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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, May 21, 1861

In St. Louis, Missouri, General William S. Harney is unaware of the political maneuvering occurring in Washington City to get him removed from his position. Today Harney meets with Missouri General Sterling Price to discuss peace. Missouri is a border state with a population very split between Northern and Southern sympathies. The Missouri governor has been communicating with the Confederate government in an attempt to obtain weapons and men to help defeat the strong Union forces that have managed to keep control of the state. Price agrees to utilize the state police to maintain the peace, while Harney agrees to not to make any military movements that might cause unnecessary violence.

In Montgomery, Alabama, Confederate President Jefferson Davis signs a bill prohibiting Southerners to pay Northern merchants the money that is owed to them, instead diverting the money to the Confederate treasury. The Confederate Congress adjourns; they will meet in Richmond on July 21.

U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron writes a demanding letter to acting Surgeon General Robert Wood expressing his dissatisfaction with the poor sanitary conditions of the military camps in Washington. Cameron wants an immediate inspection and removal of “any evils found to exist.” Wood takes offense to this, stating that he has made frequent visits and directed medical officers to take every precaution necessary to prevent disease.

U.S. Secretary of State William Seward gives a draft dispatch to Lincoln for his review. Seward has been very upset at the foreign response regarding Southern secession, as even simple acknowledgements of the Confederate government gives the South legitimacy. Seward had written a very detailed dispatch to send to new U.S. Minister to Great Britain, Charles Francis Adams, on how he should handle the situation. It is not only a strong and unwavering stance, but if carried out it has the potential to completely alienate Britain and push them to fully support the Confederacy and into a potential war with the U.S. While in previous months Seward had been the one to support Lincoln in his writing efforts by offering suggestions that directly or indirectly improve important speeches and proclamations, today Lincoln returns the favor. Lincoln’s edits not only strengthen the U.S. foreign position, but the changes likely divert a war with Britain.

After spending ten days in Philadelphia, New York and Cambridge, Mary Lincoln and her entourage head back to Washington City. Over the next several days and weeks, bills will arrive to the General Accounting Office detailing the various expenditures Mary made to help refurbish the executive mansion; today a bill arrives for $116.50 for carpeting.

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