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The Civil War Month by Month: Dec 1861

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.

December 1861

This Month's Events

  • During this month the Trent Affair [see previous month] continues with much talk of war from both the U. S. and Britain. After intensive diplomatic negotiation, the U. S. releases Mason and Slidell at the end of December. Meanwhile Captain Charles Wilkes who had seized the diplomats has become a popular hero. Wilkes is already famous as the leader of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (see Sea of Glory, call #: 910.973 PHI), but this new fame gains him a promotion despite the diplomatic furor. Unfortunately, his inability to obey orders eventually leads to a court-martial and he loses his Navy command. Wilkes will survive both the war and his talent for trouble. After the war he moves to Gaston County for a few years where he owns the High Shoals Iron Works.

  • 2 December. In Washington Secretary of War Simon Cameron reports on the status of the army: 20,334 Federal soldiers and 640,637 state volunteers.

  • 8 December. John A. McMannen of Durham, North Carolina writes to William A. Graham. "There is much anxiety in this Country in regard to what action the Convention will take in reference to the Whiskey question. In regard to Taxing the Stills, etc. ... Will you believe me If I tell you there are eleven Still Houses within eleven Miles of this place, already Nearly Every Bushel of Corn is Bought Up that Can be Speared by the Corn Sellers, they have run it up to Near $4. per Bushel, and will go higher as the demand increases." His concern is shared by the government. While selling corn for whiskey is the best way for a farmer to make a profit on his crop, corn is also the mainstay of the diet of both humans and animals such as hogs and is needed at an affordable price by both the armies and the civilian population. A few months later an ordinance is passed prohibiting indefinitely the "manufacture of spiritous liquors from grains."

  • 17 December. Among the participants in a skirmish in Kentucky is Confederate Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. The lieutenant's real name is Loretta Janeta Velazquez and by the end of the war she will have fought in Virginia and Kentucky including at Bull Run and Shiloh, commanded soldiers in battle, and been a spy.

  • Toward the end of this month at Salem, North Carolina, Francis Raymond Holland sums up the year in the Moravian records. "In some respects the year 1861 has been a year unexampled in the experience of us all. ...The nature and extent of our national troubles have probably exceeded our worst anticipations. The present year has witnessed the commencement of a fearful and calamitous war between two different sections of our once united and prosperous country. When and how the dreadful strife will end is known only to God."

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Children's Nonfiction

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