December 24, 1861 – The Federal blockade began tightening with the capture of more blockade runners along the coasts.
The month began with the capture of the Albion and the Lida along the Atlantic Coast. The Albion, taken off Charleston, had cargo that included arms, ammunition, tin, copper, salt, and cavalry equipment such as saddles and bridles valued at $100,000. The Lida carried sugar, coffee, and lead.
Off North Carolina, Federal blockaders seized the Charity, the sloop Havelock, the schooner William H. Northrup, and a Confederate vessel converted into a gunboat. Off South Carolina, blockaders captured the British ship Prince of Wales and the schooner Island Belle. However, finding and taking these vessels still proved very difficult. According to Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont, commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron:
“The vessels that lie in wait to run the blockade, having skillful pilots, and being desperate in their attempts, can not but sometimes succeed under favor of fog or darkness… In the heavy easterly gales (our) steamers must run off or be wrecked on the enemy’s coast, giving the opportunity to vessels to run out.”
Federal landing parties made some gains this month. Lieutenant James W.A. Nicholson of U.S.S. Isaac Smith led Marines in capturing an abandoned Confederate fort on Otter Island in the Ashepoo River of South Carolina. This enabled the Federals to expand their base at Port Royal.
Federal soldiers and sailors also dispersed Confederates trying to build shore batteries at Port Royal Ferry and on the Coosaw River. This spoiled Confederate plans to use the artillery to isolate Federals on Port Royal Island. The Federal attack force, led by Commander C.R.P. Rodgers, included the Federal gunboats U.S.S. Ottawa, Pembina, and Seneca, accompanied by four boats bearing howitzers.
Confederates scored a minor victory when Commodore Josiah Tattnall led a Confederate naval squadron consisting of Savannah, Resolute, Sampson, Ida, and Barton out of the Savannah River to temporarily push Federal blockaders back into deeper waters.
Along the Gulf Coast, Federal forces from the U.S.S. Water Witch, Henry Lewis, and New London seized Biloxi, Mississippi. They also strengthened their force at Ship Island, Mississippi, with the arrival of two infantry regiments under Major General Benjamin F. Butler. The island became a staging area for a future attack on New Orleans.
Channing, Steven A., Confederate Ordeal: The Southern Home Front (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 113; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 98, 104-05; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 87-88, 90, 93-94; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 145-46, 149; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition), p. 47; Still, Jr., William N., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 330