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Emancipation causes a stir both North and South, and a section of Virginia prepares to secede—from Virginia


1 – The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect—as does the Homestead Act, signed into law the previous May.

The first recorded homestead claim is by Union Army scout Daniel Freeman, near Beatrice, Nebraska Territory.

3 – Federals win control of central Tennessee when Confederate General Braxton Bragg orders his Army of Tennessee to retreat from Murfreesboro, ending the bloody Battle of Stones River.

4 – General in Chief Henry Halleck orders Ulysses Grant to rescind General Orders No. 11, which evicted Jews from the Department of the Tennessee; Grant will comply January 7.

5 – Responding to the Emancipation Proclamation, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declares all free blacks in the Confederacy—and their children—will be permanently enslaved as of February 22, and that any blacks Confederate soldiers capture in free states will be enslaved.

12 – In a message to the Confederate Congress, Davis claims the Emancipation Proclamation will result in the “extermination” of slaves, and the murder of their masters. And he declares he will treat captured Union officers as criminals “inciting servile insurrection.”

20 – The War Department authorizes Massachusetts Governor John Andrew to recruit black troops for the Union Army.

20-22 – Despite dissension among his subordinates, General Ambrose Burnside attempts once more to cross the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Va., but a midwinter storm reduces the offensive to a “Mud March,” and the attempt is abandoned.

25 – Joseph Hooker replaces Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. President Lincoln also relieves Generals Edwin V. Sumner and William B. Franklin from duty.

31– The U.S. Army’s first black regiment, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, musters in.


3 – Journalist Samuel Clemens of the Virginia City (Nev.) Territorial Enterprise signs a humorous article titled “Letter From Carson City” with a new pen name: Mark Twain.

French ambassador Henri Mercier presents an offer to mediate between Washington and Richmond to end the war, which Secretary of State William H. Seward politely declines.

10 – Naval Secretary Gideon Welles approves formation of consulting body to review inventions and technical developments for the Union war effort. When Congress endorses the plan in March, the National Academy of Sciences is born.

12 – The West Virginia Constitutional Convention reconvenes in Wheeling to consider the Willey Amendment, which provides gradual emancipation for slaves.

17 – West Virginia’s Constitutional Convention approves the Willey Amendment and adjourns. Voters will have the final say in March.

22 – Ground is broken in Sacramento, Calif., for the Central Pacific Railroad.

24 – Arizona Territory is created, setting it apart from New Mexico Territory.

26 – Congress approves the Conscription Act of 1863, which will be effective March 3, and an act prohibiting communication with the “present pretended rebel government.”

President Lincoln signs the National Currency Act, creating a national banking system, currency bureau and the office of comptroller of the currency.

28 – The cornerstone is laid for the “new” Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., replacing the theater destroyed by fire in December 1862.