Montgomery Blair

This tag is associated with 7 posts

150 Years Ago: Thursday, April 23, 1863

John Wilkes Booth, 1863

John Wilkes Booth, 1863

Actor John Wilkes Booth is enjoying his time back on stage. After suffering from a respiratory illness during February and March, Spring has given him life and energy and he is back in Washington performing to packed theatres as he plays the title roles in both Hamlet and Richard III. The National Republican drama critic states that Booth “takes the hearts of the audience by storm” and terms his performance “a complete triumph.” Booth is earning top money and praise; with it comes his choice of women, who fight for the chance to be with the actor, even if it is for just one evening.

From a country farm in Spotsylvania, Virginia, C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson finds himself with time to catch up on battle reports. He starts by sending General Robert E. Lee details on his troops activities from September 5 – 27, 1862, which includes details on (yet another) capture of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and the battle of Sharpsburg (known in the North as the battle of Antietam) in Maryland.

Though Jackson mostly keeps it brief and simple, giving overall battlefield movements and casualties, there are two people that stand out, one in a good way, another not. He praises Major General J.E.B. Stuart, one of the Confederacy’s most valued cavalry officers, by stating “Maj.-Gen. Stuart had the advance and acted his part well. This officer rendered valuable service throughout the day. His bold use of artillery secured for us an important position, which, had the enemy possessed, might have commanded our left.” As for Major General A.P. Hill and the movement of his troops from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg – which many Confederates felt saved them from possibly losing not just a battle but the war – Jackson simply writes, months later, “I have not embraced the movements of his division.” Jackson had several quarrels with Hill leading up to that moment, Jackson being the higher ranking officer and expecting his orders to be followed to the letter, which Hill did not always do. Though Lee had sent for Hill during the Sharpsburg attack for much needed reinforcements, Jackson was unaware of it and did not seem to approve; it had gone against his own orders for Hill to stay at Harpers Ferry to make sure it did not yet again fall into Union hands. To Jackson, it was another order Hill had not obeyed and it did not sit well with him, even seven months later.

U.S. Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac Joseph Hooker is still in the Fredericksburg, Virginia vicinity. It’s been over four months since the Union defeat there and the army has not yet made a significant move to destroy Lee’s army, most of which has spent the winter behind their strong defenses in Fredericksburg. Hooker has completed plans to move and surprise Lee by sweeping down to behind him and cutting off his supplies from Richmond, but first he wants to test Lee’s strength before he starts his main troop movements. Three days ago Hooker sent out troops under Major General Abner Doubleday to do reconnaissance and they have since returned. Now U.S. General John Reynolds sends the 24th Michigan and 84th New York on the same path: down the north bank to Port Conway, eighteen miles from camp. “The object of this demonstration is to draw the enemy force in that direction“, Reynolds is informed. His men should pretend to conceal their wagon train but to let enough of it show to give the impression of strength to the enemy; Hooker knows Lee’s men will be watching.

In Mississippi, as he waits for orders from U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant to make yet another attempt to take the geographically well-protected city of Vicksburg, Major General William T. Sherman writes his brother Senator John Sherman back in Washington as they continue to trade opinions on the important issues of the day via letters:

