Monday, December 10, 2012

December 8, 1862

December 8, 1862:  Gen. Grant advances his plan of incursion into Mississippi, by ordering Sherman and his corps to proceed downriver with Admiral Porter’s river fleet to approach Vicksburg by the Yazoo River system, and thus outflank the Confederate army in northern Mississippi and undermine their position.

---In Arkansas, in the wake of the Battle of Prairie Grove, Gen. Hindman asks for time to take care of his wounded and bury his dead, which Blunt grants---but the Rebels use it instead to retreat their army farther down the road.  Hindman’s artillery is badly depleted, his army is out of supplies, and the men have no food left, or ammunition.  On the march south to Van Buren, his army of about 9,600 dwindles to 5,000, weakened through casualties, the wounded left behind, desertion, straggling, and fatigue.

---In the Army of the Potomac, a series of orders to begin the construction of pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River is initiated, as Burnside begins preparing his army for the assault to Fredericksburg.

---Lt. Josiah Marshall Favill, of the 57th New York Infantry in Burnside’s army, records in his journal his apprehensions of the coming campaign:

December 8th. We hear to-day that Burnside has made up his mind to cross the river, and attack the rebel works in front. It hardly seems possible, as they are now fortified in the most approved manner, and garrisoned by the best army the Confederacy has in the field. At this season of the year, in this country, where the roads become bottomless pits on the first rain storm, it is impossible to campaign anyway, and whoever undertakes it is sure to be beaten; therefore we hope the rumor may prove untrue.

---Capt. Charles Wright Wills, of the Army of the Tennessee under Grant, writes of the difficulties the Federals have in advancing past Holly Springs in the face of constant Rebel sabotage and delaying tactics:

We hear of the advance skirmishing 50 miles in front of us. Think the main force is at Oxford, about 25 miles from here. We’re probably waiting for the railroad to be repaired so that supplies can be furnished us when we move. The retreating Rebels destroyed every culvert and bridge as they fell back, and it of course takes time to rebuild so many. The road is not yet in running order to Holly Springs, and everything has to be wagoned to the army, which but a very little rain in this country makes impossible. We suffered three days of cold, drizzling rain last week which most effectually blockaded the roads, but the last three days have been beautifully clear, etc., and travel is again resumed.

---Sergeant Alexander Downing of the 11th Iowa Infantry, also with Grant’s army, writes in his journal of the soldier’s principal worry: getting good food to eat.  He writes of regular supplies being restored to the army in the advance areas:

Monday, 8th—The Sixth Division is running a mill now, the quartermaster having taken possession of a grist mill which he is running day and night. We are now drawing full rations of meal instead of crackers and we have plenty of fresh pork and sweet potatoes. The boys have confiscated every bake oven in the country; each company has from three to five, and by keeping them hot all day we bake all the corn bread needed. We all appreciate full rations after our fast at Grand Junction.

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