This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Dec. 24 1861

It was going to be a jolly Christmas indeed for the captain and crew of the USS Gem. They would celebrate events off the coast of Georgetown, SC, wherein they captured British blockade runner Prince of Wales. The holiday of the Englishmen was further dampened when their ship was not merely confiscated but destroyed. Under maritime law the ship and its contents would be sold and the proceeds divided under a complex formula among the captain and crew of the Gem.

Wednesday Dec. 24 1862

On this second Christmas Eve of the war, soldiers of both sides, and their families at home, spent a mostly quiet day. Loneliness and homesickness was the theme of most men’s letters to loved ones. In the only notable action of the day, Union infantry arrived to complete the occupation of Galveston, Tex. The city had been taken, and partially occupied, by Navy forces.

Thursday Dec. 24, 1863

Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan got a letter from Selma today that the guns for his ship Tennessee would be sent to him--as soon as the gun foundry was repaired from an explosion that took place while trying to cast the bottom section of a gun pit. Commander Jones, who sent the letter, was there when it happened and lost his hat, coat and pants in the ensuing fire. Now presumably re-clothed, he wrote that he felt at the time that he was in more danger there “than if I were in command of the Tennessee.”

Saturday Dec. 24 1864

Gen. William T. Sherman, now functioning as administrator instead of conqueror of Savannah, issued orders to get life back to normal. Municipal officials stayed in office, markets were told to reopen. Ministers, in a minor act of defiance, supposedly asked if they could offer their usual prayers for Jefferson Davis during services tomorrow. “Yes,” Sherman is said to have replied. “Jeff Davis and the devil both need it.” It should be noted that this same anecdote is told about several cities, several commanders, and at least two presidents.

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