John McClernand

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150 Years Ago: Friday, April 24, 1863

Franz (or Francis in U.S.) Lieber Source: Library of Congress

Franz (or Francis in U.S.) Lieber
Source: Library of Congress

Today U.S. General Order No. 100 is published, which provides a specific code of conduct for soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners of war and civilians. The idea behind the Orders had come from Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant born in Berlin whose three sons are serving in the military, though one had died in the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Fort Magruder) almost a year ago on May 5, 1862. He had advised General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on the subject, and President Abraham Lincoln worked on the Order personally along with four generals and Lieber. It consists of 157 articles and establishes policies on the treatment of prisoners, civilians when found to be engaged in guerrilla warfare, exchanges, and flags of truce.

The Orders also address a crisis that was started by Emancipation of slaves in the rebellion (Confederate) states earlier in the year on January 1, which Confederate President Jefferson Davis has insisted is in violation of the customary rules of war. More importantly, Davis has dictated that the Confederate army treat black Union soldiers as criminals, not soldiers, and they are therefore subject to execution or re-enslavement if captured. The Orders, which would also be known as “The Lieber Code” and “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field”, specifically defends the lawfulness of Emancipation under the laws of war and insists that those same laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of color among combatants.

The Orders are the considered to be the first of its kind. Up until today nothing like this has ever been published. It will stand the test of time, as the U.S., Europe and other nations will use it in the future as the foundation for rules of war as it is gradually applied and expanded internationally.

U.S. Major General John Reynold’s men are continuing their mission to Port Conway, Virginia. Along the way his two regiments, the 24th Michigan and 84th New York, completely surprise the Confederate cavalry led by one of their most praised officers, J.E.B. Stuart. Though C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee was used to Union efforts to distract them, he is still alarmed by what occurs. He writes to Stuart that “I am afraid the cavalry was negligent. They gave no alarm; did not fire a shot; lost some public horses and two wagons. The citizens gave the alarm. I desire the matter inquired into.

In the meantime, the U.S. Army of the Potomac remains bogged down due to swollen streams from recent rains. U.S. Commanding General Joesph Hooker cannot move his men until they can cross. So for now they wait in camp, the men unaware of where Hooker will lead them next now that winter is over and they need to be back on the move. What was once thought to be nothing more than a 90 day war has now lasted more than two years, and in the Eastern Theater it seems like little progress has been made in the goals of capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia or obtaining the surrender of Lee’s army.

The Confederacy, like any government during war – including the U.S. government – is having difficulty raising money to keep the war in progress. Pay for the men, food, clothes, weapons, ammunition, etc.; this all costs a great deal of money. Taxes have already been put in place but collection has been difficult. Today a “tax in kind” is enacted that requires each state to collect one-tenth of their citizens agricultural product. The money will go directly to supplying the Confederate army, which has often struggled to keep its men fed, clothed and paid, especially in the western Confederate states.

In the Western Theater, U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant has been getting different reconnaissance information on the viability of taking Grand Gulf, Mississippi, about 30 miles from his main target of Vicksburg. Grant decides to view the situation for himself, so he and Admiral David Dixon Porter take a steamer downriver. Upon closer evaluation Grant believes he sees the key to the entire position: the northern-most bluff. Porter had earlier told Grant that he had seen fortifications on that area being constructed by slaves, but Grant notices there is no artillery yet in position that would prevent them from taking the bluff. He gives the order that he wants to make an attack in two days. Porter’s gunboats will take care of any artillery at Grand Gulf (if there is any by then) and Major General John McClernand’s men will be transported there by boats and are charged with taking the bluff. Grant’s vision is clear and he orders his officers to leave their horses and tents behind so they can move swiftly.

Just to reduce their chance of any surprises, Grant gives additional orders to McClernand to send armed reconnaissance south past the ground opposite of Grand Gulf so he can be aware of any Confederate troops or movements there. Grant has spent months trying various ways to get to Vicksburg; he is hoping this is the opening he needs.

