Monthly Archives: April 2012

Now that April is Come–the Fourth Week

As April, 1862, draws to a close, soldiers on both sides write of the busyness of campaigns and the destruction they see, their worries about the enemy, the rightness of their cause, and the lack of mail from home. Some Union soldiers assert their opposition to abolition while the Senate approves the treaty with Great Britain for suppression of international slave trade. (In heaven, William Wilberforce and John Wesley must be smiling.) Union naval officer Commodore Farragut makes a name for himself by capturing New Orleans which distresses southerners like Mary Chesnut and pleases Yankees like Elisha Hunt Rhodes. In New York, the business man Isaac Singer is involved in a messy and expensive divorce. On the West Coast, California discriminates against Chinese immigrant labor. (Between 1854 and the end of 1860, over 41,000 Chinese immigrants have entered the United States, mostly in California.) Spain and England begin to withdraw from the European intervention in Mexico, leaving the French to discover the tenacity of Mexican soldiers. The Russian Tsar keeps a tight hold on the press and a British correspondent accuses President Lincoln of doing likewise. French author Victor Hugo finally comes out with a new novel and President Lincoln recites poetry with a friend during a quiet private evening at the White House. Publicly, visiting French sailors cheer the American President.

April 22– Tuesday– Hampton, Virginia– Christian Geisel, serving with the Union forces under General McClellan, writes to his sister Louisa back home in Pennsylvania. His unit let their horses graze “on a farm along the James river, about two miles from our camp; it must have been a splendid place at one time, but it is now deserted and the buildings are all burnt down. We hear cannonading most every day in the direction of Yorktown, but no general battle has taken place yet, but I suppose they will begin before long. There are now about 250,000 men concentrated around Yorktown on both sides, and I expect there will be a hard fight there.”

April 22– Tuesday– Somewhere between Stanardsville and Harrisonburg, Virginia– W H Baylor, newly selected colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment, writes home to his wife, whom he addresses formally as Mrs Baylor. “It cannot be that our cause is not just. It cannot be that we have so sinned as to be worthy of destruction. No it cannot be . . . . if we rely upon God & do our duty the result will be our success. The result at Yorktown I trust will be in our favor– a great success there would be glorious for our cause. It would almost put a stop to the War. I feel much confidence in the result as we have noble Generals & brave troops to rely upon.”

Isaac Singer in one of the theatrical costumes he designed for himself

April 23– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times reports the status on the divorce proceedings of Mary Ann Sponsler Singer against her husband, Isaac Singer, the sewing machine entrepreneur. Mr Singer, out on bond after his wife had him arrested for bigamy, has fled to Europe with his lover, Mary McGonigal, a former employee who has born Isaac five children. The court orders that Mary Ann is to “have an allowance of $8,000 per annum alimony pending suit, dating from the commencement of the action.” [In today’s dollars this would equal about $179,000 in purchasing power. The judge bases this on Singer’s corporate earnings of $200,000 in 1861, which would equal about $4.47 million today.]

April 23– Wednesday– Warwick Court House, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary that “We never get lonesome now, for something exciting is going on all the time.”

Alexander II, Tsar of all Russia

April 23– Wednesday– St Petersburg, Russia– A local journal reports that the Tsar intends “to maintain the system of censorship upon all periodical publications, but to replace it gradually by judicial proceedings.”

April 24– Thursday– New York City– Based upon European sources, the New York Times reports that Spain’s withdrawal from the intervention in Mexico can be attributed to “what it calls the change in the policy of the Madrid Cabinet, ‘which,’according to a telegram from Madrid, ‘nothing will turn aside from its firm determination to abstain from any thing affecting the independence of Mexico,’ to fear of America.” Yet the French government is dispatching more troops to Mexico and has instructed the admiral who has been in command of all the French forces “to confine himself to his duties as Commander of the [naval] squadron, . . . [and] informed [him] in . . . a non-official letter, that if he thinks proper to return to France he is at liberty to do so.”

April 24– Thursday– Conrad’s Store [now, Elkton], Virginia– Jedediah Hotchkiss writes to his wife Sara about the conduct of Union soldiers in the Winchester area. “They have an iron rule there, visiting houses searching everything, marauding over the country & insulting people. Most of those there are Dutch, and they are more brutal than any others – but our women there are not afraid of them and tell them freely what they think of them. . . . If the foe should come to your door, outwardly submit, but coldly abhor to the last those that seek our firesides . . . . Train our children, as you have done, in the ways of knowledge, virtue and holiness and so fill up the weary hours of our separation, and may the Lord in mercy shorten these days of tribulation.”

April 24– Thursday– Mississippi River, below New Orleans, Louisiana–Early in the morning Commodore Farragut’s vessels begin sailing up the Mississippi River past Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip. After half the fleet sails past the fort the Confederates discover the movement and open fire. However, the majority of Federal ships make it past the forts.

Union naval hero Farragut in his admiral's uniform

April 25– Friday– New Orleans, Louisiana– After defeating Confederate ships at English Turn, Commodore Farragut’s fleet drops anchor at the city and demands the surrender of the most important port in the South. With a population of 168,675, it is the largest city in the Confederacy and 6th largest in the United States.

