Civil War Sesquicentenl 1861 Timeline
Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
- Thursday, January 3, 1861: Georgia state troops take possession of Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, before the Federal Government can augment the caretaker assigned there with a garrison.
- Saturday, Jan. 5: Senators from the states of the Deep South, including Georgia, urge their states to secede and form a new type of national government based upon a loose confederation of states.
- Monday, Jan. 7: Senator John J. Crittenden is beginning to sound less like the Great Compromiser and fellow Kentuckian Henry Clay than a voice crying in the wilderness of sectionalism and secession: “I am for the Union, but, my friends, I must also be for the equal rights of my State under this great Constitution and in this great Union.” Conventions in two Southern states—Alabama and Mississippi—are threatening to make such arguments moot.
- Tuesday, Jan. 8: President James Buchanan strikes a resigned, but hopeful tone, asking the forlorn nation to “let us pause at this momentous point and afford the people, both North and South, an opportunity for reflection.” During the night, the Star of the West, appears at Charleston in a muted effort to bring assistance to the garrison at Fort Sumter.
- Wednesday, Jan. 9: Mississippi joins South Carolina in voting 84-15 for secession. Star of the West comes under fire from troops that include cadets from the South Carolina Military Academy (the Citadel) and subsequently the vessel turns back from its ill-fated mission.
- Thursday, Jan. 10: Florida continues the disunion momentum with a 62-7 vote to secede.
- Friday, Jan. 11: The secession wave runs unabated as Alabama adopts the course 61-39. Nevertheless, the internal divisions reflected by two of the last three states to embrace this dramatic action represent potentially problematic Unionist voices in an otherwise floodtide of state’s rights expression.
- Saturday, Jan. 19: Georgia now steps into the line of Southern states dissolving their ties with the Union. The final vote at the Milledgeville convention goes 208-89 to effect the break. Such measures affect President-elect Abraham Lincoln, who observes ominously to a friend, “If we surrender, it is the end of us, and of the government.”
GEORGIA ORDINANCE OF SECESSION
An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of Georgia and other States united with her under a compact of government, entitled "The Constitution of the United States of America:
We, the people of the State of Georgia, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained,that the ordinance adopted by the people of the State of Georgia, in Convention on the Second Day of January in the Year of Our Lord Seventeen Hundred and Eight-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was assented to, ratified, and adopted; and also, all acts, and parts of acts, of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying and adopting amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby Repealed, Rescinded, and Abrogated.
"We do further Declare and Ordain, that the Union now subsisting between the State of Georgia and other States, under the name of the United States of America, Is Hereby Dissolved, and that the State of Georgia is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of Sovereignty which belong and appertain to a Free and Independent State."
George W. Crawford, of Richmond, President
- Monday, Jan 21: U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis takes his leave of the legislative body in light of the actions of his state. "Mr. President, and Senators, having made the announcement which the occasion seemed to me to require, it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu." Other Southern colleagues join him in departure.
- Thursday, Jan. 24: Georgia state troops take possession of the Federal arsenal at Augusta.
- Saturday, Jan. 26: Louisiana joins the exodus 113 to 17, while Oglethorpe Barracks and Fort Jackson become the latest acquisitions by state forces in Georgia.
- Tuesday, Jan. 29: With all of the momentum seemingly going in one direction, the U.S. Congress acts to bring Kansas into the Union as, ostensibly at least, the thirty-fourth state.
- Friday, February 1, 1861: Texas votes its way out of the Union with a vote of 166-7 as the national crisis deepens.
“I say now, however, as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question—that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices,—I am inflexible,” Abraham Lincoln tells William Seward.
- Monday, Feb. 4: A convention of delegates from the Deep South states that have already seceded gathers at Montgomery, Alabama. Howell Cobb of Georgia becomes President of the Convention, with an unmistakable message that there will be no turning back. “The separation is perfect, complete, and perpetual.” Now, the work of forming a government takes precedence.
- Tuesday, Feb. 5: Former U.S. President John Tyler of Virginia admonishes a convention assembled for finding a path to peace for the divided nation, “the eyes of the whole country are turned to this assembly, in expectation and hope.”
- Friday, Feb. 8: By unanimous consent of the “deputies of the sovereign and independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana,” assembled at Montgomery produces a Constitution for the Provisional Government for a “Confederacy” of these states, with executive power to be “vested in a President of the Confederate States of America.”
- Saturday, Feb. 9: After the hustle and bustle of politicking in Montgomery, Mississippian Jefferson Davis, who has extensive national government experience on his resume, including U.S. Secretary of War, emerges unanimously as Provisional President of the Confederate States of America, with Georgian Alexander H. Stephens receiving the same nod as Vice President. The decision is perhaps less of a repudiation of the “Fire-eaters” who have urged radical action by the South than a sense that nation-building requires cooler heads.
- Sunday, Feb. 10: Word reaches Davis at his plantation, Brierfield, in Mississippi, of the actions of the Montgomery delegates. He accepts the Presidency, although deeming himself fit more for military command with a record of service that includes the War with Mexico.
- Monday, Feb. 11: Abraham Lincoln bids farewell from Springfield, Illinois to take the mantle of a nation under extreme duress. His counterpart leaves Mississippi to accept the same role for his fledgling nation. Lincoln’s words sound ominous, “I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington.” Davis makes a brief statement on his journey that reflects a different tone. “I hope that our separation may be peaceful. But whether it be so or not, I am ready, as I always have been, to redeem my pledges to you and the South by shedding every drop of my blood in your cause.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 13: An electoral count confirms the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States of America. Virginians gather in Richmond to consider their course in the unfolding national drama, but a sentiment of Unionism trumps secession for the moment.
- Saturday, Feb. 16: After a grueling journey, Davis reaches Montgomery. Perhaps with an eye to the efforts to find a resolution to the crisis that will maintain the Union he insists to a group of well-wishers, “The time for compromise has now passed.” Later in the evening, fire-eater William Lowndes Yancey, proclaims of Davis in this crucial moment of history: “The man and the hour have met.”
- Monday, Feb. 18: Jefferson Finis Davis is inaugurated as Provisional President of the Confederate States of America in the setting of a bright day and before a celebratory crowd that has gathered for the occasion. In his inaugural address as Provisional President, Davis observes, “I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career, as a Confederacy, may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence we have asserted, and which, with the blessing of Providence, we intend to maintain.”
- Friday, Feb. 22: This is George Washington’s birthday, but as Abraham Lincoln moves toward the White House the mood is muted and the message one of finding a path short of bloodshed between the contending parties. There are concerns about plots to threaten Lincoln’s security. Former rival and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas is among those who descend on Willard’s Hotel to meet with the President-elect.
- Saturday, Feb. 23: Abraham Lincoln reaches Washington safely in the company of Allan Pinkerton, who will build a career and a famed detective agency out of the moment.
- Wednesday, Feb. 27: President Davis names commissioners to travel to Washington to articulate the Confederate position. In that city the often-raucous Peace Convention submits proposals for amendments to the Constitution that supporters hope will alleviate the tension, but which have little expectation for success in Congress.
- Thursday, Feb. 28: The voters of North Carolina reject a convention for the purpose of considering secession, reflecting the degree to which upper South states continue to debate the matter and exhibit divisions between those who wish to join their sister Southern states and those who prefer to remain adhered to the Union, for the time being, at least.
- Saturday, March 2, 1861: In the Senate, the frustrated compromiser of Kentucky, John J. Crittenden observes, “it is an admitted fact that our Union, to some extent, has already been dismembered; and that further dismemberment is impending and threatened. It is a fact that the country is in danger.” Then, on a more positive note, he adds, “It is our duty, if we can, to provide a remedy for this.”
- Sunday, March 3: Former Congressman and Georgia delegate to the Confederate Convention, Martin J. Crawford, a Democrat who had supported Stephen Douglas, is the first of three Confederate commissioners to arrive in Washington to negotiate on behalf of the fledgling Southern government.
- Monday, March 4: Abraham Lincoln is sworn-in as the sixteenth President of the United States of America. Perhaps symbolically for the nation, the day dawns with dark clouds and rain, but the winds draw the clouds away. By the appointed hour the last official business is completed and the outgoing chief and incoming one arrive and take their seats. Sharing the platform is Stephen Douglas, who has determined to support the new administration and volunteers to hold Lincoln’s hat when no other place is readily apparent for putting it.
- Senator Louis T. Wigfall of Texas writes to Governor Francis Pickens of South Carolina: “Do not permit any attack on Sumter without authority” from the Confederate government. “This is all important. Inaugural [of hostilities] means war.”
- Wednesday, March 6: The Confederate Congress passes an act to establish an army of not more than 100,000 men for a 12-month enlistment and flashy Creole general Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard steps into the limelight of sectional tensions by formally assuming command in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Friday, March 8: At the end of the week, a Unionist from Greensboro, North Carolina, notes in a confidential letter: “The only hope of the secessionists now is that some sort of collision will be brought about between federal and state forces in one of the seceding states.” He concludes hopefully concerning letting cooler heads prevail, “If you can do this, I believe I can say that Virginia can be kept from secession.”
A battery fires a shot at Fort Sumter, but the act is committed by mistake, when a practice using blank charges inadvertently contains a live round. Subsequent communication dismisses the possibility that anyone had acted intentionally to sabotage the relative state of peace in Charleston.
- Monday, March 11: The Confederate Constitution receives the approval of the Confederate Congress.
