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150 Years Ago: Friday, November 14, 1862

Ambrose E. Burnside
Source: Library of Congress

The new commander of the Army of the Potomac, U.S. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, has presented his plan to take the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. It calls for the army to move forty miles south to Fredericksburg, Virginia, located across the Rappahannock River. Once his troops have assembled there he will advance south to Richmond. His plan gives protection to Washington City, which U.S. President Abraham Lincoln greatly appreciates. When Lincoln consults with his General-In-Chief Henry Halleck over Burnside’s plan, they both express concern that he is focusing solely on capturing Richmond instead of defeating C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee’s army, but approve the plan anyway with the warning to Burnside that he must act quickly.

Burnside reorganizes the command structure into three Grand Divisions:

  • Right Grand Division – Edwin V. Sumner
  • Central Grand Division – Joseph Hooker
  • Left Grand Division – William B. Franklin

Burnside immediately sends Sumner’s corp of troops to occupy the vicinity of Falmouth, located near Fredericksburg; the rest of the army will soon follow.

James Birdseye McPherson, 1862
Source: Library of Congress

At Grand Junction, Tennessee, U.S. Major General James B. McPherson celebrates his 34th birthday. He has risen very quickly in the ranks since joining Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee as a Captain in the Army Corp of Engineers in late 1861. With his efforts in helping to capture Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant saw the great potential in this calm, compassionate and intelligent West Point graduate. He now waits for Grant to move the troops into place before they begin to set out for their target of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Midterm elections for the U.S. House of Representatives have been ongoing since October in the various states and the results have not been positive for Lincoln and the Republican party. Approximately 27% of the Republican seats are lost; though they only hold 46% of the House, 25 Unionists (a group of pro-war Democrats who broke with their party during the previous Congressional session) agree to side with them so they can maintain the majority. The losses are due to critical disapproval of the Lincoln administration to deliver a quick end to the war along with rising inflation, new taxes to help pay for the war effort, draft law, and fears that freed slaves would undermine the labor market. While the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation gains votes with the more abolitionist areas of New England and the upper Midwest, it accounts for lost votes in diverse cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as the lower Midwest.

The U.S. Senate actually gains a few seats for the Republicans, but only because Senators are elected by state legislatures.

One state that Lincoln is eagerly awaiting results from is the border state of Missouri. He impatiently sends a telegraph to Brigadier General Francis P. Blair, Jr. – who is also up for re-election in the U.S. House – asking him to telegraph the results of the election. At 7:30pm Blair replies that “We have elected five Republicans, one Emancipationist Democrat, two Unconditional Union and 2 Pro-Slavery Dem’s to Congress. The Legislature is Emancipation in both Branches on your plan and secures two Senators to support the administration. My election is certain. I think the army vote yet to come in will not change the result.”

Though women cannot vote it does not mean that they do not hold strong opinions when it comes to politics and the war. A group from Massachusetts visits Lincoln and presents him with a petition signed by 12,333 women who wanted to show support for his administration.

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