One Southern woman arrives in a Federal prison on spying charges while others take the opportunity to sell things to the Yankee soldiers. A Union soldier reveals herself as a woman and is sent home. Walt Whitman’s mother sends him some badly needed clothes. The daughter of a Cabinet member is involved in romance with a new senator. Wives and girl friends occupy the minds of soldier husbands and lovers.
President Lincoln orders Vallandigham to be sent to the Confederacy and considers changing the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Anglo-American relations remain tense.
General Grant begins the final encirclement of Vicksburg but fails to take it by direct assault. General Lee moves ahead with plans to invade the North. Clerk John Jones expects Confederate troops to occupy Philadelphia in two weeks. Around the world, life goes on.
May 18– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Grant’s forces begin investing the city, digging trenches and placing artillery.
May 18– Monday– London, England– In Parliament’s House of Lords some members complain about the seizure by the United States of British ships attempting to run the blockade of Confederate ports. Lord Russell declares that Her Majesty’s Government finds no objection to American conduct and the Crown will not interfere in the American war.
May 19– Tuesday– Martinsburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser of Chambersburg is in attendance at a large-church-wide meeting. “Cool. We are bringing our classes to a close here, after electing several groups for the different Synods to meet next year. Even here, we have petty politics among religious groups to vie for honors to represent their views of ideas. I was much honored and congratulated on my writings and method of conducting prayer services, often mistaken for one of the clergy. Why did the Lord choose the business world for me, when I was better fitted for the church?”
May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles records a bit of high society gossip. “Governor Sprague and Miss Kate Chase called this evening. I have been skeptical as to a match, but this means something. She is beautiful, or more properly perhaps, interesting and impressive. He is rich and holds the position of Senator. Few young men have such advantages as he, and Miss Kate has talents and ambition sufficient for both.” [William Sprague, age 32 at this time, comes from a wealthy manufacturing family, has just finished three consecutive one-year terms as Rhode Island’s governor and, when Congress came into session in March, took his seat in the U S Senate. Kate Chase is 22 years old at the time. She and her younger sister Janette are the two of the six daughters of Treasury Secretary Salmon P Chase who survived childhood. She is known to be ambitious and resentful that Lincoln rather than her father won the Republican nomination in 1860.]
May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends an order via Secretary of War Stanton to General Burnside in Ohio. “The President directs that without delay you send C. L. Vallandigham under secure guard to the Headquarters of General Rosecrans, to be put by him beyond our military lines; and in case of his return within our lines, he be arrested and kept in close custody for the term specified in his sentence.”
May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D. C– Walt Whitman thanks his mother for her care package. “O mother, how welcome the shirts were– I was putting off, & putting off, to get some new ones, I could not find any one to do them as I wear them, & it would have cost such a price & so my old ones had got to be, when they come back from the wash I had to laugh, they were a lot of rags, held together with starch. I have a very nice old black aunty for a washwoman, but she bears down pretty hard I guess when she irons them, & they showed something like the poor old city of Fredericksburg does, since Burnside bombarded it. Well, mother, when the bundle came, I was so glad & the coats too, worn as they are, they come in very handy & the cake, dear mother, I am almost like the boy that put it under his pillow & woke up in the night & eat some.”
May 19– Tuesday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Grant tries to take the city by a direct assault but the Confederates repulse him, costing about 1000 Union casualties.
May 19– Tuesday– Harrington, Prince Edward Island, Canada– Birth of John Alexander Mathieson, jurist, politician and who will serve as Premier of Prince Edward Island from 1911 to 1917.
May 20– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– A heated debate takes place in today’s Cabinet meeting about whether or not the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 remains in effect and whether known escaped slaves ought to be allowed to enlist in the Union army.
May 20– Wednesday– Alton, Illinois– The Federal prison here receives a Miss Mollie Hyde of Nashville, Tennessee, arrested under the orders of Union General Rosecrans and convicted of “spying and other misdeeds.” She is to be held until the war ends.
May 20– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis and Secretary of War Seddon receive news of General Pemberton’s defeat at Big Black River at the same time they receive a letter from General Lee stating that he must have General Longstreet and his men to invade Pennsylvania and cannot spare them to assist General Pemberton.
