In Washington, the first regular session of the U.S. Congress assembled. The North faced a financial crisis, and a new congressional committee began examining how the war was being conducted. Various operations continued in Kentucky, Missouri, and on the seacoasts, while criticism grew louder over George McClellan’s failure to invade Virginia before winter arrived.
1 Dec – The U.S. and Great Britain awaited each other’s official reactions to the seizure of Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell aboard the neutral British steamer Trent.
2 Dec – The second session of the first Republican-dominated Congress opened amid growing discontent with the way the Lincoln administration was prosecuting the war.
3 Dec – President Abraham Lincoln submitted his first annual message to Congress, which described the current state of affairs and reiterated his view that the Union must be preserved by all necessary means.
3 Dec – The Maryland legislature assembled with most secessionists removed from office. This ensured that Washington would not be surrounded by Confederate states.
9 Dec – The U.S. Senate approved a measure creating a joint House-Senate military oversight committee whose investigative methods quickly proved controversial.
10 Dec – General-in-Chief George B. McClellan rejected President Abraham Lincoln’s proposal to send the Army of the Potomac into northern Virginia against Centreville and Manassas Junction.
12 Dec – Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy’s Federal advance from Cheat Mountain led to defeat in the last significant clash of the year in northwestern Virginia.
14 Dec – Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s Confederate Army of New Mexico arrived at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, as part of the plan to conquer the New Mexico Territory.
15 Dec – News of the British reaction to the seizure of Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell reached the U.S.
16 Dec – Missouri General Sterling Price sent another message to Confederate President Jefferson Davis asking him to provide more support for their secessionist cause.
18 Dec – Federals under Brigadier General John Pope overwhelmed a force of Missouri State Guards and demoralized secessionists in the western part of the state.
19 Dec – Federal forces won a minor victory in a struggle over foraging rights in northern Virginia.
20 Dec – Federal Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont directed Captain Charles H. Davis to sink vessels filled with stones to obstruct Confederate blockade runners from entering Charleston Harbor’s main ship channel.
22 Dec – Federal Major General Henry W. Halleck issued General Orders No. 32 as part of his program to suppress alleged disloyalty in Missouri.
24 Dec – The Federal blockade began tightening with the capture of more blockade runners along the coasts.
25 Dec – President Lincoln held a lengthy cabinet meeting on Christmas Day to finally decide upon a course of action regarding Great Britain’s demands to release the Confederate envoys seized aboard the British steamer Trent.
26 Dec – Confederate Texans and Native Americans defeated Unionists a second time this month in the Indian Territory.
30 Dec – The leading banks of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia suspended specie payments (i.e., exchanging paper money for gold or silver) due to depleted reserves. This suspension thrust the northern states into a financial crisis.
31 Dec – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson issued orders for his Confederate forces to begin marching on New Year’s Day. Only Jackson knew that they would be embarking on a grueling campaign to capture Romney in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
31 Dec – The year closed with southerners optimistic about gaining independence and northerners pessimistic about preserving the Union.
Last Updated: 10/12/2018