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Civil War Trust

Civil War Primer - December 14, 2007

Christmas and December during the Civil War, Fredericksburg


Civil War Preservation Trust Teacher Newsletter

The Civil War Preservation Trust is America's largest non-profit organization (501-C3) devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields. The Trust also promotes educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war’s history and the fundamental conflicts that sparked it.










According to E.B. Long in The Civil War Day by Day (pp. 295-296):

“As the fog rose in the midmorning from the plain southeast of Fredericksburg, Federal troops drove toward the hills defended by Jackson’s Confederates.  The Battle of Fredericksburg had opened.  Spirited assaults by troops of George G. Meade and John Gibbon dented Jackson’s lines for a short time, but William B. Franklin’s Left Grand Division was repulsed and thrown back to the low ground from whence it started.  From the city itself, Edwin V. Sumner’s Right Grand Division, backed by Joseph Hooker’s Center Grand Division, debouched against Longstreet’s corps.  Longstreet’s men were posted on and at the foot of Marye’s Heights, a ridge behind the city.  Confederate and Union artillery added to the crescendo of battle as time after time the Federals approached the stone wall along a narrow road at the foot of Marye’s Heights, only to meet [terrible] fire.  They fought for feet and yards until late afternoon.  A futile, wild, fantastic, direct slam by Federals against the exceedingly well-entrenched Confederates of Lee failed miserably.  Burnside’s action counteracted McClellan’s slothfulness, but at [huge expense].  This winter day at Fredericksburg tested men and officers alike to the utmost.  The heroism was there, but not the strategy.  Gen. Lee remarked, “I wish these people would go away and let us alone.”  A Federal said, ‘It was a great slaughter pen….’”
1284 Federals were killed, 9600 wounded and 1769 missing – a total of 12,653 out of 114,000 men engaged.  The Confederates suffered 595 killed, 4061 wounded and 653 missing – a total of 5309 out of 72,500 engaged.  In the end, the Federals were still in the city, and the Confederates were still on the hills.

==> Read Stephen B. Oates’ Woman of Valor: Clara Barton in the Civil War to learn about Clara’s role in the battle, assisting at Chatham Manor and in the town itself.  For example, while crossing a pontoon bridge at Fredericksburg a shell fragment tore part of her dress.  She also had men tear down chimneys so the bricks could be heated and placed near the wounded – to keep them from freezing before the surgeons could reach them. 

==> Read more at, including a letter from Clara to her cousin Elvira Stone. 

==> Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were also at Fredericksburg – lying among the dead and wounded in the bitter cold – at the base of the infamous Stone Wall. The men of the 20th Maine were forced to shelter themselves with the dead.  The Colonel, meanwhile, spent the night listening to the blinds in a nearby abandoned house – they seemed to be saying “Forever – never!  Never – forever!”  He remembered the sound all his life.



To receive an emailed copy of “Christmas During the Civil War” please contact me.  This guide will help students 1) gain a basic understanding of the origin of several popular Christmas traditions, 2) explore the thoughts and feelings of Civil War soldiers, away from home at Christmas (or any major holiday), 3) explore the thoughts and feelings of civilians as they cope with the absence of their loved ones at Christmas, and 4) relate to the Civil War soldiers and their families in terms of current issues. 

This guide is not a chronicle of Christmases through the Civil War -- rather, it is a thought-provoking comparison to Christmases today.
I am sorry, but I can only send the guide via email.  Please contact


Secession Era Editorials Project, from the Furman University Department of History.  Compare Northern and Southern editorials on John Brown, Nebraska, Sumner and Dred Scott.  (Thanks to Terry Levering for sending this one!)
Short Civil War biographies
Excellent resource from the Library of Congress – The Civil War Through a Child’s Eye – LOTS of daguerreotypes, lessons, on and offline resources, and so on.
From PBS:  John Brown – Judgment Day. Includes links to a teachers’ guide and resource bank.
American Song:  Telling The Story of America Through Its Music  (Use link before January 31, 2008).  Database of 50,000 songs that you listen to over the Internet. …This new resource includes music that relates to almost every walk of American life, every ethnic group, and every time period … There are the songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, Prohibition, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and anti-war protests. Hymns, funny songs, college songs, sea shanties, shape note songs, and about topics as diverse as New York and electricity.



**Dec. 2, 1862 – John Brown hanged near Harpers Ferry [From Fort Macon CWRT (From now on, “FM”)]

**Dec. 4, 1860 – Pres. Buchanan blames the secession crisis on the free states [Civil War Day by Day – from now on, “CW”]

**Dec. 6, 1864 – Pres. Lincoln reports that $776 million has been spent on the war (FM)

**Dec. 7, 1862 - Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas (FM)

**Dec. 8, 1863 – Lincoln issues his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction (CW)

**Dec. 9, 1861 –US Senate establishes the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War (CW)

**Dec.10, 1861 – Confederate Congress admits Kentucky as the 13th Confederate state (CW)

**Dec. 13, 1862 – Union defeat at Fredericksburg (FM)

**Dec. 13, 1864 – With the fall of Fort McAllister, GA, Sherman finally reaches the sea (CW)

**Dec. 15-16, 1864 – Battle of Nashville (CW)

**Dec. 16, 1863 – US Gen. John Buford, Gettysburg hero, dies of typhoid fever (FM, CW)

**Dec. 17, 1862 – From his headquarters at Holly Springs, Mississippi, Grant issues the controversial General Order No. 11 (CW)

