On Tuesday, January 19, 1864, just as President Jefferson Davis had earlier predicted, Union naval vessels made a reconnaissance of Confederate Forts Morgan and Gaines which guarded the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
Since the capture of New Orleans by David Farragut, Mobile Bay remained the most prominent port along the Confederate Gulf Coast. Ulysses Grant and other prominent members of the Northern military had urged an attack on Mobile to close the port to blockade running.
On Tuesday, January 19, 1864 efforts to create a new Unionist government in Federal occupied Arkansas accelerated. A pro-Union constitutional convention at Little Rock, Arkansas overwhelmingly adopted an anti-slavery measure.
Earlier the convention had selected Isaac Murphy as the provisional governor of Arkansas’ Unionist government; he would be inaugurated on January 22. The delegates also set Monday, March 14, 1864 as the date on which the people of Arkansas would ratify or reject by popular vote the proposed, new state constitution.
Human carnage is a tragic result of warfare. However, it is easy to forget that while wintering the average Civil War soldier suffered greatly due to the cold, poor sanitation, and the general boredom of camp life. Occasionally, tragic camp accidents would occur.
On Saturday, January 16, 1864 and the following day there occurred a substantial skirmish at Dandridge, Tennessee. Wishing to expel the Confederates under James Longstreet from their winter quarters, Union cavalry under General John Parke advanced on and occupied Dandridge.
On Wednesday, January 13, 1864 both presidents in the North and South communicated with their subordinates in the field but with messages that greatly differed in tone.
While southern President Jefferson Davis warned General Joseph E. Johnston at Dalton, Georgia of the detrimental dangers of retreating, noting “I trust you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure,” Abraham Lincoln was sending instructions to General Nathaniel Banks at New Orleans to “proceed with all possible dispatch” in the construction of a free state government for Louisiana.
Throughout the war, the Union blockade of the Southern coastline from the Chesapeake Bay to the Rio Grande River in Texas grew stronger.
In the early days of January 1864 the Union blockade was tighter than ever, with numerous blockade runners captured by the Federals. For instance, on Monday, January 11, 1863 two blockade runners were captured off Florida, and two others were burned off Lockwood’s Folly Inlet, North Carolina. But on occasion Union blockading ships would, particularly during pursuit of a blockade runner, sometimes run aground with disastrous results.
David Farragut became the most celebrated and feared naval officer of the Civil War after his Union fleet in April 1862 ran past Confederate fortifications at the mouth of the Mississippi River and captured New Orleans, Louisiana. Congress in July 1862 created the rank of rear admiral to honor Farragut’s achievements at New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson.
On Friday, January 8, 1863 President Jefferson Davis wrote North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance concerning the growing discontent in that state.
Davis noted, “I cannot see how the mere material obstacles are to be surmounted” so as to bring an end to the war. Emphasizing his desire for peace attained through independence, Davis added,” this struggle must continue until the enemy is beaten out of his vain confidence in our subjugation. Then and not until then will it be possible to treat of peace.”
On Thursday, January 7, 1863 Caleb Blood Smith died in Indianapolis, Indiana. Smith, born in 1808, was educated at both Cincinnati College and Miami University and practiced law beginning in 1828. In the 1830s, he served as the editor of his local Indiana newspaper, the Sentinel.
Elected to the U.S. Congress as a Whig in the 1840s, Smith joined the Republican Party and helped to procure the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. A grateful Lincoln appointed Smith as Secretary of the Interior as a reward for his support.
Since 1846 white New Mexico Territory settlers had battled the western Indians. During the Civil War from September 1863 to January 1864 Kit Carson led the U.S. military in an effort to round up the Navajo and send them to a reservation at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.
After resisting direct military confrontation with the Navajo for four months, on Wednesday, January 6, 1864 troops under Kit Carson’s command commenced operations directly against the Navajo stronghold of the Canyon de Chelly.