Dear Brother,

I have noticed in the Conscript Act the clauses which empowered the President to consolidate the ten companies of a regiment into five, when the aggregate was below one-half the maximum standard, and to reduce the officers accordingly. Had I dreamed that this was going to be made universal, I should have written you and begged you for the love of our ruined country to implore Lincoln to spare us this last and fatal blow. Two years of costly war have enabled the North to realize the fact that by organized and disciplined armies alone can she hope to restore the old and found a new empire. We had succeeded in making the skeletons of armies, eliminating out of the crude materials that first came forth the worthless material, and had just begun to have some good young colonels, captains, sergeants and corporals. And Congress had passed the Conscript Bill, which would have enabled the President to fill up these skeleton regiments full of privates who soon, from their fellows, and with experienced officers, would make an army capable of marching and being handled and directed. But to my amazement comes this order…This is a far worse defeat than Manassas. Mr. Wade, in his report to condemn McClellan, gave a positive assurance to the army that henceforth, instead of fighting with diminishing ranks, we should feel assured that the gaps made by the bullet, disease, desertion, etc., would be promptly filled, whereas only such parts of the Conscript Law as tend to weaken us are enforced, viz.: 5 per cent for furlough and 50 per cent of officers and non-commissioned officers discharged to consolidate regiments. Even Blair is amazed at this. He protests the order cannot be executed, and we should appeal to Mr. Lincoln, whom he still insists has no desire to destroy the army. But the order is positive and I don’t see how we can hesitate. Grant started today down to Carthage, and I have written to him, which may stave it off for a few days, but I tremble at the loss of so many young and good officers, who have been hard at work for two years, and now that they begin to see how to take care of soldiers, must be turned out…

If not too late, do, for mercy’s sake, exhaust your influence to stop this consolidation of regiments. Fill all the regiments with conscripts, and if the army is then too large disband the regiments that prefer to serve north of the Potomac and the Ohio. Keep the war South at all hazards. If this Consolidation Law is literally enforced, and no new draft is made, this campaign is over. And the outside world will have a perfect right to say our Government is afraid of its own people…

Affectionately yours,

W. T. Sherman

What Sherman doesn’t know is that a Union flotilla of six transports and twelve barges have passed the Confederate artillery batteries protecting Vicksburg. One transport and six barges were sunk yesterday, but the remainder carried their supplies to Grant’s troops now stationed below the city. It is has been slow going for Grant and his mission to take Vicksburg, but his plan does appear to be coming together. C.S.A. Major Generals Carter L. Stevenson and John C. Pemberton try come to an agreement on how to best use their scarce resources; they lack the number of troops that Grant has at his disposal. Stevenson is convinced that the Union army will cross the Mississippi River at Warrenton, just eight miles south of Vicksburg. He wants troops stationed on the south side of Vicksburg where they can cover roads that would lead into the city from Warrenton. Pemberton wants to send troops directly to Warrenton itself. Neither General is looking 20 miles further south to Grand Gulf, which is exactly where Grant is preparing his men for a major move.

Ever since their son Willie’s death last February, U.S. President Abraham and his wife Mary Lincoln continue to have difficulties getting over the loss. Especially given the loss of loved ones during the war, spiritualists and séances are becoming a trend across the country, whether it be a sincere attempt to make contact with a loved one, or simply a show for entertainment. Mary Lincoln has especially found comfort in them, believing that through the séances she is able to make contact with her dear deceased son. Though the President does not believe in such things and is getting over an illness which has affected his throat and eyes, he gives in to his wife and attends a séance in the White House Red Room tonight; several cabinet members also attend. There is no unusual activity until after the Lincoln’s left the room. Newspapers will report that after the Lincoln’s left, the “‘Spirits’ tweaked the nose of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and tugged on Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles beard.

150 Years Ago: Wednesday, December 24, 1862

Dakota Chief Little Crow(Escaped to Canada after Dakota Conflict) Source: Library of Congress

Dakota Chief Little Crow (1862)
(Escaped to Canada after Dakota Conflict)
Source: Library of Congress

Though thirty-eight Dakota Indians and “half-breeds” were sentenced by a military tribunal in Minnesota and subsequently approved for death by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, there have been delays in the execution and it did not occur on December 19 as scheduled. A new date of December 26 has been set, and today the condemned Dakota are allowed to meet with their families for the last time.

Lincoln had asked for input from his Cabinet members on admitting West Virginia as a state into the Union and he has gotten their input. Surprisingly, the Cabinet is split. Secretaries William Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edwin Stanton agree with the bill; Gideon Welles, Montgomery Blair and Edward Bates do not. With no consensus, Lincoln will have to carefully review the matter and come to a decision on his own.

