This week in the war:
Monday, December 30, 1861: Most paper money was printed by banks. These notes of different amounts could always be exchanged for gold or silver until today. The United States Government, as well as independent banks in several cities, today suspended payments in gold and silver. The worth of paper money is now questioned and inflation increases. The matter of a stable and uniform currency for the entire country was not yet settled and would not be for some time. Confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell were handed over to Lord Lyons. They were immediately put on a ship to England thus ending the “Trent Affair.”
Tuesday, December 31, 1861: President Lincoln pressed his army commanders for more action. However, McClellan did not hear his message as he was ill.
Wednesday, January 1, 1862: A new year brings new rules; President Lincoln declares slavery in Confederate states unlawful. Editorials in Northern papers are full of thoughts about what is to be done with slaves, should they win their freedom. Most all seem to favor the idea of returning them to tropical climates elsewhere – Haiti or Liberia, for example. Also, today, the first U.S. income tax (3% of incomes more than $600, 5% of incomes more than $10,000) goes into effect. Collecting from citizens would prove to be difficult. William Luther Bigelow Lawrence, a Nashville lawyer before the Civil War wrote in his dairy: “Every preparation is being made to fasten the yoke of bondage upon the beautiful & chivalrous Southern country, but our people are determined to be forever free & independent of the Northern fanatics & tho the war may be long & bloody we will never submit.” The Memphis Appeal reports on the resignation of Gen. Gideon Pillow (CSA) and describes his emotional good-bye to his troops. Pillow, who has resigned after a dispute with Gen. Leonidas Polk (CSA), will reconsider his resignation a few days later and will be reinstated by Jefferson Davis.
Thursday, January 2, 1862: “Stone Wall” Jackson (CSA) Brigade reaches Unger's Store, West VA, traveling over rough mountain roads in bad weather. The Union finally acquires machine guns, and Colonel John W. Geary's 28th Pennsylvania Infantry is the first unit to receive the guns for battle. Newspapers such as the Memphis, TN, “Argus” were noting that the Confederate armies were taking huge numbers of men out of productive work, and they weren’t doing any fighting either. Plus, taxes were too high.
Friday, January 3, 1862: Confederate troops in Greenville, TN, hang two East Tennesseans who were caught burning the Lick Creek Bridge. The Confederate Stonewall Brigade reaches Bath, WV and tries, unsuccessfully, to surprise Union troops. Confederate President Jefferson Davis writes a letter to the governor of Mississippi expressing his concern over the presence of Union troops on Ship Island. Davis warns that the Union is planning an offensive that will likely be aimed at New Orleans or Mobile. Confederate troops at Big Bethel, Virginia evacuate following a skirmish.
Saturday, January 4, 1862: General George McClellan (US) was flat on his back suffering from typhoid fever, and President Lincoln was operating directly as “commander in chief” sent General Don Carlos Buell (US) in Kentucky a telegram asking when, he might be able to commence a long-awaited movement into eastern Tennessee, an area of considerable Union sympathy. Buell sent a noncommittal reply, as he was not sure the move was a good idea and was in no hurry to begin it.