September’s Discontents–1861

September comes to a divided country. War goes on. General Fremont, sensing sentiment against slavery, will not change his order. The President must discipline him. Lincoln finds support from the Tsar of Russia. English businesses worry about a lack of American cotton. An Italian hero turns down the request of the American president. A poet publishes a patriotic poem. Good people pray for peace while a corporate badman flees to South America with a fortune. It’s September of 1861.

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September 1–Grove Plantation, Colleton District, South Carolina–Margaret Ann Morris Grimball confides to her diary what her son Lewis has told her about army life. “He says it was the life of a hound and all the evil selfish feelings brought out. . . . Many shirked duty, lied, stole, and others had to work all the time because they stayed in Camp and were quiet, . . . . men did there what they would be ashamed to do at home.”

September 2–Monday–Washington–In a private letter to General John Fremont, President Lincoln asks him to modify his declaration of August 30th to conform to the provisions of the Confiscation Act. “This letter is written in a spirit of caution and not of censure.”

 

General Fremont

September 2–Memphis, Tennessee–The Memphis Avalanche reports the use of slaves by the Confederate Army. “A procession of several hundred stout negro men, members of the ‘domestic institution,’ marched through the streets of Memphis, under the command of Confederate officers. They were armed and equipped with shovels, axes, blankets, etc. A merrier set never were seen. They were brimful of patriotism.”

 September 3–New York City–Mary Lincoln purchases from E. V. Haughwont and Company a china set for use in the White House. “One fine Porcelain Dining Service of One Hundred and ninety pieces . . . decorated Royal Purple, and double gilt, with the Arms of the United States, on each piece, . . . $3,195.00.” [This would be approximately $64,400 today].

 September 5–Washington–President Lincoln authorizes Secretary of War Simon Cameron to purchase in Europe 100,000 muskets and 18,000 sabers.

 September 6–Washington–General McClellan issues an order regarding observance of the Sabbath in the Army of the Potomac. “The Major-General Commanding desires and requests that in future there may be a more perfect respect for the Sabbath on the part of his command. We are fighting in a holy cause, and should endeavor to deserve the benign favor of the Creator. . . . the men shall, as far as possible, be permitted to rest from their labors; that they shall attend Divine service after the customary morning inspection, and that officers and men alike use their influence to insure the utmost decorum and quiet on that day. . . . . More than this, the observance of the holy day of the God of Mercy and of Battles is our sacred duty.”

 

Russia's Minister to the United States

September 7–Washington–The Russian minister, Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, meets with President Lincoln and reads to him a friendly and supportive letter from Tsar Alexander II. President Lincoln describes message as “the most loyal manifestation of friendship” shown by any European government.

 September 9–Camden, South Carolina–At home on her plantation, Mary Chesnut comments in her diary about Europeans. “Russell [reporter for The Times of London] writes how disappointed Prince Jerome Napoleon was with the appearance of our troops, and ‘he did not like Beauregard at all.’ Well! I give Bogar up to him. But how a man can find fault with our soldiers, as I have seen them individually and collectively in Charleston, Richmond, and everywhere–that beats me. The British are the most conceited nation in the world, the most self-sufficient, self-satisfied, and arrogant. But each individual man does not blow his own penny whistle; they brag wholesale.”

 September 10–Oberlin, Ohio–Today at the college, thirty-one women graduate from the four year “Ladies Course” and tomorrow another six women will graduate with twenty-three men in “the College Class.” Six of the men will receive their degrees in absentia as they are on duty with the Union Army.

 September 11–Washington–President Lincoln instructs Secretary of War Simon Cameron to order the arrest of Maryland legislators who are openly supportive of the Confederacy.

 September 11–Wednesday–President Lincoln formally orders General Fremont to rescind the order freeing some slaves in Missouri and issue a new order conforming to the Confiscation Act passed by Congress.

 September 13–Florida–Entering the Confederate-controlled Pensacola harbor, a U S warship destroys the privateer Judah, marking the first naval action of the war.

 September 14–Manchester, England–The Manchester Cotton Supply Association prepares a lengthy letter and report to the editor of the New York Times. They report that 85% of the cotton used in the mills here comes from the southern United States. “The most liberal estimates give but six months supply of cotton in England. A great cloud of impending woe hangs over the city.” New supplies may come from India or Australia but those sources shall take some time to develop.

 September 15–Memphis, Tennessee–Today’s Daily Appeal requests the women of the city to help Confederate soldiers. “We are requested by Mrs. E. H. Porter, president, andMiss L. W. Trout, secretary of the Military Aid Society, to ask all managers ofauxiliary societies to report themselves on Monday evening at 8 1/2 o’clock, at the headquarters in Adams’ block, Second street, . . . . The society earnestly calls upon the ladies of Memphis to assist them in sewing for destitute soldiers, as they have much work on hand and greatly need assistance.”

 September 16–Dubuque Iowa–Former Iowa Congressman Timothy Davis writes to Secretary of State Seward about the attitude toward General Fremont. “Rumors prevail here, that the proclamation of Gen[eral] Fremont is not to be sustained by the administration, and that he is to be superceded in his military command. It causes extreme dissatisfaction. If true it will suspend volunteering. It will be equivalent to proclaiming a disbanding of the military forces of the North West.”

