Horatio Nelson Taft

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150 Years Ago: Wednesday, July 10, 1861

Charles Benedict Calvert, a U.S. Representative from Maryland, writes U.S. President Abraham Lincoln regarding the resolution passed in the House yesterday. The resolution, which releases the military from obligation to recapture fugitive slaves, has angered many slaveholders in the border state of Maryland. Calvert has seen Union troops take fugitive slaves and employ them; in some cases, they have been sent with troops into Virginia. Calvert requests that fugitive slaves be kept in the camps in a “place of confinement” until owners have a chance to come and claim them. Ideally, Calvert prefers that the camps refuse to take in any fugitive slaves at all. Lincoln understands that the Union’s relationship with Maryland is a delicate one; he cannot lose the state to the Confederacy. While the House resolution stands, Lincoln will not support it. For Lincoln, the war is not about emancipation; it is about taking down the rebellion and keeping the country together.

In Richmond, Virginia, the city continues to work on its defenses. With Washington City only 100 miles away, the Confederate government knows that its capital will be a prime target for the Union. The Richmond Daily Dispatch reports:

“The late action of the State Convention, together with the resolution passed by the Council on Monday, has made the services of the free Negroes of the city available to do such work; and if those who are now encumbering the city with their worse than useless presence were immediately set to work, the whole of the defenses could soon be completed, and at the same time our operations be relieved of the anomalous condition they have lately presented, of labor performed by volunteer free Negroes, who came more than a hundred miles to work on the defenses of the city, while hundreds of the same class are now in our midst, idle and vicious, and corrupting our slaves.”

The U.S. Senate takes time today to pass a bill authorizing the employment of 500,000 volunteers – with an appropriation of $600 million – for the single purpose of suppressing the rebellion.

In cities across the Union, newspapers continue to advertise for medical supplies, writing materials and volunteers to support the military effort.

U.S. General George McClellan directs General William Rosecrans to attack Confederate forces at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain, Virginia. Rosecrans has the advantage when it comes to manpower, but his men are slowed down by unfamiliar roads and uneven land. The attack simply cannot take place today.

A resident of Washington, Horatio Nelson Taft, was going to visit the Rhode Island camp today with his daughter Julia, but with the downpour of rain they decide against it. In his diary, Taft writes that there “has been nothing like a dry time yet this season.” Taft feels that a battle is now impending, as regiments have started to move into Virginia. “My impression is the Rebels will run”, he writes.

150 Years Ago: Saturday, May 18, 1861

The state of Arkansas is officially admitted into the Confederate States of America.

Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson is not only maneuvering to support the Confederacy, but he’s looking for their help in gaining control of his state out of the hands of Union volunteers that are set on keeping control. His Lieutenant Governor Thomas Reynolds is traveling to meet with the Confederate government to seek their assistance. In addition, there is discussion of getting delegates together from the previous state convention to re-discuss the topic of secession.

In Washington City, Horatio Nelson Taft writes in his diary about the perfect cool weather for the soldiers, who are constantly drilling throughout the city.

Two days ago President Lincoln and several key advisers had agreed to remove General William Harney in Missouri, as he is believed to have Southern sympathies. It was decided that Frank Blair, Jr. would have the final say on whether Harney would be relieved of duty. Lincoln writes Blair today; he is having second thoughts:

My Dear Sir.

We have a good deal of anxiety here about St. Louis. I understand an order has gone from the War Department to you, to be delivered or withheld in your discretion, relieving Gen. Harney from his command. I was not quite satisfied with the order when it was made, though on the whole I thought it best to make it; but since then I have become more doubtful of its propriety. I do not write now to countermand it; but to say I wish you would withhold it, unless in your judgement the necessity to the contrary is very urgent.

There are several reasons for this. We better have him a friend than an enemy. It will dissatisfy a good many who otherwise would be quiet. More than all, we first relieved him, then restored him, & now if we relieve him again, the public will ask, “why all this vacillation.”

Still if, in your judgment, it is indispensable let it be so.

Yours very truly A Lincoln

While Lincoln attends an evening concert at the White House put on by the Marine Band, his wife Mary is with their oldest son Robert in Boston for the weekend.

Daily Civil War Calendar

August 2020

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