- Tuesday, March 12: Inveterate New Yorker and diarist, George Templeton Strong, observes disgustedly, “We are a weak, divided, disgraced people, unable to maintain our national existence. . . . The country of George Washington and Andrew Jackson (!!!) is decomposing, and its elements reforming into new and strange combinations.”
- In his capacity as president of the convention, Howell Cobb, forwards the adopted Constitution to the states for ratification. Alabama immediately ratifies the Confederate Constitution, 87-5, over objections by those who want the vote to be presented to the people for consideration and not through the convention.
- Friday, March 15: Secretary of State William Seward offers his views on various subjects, clearly hoping to use a policy of conciliation to buy time with regard to the continuing secession crisis. Through this means, the U.S. government “should deny to disunionists any new provocation or apparent offence, while it would enable the Unionists in the slave states to maintain with truth and with effect that the alarms and apprehensions put forth by the disunionists are groundless and false.” Seward presents his views unabashedly, with a confidence that comes from his own notions of importance as an advisor to the President. “It is to a perseverance in this policy for a short time longer that I look as the only peaceful means of assuring the continuance of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, or most of those states in the Union.” With regard to resupplying and/or reinforcing Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, he is convinced, “In either case, it seems to me that we will have inaugurated a civil war by our own act, without an adequate object, after which reunion will be hopeless, at least under this administration, or in any other way than by a popular disavowal both of the war and of the administration which unnecessarily commenced it.”
- Saturday, March 16: Georgia accepts the Confederate Constitution with a unanimous vote of 260-0
- Monday, March 18: The famous Texan, Sam Houston, takes a new stand in the name of independence by refusing to step in line with the new Southern Confederacy.
- Thursday, March 21: Louisiana ratifies the Confederate Constitution, with a vote of 94-10 in favor.
- Saturday, March 23: Texas ratifies the Confederate Constitution overwhelmingly 126-2.
- Monday, March 25: Governor Pickens explains to Beauregard that peaceful evacuation of the Federal garrison in Fort Sumter is possible, but “everything must be conducted respectably, and in no arrogant or wanton manner towards us.”
- Tuesday, March 26: President Lincoln seems to be almost in constant sessions with his Cabinet officials as the national crisis threatens to continue spiraling out of control.
- Mississippi accepts the Confederate Constitution with a 78-7 tally.
- Friday, March 29: Secretary of State William Seward is rapidly becoming the odd-man out in Lincoln’s Cabinet by voicing opposition to resupplying or reinforcing Fort Sumter.
- Samuel Cooper instructs Beauregard to prohibit further communication between Federal authorities and Fort Sumter with an eye to increasing the pressure by isolating the post.
- Sunday, March 31: All is not bliss in Texas, as the Federal fort with that name no longer flies the flag of the United States of America. Ironically, South Carolina has yet to confirm the Confederate Constitution on the grounds that a prohibition ought to be included that free states will not be admitted into the new nation.
- Monday, April 1: Uncertainty prevails in Washington as conflicting ideas emerge as to the proper disposition of naval assets regarding the prolonged twin crises at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and Fort Pickens in Florida. Secretary of State William Seward sends an extraordinary communication to the President for his “consideration,” including the delegation of presidential authority and foreign policy demands that could lead to war with one or more European powers.
- Wednesday, April 3: South Carolina ratifies the Confederate Constitution 114-16.
- Thursday, April 4: Virginia continues to attempt to tread middle ground by rejecting, through its state convention, an ordinance of secession by a vote of 89-45.
- “Things seem to draw near a crisis.” Diarist Mary Chesnut, April 6, 1861
- “Diplomacy has failed. The sword must now preserve our independence.” Martin J. Crawford, one of the Confederacy’s peace emissaries to Washington
- Thursday, April 11: The flashpoint increasingly appears to be located at Charleston, not Pensacola, as a small craft carrying three individuals crosses over to Fort Sumter with a message for Robert Anderson from P.G.T. Beauregard insisting that the installation be evacuated by Federal forces.
- Friday, April 12: The three go-betweens return to Sumter with the expression from Confederate secretary of war Leroy Pope Walker of the desire “to avoid the effusion of blood” if assurances can be given of a specific timetable for evacuation of the post. Anderson indicates a willingness to act accordingly by noon on April 15, provided instructions or supplies and reinforcements did not reach him beforehand. The emissaries inform the Union commander that this response is insufficient and that a bombardment will open in an hour. An artillery piece from Fort Johnson fires at 4:30 A.M. and other Southern batteries join the array. Union guns remain silent until approximately 7 A.M. when they begin to reply to the fire. Crowds of Charleston citizens throng to watch the spectacle, aware that a historical moment has been reached.
- “I do not pretend to go to sleep. How can I? If Anderson does not accept terms—at four—he shall be fired upon. I count four—St. Michael chimes. I begin to hope. At half-past four, the heavy booming of a cannon. I sprang from bed. And on my knees—prostrate—I prayed as I never prayed before.” Mary Chesnut, wife of one of the men sent to negotiate terms with Robert Anderson
- Saturday, April 13: Fort Sumter endures thirty-six hours of pounding from the Southern batteries before Anderson determines that with insufficient ammunition and provisions have rendered long-term resistance futile. Confusion continues to reign as a former U.S. Senator, Louis T. Wigfall, takes the personal responsibility of calling upon Anderson to surrender, while others join the discussions to make the discussions official. Despite the pounding and some wounds, no one has yet died by shots fired in anger.
“As soon as the surrender was announced, the bells commenced to ring. I have tried to give an outline of this ever memorable day but find it difficult to do justice to the subject and to the gallant men who achieved the independence of our beloved State. Another difficulty is, among the thousand different rumors each day circulated, always to find out which is the true tale even about things occurring before our own eyes.” Diarist Emma Holmes
- Sunday, April 14: The first death of the war occurs in an accidental explosion during the formal surrender ceremonies of Fort Sumter. Official word reaches President Lincoln and he determines to call for 75,000 volunteers to answer the challenge to the Union.
- Monday, April 15: Lincoln formally announces his call for 75,000 militia to be raised. North Carolina rejects the call and state troops seize Fort Macon.
- “Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the law, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.” Abraham Lincoln
- Wednesday, April 17: In light of the developments, Virginia reverses earlier positions and adopts an ordinance of secession 88-55.
- Friday, April 19: The city of Baltimore, Maryland, with large elements of pro-Southern sympathizers, erupts in disorder. Civilians and members of the Sixth Massachusetts clash as the unit moves through Baltimore on the way to Washington. Four soldiers and as many as a dozen citizens are reported to have perished in the stone-throwing and shooting that occurs. President Lincoln decides that as further response to what he deems “an insurrection,” the Federal government will implement a naval blockade of Confederate ports.
- “It is a singular coincidence that the first bloodshed in the defence of Southern Rights & Independence should have taken place April 19th, the 86th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington.” Emma Holmes
- Saturday, April 20: Federal forces move out of Norfolk, Virginia’s, Gosport Navy Yard. Ineffectual destruction, in part designed to prevent unnecessary collateral damage and civilian casualties, allow Virginia forces to move in and retrieve, among other assets, the hull of the U.S.S. Merrimack.
- “The whole country is in an intense state of excitement . . . and indeed the whole country is arming & preparing for either one or the other side of the contest.” Emma Holmes
- Sunday, April 21: Washington remains in a state of isolation and uncertainty as the whirlwind of events unfolds.
- Monday, April 22: Robert E. Lee, the Old Army regular and former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point receives nomination and confirmation as commander of state forces for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- “I have no desire to invade the South; but I must have troops to defend this Capital.” Abraham Lincoln to Committee of Citizens from Baltimore
- Tuesday, April 23: Arkansas state forces take over Fort Smith.
- “I have desired as sincerely as any man—I sometimes think more than any other man—that our present difficulties might be settled without the shedding of blood.” President Lincoln, April 26.
- Saturday, April 27: The Union naval blockade now includes the territorial waters of Virginia and North Carolina.
- Monday, April 29: The House of Delegates of Maryland rejects secession with a strong 53-13 vote, while the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America receives President Jefferson Davis’s formal message on the state of affairs as he sees them.
- “We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.” Jefferson Davis
- Wednesday, May 1, 1861: The Tennessee legislature sends Governor Isham Harris authority to send representatives from the state to confer with Confederate officials. The Union blockade takes hold in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
- Friday, May 3: Confederate Commissioners William Lowndes Yancey, A. Dudley Mann and Pierre A. Rost meet with the British foreign minister Lord John Russell, prompting protest from the United States. While Alabamian fire-eater Yancey negotiates overseas, in his home state and the Confederate capital of Montgomery, the Congress passes a bill recognizing the existence of a state of war with the United States.
- Monday, May 6: Arkansas and Tennessee are now out of the Union. The Arkansas vote is 69-1 and while action by the people is set for June, the lopsided tallies in the legislative bodies suggest that the outcome is hardly doubtful. President Jefferson Davis signs the war measure adopted by Congress and authorizes the issuance of letters of marque and reprisal for the purpose of raiding Union shipping.
- Tuesday, May 7: Gov. Harris presses successfully for closer ties between Tennessee and the Confederacy. The state was already experiencing clashes between those who sympathized with the North and those who endorsed the links to the seceded Southern states.
