This Day in the War: 12/21/10

Saturday Dec. 21 1861

The death of Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth, may have had the nation in official mourning but this did not keep the Empire’s bureaucracy from their work. The greatest empire of the day was not about to take much more misbehavior from an upstart ex-colony, in this case over the seizure on the high seas of two passengers from one of Her Majesty’s mail ships. Lord Lyons, negotiator, wrote to his superior Lord Russell, the Foreign Minister: “I am so convinced that unless we give our friends here a good lesson this time, we shall have the same trouble with them again very soon…Surrender or war will have a very good effect on them.”

Sunday Dec. 21 1862

Jefferson Davis was visiting Vicksburg, and perhaps it helped being on the scene to remind the Confederate president that there was more to his country that needed defending than the area immediately surrounding Richmond. He wrote to Gen. T. H. Holmes today that he felt it was “…clearly developed that the enemy has two principal objects in view, one to get control of the Missi. River, and the other to capture the capital.” Preventing the former, which would “dismember” the Confederacy, would require holding defensive works at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Seeing this and being able to carry it out were, of course, two different things.

Monday Dec. 21 1863

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.

Wednesday Dec. 21 1864

What was anticipated to be a major battle for the city of Savannah, Georgia, failed to take place today since when Union forces advanced upon the town they found nobody there to fight with. This was surprising as they were under the impression that they had the forces under Confederate Gen. Hardee backed up against the Savannah River. Lacking bridges, Hardee had constructed an ingenious arrangement of vessels known as rice flats. The improvised pontoons allowed the 10,000 man force to escape and even bring along some quantity of artillery. Still, 250 heavy guns and a large quantity of cotton had to be left behind, a fact Sherman would take into account when writing to his commander in chief tomorrow.

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