October’s Obstacles

October 1861 brings no hope of speedy resolution of the six month old conflict. President Lincoln deals deftly with Muslims and with Catholics. In the North the debate about emancipation of slaves continues. Confederate emissaries Mason and Slidell begin their journey to Europe and the international incident which will threaten war between the United States and Great Britain. A prestigious journal rejects Whitman’s poems. Anti-Semitic feeling raises its ugly head in the Confederate War Department. An upstart Union general antagonizes an old war horse. Confederate forces win another battle. Replaced by transcontinental telegraph service the Pony Express goes out of business. And a Russian anarchist arrives for a short stay in the United States.

 October 1–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Helped by Senator Charles Sumner, the publishing house of Walker, Wise and Company publishes The Rejected Stone, or Insurrection versus Resurrection in Americaby Moncure Daniel Conway, a twenty-nine year old abolitionist minister, originally from a slave-holding family in Virginia. In his book Conway presents a powerful and thoughtful argument detailing the necessity of emancipation.

Moncure Daniel Conway


October 2–Wednesday–Washington–President Lincoln sends a letter to Abd ul Aziz Khan, who succeeded his brother on the throne of the Ottoman Empire when the brother, Abd ul Mejid Khan, died back on June 25th of this year. Lincoln sends his regrets and best wishes. “Permit me also to assure Your Majesty of my constant and earnest desire to maintain the amity and good correspondence which have always subsisted and still prevail between the two nations, and that nothing shall be omitted on my part to cultivate and promote the friendly sentiments always entertained and cherished by this Government in its relations with His late Majesty. And so I recommend Your Majesty to the protection of the Almighty.”

October 3–Thursday–London–Britain, France and Spain sign a treaty agreeing to undertake joint military operations to collect debts from Mexico.

October 4–Friday–The U S Navy awards a contract to John Ericson to build an iron-clad warship, a “Monitor.”

October 4-Washington–General Winfield Scott writes to Secretary of War Simon Cameron, complaining of the General McClellan’s conduct. “He, however, had hardly entered upon his new duties, when, encouraged to communicate directly with the President and certain members of the Cabinet, has in a few days forgot that he had any intermediate commander, and has now long prided himself in treating me with uniform neglect, running into disobedience of orders of the smaller matters – neglects, though, in themselves, grave military offenses.”

October 4–Canton, New York–Birth of Frederic S. Remington, American artist and sculptor who will become famous for his art about the American West.

October 5–Sunday–London–In an editorial, the London Post expresses support for an independent “Southern Nation” in North America and urges Her Majesty’s Government to support the Confederacy.

October 8–Tuesday–General William Tecumseh Sherman replaces General Robert Anderson as commander of Union forces in the Department of the Cumberland.

October 9–Wednesday–Washington–The President’s Cabinet meets in special session tonight to hear a report by General McClellan on army readiness and operational plans.

Walt Whitman

October 10–Thursday–Boston, Massachusetts–The editors of The Atlantic Monthly send a rejection letter to Walt Whitman of Brooklyn, New York. “We beg to inclose to your address, in two envelopes, the three poems with which you have favored us, but which we could not possibly use before their interest, which is of the present, would have passed.”

October 11–Friday-Washington–President Lincoln writes to Mohammed Said Pacha, Viceroy of Egypt concerning the treatment of an employee of some American missionaries.”Great and Good Friend: I have received from Mr. Thayer, Consul General of the United States at Alexandria, a full account of the liberal, enlightened and energetic proceedings which, on his complaint, you have adopted in bringing to speedy and condign punishment the parties, subjects of Your Highness in Upper Egypt, who were concerned in an act of cruel persecution against Faris, an agent of certain Christian missionaries in Upper Egypt. I pray Your Highness to be assured that those proceedings, at once so prompt and so just, will be regarded as a new and unmistakable proof equally of Your Highness’ friendship for the United States, and of the firmness, integrity and wisdom with which the Government of Your Highness is conducted.”

October 12–Saturday–Charleston, South Carlina–The Theodora leaves Charleston Harbor for Havana, Cuba. On board are the Confederate commissioners to England (James Mason) and France (John Slidell).

October 13–Sunday–Danish West Indies–The U S warship San Jacinto, under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, arrives in St Thomas on its way home from duty on the African coast where it was looking for slave ships.

Captain Charles Wilkes, USN

October 14–Monday–Secretary of War Cameron authorizes General William Tecumseh Sherman to organize and arm fugitive slaves if Sherman deems it necessary for his operations.

October 15–Tuesday–San Francisco, California—Mikhail Bakunin, Russian revolutionary and anarchist, arrives in the United States.


