Thursday, December 20, 2012

Other News for December 1862

Vast amounts of ink, paper, and talent were devoted to the coverage of the American Civil War. Column after column and page after page the bloody toll of the war was recited. Headlines trumpeted “signal victory” or passed judgment, sometimes both. Maps of the far off theaters of battle lay within the folds of the newspapers, and portraits of generals graced the front page or covers of journals.

Hidden amongst the riot of war news, one could find the items of less import, yet of no less interest. Some were humorous, some tragic, but all made up life in the years 1861-1865. None had a profound impact on the war, but assuredly all were impacted to some degree by it. What follows are examples of Other News for December 1862. All of the items are given in their entirety, illustrating how little space things of this nature occupied in print.

The New York Daily Tribune reports the following short items on December 2:

A New Journal in South Carolina-

The Rev. Mansfield French, who returned to this city a few weeks ago, from Port Royal, has, since his arrival, purchased a printing press, type, and a large stock of paper, for the furnishing of the printing office of The Southern Cross, a newspaper about to be published in South Carolina. It is expected that The Southern Cross will be raised in Charleston early in January.

It also reported :

Attempt to set Fire to the Jersey City Prison

On Saturday forenoon, a soldier named Wm. Griffith, committed to the city prison, and held as a deserter, attempted to burn the building by setting fire to the straw mattress in his cell. The cell being fireproof the attempt of course failed, but Griffith was considerably burned about the hands and face, which caused him to call out for help. It was supposed he was laboring under an attack of delirium tremors. [1]

The Memphis Daily Appeal reports on December 13:

Great Breadth of Land Sown in Wheat

The Macon Journal and Messenger learns that an unusual breadth of land has been sown in wheat in Georgia, and the present prospect is encouraging for a large crop next year.

It was not uncommon for newspapers to trade stories, and it did not matter if it was a Northern or Southern paper. The Daily Appeal also reports of their move from Grenada, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in the two weeks prior to this issue. They report that they feel as if “among friends and brothers.”[2]

Minnesotans are duly proud of the health of the people of the state. On December 18, the Saint Cloud Democrat reports the following:

 Healthfulness of Minnesota

The census shows the following number of deaths in Minnesota for the year ending June 1, 1860:
Males; 584, Females; 515; Total, 1100 or 1 to every 157 of the population.

The following is the mortality and health of each section:
States: Population Deaths Proportion
New England: 3,132,283 45,859 1 to every 68
Middle States: 7,458,885 84,620 1 to every 88
Western States: 8,563,377 89,602 1 to every 95
Southern States: 12,315,374 174,095 1 to every 71
The proportion of deaths in Minnesota was thus about half the average of the United States in general. In other words, it is twice as healthy as the rest of the country. It will be seen by the above table that the Western States are much healthier than any other potion of the Union, while Minnesota is a great deal healthier than other Western States. (from the St. Paul Press) [3]

In the national newspapers and magazines, other things made news.

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of December 27 we find the following noteworthy nuggets listed under the heading Epitome of the week:

The snow in Washington county N.Y. Was 18 inches deep a few days ago. Many of the farmers had not dug their potatoes or gathered their corn.

The shock of an earthquake was felt on the 7th of December at Evansville, Ind.; it rang all the doorbells and shook the houses.

And it seems gentlemen were still looking for wives as the following indicates:

An advertisement in a Western paper thus reads: The advertiser, being a widower, is open to proposals from ladies, either widows or maids, of more than average respectability, tolerably sane in disposition and with hair of any color except red. [4]

Harper’s Weekly of December 6 reports the forthcoming marriage of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

The Prince of Wales and His Intended Bride

We publish on page 781 portraits of the Price of Wales and the Lady whom he is to marry, the Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The Prince is just twenty-one years of age. It will be seen by our portrait that he looks rather older than when he danced here at the famous Prince's ball. He wears incipient whiskers; and the crafty engraver has contrived a shade over the upper lip which may perhaps pass as a mustache. He is understood to have been kept busy since he left here, in study and travel, and has no doubt a well stored mind.
The following account of Princess Alexandra, the future Queen of England, will doubtless be read with interest:

Princess Alexandra, born December 1, 1844, is the second child and eldest daughter of Prince Christian of Schleswig- Holstein, heir expectant to the Danish throne, and of Princess Louisa of Hesse-Cassel. She is gifted, as will be seen in our portrait, with no inconsiderable share of beauty, and is described as being very accomplished, having received in her family, which is generally esteemed as a model of all domestic virtues, the most careful and complete education. Princess Alexandra is a Sous Lieutenant in the Danish Army. Many journals in France and Belgium, upon commenting on the account given of the Royal family of Denmark, stated that the Almanache de Gotha had committed an amusing mistake in describing Princess Alexandra as a Sous-Lieutenant in the Danish Army. It appears, however, that there was no mistake at all in the matter; for, however extraordinary it may appear to us, the illustrious intended bride of the Prince of Wales does actually hold the commission described in the Danish Army.” [5]

The Prince of Wales at the time was Albert Edward, son of Queen Victoria and husband Prince Albert. He became King of England in 1901 and known as King Edward VII. It seems Americans have always been enamored with the British Royal Family.

The Scientific American reports of an interesting discovery abroad:

An Ancient Oven Containing Loaves
A correspondent of the London Atheneaum, writing from Naples, states that a bakers oven was lately discovered in Pompeii. He was present when the iron door of the oven was removed, and he says: “We were rewarded with the site of an entire batch of loaves which were deposited seventeen hundred and eighty three years ago! They are eighty-two in number, and are, as far as regards form, size, and and every characteristic except weight and color, precisely as they came from the bakers hand. They are circular, about 9 inches in diameter, rather flat and indented (evidently with the elbow) in the center; but they are slightly raised at the sides, and divided by deep lines, radiating from the center into fragments. They are of a deep brown color and hard, but exceedingly light.”

This of course is in reference to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and sudden destruction of the city of Pompeii in 79 AD.

They also offer a drawing of the following timely devise with attendant explanation of its workings. Patent for this was procured through The Scientific American Patent Agency, October 28, 1862 by Lewis Bunn.[6]


It amounted to nothing more than an icebox. Ice was placed in the box above the decedents head, which cooled the box and its contents. The bucket at left caught the water from the melting ice. The box was said to be airtight as possible, and the door on the right end could be opened to allow for viewing. It had a gasket made of either felt or India rubber and a strap was connected to it which passed over the chin of the dearly departed which helped keep the door closed.

And of course there was always:

News From The War.

This was the focal point of the Harper's Weekly centerpiece on June 14, 1862, although it is fitting for the entire war. As for December, the Battle of Fredericksburg was fought, and the true picture of it was beginning to become clearer as late December papers were going to press. The Battles of Stones River and Chickasaw Bayou occurred to late for them to be reported by any save the largest daily newspapers and then only sketchily at best.

It is good to remember other things were happening between 1861 and 1865.

The Picket

1- New York Daily Tribune, December 2, 1862 page 3 from Library of Congress, Chronicling America collection,
2- Memphis Daily Appeal, December 13, 1862, pp. 1 and 2 from Library of Congress, Chronicling America collection,
3-Saint Cloud Democrat- December 18, 1862, page 1, from Library of Congress, Chronicling America collection,
4-Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 27, 1862, page 215 from Internet Archives at
5- Harper's Weekly, December 6, 1862, pages 779 and 781. from Internet Archives at and
6- The Scientific American, Volume VII, Number 23, December 6, 1862, pages 360 and 362. from Internet Archives at
News From The War, Harper’s Weekly, June 14, 1862, drawn by Winslow Homer. From Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs online catalog,

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