This Day in the Civil War

Monday Dec. 30 1861

The United States Government, as well as independent banks in several cities, today suspended “specie payment.” This refers to the fact that at this time paper money was viewed with suspicion unless it could be readily converted into the equivalent amount of gold or silver. The suspension of specie frequently led to drastic inflation as the value of paper currency declined, sometimes to zero if the bank issuing it failed. The matter of a stable and uniform currency for the entire country was not yet settled and would not be for some time.

Tuesday Dec. 30 1862

The USS Monitor, although a tremendous breakthrough in warship technology and a terrific firing platform in good circumstances, was not a particularly seaworthy craft in heavy water. For this reason she had been ordered to be towed to her new assignment as part of the blockade off the Carolinas. The two vessels were passing off the point of Cape Hatteras as the sun went down today, with the wind rising and the waves growing to entirely dangerous heights. Around eight p.m. a red flare was fired from the Monitor to indicate to her towboat, the USS Rhode Island, that she was taking on water and in immediate distress.

Wednesday Dec. 30 1863

The governor of North Carolina, Zebulon B. Vance, looked around at the state of his state, and on this day was severely depressed. He was hearing nothing from his citizens at the end of this year but complaints. He today took pen in hand, and wrote to President Jefferson Davis, “I have concluded that it will perhaps be impossible to remove [the discontent of his people], except by making some effort at negotiation with the enemy.” This was not the sort of "Happy New Year" note Davis was hoping for.

Friday Dec. 30 1864

One might think that by this point in the proceedings that there were two kinds of assignments you could give Gen. Benjamin Butler. You could assign him to manage a site like Fort Monroe, or an occupied city like New Orleans, and he would do a spectacular job. Or you could send him to lead troops into battle, which was invariably an unmitigated disaster. The last such assignment had been the attack on Wilmington, N.C., and the predictable result had ensued. Lincoln suggested to his cabinet today that Butler would soon be on the unemployment line.

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