Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Friday, December 20, 1861 : Two British warships arrived in Canada as a result of the ‘Trent’ affair. 'Stonewall' Jackson (CSA) moves troops toward Dam Number 4 on the C&O Canal to distract Union attention from Dam Number 5. The Stonewall Brigade completes the destruction of Dam Number 5 unhindered. Saturday, December 21, 1861 : The Stonewall Brigade returns to Winchester, suffering from the bitter cold. British Minister Lord Lyons in Washington advises Lord Russell that if the United States does not comply with their demands concerning the Trent affair, Britain had better respond forcefully. Southern newspapers explode with the possibility of war between England and the United States. The New York Times states: “Steps are being taken for the erection of fortifications near Nashville; but not much has yet been done.” Sunday, December 22, 1861 : Missouri should have been a state as calm and peaceful as any in the Union, Confederate and Southern-sympathizing troops having been pushed back across the Arkansas border after the battle known as “Wilson's Creek.” Bands of guerillas, freebooters and plain bandits continued their operations pretty much as they had been doing for the years. Today, the commander of Federal forces in the state, General H. W. Halleck, issued orders that anyone caught burning bridges, damaging railroad tracks or molesting telegraph wires would be summarily executed upon capture. Monday, December 23, 1861 : British diplomat Lord Lyons, patience nearing exhaustion, finally presented his government’s ultimatum. Her Majesty Queen Victoria hereby made a demand for the surrender of

Confederate agents Slidell and Mason, (pictured) who had been taken off a British mail ship Trent in mid-ocean was breaking maritime law. Both Secretary of State Seward and President Lincoln recognized that there was a real risk of war with the British if their demands went unheeded. Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner advises Lincoln to release the Confederate commissioners. Tuesday, December 24, 1861 : U.S.S. Gem of the Sea , commanded by Lieutenant Irvin B. Baxter, captures and destroys British blockade runner Prince of Wales off

Georgetown, South Carolina. The United States Congress passes duty taxes on “luxury items” including coffee, tea, sugar, and molasses. Lincoln prepares for a meeting with his cabinet to resolve the Trent affair. Wednesday, December 25, 1861 : Despite it being Christmas Day, the Cabinet and the President were in discussions on what to do with Mason and Slidell. Lincoln finally had to agree to free the men, noting that "one war at a time" was entirely enough. The President and his wife still take time to entertain guests at Christmas dinner. Confederate and Union soldiers continue to clash at Cherry in western Virginia and near Fort Frederick, Maryland. Thursday, December 26, 1861 : President Lincoln publicly agrees to surrender Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell to the keeping of Great Britain. He and his cabinet acknowledge that the seizure of the diplomats was illegal and describes the action as a misunderstanding on the part of Captain Charles Wilkes. Lord Lyons receives the statement and Secretary of State Seward orders Slidell and Mason released from Fort Warren in Massachusetts. In Indian Territory, pro-Union Creeks clash with Confederates at Christenahlah. The Creeks retreat to Kansas after sustaining many casualties. At the mouth of the Savannah River between South Carolina and Georgia, Confederate vessels attack Union blockaders with only temporary success. Martial law is ordered for St. Louis and all railroads in Missouri. There were as many reasons to fight this war, as there were men fighting it. Protecting states’ rights, the balance of trade with Europe, emancipation and preserving the intent of the constitution are but a few of a long list of explanations. Why men stop fighting is another. Today, at age 52, Brigadier General, Philip St. George Cocke (CSA), an aristocratic Virginian land owner and veteran warrior of Bull Run;

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