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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Civil War: Events of December 1862

President Lincoln, on the first day of the new congress, December 1st, proposed three new amendments to the constitution.  The first called for a gradual emancipation of the slaves until 1900.  Secondly, all slaves freed during the war would remain free.  And the third stated that the U.S. would pay for consensual colonization.
Following his victory at Cane Hill, Union General Blunt realized his precarious position, 35 miles away from any support.  He ordered reinforcements to march immediately.  He set up defensive positions and waited.  Blunts reinforcements under General Herron, executed an amazing forced march and met Marmaduke’s cavalry south of Fayetteville.  On the morning of December 7th, Herron’s artillery executed a withering 2-hour barrage that disabled most of the enemy’s artillery and forced the troops to shelter behind a ridge.  Herron decided not to wait for Blunt and began moving forward.  Two regiments were attacked on three sides by Confederate troops killing or wounding half of their numbers.  As Union troops retreated, Confederates charged, tragically straight into the maw of canister fire.  Two more Union regiments charged and were forced back.  Blunt, belatedly realizing that the southerners had moved past his flank, ordered his troops to march towards the sound of the guns.  This they did, ignoring roads and taking the direct path through fields and woods.  The burst out of the woods, surprising Hindman’s troops and driving them back up a hill.  The battle continued, charge, and countercharge, until darkness took the field.  Over the next 36 hours, Blunt reinforced and Hindman was forced to withdraw towards Van Buren, Arkansas.  On the 29th, Blunt and Herron closed on the Confederate’s sanctuary at Van Buren, forcing the southerners to leave northwest Arkansas, as it turned out, permanently.
On December 10th, the U.S. House passed a bill allowing the creation of the state of West Virginia.
The next day, Union forces occupied the city of Fredericksburg.
Between December 11th and 20th, a Union army under John G. Foster invaded North Carolina attempting to sever the railroad lines into Virginia.
On December 13 the battle of Fredericksburg began, perhaps the most ill-conceived and badly led Union battle of the entire war.  Union General Ambrose Burnsides, wearing the bushy growths of facial hair that would eventually be known as “sideburns,” initially planned to cross the Rappahannock River and race to the capitol at Richmond.  But bungled orders up the supply line delayed the arrival of pontoon bridges. During the delay, Robert E. Lee moved his Army of Northern Virginia into solid positions along a ridge known as Marye’s Heights where his troops took shelter behind a stone wall.  Burnsides ordered a frontal assault across an open field and up a long hill into the face of withering fire.  All the assaults were repulsed with very heavy losses.  Overnight, the Union troops were forced to sleep on the hillside, sheltering themselves behind the corpses of their dead comrades.  Burnsides withdrew his forces on the 15th.
December 14th saw action in North Carolina in the Battle of Kinston as Union troops under John G. Foster met Confederate troops under Nathan Evans who fought gallantly but were unable to keep Foster from destroying parts of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad at Goldsborough, NC.  
Around December 20, a crisis erupted in Washington as Radical Republican Senators, blaming Secretary of State Seward for the defeat at Fredericksburg, demanded his resignation.  In the ensuing fallout, Salmon P. Chase also offered his resignation.  Lincoln met with the group of Senators and after discussion, both resignations were refused and both men resumed office.
On that same day, a Confederate raiding party under Earl Van Dorn struck a federal supply depot at Holly Springs, MS, capturing 1,500 prisoners and destroying 1.5 million tons of vital military supplies.  In the face of this and other costly raids, Grant ordered Sherman’s 15th Corps to sail down the Mississippi to Chickasaw Bayou.  On the 29th, Sherman tried unsuccessfully to assault Confederate troops on a series of bluffs north of Vicksburg.
On December 30th, the US ironclad USS Monitor founders in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras.  16 sailors die, but the vessel is towed to port.
On New Year’s Eve, Confederate cavalry raider Nathan Bedford Forrest, ending his expedition into western Tennessee, was challenged by Union troops under Jeremiah Sullivan.  Despite being surprised on his right by the sudden appearance of two brigades, Forrest repelled the two brigades, then turned suddenly and bolted past the Union troops, crossed the  Tennessee River and withdrew to Lexington, Tennessee.
The old year refused to go quietly into the night as opposing forces clashed at Stone’s River.  Union General Rosecrans took on Braxton Braggs at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Bragg struck first against the Union right flank, but met a strong defense put up by Phil Sheridan.  Bragg tried to bring up reserves, but they were slow in arriving and were committed piecemeal instead of waiting for them all to arrive for a concentrated assault.  The fight continued on January 2nd when Bragg again assaulted the Union line.  Overwhelming artillery fire repulsed the southerners and Bragg was forced to withdraw to Tullahoma, TN on January 3.  It was a Union victory, but an expensive one, with almost 13,000 casualties out of some 41,000 engaged.
And also on the last day of this bloody year, President Lincoln signed the legislation approving admission of West Virginia to the Union.
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