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150 Years Ago: Sunday, May 26, 1861


In Galesburg, Illinois, a woman sits in one of the pews in the back of the Brick Church on South Broad Street. The Reverend Edward Beecher hurries in and begins the Sunday morning service. He reads a letter from his pulpit written by Dr. Benjamin Woodward, who has practiced medicine in the town for the last several years. Dr. Woodward is now an assistant surgeon with the 22nd Regiment of Illinois Volunteers and he is in charge of several hospitals in and around Cairo, Illinois. In that regiment are approximately 500 Galesburg boys and men. The Reverend describes how the volunteers are “dying like flies” from contagious diseases, filthy conditions and poor food. Beecher asks his congregation if they would like to discuss the letter rather than hear the sermon, and the decision is made to talk through what can be done to help these men. Immediately there are pledges of medical supplies, clothing, food and money, but someone needs to be chosen to take these items to Cairo. No one is stepping up for the task, so the President of the local Ladies Aid Society suggests the woman sitting in the back: Mary Ann Bickerdyke. Bickerdyke had previous nursing experience and is thought to be a hard working woman. It would take several days to gather what is needed, but Bickerdyke agrees to go.

Major General Robert E. Lee sends a letter to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown, calling attention to the fact that while many volunteers have arrived in Virginia from his state, most have come without arms. Lee expresses great concern, as Virginia’s own supply is quickly being depleted; the only thing that have not yet resorted to is utilizing the old flint-lock muskets. Lee asks for Brown to send any spare pistols, carbines or other weaponry to Richmond as soon as possible.

At Lee’s former Arlington home, the 8th New York Regiment continues to make themselves at home on the grounds and inside the large dwelling. The camp is settled at the rear of the mansion amid a beautiful grove of oak trees, where they also have a spectacular view of the Potomac River and Washington City.

In Washington, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair issues a statement that postal service will not be provided to the seceded states after May 31.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, sitting in a courtroom in Baltimore, issues the writ of habeas corpus for John Merryman. Merryman had been arrested and taken to Fort McHenry yesterday, and his lawyer had immediately asked for the writ – but U.S. President Lincoln suspended it. The marshal for the District of Maryland presents U.S. General George Cadwalader with the writ, demanding the appearance of the general and Merryman to come before the court. Cadwalader refuses to appear and sends the court a letter asking for a delay until he receives instructions from the President.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis leaves the old capital of Montgomery, Alabama for the new one in Richmond, Virginia. His family will follow him in a week or two.

After weeks of internal struggle, Captain Lewis A. Armistead writes a letter to resign his commission in the Union army. He has almost a four month long trip ahead of him from Los Angeles, California to his home in Virginia. Before he leaves, his close friend Winfield Scott Hancock and his wife Almira throw a farewell party for him. It is said that Armistead put his hand on Hancock’s shoulder at the end of the night, tears flowing, and said “Hancock, goodbye. You can never know what this has cost me.” Armistead would not wait for a response from Washington; instead he would leave for Texas with the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles.

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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