150 Years Ago This Week: Armies at rest

January, 1864

The Confederate Congress confirmed Sen. George Davis of North Carolina as Attorney General on Saturday, Jan. 2, 1864, allowing him to succeed Wade Keyes, who had served as interim Attorney General since September, 1863. Sen. Davis, formerly a pro-Union Whig, had eventually supported secession.

In the far west on this day, in California, Federal troops occupied Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, and drove off smugglers and squatters. On Jan. 3, Union cavalry carried out reconnaissance between Charles Town, W.Va., and Winchester.

In an endeavor to obtain food supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia — one of a series of increasingly stern orders which created new hardships for the citizens of the South — President Jefferson Davis told Gen. Robert E. Lee, “The emergency justifies impressment of food supplies in Virginia.”

The Confederate troops and animals in winter quarters were seriously underfed, but the civilian population of the South had also suffered considerable deprivation. These orders did not improve President Davis’ popularity among the citizens of the Southern Confederacy.

In Washington on Jan. 5, President Abraham Lincoln suggested to Congress that the bounties to volunteers for the army and navy be continued for at least a month, and that the subject be reconsidered despite a resolution of Congress prohibiting the payment of $300.

There was little fighting on this bitterly cold day, but there were skirmishes between opposing troops at Lawrence’s Mill in Tennessee, and on the Pecos River near Fort Sumner in the New Mexico Territory.

Both armies in the Eastern and Western theatres of war were at rest on Jan. 6, but the war still continued. In one of numerous incidents occurring on the Western rivers, Confederate guerrilla troops attacked the steamer Delta on the Mississippi River. In Rappahannock County, a skirmish occurred between Union and Confederate cavalry at Flint Hill; another occurred at Dalton, Ga.

In the far southwest, Union troops under Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson conducted operations against warring Navajo Indians in the New Mexico Territory from Fort Canby. After being defeated, most of the Navajo were forced on a 300-mile “long walk” in bad conditions to a reservation at Basque Redondo.

At Waccamaw Neck, S.C., on Jan. 7, a lieutenant and private of the 25th Georgia Cavalry captured 25 Federal troopers almost without firing a shot. William Preston was named as Confederate envoy to Mexico; meanwhile, Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior until December, 1862, died in Indianapolis, Ind.

This same day, President Lincoln commuted the death sentence in the case of a deserter “because I am trying to evade the butchering business lately.” In Richmond, President Davis suspended the execution of a Virginia infantry private.

In New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 8, pro-Union factions met to consider the reconstruction of the state of Louisiana. And in a case that aroused considerable agitation in Little Rock, Ark., convicted Confederate spy David O. Dodd was executed.

There was a reception in Richmond on this date honoring Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan for his escape from a penitentiary in Ohio when he had been captured, and for his cavalry actions in Kentucky and Ohio. Regarding discontent in the State of North Carolina, President Davis wrote to Gov. Zebulon Vance in Raleigh: “I cannot see how the mere material obstacles are to be surmounted in order to bring about a cessation of hostilities.”

Repeating his desire for peace and independence, the president wrote, “This struggle must continue until the enemy is beaten out of his vain confidence in our subjugation. Then, and not until then, will it be possible to treat for peace.” Near Moorefield Junction in West Virginia there was fighting between opposing troops, and a Confederate fortification at the mouth of Caney Bayou in Texas was bombarded by Federal forces.

Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 194 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at AC9725@cs.com.