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150 Years Ago: Wednesday, December 17, 1862


“You are no doubt anxious to hear from me since the events of the past few days. The papers give you all the details of the crossing of the Rappahannock as well as the re-crossing, and are not very particular as to the truth of the facts, only so they have a telling effect and read well. My corps, or two divisions of it, made the attack on the left, and after almost gaining the object let it slip. They did not do as well as I expected. Tho’ they advanced under artillery fire very well, when it came to the attack of the wooded heights they faltered and failed. We are fortunate it is not worse. The crossing at this point was a failure from the fact that to have been successful it ought to have been a surprise, and we should have advanced at once and carried the heights as was intended. As it was we lost one day by the failure to throw over the bridges at the town without serious opposition – and to have risked more than we did would probably have cost the loss of the whole Army in case of another repulse. You must not show this to anyone.” – U.S. Major General John F. Reynolds, in a letter to his sisters in Pennsylvania

U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant has been busy moving troops through the state Mississippi with the end goal of obtaining Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. But his overall responsibilities also include administrative oversight of the military department that controls Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. One of the administrative functions of the department is to oversee the issuing of trade licenses. Though U.S. President Abraham Lincoln has permitted limited trade for cotton, Grant has been tasked with shutting down the black-market trade in the cotton industry. The perception is that the Jewish community is largely responsible for war profiteering and organizing the illegal trade in black-market cotton and Grant has bought into that prejudice.

Cotton to Prepared for ShippingSource: Library of Congress

Cotton to Prepared for Shipping
Source: Library of Congress

Without U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s knowledge, Grant issues General Order No. 11:

“The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.”

Grant’s order is strictly and quickly enforced as entire families are marched out of town with only what they can carry. It is the most notorious anti-Semitic official order in American history.

U. S. Brigadier General John Foster continues his North Carolina expedition as his troops reach the Goldsboro railroad this morning. The railroad bridge is heavily guarded by Confederate troops under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Clingman and reinforced with troops by Brigadier General Nathan George Evans, but Foster still manages to successfully torch the bridge. He sends a report to his superiors that his Goldsboro Expedition is a “complete perfect success.” Before the bridge is completely burned, he orders a counter-march back to New Bern; with the loss in Fredericksburg, Foster feels vulnerable to a Confederate attack and there’s a chance he could be cut-off inland during his trip back, providing him with limited escape options.

Foster’s inland expedition resulted in 90 Union solders killed, 478 wounded and over 400 captured. They were higher numbers than what he expected, since he had not planned on so many engagements with the enemy. Confederates had 71 killed, 268 wounded and more than 400 captured. While Foster’s main initiative was to disrupt communications and supply lines, there are no lasting results from his expedition. The city of Kinston received only minor damage, the Confederate gunboat at Whitehall survives, and the railroad bridge at Goldsboro does not burn completely after Foster leaves; it is repaired by Confederates within 10 days and supplies will continue to flow along that route to support Confederate troops in Virginia.

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

Discussion

One thought on “150 Years Ago: Wednesday, December 17, 1862

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