February’s Frustrations–Part the Second–1862

The frustrations of February continue throughout the month. The Lincoln family mourns the death of a 12 year old son. The Confederacy endures the loss both of Fort Donelson and the city of Nashville. Union forces fail to stop a Confederate move against Santa Fe. West Virginia moves closer to statehood by adopting a state constitution but bans African Americans. Officials of the Sanitary Commission complain about a lack of governmental and military support. [The Sanitary Commission was a private relief organization intended to provide help to individual Union soldiers and to Union hospitals caring for the wounded and sick.] Anti-British sentiment continues in the North, despite the resolution of the messy Trent business. Mexico fails to gain help in solving its debt crisis or stopping European intervention. The Filipino people lose a great, elderly poet. As the month draws to a close, Yankees from New York businessmen to soldiers in the ranks wonder if the Army of the Potomac will begin to move as the weather warms. Northerners find cheer in their new hero– General “Unconditional Surrender” Grant while aside from the American Civil War life around the world moves on in a mysterious cycle of life and death.

February 13– Thursday– near Dover, Tennessee– Despite the mild weather turning into rain and sleet with temperatures falling to 10 degrees F by night, Union land and naval forces commence bombardment of Fort Donelson.

Harpers Weekly shows Union gunboats moving in support of Grant

February 13– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia–The West Virginia Constitutional Convention adopts a provision banning any slave or free person of color from settling in the new state.

February 15– Saturday– near Dover, Tennessee– In an attempt to break the siege, Confederate forces sally forth from Fort Donelson. In a bitter day long fight in cold weather the Confederates gain some ground but are driven back into the fort by nightfall. By that time 44 year old “Mother” Mary Ann Bickerdyke, self-appointed nurse and hospital “administrator,” is taking care of wounded men in an improvised field hospital. Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest flee southeast rather than surrender. Two Confederate generals do likewise.

"Mother" Bickerdyke, hero to wounded soldiers

February16– Sunday– near Dover, Tennessee– After three days of hard fighting, the Confederate commander of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River asks General Grant for terms of surrender. Grant replies, “No terms except an immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted.” Low on ammunition and food and having suffered heavy losses, the Confederates surrender. Grant takes 12,000 prisoners. Battle casualties for the last three days are heavy on both sides: 2,832 Union killed, wounded and missing and approximately 1,500 Confederate dead, injured or missing.. Grant wins an important Union victory and opens an attempt to split the Confederacy into eastern and western parts.

February 17– Monday– Tsuwano, Japan– Birth of Mori Ougai, novelist, poet, editor and physician.

Mori Ougai in adult life, 1911

February 18– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong complains in the pages of his diary about the apparent lack of support from President Lincoln, Secretary of War Stanton and General McClellan for the work of the Sanitary Commission. “We cannot go on asking the community to sustain us with money as an advisory government organ after six months’ experience like this.”

February 18– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia–For the first time the Congress of the Confederate States of America convenes.

February 18– Tuesday– Wheeling, West Virginia–The West Virginia Constitutional Convention finishes three months of work and adopts the first constitution for the proposed new state of West Virginia.

February 19– Wednesday– Vilnius, Russia– Birth of Lev Kekushev, architect who will design a number of art nouveau buildings in Moscow during the 25 years before the outbreak of the First World War.

February 19– Wednesday–New York City– Discussing General Grant’s demand for the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson, the New York Times declares, “let the insurgents understand that we are not sacrificing our brothers by the thousands and our money by the millions for the sake of having knightly passage at arms with them.” The North’s sole objective must be “the absolute submission of the culprits.”

February 20– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Willie Lincoln, 12-year-old son of President Lincoln, dies from typhoid fever.

February 20– Thursday– Nashville, Tennessee– Worried by the Federal advance after the capture of Fort Donelson, Confederate authorities announce that the state capital is being moved to Memphis.

February 20– Thursday– Udyong, Bataan, the Philippines– Francisco Baltazar y de la Cruz, whose nom-de-plume is Francisco Balatagos, dies at age 73. He is considered an important poet in the development of Filipino literature.

February 21– Friday–New York City– Federal authorities hang Nathaniel P Gordon, an American sea captain, for engaging in African slave trade. George Templeton Strong writes in his diary of the execution that “our unprecedented execution of justice on a criminal of this particular class and at this particular time will do us good abroad, perhaps with the pharisaical shop-keepers and bagmen of England itself.”

