Hays' Ferry near Dandridge, TN:
ILLINOIS - 14th Cavalry
INDIANA - 18th Indpt. Battery Light Arty.
MICHIGAN - 2nd and 9th Cavalry.
OHIO - 2nd, 7th and 10th (Detachment) Cavalry.
PENNSYLVANIA - 9th and 15th (Detachment) Cavalry.
TENNESSEE - 1st Cavalry; 1st Infantry
Union loss, 7 Killed, 27 Wounded, 27 Missing

Skirmish, Peck's House near New Market, TN:
INDIANA - 2nd and 4th Cavalry.
KENTUCKY (U) - 7th Cavalry.
WISCONSIN - 1st Cavalry.
Union loss, 2 Killed, 9 Wounded

Skirmish in Lee County, VA. :
One man was wounded and seven were taken prisoner from the INDIANA - 6th Cavalry, when a foraging party in Lee County was attacked and defeated by a superior Conf. force.

1864 - Saturday

Action, Lynnville and Richland Creek, TN:
ILLINOIS - 3rd, 6th, 7th and 9th Cavalry; Battery "I,", 1st Light Arty.; Chicago Board of Trade Indpt. Battery Light Arty
INDIANA - 9th and 11th Cavalry.
IOWA - 2nd, 5th and 8th Cavalry
KENTUCKY - 4th Mounted Infantry
MICHIGAN - 2nd Cavalry
MISSOURI - 12th Cavalry
OHIO - 7th Cavalry, 14th Indpt. Light Arty.
TENNESSEE (U) - 1st, 2nd, 4th, 10th and 12th Cavalry
US Regular Army - Battery "I," 4th Arty.

Bombardment of Fort Fisher begins:

A Union fleet under Admiral David Dixon Porter begins a bombardment of Fort Fisher, NC. Although an impressive display of firepower, the attack failed to destroy the fort. Fort Fisher guarded the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the approach to Wilmington, NC. Now, 60 ships attacked the fort on Christmas Eve. Inside the stronghold, 500 Confederates hunkered down and withstood the siege. Although buildings in the fort caught fire, there were few casualties. The next day, a small Yankee force attacked on the ground, but reinforcing Confederates from Wilmington drove them away. The Union fleet sailed back to Hampton Roads, VA, with nothing to show for their efforts.

December 25th


Colt repeating rifle or also called Colt Root was patented , 4,712 were delivered, by wars end.

1861- Wednesday

Lincoln (after a morning Cabinet meeting) and family entertained guests for dinner at the White House.

Thomas J. Jackson spent the day with his wife, this was to be their last Christmas together.

Christmas for Lee was not a time for celebration. The failures of western Virginia still tainted him and in his new post as Departmental Commander of the South Carolina District, nature itself seemed to conspire against him. Barrier islands lay miles from the mainland separated from the coast by salt marshes, sounds, and tidal streams. The Union navy controlled the coastal waterways and there weren't enough guns to cover every channel, sound and creek. Lee also realized that he would never again live at Arlington and on Christmas he penned the following note to his wife: "As to our home, if not destroyed, it will be difficult ever to be recognized. Even if the enemy has wished to preserve it, it would almost have been impossible with the number of troops encamped around it, the change of officers, etc. the want of fuel, shelter, etc., & the dire necessities of war, it is vain to think of its being in a habitable condition. I fear too books, furniture, & the relics of Mount Vernon will be gone. It is better to make up our minds to a general loss."

1862- Thursday

Near Fredericksburg, VA, Conf. and Union pickets eye each other warily – yet exchange tobacco for coffee or sugar, and exchange greetings of "Merry Christmas."

Skirmish at on Burkesville Road near Green's Chapel, KY:
INDIANA - 4th and 5th Cavalry (Cos. "C," "F," "I")
U.S.A. - 1 Killed, 2 Wounded
C.S.A. - 9 Killed, 22 Wounded

Jefferson Davis celebrates Christmas in the capital of his home state. "After an absence of nearly two years...I again find myself among those who...have ever been the trusted object of my affection."

