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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, April 30, 1861

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The First New York Zouaves leaves for Washington fbrownell.jpgCity with 24-year-old Elmer E. Ellsworth leading the 1,200 volunteers. Ellsworth had studied the Crimean War and was taken with the French Zouaves, who were “the” military of envy at the time; he felt they exemplified the way all men should fight. In 1860 he went to work for Abraham Lincoln in his law office, and went with him to Washington City when he became President. When Lincoln called for troops, Ellsworth eagerly went back to his birth state of New York to assist. Ellsworth focused his recruitment efforts on firemen as he considered them brave, fit and disciplined. Nicknamed the “Fire Zouaves,” the men wore red firemen’s shirts, gray jackets and loose gray trousers tucked into their boots. They would make an impression in any battle and as well as easy targets.

Francis Edwin Brownell, age 21, would also leave with Ellsworth; he had enlisted with the Fire Zouaves on April 20. This photo would be take of him a few weeks later, complete with a mourning armband. (Photography by Mathew Brady, Source: National Archives)

At Harpers Ferry, Colonel Thomas Jackson wasted no time in getting his men drilled and ready for battle. He learned there were large barrels of whiskey in the town, so he ordered that they be opened and poured into the gutters. Men immediately tried to get whiskey from the gutters into the cups, angering Jackson; he changed his mind and told his men to dump it in the Potomac River instead.

Lincoln issues Executive Order/General Order #13, directing that all officers of the Army “take and subscribe anew the oath of allegiance to the United States”, excluding only those who had entered service since April 1. 

Horatio Nelson Taft, who works in the Patent Office in Washington City, today writes in his diary about the thousands of troops continuing to arrive in the city. As has been the case every day since troops arrived, he notes that Lincoln continues to make his daily rounds to the various government buildings to meet with the volunteers. Today William Seward joins him. Taft’s daughter Julia gives flowers to Rhode Island Governor Sprague, who has arrived with Colonel Ambrose Burnside and the R.I. Detached Militia. Taft describes the the men as orderly but also mentions a lot of confusion and little organization.

Citizens of Winchester, Virginia write Robert E. Lee. They are concerned at the lack of defenses around Chambersburg and Virginia’s northwestern boarder. They are fearful of a Union build-up and feel that Virginia is not prepared in men or arms to fend off an attack. They request a few good drill officers and ammunition; they will provide good men who are willing to fight. 

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150 Years Ago: Monday, April 29, 1861

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In New York City, 3,000 women and several men gather at the Cooper Institute. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to officially earn a medical degree in the United States, had organized the effort. Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss business and social activist, would also help lead the effort. An organization is formed today and named the “Women’s Central Association of Relief.” Their purpose would be to make clothes, bandages and to furnish nurses for the Union army. The first key focus would be to provide nursing training. 
 April 29, 1861
Meeting of the Women’s Central Association of Relief
Source: National Archives
Maryland House of Delegates vote 53 to 13 against seceding from the Union; they would not join the Confederacy. However, this does not tie their loyalty to the Union cause, either. There is discussion of Maryland issuing their own currency, and the Delegates approve the spending of $2 million to defend the city of Baltimore against Union troops.
In Springfield, Ulysses S. Grant begins to serve as a military aide for Illinois Governor Richard Yates. His plan was to head back to Galena two days ago, but the Governor had asked him to stay. Grant’s first task is to inventory small arms stored at the state arsenal.
It is reported that John Wilkes Booth, who had been performing at Gayety Theater to wonderful reviews and large crowds in Albany, New York as Duke Pescara in “The Apostate,” left town immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12. Ironically, back on February 18 when then President-Elect Lincoln spent the evening in Albany on his way to Washington City, Booth had seen him walk past his hotel. It was Booth’s first glimpse of the Lincoln, and there would be several more to come. Booth was quietly cautioned by some in the crowd who overheard him saying negative things about Lincoln as he passed. 
President Jefferson Davis addresses Congress in the Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama. His gives a long speech that would be remembered as the “All we ask is to be alone” speech. He announces that the Confederate Constitution has been ratified by all states currently in the Confederacy. Given his language, he leaves it open for others to join their Southern union.
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150 Years Ago: Sunday, April 28, 1861

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In Northwestern Pennsylvania, 101 men who are mostly farmers, lumbermen and artisans organize a Company in Warren, PA. Many of them are hunters and skilled marksmen who have brought their own rifles. A six foot tall man with black hair, eyes and beard is elected as the Company’s Lieutenant. Hugh Watson McNeil has soulful eyes and a quiet manner; as someone who had recently moved to the state due to poor health, this frail bank cashier might seem an odd choice for a leader. It would be his job to take this group of rough men – who called themselves the “Raftsman Guards” – and turn them into one of Pennsylvania’s most highly regarded Civil War Regiments.