From his camp near Falmouth, Virginia, U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes in his diary about changes in leadership:

We are in trouble about our new Major and former Chaplain, Rev. Thorndike C. Jameson. Governor Sprague promoted him Major over all the Captains. He is incompetent, and we do not want him with us. I hear that he is to be ordered before a board of officers for examination, and as he probably could not pass, I hope he will resign and leave us in peace. Jameson is not fitted for a soldier in some respects and ought to know it. He is brave, and that is all. Capt. Benoni S. Brown, Senior Captain, has resigned because Jameson was promoted over him. General Wheaton has invited me to dine with him. We have commenced regular drills and camp duties once more, but a new movement will probably be ordered soon.

U.S. Major General John Reynolds travels to Philadelphia on leave, during which time he plans to visit his secret love, Catherine “Kate” Hewitt. He had met Kate when he was stationed in California before the war and they had fallen in love. She had come back East with him and they had an agreement: If he survived the war, they would get married. If he didn’t, she would become a nun as she was of strong Catholic faith. Many Protestants hold negative views of Catholics at this time, which may have been one reasons why Reynolds has yet to mention Kate to anyone he knows, including his family (though one can also say that Reynolds is generally a private man). But he wears her Cross around his neck and she wears his West Point ring on a chain around hers. While he is in town he also plans to call on Major General George Meade’s wife Margaretta, which he knows will please George as he is stuck in Virginia. Calls from fellow officers are often welcome by the wives when their own husbands are able to come home; it’s comforting to hear stories and to know they are in good company.

For the soldiers of both sides, and their families at home, it’s mostly a quiet day on the second Christmas Eve of the war. For those who write letters to loved ones, homesickness and loneliness is the common theme.

150 Years Ago: Friday, December 19, 1862

George Templeton StrongSource: Library of Congress

George Templeton Strong
Source: Library of Congress

George Templeton Strong writes in his journal of the Fredericksburg disaster, revealing increasing public frustration and a loss of patience for their Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and their Commander-in-Chief, President Abraham Lincoln:

“Our loss at Fredericksburg is crawling up to 17,000. It is generally held that Stanton forced Burnside to this movement against his earnest remonstrance and protest. Perhaps Stanton didn’t. Who knows? But there is universal bitter wrath against him throughout this community, a deeper feeling more intensely uttered than any I ever saw prevailing here. Lincoln comes in for a share of it. Unless Stanton be speedily shelved, something will burst somewhere. The general indignation is fast growing revolutionary. The most thorough Republicans, the most loyal Administration men, express it most fiercely and seem to share the personal vindictiveness of the men and women whose sons or brothers or friends have been uselessly sacrificed to the vanity of the political schemes of this meddling murderous quack. His name is likely to be a hissing, till it is forgotten, and the Honest Old Abe must take care lest his own fare no better. A year ago we laughed at the Honest Old Abe’s grotesque genial Western jocosities, but they nauseate us now. If these things go on, we shall have pressure on him to resign and make way for Hamlin. (TCWP note: Hannibal Hamlin is the Vice President)

From his headquarters in Falmouth, Virginia, Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, Ambrose Burnside, seems to be escaping a lot of the criticism when it comes to the loss at Fredericksburg. Given the uproar of the country, he writes a letter defending his actions and also accepting responsibility to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck in Washington, who has generally supported his plan and efforts during the forty days he has been in command:

General: I have the honor to offer the following reasons for moving the army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock sooner than was anticipated by the president, secretary of war and yourself, and for crossing at a point different from the one indicated to you at our last meeting at the president’s.

During my preparations for crossing at the pace I had first selected, I discovered that the enemy had thrown a large portion of his force down the river and elsewhere, thus weakening his defenses in front, and also thought I discovered that he did not anticipate the crossing of our whole force at Fredericksburg, and I hoped, by rapidly throwing the whole command over at that place, to separate, by a vigorous attack, the forces of the enemy on the river below from the forces behind and in the rear of the town, in which case we could fight him with great advantage in our favor. To do this we had to gain a height on the extreme right of the crest, which height commanded a new road lately made by the enemy for the purpose of more rapid communication along his line, which point gained, his position along the crest would have been scarcely tenable, and he could have been driven from them easily by an attack on this point in connection with a movement in the rear of the crest.

