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The Civil War Month by Month: Dec 1862

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 1862

This Month's Events

  • 12 December. On the Yazoo River, the USS Cairo is sunk by 2 mines, the first ship to be lost this way in combat.

  • 11-15 December. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia more than 17,000 men die in this disastrous defeat of the Union Army of the Potomac by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. New Union commander Ambrose Burnside planned a quick and decisive movement, but when the needed pontoon bridges failed to arrive in November, he lost his advantage. By the time of the actual battle, Lee has his defensive troops so well placed that one Confederate officer says that not even a chicken could live on the field once the Southerners opened fire.
  • Private Edwin Francis Jemison
  • 13 December. Watching the charges at Fredericksburg, Robert E. Lee says, "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."
              After the battle ends, an officer inspecting the troops of the 88th New York tells a soldier standing alone to join his company. The soldier replies, "I am my company."

  • 16-18 December. At White Hall (now Seven Springs) in Wayne County, North Carolina, Federal troops attack Confederates guarding the crossing of the Neuse river. The Federal objective is, first, Goldsboro and the railroads there, and, second, the ironclad CSS Neuse under construction on the river. The ironclad is damaged, but not destroyed and the Union forces eventually cross the river at another location to reach Goldsboro. Several men from Gaston and Lincoln Counties are killed in this engagement.

  • 21 December. Having heard that his brother George is among the wounded at Fredericksburg, Walt Whitman goes to Virginia. Finding his brother alive and well, he begins visiting the hospitals and battlefields, writing letters for the men and just talking to them. He will continue this throughout the war and his resulting notes and poems are part of America's literary heritage.

  • 30 December. In North Carolina there is growing dissatisfaction with the war. Public meetings have been held in 49 counties airing these feelings. Today Governor Zeb Vance writes to Jefferson Davis asking him to negotiate with the Union to appease this anti-war feeling. Davis will reply that Lincoln will not negotiate.

  • 30-31 December. USS Monitor, the U. S. Navy's first ironclad battleship, sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras with the loss of 16 men. The Monitor was under tow and the tow ship manages to rescue 49 men.

  • 31 December. The Battle of Stone River (aka the Second Battle of Murfreesboro) begins in Tennessee. At issue is the control of middle Tennessee. Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee has had up to 38,000 men, but on December 16th, he had been visited by Jefferson Davis who ordered him to send 7500 men to the defense of Vicksburg. Meanwhile he is being attacked by William S. Rosecrans, newly appointed commander of the Union Army of the Cumberland. The Union forces are slightly larger than the Confederate numbers, but they are being heavily harrassed by rebel cavalry -- 2 days earlier 2500 men had ridden completely around the Union army, capturing supples and 1,000 prisoners. [See next month.]
              The night before the battle as the opposing armies face each other less than half a mile apart, the military bands begin their own battle with "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia" on one side and "Dixie" and "The Bonnie Blue Flag" on the other. Finally one band starts "Home Sweet Home", others join in, and thousands of soldiers on both side sing it together.

  • This month a new Union regiment is formed, the 37th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Its 914 members are all men over 45; eventually there will be at least one soldier who is 80. Predictably, it becomes known as "the Graybeard Regiment".

  • Once again as he did last year [see December 1861]. Moravian record keeper Francis Raymond Holland attempts to sum up the year. "In an unprecedented degree, this year has been a year of affliction and bereavement. ... The desolating tide of an obstinate and bloody war has continued to roll over our land. ... Upon a moderate estimate, it is computed that not less than 200,000 men on both sides have perished or been permanently disabled during this year. Were these ghastly victims of war to march past us, two and two, in close ranks and at quick time, not less than two whole days from sunrise to sunset would be required for the dismal procession to sweep past a given point!"

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Fredericksburg : a novel of the Irish at Marye's Heights, by Kirk Mitchell, pub. 1996, 364 p. On December 13, 1862, the Confederate and Union armies clashed in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a savage battle. Mitchell shows the progression of "Bloody Sunday" through the eyes of six Irish soldiers, three on each side. Mitchell switches viewpoints frequently. Subheads offer time and place of segments, which shorten as the pace of battle heats up and grow longer as it wanes. The result is choppy and confusing, leaving the reader to wonder where he is and to root for both sides at once.

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Glory Road : the bloody route from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg, by Bruce Catton, pub. 1952, 416 p., call #: 973.73 C. Catton presents a narrative history of the travails of the Army of the Potomac from the autumn of 1862 to the explosive July 4th of 1863. This is history as story.

Children's Nonfiction

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