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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, July 9, 1861

In the U.S. Senate, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull submits a resolution to honor the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas. It has been over a month since Douglas died, but House and Senate members will spend the next few days giving addresses on “The Little Giant” and his impact on the country.

During a drill at Camp Clark a caisson explodes, killing two men and wounding three others. To the volunteers, it’s the first time they see the true effects of gun powder.

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution that “In the judgement of this House it is not part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves.” This is the first movement of the Union towards emancipation. However, it is only a resolution and is not binding. This means Union officers and soldiers can still enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which returns runaway slaves to their owners. Many military officers will react positively to this resolution, as they are already dealing with hostile slave owners demanding that the Union military track down and return runaway slaves.

Tonight, U.S. President Lincoln and his wife Mary host a White House reception. A newspaper reports that “The military display was very brilliant, and the ladies never made a finer appearance. Mrs. Lincoln attracted universal attention by her graceful bearing and high social qualities. Generals and Colonels were as thick as blackberries.”

A mother of four girls, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, was born a Marylander but is now a part of high society in Washington City. Her father had been killed by his slaves in 1817; her husband, who at one point had worked in the State Department, had passed away a few years ago. Since that time she had befriended Presidents, Senators and high-ranking military officers. One of her closest companions is John C. Calhoun, a leading politician from South Carolina and an ardent supporter of the Confederate cause. Today, Rose passes a secret message to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. The message contains critical information regarding a plan of attack by Union General Irvin McDowell, which is to soon take place at Manassas.

150 Years Ago: Brief Recap of Sunday, June 2, 1861 to Monday, July 8, 1861

  • The Little Giant – Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois – dies from typhoid fever in Chicago on June 3. This is a blow to the Union cause, as Douglas was a strong supporter of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and the Union, despite the fact he had always worked for compromise on the issue of slavery. Lincoln orders to have the White House and government buildings draped in mourning for thirty days.
  • The Battle of Philippi takes place in western Virginia on June 3. A Confederate sympathizer, Mrs. Thomas Humphreys, starts the attack prematurely when she fires a pistol at Union soldiers after they capture her son, who had been on a mission to warn the Confederate Army. The result is a Union victory. Since Major General George McClellan had ordered the successful attack, he becomes a prominent hero in the North.
  • The state of Virginia turns its military over to the Confederacy.
  • On June 11, thirty-two western Virginia counties meet for a second time; it is referred to as the Second Wheeling Convention. Throughout the rest of June, the eighty-eight delegates work towards creating a new state, which they call the Restored Government of Virginia. Francis Pierpont is elected as Governor and the Convention is adjourned until August 6.
  • On June 12, U.S. Captain Nathaniel Lyon continues to take matters into his own hands and declares war against Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson and his Missouri State Guard. Jackson and his key military leader, Major General Sterling Price, flee from the Missouri capital and head to the southwest corner of the state. They still have a chance to regain control if they can get Confederate supplies and troops. Claiborne also puts out a call for 50,000 volunteers to help him keep prevent Union control of the state.
  • Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston takes control of Harpers Ferry & relieves Colonel Thomas J. Jackson from command. On June 14, Johnston starts to withdraw troops from the city and blows up an 800-foot Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad trestle over the Potomac River.
  • President Abraham Lincoln receives an anonymous note that states “If he (William S. Wood) continues as Commissioner, he will stab you in your most vital part.” In the Spring, Mary Lincoln had persuaded her husband to give Wood the position after she locked herself in her room until he gave into her demand. Wood had been showering Mary with fine gifts and was accompanying her on trips. After receiving the note, Abe confronts Mary and they rarely speak to each other for several days. Wood eventually resigns his post, but Mary will continue to surround herself with questionable men.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman travels from St. Louis to Washington City and assumes command of the Third Brigade of the First Division.
  • By a vote of 108,339 to 47,233, Tennessee secedes from the Union on June 24. It is the last state to join the Confederate States of America.
  • The 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry makes its way to Washington City; it includes Governor William Spague, Colonel John S. Slocum and Private Elisha Hunt Rhodes. For Rhodes, it is his first time away from home. On June 24 he sees President Lincoln for the first time and thinks he is “a good honest man.”
  • George Armstrong Custer graduates last in his class at West Point. The thirty-four graduates were pushed through a year early because the U.S. army needs trained officers. Custer is made Second Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry.
  • Virginian native George Pickett resigns his commission as U.S. Captain and joins the Confederate army as a Colonel.
  • U.S. General Irvin McDowell presents a plan for attacking Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and his troops at Manassas, Virginia.
  • U.S. General Winfield Scott wants to send a military expedition down the Mississippi River to establish a blockage in hopes of starving the South. He believes the Union troops are too new and untrained for a major battle. He disagrees with McDowell’s plan, but President Lincoln and his cabinet believe that the northern citizens want action. If they wait too long, they fear their support will dissipate.
  • 10,000 U.S. troops and artillery cross the Potomac River into Virginia on July 8. More troops are expected in the following days; they will wait to move further into the state until they have enough troops & supplies for a large-scale military campaign.

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