- Thursday, May 9: President Davis takes steps to accept volunteers for the war that has now been declared and the antagonists exchange shots in the vicinity of Gloucester Point, Virginia. James Bulloch embarks on what will be a delicate, but important mission to England to procure ships that can be used by the Confederacy for raiding Union commerce.
- Friday, May 10: The city of St. Louis, Missouri, erupts in violence as zealous Captain Nathaniel Lyon employs Federal troops to suppress activities connected with militia associated with Governor Claiborne Jackson, who is unabashedly pro-Southern in his leanings.
- Monday, May 13: Union brigadier general Benjamin F. Butler moves troops into Baltimore, Maryland, on his own authority. A critical international development occurs when Queen Victoria recognizes the contending parties as belligerents, but declares her own country will be strictly neutral. The question remains for how long.
- Thursday, May 16: Tennessee officially becomes a part of the Confederate States of America with the approval of the CS Congress.
- Friday, May 17: President Davis is active with the signing of bills that allow for the issuing of currency and the acceptance of North Carolina into the Confederacy if it choses to do so.
- Saturday, May 18: Arkansas seats its representatives in the Confederate Congress as part of the fledgling nation. An exchange of fire occurs at Sewell’s Point, near Norfolk, Va., and will continue the next day, producing noise and only light casualties.
- Monday, May 20: Delegates in North Carolina vote unanimously to take that state out of the Union. Beriah Magoffin, the governor of Kentucky, takes the unusual step of declaring his state neutral in the broiling conflict that is erupting all-around it. Supporters of both sides continue to do what they can to improve their positions regardless of the official stance.
In anticipation of action in the Old Dominion, the Confederate Congress decides to relocate to Richmond, Virginia.
- Wednesday, May 22: General Ben Butler is now at Fortress Monroe in Virginia, preparing to move onto the Virginia Peninsula with Union forces.
- Thursday, May 23: Virginia voters speak, ratifying secession, but exhibiting the lack of unanimity that supporters would have preferred with a vote of 96,750-32,134 in favor.
- Friday, May 24: In light of Virginia’s choice, Federal troops enter the state and move into Alexandria. An exuberant show of bravado and patriotism leads to the death of dashing Zouave commander, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, when the officer sees a Confederate flag flying over a hotel and determines to take the banner down. As he descends from this duty, the inn-keeper, James Jackson, confronts him on the stairs and fires at point-blank with his shotgun. Private Francis Brownell returns fire and Jackson joins Ellsworth as the earliest martyrs of the still young war.
- Saturday, May 25: Pro-Southern Marylander John Merryman is rousted from his bed at 2:00 A.M. by a Union squad and removed to Fort McHenry, the start of what will become a celebrated dispute over civil liberties in wartime. Mourning remains palpable for the fallen Colonel Ellsworth, whose funeral is held in the East Room of the White House.
- Sunday, May 26: In a show of symbolic determination, U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair decides to halt deliveries into the seceded southern states at the end of the month. Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had gained fame from his earlier association with the Dred Scott decision, issues a writ demanding that the commander of Fort McHenry, where John Merryman is being held, show cause for the action.
- Monday, May 27: The Merryman drama continues as an aide to the commander at Fort McHenry informs Chief Justice Taney that treason is the basis for the Marylander’s arrest and incarceration.
Friday, May 29: Jefferson Davis arrives in Richmond.
Thursday, May 30: In Virginia, the Confederates bring the scuttled USS Merrimack back to the surface for the purpose of salvaging her fire-scarred hull for possible future use.
- Saturday, June 1, 1861: In the fighting that breaks out as a Union patrol reconnoiters near Fairfax, Va., Captain John Quincy Marr of the Warrenton Rifles falls as one of the earliest combat fatalities of the young war. Meanwhile, Union naval assets blast away at their Confederate opponents at Aquia Creek.
- Monday, June 3: The man who would have been President had fated decreed differently dies from illness and exhaustion. Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” of Illinois, had bested Abraham Lincoln in the 1858 Senate race in their state, but fell considerably short in their Presidential rematch in 1860. He nevertheless had remained devoted to the Union and supportive of Lincoln, who mourns his death.
- In Western Virginia, a Union force descends through stormy darkness on wet mountain roads to surprise a contingent of Confederates at Philippi who had neglected even to post pickets as a common security measure. Supporters of the Union will trumpet the victory derisively as the “Philippi Races,” for the degree of swiftness with which the Southerners leave the vicinity. The North has an early victory to celebrate with less certainty as to how many more will be necessary to maintain the Union.
- Wednesday, June 5: Desultory firing on Virginia waters and heated rhetoric are reflections of the continuing pressure that builds between the sections. Having arrived to assume command, the Confederate “Hero of Fort Sumter,” P.G.T. Beauregard issues a scathing indictment of the Federals to local citizens in a proclamation.
“A reckless and unprincipled tyrant has invaded your soil. Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his abolition hosts among you, who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated. All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned. . . .”
- Friday, June 7: Stephen Douglas’ funeral casts a pall over the national capital, with many sites, including the White House displaying black for the somber occasion.
- Saturday, June 8: Tennessee voters return an overwhelming vote in favor of secession. 104,913 out of just over 150,000 express their approval, but the state is by no means unanimous, with East Tennessee exhibiting a decidedly pro-Union cast.
Virginia troops are now Confederate, transferred as such under the authority of Governor John Letcher.
- Sunday, June 9: The United States Sanitary Commission takes form and will organize subsequently to attempt to address the enormous needs of the nation’s soldiery.
- Monday, June 10: A little engagement with a big name takes place on the Virginia peninsula between Union and Confederate forces at Big Bethel. In many ways, the worst occurrence for the 4,400 untried warriors in blue comes when some of them fire into each other by mistake.
Northern losses stand at eighteen killed, fifty-three wounded and five missing. Among the dead is Lieutenant John T. Greble, the first West Pointer to perish in the conflict and Major Theodore Winthrop, a descendent of two of the leading figures in New England’s political and theological history: John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards.
Of John Bankhead Magruder’s and Daniel Harvey Hill’s 1,400 Confederates, only North Carolinian private Henry Lawson Wyatt dies, alongside seven other wounded comrades. Relics from the fight will soon find their way into the windows of Richmond businesses for display.
D.H. Hill’s report reflects the nature of the war for his troops in this earliest phase of the fighting:
“They were all in high glee, and seemed to enjoy it as much as boys do rabbit-shooting.”
In response to the setback at Big Bethel, Benjamin Butler, rationalizes:
“I think, in the unfortunate combination of circumstances and the result which we experienced, we have gained more than we have lost.”
- Tuesday, June 11: In Western Virginia, disgruntled Unionists gather at Wheeling to begin the implementation of a loyal government for their state.
A fascinating meeting also takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, between Nathaniel Lyon and Francis Blair for the North and Governor Claiborne Jackson and Sterling Price for the South, but no peaceful resolution of differences will be possible as indicated when Lyon blurts out to his visitors in frustration:
“This means war. One of my officers will conduct you out of my lines in an hour.”
In Washington, Elizabeth Blair Lee, wife of Union naval officer Samuel Phillips Lee, observes with pleasure the actions of the British government and press toward the Confederate States. She is particularly overjoyed when London accounts disparage the secessionist tone, referencing the Confederate President’s wife specifically: “Queen Varina will feel snubbed.”
- Saturday, June 15: Fiery Union general Nathaniel Lyon continues to roar mightily against secessionism and secessionists in still-volatile Missouri; but he is also taking action, including seizing control of the state capital, Jefferson City.
- Monday, June 17: Lyon takes the offensive once more against the pro-Southern militia of Governor Claiborne Jackson in a move that nets him Boonville, Missouri, and further disperses the secessionist forces.
Spain joins the other major Western European powers in declaring its neutrality in the American war and in determining that the Confederates are entitled to status as a belligerent.
- Wednesday, June 19: Francis H. Pierpont receives the nod as governor of the loyal government of Virginia.
An exchange of fire occurs at Sewell’s Point, near Norfolk, Va., and will continue the next day, producing much noise, but only light casualties.
Secessionists in Missouri finally have something to cheer as some of them rout a Union home guard force in the “Battle of Cole Camp.”
- Friday, June 21: Citizens in East Tennessee assemble in Greenville to reiterate their loyalty to the United States.
- Sunday, June 23: After hearing accounts of “a hostile population that picks off sentries,” in northern Virginia, Union diarist George Templeton Strong asserts unequivocally: Virginians and all who belong to slaveholding communities seem an exceptional, abnormal race, unlike anything else in Christendom.”
- Tuesday, June 25: The desire for dramatic action is pervasive, as Elizabeth Blair Lee notes disparagingly in a letter: “There is now 75 thousand men in front of--& in the City of Washington--& one universal grumble at Genl [Winfield] Scotts do nothing policy with such immense means--”
- Thursday, June 27: Captain James H. Ward of the United States Navy is killed off Mathias Point, Va., as these units spar with Confederate shore batteries.
- Friday, June 28: Something akin to Christmas visits Virginia when a band of stealthy Confederates, posing as passengers, and at least one supposedly dressed as a female, board and seize the steamer St. Nicholas. The incident is more embarrassing to the United States than anything else, but the show of bravado nevertheless lifts Southern spirits momentarily.
- Saturday, June 29: Under its new management, the St. Nicholas continues a mini-rampage in the Chesapeake Bay, taking three small craft.