Farragut's ships at New Orleans, April, 1862

April 25– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the dissolution of joint European operations in Mexico and the problem of on-going French military presence. “The movement has nothing to do with the collection of the recognized debt of Mexico to France; it has nothing to do with the restoration of order or the regeneration of a fallen people. It is simply an exceedingly loathsome and disreputable stock-jobbing swindle, of which the Frenchman’s love of glory is made the instrument. The French expedition will never have accomplished its purpose until it shall have placed in power a Government which will acknowledge this spurious debt, and agree to repay what it never received and enjoyed. It is well to comprehend the merits of this business fully. It may be our business to deal with it practically hereafter.”

April 25– Friday– Washington, D.C.– The Senate unanimously approves the treaty with Great Britain regarding joint efforts to suppress the slave trade, without changes or amendments.

April 25– Friday– Washington, D.C.– In the evening, Senator Orville Browning, a Republican and personal friend from Illinois, visits President Lincoln at the White House. For a quiet ninety minutes the two men discuss poetry in general and, in particular, the works of English poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845), a humorist and social critic. The President, always an avid reader and memorizer, recites several of Hood’s poems. [Senator Browning was appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of Stephen A Douglas last year.]


Chinese immigrants--late 1850s

April 26– Saturday– Sacramento, California–The state legislature passes “An Act to Protect Free White Labor Against Competition with Chinese Coolie Labor, and to Discourage The Immigration of the Chinese into the State of California” (commonly called “The Anti-Coolie Act of 1862”). The law levies a tax of $2.50 per month on anyone of Chinese origin who applies for a license to work in the mines or to operate any kind of business. Since the majority of Chinese workers earn only wages of $3 or $4 a month, the tax is a significant burden.

April 26– Saturday– Washington Navy Yard– President Lincoln is warmly received by the crew of the visiting French warship, Gassendi.

April 26– Saturday– London, England– Birth of Edward Grey who will serve as British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916. [In 1914, when war erupts across Europe, Sir Edward Grey will say, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”]

Victor Hugo--c.1855

April 26– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the publication of a long-delayed novel by French writer Victor Hugo. “The author’s only other novel, Notre Dame de Paris, was accepted by its publisher on condition that he should bring out every succeeding work by that author. Notre Dame proved a brilliant success, and made the fortune of – the publisher. Victor Hugo then wrote Les Miserables, determining to respect the condition, but to make his own terms with the unscrupulous brain-trafficker. These terms were at once rejected, and the author, unreleased from the old obligation, was obliged to put by his manuscript for a more favorable season. Year after year he renewed proposals, increasing each year his demand, until at last the publisher died, and, after waiting nearly a quarter of a century, the well-seasoned, if not seasonable, Les Miserables is in press.”

April 26– Saturday– Fort Macon, North Carolina– The Confederate force formally surrenders, the Federals taking 400 of the rebels as prisoners.

April 26– Saturday– Mississippi River below New Orleans, Louisiana– Captain Richard Elliot, from Massachusetts, serving under General Butler on one of the troop ships, writes in his diary. “A large fire raft came down upon us last night but fortunately the current took it to one side of us so it done no harm. It floated down and run aground on the flats. It was composed of the hulk of a large vessel of some kind coppered and copper fastened. Filled with cotton & tar and other combustible materials.”

April 27– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports at length on the sermon delivered last Sunday, Easter Day, by Dr Nathan Lewis Rice, prominent Presbyterian minister. “I have never believed that the great peril of the country is the war. I have always believed that it would have been ended before now if it had not been for those corrupt and fanatical influences that were crippling every effort to end it in a right manner. There are two great perils that threaten the country now– one is immorality, and the other fanaticism. In an age of excitement error becomes fanaticism; men are carried away with whatever is held up before them. In the absence of excitement religious error takes the form of philosophical speculation, but in times of excitement it becomes fanaticism, which is far more dangerous to Church and State.”

April 27– Sunday– New Bern, North Carolina– Union soldier George Whitman writes to his mother and family about a constant concern of soldiers. “I have not heard from home in almost a month. Mother you don’t know how bad it makes a fellow feel to have a mail arrive and bring him no letter. I wish some of you would write every week if only to say that you are all well. We expect a mail in tomorrow and if I don’t get a letter I shall feel quite disappointed.”

William H Russell, war correspondent for the Times of London, seen by northerners as pro-Confederacy

April 27– Sunday– Paris, France– Mr William H Russell, war correspondent for the Times of London, sends a dispatch in which he criticizes President Lincoln for not allowing him [Russell] to visit and report from General McClellan’s headquarters while in contrast Emperor Napoleon III allowed Russell “perfect liberty to accompany the [French] army, and that all he captured was, not that he himself or the army should be praised, but that the account of the operations should be impartial. . . . I am happy to have an opportunity of contrasting the conduct of the President of the ‘free and enlightened Republic’ with the ruler of a Military Empire, who led his own armies in the field.”

April 28– Monday– Nassau, the Bahamas–In a deal with certain British sources, the Confederacy takes possession of the British ship Oreto which will become the warship CSS Florida.