Michael Bakunin

October 16–Wednesday–Cuba–Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell arrive to take transit to England on a British ship. Captain Wilkes of the San Jacinto also arrives in Cuba and learns from local informants and newspapers that the Confederate commissioners will depart from Cuba on November 7th on a British ship.

October 16–Clontibret, Ireland–Birth of J B Bury, Irish historian, classical scholar, and philologist.

October 17–Thursday–Washington–President Lincoln hosts Thomas Clay, son of Henry Clay, and several other Kentuckians as dinner guests.

October 18–Friday–Boston, Massachusetts-Today The Liberator lists the total number of colored persons in the New England States, based on last year’s census. In all of the New England states, 24,141 in total, of whom 9,454 live in Massachusetts.

October 20–Suday–Berlin, Germany–Birth of Maximilian Harden, influential German journalist and editor.

October 21–Monday–Virginia–In a decisive victory at Ball’s Bluff, Confederate forces defeat Union forces of almost equal numerical strength, inflicting heavy casualties. Union losses total 921, dead, wounded and missing, while the Confederates lose about 155 total, dead, wounded and missing.

October 21–Washington–President Lincoln contacts the Roman Catholic Archbishop Hughes of New York regarding chaplains for military hospitals. He writes, “Rt. Rev. Sir: I am sure you will pardon me if, in my ignorance, I do not address [you] with technical correctness. I find no law authorizing the appointment of Chaplains for our hospitals; and yet the services of chaplains are more needed, perhaps, in the hospitals, than with the healthy soldiers in the field. With this view, I have given a sort of quasi appointment, (a copy of which I inclose) to each of three protestant ministers, who have accepted, and entered upon the duties. If you perceive no objection, I will thank you to give me the name or names of one or more suitable persons of the Catholic Church, to whom I may with propriety, tender the same service. Many thanks for your kind, and judicious letters to Gov. Seward, and which he regularly allows me both the pleasure and the profit of perusing.”

October 24–Thursday–Western Union completes the final segment of the transcontinental telegraph from Denver, Colorado to Sacramento, California. The Sacramento office sends the first transcontinental telegram to President Lincoln in Washington.


Romanticized Pony Express rider

October 24–Washington–President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, attend the funeral of Colonel Edward D. Baker, who died three days ago, during the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia. At the time of his death, Baker served as a U.S. Senator from Oregon. Some years before, he practiced law in Springfield, Illinois, where he became a good friend to Lincoln. Lincoln named his second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, in Baker’s honor.

October 24–West Virginia–In a controversial election, a significant number of voters come out in favor of creating a new state as spelled out by the Wheeling Convention.

October 25–Friday–Berlin, Germany–Death of Friedrich Carl von Savigny, age 82, one of Europe’s most respected and influential 19th century jurists and historians.

October 26–Saturday–The Pony Express announces its closure. Since it began operations in April, 1860, the operation has lost about $200,000 and is now surpassed in speed by the transcontinental telegraph.

October 27–Sunday–Richmond–John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the War Department of the Confederacy complains to the pages of his diary. “Still the Jews are going out of the country and returning at pleasure. They deplete the Confederacy of coin, and sell their goods at 500 per cent profit. They pay no duty . . . . The press everywhere is thundering against the insane policy of permitting all who avow themselves enemies to return to the North . . . . I tremble when I reflect that those who made the present government, and the one to succeed it, did not represent one-third of the people composing the inhabitants of the Confederate States.”

October 29–Tuesday-Near Pilot Knob, Missouri–A Union infantryman named Horace writes to his mother, describing the rebel forces encountered in a recent fight. “I went on the battlefield as I said and can say for sure that the rebels are not half clad. The were most all in shirt sleeves, with no uniforms at all. Some with caps, some with hats and all poor ones at that. Why I never saw a lot of threshers but what looked more like soldiers than they. They were armed with every variety of arms imaginable. They were, it is said, 5000 strong; 1500 cavalry, that run in every direction at the first volley from our troops.”

October 30–Wednesday–Chambersburg, Pennsylvania–Today’s issue of The Valley Spirit attacks General Fremont and the idea of emancipation. “A proclamation of emancipation by the President would not be worth the paper on which it is written in assisting our armies to victory. It is necessary to whip the rebel armies before we can reach the slaves–and after we do whip their armies the supposed necessity for arming their slaves would no longer exist. Emancipation as the means of subduing rebellion is sheer humbug. . . . The whole agitation of this subject is a practical absurdity, as irrational as all the theories of the crazy Abolitionists. But they are never easy unless plotting some sort of mischief. Happily the Government turns a deaf ear to their outcries. We have no idea that the policy of emancipation will be attempted and have therefore confined ourselves to exposing its utter folly and absurdity as a means of suppressing rebellion.”

October 31–Thursday–President Lincoln relieves the elderly General Winfield Scott from duty as Supreme Commander of the United States Army.

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