- Sunday, June 30: In Louisiana, Raphael Semmes slips the CSS Sumter past the Union blockade in the lower Mississippi River and out to sea. The Federals are more successful in other cases and places in stopping such efforts, but it remains to be seen if they can sufficiently tighten the naval noose or will be chagrined by this particular setback.
- Monday, July 1, 1861: The arrest of suspected Southern sympathizers who are also police commissioners in Baltimore, Md., serves as a flashpoint for civil liberties in wartime that will flare throughout the month.
- Tuesday, July 2: Federal troops under Brigadier General Robert Patterson enter the Shenandoah Valley via the crossing at Williamsport, Md. Among the commanders who lead these men into action is the Virginian George Thomas who has chosen to remain with the Union. A skirmish with Confederates under Thomas J. Jackson results in a Union victory at Hoke’s Run or Falling Waters in Virginia.
- Wednesday, July 3: Patterson’s advance reaches Martinsburg, Virginia. President Lincoln prepares for a special session of Congress.
- Thursday, July 4: On this date of national reflection, a special session of the U.S. Congress comes to order. President Lincoln sends a message that will be read into the record on the following day outlining national developments. In language that presages more famous words that will come later in Pennsylvania, Mr. Lincoln notes the state of affairs subsequent to his assumption of office.
“And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy—a government of the people by the same people—can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes.” Concerning the war now tearing the fabric of the nation, President Lincoln concludes: “This is essentially a people’s contest.” In Richmond, a Fourth of July salute takes place to recognize the states that have seceded from the Union.
- Friday, July 5: Near Carthage, Missouri, a force of Federals under Franz Sigel clashes with a larger body of Southerners in a fight that results in the loss of 13 Union men killed and 31 wounded. The loss in the opposing ranks is heavier at 40-50 killed and 120 wounded, but Sigel retreats from the field toward Springfield.
- Saturday, July 6: The CSS Sumter brings seven captured prizes into Cuban waters for disposition.
- Monday, July 8: The Confederates set their sights on the New Mexico Territory, dispatching Henry H. Sibley to Texas for the purpose of organizing an expedition. Four of the men who so brazenly seized the St. Nicholas find themselves apprehended on another vessel.
- Tuesday, July 9: William Dorsey Pender, a North Carolina officer who awaits his chance for more active service as the war unfolds, tells his wife concerning the potential for a large-scale battle: “Let it come and may God defend and strengthen the just. If we are worsted then we can try again and again and the result will be the same. They cannot conquer us.”
- Wednesday, July 10: The Confederates are successful in making a treaty with a faction of Creek leaders through the intercession of Albert Pike, a pre-war Whig who had opposed secession, but who has supported the Southern cause since Arkansas left the Union. Deep divisions in the Creek nation remain nevertheless and mirror those in the country as whole. Russia indicates its position of neutrality in the conflict in America for now.
- Thursday, July 11: Opposing forces clash at Rich Mountain, Virginia, when George B. McClellan sends Federals under William S. Rosecrans against Confederate commands under John Pegram and Robert S. Garnett. Rosecrans’ offensive breaks Pegram’s defensive position and forces the Southerners to retreat. Faulty intelligence and the geographical separation of potentially supporting units plague Garnett’s efforts to respond effectively to the threat.
- Saturday, July 13: As the Confederates in western Virginia reposition themselves, the Federals maintain pressure on them. In an engagement known as Corrick’s Ford, Robert Garnett becomes the first general officer combat fatality for the Confederates as he tries to supervise the withdrawal. The Southerners lose another 20 killed and wounded as well as almost 600 prisoners from Garnett’s and Pegram’s commands when the latter surrenders later in the day. By contrast, Union casualties are considerably less, although the numbers vary.
- Tuesday, July 16: Under intense pressure from the Northern press, politicians, and an anxious populace, Union brigadier general Irvin McDowell moves his 35,000-man army away from the Potomac River into Virginia toward Richmond. The command is raw in experience, but primed for a fight, and no more or less prepared for battle than the bulk of the men they will encounter across the way.
- Thursday, July 18: A brisk engagement occurs at Blackburn’s Ford, in Virginia, as a Union probe locates Southerners under James Longstreet. Meant only as a reconnaissance and not for the purpose of bringing on a larger battle, the fighting is sharp, leaving 83 Union and 68 Confederate casualties in its wake. Although unhappy about the Blackburn’s Ford affair, General McDowell is more enraged by the actions of some of his troops elsewhere. From his headquarters in Fairfax, Va., he has his staff issue a scathing general order demanding that the soldiers conduct themselves appropriately at all times and that reflects the “rosewater policy” of consideration for noncombatants and private property, now generally being observed. “It is with the deepest mortification the general commanding finds it necessary to reiterate his orders for the preservation of the property of the inhabitants of the district occupied by the troops under his command.” “The troops must behave themselves with as much forbearance and propriety as if they were at their own homes.”
- Friday, July 19: Joseph E. Johnston’s troops begin to reach Manassas late in the afternoon from the Shenandoah Valley to join the 21,000 Confederates already in the vicinity under P.G.T. Beauregard, enabling the Southerners to reach parity with McDowell’s advancing Union force. Jefferson Davis has assured the Creole general that he is too occupied in Richmond with matters of state to travel to the scene of action, but it is more than possible that the former War with Mexico veteran, former U.S. Secretary of War, and current Confederate Chief Executive will find the temptation to do so too great to resist. Robert Patterson has failed to prevent the Confederate concentration or match it by shifting his own 18,000 troops. The U.S. War Department will replace Patterson with Nathaniel Banks as superior over the Department of the Shenandoah. In addition to his political utility, Banks has won kudos for his handling of secessionist tendencies in Baltimore, Md.
- Sunday, July 21: The First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run opens as Irvin McDowell tries to find the Confederate left flank. Confusion marks much of the fighting, including critical instances of mistaken identity, and which grows with intensity as more troops reach the field. T.J. Jackson positions his men on Henry House Hill, earning him the sobriquet of “Stonewall.” Bed-ridden 85-year-old Judith Henry perishes in her home as the fighting swirls around it and shells burst over her. In the late afternoon of the developing fight, a Federal retreat begins and swiftly turns into a rout that sweeps soldiers and civilians who had come from Washington to watch the proceedings. Hard-line Republican congressman Alfred Ely is not so fortunate, as he becomes a prisoner, but takes full advantage of the otherwise embarrassing situation by keeping a diary as a captive before his release that will be published the following year. The casualties in this affair are stark indications that the war will not be light in bloodshed and sacrifice. Union losses are set at 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured to the 387 killed, 1,598 wounded and 13 missing for the Confederates. “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” Confederate brigadier general Barnard Bee “I don’t feel like dying yet.” Major Roberdeau Wheat, Louisiana Tigers, who survived this fight despite being badly wounded. “How has the battle gone?” Confederate President Jefferson Davis to General Joseph Johnston as he reached the field at Manassas. “We have won a glorious though dear-bought victory. Night closed on the enemy in full flight and closely pursued.” One of Davis’ telegraphic messages to Richmond. “The day is lost. Save Washington and the remnants of this army.” Union captain of engineers the moments after Bull Run “The first martial effervescence of the country was over.” James B. Fry, then captain on McDowell’s staff.
- Monday, July 22: Citizens in both the United States and Confederate States are beginning to come to grips with the news of a big battle. For many Southerners this seems to be vindication of their efforts to date, while for many Northerners it is an opportunity to demonstrate even greater resolve. For others, who do not share the majority positions in either case, the state of affairs remains uncertain. “Today will be known as BLACK MONDAY. We are utterly and disgracefully routed, beaten, whipped by secessionists.” “If the North be not cast down and discouraged by this reverse, we shall flog these scoundrels and traitors all the more bitterly for it before we are done with them.” George Templeton Strong “Circumstances make your presence here necessary.” Message sent from the war department to George B. McClellan in Beverly, Va. The U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution that asserts the current conflict is meant to preserve the Union, not to interfere with slavery or for the subjugation of the South.
- Wednesday, July 24: The U.S. House of Representatives adopts a resolution relating to the arrest and incarceration of police officials from Baltimore by Federal authorities.
- Thursday, July 25: The U.S. Senate indicates its support by a vote of 30-5 for the position already passed by the House regarding the war aims of the nation as focusing on maintaining the Union above other priorities or agendas. Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia is named the new Confederate Secretary of State, filling the vacancy left when Robert Toombs chooses to enter military service.
- Friday, July 26: Fort Fillmore in the territory of New Mexico is now in Confederate hands.
- Saturday, July 27: George B. McClellan, who has heretofore enjoyed such success in western Virginia is tapped to be the new commander of the Division of the Potomac. President Lincoln responds to Congressional inquiries on the Baltimore police matter: “In answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 24th instant, asking the grounds, reasons, and evidence upon which the police commissioners of Baltimore were arrested and now detained as prisoners at Fort McHenry, I have to state that it is judged to be incompatible with the public interest at this time to furnish the information called for by the resolution.”
- Tuesday, July 30: Union general Benjamin F. Butler requests clarification from the War Department concerning the refugees who have fled slavery and come within his lines on the lower Peninsula in Virginia. His communication, directed to Secretary of War Simon Cameron from his headquarters at Fortress Monroe, takes up the question of the impact of the war on the institution of slavery and introduces the term “contraband of war” into this evolving set of circumstances: “First, What shall be done with them? [A]nd Second, What is their state and condition? Are these men, women, and children, slaves? Are they free? Is their condition that of men, women, and children, or of property, or is it a mixed relation? What their status was under the Constitution and laws, we all know. What has been the effect of rebellion and a state of war upon that status?” “No longer under ownership of any kind, the fearful relics of fugitive masters, have they not by their masters’ acts, and the state of war, assumed the condition, which we hold to be the normal one, of those made in God’s image?”
