Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Friday, February 20, 1863 : Difficult though it may be for us to believe today, when pennies are such a plague upon the land that nearly every store has a little dish into which this “lowly” denomination can be thrown, small coins were greatly in demand in the days of the War. They were also in horribly short supply these days, as both the machinery to mint them and the mineral ores from which they would normally be made were diverted to the war effort. Pennies in particular were in very short supply in the North. Merchants responded by printing and issuing what amounted to personal notes in denominations of one, two and three cents each. Saturday, February 21, 1863 : Not much fighting today, just a couple of U.S. gunboats firing on Confederate artillery batteries on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. U.S. Congress still working out details of the Conscription Act, which would not prove entirely popular with the populace, and a new National Bank and standardization of the national currency were about to be established. An unusual wedding took place. The Savannah (Georgia) Republican, reported: “Marrying by Telegraph.—On the 6th of February, a marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. Wm. Carr, chaplain of the 4th regiment N. Y. S. V., under rather novel circumstances, the clergyman and bridegroom being in the city of Washington, and the bride in the village of Fulton, Oswego county, N. Y., during the ceremony. The bridegroom is a member of the 4th regiment, and circumstances prevented his being in Fulton to fulfill his engagement with the young lady. By mail, the parties agreed to have a ceremony performed through the medium of the electric telegraph. The Oswego Times says: “The day and hour having been arranged, the parties repaired to the telegraph office at the respective stations, the fair bride accompanied by a female friend as bridesmaid. The gentlemanly operator at Fulton officiated as brides man. The first despatch over the wire relating to the affair was from Washington, inquiring if the lady was present? An answer in the affirmative was returned, and the ceremony proceeded. Three messages were sent to Fulton and two transmitted to Washington, and the ceremony was completed. The last message from Washington was the declaration of the clergyman pronouncing the parties man and wife.” Sunday, February 22, 1863 : More soldiers died from disease rather than fighting during the Civil War. Living conditions especially in winter were bad for both sides. Major General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac (U.S.) believed that his changes for camp sanitation were starting to have an impact as the levels of scurvy and intestinal diseases dropped quite markedly. Conditions were bad enough in regular camps, but prisoner-of-war camps were even worse. While much has been made of dreadful conditions in prisoner-of-war camps in the South, such as the brutality of Andersonville, it is less often reported that the situation was little better in the North. One example is that of Camp Douglas, Illinois. The death rate reported for the month of February was 387--out of a total population of 3,884! This amounted to 10 per cent of the entire inmate body. The cause in this case was a smallpox epidemic. Monday, February 23, 1863 : Former Secretary of War Simon Cameron, today resigned as Ambassador to Russia after barely a year in the position. He was sent into this Siberian exile to get him out of the war department, which during his administration was operated with a level of corruption rarely seen even in Washington. It was never proven that Cameron personally profited from the bid-rigging, overpayments and deliveries of rotten meat and wormy flour. The fact, that he was the former governor of Pennsylvania did not do anything to dispel suspicion. The New York Times reported: “Confederate spy Belle Boyd is serenaded in Knoxville by the Florida Brass Band. When the crowd outside her home demands her presence, she appears in a window and thanks them for the compliment.” For her wartime contributions, Belle was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor ( aka Confederate Medal of Honor). Stonewall Jackson also gave her captain and honorary aide- de-camp positions.

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