 September 17–Virginia–At Union-controlled Fort Monroe, Mary Peake, the first black teacher hired by the American Missionary Association, begins teaching black children.

 

Garibaldi--Hero of Italian Unification

September 18–Wednesday–The U S Minister to Belgium, Mr Sanford, sends a reply to Secretary of State Seward regarding President Lincoln’s offer of a commission in the U S Army to Garibaldi. The Italian leader “said that the only way in which he could render service, as he ardently desired to do, to the cause of the United States, was as Commander-in-chief of its forces, that he would only go as such, and with the additional contingent power ‘to be governed by events’ of declaring the abolition of slavery; that he would be of little use without the first, and without the second it would appear like a civil war in which the world at large could have little interest or sympathy.”

 September 19–Camden, South Carolina–Mary Chesnut comments in her diary about slaves and Indians. “The high and disinterested conduct our enemies seem to expect of us is involuntary and unconscious praise. They pay us the compliment to look for from us (and execrate us for the want of it) a degree of virtue they were never able to practice themselves. It is a crowning misdemeanor for us to hold still in slavery those Africans whom they brought here from Africa, or sold to us when they found it did not pay to own them themselves. Gradually, they slid or sold them off down here; or freed them prospectively, giving themselves years in which to get rid of them in a remunerative way. We want to spread them over other lands, too –West and South, or Northwest, where the climate would free them or kill them, or improve them out of the world, as our friends up North do the Indians. If they had been forced to keep the negroes [sic] in New England, I dare say the negroes [sic] might have shared the Indians’ fate, for they are wise in their generation, these Yankee children of light.”

 September 20–Boston, Massachusetts–This issue of The Liberator first praises the action of General Fremont, emancipating all the slaves belonging to rebel slaveholders in Missouri and criticizes President Lincoln for annulling Fremont’s actions. “It is time for such folly and fatuity to end. Either the government must abolish slavery, or the independence of the Southern Confederacy must be recognized. A reunion upon the old basis is alike undesirable and impossible.”

 September 20–New York City–Birth of Herbert Putnam, American lawyer, publisher, and who will become the longest serving (1899 to 1939) Head Librarian of the Library of Congress.

 September 21–New Haven, Connecticut–The New Haven Journal reports the war does not seem to affect Yale as “the new Freshman class numbers 130 students, which has been excelled, we believe, but once or twice in the history of the College.”

 September 22–Sunday–Pennsylvania–Newspapers across the state report that soon, perhaps even tomorrow, Governor Andrew Curtin will issue a proclamation prohibiting all persons from raising volunteers in Pennsylvania for regiments from other states and also forbidding all Pennsylvania citizens from enlisting in such units. By some estimates, 6,000 Pennsylvania volunteers have already enlisted in the regiments of other states.

 September 23–Beaufort, North Carolina–Off the coast a U S warship seizes a British merchant ship attempting to run the blockade.

 September 25–Washington–President and Mrs Lincoln, accompanied by General McClellan, various heads of departments, and a number of foreign ministers, watch a grand review of Union artillery and cavalry.

 September 26–Thursday–In response to President Lincoln’s proclamation of August 12th, people in many Northern states observe a day of prayer and fasting.

 September 26–San Francisco, California–A businessman named Henry Meiggs takes his family and boards the ship America. They sail to Chile along with the $365,000 he has stolen. The fraud will not be discovered for another three weeks. [In current dollars, Meiggs makes off with the equivalent of $7,360.000].

 September 27–Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s issue of The Liberator includes the text of a petition to Congress which says, inter alia, “your honorable body is urgently implored to lose no time in enacting, under the war power, the total abolition of slavery throughout the country . . . liberating unconditionally the slaves of all who are rebels, and, while not recognizing the right of property in man, allowing for the emancipated slaves of such as are loyal to the government a fair pecuniary award and thus to bring the war to a speedy and beneficent termination, and indissolubly to unite all sections and all interests of the country upon the enduring basis of universal freedom.”

 

Laura Redden--Pioneering journalist

September 27–Washington–President Lincoln grants an interview to Laura Redden, a 22year old deaf woman working as a journalist for the St Louis Republican.

 September 28–New York City–Today’s issue of Harper’s Weekly carries a new patriotic poem by Walt Whitman, entitled “Beat ! Beat ! Drums !”

 September 29–New York City–Today’s New York Times reports that “a few evenings since” Vice-President Hamlin gave a short, patriotic speech at a meeting in Bangor, Maine. Among other things, he challenged his listeners. “Let us simply ask what are the duties that devolve upon us now as citizens — those duties let us perform, and in solid column march shoulder to shoulder in their discharge. If upon the abstract questions growing out of the administration of Government there is difference of opinion, let that difference slumber till we have first suppressed the flames that are burning around us, till we have killed the rebellion, and then we will settle differences of opinion, if any shall exist.”

 September 30–Monday–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–Birth of William Wrigley Jr., American confectioner and businessman.

Walt Whitman

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