The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – December 3-9, 1862

General Burnside and staff at Warrenton, Virginia, in November 1862. (Library of Congress)

Here is a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week in December 1862.

It’s a short one. This late in the year, it seems, there was activity only where a lot was at stake, particularly around Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Lincoln’s new general, Ambrose Burnside, had to deliver success with the Army of the Potomac after having replaced General McClellan.

Another major focus was around Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where CS General Bragg had chosen to set in motion a new campaign immediately after the battle of Perryville, earlier in the year.

General Grant was also in motion in Tennessee and northern Mississippi. And CS General John Hunt Morgan was thinking once again of a visit to Kentucky.

The year would not end quietly in any of these places.

December 3

Battles: “It was a day made up primarily of scattered skirmishes in both Eastern and Western theaters of the war. The Army of the Potomac was either in winter camps guarding the perimeter of Washington, D.C., or else perched on the bluffs across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Va. Further west was an attack on a Union supply train on Hardin Pike near Nashville, Tenn., and a few shots exchanged near Moorefield, western (but not yet West) Virginia. In Mississippi, more action was going on, as was to be expected considering that Ulysses S. Grant was leading an army through the countryside. Fighting broke out at Prophet, Free Bridges, Spring Dale and Oakland, all on or near the Yocknapatalfa River.” (16)

December 4

General Joseph Johnston (Library of Congress)

General Joseph Johnston (Library of Congress)

Military events: CS General Joseph Johnston is back, after being wounded near Richmond earlier in the year, and takes command of the Department of the West, with Generals Bragg in Tennessee and Pemberton in Vicksburg under him. (16)

First Vicksburg Campaign: US General Grant occupies Oxford, Mississippi. (8)

Tennessee operations: CS General Forrest and his new brigade arrive at Columbia, Tennessee, and await orders. (4)

December 5

Battles: First Vicksburg Campaign: Battle of Coffeeville, Mississippi. (8)

December 7

Battles: Hartsville, Tennessee. (6)

Prairie Grove, Arkansas. (6)

December 9

Military events: Fredericksburg: General Burnside decides to cross the Rappahannock over three bridges, two of them directly at Fredericksburg and the other about a mile downstream. The river at Fredericksburg, in 1862, is about 420 feet across, and the pontoon bridges about 400 feet long. Some 4000-5000 citizens live in the town itself (I don’t think this includes slaves). Union soldiers will then attack Confederate positions on Marye’s Heights and ridges to the south. Burnside has some 113,000 troops and 350 artillery guns; Lee has a little over 78,000 men and 250 big guns. (7, 11)

First Vicksburg Campaign: Grant prepares to send Colonel T. Lyle Dickey’s cavalry out to cut the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. (8)

A report on some US operations in West Virginia from November 29 to December 10.

From Gods and Generals (As mentioned in my review of the director’s cut, this is a very good movie):


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee (2011).

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders (1999).

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

(11)  The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

(14) Campaigns of the Civil War.

(15) Battle of Fredericksburg, National Park Service.

(16) Civil War Interactive.

(17) Inside the Army of the Potomac, the Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson, edited by J. Gregory Acken (1998).

(18) Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865, by Thomas Lawrence Connelly (1971)

(19) Those Damn Horse Soldiers, by George Walsh (2006).

Categories: American Civil War

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