April 28– Monday– New Orleans, Louisiana– The city formally surrenders to Federal forces after Farragut threatens to bombard the city.

April 28– Monday– Harrisonburg, Virginia– Union General Banks reports quite optimistically to the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.. “Our force is entirely secure here. The enemy is in no condition for offensive movements, and nothing can prevent our troops from joining the main body in safety if attacked. . . . You need have no apprehensions for our safety. I think we are now just in condition to do all you can desire of us in this valley-clear the enemy out permanently.”


Union General N P Banks


April 29– Augusta County, Virginia– Mr A B Roler writes to one of his cousins. He responds to his cousin’s declaration of intent to marry and tells of his own participation in the war and what may come. “I have no lady ‘courted’ like yourself and another difficulty with me just at this time is that the unnatural and detestable war will have to be fought through before I can allow my cranium to be besieged with connubial thoughts. . . . I have joined an Artillery Company and will meet my Company in Richmond. . . . I tell you we are in a smart hubbub– in a pretty bad ‘old fix’ just now in the Valley. I hope and pray that our arms may be successful at Yorktown. That battle when ever it does come off I think will decide the fate of the Valley indeed of Richmond and of entire Va and if we are successful I think will be the decisive one of the war. . . . I am afraid that we will not be able to recover from the effects of this destructive war for a long time. Religious, moral and educational institutions are at a very low ebb and it will take us a long time to catch up again.”

April 29– Tuesday– Padova, Italy– Birth of Vittorio Mano Vanzo, composer.

April 29– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut evaluates the war news. “A grand smash, the news from New Orleans fatal to us.”

April 30– Wednesday– Young’s Farm, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes evaluates the war news. “The news of the capture of New Orleans has been received, and it gives us great joy. Well, the war will end in God’s own time and we shall have peace. But the Rebels must lay down their arms before the United States will make peace with them.”

April 30– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Congress votes to censure former Secretary of War Simon Cameron for misconduct while in the Cabinet, particularly for acts that were “highly injurious to the public service” such as entrusting public money to Alexander Cummings, his assistant who spent about $21,000 on personal purchases, and granting fraudulent contracts to his former business associates. [The $21,000 misspent then would equal about $470,000 misappropriated today.]

April 30– Wednesday– outside New Orleans, Louisiana– Captain Richard Elliot with Union forces preparing to occupy the city, notes in his journal his frustration with the regimental chaplain who this morning “exasperated Col Dudley and many other Officers of our Regiment, by giving a very strong Abolition speech and I am in favor of having a stop put to it, it is not right. We are not Slave catchers, or liberators. When we come to that I must go home, it is the Union as it has been, and not Abolition of Slavery I want and the majority of our Regiment are the same. Col Dudley is a thorough Democrat. and will not fight for N—— any more than I will and we are not alone.”

April 30– Wednesday– Cameron, Mexico– A sixty-five man company of the French Foreign Legion fights an all-day battle with Mexican irregular forces. Only 5 of the Legionaries survive.

Now that April is Come–the Third Week

During the third week of April, 1862, Southern women worry and help the war effort as they can. Soldiers of both sides write of battles, camp life and problems. The Confederacy resorts to conscription to replenish the ranks of the army. (From February 1st through April 8th they have lost more than 2,200 men killed in action and more than twice that number wounded.) In the North, former Secretary of War Simon Cameron finds himself in legal trouble. President Lincoln is pleased to sign legislation abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Wisconsin loses its new governor in an accident. An English woman writes novels which become best sellers while British abolitionists pay a call upon U S Minister Charles Francis Adams. In France a brilliant scientist and his colleague make an advance in food safety.


Mary Chesnut's diary

April 15– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina– Socialite Mary Chesnut writes of her feelings about Confederate reversals. “I would rather live in Siberia, worse still, in Sahara, than live in a country surrendered to Yankees. The Carolinian says the conscription bill passed by Congress is fatal to our liberties as a people. Let us be a people ‘certain and sure,’ as poor Tom B said, and then talk of rebelling against our home government. Sat up all night. Read Eothen [a book about travels in Syria, Palestine and Egypt by an Englishman, Alexander Kinglake] straight through, our old Wiley and Putnam edition that we bought in London in 1845. How could I sleep? The power they are bringing to bear against our country is tremendous. Its weight may be irresistible – dare not think of that, however.”

April 15– Tuesday– Warwick Court House, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes makes a journal entry about Federal operations and army life. “General George B McClellan paid our Regiment a visit today and was well received by Rhode Island cheers and music by the band. . . . Cooking coffee and soup in the same tin cup is not my forte, but I have to do it or starve.”

April 15– Tuesday– Staunton, Virginia– The Staunton Spectator reports on the worthy war efforts by Southern women. “The laudable and patriotic labors of the ladies have not failed to be observed and appreciated by the Congress of the Confederacy, as will be seen by reference to the following resolution recently adopted by that body: Resolved, by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the thanks of the Congress of the Confederate States are eminently due, and are hereby tendered to the patriotic women of the Confederacy, for the energy, zeal and untiring devotion which they have manifested in furnishing voluntary contributions to our soldiers in the field, and in the various military hospitals throughout the country.”

