Friday, November 22, 2013

December 13-31 ,1861

Compiled by Jim Hachtel, President
Gen. William T. Sherman Memorial Civil War Roundtable

December 13, 1861 - Robert H. Milroy, newly appointed Union General, directs an attack against Confederate troops in western Virginia. Milroy marches his 830 men from Cheat Mountain while Colonel Gideon C. Moody moves his 930 men more than 12 miles to attack the 1,200 Confederates garrisoned atop Allegheny Mountain. Moody is delayed by poor terrain and Confederate General Edward Johnson charges downhill against first Milroy's troops and some five hours later against Moody. Union losses: 20 dead, 107 wounded, and 10 missing. Confederate losses: 20 killed, 98 wounded and 28 missing. This was after the western Virginia counties had voted to split from the rest of Virginia.

December 16, 1861 - Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio introduces a resolution commending Captain Charles Wilkes for his role in the Trent Affair. Vallandigham is soon vilified as a "Copperhead."

December 17, 1861 - Armed forces from Spain, Britain, and France occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico, seeking reparations for foreign debts. When Napoleon III maneuvers to seize political control of Mexico, Spain and Britain withdraw. The United States accuses the French of taking advantage of America at a time when domestic strife is high.

December 17, 1861 - The U.S. Navy scuttles a "stone Fleet" of seven old vessels at the mouth of Savannah Harbor, Georgia.

December 18, 1861 - Union troops surround and capture more than 1500 Confederate soldiers and their equipment at Milford, Missouri. General John Pope discovers Confederate positions along Blackwater Creek, Missouri and General Sterling Price quickly withdraws.

December 19, 1861 - British minister to the United States, Lord Lyons, alerts Secretary of State Seward that Britain expects the unconditional release of James Mason and John Slidell (Trent Affair). Seward requests a formal presentation of the British demands on December 23rd.

December 20, 1861 - The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is formally instituted with Radical Republicans including Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Zachariah Chandler of Michigan.
This group was formed in the wake of the defeats at Bull Run (July) and Ball's Bluff (October).

December 20, 1861 - A battle at Dranesville, Virginia involving Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and Union General Edward O.C. Ord takes place as both sides compete for fodder and food. The two forces numbered about 4,000 total and many units saw their first action here. Stuart withdraws losing 43 killed, 143 wounded, and 8 missing (198 total) while Ord has 7 killed and 61 wounded.

December 21, 1861 - The Navy Metal of Honor is instituted by Congress.

December 22, 1861 - General Halleck repeats his order that anyone sabotaging Union railroads or rolling stock will be shot immediately.

December 23, 1861 - British Minister Lyons submits his formal note to Secretary of State Seward stating that agents Slidell and Mason must be released within one week or the British Ambassador will be withdrawn.

December 23, 1861 - Colonel James A. Garfield is dispatched with 1,100 infantry and 450 cavalry to southeastern Kentucky to break up a concentration of Confederate Troops.

December 24, 1861 - General Henry A. Wise is moved from the Virginia theater to a quiet sector in North Carolina due to poor performance.

December 25, 1861 - President Lincoln celebrates Christmas and late in the day confers with legal authorities about the Confederate envoys still held prisoner by the North.

December 25, 1861 - General U.S. Grant orders the expulsion of all fugitive former slaves from Ft. Holt, Kentucky.

December 26, 1861 - President Lincoln's Cabinet concurs that the seizure of Confederate agents is illegal and they should be released and allowed to continue their trip to Europe. While Captain Wilkes is blamed and the incident is deemed a "misunderstanding" by Captain Wilkes, an international crisis is averted.

December 26, 1861 - Martial Law is declared by General Halleck for areas within St. Louis and the nearby railroad properties.

December 27, 1861 - Secretary of State Henry H. Seward informs the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees about the president's decision to release Slidell and Mason from captivity at Fort Warren, Boston, Massachusetts.

December 28, 1861 - Colonel Nathan B. Forrest leads a force of 300 Confederate Cavalry troops toward Sacramento, Kentucky but encounters a force of 168 Union men led by Major Eli Murray
en route. During the skirmish, Forrest calls his Confederate troops to realign, a maneuver which Major Murray believes is a retreat. In the confusion, Murray charges and loses two officers plus 11 enlisted killed and 40 prisoners taken. This is the second event that caused Forrest to be noticed by his superiors.

December 31, 1861 - Lincoln asks about activity planned in Halleck's Missouri Theater when he becomes aware there are no plans for any movement in the East. As the year ends, the President is disappointed and talks of the slowness of planning and the lack of success in light of the earlier predictions of a "short war."