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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, April 23, 1861

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Members of the Virginia Assembly meet to approve two very important items: Robert E. Lee’s appointment to command the Virginia army, and the temporary union with the Confederacy and its Constitution. Lee, who is staying at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, is welcomed by a large group of citizens who are anxious to pay their respects. 
Richmond papers report that a member of Virginia’s legislature had been detailed with a body of Virginia troops to visit Harpers Ferry on Friday, April 19. The citizens were under the impression that the State authorities were about to make an unlawful seizure of their personal property. Upon arrival of the 300 Virginia troops, the small group of Federal troops stationed there feared they would be overpowered; they set fire to the armory and evacuated the town. Harpers Ferry citizens realized that the Virginia troops were only there to claim the armory and not overtake their town, so they helped put out the fire and save the property within the armory. All the machinery was saved along with 5,000 muskets, all which were taken to Richmond. Now 2,300 Virginia troops are in Harpers Ferry to guard this strategically important town that is not only the convergence point of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, but one of the main production centers for small arms.

The city of Baltimore is still cut off from most of the country, so rumors are traveling as people leave the town and head north. It appears Martial Law has been proclaimed and people are to stay in their homes. Though Union troops are no longer going through Baltimore, they are now going through Annapolis, MD via steamer. There is talk that citizens of Annapolis will take to the streets to show their protest to the troops; another riot is feared. 
In Columbus, Ohio, the House of Representatives pass a bill to protect land of the militia volunteers, not only while they are serving but for 60 days after they are discharged. This is one of many acts northern states will perform in an effort to support those who serve the cause.
In St. Louis, William T. Sherman writes a response to his brother John, who is a U.S. Senator strongly urging him to serve his country by rejoining the military. John was trying to convince his brother to go back to his home state of Ohio and enlist. Sherman writes to John, reminding him that when they met with Lincoln in March the President made the comment that he didn’t feel they needed military professionals; volunteer militia would be the key to bringing the Rebels back into the Union. Sherman had taken great offense to this. He now had permanent employment in St. Louis, something he had struggled with for years. He had a family he adored and did not see the point in returning to Ohio, a state he felt had always “ignored” him. Sherman felt that back in March the country was already at war, though no one was willing to recognize it. He had already sacrificed for his country and now felt it was all for nothing. Sherman approved of Lincoln’s stance to squash the rebellion, but he could not imagine going against his one year employment contract that would not only affect him financially, but would also make him an untrustworthy individual.
Almost 39 years old, Ulysses S. Grant was only planning on leading Galena, IL militia volunteers to Springfield and then seeing if the Governor had any use for him. Today he decides to officially rejoin the army as a volunteer before heading to Springfield.
Today the New York State 69th Regiment leaves for Washington City. History would eventually nickname them “The Fighting Irish.
 Illustration of 69th NY Regiment
Corner of Mott & Prince Streets, NYC
Lincoln continues to wait for Northern volunteers; no one appears. He begins to lament that there is no Rhode Island, that New York is no longer in their geography. For now the U.S. Capitol is extremely vulnerable to attack. He frets that all is already lost.
From the Confederate capitol of Montgomery, Alabama, President Jefferson Davis is frantically encouraging Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson to seize the Federal arsenal in St. Louis and join the Confederacy. 

Daily Civil War Calendar

April 2011

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