The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – December 30, 1863, to January 5, 1864

Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week. Many thanks to “Civil War Interactive” for filling in the very quiet days of this frigid first week on 1864 with informative, entertaining writing! Check out the site (it’s source #7) – this man is also a born headline writer.

December 30

Military Events: East Tennessee operations: General Grant and his staff board a steamer headed for Knoxville. Grant’s bosses in Washington want him to invade the Deep South, but first he must drive CS General James Longstreet out of East Tennessee, and they’re concerned that Grant’s subordinates aren’t up to the job. Grant is going there to assess the situation in person. (17)

December 31

Military Events: East Tennessee operations: General Grant arrives in Knoxville the same day as a cold front that drops temperatures overnight to the lowest anyone can remember. Soldiers on both sides stationed east of the city barely survive. (17)

Richmond, Virginia, 1863.  (Library of Congress)

Richmond, Virginia, 1863. (Zoomable image at Library of Congress)

Other: The Richmond Examiner (7, sources A and B):

To-day closes the gloomiest year of our struggle. No sanguine hope of intervention buoys up the spirit of the confederate public, as at the end of 1861. No brilliant victory like that at Fredericksburg, encourages us to look forward to a speedy and successful termination of the war, as in the last weeks of 1862…The interior has been fearfully narrowed by the federal march through Tennessee. The Confederacy has been cut in twain along the line of the Mississippi, and our enemies are steadily pushing forward their plans for bisecting the eastern moiety…Meanwhile the financial chaos is becoming wilder and wilder. Hoarders keep a more resolute grasp than ever on the necessities of life. Non-producers who are the same time non-speculators, are suffering more and more. What was once competence has become poverty, poverty has become penury, penury is lapsing into pauperism…We are all in the dark, and men are more or less cowards in the dark…Theologians will tell us that the disasters of the closing year are the punishment of our sins. This is true enough; but a cheap penitence will not save us from the evil consequences…As all sins are, in a higher sense, intellectual blunders, we must strain every fibre of the brain, and every sinew of the will, if we wish to repair the mischief which our folly and our corruption have wrought. The universal recognition of this imperative duty is a more certain earnest of our success than the high spirits of our men in the field, or the indomitable patriotism of our women at home… .

January 1

Military Events: West Tennessee operations: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his army reach Como, Mississippi. At around the same time, the detachments he had sent out along the route from Jackson, Tennessee, also arrive. Forrest soon will learn of his promotion to major-general and that he has been assigned command of all cavalry in North Mississippi and West Tennessee. (3)

East Tennessee operations: Over the course of this week, Grant learns that the Union garrison in Knoxville is too poorly supplied to conduct a major offensive. He will set it in a defensive posture and turn his attention instead toward moving south on Atlanta, Mobile and Montgomery. (17)

January 2

Military events: “The inactivity that had marked the end of last year was still continuing into this one. A major reason for this was a massive cold front which had come down visit from Canada, and subjected such Southern towns as Cairo, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee, to temperatures far below freezing. All the way to the Gulf of Mexico thermometers and people were subjected to uncommon frigidity. The only military action that was even proposed was a plan put forth by US Naval Secretary Gideon Welles for a joint Army-Navy attack on Wilmington, North Carolina. This notion made it as far as the desk of Secretary of War Stanton, who sent it to Major Gen. Halleck. Halleck vetoed the whole idea on the grounds that all the armies were busy or too far away, and therefore, he could not provide manpower for the project.” (7, including quote)

Edwin Forces documents soldiers' huts during winter.  (Library of Congress)

Edwin Forbes documents US soldiers’ huts during winter. (Library of Congress)

January 3

Military Events: “U.S. Maj. Gen. Stephen Hurlbut was commander of Union forces in Memphis, Tenn., but that was far from his only area of interest or responsibility. He had a source of information deep within Confederate lines, who reported to him from Mobile, Ala. Today the news was not good. As Hurlbut reported to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “The “Tennessee” at Mobile will be ready for sea in 20 days. She is a dangerous craft, Buchanan thinks more so than the “Merrimack”…” Hurlbut was not exaggerating, either. The “Tennessee” was the largest ironclad ever built by the Confederacy, 209 feet long and 48 feet in the beam. The “Buchanan” mentioned in the telegram was the ship’s designer, Confederate Adm. Franklin Buchanan, who had apparently never heard the saying that “loose lips sink ships.” (7, including quote)

January 4

Military events: “The cold spell that had started the year continued, and was causing miseries across the Southern states, which were not used to such conditions even in good times of peace. After the depredations of four years of war and destruction, the suffering was intense. Even in the Army of Northern Virginia, the troops were in a bad way. Besides the cold, for which they lacked sufficient blankets and other clothing, they were getting severely short of food. Gen. Robert E. Lee had been sending increasingly plaintive telegrams to Jefferson Davis, pleading for additional rations to be sent. Davis, who was genuinely distraught that he had none to send, became so upset about the situation today that he replied with a suggestion that he simply take it from the countryside. This was appealing to neither man, but “The emergency justifies impression…” Davis said.”

Image:  Library of Congress

Image: Library of Congress


(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).

(17) The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee, Earl J. Hess (2012) [Note: The dating is difficult to follow in this source, though it’s excellent for details…Barb]

Categories: American Civil War

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