This Day in the Civil War

Thursday Dec. 19 1861
EARLY ECOLOGIST ENVIRONMENTALLY EXASPERATED

Although travel was by no means unknown in 1860’s America, the coming of the Civil War certainly inspired, and enabled, large numbers of young men to travel around parts of the country they would otherwise probably never have encountered. A young Massachusetts man, Pvt. Day of the 25th Mass. Vol. Inf., was one such who found himself near Annapolis, Md., today in winter camp with the Army of the Potomac. He looked around the camp and wrote in his diary: “An enterprising farmer could collect from these camps manure and swill to the value of $100 per day, costing nothing but simply carting it off, thus enriching his land and fattening hundreds of hogs and cattle; but this lack of energy and enterprise prevents these people from turning anything to account. They content themselves with sitting down and finding fault with the government and their more energetic neighbors of the north.”



Friday Dec. 19 1862
CABINET CRISIS CRIMPS CHASE

The great battle of this month took place in the halls of Congress and the White House in Washington, D.C. It, like most battles, had been building for some time. The gist of the matter was that there were a number of factions in Congress with greatly differing opinions on how the war should be prosecuted. Then as now, these factions had each insisted on having one of like opinions in the President’s cabinet to both represent their views and, more importantly, keep an eye on the opposition. The backbiting had been getting out of hand lately though, to such an extent that Sec. of State William Seward had submitted his resignation. Lincoln refused to accept it and scheduled meetings with Congressional leaders. The instigator of most of the trouble, Sec. of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, had all of his previous backbiting turn around and bite him, as he was forced to confront all the parties face-to-face at once.



Saturday Dec. 19 1863
ANDREWS ACCUMULATES ASTONISHING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

It may not sound like much of an accomplishment. Certainly few theses were ever written on it, and absolutely no military songs or marches ever were aired in honor of this voyage of the USS Restless. But her captain, Acting Master W.R. Browne, had his assignment and pursued his enemy relentlessly: the salt suppliers of St. Andrew’s Bay, Florida. He had been on this mission for some weeks all along the Florida shore, and had achieved quite a bit of demolition, and today even Browne may have been startled when he sat down to write up his official report. Articles destroyed included “within the past 10 days 290 saltworks, 33 covered wagons, 12 flatboats, 2 sloops (five tons each), 6 ox carts, 4000 bushels of salt, 268 buildings at the different saltworks, 529 iron kettles averaging 150 gallons each, 105 iron boilers for boiling brine.” And, he added, “it is believed that the enemy destroyed as many more to prevent us from doing so.”



Monday Dec. 19 1864
MOLLUSKS MAKE MILITARY MEN MERRY

It was a strange time for the men of the army William T. Sherman had led from Atlanta to the Sea. It had been a long march, and not the first, and although pitched battles had been relatively uncommon, the sniping and stray shots from behind rocks and trees had never completely stopped. Now they had reached the ocean, which many of them had never seen, and a few days rest allowed exploration of this new wonder and its creatures. Every camp was experimenting with the uses of oysters--oyster soup, oyster stew, oysters fried, roasted, and raw on the half-shell. Although hardly unknown, to inlanders they were the legendary repast of the rich. When no one could stand more oysters, they were used as stuffing for roast goose.

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