Lincoln and his wife celebrates Christmas in the capital, visiting soldiers in Washington hospitals.

The Christmas celebration in Vicksburg features a gala ball at Dr. William Balfour's Greek Revival mansion. When Gen. Martin Luther Smith is given a message that a Union flotilla has been spotted 65 miles upriver he exclaims, "This ball is at an end." All available forces are ordered out into the stormy night to man the Vicksburg fortifications.

Lee spends a quiet Christmas penning a letter to his wife Mary Anne Custis Lee. "What a cruel thing is war. To separate & destroy families.... To fill our hearts with hatred...and to devastate the face of this beautiful world. I pray that on this day when "peace & good will" are preached..., that better thoughts will fill the hearts of our enemies & turn them to peace." Across the Rappahannock River, Burnside struggles with the fall out from his defeat at Fredericksburg. To allay criticism that Lincoln had pressured him into making the unfortunate attack, Burnside has sent a letter to the New York City papers "taking all the blame for himself. "Igniting another firestorm of denunciations over his actions, Burnside draws some small comfort from Reverend Woodbury's sermon. "The parable in the Book of Matthew...defines true faithfulness as the readiness to risk what the master has entrusted when there is a promise of profit. Only the servant who sits upon the master's resources, conserving them but gaining nothing more, earns his rebuke." Only "Old Brains" Halleck can't seem to get into the holiday mood.

NC enjoy the simple pleasures of a war-time Christmas.

A while before Christmas hog killing time came on, which was anticipated with almost as much pleasure as Christmas itself, especially among the little folks. You see, that meant a number of bladders to be blown up. Each child, as far as they would go, had a hog bladder, little colored children and all. These bladders were blown up with a reed quill, in when inflated to the fullest extent were tied tightly with a string and hung up somewhere till Christmas morning, when they were somehow brought in contact with heat, and then such loud reports!... I think the "Bladder Bustin" on Christmas morning was our biggest and most enjoyable thrill.

Skirmish, Prim's Blacksmith Shop, Edmonson Pike, TN:
INDIANA - 51st Infantry.
Union loss, 1 Killed, 2 Wounded

1863- Friday

Although there are no major battles on this Christmas Day, a variety of minor actions carried out.

In SC, Gen. Wise launches an unsuccessful attack against the gunboat U.S.S. Marblehead. Col. Page reports, "I am sorry to say...that the expedition has been a failure. We opened the attack at daylight this morning..., the Marblehead alone being in the Stone River. The vessel was never touched by the artillery.


Near Tampa, Florida, - The Union gunboat, Tahoma, one of the gunboats that had attacked the fort in Oct., returned to Fort Brooke, anchoring before the garrison. The next morning, it spent 2 hours blasting Capt. John Wescott's garrison and the village along Tampa Bay with numerous 32lb. and 150lb. shells. Meanwhile, a small schooner accompanying the Tahoma shelled the shore of the main channel. Wescott anticipated that his enemy would come ashore and was ready "to have received them properly". The Tahoma's skipper, Lt. Cmdr. David B. Harmony, decided once again, that the garrison was too energetic and its firepower too accurate. Harmony drew off about noon and proceeded down the bay, having inflicted no casualties.

Gen. Quincy Gillmore celebrates the holiday with launching a massive bombardment on Charleston, SC to makes sure that the citizens of Charleston are unable to partake in any Yuletide festivities.

Gen. George Thomas selects ground near Orchard Knob as the final resting place for the soldiers who died during the fighting in and around Chattanooga. When asked if he wanted the dead to be organized by state as was done at Gettysburg, the Virginia-born general replies: "No, spread them around, I have had enough of state's rights."

In Bear Inlet, NC - A Union raiding party entered the salt works facility at Bear Inlet. The Union soldiers managed to destroy several salt works in the area.

Shore batteries and USS Pawnee duel at John’s Island near Charleston, SC.