How near we came of accomplishing our object, but for the fog and unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy twenty-four hours more to concentrate his forces in his strong positions, we would almost certainly have succeeded. In which case the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than if we had crossed at the place first selected. As it was we came very near success.

Failing in accomplishing the main object, we remained in order of battle two days, long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his strongholds to fight us with his infantry, after which we re-crossed to this side of the river, unmolested and without the loss of men or property.

As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade. Not the least demoralization or disorganization existed.

To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of thus re-crossing the river in the face of the enemy, I owe everything. For the failure in attack I am responsible, as the extreme gallantry, courage and endurance shown by them was never exceeded, and would have carried the points, had it been possible.

To the families and friends of the dead I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies; but for the wounded I can offer my earnest prayer for their comfortable and final recovery.

The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line, rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you left the whole movement in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me responsible.

Our killed amounts to 1152, our wounded to about 9000, and our prisoners 700, which last have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us. The wounded were all removed to this side of the river, and are being well cared for, and the dead were all buried under a flag of truce. The surgeons report a much larger proportion of slight wounds than usual, 1632 only being treated in hospitals.

I am glad to represent the army at the present time in good condition.

Thanking the government for the entire support and confidence which I have always received from them, I remain, General,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. E. Burnside, Maj. Gen. Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Later Burnside receives a communication for him; Lincoln requests that he “Come, of course, if in your own judgment it is safe to do so.

Newspapers are across the country are filled with print regarding Lincoln’s “Cabinet Crisis”, specifically calling for Secretary of State William Seward’s resignation. Some rumors are going around that Seward has already resigned; they are correct. Two days ago Seward quietly handed a resignation letter to Lincoln for not only himself, but also for his assistant and son Frederick Seward. Lincoln has yet to accept it or respond to it.

Lincoln's Cabinet as of 12/19/1862 (l to r): Stanton, Chase, Lincoln, Welles, Seward (sitting), Smith, Blair, Bates)Source: Library of Congress

Lincoln’s Cabinet as of 12/19/1862 (l to r): Stanton, Chase, Lincoln, Welles, Seward (sitting), Smith, Blair, Bates
Source: Library of Congress

The “delegation of nine” Senators arrive at the White House tonight as a follow-up to their meeting with Lincoln last night. They find not only Lincoln, but the members of his Cabinet with the exception of Seward. Lincoln clearly states the concerns that the nine Senators have expressed, and one by one asks each Cabinet member if they agree with the assessment. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair disagrees with their message and offers to resign if it will put the matter to rest, but it is never accepted. One by one each Cabinet member refutes the Senators observations, their request for a partial reconstruction of the Cabinet and the removal of Seward, with the exception of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.

Chase was the one personally responsible for feeding the Senators the information they approached Lincoln with; if he agrees with the Senators, then he goes against the rest of the Cabinet and the President. If he disagrees, then it becomes obvious to the Senators that he’s a liar. Chase tries to walk a fine line by stating that while the Cabinet is often consulted in many important matters, he is sometimes not as involved or informed by Lincoln and Seward as he would like. After Lincoln’s brilliant and calm handling of the situation, and the displayed unity by the Cabinet, the Senators come to the conclusion that no changes need to be made to the Cabinet; Seward can keep his position. An embarrassed Chase goes home for the night and writes a resignation letter that he will deliver to Lincoln tomorrow. Seward will learn of the night’s events as several Cabinet members head over to his house after the meeting to let him know what transpired. To Seward it is a great relief, but he still expects that his resignation will be accepted.

Out West, C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis and General Joseph E. Johnston meets up with Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton in Grenada, Mississippi to discuss the defense of Vicksburg. They travel by train to Jackson where Davis reviews the troops; by nighttime they are on the train again, headed for Vicksburg where Davis can view this critical city he is determined to keep in Confederate hands.