**Dec. 18, 1865 – The 13th Amendment to the Constitution is passed, abolishing slavery, with approval by 27 states (FM, CW)

**Dec. 20, 1861 – South Carolina secedes from the Union (FM)

**Dec. 20, 1864 – Savannah is evacuated by the Confederates (CW)

**Dec. 21, 1862 – US Medal of Honor established by Congress (FM)

**Dec. 23, 1862 – Jefferson Davis declares US Gen. Benjamin Butler an outlaw to be hung immediately if captured (CW)

**Dec. 25, 1862 – Abraham and Mary Lincoln visit wounded in Washington hospitals (FM)

**Dec. 26, 1860 – Federal garrison (under Maj. Robert Anderson) transfers from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter (CW)

**Dec. 26, 1861 – the US surrenders Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell, ending the Trent Affair and averting war with Britain.  Also this day, Texans and Confederate Indians fight pro-Union Creeks at Chustenahlah, Indian Territory (CW)

**Dec. 26, 1865 – Confederate muster rolls list 465,000 with only 278,000 present (FM)

**Dec. 31, 1862 – Battle of Murfreesboro or Stone’s River, Tennessee (first day); also, Lincoln approves an act admitting West Virginia as the 35th state in the Union (CW)



A.  Which Union “fiasco” was largely responsible for the creation of the “US Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War”?

B.  What did US Grant’s “General Order Number 11” do? 

C.  What were the conditions of Lincoln’s “Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction”, issued Dec. 8, 1863?

D.  CS General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee was devastated and nearly destroyed at which 1864 battle?

E. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.  Where was it first restored, and when?




Teacher Institute:
Hagerstown, MD: July 25-27, 2008. Teachers will visit Antietam or Harpers Ferry on Saturday, as well as attend classes on Friday and Sunday. To register, contact The institute application is online at or

Two-Week Civil War Curriculum CD-ROM:
Download online, or e-mail to get a copy in the mail.  

Classroom Membership:
Receive the monthly classroom newsletter and quarterly Hallowed Ground magazine, a packet of classroom materials, curriculum CD-ROM & book of Civil War trivia.  To sponsor a classroom, receive an application, view a newsletter - contact  

Civil War Preservation Trust Education Web Site:

Poster & Essay Competition:
Both winning students AND their teachers are rewarded! The deadline is May 15, 2008.  Learn more at

Adopt a Battlefield:
Save battlefields while teaching about their history! Site packs include Antietam, Appomattox, Fredericksburg, Trevilian Station, Perryville, Peninsula Campaign and Harpers Ferry.   Email for more details. 
Contact for information on Third Winchester, Chancellorsville and Glendale.

Traveling Trunk:
Rent one for the 2008/2009 school year, and access hands-on items, books, music and visuals.

Battlefields as Outdoor Classrooms:
Contact for more information.
Civil War Preservation Trust book catalog at LibraryThing.
Civil War Preservation Trust “Listmania”



A. The Union defeat at Ball’s Bluff (Civil War Day by Day, p. 147). 
Read more about the battle:

B.  Grant’s “General Order Number 11”, issued December 17, 1862, expelled Jews from his department.  According to Civil War Day by Day (p. 297), “It would appear that Grant was trying to eliminate the tremendous amount of illegal speculation along the Mississippi.  Perhaps Grant equated Jews with the peddlers and speculators that plagued his camps.  On the other hand, it could be charged as an indictment of a religious group.  At any rate, the order had political and social ramifications for years.  It mattered little that Halleck and Lincoln rescinded it Jan. 4, 1863; the damage to Grant had been done.  It also resulted in discomfort to a number of Jews, although never put entirely into effect”. 


C.  First, Lincoln’s “Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction” stated that people who “directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion” would be pardoned if they took an oath of loyalty to the Union.  Some exceptions:  “high-ranking military officers, members of the Confederate government, all who resigned commissions in the US Army and Navy … and those who treated Negroes or whites ‘otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war’” (Civil War Day By Day, p. 444).  Second, a state government would be recognized in any seceding state if desired by one tenth of the citizens who voted in the 1860 election.  Third, there would be no slavery. Note that African-Americans did not vote in the 1860 election.

Read the entire proclamation:

D. The Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864 (Civil War Day by Day, pp. 610-612). 
According to historian Ernest Furgurson, “Nashville was the only engagement in which one army virtually annihilated another. Thomas B. Buell, a student of Civil War generalship, wrote that in Tennessee, Thomas performed the war's "unsurpassed masterpiece of theater command and control.... So modern in concept, so sweeping in scope, it would become a model for strategic maneuver in 20th-century warfare." After it, there was no more large-scale fighting west of the Blue Ridge.”

E. On Dec. 1, 1865, President Johnson restored the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus – except in former Confederate states, District of Columbia and New Mexico / Arizona territories (Civil War Day by Day). 


Jennifer Rosenberry
Education Coordinator
Civil War Preservation Trust
11 Public Square, Suite 200
Hagerstown, MD 21740

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