April 15– Tuesday– New York City– The New York Times notes that “T. B. Peterson & Brothers, of Philadelphia, have now in press and will publish, on Saturday next, a new work of great merit, entitled The Channings; a Domestic Novel of Real Life, by Mrs. Henry Wood.” Mrs Henry Wood is the pen name of Ellen Price Wood, an English writer who, two years ago, created a literary stir with her novel East Lynne.

Ellen Price Wood

April 15– Tuesday– Tybee Island, Georgia– John Miller writes to his cousin George back home in Pennsylvania. He describes the Union bombardment of Fort Pulaski. “I don’t know how many were killed in the fort. But we took 360 prisoners. The cannonade was kept up for 32 hours before we made an opening in the walls of the fort.” His captain was praying “that they would hold out 6 hours longer so that we could charge on them. The scaling ladders were all got ready but we were sadly disappointed. At 3 o’clock there was a white rag run up the flag staff and all was over.”

April 16– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs into law the legislation freeing all slaves in the District of Columbia (approximately 3,500 people). In a signing message to Congress, the President writes that “The act entitled ‘An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia’ has this day been approved and signed. I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District, and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way.”

 April 16– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis signs into law a conscription act requiring all white males between 18 and 35 years of age to perform three years of military service.

April 16– Wednesday– London, England– Ten members of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, three of them presently serving in Parliament, call upon the American Minister, Charles Francis Adams. They say to Mr Adams, “The committee view with profound sorrow the unhappy contest between the Northern and the Southern sections of the Republic. In the presence of so appalling a calamity, they can only give utterance to the fervent hope that the fratricidal conflict may soon cease, and peace be restored to the land; and that with the abolition of the true cause of strife, a common ground of union may be found, and a divided community be again joined in the bonds of brotherhood. In conclusion, the Committee would assure you, Sir. of their personal esteem and consideration, and of their very sincere desire for the welfare and the prosperity of the nation you represent.” In return, Minister Adams expresses his thanks and the reciprocal good will of the Lincoln Administration to Her Majesty’s Government and to the British people.

April 16– Wednesday– New York City– In his diary, George Templeton Strong writes about recent military news. “We have Grant’s report . . . . It seems a victory if holding the field of battle be the test. Its moral effect on the rebels must be disheartening and decomposing. They are not made of the stuff that bears failure well. . . . We are uneasy about McClellan. He is in a tight place, possibly in a trap, and the cabal against him at Washington may embarrass and weaken him.”

April 16– Wednesday– Edenburg, Virginia– Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw writes to his sister Effie in Massachusetts. “A great many officers are worthless & are therefore very angry when anyone tries to oblige them to do their duty.” He tells of reports about officers drawing the pay of dead men or deserters, who defend their thievery because “it was a common thing in their regiments . . . . When such thieves & blacklegs are in command how can you expect to have good troops?”

April 17– Thursday– Churchville, Virginia– Serving with Stonewall Jackson, Jedediah Hotchkiss writes quickly to his wife, Sarah, explaining his scrawl. “I am so weary that you must excuse me – for I have been in the saddle nearly all day and want to go to sleep – and rest some before another start – for we many have to travel during the night – Jackson is very cautious and I do not think he will be caught napping.”

NYC Academy of Music in 1909

April 18– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports that on this coming Monday, the 21st, a week-long performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto will open at the Academy of Music. “Signora Bessaggio, who was to have made her debut, is laboring under a relapse of a throat affection which troubled her in Havana, and has been ordered by her physician to return at once to Europe. She is compelled consequently to relinquish her New-York engagement. It is much to the lady’s credit, that she has firmly brought herself to this unwelcome decision in time to avoid any disappointment to the public or the management.”

April 18– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln submits to Congress “correspondence between the Secretary of State and Benjamin E Brewster, of Philadelphia, relative to the arrest in that city of Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, at the suit of Pierce Butler, for trespass vi et armis [Latin– “by force and arms”], assault and battery, and false imprisonment.”

April 18– Friday– Mississippi River, below New Orleans, Louisiana– Commodore Farragut’s ships begin a five day bombardment of the Confederate forces at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip.

Governor Harvey of Wisconsin

April 19– Saturday– Tennessee River, Savannah, Tennessee– Heading home from a visit to troops from his state, Wisconsin governor Louis Harvey misses his footing while trying to board a steamboat, falls into the river and drowns. A Republican, only 41 years old, he had just taken office on January 6th of this year.

April 19– Saturday– Newmarket, Virginia– Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother, telling of observations of Virginians. “The common people here are as ignorant as they can be. They don’t know what the war is about, and they say they have heard all sorts of reasons.” Shaw reassures his mother about his own physical and spiritual well being. “I hope you all are well, as I am. . . . What a blessing that we happened to be born in this century and country!”

April 20– Easter Sunday– Paris, France– Two French scientists, Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard, complete the first “pasteurization” test to free milk, beer and wine from impurities.

Pasteur in the laboratory--c1885

April 20– Easter Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports that “The Sanitary Commission asks Contributions for the aid and relief of the volunteer army. There will in all probability soon be many wounded men to provide for, and our troops on the Southern coast are endangered by the unhealthy season now approaching. There is, therefore, special need of public liberality on their behalf . . . . Contributions may he addressed to George T. Strong, Treasurer. No. 68 Wall St., New York.”