- Friday, Aug. 2: The U.S. Congress acts to anoint incomes with taxes, passing the first such Federal measure. The act calls for incomes of over $800 to be subject to a 3 percent levy.
Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe receives instructions to construct an observation balloon for the purpose of gathering intelligence from the air on Confederate ground activities.
- Tuesday, Aug. 6: Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois introduces a measure that provides for legal proceedings to be initiated against the property of any individual who uses it to further the rebellion. The First Confiscation Act directs attention toward the resources that underpin the Confederate war effort.
- Thursday, Aug. 8: Still reeling from the impact of the news of First Manassas, U.S. minister to Great Britain, Charles Francis Adams, confides in his journal that he considers the “division of the country” to be “now certain.”
- Saturday, Aug. 10: Nathaniel Lyon and Franz Sigel and approximately 5,400 Federals clash with 12,000 Confederates under Benjamin McCulloch and Sterling Price in a bloody engagement known as Wilson’s Creek. Lyon had hoped to strike the larger opposing troops by dividing his command and assaulting the Southern positions from opposite ends.
Lyon strikes the northern end of the Confederate camp and makes initial headway against his surprised opponents. But, mistaken identity and limited numbers on Sigel’s front prove problematic, causing that element into a disorderly retreat, so that by mid-morning the Confederates can turn their full force against Lyon. Holding steady against repeated assaults at the aptly named Bloody Hill, the Union commander suffers wounds, the last of which proves fatal. Impacted by the death of their charismatic leader and low on ammunition, the Federals withdraw, bringing the first major battle of the war west of the Mississippi River to a close.
The casualties in this encounter are further indication of the cost in blood that will be demanded from the conflict, even in the more remote Trans-Mississippi theater of operations. In addition to Lyon, Union losses amount to 258 killed, 873 wounded, and 186 missing or captured. The Confederate figures are 279 killed and 951 wounded. The mercurial 43-year-old Lyon is the first Union general to die in battle in the war.
- Monday, Aug. 12: President Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation for “a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting” to be held on “the last Thursday in September next.”
- Friday, Aug. 14: President Lincoln declares “all commercial intercourse,” between the United States and the rebellious states “unlawful” and adds that it “will remain unlawful until such insurrection shall cease or has been suppressed.”
Union general and former Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont declares martial law in St. Louis, Missouri, and its environs.
- Saturday, Aug. 15: Northern diarist George Templeton Strong cannot help but observe facetiously after hearing accounts of Wilson’s Creek as a Union success:
“If these be victories, may we soon enjoy a few defeats!”
- Monday, Aug. 19: Missouri comes as close as it will get to becoming a part of the Confederate States of America when the C.S. Congress forms an alliance with the state’s government.
Governor Beriah Magoffin urges Abraham Lincoln to compel the “removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military force now organized, and in camp within said State.”
- Tuesday, Aug. 20: A new state, named Kanawha, seems to be in the process of being formed by disgruntled western Virginians, meeting in convention at Wheeling, in the far reaches of the state.
- Saturday, Aug. 24: President Lincoln responds to Governor Magoffin’s insistence that forces loyal to the Union no longer be located in the Bluegrass Commonwealth, expressing his appreciation of the desire to “preserve the peace of my own native State,” but noting that the Governor’s original letter had contained no indication of support for the United States:
“I do not believe it is the popular wish of Kentucky that this force shall be removed beyond her limits; and with this impression, I must respectfully decline to so remove it.”
In Virginia, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones notes, with a touch of realism and pessimism:
“We are resting on our oars after the victory at Manassas, while the enemy is drilling and equipping 500,000 or 600,000 men. I hope we may not soon be floating down stream!”
In England, Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell quashes Confederate hopes for a higher stage of recognition or intervention in the American conflict by noting that his country will wait “until the fortunes of arms or the more peaceful mode of recognition shall have more clearly determined the respective positions of the two belligerents.”
- Sunday, Aug. 25: Lieutenant Colonel Baylor relays the somber news that a lieutenant and a detachment of fourteen Confederate troopers sent to engage Native Americans on the Texas frontier have been wiped out, except for a guide, who brought back word of the disaster. A recovery expedition finds articles of clothing and equipment scattered among a handful of bodies, but no evidence of survivors.
- Monday, Aug. 26: John B. Floyd leads a force of Confederates against members of an Ohio regiment, routing and scattering them at Kessler’s Cross Lanes in western Virginia. Although victorious, he pulls back to a position that will enable him to defend the Gauley River in the vicinity of Carnifex Ferry.
- Tuesday, Aug. 27: The Confederate defense of the Outer Banks of North Carolina experiences a critical test when a combined Union army-navy expedition arrives under Silas H. Stringham and Benjamin F. Butler.
- Wednesday, Aug. 28: All does not go well for the attacking Federals on the Outer Banks. The surf boats meant to convey troops to land take a pounding from the elements as the men make their way to shore. But, critical support comes from the Union naval squadron as the vessels engage in a circular pattern that renders counterbattery fire from land more difficult. The heavy fire drives the Confederate defenders from the smaller work, Fort Clark, enabling the ground forces to occupy it, while the larger one, Fort Hatteras continues to provide resistance.
- Thursday, Aug. 29: Morning in North Carolina finds the Southern defenders clinging to Fort Hatteras, although when the Union naval bombardment resumes the effort proves increasingly futile. After several hours and a handful of casualties, with some of the Confederate tubes inoperable and the powder magazine menaced with destruction, the garrison of 700 surrenders.
- Friday, Aug. 30: General Fremont exerts his own pressure on the administration when he takes the extraordinary step of declaring free the slaves of rebellious masters. His proclamation, issued from his headquarters at St. Louis, is a wholly unauthorized, unilateral action on his part:
“Circumstances in my judgment are of sufficient urgency to render it necessary that the commanding General of this department should assume the administrative powers of the State.”
“In order, therefore, to suppress disorders, maintain the public peace, and give security to the persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend and declare established martial law throughout the State of Missouri.”
“Real and personal property of those who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field, is declared confiscated to public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.”
Thaddeus Lowe sends his new balloon aloft in Virginia to monitor the Confederates in the vicinity of Hampton Roads.
- Saturday, Aug. 31: Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard are the Confederacy’s ranking full generals by act of the Confederate Congress.
Mary Chesnut, who had enjoyed the visits of Commodore Samuel Barron before he departed for the coast of North Carolina laments his capture and the loss of Fort Hatteras:
“We have a knack for hoping. Our government looks for news from Europe by every mail which shall bring us comfortable allies—if not peace.
But the wolf is at the door. In it at North Carolina—and ready to prowl around us.”
In Ohio, Lieutenant Emerson Opdycke of the Forty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry informs his wife:
“Well here I am in the process of forming [into] a soldier or in other words preparing to be shot at, or shot, in an orderly and scientific manner.”
Later in the letter, Opdycke explains the stakes in the contest as he sees them and his willingness to pay whatever price might be exacted of him:
This is the great World Trial of Popular Government, if we fail, the mind of the true Patriot will be almost without hope. Who would not be willing to give his life, if necessary, in such a contest?”
- Monday, September 2: President Lincoln has a political crisis on his hands that he wants to diffuse. John C. Fremont’s August 30 proclamation has the potential to alienate critical constituencies, ranging from Unionists in the South to wavering supporters in the border states. He expresses his concerns directly to General Fremont in a “Private and confidential” message that focuses on the possibility of Confederate retaliation and the worry that the general’s actions regarding emancipation “will alarm to our Southern Union friends, and turn them against us—perhaps ruin our fair prospect for Kentucky."
In his journal, George Templeton Strong takes a different stance from Lincoln on Fremont:
“We hear today of a move by General Fremont that looks like war in earnest, at last: a proclamation of martial law in Missouri, confiscation of all rebel property, and freedom to all slaves owned by the rebels in that state. A most significant step, and in the right direction, though it may weaken the national cause in Kentucky.”
Fiery U.S. Senator James “Jim” Lane and his “Jayhawkers” probe in the direction of reports of movement by Sterling Price and his Missouri State Guards. Following a skirmish with the advancing Southerners, Lane pulls back, allowing Price to continue his advance on Lexington, Missouri.
- Tuesday, Sept. 3: The Episcopal Bishop and Confederate general Leonidas Polk dispatches troops into neutral Kentucky to seize what he deems to be crucial high ground overlooking the Mississippi River at Columbus. The position the Southerners will move onto is impressive, but the ramifications of the action may negate any long term strategic value.
- Wednesday, Sept. 4: Bishop/General Polk tries to cover his movements by suggesting the extent to which Kentucky neutrality was already an open question through the establishment of camps for assembling and organizing recruits. Similar pro-Southern activities and Polks’ overt acts themselves render the argument tenuous.
- Friday, Sept. 6: Ulysses Grant takes advantage of the Confederate maneuvers elsewhere in Kentucky by moving into Paducah, on the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.
- Monday, Sept. 9: As she ponders developments from afar diarist Mary Chesnut concludes:
“Kentucky does not come to us. Neither does she mean to free her slaves. And they [the Lincoln administration] will let her keep what she will if she keeps the peace.”
- Tuesday, Sept. 10: A force of between 5-6,000 men under William Rosecrans battles 1,740 Confederates under John B. Floyd at Carnifex Ferry. Floyd’s troops hold their fortified camp through the day, but the former U.S. secretary of war opts to withdraw rather than continue resistance, arguing that fellow Confederate Henry A. Wise has failed to reinforce him as intended.
Colonel John Lowe, of the 12th Ohio, is one of 158 Union casualties and the first field grade officer from that state to be killed in action.
In a subsequent description of the fight, Wilhelm Stangel makes reference to a famous public figure in conceding:
“This was the battle at Carnifax Ferry, presented by the newspapers as a great battle in which miracles of bravery and wisdom had been performed. Where is [famed circus master P.T.] Barnum?”
- Wednesday, Sept. 11: Despite poor weather, the requirement of moving through difficult terrain and indifference on the part of his principal field commander, William W. Loring, Robert E. Lee tries to undertake a complicated and aggressive campaign against the Federals in western Virginia. The Cheat Mountain campaign will take place over the next several days.
- Thursday, Sept. 12: Herculean efforts by troops under Confederate colonel Albert Rust to move his men in place for a surprise attack come to naught in the Cheat Mountain campaign when a handful of Union prisoners inflate the numbers of opponents the Southerners supposedly face. The attack Rust is supposed to launch fizzles under the uncertainty.
Sterling Price and his Missouri State Guard arrive before Lexington, Missouri, and begin what will amount to a nine-day siege of Federal troops under Colonel James Mulligan.
Following a visit from Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of general John C. Fremont, advocating on behalf of her husband, Abraham Lincoln responds in writing:
“No impression has been made in my mind against the honor or integrity of Gen. Fremont; and I now enter my protest against being understood as acting in any hostility towards him.”
- Friday, Sept. 13: President Lincoln acts decisively to combat alleged sympathy with the Confederacy on the part of Maryland legislators by ordering the arrest of 31 of their number.
In a letter from western Virginia, Second Lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch counts the costs of the recent combat at Carnifex Ferry and elsewhere with pride for the part the “German regiments” played in the fighting.
“Many of us have closed their eyes for the last time in battle and still many more will follow them. . . . May armor-clad avengers arise out of this bloody sowing, as out of those dragon’s teeth, who will destroy the unholy corruption and inconsiderate egotism in America forever!”
- Saturday, Sept. 14: Union lieutenant John H. Russell engages in a daring raid against Southern interests at Pensacola, Florida, much to the chagrin of the local Confederate commander Braxton Bragg. Russell’s efforts lead to the destruction of one privateer and the capture and disabling of several Confederate artillery pieces.
- Sunday, Sept. 15: George Thomas arrives at Camp Dick Robinson in central Kentucky with orders to take over recruitment and training there. It has been almost two months since he clashed successfully with Thomas J. Jackson at Falling Waters or Hoke’s Run in western Virginia, but suspicion remains deep in some Union circles for the Virginian who has chosen to remain in blue.
President Lincoln finds himself defending the arrest of pro-Southern Maryland leaders, while continuing to determine a viable political course to pursue regarding the independently-minded John C. Fremont. His statement on the Maryland incarcerations exposes the difficulties of asserting civil liberties in wartime:
“The public safety renders it necessary that the grounds of these arrests should at present be withheld, but at the proper time they will made public. Of one thing the people of Maryland may rest assured: that no arrest has been made, or will be made, not based on substantial and unmistakable complicity with those in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States. In no case has an arrest been made on mere suspicion, or through personal or partisan animosities, but in all cases the Government is in possession of tangible and unmistakable evidence, which will, when made public, be satisfactory to every loyal citizen.”
Albert Sidney Johnston replaces Leonidas Polk as commander of the Confederate Department No. 2.
In western Virginia, General Lee’s elaborate offensive has produced little more than embarrassing failure and is leading some to speculate that he is beyond his prime.
The pro-Union legislature of Kentucky stipulates that force should be used to eradicate Confederate forces from the state, while the Southern troops under Simon B. Buckner counter such pressure with an advance into Bowling Green.
Diarist Mary Chesnut finds that discovering the facts concerning the war can be challenging, regardless of the source one uses for information:
“The Yankees in their papers claim every victory that we claim in ours. It is very tantalizing, puzzling. Only this: if they were fairly victorious, would not they be down upon us, instead of hovering around the coast or dancing along the border line—outside, not in? Like a man who wants to rob a house but prudently stands beyond the fence because there is a bad dog in there.”
- Thursday, Sept. 19: Troops under former newspaper editor and now Confederate brigadier general Felix Zollicoffer scatter Unionist forces gathered at Barboursville in southeastern Kentucky.
- Friday, Sept. 20: The Union garrison defending Lexington, Missouri, surrenders to Sterling Price. Confederate losses amount to 25 killed and 72 wounded, while Federal casualties reach 39 killed and 120 wounded in addition to the 3,600 captives.
- Saturday, Sept. 21: Despite his assurance that only “tangible and unmistakable evidence” existed for holding the suspected Marylanders, President Lincoln instructs Secretary of State William Seward to review the case of “Mr. Miller,” an employee “at the Arsenal” who has been “implicated for disloyalty, by some evidence before the Congressional Investigating Committee.” A personal interview has satisfied the president that the man is actually a loyal Unionist.
- Sunday, Sept. 22: In another “Private & confidential” communication, this time with the U.S. Senator who had replaced Stephen Douglas upon the latter’s death, President Lincoln asserts that Fremont’s proclamation is “purely political, and not within the range of military law:”
If a commanding General finds a necessity to seize the farm of a private owner, for a pasture, an encampment, or a fortification, he has the right to do so, and to so hold it, as long as the necessity lasts; and this is within military law, because [it is] within military necessity. But to say the farm shall no longer belong to the owner, or his heirs forever; and this as well when the farm is not needed for military purposes as when it is, is purely political, without the savour of military law about it. And the same is true of slaves.”
- Wednesday, Sept. 25: Reacting to the news from Missouri and the attribution of the disasters to the department commander, John C. Fremont, diarist George Strong observes, “We pass quick judgment on our military leaders.”
Smithland, Kentucky, with its access to the Cumberland River from the Ohio, is in Union hands.
Lt. Bertsch renews his diatribe against the war and its impact on ordinary citizens:
It is an unholy fight when the citizens of the states confront each other with weapons and the country where their ancestors consecrated their blood and their strength for the liberation from the foreign yoke, now inflict deep suicidal wounds. . . . But today they march into the brothers’ war with such enthusiasm as to be close to fanaticism.
If one could one [would] make all the scales fall from the eyes of the blind, also could the brothers who have misjudged shake hands again soon and prepare s rapid end to the wretched fight. Only the demagogues and office chasers on this side and that side can benefit from this war.”
The Confederate raider, CSS Sumter, snags another Northern prize for its flamboyant skipper, Raphael Semmes.
- Sunday, Sept. 29: Feeling the pressure from various directions, President Lincoln reminds Governor Oliver P. Morton of the national scope that his attentions must take:
“I write this letter because I wish you to believe of us (as we certainly believe of you) that we are doing the very best we can. You do not receive arms from us as fast as you need them; but it is because we have not near enough to meet all the pressing demands; and we are obliged to share around what we have, sending the larger share to the points which appear to need them most.
As to Kentucky, you do not estimate that state as more important than I do; but I am compelled to watch all points.”
- Monday, Sept. 30: Over the last several days of the month, U.S. ships capture Confederate vessels of various types as the Union blockade slowly begins to take shape.
- Tuesday, Oct. 1: Feeling public pressure to act in the wake of First Manassas, Confederate president Jefferson Davis meets at Centreville, Virginia, with Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. For his part, Union president Abraham Lincoln wants an effort to move into the largely Unionist region of East Tennessee.
- Wednesday, Oct. 2: Alabama’s governor A.B. Moore attempts to rein-in the attempts of those merchants who wish to take advantage of the crisis to charge the highest rates for their goods.
- Thursday, Oct. 3: Louisiana governor Thomas Moore demonstrates the troubling element of state’s rights by insisting that his citizens withhold their cotton as long as the Union blockade is in force. The effect, meant to pressure Europe to help end the stricture in favor of the South, is to actually assist in the Federal endeavors.
- Friday, Oct. 4: The Confederate States government enters into a treaty with the Shawnee and the Seneca. Lincoln supports the building of ironclad vessels by inventor John Ericsson.
- Monday, Oct. 7: The Confederacy adds the Cherokee to their list of Native American peoples connected to it by treaty.
- Tuesday, Oct. 8: Time are hard for old heroes. The “Hero of Fort Sumter,” Kentucky-born Robert Anderson gives way to William Tecumseh Sherman as commander of the Department of the Cumberland. The feisty red-head from Ohio will find the duty challenging and perplexing.
- Wednesday, Oct. 9: A bold operation against Union defenses near Fort Pickens, Florida, concludes with the Confederate attackers only partially successful before withdrawing.
- Friday, Oct. 11: Brigadier General William Starke Rosecrans assumes command of Union forces in Western Virginia.
- Saturday, Oct. 12: Rain masks the effort of a blockade-runner to make for the open sea. On board are Confederate commissioners John Slidell and James Mason, bound for Europe and the hope of recognition for the new country.
- Monday, Oct. 14: The citizens of Chincoteague Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia demonstrate the realities of war and the divisions in the Commonwealth when they take an oath of allegiance to the Union and denounce “the secession heresies.” Pro-Southern forces in Missouri illustrate a different sense of resolve by vowing to expel the Union “invaders” from their midst.
- Wednesday, Oct. 16: Union troops force their opponents out of Lexington, Missouri.
- Thursday, Oct. 17: From the Executive Mansion, President Lincoln forwards the names of two young people with a time-honored commentary on the work-ethic of youth:
“The lady—bearer of this—says she has two sons who want to work. See them at it, if possible. Wanting to work is so rare a merit, that it should be encouraged.”
- Sunday, Oct. 20: Davis continues to expend a great deal of energy attempting to smooth relations between his generals, Johnston and Beauregard, in northern Virginia.
- Monday, Oct. 21: Union troops cross the Potomac on an ill-fated attempt to move into Virginia. Confederate losses amount to 36 killed, 117 wounded and 2 missing, but Federal casualties stand at 49 killed, 158 wounded and 714 missing. Among the Union dead is Colonel Edward D. Baker, also a U.S. Senator from Oregon, whose body will lie in state in the White House. The overall commander of the effort, Brigadier General Charles P. Stone is excoriated in the press and in the halls of Congress.
- Thursday, Oct. 24: Diarist Mary Chesnut notes the news of Ball’s Bluff with a dose of the skepticism she has already come to have concerning such reports:
“[H]eard that at Leesburg, Shanks Evans had defeated [the] Yankees, taken three hundred prisoners, and they left five hundred dead on the field. Besides a great number who were drowned. Allowing for all exaggeration, it must have been a splendid victory.”
Communication can now be made, transcontinentally, by telegraph as the final connections in the line come together from Colorado into California.
The news is less positive for a vehemently pro-Union newspaper editor in Knoxville, Tennessee, who finds his work suppressed by the Confederates. The effort will not intimidate William Gannaway “Parson” Brownlow.
- Friday, Oct. 25: Work continues on the USS Monitor.
- Saturday, Oct. 26: Union forces make important gains in Western Virginia.
- Tuesday, Oct. 29: The departure of an enormous Union flotilla, the largest yet sent forth from the United States, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, promises to bode ill for the Confederate coastal defenses, provided it can contend successfully with storms off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
- Thursday, Oct. 31: A hero long past his prime, General Winfield Scott informs President Lincoln that he wishes to step down as commander of the Union armies. A new war has put the old general out of the way to make room for other figures to step forth.
- Friday, November 1: An aging Winfield Scott steps aside to make way for George Brinton McClellan as the new General in Chief of Union armies. In the Deep South, the diarist Mary Chesnut is unimpressed, observing of the change:
“So the mighty Scott has resigned—our six-feet-six general, head and shoulders above the multitude—and little McClellan is to try on his boots.”
Elsewhere, in recognition of Colonel Humphrey Marshall's recent promotion to brigadier general, the Richmond Dispatch noted of the native Kentuckian, "Under such a leader the gallant sons of Kentucky will again rush, as with a thunder blast, to do or to die."
- Saturday, Nov. 2: The Union martial house-cleaning continues as the former Republican candidate for the presidency, major general and department commander, John C. Fremont, hands over the reins of command to a successor. Fremont had run afoul of President Abraham Lincoln over the general’s very public stance on emancipation.
From western Virginia, one German soldier laments upon hearing the news:
“That Fremont was relieved just at a moment when his plans, criticized by pitiful pygmies as too magnificent, began to ripen, and he was well on the way to chase the enemy out of Missouri and Arkansas like chaff in the wind, and then to swing to the sunny south, must pain every patriot most deeply in his soul. Fremont was the man of the time and the deed, and he captured the hearts of the people, now therefore he had to fall victim to the diplomatic and political string pullers.”
The circumstances of a former U.S. captain prompts President Lincoln to inform Secretary of War Simon Cameron:
“I think any officer who has been dismissed on suspicion of disloyalty, but does not go over to the enemy, continuing to protest his loyalty, entitles himself to a hearing, and I hope this case will be enquired into.”
- Monday, Nov. 4: The eccentric former professor from the Virginia Military Institute and one of the Confederate heroes of First Manassas, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, receives command of the Shenandoah Valley District.
- Tuesday, Nov. 5: Despite a difficult tenure in western Virginia, Robert E. Lee, heads for a new department along the Southeastern coast of the Confederacy.
Union forces under Brigadier General William “Bull” Nelson move into Prestonsburg, Kentucky. The dynamic, but acerbic naval officer, now converted to a land command, has alienated Unionists as well as Southern sympathizers in the Bluegrass state, but demonstrated an unquestionable presence there.
- Wednesday, Nov. 6: Ratifying the actions of the provisional government, the voters endorse Jefferson Davis as the first permanent President of the Confederate States of America.
From his post with a formidable squadron off the coast of South Carolina, Roswell Lamson writes:
“We must beat them tomorrow and I have no doubt but we will do it though probably many of us will not hear the cheer of victory. Every man should feel the highest personal responsibility to do his duty to the last extremity, and see the ‘Stars and Stripes’ flying over the rebel forts or sink in the effort to place them there.”
- Thursday, Nov. 7: Winfield Scott may be out of authority in favor of George McClellan, but his vision for achieving final Union victory has an important early development on the South Carolina coast as a flotilla of Federal warships under Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont engage the Confederate defenders of Forts Beauregard and Walker in the area of Hilton Head and Port Royal. Southern efforts through the morning ultimately are no match for their opponent’s overpowering show of force and after suffering some casualties the defenders withdraw. The North gains a base of strategic importance on the Confederate Atlantic coastline.
In the aftermath of the fighting, Roswell Lamson laments the loss of several comrades in the operations at Port Royal, but notes the affirming circumstances of their sacrifice:
“Brave fellows, they will never answer to their muster again, but they died as American Sailors would wish to die, fighting for their Country. . . . When my time comes I hope I may die as they have died, under the flag, and be buried within the sound of the ocean.”
To the west, Union brigadier general Ulysses S. Grant leads a force on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, opposite the formidable Confederate defenses at Columbus, Kentucky. Initial success at the battle of Belmont for the bluecoats ends when Major General Leonidas Polk dispatches reinforcements that reach Brigadier General Gideon Pillow and enable him to compel Grant’s expeditionary force to pull back to its transports. Union losses in the engagement amount to 607, while Confederate casualties stand at 641.
- Friday, Nov. 8: James M. Mason of Virginia and John Slidell of Louisiana render an unexpected opportunity for Confederate diplomacy when the U.S.S. San Jacinto stops the British mail packet Trent and effects their removal. The seizure of the Confederate commissioners under the circumstances constitutes a serious breach of protocol and represents the kind of international incident that the United States would have much preferred to avoid. Captain Charles Wilkes has placed the Lincoln administration in a precarious position, but the president can hardly repudiate the action out of hand.
Of this incident, Charlestonian Emma Holmes notes in her diary that her spirits have lifted after the initial reaction she had experienced:
“For most of the gentlemen think it will do us more good than harm and that Mason and Slidell in prison will plead our case more powerfully than if at the Tuilleries & the Court of St. James.”
- Sunday, Nov. 10: President Lincoln explains to Brigadier General John A. McClernand why the U.S. government continues to strain to provide adequate resources to wage war:
“The plain matter-of-fact is, our good people have rushed to the rescue of the Government, faster than the government can find arms to put in their hands. . . . We know you do all as wisely and well as you can; and you will not be deceived if you conclude the same is true of us.”
- Tuesday, Nov. 12: The realities of warfare also find expression in Mary Chesnut’s diary:
“It is slow work raising regiments now. The best fighting material went off at the first tap of the drum. But the recruiting goes on, for better or for worse.”
- Friday, Nov. 15: A week after his momentous actions on the high seas, Captain Wilkes brings the San Jacinto and its notorious captives to Fortress Monroe, in Virginia. The waylaid diplomats will proceed to accommodations at Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor.
- Monday, Nov. 18: Actions repudiating the larger political developments occur in Kentucky and North Carolina, as efforts to create a Confederate government in the former, and reaffirm loyalty to the United States in the latter, take place.
President Lincoln celebrates the naval actions on the South Carolina coast in a note to Edward Everett, with an additional nod to the seizures of the Confederate diplomats:
“The success at Port-Royal was both splendid and important. The military men are taking what they consider all necessary steps to hold the places taken. And then the capture of Mason and Slidell!”
- Tuesday, Nov. 19: President Jefferson Davis informs the newly seated Confederate Congress of his continuing resolve:
“Liberty is always won where there exists the unconquerable will to be free.”
In Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), 1,400 Southern troops under Colonel Douglas Cooper, composed of Native Americans and Texans, defeat an opposing force at Round Mountain and capture their camp after it has been abandoned in the night.
- Wednesday, Nov. 20: Southampton County, Virginia, planter Daniel W. Cobb records the contradictory elements of warfare for the citizens who will be called upon to sustain it and the laborers expected to undertake the work involved in it:
“Our slaves is ordered out at this time in the County to work on embankments [earthwork fortifications] by the government which will throw farmers back.”
- Thursday, Nov. 21: Judah P. Benjamin becomes the new Secretary of War in Davis’s Cabinet.
- Sunday, Nov. 24: Tybee Island, Georgia, is the latest acquisition by Union troops as they seek to establish footholds along the Atlantic coastline and use them to isolate or threaten Southern ports and military posts.
