This Day in the Civil War: 12/08/09

thisdaySunday Dec. 8 1861

As this Sabbath was commendably unmarred by acts of mayhem and militarism, it offers an opportunity to note the actions of an unlikely group of war supporters: The American Bible Society. This group, supported entirely by private donations from individuals and churches, released a remarkable report today. Less than a year from the time the War began, they were already to the point where they were printing, shipping and distributing more than 7,000 copies per day of the New Testament to soldiers in the field. A soldier was likely to carry two items of about the same size: his Testament and a pack of playing cards. One, however, was often found dropped on the field when fighting started. There was a common belief that going to meet one’s Maker with gambling paraphernalia on one’s person did not enhance the chances of the gates of Heaven opening.

Monday Dec. 8 1862

There has never been a general in any army of any nation anywhere in recorded history who thought he had sufficient men in his army. This was certainly the case of every army in the Confederate States of America, and the man in the middle who had to do the juggling act was President Jefferson Davis. Robert E. Lee had sent another letter requesting more troops, and Davis wrote back to him today that he had none to send, and if he did have surplus soldiers, they would most likely be sent to the Western Theater where the need was becoming dire. “In Tennessee and Mississippi the disparity between our armies and those of the enemy is so great as to fill me with apprehension,” he wrote today. He also mentioned that he was leaving immediately on a trip West to see what could be done about the situation.

Tuesday Dec. 8 1863

It was Abraham Lincoln’s turn to offer a State of the Union address to his Congress today, as it had been Jefferson Davis’ duty to his yesterday. Lincoln’s message, needless to say, was considerably more upbeat than his Confederate counterpart’s had been. After the usual reports on foreign relations (good) and military matters besides the War (good aside from some difficulties with Indians), he got to the heart of his message: a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconciliation. The key provisions of this were that anyone who had participated “directly or by implication” in the Rebellion against the Union could return to lawful citizenship simply by taking an oath of allegiance. Exceptions were military officers who had renounced their oaths to serve the Confederacy, high-ranking members of the CSA government, and anyone who had treated Union prisoners of war, black or white, in an “other than lawful” manner.

Thursday Dec. 8 1864

Being unable to muster anything near the manpower to directly give battle to Gen. William T. Sherman’s army as they marched from Atlanta to the Sea, desperation forced a resort to weapons both sides really considered illegal: buried “land torpedoes” which exploded when stepped on. What would today be called land mines were considered lawful to use around forts, but not in open roadways. After Sherman came across a young soldier who had had his foot blown off by such a mine, he confirmed an order by Maj. Gen. Frank Blair Jr. that Confederate prisoners should march in the lead to dig up these bombs. These men protested that they had not buried the bombs and had no idea where they might be. Sherman, blunt as ever, told them that if someone had to be blown up, he would rather it be them than his own men.


One Response to “This Day in the Civil War: 12/08/09”

  1. Old North State says:

    I believe that these topedoes were shells with pressure fuses that had been developed in Augusta. Sherman’s men met them again in the road on the way to Ft. McAllister. They were also around the fort, at least on the land side. Did the Union ever develop this type of technology; i.e. pressure fuses?

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