This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Jan. 1 1862

Never one to let the minor matter of a major holiday get in the way of fighting, Union and Confederate troops in Florida continued their usual activities today. Ships and town alike were bombarded by Federal naval forces around Pensacola today. Returning the favor, Confederate troops bombarded the dickens out of Fort Pickens. That installation, an Army base from conflicts long before the Civil War, never left Union control.

Thursday Jan. 1 1863

Today the long-anticipated Emancipation Proclamation was officially released, abolishing slavery in "those states and parts of states" currently in rebellion against the national government. The great irony was that no American president, whatever his personal feelings on the subject, could have tampered with slavery without the excuse of war and secession. The Battle of Stones River took a day off as both sides considered their next move.

Friday Jan. 1 1864

A cold air mass out of Canada had swept across the land and brought temperatures well below freezing into the south as well as the north. It was in fact below zero as far south as Memphis, Tennessee, and just about everybody was too busy trying to assemble coal, firewood or other means of producing warmth to worry about conducting hostilities. The civilian population, particularly in areas where fighting had been going back and forth for years, were equally affected and had little or nothing left over to share with the military.

Sunday Jan. 1 1865

It seemed a harmless enough assignment to give to Gen. Ben Butler, and at least kept him out of battlefield command, an area in which he had a demonstrated lack of talent. He was told to dig a canal on the James River below Richmond, which would cut a path to bypass a large bend in the waterway known as Dutch Gap. He had announced that it would be completed today by exploding the earthen dam holding the river out of its new path. The powder went "boom", the dirt obediently flew up in the air....and came down pretty much in the same place it had started. As further effort on it was deemed pointless, the project was abandoned.

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