A More Vigorous Style of Warfare~December 1863~15th to 18th

A More Rigorous Style of Warfare~General Edward Wild

Black soldiers prove themselves in Tennessee, in North Carolina and in Virginia. Of the Union heroes from Gettysburg, General Buford dies and friends seek the promotion of Colonel Chamberlain. President Lincoln seeks improved relations with Nicaragua and with Great Britain. Welles writes about messy Washington politics. Canadians protect some Confederates. Whitman worries about his family. Soldiers write about the discomforts of winter. And the world continues to turn.

December 15– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “The last word I got from home was your letter written the night before Andrew was buried, Friday night, nearly a fortnight ago. I have not heard any thing since from you . . . . Dear mother, I hope you are well & in good spirits. I wish you would try to write to me every thing about home & the particulars of Andrew’s funeral, & how you all are getting along . . . . I am still going among the hospitals, there is plenty of need, just the same as ever. I go every day or evening. I have not heard from George. I have no doubt the 51st is still at Crab Orchard [Kentucky]. ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother.

December 15– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Seward and Chase were not present at the Cabinet-meeting. The President was well and in fine spirits.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

December 15– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “I really must gladly do all in my power to effect the promotion which you do well deserve. I have today been to the [War] Department to have all the testimonies collected and hope to have it done. I think I may present the entire case to the President within a few days.” ~ Letter from Union General James Rice to Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. [Chamberlain, one of the heroes of the battle at Gettysburg, will not actually be promoted to the rank of general until June, 1864, and then only after being seriously wounded.]


December 15– Tuesday– Columbia, Tennessee– “Permit me to make the following report: I started out last Friday, 11th instant, from Calliak’s with 100 mounted men of the Eighteenth Missouri . . . to press able-bodied Negroes, horses, and mules, leaving one team to each family, the horses and mules to be turned over to Colonel Miller, the Negroes to be put in my regiment now forming at this place, and upon arriving here to-day after a five days hard scout, Colonel Mizner, commanding the post, without any knowledge or consent of me, released 13 Negroes and sent them back . . . . what is to be done in this case?” ~ Memo from Colonel Thomas Downey, Fifteenth U. S. Colored Troops to Union General George Thomas.

December 15– Tuesday– London, England–William Shee is appointed a justice of the Queen’s Bench, the first Roman Catholic to hold a judgeship in England since the Reformation.

December 15– Tuesday– Anina, Romania– The first mountain railway in the country opens with service from here to Oravita.

December 16– Wednesday– Hampton Falls, New Hampshire– Birth of Ralph Adams Cram, the eldest of three children born to William and Sarah Blake Cram. He will become a prominent architect, serving as Princeton University’s supervising architect from 1909 to 1931 and will author 18 books.

Ralph Adams Crum~1911

Ralph Adams Crum~1911

December 16– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Union General John Buford, West Point Class of 1847 and one of the heroes of the battle at Gettysburg, dies of a fever at age 37. His last words are “Put guards on all the roads, and don’t let the men run to the rear.”

December 16– Washington, D.C.– “Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, do hereby declare and proclaim that so much of the several acts imposing discriminating duties of tonnage and impost within the United States are and shall be suspended and discontinued so far as respects the vessels of Nicaragua and the produce, manufactures, and merchandise imported into the United States in the same from the dominions of Nicaragua and from any other foreign country whatever, the said suspension to take effect from the day above mentioned and to continue thenceforward so long as the reciprocal exemption of the vessels of the United States and the produce, manufactures, and merchandise imported into the dominions of Nicaragua in the same, as aforesaid, shall be continued on the part of the Government of Nicaragua.”

December 16– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “About half past one o’clock yesterday morning, the building on Cary street, opposite the foundry of Messrs. Ettenger & Edmund, owned and used by Lawrence Lottier for grinding snuff and making smoking tobacco, was, with its contents, completely destroyed. Had the fire communicated to several large piles of plank immediately in front of the snuff mill, the destruction of several tobacco factories and stables in the vicinity would have been almost inevitable. The firemen, however, succeeded in suppressing the flames before any damage, other than that above stated, was done. It is not known how the fire originated, but supposed to have been set on fire. Losses quite heavy.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

December 16– Wednesday– Montpelier, Virginia– “I was truly glad to hear from you again and to hear that all were well and that my noble boy was so smart and improving so fast. There is no use talking how bad I want to see you and him and all of you, but I see no chance now for me to get a furlough this winter. My health is excellent and I am still here guarding this house and premises, and am getting on finely. . . . . I am grateful to you for sympathizing for me when it is cold, but do not indulge in grieving for me, for often when you imagine I am suffering badly, I am comfortably situated. The winter here has been very mild so far for this country, though we have had ice three or four inches thick, we have had no sleet or snow yet. . . . I am delighted with the idea of getting the clothes and many good things you sent me. I hope I will get them safely. I feel and know that I have got the best wife and the best Mother in the world.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.


