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150 Years Ago: Saturday, April 27, 1861

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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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April 2011

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