December 1862 witnessed the Battle of Fredericksburg. It was General Burnside’s first major challenge after taking over from McClellan. The battle did not go in Burnside’s favour and he lost far more men killed and wounded than the Confederates. The freezing weather killed many of the wounded. It also meant that little could be done at a military level.
December 1st: Lincoln addressed the 37th Congress in the capital and once again announced his intention of abolishing slavery within the United States.
December 10th: The House of Representatives passed a bill to create the state of West Virginia.
December 13th: Burnside started his attack against Fredericksburg. However, the delay in doing so allowed Lee’s men time to dig themselves into well-fortified positions both in the town and in the hills that surrounded it. All attacks were repulsed. An attack on Confederate troops dug in on Marye’s Heights led to many Unionist deaths. By the end of the day the Army of the Potomac had lost 1200 killed, 9000 wounded and 2145 missing. Many of these were at Marye’s Heights. The Confederates had lost 570 killed, 3870 wounded and 127 missing. Many of the wounded left out on the battlefield died of the cold during the night. Lee was heard to say: “It is well that war is so terrible; we should grow too fond of it.”
December 14th: Burnside wanted to repeat the assault on Fredericksburg but was persuaded otherwise by his commanders in the field. The Army of the Potomac camped out along the Rappahannock River.
December 17th: General Grant’s reputation was tainted when he issued General Order Number 11, which expelled Jews from his department because “they are a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department.”
December 20th: A Confederate force attacked a major Union supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi. Over $1 million in supplies was seized along with 1000 prisoners. Such a loss of supplies meant that Grant had to postpone his attack on Vicksburg.
December 23rd: Jefferson Davis names General Butler, formally in charge of New Orleans, an outlaw and an enemy of Mankind. Davis stated that Butler would be hanged if the Confederates captured him.
December 28th: A unit of Union troops captured a considerable amount of Confederate supplies at Van Buren, Arkansas.
December 31st: Lincoln met Burnside to discuss what went wrong at Fredericksburg. The ironclad ‘Monitor’ sank in a storm.