This Day in the Civil War

Thursday Dec. 26 1861

After weeks of wrangling, and increasingly dire warnings from the British, the US Cabinet finally decided to accept the embarrassment rather than provoke another war. It was announced publicly that the seizure of Confederate agents Mason and Slidell from an English ship at sea had been illegal, and they were being released immediately. The Confederacy was the only disappointed party; the two had been accomplishing much more in jail than they possibly could with any lobbying activities in London and Paris. Everyone else was just glad to have the whole matter go away, as it had become boring.

Friday Dec. 26 1862

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman led an expedition down the Mississippi River from Memphis, venturing as far as the Yazoo River’s mouth, near Steele’s Bayou. His forces advanced towards Walnut Hills and Haynes’ Bluff, a ridgeline on the far side of which was the town of Vicksburg. He took no action at this time, largely because there was no way to get close enough to the town to accomplish anything.

Saturday Dec. 26 1863

Captain Raphael Semmes, Confederate States Navy, now less than a week arrived from the Indies to South Africa, managed to capture and destroy the American ships Sonora and Highlander, both at anchor at the entrance of the Straits of Malacca. Semmes wrote home that one of the ships’ masters told him he had “been expecting every day for the last three years go fall in with that it is over I feel quite relieved.” The major financial impact of Semmes' efforts was on the rapidly rising insurance rates being charged to US flag shipping companies.

Monday Dec. 26 1864

President Abraham Lincoln, who had been disappointed so many, many times by his generals, responded today to Gen. William T. Sherman’s telegram giving him Savannah, South Carolina, for Christmas. “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift...” he said. “I was anxious, if not fearful, but..I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours....Please make my grateful acknowledgements to your whole army, officers and men.”

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