From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

Battle of Fredericksburg

What was the situation on New Year’s Day of 1863?

Given the sea of blood that had issued during 1862, one might expect the public mood in Washington to be somber, but this was not the case. Like the previous New Year’s Day, Lincoln received callers for hours and shook so many hands that his own felt arthritic later in the day. Official Washington turned out in all its regalia; even Chief Justice Roger Taney came to the White House on this occasion. There were, of course, personal losses that tinged the day with sorrow.

Gideon Welles, secretary of the navy, had recently lost his nine-year-old son to illness. Of the eight children born to his wife, only two still lived. The president, of course, was now reduced to two sons out of the four born to Mary Todd Lincoln. And there were many other losses to members of the Washington community, men and boys who had died during 1862. The overall mood was upbeat, however, thanks to the numerous crises that Lincoln and his administration had weathered. Just a year ago, it had been doubtful as to who would prevail in the West: at this point, only Vicksburg and a stretch of land ten miles long remained to the Confederates along the Mississippi. A year earlier, the Federals had entertained hopes for a quick capture of Richmond, but they were now more realistic. And for all of these losses and difficulties, the men of Lincoln’s administration knew they were in better shape than their opposite numbers in Richmond.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Civil War Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App