150 Years Ago: Sunday, December 28, 1862

Execution of Asa LewisSource: Library of Congress

Execution of Asa Lewis
Source: Library of Congress

“Amidst a drenching rain-storm, Asa Lewis, member of Captain Page’s company, Sixth Kentucky regiment, was shot by a file of men. He was executed upon a charge of desertion, which was fully proven against him. The scene was one of great impressiveness and solemnity. The several regiments of Hanson’s brigade were drawn up in a hollow square, while Generals Breckinridge and Hanson, with their staffs, were present to witness the execution. The prisoner was conveyed from jail to the brigade drill-ground on an open wagon, under the escort of a file of ten men, commanded by Major Morse and Lieut. George B. Brumley. Lewis’s hands were tied behind him, a few words were said to him by Generals Breckinridge and Hanson, and word fire was given, and all was over. The unfortunate man conducted himself with great coolness and composure. He was said to have been a brave soldier, and distinguished himself at the battle of Shiloh.” — The Chattanooga Daily Rebel Banner

Asa Lewis was 19 when he was executed for desertion, with the orders given by C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg, Commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Lewis had joined Company E, the 6th Kentucky Infantry Regiment of the “Orphan Brigade” at the beginning of the war. Just a farm boy from Barren County, Kentucky, he had received no training, only a rifle. He was at the horrific battle of Shiloh, Tennessee in April 1862 and afterwards was promoted to Corporal for his actions on the field. When his enlisted service period of one year was over, Lewis stayed instead of returning home.

But Lewis was receiving panicked letters from his mother that his family needed him. His father had passed away shortly after he left home, and his mother and three sisters were unable to take care of the farm and were starving and financially broke. Lewis formally requested a furlough so he could return home to plant the crops needed for his family to survive, but was denied as the Confederates needed every man they could muster serving in the field. Lewis made the decision to leave anyway, without permission; he would return home to make sure his family had a crop this year and then would then return to his unit.

Desertion in both armies is very common and causes a great deal of frustration for both governments. In order to have an effective military force, both sides need reliability when it comes to their troops. An emphasis is put on finding deserters and bringing them back; while some are sent back into the field, others are punished or sentenced to death. Though the officers of Lewis’s unit plead with Bragg, he refuses to repeal the sentence, stating that the desertion rate is growing and an example has to be set. Even Kentuckians who were supporters of the Confederacy petitioned that the sentence be commuted. It didn’t make a difference; Lewis was executed two days ago. Kentuckians are furious at Bragg as the news spreads of Lewis’s execution; the 6th Kentucky Infantry is so outraged that a mutiny almost breaks out. Lewis will not be the only one to die for desertion; many are killed at the orders of Bragg to set an example to the rest of his men that desertion will not be tolerated.

North of Vicksburg, Mississippi, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman has been conducting reconnaissance to find weaknesses in Confederate defenses surrounding the city. One of his four divisions, led by Frederick Steele, attempts to turn the Confederate right flank but is repulsed by artillery fire as they advance on a very narrow front. For now Sherman remains on his own with 32,000 troops; Major Generals Ulysses S. Grant and John McClernand are no where near the city where the attacks were to be coordinated.

After traveling from Springfield, Illinois, McClernand arrives Memphis, Tennessee and finds himself without the divisions he expects to have waiting for him. He finds that Sherman has absorbed them into his command and has already gone downriver. McClernand is under the impression that the Vicksburg campaign is his to run, not Grant’s; he has papers from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton assigning McClernand command of the Vicksburg expedition. Not having heard from Grant, he sends him a letter expressing his disappointment with how things have been handled and wants guarantees from Grant that his command will be restored to him. He is not aware that Grant is currently maneuvering his troops back towards Memphis after his supply and communication lines were cut off by Confederate cavalry in Mississippi.

Betty Herndon MaurySource: Virginia Historical Society

Betty Herndon Maury
Source: Virginia Historical Society

Twenty-seven year old Elizabeth “Betty” Herndon Maury is a life-long Virginian and supporter of the Southern cause. Her husband (and cousin) of five years, William A. Maury, is the Judge Advocate General of the Confederate States of America. Her brother Richard is a commander of the 24th Virginia.

Betty was living in Fredericksburg before the battle and has since returned to her home. Today she writes in her diary about the conflict:

“On the 13th of December God blessed us with a great victory at Fredericksburg. Upwards of eighteen thousand of the enemy were killed. We lost but one thousand. Even the Yankees acknowledge it to be a great defeat.

The battle took place in and around the town. The streets were strewn with the fallen enemy, the houses were broken open, sacked and used for hospitals, and their dead were buried in almost every yard.

Dr. Nichols was there—came as an amateur with his friend Gen’ Hooker—he occupied Uncle John’s house (where his wife has been most hospitably entertained for weeks at a time) drank up Uncle J’s wine, used his flour and ate up Ellen Mercer’s preserves.