February 21– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– Today’s Liberator reports on the activities of J Sella Martin, 29 years of age, who escaped from slavery in the deep South six years ago and is now an ordained Baptist minister. “Rev. J. Sella Martin, of this city, was well received in England, where he was engaged in upholding the Union cause. He has done more for that cause in England than has been done by any white American, and the English naturally listen to him more readily than they would to white men, most of the latter not speaking adversely to slavery.”

February 21– Friday– Valverde, New Mexico Territory– In a vain attempt to stop a Confederate advance on Santa Fe, a Union force attacks a Confederate column but is repulsed. The Federal losses total 263 dead, wounded and missing while the Confederate casualties amount to 186 dead, wounded and missing.

 February 22– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– On the 130th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the first President of the Confederate States of America. Alexander Stephens is inaugurated Vice President.

February 22– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Because of the death of his son President Lincoln does not attend the Washington’s Birthday celebration at the Capitol Building. He has authorized Dr Charles D Brown to perform the relatively new process of embalming on Willie’s body and this evening the boy’s body lies in state in the Green Room at the White House.

February 22– Saturday– New York City– Today’s issue of Harper’s Weekly gives vent to on-going anti-British sentiment in the Northern states. “The apprehensions of foreign intervention, to which we referred last week, were revived a day or two since, first by an alarming letter from Mr Thurlow Weed and subsequently by dispatches from the reporter of the Associated Press, asserting that Napoleon was about to interfere and raise the blockade, with or without the assistance of England. Those false reports are happily set at rest by Napoleon’s speech to the Chambers [of Deputies] on 27th [of January], in which he stated positively that, so long as the rights of neutrals were respected, France would confine itself to the earnest wish that the dissensions in the United States would be speedily brought to a close. Is it too much to hope that our gullible fellow-citizens will be on their guard hereafter against the monstrous lies of the British newspapers? These foreign writers, and among them we must, we fear, class the European correspondent of the New York Associated Press, have deliberately and systematically misrepresented European, and especially French sentiment ever since the war broke out: seeming to labor, if not in reality laboring, in the interest and for the comfort of the Southern rebels. They have been convicted of falsehood as often as Dr Russell [William Russell, correspondent from the Times of London, seen in the North as a rebel sympathizer] has been convicted of blundering. Yet every fresh canard which they choose to publish sends a thrill through the nerves of our people. When shall we begin to understand them?”

?”February 22– Saturday– Stange, Norway– Birth of Karen Hulda Bergersen Garborg, author, poet, playwright, educator, women’s rights activist and advocate for the preservation of traditional Norwegian dress, cooking and folk-dancing.

February 24– Monday– Sore, Denmark– Bernhard Ingemann, novelist, port and hymn writer, dies at age 62. His works for children challenge Hans Christian Anderson in period popularity among the Danes.

February 25– Tuesday– Nashville, Tennessee–Federal forces occupy the city without bloodshed as most Confederate forces have moved out. This is the first Confederate state capital to fall into Union hands.

February 25– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In Congress, the Senate defeats a measure to lend Mexico enough money to pay the Mexican debt to European powers.

February 25– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– In a message to the Confederate Congress, President Davis writes of recent “serious disasters” and asks for a strengthening of Confederate forces.

February 25– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina–Southern socialite Mary Chesnut comments in her diary. “They have taken at Nashvillemore men than we had at Manassas; there was bad handling of troops, we poor women think, or this would not be. Mr. Venable added bitterly, ‘Giving up our soldiers to the enemy means giving up the cause. We can not replace them.’”

February 25– Tuesday– Lima, Peru–U S Minister Robinson reports to Secretary of State Seward that the president of Peru told him that the struggle in Mexico is like the French Revolution, “a war of the crowns against the Liberty Caps.” However, he expressed his certainty to Minister Robinson that the people will prevail over the imperial powers.

Army of the Potomac stuck in the mud, Harpers Weekly

February 26– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– In his journal Elisha Hunt Rhodes of Rhode Island notes that “Rumors of movement are plenty. . . . In the evening I attended a fair on 20th Street held by a Methodist church . . . and I went home with some young ladies.”

February 27– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes a hint of possible activity by General McClellan. “Two significant advertisements in last night’s papers from two steamboat lines. They discontinue their trips for the present, because the government has engaged all their vessels. For the Potomac?”

Opera star, Pauline Gueymard-Lauters in costume

February 28– Friday– Paris, France– The opera La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba) by Charles Gounod premieres at the Paris Opera House with the 27 year old Belgian soprano Pauline Gueymard-Lauters singing the role of the queen.

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