As a great many members of the Union army had signed two-year enlistments in 1861, it was becoming a matter of great concern to get as many of them to re-enlist as possible, as this saved the considerable expense of training new enlistees from scratch. Capt. Kennedy of the 9th NY Volunteer Cavalry, celebrated the decision of several of his men to re-up by holding the swearing in ceremony on Christmas Day, at Culpepper Court House.

1864- Sunday

Skirmish near White's Station, TN
IOWA - 3rd Cavalry (Detachment).
Union loss, 1 Wounded, 16 Missing
Conf. Win

Action, King's or Anthony's or Devil's Gap, near Pulaski, TN:
ILLINOIS - 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 16th Cavalry; Battery "I," 1st Light Arty. Chicago Board of Trade Indpt. Light Arty.
INDIANA - 9th, 10th and 11th Cavalry.
IOWA - 2nd, 5th and 8th Cavalry.
MISSOURI - 12th Cavalry.
OHIO - 7th Cavalry; 14th Indpt. Battery Light Arty.
PENNSYLVANIA - 19th Cavalry.
TENNESSEE (U) - 2nd, 10th and 12th Cavalry.
US Regular Army - Battery "I," 4th Arty.
KENTUCKY (U) - 4th Mounted Infantry
MICHIGAN - 2nd Cavalry

At 10 AM, the Union fleet begins its bombardment of Ft. Fisher. After three hours of constant shelling, preparations for a troop landing begin. Gen. Whiting reports, "Enemy collecting around the bar; think they will attempt to come in. Firing heavy; casualties so far very few. Garrison under cover waiting for them. We fire but little." At 4 p.m., Federal soldiers hit the shore. Gen. Kirkland reports, "The enemy have landed and captured Battery Anderson and its garrison; they are still landing along the beach. I am fighting them; my ammunition is very short….I will fight to the last." Late in the day reinforcements begin to arrive. A worried Gen. Lee reports, " General Kirkland's the only troops arrived…. Transportation on railroad inconceivably slow." When Gen. Weitzel arrives on shore he assumes command of the attack. He reports, "I proceeded in person, accompanying the 142nd New York, to within about 800 yards of Fort Fisher, a point from which I had a good view of the work....I counted seventeen guns in position bearing up the beach, and between each pair of guns there was a traverse so thick and so high above the parapet that I have no doubt they were all bomb proofs. I saw plainly that the work had not been materially injured by the heavy and very accurate shell fire of the navy." Weitzel returns to the fleet and advises Gen. Butler to cancel the attack. "I returned, as directed, to the major-general commanding; found him on the gun-boat Chamberlain, and frankly reported to him that it would be butchery to order an assault on that work under the circumstances. After examining it himself carefully, he came to the same conclusion, and directed the troops to be re-embarked."

1868 President Andrew Johnson, as one of his last official acts, is sues a presidential proclamation granting unqualified amnesty to all participants in the insurrection.

Born on this day....

1808 - Union Commodore Stephen Clegg Rowan

1813 - Conf. Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham at Edgefield District, SC

1820 - Union Brig. Gen. of Vol.'s Thomas William Sweeny in Cty Cork, Ireland
Note: Led a group of Irish-Americans in an invasion of Canada.

1821 - Union Nurse Clara Harlowe Barton, founder of American Red Cross

1823 - Conf. Brig. Gen. Preston Smith in Giles Cty, TN

1828 - Union Brig. Gen. of Vol. William Plummer Benton at New Market, MD

1832 - Union Brig. Gen. Thomas Alfred Smyth at Ballyhooley, Ireland
Note: Last Union general to die in the War. Appomattox campaign, Farmville (mortaly wounded).

1844 - Albert D. J. Cashier (Miss Jennie Hodgers) a Pvt. in Comp. G/95th Illinois.
Fought in Vicksburg Campaign, Red River Campaign, engaged at Brice's Cross Roads, Battle of Franklin and Nashville.

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