December 16– Wednesday– Elizabeth City, North Carolina– A force of Union soldiers, about 700 black soldiers under Union General Edward Wild, complete a week’s occupation of the town. In response to the endless sniper attacks and ambushes against his men, General Wild reports, “Finding ordinary measures of little avail, I adopted a more rigorous style of warfare; burned their homes and barns, ate up their livestock, and took hostages from their families.” After the Federal troops leave a Southern newspaper will complain, “On the streets the ladies of the place were jostled by the Negro troops, and had to permit them to walk by their side . . . . The Negro ran riot during the Yankee stay in Albemarle country.” [Edward Wild, age 38, Massachusetts physician, abolitionist and friend of the late Robert Gould Shaw, has served in the Union Army since the war began. By this time his right hand has been crippled by a wound and his left arm amputated at the shoulder because of a second wound. At the request of Governor Andrew of Massachusetts, Wild agreed in April, 1863, to take a command of black soldiers, both because he believes in the fighting abilities of these troops and he carries a deep-seated hatred of the Confederacy.]

General Edward Wild

General Edward Wild

December 16– Wednesday– Sambro, Nova Scotia, Canada– Although in Canadian waters, three United States warships recapture the merchant vessel Chesapeake but the hijackers all manage, with Canadian aid, to escape.

December 16– Wednesday– Madrid, Spain– Birth of George Santayana, philosopher, poet and novelist. Although his parents separate shortly after his birth and his mother is the widow of an American, he will not be brought to the United States until 1872. He will teach at Harvard from 1889 to 1912. His students will include Gertrude Stein and Felix Frankfurter. In 1912 he will leave the United States and live in Europe until his death in 1952.

December 16– Wednesday– London, England–The government advises the British Consul in Havana, Cuba, to inform the Confederacy that Confederate use of British ports for buying supplies or ship building violates Great Britain’s declared neutrality. “Her Majesty has declared her Neutrality and means strictly to observe it.”

December17– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “I think that this Regiment will stand as bright for morals and upright conduct both among commissioned officers and privates as any other Regiment in the service: As for drunkenness, we have comparatively speaking, but few of that class, and they only get drunk when they can get the whiskey. The boys will, once in a while, overstep the bounds of propriety and will indulge a little too much in the use of profane language. . . . . Rebels are coming into our lines almost every day and delivering themselves up. Their statement in regard to the affairs of the Confederacy all agree as representing that destitution, starvation and ruination are staring them in the face, and that a general despondency is taking hold of the minds of the people, and they are becoming anxious for peace. So mote [sic] it be.” ~ Letter to the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer from a Union soldier who signs himself “W. W. H.”

December 17– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– “I transmit to the Senate, for consideration with a view to its ratification, a convention between the United States and Her Britannic Majesty for the final adjustment of the claims of the Hudson’s Bay and Puget’s Sound Agricultural Companies.” ~ Message from President Lincoln. This is an effort to resolve disputes between the United States and Great Britain pending since the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

December 17– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– “Herewith I lay before you a letter addressed to myself by a committee of gentlemen representing the freedmen’s aid societies in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The subject of the letter, as indicated above, is one of great magnitude and importance, and one which these gentlemen, of known ability and high character, seem to have considered with great attention and care. Not having the time to form a mature judgment of my own as to whether the plan they suggest is the best, I submit the whole subject to Congress, deeming that their attention thereto is almost imperatively demanded.” ~ Message from President Lincoln to both Houses of Congress.

December 17– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Crenshaw Woolen Mills. The walls of this mill, seven stories in height, which have been left standing since the building was destroyed by fire some time last spring, fell in on Monday last. The workmen in the foundry and shops below received timely warning from the falling of a few bricks, and succeeded in making their escape before the fall of the entire structure, which crushed to atoms and utterly destroyed the foundry, (in which the workmen were engaged a few minutes before) as well as the forges and other fixtures contained therein. The large iron bridge connecting the ruins with the street fell with the walls. The mill site had recently been purchased by Messrs. J. R. Anderson & Co., who contemplated pulling down several of the stories by way of precaution. Their design has now been carried out in a way more speedy than acceptable.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

December 17– Thursday– Greenville, Virginia– “Moved at sunrise towards Staunton, passed through the town, on towards Greenville. Sleeting quite fast all day. Went into camp near the latter place about nine o’clock at night.” ~ Diary of Confederate cavalry soldier Robert P. Bryarly.

December 17– Thursday– Memphis, Tennessee– “General Orders, No. 173: The recent affair at Moscow, Tennessee, has demonstrated the fact that colored troops . . . can and will fight well, and the General Commanding Corps deems it to be due to the officers and men of the Second Regiment West Tennessee Infantry of African Descent, thus publicly to return his personal thanks for their gallant and successful defense of the important position to which they had been assigned, and for the manner in which they have vindicated the wisdom of the Government in elevating the rank and file of these regiments to the position of freedman and soldiers. By order of General S.A. Hurlbut.” [The fight referred to occurred on December 3rd through the 4th and the black soldiers had done extremely well in their first actual combat which found them pitted against a large Confederate force.]


December 18– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “A charge of bribery against a Senator has resulted in John P. Hale’s admission that he is the man referred to, acknowledging that he took the money, but that it was a fee not as a bribe. ‘Strange such a difference there should be twixt tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.’ This loud-mouthed paragon, whose boisterous professions of purity, and whose immense indignation against a corrupt world were so great that he delighted to misrepresent and belie them in order that his virtuous light might shine distinctly, is beginning to be exposed and rightly understood. But the whole is not told and never will be; he is a mass of corruption.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

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