Delicacy, and so cold blooded and heartless as to come—not at the stern call of duty, but for the love of it—to gloat over the desolated homes of people he once called friends, and who are relations and connections of his wife’s.”

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, December 16, 1862

U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes with the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers writes about his retreat out of Fredericksburg, as he is part of the last group to cross before the pontoon boats are disassembled, loaded on wagons and sent to storage for the next time they need to be put to use:

Barnard House, after the battle of FredericksburgSource: Library of Congress

Barnard House, after the battle of Fredericksburg
Source: Library of Congress

This morning at one o’clock our Brigade was formed in line to protect the rear of the Left Grand Division as it recrossed the Rappahannock River. We waited until all the troops had reached the Falmouth side and then our Brigade silently moved over the bridge. As soon as we reached the north side the bridge was broken up and the pontoons taken back from the river banks. We were the first to cross the river and the last ones to recross. The 10th Mass. Vols. was the last Regimental organization to cross the river, but a Bridge Guards detailed from the 2nd R.I. Vols. and under the command of Capt. Samuel B.M. Read was the last troop to recross. The Rebels were on the south bank as soon as we left it. The Army has met with a severe loss, and I fear little has been gained. The 4th, 7th and 12th R.I. Regiments were in the main battle in the rear of the city and their losses we hear are heavy. May God help the poor afflicted friends at home. I am tired, O so tired, and can hardly keep awake. We have had very little sleep since we first crossed the river. My heart is filled with sorrow for our dead, but I am grateful that my life has been spared. Mr. A.N. Barnard owns a place near where we crossed. He calls it Mansfield. His brother owns the place below which is called Smithfield. Barnard’s house was shattered by shot and shell, one shot passing through a plate glass mirror. Barnard left in great haste and left his pistols and a purse paying on a table. His books were all scattered about the yard and fine china was used by the men to hold their pork. He has already dug a cellar and intended to build a new house soon. The bricks were piled up in his yard and served as a cover for Rebel skirmishers who fired upon us as we crossed the bridge. We captured one officer and several Rebel soldiers from behind his bricks.

In Washington it is politics as usual, as Congress quickly tries to place blame on anyone they can for the disastrous loss at Fredericksburg. A caucus of Republican Senators vote 13-11 in support of a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of State William Seward. Though Seward initially had a great dislike for the man who bested him for for the Republican candidate for President back in 1860, President Abraham Lincoln and Seward have become close personal friends. Private conferences between the two are almost a daily occurrence, and the way Seward comes & goes from the White House is seen with an easy familiarity of a household intimate. It is not at all uncommon for Lincoln to walk over to the State Department or Seward’s house (just down the street from the White House), day or night, with or without a private secretary carrying papers.

This close relationship has made many Republicans uncomfortable and Seward has increasingly become the target of jealousy and enmity from other members of the Cabinet – especially from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase – and many members of Congress. Seward is often blamed for any bad decision made by the President or any military reverse in the field, even if no evidence supports their claims. They can’t get rid of a sitting President, but they feel they can get rid of a Cabinet member even though historically Congress has stayed out of Cabinet affairs.

After Lincoln learns of the caucus meeting, he meets with his old friend Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning about the situation, asking him what the men wanted. Browning replies “I hardly know Mr. President, but they are exceedingly violent towards the administration, and what we did yesterday was the gentlest thing that could be done. We had to do that or worse.

Lincoln responds that “They wish to get rid of me, and I am sometimes half disposed to gratify them.

Senator Browning replies that “Some of them do wish to get rid of you, but the fortunes of the Country are bound up with your fortunes, and you stand firmly at your post and hold the helm with a steady hand – To relinquish it now would bring upon us certain and inevitable ruin.

We are now on the brink of destruction. It appears to me the Almighty is against us, and I can hardly see a ray of hope,” states Lincoln.

Browning answers “Be firm and we will yet save the Country. Do not be drive from your post. You ought to have crushed the ultra, impracticable men last summer. You could then have done it, and escaped these troubles. But we will not talk of the past. Let us be hopeful and take care of the future Mr. Seward appears now to be the especial object of their hostility. Still I believe he has managed our foreign affairs as any one could have done. Yet they are very bitter upon him, and some of them very bitter upon you.