May 20– Wednesday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor writes to his wife Jane at home in Pennsylvania. “I have another idle day to look forward to unless the quartermaster brings a lot of clothing up with him I will have nothing to do, and even if he does it will only make an hour or more work. If we must stay on here I will begin to wish for the arrival of my fish hooks that I may go and fish some, even if they are small ones. I have some reading matter, but get tired doing that all the time. I have Les Miserables, of 800 pages and am about half through. I only read about 50 pages a day of it as I don’t want to get done too soon, and then have nothing left.”
May 21– Thursday– Battle Creek, Michigan–The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is formed.
May 21– Thursday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes in his diary: “We have been fixing up our camp, and we look very fine. I do not imagine that we shall stay here very long for the weather is just right for a campaign.”
May 21– Thursday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor to his wife Jane: “A while ago two women came up. They had with them in a basket some geese and ducks. They were cooked & stuffed. Our cook was away and only the quartermaster and myself in. They made us buy two geese and a duck. Geese cost 50 cents a piece; the duck 25 cents. One of the women was pretty, the only pretty one I have seen in Kentucky. She was a widow too. She came on purpose to see the quartermaster. She had heard a good deal about him. She is rich– has nine hundred acres of land, two children and twenty five ‘n******.’ She sold us a stack of hay, and says we can have one of her meadows & cut in the shares.”
May 22– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln offers command of the Army of the Potomac to General Darius Couch, age 40, West Point Class of 1846 and a career soldier. General Couch refuses the President’s offer and recommends General George Meade, age 47, West Point Class of 1835, also a career soldier. In the afternoon, President Lincoln meets in the East Room of the White House with a group of 20 to 30 veterans who have each lost a leg. He praises their courage and thanks them for their service.
May 22– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones records a recent conversation. “I met with Robert Tyler to-day, who offers to wager something that General Stuart will be in Philadelphia in a fortnight, and he said there was a proposition to stop the publication of newspapers, if the President would agree to it, as they gave information to the enemy, and at such a time as this did no good whatever. He thinks they are on the eve of revolution in the North.”
May 22– Friday– Nashville, Tennessee– The Nashville Dispatch reports that “A female soldier, who has been in service twenty-two months, reported at headquarters yesterday, for impersonation to Minnesota, where she resides. She was in the battles of Shiloh and Stone River, and twice wounded severely. She enlisted in the same company as her husband, and was with him up to the time of his death, which occurred at Murfreesboro, and she concluded to leave the army and return to her friends.”
May 22– Friday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– The well-positioned Confederates repel a second Union assault. Federal killed, wounded and missing total 3,199; Rebel losses are under 500 total.
May 22– Friday– Fort Hudson, Louisiana– Union forces begin to besiege the Confederate position.
May 23– Saturday– Columbus, Ohio– Throughout the state people are signing and circulating petitions in protest of the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of the Honorable C L Vallandigham.”
May 23– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Charles Russell Lowell to Robert Gould Shaw: “E. [Effie, Gould’s sister, whom Charles loves and will eventually marry] wrote me an account of your flag presentation and sent the speeches: I suppose the responsibility of your own speech to follow prevented you from appreciating the Governor’s speech as he was delivering it– but, as read, it seems full of feeling and sense, lofty sense and common sense– he is a trump. Your regiment has proved such an entire success– has given such good promise of taking a very high place among our Massachusetts regiments– that it is easy to forget the circumstances under which you took hold of it; I feel like telling you now, old fellow (as an officer and outsider, and not as your friend and brother), how very manly I thought it of you then to undertake the experiment.”
May 23– Saturday– Middleburg, Kentucky– William Taylor to his wife Jane: “When I can’t write I only think the more about you. It is not because I am discontented however that I think of home and you, but because I feel happy in doing so. It is better to do that than make oneself uncomfortable by finding fault with the little inconveniences that present themselves so often. A look in fancy towards home has made me feel warm many a cold night, and kept the wet from settling into my bones, and I can make any annoyance vanish by bringing the light of your smile up before it. I don’t know what the poor fellows do who have no sweethearts at home. I can really pity them, and I think I could pick them out from among the others. I heard to day that Capt. Geibner was killed at the last battle at Fredericksburg. Do you know if it is so? We have not yet seen any list of the killed and wounded since that fight.”
May 23– Saturday– Leipzig, Germany–Ferdinand Lassalle 37 year old socialist jurist, founds the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (General German Workers’ Association, ADAV), the first socialist workers party in the country.