Fortune’s Favor-June, 1862-the first week

“Fortune favors the bold,” old Romans said (in Latin, of course). June opens on somber notes for the Confederacy. The capture of New Orleans remains a fresh wound. Union General McClellan threatens Richmond with a large force. No European power has yet granted diplomatic recognition. The Union blockade of major ports exerts economic pressure on the economy of the rebellion. Planters burn valuable crops out of fear that federal forces will seize such valuable cotton and produce. However, things are about to change for the South. Robert E Lee takes command in Virginia. Before the month is out Lee, Jeb Stuart and Stonewall Jackson will bring joy to the Confederacy and deep concern to the Union. In the meanwhile, as Mary Chesnut ponders the war news, music moves her to tears.

Soldiers of both sides write to and about family and lament having to do their own laundry. In New York City relief agencies look for clothes for indigent Union soldiers recently released from prisoner-of-war camps. McClellan moves too slowly to satisfy civilian and Lincoln Administration critics. Union General Butler begins a reign of terror in occupied New Orleans.

Internationally, British merchant ships continue, some successfully, some not, to attempt to run the Union blockade of Southern ports. Free of Southern restraint, Congress authorizes the establishment of diplomatic relations with the free black states of Haiti, which declared its independence in 1804, and Liberia, independent since 1847. Turkey is held in high esteem by the administration for the Sultan’s stand against Confederate ships. Over all, the month of June will prove that fortune favors the bold and frowns upon the hesitant.


Robert E Lee, c1850

June 1– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis appoints General Robert E. Lee, 55 years old and former superintendent of the academy at West Point where he himself graduated second in the class of 1829, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to replace the wounded General Joseph E. Johnston.

June 1– Sunday– Fair Oaks, Virginia–As the second day of battle goes on, the Confederates successfully fight to bring to a standstill the Union advance led by General McClellan. Rather than counter-attack, McClellan takes up defensive positions. Federal forces lose a total of 5,031 dead, wounded and missing while the Confederate forces suffer 6,134 dead, wounded and missing.

Battle of Fair Oaks

June 1– Sunday– New Bern, North Carolina– George Whitman writes home to his mother. After telling her that he is sending her about $30 [equal to approximately $692 today] and how his company presented him with a sword and sash, he talks about the state of the war. “McCleland [sic] seems to be working rather Slowly but very surely in Virginia. I am not particularly anxious for a fight, but I should kinder like to be there when the big fight comes off at Richmond.”

June 2– Monday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– Union saboteur James Andrews of the Great Locomotive Chase, escapes from jail. He will be recaptured the next day

June 3– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut records in her diary: “Sat down at my window in the beautiful moonlight, and tried hard for pleasant thoughts. A man began to play on the flute, with piano accompaniment, first, ‘Ever of thee I am fondly dreaming,’ and then, ‘The long, long, weary day.’ At first, I found this but a complement to the beautiful scene, and it was soothing to my wrought-up nerves. But Von Weber’s ‘Last Waltz’ was too much; I broke down. Heavens, what a bitter cry came forth, with such floods of tears! the wonder is there was any of me left. I learn that Richmond women go in their carriages for the wounded, carry them home and nurse them.”

June 3–Tuesday–At the mouth of the Rio Grande River– A U S warship captures a British merchant ship attempting to run the blockade.

June 4–Wednesday–Up and down the Mississippi River Valley– Dozens of Southern planters burn thousands of dollars worth of cotton to prevent its seizure by Federal troops.

June 4– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times reports that 400 Union soldiers, recently released from Confederate prison camps, have arrived in the city. These men are destitute and in need of clothing. “The New-England Soldiers’ Relief Association . . . . [is asking ]for donations of men’s clothing of all kinds. As a steamer is momentarily expected with 650 more released prisoners, the wants of the Association are immediate. All contributions of cast-off clothing will be thankfully received at the Association Room, No. 194 Broadway.”

June 4– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward responds to the dispatch from E J Morris, the American consul at Constantinople regarding Turkey’s ban of Confederate ships. “The President receives with profound satisfaction the decree of His Majesty, the Sultan, which interdicts the entrance of pirates [Confederate privateers] engaged in deprecating upon the commerce of our country into the ports of the Turkish Empire. This proceeding is the more honorable to that Prince, and it will be the more gratifying to the United States, because it is an unreserved acceptance and application of the principles of international law which this Government has maintained from the beginning of the civil war in which we have so unnecessarily and unfortunately been involved during the past year. . . . It will . . . be to the honor of the Sultan of Turkey that he took the lead in conceding to the United States rights which, it is now expected, will soon be conceded by all the other maritime Powers.”