The President, filled with the stress of the last few days, ends the conversation asking “Why will men believe a lie, an absurd lie, that could not impose upon a child, and cling to it and repeat it in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Since I heard last of the proceedings of the caucus I have been more distressed than by any event of my life.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis is dealing with his own issues. He took a train west to Tennessee to meet with his Western Commanding General Joseph E. Johnston to discuss strategy and to review troop positions and conditions. Davis and Johnston are in constant disagreement; Johnston believes that getting full control back of Tennessee is key, while Davis believes that the Mississippi River is the only thing that matters.

It’s a confusing situation as there are three Confederate armies in the West: The Army of the Tennessee led by General Braxton Bragg (30,000 troops), the Trans-Mississippi Army led by Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes (under 10,000 troops), and the Army of the Mississippi under Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton who is in charge of protecting Vicksburg (12,000 troops) and the state of Mississippi (21,000 troops). While Holmes and Pemberton are relatively close to each other, Bragg is far removed. To make matters more complex, Johnston has no control over anything west of the Mississippi River, which means he has no authority over Holmes and his men, who are currently in western Arkansas, and cannot order them to support Pemberton or Bragg without the orders coming directly from Richmond.

Instead of moving Holmes men to support Pemberton, Davis repeatedly tells Johnston to move men from Bragg’s army to enforce Pemberton. Johnston thinks this is absurd and doesn’t give the order, so Davis does it for him. Bragg agrees with Johnston that this is an incorrect move, but they are helpless against the President’s orders. Bragg sends 9,000 of his men to join Pemberton in an effort to protect Vicksburg from U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s army of 60,000, not including his 30,000 U.S. troops in nearby Memphis under Major General William T. Sherman and John McClernand. Even with the additional troops, Pemberton’s forces are still half of what Grant has at his disposal.

Davis and Johnston will now make their way towards Vicksburg to meet with Pemberton; the trip will take these two men who can’t stand each other three long days to get there.

U.S. Brigadier General John G. Foster posts his infantry along the riverbank along with several batteries of artillery on the hill overlooking Whitehall, North Carolina. As they begin their attack against the Confederates on the other side of the river, Foster’s troops suffer heavy casualties from their own artillery when projectiles fall short of their intended targets. A large number of sawlogs along the riverbank protect the Confederates as well as a gunboat that is being constructed; the boat receives very little damage.

150 Years Ago: Monday, November 24, 1862

The Ohio State Journal reports that 100 women working in a factory at W. Gay and High Streets in Columbus, Ohio are producing 100,000 cartridges a day for the Union war effort. Except for the manager and his assistant, all of the employees are female. A day’s work for each person is established at 900 rounds, but it is often exceeded.

Sample Cartridge PacketFrom Civil War

Sample Cartridge Packet
From Civil War

“The preparation of the cartridge is simple, though somewhat interesting. The (metal) balls are shipped from Cincinnati in boxes of sawdust. They are turned out into a coarse sieve and separated for use. Several little girls at the huge heap are employed in ‘setting’ them. This consists of placing side by side a given number — about three dozen — on an iron plate something like a candlestick.

This plate is then ‘dipped’ into a vessel of melted tallow for the purpose of lubricating. These plates, when the tallow cools, are placed on long tables at which the regular hands work. A ball is placed against the end of a round stick or rule, just equal to it in diameter.

It is held there with the left hand while with the right the paper wrappers are rolled around the ball and a portion of the rule. Next, the stick is removed, the paper that surrounded it doubled down and tied with a cord, twice around; thus ‘bagged,’ and with one end open for the powder, the papers are set in boxes, to be forwarded to the next room for the charge of powder. The powder is rapidly filled into them from chargers or measures. This done, and a little folding of the outer end of the paper bag, complete the work, save the packing in boxes for shipment.”

Major General William T. Sherman is back in Memphis, Tennessee. He takes the time to write a lengthy letter to his brother, Ohio Senator John Sherman about their current situation in the Western campaign:

Dear Brother: I am just back from Columbus, Ky., where I went to meet with Gen. Grant. I start on Wednesday, with all the troops that can be spared from Memphis, to co-operate with Grant against the enemy now enforced behind the Tallahatchee, about 60 miles S.E. of Memphis. Grant may have about 35,000 and I shall have 17,000. Our old regiments are very small, and I am sorry to learn that no recruits are ready to fill them up. So much clamor was raised about the draft that I really was led to believe there was something in it, but now I suppose it was one of those delusions of which the papers are so full. Your letter of the 16th is before me. I could write a good deal on the points that you make, but hardly have time to do them justice. The late election doesn’t disturb me a particle. The people have so long been accustomed to think they could accomplish anything by a vote, that they still think so; but now a vote is nothing more than a change and will produce no effect. The war might have been staved off a few years, or the issue might have been made up more clearly, or the first enthusiasm of the country might have been better taken advantage of; but these are now all past, and fault-finding will do no good. We are involved in a war that will try the sincerity of all our professions of endurance, courage and patriotism. Leaders will of course be killed off by the score. Thousands will perish by the bullet or sickness; but war must go on – it can’t be stopped. The North must rule or submit to degradation and insult forevermore. The war must now be fought out. The President, Congress, not earthly power can stop it without absolute submission…

Of course I foresaw all these complications at the outset, and was amused at the apathy of the country after the South had begun the war by the seizure of arsenals, forts, mints and public property, and still more at the call for 75,000 volunteers, when a million was the least that any man who had ever been South would have dreamed of. These half-way measure at the start only add labor in the end…

McClernand is announced as forming a grand army to sweep the Mississippi, when, the truth is, he is in Springfield, Ill., trying to be elected to the U.S. Senate. I believe at this moment we have more men under pay at home than in the field, and suppose there is no help for it. If you want to make a good law, make a simple one, “No work, no pay.” No pay unless on duty at the place where the army is. That would save tens of millions per annum.

I leave here the day after to-morrow for Tchullahoma, to communicate with Grant at Holly Springs. Our joint forces should reach near 50,000 men, but sickness and other causes will keep us down to about 40,000.

Yours affectionately, W.T. Sherman

Matthew MarvinTaken in Chicago, Illinois (1863)

Matthew Marvin
Taken in Chicago, Illinois (1863)

From camp at Stafford Hills near Falmouth, Virginia, 23-year-old Private Matthew Marvin, 1st Minnesota, had a difficult week. He was reunited with his regiment a couple of weeks ago after spending three months at Coney Island General Hospital for a wound in his left thigh. The wound was not from battle, but from a freakish incident in which an unknown soldier from the 5th New Hampshire Infantry discharged his gun in camp and sent the ball traveling through Matthew’s tent.

Now back with his fellow Minnesota men, he’s feeling homesick: “Dead-broke and 3,000 miles from home.” He and the 1st Minnesota had to march on a difficult road for what appeared to be no particular reason and he was placed on picket duty. Today he makes a quick entry in his diary that they have received orders to have two days rations and 60 rounds ready for each soldier at a moments notice. He wonders if this means a night move. He notes that the orders have made the “boys feel lively.”

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln has received Brigadier General Carl Schurz’s letter from the 20th providing him feedback on why he feels the Republican party had major losses in the last election. It appears some of Schurz’s points might have hit Lincoln a little personally; however, Lincoln has known Schurz for several years and had made it a point to request his opinion on the matter, no doubt knowing he would get an honest response from the German. He writes back:

My dear Sir,

I have just received, and read, your letter of the 20th. The purport of it is that we lost the late elections, and the administration is failing, because the war is unsuccessful; and that I must not flatter myself that I am not justly to blame for it. I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not. And I ought to be blamed, if I could do better. You think I could do better; therefore you blame me already. I think I could not do better; therefore I blame you for blaming me. I understand you now to be willing to accept the help of men, who are not republicans, provided they have “heart in it.” Agreed. I want no others. But who is to be the judge of hearts, or of “heart in it”? If I must discard my own judgment, and take yours, I must also take that of others; and by the time I should reject all I should be advised to reject, I should have none left, republicans, or others — not even yourself. For, be assured, my dear Sir, there are men who have “heart in it” that think you are performing your part as poorly as you think I am performing mine. I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them, who would do better; and I am sorry to add, that I have seen little since to relieve those fears. I do not clearly see the prospect of any more rapid movements. I fear we shall at last find out that the difficulty is in our case, rather than in particular generals. I wish to disparage no one — certainly not those who sympathize with me; but I must say I need success more than I need sympathy, and that I have not seen the so much greater evidence of getting success from my sympathizers, than from those who are denounced as the contrary. It does seem to me that in the field the two classes have been very much alike, in what they have done, and what they have failed to do. In sealing their faith with their blood, Baker, an Lyon, and Bohlen, and Richardson, republicans, did all that men could do; but did they any more than Kearney, and Stevens, and Reno, and Mansfield, none of whom were republicans, and some, at least of whom, have been bitterly, and repeatedly, denounced to me as secession sympathizers? I will not perform the ungrateful task of comparing cases of failure.

