Dec. 20, 1861: BATTLE OF DRANESVILLE, Virginia: In Northern Virginia, a small Confederate force under Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart on a foraging expedition approaches the Leesburg Road near Langley. Brig. Gen. George A. McCall’s Pennsylvania Reserves division is based near Langley. McCall sends a brigade under Gen. Ord, reinforced with an additional regiment (Thomas Kane’s famous Pennsylvania Bucktails), a battery of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry, toward Dranesville. Kane rises from his sickbed in Washington to lead his regiment. Ord’s force, about 4,000 men, advances, with McCall also sending John F. Reynolds’s brigade in support. At Dranesville, Ord finds Stuart with about 1,600 infantry in detachments from the 1st Kentucky, 6th S.C., 10th Alabama, and the 11th Virginia, in addition to 150 cavalry from the 1st N.C. and the 2nd Virginia. Capt. Pitzer of the 2nd Virginia Cav. Scouts the advancing Yankees while Stuart brings up the infantry to protect his foraging wagons. The Union battery deploys and trades shots with a Rebel battery. Kane’s Bucktails advance and engage the Confederates. The rest of the Pennsylvania regiments line up on either side of the Bucktails, and the infantry battle escalates, surging back and forth. The Rebel wagons being secured, Stuart orders a retreat of his forces, who are beginning to break, and are threatened by the approach of Reynolds brigade. As the Rebels withdraw, the Union troops declare a victory and pursue Stuart’s men. The news cheers the Northern public, victories being so few.
Losses: U.S. – 7 killed, 61 wounded;
C.S. – 43 killed, 143 wounded, and 8 missing.
--The Royal Navy dispatches two warships to Canadian waters, in response to the escalating tension with the United States over the Trent Affair.