From Exchange Place in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, Colonel Ambrose Burnside and RI Governor William Sprague accompany 142 men of the Rhode Island Detached Militia towards Washington City. Sprague, who is the youngest governor at the age of 30, eagerly had offered his services to Lincoln and travels with his fellow citizens to support the Union cause. He is still an active Governor and has no notion of stepping down from his position to become a military leader; he is simply under the impression that any war will last a matter of days and wants to be a part of the action.
Military troops, mostly from New York, continue to make their way into Washington City through Annapolis, Maryland. There has been little thought put into long term housing, so the estimated 18,000 volunteers are camped out in and around government buildings. 

John C. Pemberton, who had resigned from the U.S. military on April 24, is made a Virginia Lieutenant Colonel and is given the responsibility for organizing the cavalry and artillery.
Colonel Thomas J. Jackson arrives at Harpers Ferry to assume his first command of the Civil War. He will spend the next six weeks drilling thousands of Virginia volunteers encamped on Bolivar Heights.
In Springfield, Illinois, Ulysses S. Grant writes to his sister Mary. The lack of communication from his father appears to be first on his mind, as he opens with “I came to this place several days ago, fully expecting to find a letter here for me from father. As yet I have received none.” Grant explains that while he meant to head back to Galena by train last night, Illinois Governor Richard Yates asked him to stay. He is unsure what his role will be.
Grant also makes short mention of his father’s sister (his aunt) Rachel, who is a Virginian for secession and against “Lincolnites.” In some of Rachel’s letters to to Grant’s sisters Mary & Clara. Mary must have written him earlier about Rachel’s views, as Grant eagerly states Great allowance should be made for South Carolinians, for the last generation have been educated, from their infancy, to look upon their Government as oppressive and tyrannical and only to be endured till such time as they might have sufficient strength to strike it down. Virginia, and other border states, have no such excuse and are therefore traitors at heart as well as in act. I should like very much to see the letter Aunt Rachel wrote Clara! or a copy of it. Can’t you send it?
In St. Louis, William T. Sherman continues to write his daily letters, but this time it’s to his brother-in-law Tom Ewing, Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court. He continues to defend his actions to not respond to Lincoln’s call for volunteers: 

“I know a good many will be displeased with my apparent apathy. I am and always have been an active defender of Law & the Constitution. Twice have I sacrificed myself thereto. In San Francisco to a northern mob, and in Louisiana to a southern Rebellion. I believe now I am a more Zealous friend of Government & order, than others who will find fault with me. I did think that war existed against the General Government from the date of the first seizure of property. I did resent it as an act of hostility & Treason.

I came north prepared to act any part which might be assigned me. I went to Washington & saw the President and heard him say that military men were not wanted. I asked for civil employment here in St. Louis, but it was denied me and when I reached Ohio, necessity forced me to seek work, and I found it here. I have undertaken a certain task from which I can not discharge myself, without a breach of Trust.

Had Lincoln intimated to me any word of encouragement, I could have waited awhile, but I saw in Washington not a spark of encouragement, & therefore my coming here.”
Missouri Governor Claiborne F. Jackson writes to J.W. Tucker, editor of a local secession newspaper: “I do not think Missouri should secede today or tomorrow, but I do not think it good policy that I should openly declare. I want a little time to arm the state, and I am assuming every responsibility to do it with all possible dispatch.” He refuses to provide a single Missouri volunteer to the Union cause, though someone else from that state will soon take it upon himself to organize Missouri volunteers for the Union cause in spite of what the Governor says.
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150 Years Ago: Saturday, April 27, 1861

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Daily Highlights/Updates:

On his 39th birthday Ulysses S. Grant is in Springfield, where he has been for three days with the newly formed company of Galena volunteers. He had agreed to drill the volunteers, take them to the Illinois capital and stay until they were accepted into service. The call for volunteers was so eagerly met in the state that thousands more men showed up to enlist than were needed. Illinois Governor Richard Yates had the uncomfortable decision of trying to determine who should stay and who should be sent home. Luckily, the State legislature was in session and they passed a law allowing the Governor to accept the services of ten additional regiments.  