150 Years Ago: Friday, May 31, 1861

Ellen Sherman is packing up her St. Louis home; she and the children are moving back to her father’s home in Lancaster, Ohio. Today is her husband William Tecumseh (Cump) Sherman’s last day as President of the Fifth Street Railroad; he has served just two out the twelve months he had originally agreed to. Though it took some persuasion on the part of Sherman’s brother John and Ellen’s own political-involved Ewing family, Cump had accepted the command of Colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry which he was appointed to on May 14. Though Cump had requested to raise this new Regiment at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, General Winfield Scott had denied the request; he wants Sherman in Washington City. Knowing that Washington is not a safe place for his wife and five children – with a sixth child on the way – Cump had made arrangements with Thomas Ewing, Ellen’s father. Ellen prefers to be as close to her parents as possible, so she is very agreeable to the arrangement.

Also in St. Louis, two Union officers are reacting to two very different letters received from Washington that are dated May 16. U.S. Brigadier General William S. Harney is in shock to learn that he has been relieved of command after only a few weeks. He writes to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, acknowledging that he received the instructions and officially relinquishes command, but at the same time is convinced that President Lincoln could not have approved this action. He believes this is all a mistake and informs Thomas that news from Missouri over the past few weeks was more animated and blown out of proportion than what politicians in Washington may think. Harney believes that things are best left in his capable command, but leaves his fate at the hands of the President.

But one man’s loss is another man’s gain. With Harney’s removal, this now puts Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon in charge. Lyon immediately assumes command of Union troops in Missouri. It’s the position he has been aiming for over the last several months as he recruited volunteers, secured the St. Louis Arsenal and weapons, and captured rebel Camp Jackson, all on his own initiative.

In Washington, U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair suspends all mail to the states that have seceded from the Union and closes accounts of secessionist postmasters. All remaining postmasters must take an oath of allegiance to the Union if they wish to retain their positions.

The Confederate government continues to make military appointments now that the government has been moved to Richmond. Today General P.G.T. Beauregard is given command of the “Alexandria Line” which includes all of northern Virginia.

From her home in New Brunswick, Canada, Betsy Edmonds writes a letter to her daughter Sarah Emma Edmonds. Sarah is better known as Private Frank Thompson to her comrades in the Second Michigan Infantry and she is now at Fort Wayne in Detroit after being mustered into service six days ago. Betsy is confused over her daughter’s behavior to pose as a young man and join a war in another country. She’s hoping that her words will reach Sarah and get her to change her course of action:

My dear child:

I take time to write you to let you know that your family is well. I received a letter from you today and I was much displeased. I implore you to give up this ruse and come home at once. This war is not yours, my child. Leave it to the Americans who fight each other, most foolishly, in my opinion.

If you will not leave the war, at least then leave that which causes you the most danger, and which must surely be your most constant trouble–that of seeming to be what you are not. Cast off the Yankee uniform and take back your skirts, Emma. Or if you must stay in this war, at least stay as the woman you are.

I pray daily for your safety. And I pray for the swift resolution to this foolish war which is ripping your adopted country apart.

Your loving mother,

Betsy Edmonds

Betsy closes with a final afterthought, telling her daughter not to bother writing her again until she can sign her “own rightful name” to the letter.

150 Years Ago: Wednesday, May 29, 1861

This morning U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair meets with U.S. President Lincoln over General Benjamin Butler’s stance on runaway slaves. Blair is not anti-slavery but he agrees with Butler’s actions to declare escaped slaves as Union “contraband”, which in turn protects the former slaves from being returned to their former owners. Butler is also hiring the “contraband” to help out at Fort Monroe.

Lincoln calls the action taken “Butler’s Fugitive Slave Law” and approves of it. Though Blair doesn’t object to Butler hiring able-bodied men, he does not like the idea of Butler providing food and shelter to the women and children who are also coming to the Fort. Blair suggests that Butler “leave the Secessionists to take care of the non-working classes of people”, but also understands that it defeats Butler’s efforts – and the efforts of the former slaves – to try and keep the families together. Blair then suggests that Butler use them as spies “because they are accustomed to travel in the nighttime and can go where no one not accustomed to the sly tricks they practice from infancy to old age could penetrate.”