In answer to your question “Has it not been publicly stated in the newspapers, and apparently proved as a fact, that from the commencement of the war, the enemy was continually supplied with information by some of the confidential subordinates of as important an officer as Adjutant General Thomas?” I must say “no” so far as my knowledge extends. And I add that if you can give any tangible evidence upon that subject, I will thank you to come to the City and do so.

Very truly your friend, A Lincoln

150 Years Ago: Thursday, February 13, 1862

Though U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant has ordered that no attacks are to be carried out against the Confederate defenses at Fort Donelson, there are a few small probing attacks that occur under the direction of Brigadier General John McClernand. These attacks result in no real gain and light casualties. Though everyone is eager to take the fort, they must wait for the repaired gunboats to arrive from Cairo, Illinois. Grant knows that a coordinated attack by water and land is necessary for a victory.

Though the weather has mostly been wet during the Fort Henry & Donelson campaign, tonight a snow storm arrives with strong winds that bring temperatures down to 10 degrees. Because they are close to enemy lines and active sharpshooters, the soldiers on both sides cannot light campfires for warmth or cooking. Many men are miserable, having arrived without coats or blankets.

At the end of the day, Confederate Brigadier General Simon Buckner sends a dispatch to his superiors on the state of Donelson:

“The day has almost passed. We still hold our own. We have repulsed the enemy, driven back his gunboats, and whipped him by land and water. He still lies around, and will probably attack us again tomorrow. Our loss is not very great. That of the enemy must be heavy. We had lively fighting and heavy cannonading all around our line all day. We repulsed the enemy everywhere, and are satisfied that we injured his gunboats materially, as he retired twice. Our lines were entrenched all around.”

Bowling Green, Kentucky is also preparing for a Union attack. The town is currently occupied by the Confederacy, but troops led by U.S. Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel are determined to push the Confederates out. The Confederate government considers Kentucky to be a part of their alliance, but officially Kentucky has not seceded from the Union. Both the Union and Confederate Presidents – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, respectively – were born in Kentucky and have an attachment to the State. Neither want to see it go to the enemy and both will dedicate forces to keep it within their power.

Frederick Douglass, 1856
Source: Library of Congress

At the Cooper Institute in New York City, former slave and current leader of the abolitionist movement Frederick Douglass gives a speech to a packed auditorium. The police presence is great, though it’s luckily not necessary. Douglass gives a great performance, flawlessly making important points combined with humor throughout. At one point, Douglass states:

“There is nothing in the behavior of the colored race in the United States in this crisis, that should prevent him from being proud of being a colored citizen of the United States. They have traitors of all other nations in Fort Lafayette as cold as (recently arrested Charles P.) Stone, but they have no black man charged with disloyalty during this war. Yet, black men were good enough to fight by the side of Washington and Jackson, and are not good enough to fight beside McClellan and Halleck.”

Douglass concludes his speech by making an elaborate argument in support of the capacity of the black race for self government. He states:

“If the slave can take care of his master and mistress, he can take care of himself.”

After spending the last few weeks repairing and rebuilding roads in Cumberland Ford in Kentucky, Private John F. McClelland with Company B, Ohio 16th Volunteer Infantry writes a letter to his wife Rachel, sent along with a Valentine for his two daughters in Millersburg, Ohio. His regiment was mustered in for three years of service on December 2, 1861.

Rachel – I send Lucy & Allie a Valentine. I want them to keep it till I get home.

I was standing in ranks when the Major came up to me & says he you have got quite a belly. I showed him how much I had fallen away. I tole him that I thought my wife would like me better when I went home. Major laughed and says he yes small belly and long absence will make her like you better. Well Rachel I suppose you think I am growing foolish. I write to you just as though I was talking to you. Nothing more at present.

J. McClelland

Is the boy who can carry himself straight any how. Thats So.

(Letter transcribed as written)

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, February 11, 1862

Fort Lafayette (New York)
Source: Library of Congress

Former U.S. Brigadier General Charles P. Stone arrives at Fort Lafayette today. His journey from Washington City was a bit comical; when he switched trains in Philadelphia another ticket had to be purchased and there was confusion among those guarding him as to who should pay. To put an end to the disagreement Stone pays for his own ticket. Once he arrives to the prison he is immediately put into solitary confinement. He is allowed to hire a private attorney as he awaits to be given the charges against him; he still has no idea what he is being held for.

