Eve of Jubilee~December, 1862~the 28th to the 31st

In the last four days of the year the bloodshed continues and soldiers wonder if peace will ever come. Gideon Welles complains of party spirit hindering government. Reports arrive in the United States of political changes in Japan. German political theorist Karl Marx works on a manuscript. The poet Walt Whitman, having found that his brother George is alright, looks for employment in Washington. Anti-British sentiment continues because of the raider Alabama.

What emancipation will bring as depicted by Thomas Nast

What emancipation will bring as depicted by Thomas Nast

Above all, abolitionists and free black people, fugitive slaves, the Federal government in Washington and the Confederate government in Richmond all wonder if the essential nature os the war is about to change. Will President Lincoln carry out his promise of September to put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect? New Year’s Eve is a watch night for many.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

December 28– Sunday– Rochester, New York– Speaking at Zion Church in anticipation of the Emancipation Proclamation actually taking effect in a matter of days, Frederick Douglass sounds a prophetic warning. “This is no time for the friends of freedom to fold their hands and consider their work at an end. The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance. Even after slavery has been legally abolished, and the rebellion substantially suppressed, even when there shall come representatives to Congress from the states now in rebellion, and they shall have repudiated the miserable and disasterous error of disunion, or secession, and the country shall have reached a condition of comparative peace, there will still remain an urgent necessity for the benevolent activity of the men and the women who have from the first opposed slavery from high moral conviction.”

December 28– Sunday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Outside of the city, Union and Confederate skirmishers stop shooting long enough to exchange friendly banter and out-dated newspapers. Afterward, one Union soldier writes, “So we met and parted, not realizing we were enemies. My God, when will this unnatural war have an end!– when shall friend cease to seek the life of friend, and mankind once more realize the blessings of peace?”

December 28– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports political changes in Japan. “Intelligence has . . . just reached us, via San Francisco, that . . . . revolution has, in fact, taken place, which will probably have a most injurious effect on the interests of foreigners in Japan. For it is no longer the party friendly to the foreigner and to foreign commerce that governs . . . and determines the privileges of intruders, but that fanatical faction who have always been the inveterate foes of the stranger, and who have always been prompt to incite their followers to outrage against him. There is a chance . . . that things may not turn out so bad as they promise. Parties are seldom as ultra in as out of office, and such may be the case in Japan. But if the Reactionists remain true to the principles which they practiced when in opposition; if they still hold it a sacred duty to disregard the rights of aliens, and to protect their assassins, the foreign residents may prepare for persecution under the new regime. But should the treaties be disregarded, and the residence of aliens in the Empire be rendered unsafe and intolerable, Japan will speedily call down upon her head the punishment she deserves. The adoption of so execrable a policy on the part of the Japanese will be an open defiance of civilization; and the crimes and the arrogance of the Islanders will arouse the indignation of foreign Governments.”

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

December 28– Sunday– London, England– Karl Marx, age 44 and in exile in London since 1849, writes to his friend Frederick Engels about his manuscript for a book on political economy which he will call Capital. He explains the delays in finishing the work and his plans for publication. Also, he inquires about the political situation in Germany with expectations of coming revolution. “I have been, and still am, forced to undertake a large amount of hackwork to prevent myself and my family from actually being relegated to the streets. I had even decided to become a ‘practical man’ and had intended to enter a railway officer at the beginning of next year. Luckily — or perhaps I should say unluckily? — I did not get the post because of my bad handwriting. So, you will see that I had little time left and few quiet moments for theoretical work. It seems probable that the same circumstances will delay my finishing the book for the printers for longer than I should have wished. . . . The conspiration de silence with which I am honored by the German literary rabble as soon as the latter finds out that the thing can’t be dismissed with insults is . . . unfavorable from the point of view of sales. As soon as I have a fair copy of the manuscript (upon which I shall make a start in January 1863), I shall bring it to Germany myself, it being easier to deal with publishers on a personal basis. . . . I should be most grateful if you could write to me occasionally about the situation at home. We are obviously heading for revolution — something I have never once doubted since 1850. The first act will include a by no means gratifying rehash of the stupidities of ’48-’49. However, that’s how world history runs its course, and one has to take it as one finds it.”

