150 Years Ago: Friday, May 17, 1861

Sarah Emma Edmonds – going under the alias of Frank Thompson – had already enlisted for 90 days of military service. Today she makes another commitment, this time to join the Flint Union Greys of the Second Michigan, which is the first three year regiment to assemble in Michigan. Though she is beardless and thin, she manages to pass a glance-over physical examination.

The First Michigan arrives in Washington City and is taken to the White House for review of President Lincoln, led by Lewis Cass. They are the first Western troops to arrive in the capital city.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis signs a bill to bring North Carolina into the Confederacy if its citizens vote to secede and support the Confederate Constitution. A convention is scheduled to be held in North Carolina in three days.

A Proclamation for Neutrality by Principal Chief John Ross is given to the Cherokee people, who currently reside in Oklahoma Territory. For today they are neutral; it will not stay this way for long.

Mary Lincoln continues sight seeing in New York City with her cousin Elizabeth Todd Grimsley and her new (and questionable) friend from Washington, William S. Wood. At 5pm Mary boards a ship for Boston; she is going to visit her oldest son, Robert, who is attending school at Harvard.

Newly appointed U.S. Major General Benjamin Butler leaves for Fort Monroe off the coast of Virginia. He is now the head of the Department of Virginia, North and South Carolina. John G. Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s private secretaries, goes along on the trip.

In St. Louis, William T. Sherman still has not received any official word on his offer to serve in a leadership position in the U.S. military. He writes to his father-in-law, Thomas Ewing Sr. that “I have made up my mind that if the Government wants me they will ask me. This does not seem to me a time to seek for place.” Sherman expresses that he still does not think the Lincoln administration is up to the task of the current situation, especially since gaining control over a country so extensive in size seems almost impossible to him given what has been occurring around him in Missouri. He notes that if he’s offered a “proper post in the army”, he wants his family to be in the best place possible. He wants them to be safe, which could mean he would send his wife Ellen and their children to Lancaster, Ohio to stay with Ewing. Ellen, who was very close to her family, would no doubt be in favor of this.

As the preparations for war continue, several military officer appointments to Brigadier General are made today by U.S. President Lincoln:

  • Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, of the Second Infantry
  • Capt. John Pope, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers
  • George A. McCall, of Pennsylvania
  • Samuel R. Curtis, of Iowa
  • Philip Kearney, of New-Jersey
  • Joseph J. Reynolds, of Indiana
  • Rufus King, of Wisconsin
  • J.D. Cox, of Ohio
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut, of Illinois
  • Franz Siegel, of Missouri
  • Robert C. Schenck, of Ohio
  • B.M. Prentiss, of Illinois

President Lincoln’s long-time friend Edward Baker is also offered a commission as a Brigadier General of Volunteers, but he declines. For now he is content in recruiting volunteers and forming regiments.

Over 2,000 miles from Washington City, the legislature in California votes to support the Union. Currently there are several U.S. military personnel who are from the North and South. Some have already requested transfers back East so they can support the war effort, and others have put in resignation requests so they can go back to their homes in the South and support the Confederate effort there. And then there are others that have no clue what they are going to do, or what side they will take. They are torn between a country they have vowed to serve and protect and their home state where their families, friends and memories are.

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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