In Richmond, Virginia, the Confederacy has its first legislative session. Albert Sidney Johnston is appointed full General in the Confederate Army.

For the last few months Miss Dorothea Dix has been seeking approval to provide nursing services for the Union. She is finally authorized by U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron to hire nurses after promising that she will hire only older, homely women who are not looking for an adventure or romantic pursuits; Cameron also believes this will reduce the chances of men sinning with their bedside nurse.

In Washington, another bill is received for “curtain materials and trimmings of every decoration” from a Philadelphia merchant; this purchase made by Mary Lincoln for the White House totals $7,500.

In the capital city of Providence, Rhode Island, Elisha Hunt Rhodes is chosen by Major John Slocum to act as a clerk in the effort to chose 25 men to serve in the Rhode Island First Light Infantry. Nineteen year old Rhodes had arrived at the Infantry Armory several weeks earlier where he had enlisted along with an old schoolmate and had been elected First Sergeant. The volunteers had come after Lincoln’s second proclamation asking men to serve for three years or until the end of the war, whatever came sooner. Rhodes, along with approximately 100 others, had spent the days drilling and the evenings talking about soldiering. At night they were allowed to return home to sleep, as they were citizens, not true soldiers. It was during his time at the Armory that Rhodes begins a diary to record his journey.

Slocum, along with surgeon Francis L. Wheaton, are looking for strong, healthy men for the Infantry. Rhodes, who is acquainted with the men, is given clear instructions from Slocum. “We only want good men. Now when a good man comes up to be examined you look up. If the man is not right you just go on with your writing.” The first man to come into the room is Rhodes’s old schoolmate, Levi F. Carr. Carr is a big, strong young man; Rhodes looks up as Carr enters the room, and Carr is asked to take off his clothes for examination. After Carr passes the thorough examination by the doctor he is moved into the next room.

After Carr’s examination, Rhodes stands up and addresses the doctor: “I want to go.” The doctor protests, “Young man, you cannot go. You are not fit to be a soldier.” Rhodes begs, detailing the drilling and work he has done since his arrival. Seeing this exchange, Slocum asks Rhodes how old he is, if his health is good, if his father is alive (which he is not) and if his mother is willing to let him go. Though Rhodes’s mother initially did not want her oldest son leaving for war, she had eventually come to the conclusion that as other mothers were making sacrifices in letting their sons go, she should be no different. She had given her consent as that is what her son wished to do.

Rhodes’s answers are good enough for Slocum, who instructs Rhodes to put his name down on the list as one of the 25 chosen. Dr. Wheaton asks Slocum if Rhodes should be examined, to which Slocum gives a resounding “No!”. The doctor is still not satisfied, telling Slocum that Rhodes is too scrawny and will be in a hospital within a week, after which they will likely have to send him home. Slocum doesn’t care; if it happens, they will send Rhodes home. His mind is made up; Rhodes’s sincere enthusiasm and drive for wanting to become a true soldier and not just a citizen volunteer has impressed the Major.

Rhodes records in his diary that not all men are as lucky. He writes about a “large fine built fellow” who is known to bully the younger boys. Rhodes does not look up from his writing when the man enters the room. Dr. Wheaton does not give the man an examination. “You cannot go. You are not a well man.” The man, shocked, asks what is wrong with him. The doctor appears to not have expected that question, yet quickly answers. “You have a heart disease.” The man protests and denies the doctor’s claim. He insists on being examined, but the doctor declines. Though he likely did not have anything wrong with his heart, Rhodes’ judgment of his character alone prevents him from being chosen for this select group.

By late afternoon the 25 men have been selected for the Rhode Island First Light Infantry. Rhodes is given his first command to march them to the Cadet Armory and present them to Captain William Steere. Rhodes marches the squad through the city streets and when they arrive he forms the men into a line. He salutes Steere and presents the men. At first the Captain refuses to take the men. He had already formed his own company and is upset that he is to take this group of men instead. Rhodes does not know what to do, so they all stand there for some time. Finally Steere gives in to the situation. He asks Rhodes what his position was with the volunteer infantry; First Sergeant doesn’t mean anything here. Steere reclassifies Rhodes as a Private and tells him to take his place in line. Rhodes, unaware of any differences between a Private and Sergeant, doesn’t care.

