Congress Adjourned. Little Done~December 1863~21st to 23rd

Congress Adjourned. Little Done. ~ Gideon Welles

In lines that could come from a current commentator, Navy Secretary Welles complains about Congressional inactivity. President Lincoln and his Cabinet keep abreast of international affairs. In between skirmishes, soldiers write home. Complaints emerge about government censorship. A terrible chapter begins as the Confederacy decides to build a prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia.

stockade at Andersonville prison

stockade at Andersonville prison


December 21– Monday– Andersonville, Georgia– Confederate government official Sydney J. Winder has been searching for a location to build a prisoner-of-war camp, far from the battlefields and where supplies will more available. Today he selects a spot in Sumter County and issues an order for construction to begin. Officially it is to called “Camp Sumter” but it will soon become known by the name of the nearby town.

December 22– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln submits to the Senate for ratification two trade treaties with the Kingdom of Belgium.

December 22– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Only Seward and myself were with the President at Cabinet-meeting. Seward . . . gave me a long confidential conversation about Mexican affairs which had been communicated by Mr. Corwin, our Minister, under the strongest injunctions of secrecy.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles. [Thomas Corwin, age 69, a lawyer and career politician, has served as Lincoln’s ambassador to Mexico since 1861 and does an expert job in keeping the administration advised of the conduct of the French in Mexico.]

December 22– Tuesday– camp near Stephensville, Virginia– “This morning I again take the Liberty of inform you that we are laying in Winter Quarters at this present time. I am well. Hoping that these few imperfect lines may find you and step-mother, brothers and sisters all enjoying good health and happiness and content. I must still say that I am contented and satisfied feeling that I am doing my Master’s Will. Although I have a great many hardships to endure where people at home know nothing about. I am satisfied to bear these things for Jesus Sake and for the Freedom of Our Country– which I believe is not great distance in the future. O Lord, hasten the time that wars may be done away and Peace in Our Lord prevail again.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Franklin Rosenbery to John Abraham Rosenbery, his father.

December 22– Tuesday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– “Lieutenant Colonel Wiles, Provost Marshal General of the Department of the Cumberland to-day gave me verbal notice to send all citizens letters to him for inspection. I put the question to him whether he meant to include the letters of those few citizens here who have been true as steel from the commencement of the War. He answered, yes, and remarked that it was a military necessity. You may imagine that I felt indignant that a number of subordinates should be permitted to have the disposal of the letters to men whose patriotic conduct entitles them to all the privileges of American citizens in any portion of the country. . . . I have, by the mail that brings this letter, communicated briefly the facts narrated above at some length to the Post Master General. It is my desire and intention to pay proper respect to all military orders by those in command in this vicinity, but as the same time I shall do all in my power to protect those noble spirits in this and adjoining counties who have stood the test of Rebel persecution for nearly three years, against unnecessary interferences and annoyances of upstarts who have nothing but their shoulders straps to recommend them. To this end I deemed it advisable to communicate with your Excellency, knowing you to fully appreciate their many sacrifices for the Union.” ~ Letter from Mr James R Hood, a postal worker, to Andrew Johnson, the military governor of Tennessee, complaining about military efforts to censor the mail.

December 23– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Congress has adjourned to the 5th of January. Little has been done as yet. There appears to be, I think, a good feeling among the Members, though there are petty intrigues among the small men in abundance.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Speaker of the House, Schuyler Colfax

Speaker of the House, Schuyler Colfax

December 23– Wednesday– along the Rappahannock, Virginia– “Last night it snowed some. The ground was covered but the sun is shining. Now the wind is rising and it is pretty cold and has been for the last week back. We have middling good quarters. About as good as that pig pen in front of your barn only we have a chimney in our cabin. . . . . I could give you a regular history of all my travels and all that I have seen since I left home. I have it noted down in a book. But when I set down to write a letter home I must hurry it over. As often [as not] I am interrupted before I get through.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Franklin Rosenbery to his father, John.

December 23– Wednesday– Jacksonport, Arkansas; Culpepper Court House, Virginia; Corinth, Mississippi; Mulberry Village, Tennessee; Centreville, Missouri; Powder Springs Gap, Tennessee– Infantry, cavalry and artillery in various combinations tangle with their opposing number.


December 23– Wednesday– Athens, Georgia– “At a meeting of the ladies of Athens, it was deemed advisable to publish a denial to the slanderous reports, that have been circulated in regard to our mistreatment of the refugees in our midst. We will say that we have been deeply grieved at the want or proper feeling attributed to us. That so far from having any hard feelings towards those driven from their homes by our common enemy, our kindliest sympathies have ever been for them. We have welcomed them in our midst, with warm hearts, and so far as the pressure of the times would admit of, we have ministered to their necessities. The only public meetings of the ladies of Athens, have been to aid our suffering soldiers, and all our works in those meetings have been labors of love. It has wounded us, that our good should have been evil spoken of, but we are only more determined, with warm hearts and hands to minister to all who are suffering, or may suffer in the cause of our bleeding country. All newspapers which have published these injurious reports, will do us the justice to give publicity to our denial. Mrs. Richardson, Chairman & Mrs. Rutherford, Secretary.” ~ The Southern Banner.

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