April 21– Monday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut writes of the state of her health and her sate of mind. “Have been ill. . . . The doctor said, ‘congestion of the lungs.’ So here I am, stranded, laid by the heels. Battle after battle has occurred, disaster after disaster. Every, morning’s paper is enough to kill a well woman and age a strong and hearty one. To-day, the waters of this stagnant pool were wildly stirred. The President telegraphed for my husband to come on to Richmond, and offered him a place on his staff. I was a joyful woman. It was a way opened by Providence from this Slough of Despond, this Council whose counsel no one takes. I wrote to Mr. Davis, ‘With thanks, and begging your pardon, how I would like to go.’ Mrs. Preston agrees with me, Mr. Chesnut ought to go. Through Mr. Chesnut the President might hear many things to the advantage of our State . . . Letter from Quinton Washington. That was the best tonic yet. He writes so cheerfully. We have fifty thousand men on the Peninsula and McClellan eighty thousand. We expect that much disparity of numbers. We can stand that.”

Confederate capitol building, Richmond, Virginia

April 21– Monday– New York City– The New York Times reports two recent incidents of gentlemen being robbed when they frequented “disorderly houses.”

Now that April is Come–the Second Week

As the calendar moves into mid-month of April, 1862, soldiers on both sides write home with high expectations and low opinions of the other side. While General McClellan’s slowness bothers President Lincoln and citizens such as George Templeton Strong, Federal forces capture Island #10 in the Mississippi River and Fort Pulaski in Georgia. Abolition of slavery makes some progress, orthodox and unorthodox. Emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia moves toward reality and the treaty for suppression of the slave trade goes to the Senate for ratification. Acting brashly, Union General David Hunter proclaims freedom for slaves in the vicinity of Fort Pulaski. New York state moves backwards on women’s rights. In Mexico, Spain and England begin to pull out of the European intervention, leaving France to act alone. President Lincoln briefs Congress on the situation in Mexico. France makes a military conquest in southeast Asia and a diplomatic overture to the Empire of Japan.

The New York Times reports on the immigration facility at Ward’s Island. While the outbreak of civil war has significantly reduced immigration from what it was between 1849 and 1860, none-the-less, 91,985 immigrants enter the United States this year. The vast majority, over 80%, come from three regions: 30.0% come from the German states; 26.8% come from Great Britain; and 25.4% come from Ireland. In large part, they are male (58.4%), between the ages of 15 and 40 (73.0%) and without occupations (54.9%– however, this figure includes children under age 15 and many but not all women; for example, 3.2% of the total number of immigrants, over 2900, list their occupation as some form of “domestic worker” and the majority of them are women).

April 8– Tuesday– New Madrid, Missouri– Confederate troops surrender Island #10 in the Mississippi River. Federal forces edge closer to driving a wedge into the Confederacy. Union troops take about 7,000 rebel prisoners as well as seizing more than three dozen artillery pieces and lots of ammunition. Union losses are 23 dead and 50 wounded.


Frederick Douglass on the lecture platform

April 8– Tuesday– Rochester, New York– Frederick Douglass writes a letter to Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. He thanks Sumner for advocating abolition of slavery within the District of Columbia. “Sir, I rejoice for you. You have lived to strike down in Washington, the power which lifted the bludgeon against your own free voice.” [Douglass refers to the assault on Sumner in the Senate chamber by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina in May, 1856, which resulted in such serious injuries that Sumner was out of the Senate for the better part of three years. Massachusetts deliberately kept re-appointing him, allowing his empty chair to serve as an indictment against the South.]

April 9– Wednesday– New York City– Lawyer and businessman George Templeton Strong records his impressions of the Shiloh battle and the siege of Yorktown. “There has certainly been a big fight and ‘a murder grim and great.’ It will probably turn out an important national victory with heavy loss, for which Gratias agimus Tibi. McClellan does not seem to get on very fast at Yorktown.”

April 9– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to General McClellan, urging him to take action. “Your despatches complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much. . . . My explicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of all the commanders of Army corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. . . . And, once more let me tell you, it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this. You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted, that going down the Bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Mannassas, was only shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty that we would find the same enemy, and the same, or equal, intrenchments [sic], at either place. The country will not fail to note– is now noting– that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy, is but the story of Manassas repeated. I beg to assure you that I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as in my most anxious judgment, I consistently can. But you must act.”


Immigrants in 1862 arrived on ships like this

April 9– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the operation of Ward’s Island which since 1860 is in use as the receiving place for immigrants. “During the past year, Ward’s Island has undergone a much-needed sanitary improvement, and, detected by the present administration of Mr Fagan, its internal economy has exhibited marked financial results. . . . The emigration of the past year has greatly fallen off in consequence of the disturbed state of our country, in which, the yearning emigrant traced small promise of the proverbially kind welcome. . . . Agents of the Emigration Society of this port are located in various parts of the country to procure employment for such as are reliable, and, after a brief sojourn upon Ward’s Island, their capabilities being tested, they are transferred to homes in the interior counties. No less than six thousand and twenty-three employees have within the last year been thus provided for in this and other States. The sick, the aged and infirm, the destitute, the helpless children, and travel-exhausted foreigner are at once packed off by steamboat from their landing at Castle Garden, to the hospitals and Refuge of Ward’s Island, where they may remain till the way opens for their useful participation as citizens of their adopted country, or till health and strength recuperate their energies, and they are allowed a pass from the Superintendent, which admits there as candidates for position in our great marts of trade.”

