The Storms of November

November of 1861 presents President Lincoln with additional problems. Having accepted the resignation of old General Scott, he selects George McClellan to head the Union Army. Poor choice. McClellan, who will be nicknamed “Little Napoleon,” is an arrogant man who will prove overly cautious and slow to engage the Confederate forces. Unbeknownst to Lincoln, the general who the president really needs, Ulysses Grant, starts his career in this war. It will be rocky and unsettled but twenty months from now Grant will give Lincoln what he needs–victories.

Meanwhile, an international crisis boils up over the seizure of two Confederate representatives in international waters off of a ship flying the British flag and creates a foreign policy crisis for Lincoln. In the United States, Secretary of State Seward wants war with England to bring the Confederacy back into the Union while in England Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell are quite willing to tangle militarily with the United States. Fortunately cooler heads prevail. Senator Sumner counsels caution in the United States. In England, an already ill Prince Albert moderates the war hawks. This is his last major service as he will soon leave his dear wife, Queen Victoria, a widow. The United States is also fortunate to have Charles Francis Adams as Minister to the Court of St James, a post previously held by his father, John Quincy Adams, and his grandfather, John Adams. Charles Francis begins to shine in the diplomatic circle.

One of the things I notice is the emergence of Lincoln as a skilled international head of state. Amazing, considering that he had no previous experience in international relations. The curtain falls on the storms of November with a looming possibility of another war. As they used to say on television, “tune in next time for another thrilling episode.”



General McClellan--acting Napoleonic

November1– Friday– Washington–President Lincoln promotes General George B McClellan to General-in-Chief of the U S Army.

 November 2–Saturday–Washington–President Lincoln relieves General Fremont from duty.

 November 3–Sunday–Boston, Massachusetts–As the American ship Maritana, which sailed from Liverpool England, on September 13, approaches the harbor here, it strikes rocks, breaks apart and the captain, most of the crew, and all of the twenty-four passengers aboard drown.

 November 4–Monday–President Lincoln approves for payment a bill in the amount of $5,198.00 from “William Carryl and Brother” for “French Satin Brocatelle Curtain, Tassels, Fringes, Cornices, Hall Carpets, Laces Labor Freight & Cartage” which Mary Lincoln had purchased for the White House and has indicated that the items are correct and have been delivered. [This would be about $133,000 today].

 November 5–Tuesday–Republican governors Andrew of Massachusetts and Ramsey of Minnesota easily win re-election. Both men are powerful Republican supporters of President Lincoln and the Union. Governor Ramsey had been in Washington when war broke out and was the first governor to offer his state’s military support for the conflict. Both handily defeat Democratic opposition in today’s election, Andrew with almost 68% of the ballots cast, and Ramsey with 61% of the vote.

 November 6–Wednesday–Cairo, Illinois–General Ulysses S. Grant sails with two brigades in six transports, escorted by U.S. Navy gunboats to attack Confederate forces concentrating around Columbus, Kentucky.

 November 7–Thursday–Cuba–The British mail packet the Trent leaves Havana bound for England. Mason and Slidell are among the passengers.


The British mail ship TRENT

November 7–Vienna, Austrian-Hungarian Empire–In today’s Press, Karl Marx observes, “One sees . . . that the war of the Confederacy is in the true sense of the word a war of conquest for the extension and perpetration of slavery.”

 November 7–Port Royal Sound, South Carolina–Union soldiers and sailors capture the two Confederate forts guarding this area between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.


Emissary Mason

November 8–Friday–In international waters off the Bahama Islands, the U.S. warship San Jacinto stops and boards the British mail packet Trent, and the Americans take into custody James Mason and John Slidell, Confederate commissioners to London and Paris.

Emissary Slidell


November 8–Washington–Secretary of State Seward presents Count Edward Piper, minister of Sweden and Norway, to President Lincoln. The Count assures Mr Lincoln of the warm support of his country for the United States

 November 9–Saturday–Washington–President Lincoln sends a congratulatory letter to Jose Joaquin Perez, newly-elected President of the Republic of Chile. “I offer my sincere congratulations to your Excellency upon the event which you have communicated to me, and I am happy to believe that the sentiments which inspire your Excellency and which the Government and people of the United States cordially reciprocate cannot fail to be productive of the largest benefits to your own Nation, while they will promote the best understanding and harmony with others. Accept my best wishes for your Excellency’s personal happiness, with the assurances of my profound interest in the welfare and prosperity of the Chilean Nation.”

 November 10–Sunday–Naphan, Laos–Death of the French naturalist and explorer, 35 year old Henri Mouhot. In January of 1860, he reached the ancient temple of Angkor Wat and recorded his visit in his travel journals, including three weeks of detailed observations. These journals and illustrations will be incorporated into Voyage dans les Royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos and published posthumously. He dies of a malarial fever during his fourth expedition in southeast Asia. [Mouhot did not “discover” Anghor; indigenous Khmer people knew it well and a French missionary of the 16th century visited and wrote about the place. Mouhot generated modern interest.]

