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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.

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April 2011

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