The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – December 16-22, 1863

Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week. Things were pretty quiet overall.

I found no specific dates for it, but during this week CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest was busy organizing a force in West Tennessee. “It may serve to illustrate the character of the times, somewhat, to relate here, that [these] men were assembled in the dense forests of that region in small detachments of twenty-five or thirty men, and bivouacked for weeks in the woods under the rude primitive shelter known among the soldiers by the name of Shebang, that is, a pole resting on two forks, over which a blanket or captured oilcloth was stretched as a roof.” (3, including quote)

December 16

Military events: CS General Joseph Johnston, in Mississippi, is ordered by CS President Davis to replace General Hardee as commander of the Army of Tennessee in Dalton, Georgia. General Leonidas Polk will assume command of the Army of Mississippi. (5, 7)

Up north, US President Lincoln, having learned that General John Buford (Sam Elliott played him in Gettysburg), ill with typhoid fever, only has hours left to live, promotes him to Major-General. (4, 7)

General John Buford and staff, August, 1863.  (Wikipedia)

General John Buford and staff, August, 1863. (Wikipedia)

December 17

Military events: Far Eastern operations (source 10, including quote): Sometime around this date, CS Captain Raphael Semmes wraps up a 2-week supply stop, probably in Indonesia, and orders the CSS Alabama north, saying:

The homeward trade of the enemy is now quite small, reduced, probably, to twenty or thirty ships per year, and these may easily evade us by taking the different passages to the Indian Ocean …. there is no cruising or chasing to be done here, successfully, or with safety to oneself without plenty of coal, and we can only rely upon coaling once in three months …. So I will try my luck around the Cape of Good Hope once more, thence to the coast of Brazil, and thence perhaps to Barbados for coal, and thence…? If the war be not ended, my ship will need to go into dock to have much of her copper replaced, now nearly destroyed by such constant cruising, and to have her boilers overhauled and repaired, and this can only be properly done in Europe.

December 18

Military events: West Tennessee operations: Still unaware of events in the East, General Forrest asks General Joe Johnston to advance two cavalry brigades out of Mississippi to him. Some 15,000 Federal troops are gathering against him and he only has 1000 weapons with which to arm 3500 men. There is no response from either Johnston or General S. D. Lee. (8)

December 21

Battles: “Warfare in wintertime was relatively rare, due in large part to the ease with which inclement weather could make movement of large forces impossible. Common sense on the other hand required continual patrols around the areas where the forces were encamped, lest a combination of good weather, good luck and ignorance of military custom cause somebody to sneak up on one. When patrols from one side ran into parties from the other, hostilities might be undertaken, but were regarded as of little account. Most such activities appeared to be going on in Tennessee, where encounters are recorded as happening in Cleveland, as well as Fayette, Mississippi.” (7, including quote)

Military events: Far Eastern operations (source 10, including quote): The CSS Alabama arrive in Singapore. Captain Semmes notes:

The enemy’s East India and China trade is nearly broken up. Their ships find it impossible to get freights, there being in this port [Singapore] some nineteen sail, almost all of which are laid up for want of employment … the more widely our blows are struck, provided they are struck rapidly, the greater will be the consternation and consequent damage of the enemy.



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

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

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

(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(5) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(6)  Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(7) Civil War Interactive.

(8) Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest: Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga: The Campaigns That Doomed the Confederacy, Jack Hurst (2012).

(9) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(10) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.

(11) This Week in the Civil War.

(12) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)

(13) Friends of the Hunley.

(14) CWSAC Battle Summaries

(15) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.

(16) A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65).

Categories: American Civil War

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