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.”

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