May’s Mixture-1862-the first week

The month of May, 1862, opens badly for the Confederacy. New Orleans has fallen. Federal forces are moving in two sections of Virginia and in North Carolina. The Apache of the Southwest beat some Confederate cavalry. The Turkish Empire bans Confederate ships from Turkish ports and Turkish waters. Slaves are escaping into Union lines, hoping for safety. On the other side of the mixture, General McClellan still moves too slowly to satisfy President Lincoln. Confederate General James Longstreet begins to emerge as one of the Confederacy’s military heroes.

Union General Benjamin Franklin Butler takes over occupied New Orleans, soon earning his reputation as “the beast of New Orleans.” In months his conduct will lead to his recall. Interestingly, despite his inglorious military career, he will be active in post-war politics, make a great deal of money in his law practice and grow friendly with Susan B Anthony, even to attending suffrage conventions.

In Europe, the International Exposition of 1862, the World’s Fair of its day, opens in London. However, Queen Victoria remains in seclusion, mourning her dead husband. It will be some time before she makes a public appearance; she will wear widow’s black for the rest of life and seldom come to London from Windsor. Napoleon III sees an opportunity to build an overseas empire in Mexico, what with the United States disapproving but too involved with civil war to stop France. However, Spain and Britain are pulling their troops out and the French Army suffers its first major military defeat since Waterloo as a smaller Mexican force soundly whips them and creates a national holiday to celebrate Mexican pride. An old Dutch town goes up in flames.

Henry David Thoreau dies young. Abolitionists continue to complain about the Lincoln Administration’s failure to deal forthrightly with the issue of slavery. And an out-spoken, uppity abolitionist woman can get her name in the papers for her eloquence.

May 1– Thursday– Camp Stevens, near Beaufort, South Carolina– Christian C Lobinger, a private from Pennsylvania serving in the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, records in his diary an encounter with several fugitive slaves. “Early in the morning we were arrested by the sound of oars; a skiff approached containing two male slaves with their wives. I never in my life saw any one so much scared as they were. Women hid their faces trembling with fear . . . said they had been a month and eight days on the road in making their escape; hid in the swamp during daytime; said all the “Secesh” had gone to Yorktown on Sunday last. We fed them and entertained them as best we could and I never saw any persons appreciate favors like they did. I never saw any living souls so happy as they were. They were sent to the General’s headquarters.”


Union General Ben Butler--"the Beast of New Orleans"

May 1– Thursday– New Orleans, Louisiana–Union infantry under General Benjamin Butler begin entering the city.

 May 1– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln wires General McClellan, again expressing concern about McClellan’s slowness to act. “Your call for Parrott guns [siege artillery] from Washington alarms me– chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?”


Part of the great hall at the 1862 Exposition in London

May 1– Thursday– London, England– The six-month long International Exposition of 1862, or Great London Exposition, opens beside the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society in South Kensington. Sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Trade, it includes over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries, representing a wide range of industry, technology, and the arts. In secluded mourning for the death of her husband, Prince Albert, last December, Queen Victoria makes no public appearance at the Exposition.

May 2– Friday– Sacramento, California– The state legislature passes an act creating the California State Normal School [now San Jose State University].

May 3– Saturday– Yorktown, Virginia– Concerned by the increasing size of the Union forces around them and the number of heavy siege guns, General Joseph E Johnston orders the Confederate army to begin withdrawing.

 May 3– Saturday– New York City– George Templeton Strong makes a celebratory entry in his diary. “The nation has been making progress. We have occupied New Orleans and thus tied a main artery of treason.”

May 3– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times prints a circular letter from Secretary of State Seward sent two months ago and expressing to a number of European powers the position of the Lincoln Administration regarding European intervention in Mexico. In a key part, Seward writes that “the President regards it at his duty to express to the Allies, in all kindness and candor, that a monarchical government established in Mexico, in the presence of foreign fleets and armies, occupying the waters and the soil of Mexico, has no promise of security or permanence; in the second place, that the instability of such a monarchy would be enhanced if the throne were assigned to a person alien to Mexico; that in these circumstances the new Government would instantly fall unless sustained by European alliances, which, under the influence of the first invasion, would be practically the beginnings of a permanent policy of armed intervention by monarchical Europe, at once injurious and inimical to the system of government generally adopted by the American Continent.”

French Emperor Napoleon III

 May 4– Sunday– Yorktown, Virginia– Confederate forces complete their withdrawal and Federal troops occupy the city. Despite the fact that there has been no major fight nor even heavy bombardment, General McClellan, in a self-congratulatory message to Washington, declares his success here to be “brilliant.”

 May 4– Sunday– New York City– The American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless holds its annual meeting. Officers report that in the last calender year they spent $20,927.35 to assist 2,335 young women and their children. [In contemporary dollars that would exceed $500,000.]

May 5– Monday– Williamsburg, Virginia– As Confederate troops withdraw from the area, soldiers under General James Longstreet fight a hard rear-guard action against Union General Joseph Hooker’s troops, inflicting 2239 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) on the Federal forces while sustaining about 1700 casualties themselves.


The French defeat--May 5th--Battle of Puebla

May 5– Monday– Puebla, Mexico– The Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza defeats the French Army of 5,000 soldiers. French forces suffer about 700 casualties and fail to take a fort from Mexican defenders. [This event will be commemorated each year as “Cinco de Mayo.”]

 May 5– Monday– Dragoon Springs, New Mexico Territory [near what is now Benson, Arizona]– A small detail of Confederate cavalry foraging for stray cattle in the area around an abandoned stagecoach depot become involved in a fire fight with about 100 Chiricahua Apache warriors, commanded by Cochise. Four Confederate soldiers are killed and the others retreat. The Apaches capture a large number of cattle and horses. The number of Apache casualties is unknown.

 May 6– Tuesday– Concord, Massachusetts–Henry David Thoreau dies at age 44. His last words are “Now comes good sailing.”


The grave of H D Thoreau

May 6– Tuesday– New York City– The twenty-ninth anniversary meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society opens with William Lloyd Garrison presiding. Speakers include William Wells Brown, Theodore Tilton and Wendell Phillips. Speakers generally criticize President Lincoln for his slowness to act on abolition. The day-long program concludes in the evening with a speech by Anna E Dickinson and singing by the Hutchinson Family. The New York Times describes Miss Dickinson’s presentation as “a most eloquent peroration” presented “in an energetic style of declamation, a most interesting address” to “the majority of the audience . . . composed of ladies.”


The eloquent Anna Dickinson, abolitionist

May 6– Tuesday– Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire– Mr E J Morris, the American Minister, reports to Secretary of State Seward that the Sultan’s government has banned any Confederate ship from all waters and all ports of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Sultan Abdul-aziz who banned Confederate ships from his ports & waterways


May 7– Wednesday– Enschede, the Netherlands– Much of this old medieval city is ruined by fire.

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