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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Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.


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April 2011

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