March 1862–Madness, Militancy, Manners, Moderation–the First week

The first week of March brings diplomatic efforts in Washington and London. President Lincoln proposes a program of compensated emancipation as a middle road to end slavery and restore the unity of the country but neither the South nor the abolitionists will be satisfied with moderation. Despite hard feelings about the Trent affair remaining on both sides of the Atlantic, Great Britain senses the possibility that the United States may at long last agree to mutual efforts to suppress international slave trade. Part of Britain’s diplomacy since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, all the major powers and many smaller states have joined, with the exception of the United States. The sticking point–outside of Southern desires for unrestricted slave trade–was allowing American ships to be searched by British cruisers. Lord Russell, the Foreign Minister, sees an opportunity. The dream of the great British abolitionist William Wilberforce, dead almost 30 years now, may be moving closer to full realization.

William Wilberforce-c.1790

 

Ordinary soldiers on both sides wonder what’s happening and deal with sickness and loneliness. In the far west, rebel troops are courteously received by the wives of Union officers while in the east a dashing cavalry officer falls in love. The South uses a fearsome new naval weapon. A Quaker poet hopes for an end to slavery and war. Lincoln expresses dissatisfaction with McClellan and takes a chance on a Southern senator who remained loyal. Federal forces win a battle in Arkansas.

March 1– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis proclaims martial law to be in effect throughout the city. Confederate authorities arrest a number of Virginians on suspicion of being Union sympathizers.

March 1– Saturday– Pocahontas, Virginia– Adam Kersh, serving in the Confederate Army, writes to his brother George. “I received the letter you sent us on the 25th February and was glad to hear from you all at home. I would have answered you [sic] letter sooner but did not feel well enough. I have had the jaundice working on me for about eight days now which makes me feel very lowlifed and mean. . . . I look about as yellow as a pumpkin. . . . You were speaking of reenlisting. I have not reenlisted yet nor none of our company have yet. It is a heap talk in the regiment about reenlisting. I have come to the conclusion to wait awhile and see how I get along with my first twelve months before I reenlist.”

 

Lord Russell, Her Majesty's Foreign Secretary, 1862

 

March 1– Saturday– London, England– Sensing that the American government is at last willing to sign a treaty agreeing to mutual efforts to suppress international slave trade, Lord Russell of the Foreign Office writes to Lord Lyons, the British Minister in Washington, saying in the key part that he is “transmitting to you the Draft of a Treaty between Great Britain and the United States for the suppression of the Slave Trade, I have to state to you that so much ill feeling has been created at different times by the exercise of a Right of Visit on the part of British Cruizers [sic] that Her Majesty’s Government deem that it would be very inexpedient to instruct the Lords of the Admiralty to sanction any practice of overhauling American Merchant Ships suspected to be Slavers on the mere Authority of an informal Agreement with the Secretary of State of the United States. At the same time Her Majesty’s Government are fully convinced of the sincerity of the United States Government in their professions of a desire to suppress the Slave Trade. This desire is in conformity with the well known sentiment of the President and the principal Members of his Administration. But, if such is the case, it is much to be desired that the rules of proceed- ing for the Men of War of the two Nations should be clear and precise. By this means all dispute on the rights of Naval Commanders to visit and search Vessels may be avoided. With this view I have had drawn up the Draft Treaty of which I desire you to give a Copy to Mr. Seward.”

March 2– Sunday– New York City– Birth of John Jay Chapman, lawyer, journalist, poet, literary critic and dramatist. His grandmother is the abolitionist and feminist Maria Westin Chapman, long-time associate and supporter of radical abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison.

March 2– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes in his diary. “Still packed up and ready to move, but the orders are countermanded almost as soon as received. I want to go, I want to get out of Washington, and I want the war to end.”

March 2– Sunday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– The handsome 36 year old widower Captain John Hunt Morgan comes to dinner at the home of Colonel Charles Ready and makes a favorable impression upon 21 year old Martha Ready, the sixth of the Colonel’s eight children. Martha’s sister Alice describes Captain Morgan as “an extremely modest man, but very pleasant and agreeable, though one to see him would scarcely imagine him to be the daring reckless man he is.” The dashing cavalry officer is smitten with Martha. The two will become engaged by the end of the month and will marry in December.

