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150 Years Ago: Friday, May 3, 1861


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James Ewell Brown – commonly known as “JEB” – Stuart, was a young, successful U.S. Calvary officer and former West Point graduate. Captain Stuart had been stationed in the western frontier so news of the Confederate election of Jefferson Davis, the attack on Fort Sumter and the secession of Virginia had been slow to reach him. Knowing that conflict was inevitable, he was making his way back to his home state of Virginia. At a stop in Cairo, Illinois, he mails two letters: one to tender his U.S. Army resignation and another addressed to General Samuel Cooper, the new Adjutant General for the Confederate Army, offering his services to the Confederate cause. He had offered his services via letter to Virginia Governor John Letcher a few weeks ago but had not received any response.

In Virginia, Governor Letcher publishes a proclamation stating that the “sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Virginia having been denied, her territorial rights assailed, her soil threatened with invasion by the authorities of Washington, and every artifice employed which could inflame the people of the Northern States against her, it therefore becomes the solemn duty of every citizen of Virginia to prepare for the impending conflict.” He authorizes the Commanding General, Robert E. Lee, to obtain any additional volunteers he may deem necessary to protect Virginia.

President Lincoln also issues a proclamation, this time for additional troops. He calls into service 42,034 volunteers to serve for a period of three years unless discharged sooner; most are to be mustered into service as infantry and cavalry. 18,000 are to serve in the Navy.
Sergeant Sam Bloomer, Company B of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry writes in his diary: “Call for enlistment for 3 years or during the war with option to return home. Nearly all reenlisted.” Born in Switzerland, he was a carpenter in Stillwater, MN before the war; now he was stationed at Fort Snelling, and he would record daily events in his journal.

General Orders No. 14 is issued by the Adjutant General’s office in Washington City, combining all Federal troops in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to a new military department named the “Department of the Ohio.” Its headquarters will be in Cincinnati, OH, with Major General George B. McClellan designated as its commander.

U.S. General Winfield Scott writes to McClellan in Ohio. McClellan had sent him a plan to review but Scott had his own thoughts. Trusting McClellan, he explains in confidence his own ideas to win the war against the South. In detail he explains three key themes:
  1. The need for additional troops, which is supported by Lincoln’s proclamation today.
  2. In addition to a blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf ports, create a powerful military movement down the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, New Orleans would need to be strongly occupied and held securely until the end of the hostilities.
  3. The obstacle of this plan is impatience of the people, who Scott believes will urge “instant and vigorous action, regardless, I fear, of consequences.” At the same time, he doesn’t want to lose time, so he urges McClellan to make preparations in organizing, drilling and disciplining his troops.
Scott’s letter was one of two he would eventually send. His ideas would eventually be named the “Anaconda Plan.”
anaconda.jpg 
 General Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan”
Source: Library of Congress

Scott also writes to President Lincoln on the topic of securing Arlington Heights, which is two miles from the White House and has the potential to put the whole Capital city at risk. Scott has given instructions to Colonel Joseph K. Mansfield to not lose any time taking the heights and establishing Union defenses there.

At the Arlington home of Robert E. Lee, his wife was sitting in the morning room copying an oil portrait of their youngest son when U.S. 1st Lieutenant William Orton Williams arrived. Williams was General Scott’s private secretary and one of his favorites. Williams had a long standing history with Robert E Lee and his family, spending much of his time at their home and courting Lee’s daughter Agnes. Though the Lee family was now considered an enemy to the Union, when Williams learned of Scott’s plan to take Arlington Heights he hurried to warn the Lee family. He notified Mary that U.S. troops were to cross the Long Bridge and take possession of the Heights, which would include her home. 

Mary was shocked. “Now the moment she had long dreaded was upon her. Heartsick, she and her daughters set the servants [slaves] to packing. First off, she had the family silver packed in sturdy boxes to be dispatched to Richmond early next morning. Next she stowed the Washington and Custis family letters and papers, together with some smaller mementos and valuables, in another box; her husband’s papers went into still another.” She prepared to leave the home she loved so dearly.

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About thecivilwarproject

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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