November 11–Monday–Lisbon–King Pedro V of Portugal dies of cholera. The king, a cousin of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, is only 24 years old and has reigned since 1853. During his brief reign, roads, telegraphs, and railways were constructed and health care improved. Considered by the people to be a conscientious and hard-working monarch, he is greatly loved and quite popular. King Pedro having no children, a younger brother will ascend the throne.

 November 12–Tuesday–London–In The Times, Lord Palmerston writes that U S Minister Charles Francis Adams has assured Her Majesty’s Government that no American warship will “meddle with any ship under a foreign flag.”

 November 12–Savannah, Georgia–A Confederate blockade runner, purchased in England, arrives with a cargo of military supplies.

 November 13–Wednesday–Washington–President Lincoln visits General McClellan at the general’s house. McClellan makes Mr Lincoln wait for 30 minutes, then sends a message saying the general has gone to bed and can not see the President tonight.

 November 15–Friday–Fort Monroe, Virginia–The U S San Jacinto arrives with its prisoners, Mason and Slidell.

 November 15–Friday–Washington–In prepared remarks at a meeting with a citizens delegation from Baltimore, President Lincoln expresses his thanks and his support of loyal people from the area. “I have deplored the calamities which the sympathies of some misguided citizens of Maryland had brought down upon that patriotic . . . State.” He assures the delegation that workers there will receive “a fair participation . . . in the benefits of supplying the Government.”

 November 16–Saturday–Washington–In a private meeting, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair urge President Lincoln to immediately release the Confederate representatives Mason and Slidell.

 November 18–Monday–Washington–President Lincoln sends a letter of thanks to historian and former Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, for sending a report of proceedings of New York meeting for relief of loyal Union people in North Carolina.

 November 19–Tuesday–New York City–Attorney George Templeton Strong writes in his diary about the Trent affair. “It would seem that our seizure of Mason and Slidell is within the rules of international law . . . . But I fear John Bull will show his horns and that we shall have increased ill-feeling on both sides. Foreign war would be an ugly complication of our internal disease. I have no respect for John Bull any more. He ought to be called John B Pecksniff.”

 November 21–Thursday–Washington–President Lincoln issues an executive order, saying that, “If General McClellan and General Halleck deem it necessary to declare and maintain martial law at St. Louis the same is hereby authorized.

 November 21–Richmond, Virginia–The Richmond Dispatch carries an ad for a runaway slave girl. Mr Lawrence Moody offers a reward of $10 for “my girl, Jane. She is a little girl about 13 years of age, stout built, very flat nose; has a white spot in one eye don’t remember which. There is reason to believe that she is in the city . . . . The above reward will be paid for her delivery to me . . . or secured in jail so that I can get her. Persons are warned not to harbor her.”

 November 22–Friday–Washington–Responding to a request from President Lincoln, the Library Congress sends to the White House four volumes of the works of Thomas Jefferson and two books about the Mormons which the President wishes to read.

 November 23–Saturday–Washington–This evening, President and Mrs Lincoln entertain about 100 guests at the White House.

 November 24–Sunday–Boston, Massachusetts–Mason and Slidell are imprisoned in Fort Warren.

 November 24–Washington–Assigned to duty as a clerk to the headquarters of General Keyes, Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes from Cranston, Rhode Island, writes of sight-seeing in the capital. “I came back by way of the Washington Monument and admired this splendid structure although it is in an unfinished state. If ever it is completed it will be a worthy monument to the ‘Father of his country.’” [Begun in 1848, it will not be completed until 1884].

 November 25–Monday–Scotland–A tenement collapses in the Old Town of Edinburgh and buries 50 people. Rescuers find 15 of them alive.

 November 26–Tuesday–Wheeling–The West Virginia Constitutional Convention convenes to begin drafting a constitution for the propose new state.

 November 27–Wednesday–London–Passengers from the Trent arrive in the city and report the ship had been boarded by armed Americans and the two Confederate emissaries removed.

 November 28–Thursday–Washington–Richard M Young, who had served as senator from Illinois from 1837 to 1843, dies at age 63. For the last decade he practiced law here in Washington.

 November 29–Friday–Los Angeles, California–Federal troops arrest a group of Confederate sympathizers.

 November 29–London–Lord Russell, the British Foreign Minister holds a brief meeting with U S Minister Adams to determine American intent regarding Mason and Slidell.

 November 30–Saturday–London–At Queen Victoria’s request, her husband, Prince Albert, reviews all the documents related to the Trent affair. In a response to Lord Palmerston, Prince Albert writes, “The Queen should have liked to have seen the expression of a hope that the American captain did not act under instructions, or, if he did that he misapprehended them [and] that the United States government must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow its flag to be insulted, and the security of her mail communications to be placed in jeopardy, and Her Majesty’s Government are unwilling to believe that the United States Government intended wantonly to put an insult upon this country and to add to their many distressing complications by forcing a question of dispute upon us, and that we are therefore glad to believe that they would spontaneously offer such redress as alone could satisfy this country, viz: the restoration of the unfortunate passengers and a suitable apology.”

Victoria, Albert and family

 November 30–London–Lord Russell instructs the British Minister, Lord Lyons, in Washington to demand the release of Mason and Slidell and an apology from the Lincoln government. If the United States refuses, Britain will break diplomatic relations with the United States and order the Royal Navy to prepare for operations in North America.

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