Union soldiers in camp

June 4– Wednesday– Mechanicsville, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary the cost of battle and his commitment. “Saturday was a day of carnage. Our Division suffered terribly. . . . But it is all for the Union. . . . Tomorrow will complete my first year in the Army. It has been one of hardships, but I am glad that I enlisted and want to see the end of the war with the Union restored and peace again in our land.”

June 4– Wednesday– New Market, Virginia– Jedediah Hotchkiss, serving under General Stonewall Jackson, writes to his brother Nelson. “We are confident of success whenever our General sees fit to strike a blow, under the blessing of Providence, which follows his prayers . . . . May God enable us to keep the foe away from our homes with his ruthless and despoiling hand. I am every day more and more impressed with the belief that of all human evils war is the greatest, the most degrading and horrible, one from which all engaged in it long to be delivered. . . . Nothing but the preservation of our dearest rights could ever induce me to have anything to do with it, but we must fight out our destiny, come weal, come woe, and leave those that war does not sweep away to prove whether blood has been shed for good or for evil. . . . I wish you would hire some one, for me, to work and completely make my garden and send the bill, if necessary and I will pay it. My wife says she has not been able to get it well made, and I do not wish her to weary herself and make herself sick trying to work it.”

Typical Civil War artillery

June 5– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes public sentiment about General McClellan. “People complain of McClellan’s slow progress and wonder if he is not over-matched.”

June 5–Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Congress authorizes President Lincoln to establish diplomatic relationships with Haiti and Liberia.

Toussaint Louverture, leader of independence struggle in Haiti against France

June 5– Thursday– Landskrona, Sweden– Birth of Allvar Gullstrand, ophthalmologist, who will receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1911.

June 6– Friday– New York City– The New York Times has harsh words for British attempts to run the blockade of Southern ports. “If our readers could like to learn some of the schemes by which our kind friends in England undertake to violate the blockade, we recommend to them to read Judge Betts’ decision condemning the ship Cheshire and her cargo, which we publish in another column. The vessel sailed from Liverpool bound, as she claimed, on a voyage either to Nassau, or Halifax; and with so much uncertainty about her own destination, it is not at all remarkable that she should have found herself one morning off the port of Savannah. She was boarded by one of our vessels there . . . . Nor is this the only loss which John Bull has suffered at the hands of our Jack Tars. Within the last few weeks they have captured, off the various ports along the Southern coast, steamers and other vessels which had come from England with cargoes which must have been worth millions. And the proportion thus far of the vessels captured which have escaped condemnation from the Prize Courts, is very small. Our officers generally seem to have understood what they were about, and have very rarely seized a vessel which they were not able to hold. It will prove a painful, but we trust a useful lesson, to our friend Bull. He has lent a too credulous ear to those Southern friends of his, who have proclaimed so loudly that the blockade along the Southern coast was merely a paper blockade, not worthy to be regarded for an instant by the commercial fleet of Britannia the Ruler of the Seas.”

20th century depiction of “John Bull”

June 6– Friday– Memphis, Tennessee–Federal forces occupy the city.

June 6– Friday– Williamsport, Maryland– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his sister Susie. “It is pleasant to see how differently the men feel towards their officers since we have been under fire together. They appreciate the advantages of strict discipline now.”

June 6– Friday– James Island, South Carolina– Union soldier Christian Lobinger records in his diary his failed effort to do his laundry. “I attempted for the first time to wash some clothes– after rubbing and rubbing at least an hour and a half I found the shirt was not a particle cleaner than when I began so I become discouraged believing I never was cut out for a wash woman and I think I’ll never try it again.”

June 7– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Both the Senate of the United States and the government of Her Britannic Majesty having ratified the treaty to ban international slave trade, there is a formal publication. “Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, have caused the said treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every clause and article thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof.”

June 7– Saturday– Atlanta, Georgia– James Andrews, the Northern civilian leader of the “Great Locomotive Chase,” is hung by Confederate authorities.

June 7–Saturday– New Orleans, Louisiana–Union General Butler orders the execution by hanging of William Mumford for destroying the U S flag which had been flying over the federal mint.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: