Let Slip the Dogs of War~August 26th to 31st, 1862

The month closes with one more major bloodbath, a second go-round at Bull Run (Manassas) with the Confederates victorious as they were in the summer of 1861. However, the cost in dead and wounded is much higher for both sides this time. Worse things, much worse, are coming in September. Citizens such as George Templeton Strong as well as members of Lincoln’s Cabinet worry about the competency of General McClellan. The alleged Confederate spy Belle Boyd is released. Northern newspapers fuss about draft exemption for Quakers. Violence continues in Minnesota.

One of Walt Whitman’s former editors laments his present state of affairs.

It becomes clear to Mexico that the country shall have to go it alone against France. In Italy the hero Garibaldi again makes the news.

August 27– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times joins a number of other papers questioning the exemption of Quakers from military conscription based upon their religious belief in non-violence. “There is no reason why a Quaker should not be required to defend the Government which protects him in the enjoyment of life, liberty and prosperity, any more than any other citizen. If for any reason of conscience or constitution, he is unwilling to fight in person, let him hire a substitute. The law in question is liable and is actually subject to very gross abuse. In many parts of this State, we learn from good authority, scores and hundreds of men are filing claims to exemption from the draft on the ground that they are ‘of the religious sect called Quakers,’– a fact which has never been suspected by those who have known them best hitherto.”

August 28–Thursday– Washington, D.C.–The Mexican Minister reports to his government that the United States will not allow Mexico to buy weapons in the United States to fight the French.

August 28– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Belle Boyd, the alleged Confederate spy who was arrested on July 29th, is released from jail. Federal authorities cite lack of sufficient evidence to hold her.

Col. Sibley at the time of the battle with the Sioux

August 28– Thursday– Fort Ridgely, Minnesota– Additional Federal troops under Colonel H H Sibley arrive to fight the Sioux.

August 28– Thursday– Munich, Germany– The painter Albrecht Adam dies at age 76. He was a court painter for Emperor Napoleon I and later for the emperors of Austria and the kings of Bavaria. He is famous for his paintings of battle scenes and of horses.

August 29– Friday– New York City– George Templeton Strong complains to his diary. “Are our generals traitors or imbecile? Why does the Rebellion enjoy the monopoly of audacity and enterprise? Were I a general, even I, poor little feeble, myopic, flaccid, effeminate George T Strong, I think I could do better than this.”

Maurice Maeterlinck

August 29– Friday– Ghent, Belgium– Birth of Maurice Maeterlinck, playwright and poet, who will win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1911.

August 29– Friday– Reggia Calebria, Italy– In a skirmish between the Royal Italian Army and volunteers under Garibaldi, Garibaldi is wounded and the push to Rome brought to a halt. Garibaldi, upset by the determination of Pope Pius IX to maintain secular political rule over the city of Rome, had gathered volunteers to challenge Papal authority. The government sent troops to stop them. When one or two soldiers open fire on the “rebels” and they return fire, Garibaldi orders his followers to cease and he himself willingly becomes a prisoner. The encounter becomes known as “the Battle of Aspromonte.”



August 30– Saturday– Manassas, Virginia– In the final day of a prolonged four day fight which will become known as “Second Manassas” or the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Lee’s Confederate troops score a major victory over Federal troops. Lee sustains a total of 9,197 killed, wounded or missing (about 18.9% of his total command) during the four days campaign while inflicting 16,054 total casualties upon his opponents (21.4% of the involved Union forces). The star performer on behalf of the Confederacy is General Stonewall Jackson.

Stonewall Jackson memorial at Manassas Park

August 30– Saturday– Richmond, Kentucky– Confederate troops win a small but important victory over Union forces and make a major advance in their invasion of Kentucky.

August 31– Sunday– Boston, Massachusetts– William Wilde Thayer of the bankrupt publishing company of Thayer and Eldridge, which published the third edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in 1860, writes to Whitman about the job Thayer now holds in the post office. “I lead a miserable life now I assure you, save that which I enjoy in my home. I have uncongenial companions to work with in the office, who though externally good, are internally nobodies, with minds that have fed on husks, they present but poor incentives to one who would enjoy true refinement of soul, or purity of thought, or thought downright earnest sturdy thought of any kind. Poor fellows! They have hard work & disagreeable & I must not blame them, for I believe it is the nature of the employment that stultifies. For I think that I myself have got ‘slunk,’ and have not very exalted ambitions now, although please understand, your old ‘fanatic’ of the concern of T&E is by no means crushed. He only wants his time to rise. The Post master is a good friend to me so I must not complain for without my clerkship, God only knows how I could have supported the dear ones at home.”

Walt Whitman in a photograph by Matthew Brady

August 31– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles records increasing sentiment against General McClellan among some members of the Cabinet. “The energy and rapid movements of the Rebels are in such striking contrast to those of our own officers that I shall not be seriously surprised at any sudden dash from them. Yesterday . . ., Chase called on me with a protest addressed to the President, signed by himself and Stanton, against continuing McClellan in command and demanding his immediate dismissal. . . . I believe his removal from command was demanded by public sentiment and the best interest of the country.”

August 31– Sunday– Carlisle. Great Britain–The last horse-drawn mail coach makes its final run from this city to Hawick, Scotland.

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