Let Slip the Dogs of War~August 16th to 21st, 1862

The slavery question takes national prominence yet again as Horace Greeley, 51 years old, founding editor the New York Tribune, reformer and long-time opponent of slavery, publishes his passionate “Prayer of the Twenty Millions” in which he encourages Lincoln to take immediate action to abolish slavery.

Women continue to make outstanding efforts to provide nursing and encouragement for recruitment. While the Lincoln Administration has so far successfully avoided war with Great Britain, war erupts on another front as the Sioux Nations in Minnesota rise in revolt against the indifference and neglect of government agents and commercial traders. George Templeton Strong and Elisha Hunt Rhodes despair of General McClellan’s leadership.

Walt Whitman’s brother George writes to his mother, describing the August 9th inconclusive battle at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, in glowing terms as a Yankee victory. He relishes telling about the soldiers’ success in foraging at the expense of Virginia farmers.

Elsewhere in the world a Canadian pioneer and the mother of Chilean independence die. In the cosmopolitan city of Vienna a grand park opens to the public.


Cartoon depicting Civil War nurses as patriotic heroes


August 16– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times praises the war efforts made by the Woman’s Central Association which has, among other things, trained nurses, noting that “the women who first assumed the untried part of military nurses under their supervision retain their positions still. Ninety-one responsible nurses have been trained by them and are, for the most part, at present actively employed, sustaining thus far reputations for substantial efficiency.”

August 16– Saturday– various battle fronts– Federal and Confederate troops skirmish at locations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia

August 17– Sunday– Litchfield, Minnesota– Four Sioux warriors kill five settlers near here. This is the first incident in what will be called the “Sioux Uprising.” Resentment among the Sioux has been festering for weeks as promised payments of cash and food to be made by the United States government have not arrived. Traders refuse to sell provisions on credit to the Sioux. Andrew Myrick, a spokesman for the traders, said, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.”

August 17– Sunday– near Cedar Mountain, Virginia– George Washington Whitman writes home to his mother with a distinctly Yankee look at recent fighting against Stonewall Jackson and a view of foraging. “When we arrived here the fight was over and old Stonewall had skedadled back in the mountains, pretty badly licked too, as near as I can find out. This is as handsome a country as I ever saw, we find plenty of forage in the shape of Beef, Chickens, eggs, potatoes, and the way the cattle and sheep have suffered since we have been here is a caution to secesh farmers. Some of our boys go to a house where there is a sheep dog, take the dog and make him catch as many sheep as they want, and bring them in and cook them, and you may be sure the Yankees get some tall cussing from the farmers.”

August 18– Monday– Orange County, Virginia– William Baylor, serving under General Stonewall Jackson, writes home to his wife, Mary Baylor. “We are no doubt preparing for an important movement– 3 days rations to be put into Haversacks– the enemy are not very far off – but we believe have fallen back. May God give us a great victory & preserve me to you & my child – I am in command of the Brigade – feel my inability for such a responsible position & rely only on heaven for wisdom & strength in the discharge of my Duties.”

Sioux warriors fighting in Minnesota, August, 1862

August 18– Monday– Redwood Ferry, Minnesota– Twenty-seven Federal soldiers die in a fight with Sioux warriors.

Simon Fraser, Canadian explorer

August 18– Monday– St Andrew West, Canada–Simon Fraser, fur-trader and first non-indigenous explorer of what became the province of British Columbia, dies at age 86.

August 19–Tuesday– New York City–With an impassioned editorial of about 2200 words in today’s Tribune, Horace Greeley writes as an open letter to President Lincoln, encouraging the president to emancipate all slaves. Near the end of the piece, Greeley declares, “On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile–that the Rebellion, if crushed out tomorrow, would be renewed within a year if Slavery were left in full vigor–that Army officers who remain to this day devoted to Slavery can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union–and that every hour of deference to Slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union, I appeal to the testimony of your Ambassadors in Europe. It is freely at your service, not at mine. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slaveholding, slavery-upholding interest, is not the perplexity, the despair of statesmen of all parties, and be admonished by the general answer. I close as I began with the statement that what an immense majority of the Loyal Millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land.”

Horace Greeley

August 19– New York City– George Templeton Strong confides to the pages of his diary his opinion of the war effort. “McClellan has gloriously evacuated Harrison’s Landing and got safe back to where he was months ago. Magnificent strategy. Pity it has lost so many thousand men and millions of dollars. . . . McClellan stock is falling fearfully. He is held accountable for the thousands of lives expended without result in digging trenches in the Chickahominy swamp and on the James River.”

August 20– Wednesday– Fort Ridgely, Minnesota– Soldiers and settlers repel an attack by Sioux fighters.

August 20– Wednesday– Canandaigua, New York– Caroline Cowles Richards, age 19, notes in her diary the organization of a new regiment. “The 126th Regiment, just organized, was mustered into service at Camp Swift, Geneva. . . . [regimental surgeon] Dr. Hoyt wrote home: ‘God bless the dear ones we leave behind; and while you try to perform the duties you owe to each other, we will try to perform ours.’ We saw by the papers that the volunteers of the regiment before leaving camp at Geneva allotted over $15,000 of their monthly pay to their families and friends at home. One soldier sent this telegram to his wife, as the regiment started for the front: ‘God bless you. Hail Columbia. Kiss the baby. Write soon.’ A volume in ten words.”

August 20– Wednesday– near Yorktown, Virginia– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes confides to his journal. “I am well but do not like the appearance of things. We are moving in the wrong direction it seems to me.”

Javiera Carrera, Mother of independent Chile

August 20– Wednesday– Santiago, Chile– Francisca Xaviera Eudoxia Rudecinda Carmen de los Dolores de la Carrera y Verdugo, better known as Javiera Carrera, dies at age 81. Born into one of the most aristocratic Chilean families, she actively participated in the War of Independence against Spain. Together with her three brothers, she was one of most important leaders of the early struggle for freedom and is credited with having sewn the first national flag of Chile. Mourners take to the streets, hailing her as the “Mother of Chile”.


August 21– Thursday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Federal troops withdraw from the city.

August 21– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis issues a proclamation that if captured, Union generals David Hunter and John Phelps are to be treated not as prisoners of war but as felons for using slaves against the Confederacy.

August 21– Thursday– Vienna, Austria– The first public park in the city, the Stadtpark, opens its gates.

A section of modern Stadtpark

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