December’s Bareness Everywhere~December, 1862~the 6th to the 12th

Despite the onset of cold weather in most of the country, the shooting war continues in battles large and small, with bullets and with bitter words. Most soldiers, like George Whitman, want to get it over with and go home. While the war is about ending secession, West Virginia moves closer to successfully seceding from disloyal Virginia. Some of the Northern press express anti-European sentiment in general and anti-French sentiment in particular. President Lincoln limits the execution of the Sioux in Minnesota to about 1/10 of the number requested by military and state authorities and explains himself to the U S Senate.

December 6– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times evaluates France’s offer to mediate an end to the war. We regard this offer of Napoleon, and its rejection by England and Russia, as likely to put an end to all projects of intervention for some time to come. It has answered his purpose, by displaying to his own people his anxiety to restore their prosperity by restoring their cotton. There will be no excuse for renewing it until the close of the new campaign against the rebel States. And when that comes we trust the condition of the country will be such as to render all thought of intervention utterly out of the question.”

December 6– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends an order to Colonel Sibley regarding the executions of the Sioux prisoners. He allows the hanging of 39 of the condemned to take place on December 19th and orders Sibley and his troops to keep the others in custody and protect them from “any unlawful violence” pending further determinations. [The execution of one additional condemned man will also be suspended later after new evidence casts doubt upon his guilt]

December 6– Saturday– Gordonsville, Virginia– Thomas Garber writes to his sister Addie Garber about a recent brush with Yankee cavalry. “I then determined to see how many Yank they were & report to the Major. I went on around the corner and looked down the street and there was a whole Yankee Regiment. I had my pistol in my hand. I raised it up and fired it, wheeled my horse and started up the street, 8 or 10 Yanks after me shooting and howling like brave men after one man with a flag, I never run a horse faster in all of my life.”

December 7– Sunday– Prairie Grove, Arkansas– In a chaotic battle, Union forces turn back a Confederate effort to gain control of the northwest part of the state. Dead, wounded and missing among the Confederates total 1317 while among the Federals the total is 1251.

December 7– Sunday– Hartsville, Tennessee– Confederate cavalry under John Hunt Morgan surprise the Union garrison and take about 1800 prisoners.

December 8– Monday– near Falmouth, Virginia– George Whitman writes home to his mother. “All is quiet along the Rappahannock and we are still lying here in Camp. The weather has been Cold here, for the last day or two, and this morning the ground is covered with snow . . . I wished we could have one good big square fight that would settle the Rebs, and the war at the same time, so that I could come home and see you all, and drink that wine Matt has saved for me. I hardly think there will be a fight here at Fredericksburg, as we have orders to fix up our tents as though we were expected to stay here some time. The rebels seem to be busy, building breastworks, and preparing for us, but I should think it would not be much trouble for us to drive them out of Fredericksburg if we went about it.”

December 9– Tuesday– Stockton, Minnesota– The Winona and St. Peter Railroad makes its first run between Winona and here.

December 10– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.–The House of Representatives passes a bill allowing the creation of the state of West Virginia.

December 10– Wednesday– Knoxville, Tennessee– A Confederate court seizes the property of Andrew Johnson. “The said jury having heard the testimony and the charge of the Court, upon their oaths do say, that the said Andrew Johnson is an alien Enemy to said Confederate States of America. It is therefore decreed by the Court that said Johnson is an alien enemy and all the property, rights and credits belonging to him either at law or in equity, are sequestrated under the acts of Congress, and the Receiver for said District is directed to proceed to dispose of the same as provided by law.” (Johnson, age 54 and former U S Senator from the state, has remained loyal to the Union and in March was appointed by President Lincoln as Military Governor of Tennessee as Union forces continue attempts to subdue rebellion throughout the state.)

December 11– Thursday– Albion, New York– Birth of Belle King Sherman, who will become an important leader among women’s clubs, an advocate of national parks and educational reformer who will call for science education in elementary schools.

December 11– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln submits to the Senate a detailed message on the Sioux uprising in Minnesota, including trial transcripts and General Pope’s report. He also submits for ratification .a treaty of trade and friendship with the Republic of Liberia. With regard to the Sioux in Minnesota the President updates that chamber on his activities in this matter. “Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles. This class numbered forty, and included the two convicted of female violation. One of the number is strongly recommended by the commission which tried them for commutation to ten years’ imprisonment. I have ordered the other thirty-nine to be executed on Friday, the 19th instant.”

December 11– Thursday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– Despite changeable weather and obvious Confederate preparations, Union forces cross the Rappahannock River and occupy the city.

December 11– Thursday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Confederate General Braxton Bragg writes to Union General William Rosecrans whose troops occupy Nashville. “In your letter of the 4th instant you express your abhorrence of the system of harassing and arresting non-combatants. In a previous letter I have intimated my entire concurrence in these views and nothing shall swerve me from the faithful observance of a policy which is dictated by every proper sentiment. I am credibly informed, however, that on the very day on which your communication was written a number of citizens of Tennessee charged only with political offense or proclivities were arrested and imprisoned in the penitentiary of Nashville. It is of little moment to me whether this was done by your immediate order or by your subordinates for whose conduct you are responsible, and I hereby notify you that I shall enforce rigid and unyielding retaliation against the commissioned officers who fall into my hands until this violation of good faith be corrected in deeds as well as words.”

December 12– Friday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– In anticipation of a major Federal attack, General Lee prepares to repulse General Burnside.

December 12– Friday– along the Yazoo River, Mississippi, along the Neuse River, North Carolina, Poolesville, Maryland, and Goldsborough, North Carolina– Union and Confederate forces raid, snipe, skirmish and exchange canon fire.

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