March 3– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln appoints Andrew Johnson to be military governor of Tennessee. Johnson, age 53, a Democrat from Tennessee, is the only U S Senator from a Confederate state not to have resigned his seat last year when the war began. President Lincoln’s appointment is seen as both a reward to Johnson for his loyalty and as an attempt to show that the Administration is not anti-southern.

March 3–Monday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward instructs Charles Francis Adams, Minister to Great Britain, to advise Her Majesty’s Government that the United States disapproves of British, Spanish and French troops in Mexico.

March 3– Monday– New Madrid, Missouri– Federal troops begin a siege of the town.

March 4– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In a meeting with the Minister representing the government of Peru, President Lincoln states his foreign policy toward friendly states in the Western Hemisphere. “You may be assured, sir, that in all things this government will deal justly, frankly, and, if it be possible, even liberally with Peru, whose liberal sentiments toward us you have so kindly expressed.”

March 4– Tuesday– St Gallen, Switzerland– Birth of Jacob R Emden, meteorologist and astrophysicist.

 

Louisa Hawkins Canby

 

March 4– Tuesday– Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory– Confederate soldiers occupy the town. They are surprised to find a welcoming committee consisting of the wives of Union officers, led by 43 year old Louisa Hawkins Canby, the wife of Colonel Canby who commanded the Federal garrison and removed himself and his troops before the invaders arrived.

March 6– Thursday– East Haverhill, Massachusetts– John Greenleaf Whittier writes to John Hutchinson of the Hutchinson Family Singers, abolitionist to their core. “Whatever General McClellan may do with my rhymes, I am thankful that Congress is putting it out of his power to ‘send back’ fugitive slaves as well as singers. After all, I do not think it strange that a Quaker’s song should be thought out of place in the army. Wishing thee and thine health and happiness, and hoping that you may live to sing of the deliverance of our land from slavery and war.”

Whittier, poet & abolitionist

March 6– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– The Confederate Congress authorizes the military to destroy tobacco, cotton or other crops rather than allow them to fall into the hands of Union troops.

March 6– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– In a message to both houses of Congress, President Lincoln sets forth a proposal for compensated emancipation of slaves, a measure he hopes might end the war. “I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your honorable bodies, which shall be substantially as follows: Resolved , That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system. If the proposition contained in the resolution does not meet the approval of Congress and the country, there is the end; but if it does command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and people immediately interested should be at once distinctly notified of the fact, so that they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject it. The Federal Government would find its highest interest in such a measure, as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation. . . . In the mere financial or pecuniary view any member of Congress with the census tables and Treasury reports before him can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State. Such a proposition on the part of the General Government sets up no claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them. . . . While it is true that the adoption of the proposed resolution would be merely initiatory, and not within itself a practical measure, it is recommended in the hope that it would soon lead to important practical results. In full view of my great responsibility to my God and to my country, I earnestly beg the attention of Congress and the people to the subject.”

Battle of Pea Ridge

March 8– Saturday– Pea Ridge, Arkansas–Three days of fighting concludes with a Union victory as they drive back a slightly larger Confederate force. Federal losses total 1384 dead, wounded and missing while the Confederate total is approximately 800.

March 8– Saturday– Hampton Roads, Virginia– The Confederate iron-clad ship the CSS Virginia, formerly the Merrimack, attacks besieging Union warships, destroying two of them and damaging several others.

The Confederate iron-clad

March 8– Saturday–Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln, dismayed at General McClellan’s inactivity as well as his failure to appoint corps commanders, names Edwin Vose Sumnner, Samuel Heintzelman, Erasmus Keyes and Irvin McDowell as corps commanders. In addition, Lincoln orders “that the Army and Navy cooperate in an immediate effort to capture the enemy’s batteries upon the Potomac between Washington and the Chesapeake Bay.”

 March 8– Saturday– St John, New Brunswick, Canada– Birth of George F Phillips who will win the U S Congressional Medal of Honor while serving in the American Navy during the war against Spain in 1899.

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