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

December 29– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Having come looking for his brother to see if George is alright after the battle of December 13th, Walt Whitman finally writes to his mother. “When I found dear brother George, and found that he was alive and well, O you may imagine how trifling all my little cares and difficulties seemed– they vanished into nothing. And now that I have lived for eight or nine days amid such scenes as the camps furnish, and had a practical part in it all, and realize the way that hundreds of thousands of good men are now living, and have had to live for a year or more, not only without any of the comforts, but with death and sickness and hard marching and hard fighting, (and no success at that,) for their continual experience– really nothing we call trouble seems worth talking about. . . . George is very well in health, has a good appetite. I think he is at times more wearied out and homesick than he shows, but stands it upon the whole very well. Every one of the soldiers, to a man, wants to get home.” On this same day, Whitman writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson, telling Emerson that he is seeking employment in Washington and asking Emerson to write letters of reference to Secretary of State Seward and to Treasury Secretary Chase as well as a letter of introduction to Senator Charles Sumner.

December 29– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles notes new activities on the high seas. “We had yesterday a telegram that the British pirate craft Alabama captured the Ariel . . . on her passage from New York to Aspinwall [now, Colon, Panama], off the coast of Cuba.” Referring to the raider as “this wolf from Liverpool”, Welles vows to “have a day of reckoning with Great Britain for these wrongs, and I sometimes think I care not how soon nor in what manner that reckoning comes.”

December 29– Monday– Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi–From strong defensive positions, Confederate troops repel an attack by William Tecumseh Sherman’s force and inflict heavy losses. Union killed, wounded and missing total 1776 while the rebel defenders suffer a total of 207 casualties.

December 29– Monday– Helena, Arkansas– A group of Federal military chaplains and Army doctors file a protest regarding the poor treatment of fugitive slaves by some soldiers. They request that the generals in charge take some remedial action. “The Contrabands [escaped slaves] within our lines are experiencing hardships oppression & neglect the removal of which calls loudly for the intervention of authority. We daily see & deplore the evil and leave it to your wisdom to devise a remedy. In a great degree the contrabands are left entirely to the mercy and rapacity of the unprincipled part of our army . . . with no person clothed with Specific authority to look after & protect them. . . . These grievances reported to us by persons in whom we have confidence, & some of which we know to be true, are but a few of the many wrongs of which they complain– For the sake of humanity, for the sake of Christianity, for the good name of our army, for the honor of our country, cannot something be done to prevent this oppression & to stop its demoralizing influences upon the Soldiers themselves?”

December 30– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong wonders in the pages of his diary if the Emancipation Proclamation will really take effect on Thursday. “Will Lincoln’s backbone carry him through the work he is pledged them [the slave population] to do? It is generally supposed that he intends to redeem his pledge, but nobody knows, and I am not sanguine on the subject. If he comes out fair and square, he will . . . take high place among the men who have controled the destinies of nations. If he postpone or dilute his action, his name will be a byword and a hissing till the annals of the nineteenth century are forgotten.”

December 30– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Preparing to issue the formal Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day, President Lincoln provides members of the Cabinet with a copy of the Final Emancipation Proclamation and requests them to offer suggestions. The President informs General Burnside that “You must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

December 31– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln signs the act approving admission of West Virginia to the United States. He also meets with his Cabinet for a final review of the Emancipation Proclamation.

December 31– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles finishes his diary for this year. “The year closes less favorably than I had hoped and expected, yet some progress has been made. It is not to be denied . . . that the national ailment seems more chronic. The disease is deep seated. Energetic measures are necessary . . . . Worse than this, the envenomed, relentless, and unpatriotic spirit of party paralyzes and weakens the hand of the Government and country.”

December 31– Wednesday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes observes the day. “Well, the year 1862 is drawing to a close. As I look back I am bewildered when I think of the hundreds of miles I have tramped, the thousands of dead and wounded that I have seen, and the many strange sights that I have witnessed. I can truly thank God for his preserving care over me and the many blessings I have received. . . . The year has not amounted to much as far as the War is concerned, but we have hope for the best and feel sure that in the end the Union will be restored. Good bye, 1862.” He makes a list in his journal of 73 towns and cities were he has been since his enlistment 18 months ago.

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

December 31– Wednesday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Union and Confederate forces clash in almost simultaneous attacks. The fighting begins at dawn and will last until the 2nd of next month.

December 31– Wednesday– Mobile, Alabama– President Jeff Davis sends a message to the War Department in Richmond, saying that “guns and ammunition . . . needed at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Very much depends upon prompt supply.”

December 31– Wednesday– Off the coast of North Carolina–The Union ironclad Monitor sinks in a gale with 16 of the 62 crewmen lost in the storm.

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