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150 Years Ago: Thursday, April 25, 1861

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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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April 2011

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