San Jacinto, with Mason and Slidell still aboard and in custody, reaches Boston.
- Tuesday, Nov. 26: Delegates to a convention at Wheeling, Virginia, adopt a constitution for a state to be named West Virginia.
President Lincoln considers ideas for the compensated emancipation of slaves for states, using Delaware as a potential template.
- Thursday, Nov. 28: The Confederate Congress admits Missouri into the Confederacy.
- Saturday, Nov. 30: British reaction to the Union actions regarding the Trent begins to filter out. British Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell informs the British minister to the United States, Lord Lyons, that the government of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, considers the matter a demonstration of aggression by the U.S. that must be addressed. Privately, while confined with illness, Prince Albert has counseled that the tone of the instructions be softened to allow room for diplomatic face-saving, especially based upon the premise that the U.S. did not formally authorize the actions of Captain Wilkes in stopping the Trent and removing the Confederate emissaries.
- Sunday, December 1, 1861: Abraham Lincoln’s exasperation has reached a high point with George Brinton McClellan, who has shown that he can revive an army in the aftermath of the demoralizing effects of First Bull Run, but has demonstrated considerably less willingness to allow it to go into harm’s way.
Monday, Dec. 2: Perhaps still feeling the ill effects of sickness she has battled recently, Mary Chesnut declares that the expressions of a “Comfortable Cynic” have caused her to lose the elevated spirit she had enjoyed while at Sunday services:
“I do not think I was ever so angry in my life. . . . In times like these, there he sat, in his warm, soft, dressing gown, sleeping sweetly at night and eating of the best, his taste studied in every particular. And I must stay there and hear him malign and vilify the unfortunates who are lying in the snow and mud; risking life and limb, deserting home, wife, children, worldly goods, [to fight and] periling all—maybe their very souls—for what they believe their own country.”
She is no less critical of the opponents who have created the conditions the South now endures:
“A Union let them call it—empire and kingdom. We in this Union would be an unwilling bride—a Union where one party is tied and dragged in, if he can be well drubbed first!”
- Tuesday, Dec. 3: President Lincoln offers his First Annual Message to Congress:
“In the midst of unprecedented political troubles we have cause of great gratitude to God. . . . The war continues. In considering the policy to be adopted for suppressing the insurrection I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle. I have therefore in every case thought it proper to keep the integrity of the Union prominent as the primary object of the contest on our part. . . .”
“The Union must be preserved.”
In Western Virginia, the “governor” of the pro-Union faction, Francis H. Pierpont, forwards advice to Lincoln:
“We believe a brigadier, with latitudinous powers, if possessed of shrewdness, a capacity to seize and avail himself of the occurrences passing, with the mental constitution and mannerism to inspire the officers with him, would, with the military material now there, which he could gather, clear the country . . . and restore civil government, law, and order.”
Pierpont does not venture a name.
- Wednesday, Dec. 4: Kentuckian and former vice president of the United States, John C. Breckinridge, who had stood for president of the United States just over a year ago, finds he is no longer welcome in the U.S. Senate, after that body votes unanimously for his expulsion. Breckinridge had rendered the matter a foregone conclusion by joining the Confederate forces.
- Thursday, Dec. 5: Official reports for Congress indicate that there are 682, 971 men on the rolls of the United States armed services.
- Sunday, Dec. 8: Raphael Semmes and the Confederate commerce raider Sumter claim a U.S. whaler as a prize.
In Centreville, Va., Confederate Thomas J. Goree explains the military imperatives of the Federals from his perspective to his mother:
“The Northern press and mob are, too, becoming clamorous for a forward movement to Richmond. . . . We are here in daily expectation of hearing of a big fight in Kentucky. It may be that the fight there and the one here will take place about the same time. The reason why we are so anxious to fight here is that we hope in the event of a battle to winter in Washington or Baltimore.”
- Wednesday, Dec. 9: North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender is singularly unimpressed with Mr. Lincoln’s extensive annual message to Congress. He tells his wife, Fanny:
“Speaking of battles, have you read Lincoln’s message[?] A poorer thing I never saw. One would say it was written as a burlesque . . . These things look ominous for Lincoln and Crew. Oh what a blessing peace would be to our country, and how ardently I hope for it.”
The United States Congress is determined to lay responsibility for the nation’s military setbacks and any other matters that require official attention, deciding that the best method for achieving this end will be through the establishment of a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
- Tuesday, Dec. 10: The Confederate Congress takes steps to add Kentucky to their nation’s banner.
- Wednesday, Dec. 11: From his camp in Virginia, Dorsey Pender wrote his wife in North Carolina about the prospects for the holidays:
“I am afraid, Honey, Christmas will find you in Tarboro, for it seems that we are not going to be allowed even to imagine ourselves in a state of prospective quiet.”
Of course weather conditions were likely to dictate a change: “After the 1st of January the chances are that it will be impossible for armies to move however their Generals may be to have people killed.”
- Saturday, Dec. 13: Confederate brigadier general Henry H. Sibley assumes command over forces in the Southwestern territory between Texas and California.
From Washington, President Lincoln issues a “full pardon for all political offences committed by him” against the United States government for Major John Pope in his former capacity as chief quartermaster under General William Hardee of the Confederate army located at Bowling Green, Ky.
From Liverpool, England, a Georgia Unionist writes the United States Senator from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson to warn of dire international prospects for the Union regarding the Trent affair, referencing England’s version of America’s Uncle Sam:
“I do not see that John Bull has softened his bellowing one atom. He has got a smell of blood, & it would seem as though nothing but a surfeit of the same article can abate his rage.”
- Monday, Dec. 16: Ohio Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham introduces a resolution that praises Captain Charles Wilkes for his actions in the Trent Affair. Already a vocal critic of the administration and partisan opponent of the Republican Party, the gesture is an incongruous one for the Democrat who seems to delight in pricking the administration.
- Friday, Dec. 19: Once more from Liverpool, where John G. Winter has kept his ear to the ground for signs of international trouble, the word is gloomy. He tells Senator Johnson ominously, “We are now on the verge I fear of ruin.” The British seem to be preparing themselves for operations that could easily, from the Georgia Unionists perspective, force the opening of Confederate ports by the scattering of the still light Union blockade. “Let us get out of the scrape in the best way possible,” he advises, “but get out—our Salvation depends upon it.”
Throughout the next several days, the British Minister to the United States, Lord Lyons meets with Secretary of State William Seward to discuss the diplomatic standoff over the seizure of the Confederate commissioners aboard the Trent. The prognosis for peace between the powers remains guarded.
- Friday, Dec. 20: Two British vessels set a course for Canada with troops to bolster the military presence there in case of greater difficulty with the United States. Perhaps ominously, one of the tunes heard during the departure is “Dixie.”
- Monday, Dec. 23: Lord Lyons makes the official demand for the release of the Confederate diplomats Mason and Slidell.
- Wednesday, Dec. 25: Christmas arrives with less celebration than on previous occasions.
In Kentucky, a Union soldier from the mid-West subsequently explains what he and his comrades did to pass the day:
“We spent Christmas evening as well as we could. Whoever had something shared it with his friends, and in many tents ‘general cheeriness’ soon developed, and the men sang, spoke rhetorically and recounted all kinds of stories. Because of the inspection we did not have a Christmas tree, but had several Christmas gifts . . . and made many jokes. . . . In such ways we were able on this evening, which draws the German heart to the home and into the family circle, to reduce by half the melancholy and the homesickness.”
“Thus the first Christmas Day in the field was survived, and despite the cheerful hours—no one probably wished to have to celebrate another Christmas under similar circumstances, but we may have to do it.”
- Thursday, Dec. 26: Bowing to international pressure, the U.S. Government decides to release the embattled Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell.
St. Louis, Mo., is another city to come under martial law.
Native Americans in Indian Territory clash, with the pro-Union Creeks involved in the fighting taking the brunt of the punishment.
- Friday, Dec. 27: U.S. Congressman Alfred Ely, captured in the confused aftermath of the Battle of First Manassas, is back in Washington.
- Sunday, Dec. 31: Abraham Lincoln spends part of his time drafting a letter to a disgruntled Major General David Hunter over what that officer has deemed a “banishment” to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, that has left him “humiliated, insulted and disgraced,” in addition to depriving him of a command, “suitable to my rank.”
The exasperated Union commander in chief responds:
“Yours of the 23rd, is received; and I am constrained to say it is difficult to answer so ugly a letter in good temper. I am, as you intimate, losing much of the great confidence I placed in you, not from any act or omission of yours touching the public service, up to the time you were sent to Leavenworth, but from the flood of grumbling dispatches and letters I have seen from you since.”
Prospects seem bleak for Unionists in East Tennessee in the wake of retaliation for the bridge-burning efforts that had occurred a month earlier. Currently in Somerset, Kentucky, the plaintive voice of one man implores Senator Andrew Johnson:
“Oh! My God, will the government never sympathize with loyalists in the Border States. Will she never go to thier [sic] support.”
On a broader note, citizens in the United States and Confederate States of America take stock at a year that has whirled to a conclusion. Defeats have left the supporters of the Union cause in doubt as to the manner in which the nation might be soon reunited. While adherents to the Confederacy will be wise to recognize that the path to independence is as uncertain as it has been since the creation of the nation. The only certain facts are that families on both sides will remain separated from their loved ones in the service and that the war will continue.