The first night is difficult, as Rhodes and the others are no longer allowed to go home in the evening. They are directed to sleep on the uncomfortable floor of the Cadet Armory, though they do so with much noise and complaining. The men are still technically citizens and feel they should be able to do as they please. Unfortunately the simple days of drilling and talking are over. They are one step closer to becoming real soldiers, and the stricter rules now apply to them.

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.

150 Years Ago: Thursday, May 16, 1861

Tennessee legislators had voted to secede on May 6; today the state is officially admitted into the Confederate States of America. A decision is also made to recruit another 400,000 volunteers for the military effort.

The Confederate Congress also makes a crucial decision to move the Confederate capital from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia. They are hoping this move will encourage Virginia citizens to vote for the Ordinance of Secession on May 23. In some ways Richmond is a good strategic move as it’s more connected for rail and supply routes than Montgomery. On the other hand, it places the Confederate government within only a hundred miles of Washington City.

U.S. President Lincoln goes to Trinity Church at 9am to attend the wedding of Military Chief Administrative Officer’s son. He attends a dress parade of the 7th New York with Secretary of State William Seward and at some point in his day goes to Mathew Brady’s photography studio and has a series of photos taken.

Abraham Lincoln, May 16, 1861 (Source: Library of Congress)

Even though General William Harney had recently returned to St. Louis with his position reinstated, what he did not know was that there was a plot in the works to remove him once again. Montgomery Blair, his brother Frank Blair, Jr. and Captain Nathaniel Lyon, all from Missouri, suspected that Harney is a secessionist. Montgomery Blair has drafted an order to remove Harney from command and replace him with Lyon, who would be appointed a Brigadier General. Lincoln had been given the proposal but wanted to talk with General Scott and Secretary of War Cameron first.

Cameron was not convinced that Lyon was the right guy for the job, especially after the Camp Jackson affair. But today things fall into place; Cameron, Scott and Lincoln approve the order for Harney’s removal but there is one condition: Frank Blair, Jr. – who is in St. Louis – has to make the final decision on whether Harney should be given the order. Obviously this won’t be an issue because Frank was in on the plot from the beginning.

In New York City, Mary Lincoln takes a ride to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Greenwood Cemetery, followed by shopping in the afternoon as she continues to purchase items for the White House. At 10:30pm the city band and the Excelsior Brigade line up below Mary’s hotel window to pay their respects. Mary appears at her window, bows her compliments and drops a bouquet to the band as the surrounding crowd cheers gives her a hearty cheer.

Though he was relieved of command in Annapolis yesterday, today Benjamin Butler takes a special train to Washington City. Butler has learned that he is to receive a promotion but has not yet received official notice. He has been asked by Lincoln to come to the White House, but he first stops by to see General Winfield Scott. Scott receives him coldly and is unwilling to listen to Butler’s explanation. Butler would later say that his venting was so emotional that “upon my return to my quarters I threw myself on my lounge, and burst into a flood of tears.”

In the evening he heads to the White House where he meets with Lincoln and two of Lincoln’s cabinet members, Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General) and Simon Cameron (Secretary of War). Scott may be furious with him, but Lincoln can’t afford to spare officers right now. In their meeting he is officially promoted to Major General; he is now the third Major General in the U.S. Volunteers. Butler is given command of Fort Monroe, a Federal outpost at the end of the Virginia Peninsula. He will leave in the morning.

Daily Civil War Calendar

September 2020
S M T W T F S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to follow the TCWP blog and receive notifications of new posts by email!

TCWP Twitter Feed

Flickr Photos

The Civil War Project is now on Tumblr

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2011-2013 TheCivilWarProject.com - All Rights Reserved

SiteMeter