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150 Years Ago: Friday, December 26, 1862


The Hanging of the DakotaSource: Library of Congress

The Hanging of the Dakota
Source: Brown County Historical Society in New Ulm, MN

At 10 a.m. in Mankato, Minnesota, the thirty-eight condemned Dakota Indians sing and chant as they are led to the scaffolds. Three drumbeats signal the moment of execution, and hundreds of civilian men & women who have shown up to witness the execution cheer in celebration. It is the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The bodies of the dead are buried in a single mass grave at the edge of town. An additional 300 convicted Dakota Indians will remain imprisoned in Mankato.

In the House Chamber at the Capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi, Confederate President Jefferson Davis gives a long speech to the state legislators and citizens of the state he once called home at the start of the war. It is meant to rally its citizens and celebrate the successes the Confederacy has had under extreme circumstances where many felt the odds were against them. He closes with the following two paragraphs:

I can then say with confidence that our condition is in every respect greatly improved over what it was last year. Our armies have been augmented, our troops have been instructed and disciplined. The articles necessary for the support of our troops, and our people, and from which the enemy’s blockade has cut us off, are being produced in the Confederacy. Our manufactories have made rapid progress, so much is this the case that I learn with equal surprise and pleasure from the general commanding this department, that Mississippi alone can supply the army which is upon her soil.

Our people have learned to economize and are satisfied to wear home spun. I never see a woman dressed in home spun that I do not feel like taking off my hat to her; and although our women never lose their good looks, I cannot help thinking that they are improved by this garb. I never meet a man dressed in home spun but I feel like saluting him. I cannot avoid remarking with how much pleasure I have noticed the superior morality of our troops, and the contrast which in this respect they present to those of the invader. I can truly say that an army more pious and more moral than that defending our liberties, I do not believe to exist. On their valor and the assistance of God I confidently rely.

Harpers Ferry, Virginia Source: Library of Congress

Harpers Ferry, Virginia
Source: Library of Congress

Communications between U.S. Major General Ambrose Burnside and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck are fast and furious as cavalry reports possible Confederate movements near Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. This small but strategic city has continuously changed hands between the United States and the Confederacy. The reports make Burnside very nervous, as he had no idea that General Robert E. Lee had moved any of his troops after Fredericksburg, especially as far north as Harpers Ferry. Burnside sends a full Corps of troops led by Major General Henry Slocum to help protect the city that is currently protected by Major General John Adams Dix.

In the meantime, Confederate cavalry perform their reconnaissance on Harpers Ferry but take no action. There are no Confederate troops waiting to storm the city; it is merely a routine Confederate tactic to observe Union positions. Little did they know it would cause such a panic that Burnside would send over 10,000 men to guard a city that was in no way under attack.

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.

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