 April 9– Wednesday– Mexico– Divided by charges made by a Spanish general about French intentions in Mexico, representatives of Spain, Great Britain and France terminate joint operations. British and Spanish troops begin to withdraw.

 April 10– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln gives final approval to the resolution for compensated emancipation. He also issues a proclamation asking the people to observe a day of prayer and thanksgiving, “that at their next weekly assemblages in their accustomed places of public worship which shall occur after notice of this proclamation shall have been received they especially acknowledge and render thanks to our Heavenly Father for these inestimable blessings, that they then and there implore spiritual consolation in behalf of all who have been brought into affliction by the casualties and calamities of sedition and civil war, and that they reverently invoke the divine guidance for our national counsels, to the end that they may speedily result in the restoration of peace, harmony, and unity throughout our borders and hasten the establishment of fraternal relations among all the countries of the earth.” And pursuant to the provisions of the constitution, the president sends a message. “I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to ratification, a treaty between the United States and Her Britannic Majesty for the suppression of the slave trade.” This is the document signed on April 7th by Secretary of State Seward and Britain’s Minister, Lord Lyons. .

April 10– Thursday– Albany, New York–The state legislature passes a bill prohibiting waitresses from serving liquor. In the same session, the legislature repeals legislation which gave women equal guardianship of girls and repeals protection of widows’ control of the property of minors.

 April 10– Thursday– Camp Shenandoah, Virginia– Adam Kersh, serving with Confederate infantry, writes to his brother George. “It has been very disagreeable here for a few days. On Monday last it commenced snowing and it has been snowing and sleeting ever since till to day. The sun shines occasionally. The snow was about four inches deep here. It don’t go quite so well after coming out of good cabins.”

 April 10– Thursday– Rochdale, England– John Bright, a Quaker member of Parliament and staunch abolitionist, writes to James Forsyth, a lawyer and businessman in Troy, New York. Mr Bright gives his impression of English popular sentiment regarding the war. “At this moment there is here the utmost tranquility in regard to American questions, and it is rare to find a man who professes sympathy for the South. My own clear opinion is, that an overwhelming majority of the English people would rejoice greatly at the complete success of your Government and the restoration of your Union. I hope this may soon be realized, and that you will not fall to fix an incurable wound in the grand evil which has been the one cause of your trouble.”

 April 11– Friday– Savannah, Georgia– Extensive bombardment by high-powered Union artillery forces the surrender of Fort Pulaski near the city, thus strengthening the Federal blockade. About 360 Confederate soldiers are taken prisoner. Their fort is reduced to rubble.


Damage at Fort Pulaski inflicted by Union artillery

April 11– Friday– Edinburg, Virginia– Robert Gould Shaw writes home to his mother, providing a view of Virginians. “The people here are as stuffy as they can be about Secessioniosm, and I don’t believe there is an honest Union man to be found. They are a nasty, ignorant race. A woman in Edinburg expressed great astonishment that Massachusetts men spoke the same language that she did. She called it the same, but I thank my stars I never learned such a patois as most of them speak.”

April 11– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s Liberator reports at length about the end of slavery in the District of Columbia, reminding readers that for years abolitionists have petitioned for the abolition of slavery in the District, but have failed. The paper refers to the speech by Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson, printed in this edition, and credits him for a strong vote in the Senate, which has passed the emancipation bill. “Of course, the loyal slaveholding Senators were rampant in their opposition to the passage of the bill, and tried the old game of bluster and menace, but to no purpose–the overseer’s lash has ceased to have any terror.”

 April 11– Friday– Glens Falls, New York– Birth of Charles Evans Hughes, who will become governor of New York, Secretary of State, an associate justice and chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

 April 11– Friday– Quebec, Canada– Mr A. T. Galt, the Finance Minister of Canada, complains in writing about some of the provisions of a proposed reciprocity of trade treaty between Canada and the United States. He argues that some terms favor the interests of the United States to Canada’s disadvantage and also some American goods could enter untaxed while comparable British goods would be taxed.

April 11– Friday– Hancock County, Ohio– Birth of William Wallace Campbell, astronomer, who will serve as president of the University of California from 1923 to 1930 and director of the Lick Observatory, San Jose, California, from 1900 to 1930.

 April 12– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times reports that Cyrus Field is working in conjunction with American and British firms regarding a new and improved trans-Atlantic cable system.


Cyrus Field

April 12– Saturday– New York City– George Templeton Strong writes in his diary about ending slavery. “Emancipation in the District of Columbia has passed both Houses . . . the nation has washed its hands of slavery. Only the damnedest of ‘damned abolitionists’ dreamed of such a thing a year ago. Perhaps the name of abolitionist will be less disgraceful a year hence. John Brown’s ‘soul’s a-marching on,’ with the people after it.”