Grant is eagerly awaiting a letter from his father Jesse, who is currently in Covington, Kentucky. Jesse is a staunch opponent of slavery and in previous letters has indicated that his views in the border state of Kentucky are not necessarily welcome at this time of unrest. Grant wrote to him before he left for Springfield, informing him of his role with the Galena volunteers and his hopes to obtain a “desk job” in Springfield if the Governor felt he could be of service. He asked his father to write to him and had expected something by now, even though the relationship with his father had always been strained. Today, he writes to his wife Julia. He is overwhelmed by the response of the Illinois men: “There is such a feeling aroused through the country now as has not been known since the Revolution. Every company called for in the Presidents proclamation has been organized, and filled to near double the amount that can be received.”

Yesterday, one hundred miles southwest of Springfield, Captain James H. Stokes had finished smuggling all of the the excess arms out of the St. Louis Arsenal before Confederate sympathizers sent them South to support their cause. The arms were now safely in Illinois and on their way to Springfield to be put to use.   

In Richmond, Major General Robert E. Lee of the Virginia forces receives a letter from Governor John Letcher. Lee is to direct Colonel Thomas J. Jackson to Harpers Ferry, Virginia immediately. In addition to orders regarding military strategy, Letcher asks that Lee “Direct him to make diligent inquiry as to the state of feeling in the north-western portion of the State.”   

Camped outside of Richmond, Jackson receives a letter from Lee that he is to assume command of Harpers Ferry per orders of the Governor, including the organization of volunteers into regiments or battalions with the attempt to keep companies together from the same sections of the State. He is also ordered to bring machinery from the Richmond Armory to strengthen defenses. Before he leaves, Jackson quickly writes his wife Mary Anna, whom he affectionately calls “Little One.” He tells her of his assignment, and that it will likely make it difficult to correspond with her in the upcoming weeks. He is honored to hold such a position and asks her not to worry. With his strong faith in God, he would be protected until they could be together again. 

In New York City George Templeton Strong, a loyal Unionist and attorney, writes his daily diary entry. It was a practice he had started at the age of 15 and had continued for the previous 26 years. “I think the Administration is working out its difficult problem wisely and energetically”, he writes. Strong describes flags “on every public building, every store, every private house almost.” He writes of the Army & Navy officer resignations, most of them being from Virginians. “Their resignations should not be accepted; they should be put under arrest and tried for their lives by court-martial as spies and traitors.” Strong wonders if the 7th NY has finally made it to Washington City, as he has yet to hear anything.  

The aftermath of the Baltimore Riots are still making it difficult for Union volunteers and supplies to make their way into Washington City. Telegraph lines leading to the Capitol city that were cut last week in Maryland are still down and Congress is not in session. This leaves Lincoln, with input from his Cabinet, to manage affairs on his own. He takes an action that throughout history is always controversial: he suspends the writ of habeas corpus along the railroad routes between Philadelphia and Washington City in an effort to protect the citizens and troops.

Lincoln also expands his original proclamation from April 19 that had resulted in a naval blockage surrounding the Confederate States; he now adds Virginia and North Carolina to the list, even though North Carolina has not yet seceded from the Union.
William T. Sherman continues to send daily letters to his brother John. He continues to analyze the situation the country is now in and laments that Lincoln should have done more to work with states like Virginia to keep them in the Union, even though Sherman thinks that Virginia “has been proved boastful and we may say overbearing.” He is against politicians and against the idea of fighting people over simply over the institution of slavery; he does not personally believe “Negro equality.” He still refuses to consider the idea of rejoining the military: “On the necessity of maintaining a Government, and that Government the old Constitutional one, I have never wavered. But I do recoil from a war, when slavery is the only question.”

The State of Virginia officially offers to join the Confederate States of America, though a vote from Virginian citizens would not take place until late May to make the union official. It also offers to make Richmond the new capital of the Confederacy, which is currently in Montgomery, Alabama. Virginia would bring a lot of infrastructure, resources, talent and history to the Confederacy; it is likely they wanted the acknowledgement of this by having the distinction of being named the capital in exchange for their loyalty.
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150 Years Ago: Friday, April 26, 1861

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Union militia volunteers are still camping on the Capitol grounds; more troops are expected to arrive within the upcoming weeks. Today President Lincoln and others attend an official dress drill of the 7th NY Regiment, held in front of the Capitol building. Julia Taft Bayne, daughter of an attorney in the Patent Office, observes that the city “had taken on the appearance of an armed fort. About the entrance and between the pillars were barricades of iron plates, intended for the dome, held in place by barrels of sand and cement. All the statuary in the rotunda had been boxed and the pictures covered by rough boards, while the halls within were full of soldiers, drilling.” As Julia watched her hometown transform in these early days of war, she would soon find herself becoming well acquainted with Willie and Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, the President’s two youngest sons and eventually developing a friendship with the President and his wife Mary.