Back on February 6, U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant had anticipated that his men would take Fort Donelson by the 8th. It’s five days later and Grant’s ground troops and the naval squadron have not yet departed for Donelson. Due to weeks of heavy rains, rising flood waters have now completely submerged Fort Henry. This meant that troops had to spend time first carrying supplies away from the rising flood waters before they could prepare for their next move. Now the ground troops face horrible road conditions on the twelve mile march to Donelson and Union Commander Andrew Foote’s naval squadron is not yet back from repairs in Cairo, Illinois that were needed after the Fort Henry attack.

Grant understands that the longer he waits to attack, the more time the Confederates will have to provide reinforcements to Donelson. This morning he holds a council of war; all generals except for Brigadier General John McClernand (who has some reservations) support his plans for his attack on Donelson. From the Headquarters District in Cairo, U.S. Assistant Adjutant-General, Captain John A. Rawlins writes and delivers orders from Grant to the commanders involved that they will start for Donelson tomorrow, along with preliminary instructions as to the routes and order of the Divisions.

From Clarksville, Tennessee, C.S.A. Brigadier General Simon Buckner sends a brief, private dispatch:

“Fort Donelson is safe, and can not be taken.”

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, February 4, 1862

USS Essex, July 1862 (Source: Library of Congress)

It’s 4:30am and several Union transport ships have reached their destination eight miles downstream from Fort Henry, Tennessee. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant is dissatisfied with the location; he will not have his troops fight their way overland to the Fort. He is determined to find a water route. Leaving his troops behind, Grant boards a 1,000-ton ironclad gunboat, the USS Essex, and heads towards Fort Henry so he can better assess the range of its guns.

Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman is in command at both Fort Henry & Fort Donelson. There are more than 3,000 Confederate troops holding down Fort Henry, a large part which is significantly under water from recent heavy rains and the subsequent rising river. Tilghman is currently twelve miles away at Fort Donelson and has left Colonel Adolphus Heiman in charge. Heiman and his troops watch the Essex, flanked by two other Union gunboats, and determine that this is a Union attack.

Upon Grant’s command, Union gunboats send shots towards the Fort in an effort to determine the effective range of their fire. Several shots fall within the Fort. Confederates quickly return fire; shells begin flying towards the USS Essex. All Confederate shells fall short except for one, which slams through a cabin of the Essex and hits unbelievably close to Grant. They are now within a mile of the Fort, and Grant now has the information he needs. Grant orders the Essex to return to the original launch point. They pick up the Union troops and travel five miles; this puts them three miles downstream from Fort Henry. They set up a temporary camp, which Brigadier General John McClernand names “Camp Halleck.” Here, the Union men receive their first cooked meal in three days. The near empty steamers return to Paducah, Kentucky to pick up the rest of the Union troops; they should arrive by 10am tomorrow.

In Washington City, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issues a stay of execution – or more accurately, a two week delay – for Captain Nathaniel Gordon. In August 1860, Gordon had been caught smuggling nearly 900 Africans, more than half of them children, aboard his small ship Erie. He was caught by the African Squadron, a fleet of ships created by a treaty between England and the U.S. to eliminate slave trafficking, while he was on his way to Havana, Cuba. Gordon was taken to New York City for trial in a Federal court and was eventually found guilty of violating the 1820 Piracy Act, which stated that any U.S. citizen on the crew of a foreign ship, or anyone serving on a U.S. ship that seized a “Negro or mulatto, shall be adjudged a pirate and shall suffer death.” The case was closely watched by those not only in the U.S. but also overseas.

Gordon was sentenced to death by hanging, which was to take place just a few days from now on February 7; it would be the first hanging for the crime of slave trading. When Gordon was captured, then President James Buchanan said he would “never hang a slaver“, but now Lincoln is in charge. Lincoln has been barraged by people from all sides of the matter arguing for Gordon’s death and freedom. Everyone has been watching and waiting.

Lincoln, who has already earned a reputation as someone who easily exercises a pardon, has carefully looked at the evidence and cannot find a reason to pardon Gordon. Lincoln issues an order and moves the date of the execution to February 21 so Gordon and his family have time to get things in order and come to terms with his fate.

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