 April 12– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia–By combining the Confederate Army of the Potomac with the Army of the Peninsula and a large garrison at Norfolk, President Jeff Davis creates the Army of Northern Virginia.

April 12– Saturday– New Bern, North Carolina– George Whitman writes to his mother, informing her that he has been promoted to Second Lieutenant and describes the officers’ mess where he now eats. “Our Captain is a young man from Buffalo N.Y. named Hazard whose father is very rich and we live in fine style I tell you. Cap has bread made in the City and buys lots of eggs, fish, Oysters chickens, milk and everything else he can see. We have three [black] boys to cook and wait on us, but Cap can afford it so I don’t care. Our first Leiut [sic] Francis is a first rate fellow so I have tip top times.”

 April 12– Saturday– Fort Pulaski, Georgia– Union General David Hunter, 59 years old, a West Point graduate, orders that all slaves in the immediate vicinity are now free persons.


Union General David Hunter

April 12– Saturday– Kennesaw, Georgia–In a raid that will come to be known as “the Great Locomotive Chase” which is aimed at destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad link to Chattanooga, a group of seventeen Union men led by James J Andrews, a civilian scout and part-time spy, steal a north-bound train. However, the plan to sabotage the southern railroad unravels. Being hotly pursued by railroad workers and Confederate soldiers, the northerners abandon the engine after traveling 87 miles, and flee on foot but by April 26th, Andrews and all his men will be captured and imprisoned.

April 13– Sunday– Hue, Vietnam– The government, acting under duress from France, cedes the control of three territories to the French.

 April 13– Sunday– Paris, France– Emperor Napoleon III formally receives ambassadors from Japan and the two powers conclude a treaty of friendship and commerce.

 April 14– Monday– New York City– The thirty-seventh annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design opens with, as the New York Times reports the next day, “all 555 works of art, representing about 220 artists, and fairly but not grandly maintaining their Metropolitan fame. Unlike other years there is not this season a single work of overshadowing importance. Little groups of admirers gather round the canvases of their favorites, but there is no frame to which the multitude flocks like sheep.”

April 14– Monday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln submits to the House of Representatives a report on events and conditions in Mexico.

April 14– Monday– New Market, Virginia– Confederate soldier Moffett Brooks writes home to his aunt, Clemenza Stuart. Despite recent set-backs for the Confederacy, he assures his aunt that “I will never give up as long as there is a ray of hope, I don’t believe there is any chance for them to whip us. We are . . . very well. I like the service very well though it is right hard but I think every one that can go ought to. Give my respect to aunt Elvira and to every body, write soon for it takes letters so long to come. Love to you and all the rest.” [ In eleven more weeks, Moffett Brooks will be dead.]

 April 14– Monday– Mississippi River, below New Orleans, Louisiana–A Federal fleet under Commodore David Farragut appears at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

 April 14– Monday– Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony– Birth of Pyotr Stolypin. His parents are Russian aristocrats. As an agrarian reformer, he will head the Russian Duma [parliament] from 1906 to 1911. [He will be assassinated in the Duma in 1911].

Pyotr Stolypin--c.1906

Now that April is Come–the First Week

The month of April, 1862, opens with anticipation and fear on both warring sides. Soldiers wearing blue and soldiers wearing grey grow weary of war and long for home. Mothers, sweethearts, wives and sisters of soldiers worry about their men. President Lincoln worries about disloyalty in Baltimore and when McClellan will actually use his large Army of the Potomac. Representatives of the United States and Great Britain put their signatures on a treaty in anticipation of finally moving the two powers into cooperative efforts to suppress the international slave trade. A Quaker member of Parliament anticipates restoration of the union and an end to slavery. In Tennessee, one of the bloodiest battles of the war to this date occurs at Shiloh church, with over 23,000 total casualties, including the commanding Confederate general among the 3,477 dead. Yet ordinary life continues. Around the world, contributors to life, the arts and knowledge die while others are born. Fashionable Southern women take carriage rides and fashionable Northern women can expect the opportunity to purchase the latest French fashions.

The height of fashion-1862

 April 1– Tuesday– New York City– The New York Times reports that a Mr W.B. Mackenzie “who has now the management of the celebrated United States Mantilla and Cloak Emporium of Mr George Carey,” was in Paris, France, early last month, ordering elegant ladies fashions for the New York store. “The world-renowned beauties of the Republican Court at Washington, as well as those of the Commercial Metropolis (New-York,) may well congratulate themselves upon having a person so competent to cater to their good taste as Mr. Mackenzie.”

April 1– Tuesday– Staunton, Virginia– The Staunton Spectator comments on the recent order from the War Department in Richmond, canceling all leaves and furloughs. “The Department adopts this with reluctance; but we feel assured that it will be cheerfully obeyed. The enemy is pressing us on all sides. We want every man we can get. We cannot spare a man. Our soldiers, who have manifested so much devotion, so much self denial, so much patriotism, will bear this cross without a murmur. We appeal to them in the name of all that they hold sacred– country, home, wives, children, friends, altars, and firesides– hasten at once to the field. . . . To your posts, men of the South, to your posts!”

