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150 Years Ago: Saturday, May 4, 1861

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William Orton Williams made yet another visit to Mary Custis Lee at her Arlington home. Yesterday he had told her of General Scott’s order to take Arlington Heights. Since that time he had learned that the action had been postponed. He informed Mary that she still had time, but urged her to continue packing and making plans to leave. Williams went back to Washington City to see his boss, General Scott. He told Scott what he had done and indicated his intent to resign and join the Confederacy. While resignations were obviously not unheard of at this point, Scott was outraged. Instead of letting Williams resign like others before him, Scott instead had him immediately arrested. Williams was to be imprisoned at Governor’s Island, New York. Scott refused to let another individual leave to support the Confederate cause; he would serve no purpose to the enemy if he was in captivity.
In Missouri, U.S. Captain Nathaniel Lyon was also taking matters into his own hands. With Washington City being over 800 miles away, Lyon had witnessed a huge wave of secessionist support, even from its own state Governor. Loyal to the Union and out of communication, Lyon came to the conclusion that the U.S. government did not understand the circumstances and consequences by their lack of action. Lyon had seen the number of Confederate Rebels recruited for the Southern cause and had done the math: Missouri itself would need four times the number of troops designated by Lincoln’s April 14 proclamation if the Union was to maintain an equal number to Confederate recruits. Missouri Governor Claiborne F. Jackson refused to provide a single Missouri volunteer to the Union cause, so Lyon took it upon himself to do it. He had promoted his willingness to receive Union volunteers in an effort to arm Missouri with the four regiments that were asked for by Lincoln. Before he knew it, over six thousand men had rushed to the St. Louis Arsenal ready to enlist, almost completely by Lyon’s own exertions. Today Lyon ordered U.S. Colonel Chester Harding that he had the authority to proceed with the organization of regiments for defense of the “loyal citizens of St. Louis, protecting the property and enforcing the laws of the United States.” 
Harper’s Weekly, a political magazine based in New York City, published its weekly issue to over 200,000 readers. Given the speed of news and the time it took to not only craft stories but also illustrations, news often lagged a couple of weeks behind. Today one of the pages would illustrate the Baltimore Riots, where the first blood of the Civil War was shed.


A Committee of three Maryland Legislators arrive at the White House at 10am to see President Lincoln, who notifies Secretary of State William Seward so he may also be in attendance. The Committee once again is there to protest U.S. military movement within the state, especially in regards to what they feel is occupation of their land. Lincoln informs them that public interest only and not revenge motivates his actions. He will do what is necessary to protect the Capital.
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