The month of December was a very quiet month for hostilities. However, there were many items before the Congress in regards to the war. In early December President Lincoln issued his Amnesty Proclamation and it had stirred a lengthy debate in both the North and the South.
l On the Dec. 7, the 38th Congress of the United States convenes in Washington and the 4th session of the Confederate Congress convenes in Richmond. Jefferson Davis does his best to maintain a positive outlook after a miserable year of setbacks in the war.
l On Dec. 9 in the Western Theater, Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside is relieved of command - by his own request. He is replaced by General John Foster. It will be said "that it is to his discredit that he is a poor commander and to his credit that he knows it."
Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, meanwhile, has dismissed several of his commanders and pursues court martial, but later dismisses all accusations.
l On Dec. 11, a light bombardment of Fort Sumter from the Federal Navy results in an explosion which kills 11 and wounds 41.
l The 14th of December brings an odd piece of information: The wife of Confederate General B.H. Helm, killed at Chickamauga, is given amnesty by President Lincoln when she signs the oath of allegiance. She is the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.
The National Authority of the Federal Government had been questioned since before the war began. In December of 1863, this issue had become center stage and a resolution to further define the position of Lincoln's party was submitted by Mr. Green Clay Smith, representative from Kentucky, to the House of Representatives.
This resolution reinforced their stance on the enforcement of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
"Resolved. That as our country and the very existence of the best Government ever instituted by man, is imperiled by the most causeless and wicked rebellion that the world has ever seen, and believing as we do that the only hope of saving the country and preserving this government is by the power of the sword, we are for the most vigorous prosecution of the war until the Constitution and laws shall be enforced and obeyed in all parts of the United States, and to that end we oppose any armistice, or intervention, or mediation, or proposition of peace from any quarter, so long as there shall be found a rebel in arms against the Government; and we ignore all party names, lines and issues, and recognize but two parties in this war, patriots and traitors."
This resolution hits directly at the heart of the differences in Lincoln and his opponents. When the House voted, it was by strict party lines: 93 votes for - all of Lincoln's party - and 64 voted no, virtually every member of the opposition.
The following letter describes the condition of the 7th Regiment in and around Wauhatchie, Tenn., during the winter of 1863. It had only been a month since the debacle at Ringgold, Ga., where the men of this regiment, many from Trumbull County, where decimated by the Confederate Army in their attempt to take Taylor's Ridge.
It was here that Col. William Creighton and Lt. Col. Orrin Crane were killed, and the regiment was in the waiting process of seeing who would replace them as their new leaders.
The letter below also describes, in curious detail, the other elements which comprised their ''moving'' war machine and his personal descriptions of each:
From the Seventh Regiment
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
December 16, 1863
Editors Herald: We are still in our comfortable camp, with their prospects of remaining here, and the Regiment is enjoying what is greatly needs and richly deserves - a good rest. Capt. Wilcox recently returned from recruiting service and is in command. Capt. Seymour, formerly of Company G, returned from home yesterday.
If the places of our two brave field officers (Creighton and Crane) are to be refilled, the voice of the Regiment says let the appointment be made from among those who have always been found in their places, and who have passed through a half score of bloody engagements. Such men are captains McClelland, Krieger, Wilcox, Howe, and Clarke. Each of these officers have dearly earned the honor.
Capt. McClelland is already on foot again, and will, we hope, speedily recover, though his wounds are very severe. If promotions are to be made, he is the first choice of the Regiment.
Most of our wounded are doing well, and those who are able to move our fast getting furloughs. I would say to the friends of the wounded, send them reading matter - newspapers, magazines, anything to amuse them in the weary hours of their confinement.
There is nothing stirring here, saving a very cold winds, so I will not attempt to write you news, but will say a few words under the head of:
The Army may be divided into two classes - soldiers and camp followers, and, sad to say, the latter classes are nearly as numerous as the former. About soldiers volumes have been written, but of the camp followers of modern times, very little has been said. Among soldiers the various subdivisions of camp followers are known as Suttlers, Teamsters, Slushers, and Hospital Cadet.
Of these five classes, Suttlers are the most prominent, and often the most despicable. They are neither soldiers nor citizens, but one of a mongrel breed, often utterly lacking in honorable principles, whose life has but one aim, and whose every energy is to put forth to one purpose - to obtain by clutching, grabbing, cheating, stealing and lying, as many greenbacks as possible.
They have not the courage to be soldiers nor the manly principles which make the respectable citizen. They are, in short, military (slur deleted) peddlers, and are all descendants of those two notorious villains you cheat them, and I cheat hem.
They are persons - I will not call them men - who enriched themselves by selling to soldiers at double, triple and quadruple prices, villainous, poor tobacco, frothy butter, rotten cheese, spoiled cakes, pine soled boots, miserable pens, colorless ink, and worthless paper. These soldiers must pay at any price, or go utterly without. They take advantage of such times, as soldiers our family sharing on half rations to double the price of their miserable "Chuck."
It would surprise men who made an honest living at home to see the immense stacks of greenbacks which these altered deserving outcasts of society stuff into their capacious pockets each payday. What is not for the war many of them would have been, err this, in the penitentiary, but, as it is, they will, doubtless, together with Army contractors, be residence of Fifth Avenue, and patrons of Dell Monaco.
The next class is Teamsters, who are generally hard-working, hard-swearing men. To guide six or eight obstinate mules with a single line through the bottomless mud and intricate windings of army roads requires much better generalship than one would be at first suppose.
To fully comprehend the magnitude of this undertaking, one must be familiar with the nature and "private character" of that most wonderful of beasts - the "father of rabbits."
Be it known, first, that a mule is a veritable hypocrite. That under an outwardly show of meekness and docility, he conceals all the cunning of the snake and all the obstinacy of the hog. Therefore, to run the inanimate locomotive is easy when compared to the task of propelling eight of the satanic quadrupeds with that Noah's Ark, a government wagon at their heels.
To do this, the lash whip, are said by Teamsters, to be indispensable, and the terms of endearment which are addressed by the driver to his wayward subordinates would cause a Billingsgate fish woman to blush with shame.
Thus, while Teamsters are indebted to soldiers for their protection, soldiers all owe little debt of gratitude to these "masterminds" through whose excellent generalship their rations are snaked to the front.
Under the heading of Slushers may be gathered officers servants and cooks, and persons who do the "dirty work" at the General's headquarters and in the quartermaster and commissary departments - in short, all who, being anxious to shirk the hardships and dangers of soldiers life, obtain what soldiers call a "soft thing."
The term "hospital cadet" embraces all who being wounded, in the feelings, or sick of soldiering, lie about hospitals in the rear the Army - who, each day, are in terrible agony at about the time of the surgeon's visit, and who, when he is gone, play a game of poker to pass off time.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum. Sources: ''The Civil War Day by Day,'' by John S. Bowman.