April 2– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– The Senate follows the House and approves President Lincoln’s proposal of March 6th for gradual compensated emancipation of slaves. [However, not even one state will request any federal money for such emancipation.]

April 2– Wednesday– Elizabeth, New Jersey– Birth of Nicholas Murray Butler, educator and diplomat, who will win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Fashionable bonnets for a carriage ride

 April 2– Wednesday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut notes in her diary the social activities of well-to-do women. “To-day, the ladies in their landaus were bitterly attacked by the morning paper for lolling back in their silks and satins, with tall footmen in livery, driving up and down the streets while the poor soldiers’ wives were on the sidewalks. It is the old story of rich and poor! My little barouche is not here, nor has James Chesnut any of his horses here, but then I drive every day with Mrs. McCord and Mrs. Preston, either of whose turnouts fills the bill. The Governor’s carriage, horses, servants, etc., are splendid- just what they should be. Why not?”

April 3– Thursday– Aylesbury, England– Sir James Clark Ross, naval officer and explorer, dies 12 days before his 62nd birthday. He led two naval explorations of the waters around Antarctica in 1841 and 1842 as well as leading the search for the missing explorer Sir John Franklin in 1848.

April 4– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s Liberator reprints a letter from Union General Don Carlos Buell claiming that abolishing slavery would be unconstitutional. The same issue carries a detailed report of the New York state lecture tour by the former slave William Wells Brown who has been lecturing extensively on the topic of “The War and its Connections with Slavery.” On another page there appears a report of the harassment of Wendell Phillips in Cincinnati on March 24th and quotes an Ohioan as saying about abolitionists that they “are regarded as dangerous lunatics, who ought not to be allowed to be at large.”

Union General Buell

April 4– Friday– Locust Grove, Virginia– Jedediah Hotchkiss, serving with the Confederate forces of General Jackson, writes to his wife Sara. “O how I wish war would cease, and that we might all have peace in the enjoyment of our rights and liberties, but those rights we must have, cost what it may.”

April 4– Friday– London, England– John Bright, a Quaker member of Parliament and fervent abolitionist, sends a reply to a letter from the New York [State] Chamber of Commerce. “I believe there is no other country in which men have been so free and so prosperous as in yours, and that there is no other political constitution now in existence in the preservation of which the human race is so deeply interested as in that under which you live. . . . Notwithstanding much misapprehension, and some recent excitement, I am sure that an overwhelming majority of the people of the United Kingdom will rejoice at the success of your Government, and at the complete restoration of your Union.”

John Bright, Quaker M.P. & businessman

April 5– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln orders Major General John Dix to take control of the police force of Baltimore, Maryland, and “to arrest and imprison disloyal persons, declare martial law, and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the city.”

April 5– Saturday– Edinburg, Virginia– Robert Gould Shaw writes home to his sister Nellie in Massachusetts. “I know now how a shell sounds flying through the air and it is an exceedingly unpleasant sound. It is a moment of great anxiety from the time you see the smoke issuing from the cannon, until you see where the shot falls. . . . I don’t believe I shall want to leave home again when the war is over.”

April 5– Saturday– Yorktown, Virginia–Federal troops under General McClellan begin a month long siege of the town.

April 5– Saturday– Buxieres-des-Mines, France– Birth of Louis Gaston Ganne, composer and conductor.

Reconstruction of Shiloh Methodist meeting house--the original was destroyed during the battle

April 6– Sunday– Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee– Confederate troops launch an attack upon General Grant’s unsuspecting Federal forces in the area of Shiloh Meeting House. In the heavy fighting, one of the Confederate dead is the commanding general, Albert Sidney Johnston.

Battle of Shiloh

April 6– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a telegram to General McClellan, encouraging action. “I think you better break the enemy’s line from Yorktown to Warwick River, at once. They will probably use time as advantageously as you can.”

April 6– Sunday– Paris, France– Birth of Georges Darien, writer and anarchist.

April 7– Monday– Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee– On the second day of fighting in the battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles to date, re-enforced Federal troops under General Grant turn a near defeat into a costly victory, routing a Confederate attack which costs the Union 13,047 dead, wounded and missing while the Confederates suffer 10,694 killed, injured and missing.

Harper's Weekly illustration of the fight at Shiloh

April 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Lord Lyons, the British Minister, reports to the Foreign Secretary regarding the treaty on cooperation in suppression of the slave trade. “I have . . . this morning signed the Treaty; and I have, in deference to Mr. Seward’s opinion, admitted the Clause limiting the duration. . . . the Senate does not always confine itself to ratifying or rejecting a Treaty absolutely. It very frequently makes amendments or alterations. It appears, therefore, to be more consistent with the Dignity of the Queen, that even if Her Majesty approve of the Treaty as it stands, Her Ratification should not be given, until it is certain that the President has been authorised by the Senate to give the Ratification of the United States.”

April 7– Monday– London, England– Sydney Nelson, composer, dies at age 62. He has claimed that he wrote more than 800 pieces of music.

Veterans of the Shiloh battle, c.1908