A request is sent to Secretary of War Cameron for additional arms and also police for the White House. Currently only six men are on hand, which is officially deemed insufficient considering the circumstances. 
Secretary of State Seward writes to his friend and Republican political strategist Thurlow Weed in New York. “We pray night and day for troops,” he laments. He expresses concern that New York will not support the Union effort; their communication with the state government is mostly met with silence. Seward asks for Weed’s opinion on how he can “reconcile” any issues of concern with the Governor of New York, especially since he is not entirely sure what issues need to be addressed in order to get them to comply with the President’s proclamation for troops. Fourteen regiments had been requested, and the only one to arrive in Washington City was the 7th NY, with no knowledge of others that may be in existence. With Weed presently in New York, Seward looks to his old friend for help.
In the April 26 issue of the “Farmer’s Cabinet” in New Hampshire, Confederate President Davis’s proclamation from April 17 is printed in full. He requests the help of privateers to help attack Northern ships, yet at the same time demands a high standard; he does not want to be associated with lawless parties. The North takes great interest in reading his proclamation in its entirety.
James Ryder Randall, who was raised in Baltimore and currently working as an English and Classics professor at Poydras College in Louisiana, had learned days earlier that a friend of his was killed in the Baltimore Riots by the 6th Massachusetts on April 19th. The 22-year-old picks up his pen and writes a moving poem to rally his home state of Maryland to the Southern cause. “Maryland, My Maryland” is published for the first time today in a New Orleans paper. Eventually the poem will be turned into song, and decades after the war it will be declared Maryland’s official state song. The poem is below.

“Maryland, My Maryland”
The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son’s appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
Remember Howard’s warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! ’tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold’s spirit for the fray,
With Watson’s blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant’s chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
“Sic semper!” ’tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!


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150 Years Ago: Thursday, April 25, 1861

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Daily Highlights/Updates:
In the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, former 1860 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Stephen A. Douglas gives what many believe to be the best speech of his career to a joint general assembly. Referred to by many as the “Protect the Flag” speech, Douglas put the needs of the Union before the needs of his party and encourages the citizens in the North to put aside their differences and rally together around the cause of unity. He spells out the efforts he and others had taken over the years to pacify the southern states; they had done what they could, but in the end the South chose war. The Southern people were the aggressors, and the North must now defend itself. The most interesting point Douglas makes is that the South says that slavery was at risk and threatened, yet Douglas argues that there is no evidence to support the claim. Therefore, the South seceding to protect an institution that the North had not done anything to end isn’t logical; the only “logic” Douglas finds is that the South didn’t support Lincoln, were not happy with his election and chose to leave. He knows that Democracy is impossible if the results of an election are not honored by all, whether you agree with the choice or not.
Douglas ends by saying that the North must fight this war to protect the Union, but war should not be used to force the South to end slavery. He fears Washington City is under great threat and must be protected immediately. He points out that the lower half of the important Mississippi is now under control of a foreign government, a river that is vital to trade in the Midwestern states. He calls on everyone to support the cause – not for personal ambition, but out of patriotic duty.”I believe in my conscience that it is a duty we owe ourselves and our children, and our God, to protect this Government and that flag from every assailant, be he who he may.”
In Washington City, President Lincoln writes a letter to General Winfield Scott, notifying him that the Maryland state legislature is to meet in Annapolis, Maryland tomorrow. He strongly feels that they will decide to take up arms against the Union. He knows that it is their right to meet, and that any action the Union tries to take to prevent such a meeting will make matters worse. He instructs Scott to watch and wait, for now; if they vote for war, then Scott must prepare to attack and even potentially suspend the writ of habeas corpus (to suspend the right of an individual to hear charges against them; can be jailed without knowing why).
There is joy in the Union Capitol today as the Seventh New York makes their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. One thousand troops in grey uniforms with black trim march with splendid precision, their bayonet tipped muskets gleaming in the Spring sun. They had been traveling for six days and were covered with dust and dirt. The Massachusetts and Pennsylvania men who had arrived more than six days earlier greeted them with loud cheers as the NY men passed the Capitol building. President Lincoln proudly welcomed them all at the White House as his wife Mary Todd Lincoln presented them with bouquets of flowers. The citizens of the city breathed a collective sigh of relief; now they finally had enough troops to protect them from any immediate danger posed by the secessionists.
Though Robert E. Lee had submitted his resignation letter five days ago – and since then had been named Major General Virginia’s land and naval forces – it is officially accepted today by the U.S. government. 
In Richmond, Joseph E. Johnston is given the role of Major General, and is assigned to command the Virginia forces in and around Richmond. 

