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

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