William T. Sherman writes another letter to his brother John, a U.S. Senator. He has just learned that George B. McClellan, from his home state of Ohio, has been appointed to command Ohio militia. Sherman expresses that a better officer could not have been found. There had been some speculation that Sherman might be offered the position, but he is relieved since he is currently not living in Ohio and is conflicted about offering his services in a military capacity. Sherman also mentions that he visited the strategically important St. Louis arsenal yesterday, finding 600 regulars (professional military men) and 1,500 volunteers – none who could speak English. He expresses sadness that in the heart of America, only foreigners are responding to the country’s call for volunteers to help preserve the Union. 
Though North Carolina has not yet seceded from the Union, regiments are forming for the Confederate cause. 19-year-old Louis Leon joins the Charlotte Greys, Company C, First North Carolina. Today they head for Raleigh. They are a young group, all boys between 18 and 21 years of age, and they worry that the Governor will not accept them because they are so young. Women line the streets to see them off, showering them with flowers and messages of “Godspeed.” 
In Flint, Michigan, Sarah Emma Edmonds is sworn into the Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry as a male nurse, using the alias “Franklin Thompson.” She had chopped off her hair, purchased men’s clothing and attempted to enlist four times before she was accepted. She would be one of just 400 women to successfully enlist in the army (Union or Confederate). 
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150 Years Ago: Wednesday, April 24, 1861

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Daily Highlights/Updates:
President Lincoln writes to Reverdy Johnson, a high powered Senator from Maryland. Johnson had written the President two days earlier expressing grave concern over the Union troop movements though his state, for the perceived sole purpose of attacking Virginians. Today Lincoln will respond, questioning at what point Johnson feels is appropriate for the Union to defend itself. Should he allow Virginians to set up cannon and artillery across the Potomac and allow them to fire at will into Washington City? If Virginia strikes the Union, should the Union not fight to protect their country? In closing, Lincoln states that his purpose for troops is not to invade Virginia; he just refuses to “let them invade us without striking back.”
With the exception of the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts regiments that had arrived days earlier, no more Union troops had entered the city. Lincoln feared that Maryland would secede, leaving the Capitol completely surrounded by its enemies. A steamship was kept running at all times in the Potomac, ready to evacuate the President, cabinet members and other lawmakers if necessary. 
Washington is still cut off from most of the country. They know that many regiments had left towns in New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania – yet have no idea where they are. Rumors are running rampant that up to 6,000 secessionist troops are surrounding the Capitol. Batteries are placed at the White House for protection for the first time since the War of 1812. Families continue to flee the city, fearing it will be attacked within the week.
The Union continues to lose it’s military officers and West Point graduates to the Southern cause. Today John C. Pemberton, who grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from West Point, resigned his commission. Like Lee and Johnston, he too goes straight to Richmond to offer his services.
Over 2,600 miles away in Los Angeles, California, Winfield Scott Hancock learns of the attack on Fort Sumter. Named after the famous General Winfield Scott, Hancock had graduated from West Point and had fought in the Mexican War, had been stationed in Florida and Kansas to oversee peace with Indian tribes, and had been at Ft. Leavenworth for nine months during “Bleeding Kansas.” Hancock had been transferred to Los Angeles in 1859. His wife and children had gone with him, which was very unusual at the time. His wife Almira had been at a party with Robert E. Lee prior to Hancock’s departure for the West. Lee told Almira that she should go with her husband so they could be together as a family. It was Lee’s regret that his own wife and family stayed behind in Arlington while he traveled from place to place, serving his country. Almira took Lee’s advice. She would now provide great support to her husband who desperately wanted to be back East to be a part of the action, but had to wait for his orders. He today he sends a request to be transferred East.

Daily Civil War Calendar

April 2011

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