By Blood and Iron~September, 1862~the 22nd to the 26th

The scores of wounded from the Antietam battlefield flood surrounding communities, including towns in Pennsylvania. Seizing the moment, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps this is what has casused his reflective questions about the will of God. But the measure is limited to slaves in the states in active rebellion and will not take effect until the coming 1st of January. Some of his cabinet, like Gideon Welles, have doubts. Abolitionists take a critical stand, emphasizing the measures limitations and worrying that the Confederacy may take repressive measures against slaves. Robert Gould Shaw, whose parents are long-standing abolitionists, also wonders about the immediate efficacy of the decree.  A group of governors declare their support for President Lincoln. The President takes a constitutionally dangerous position by suspending the writ of habeus corpus in cases of rebels and their sympathizers.

In Richmond, rumors abound about General Lee and the army and about the Federal government. A Southern belle glories in all things “Confederate.” British sympathy for the rebellion runs high in some quarters, along with hope for the end of the blockade and access to American cotton.

Elsewhere, an American mercenary is killed in China and a skilled and very nationalistic German politician becomes Prime Minister of Prussia. The Sioux suffer a major defeat in Minnesota.

September 22– Monday– Tzeki, China– The 30 year old American soldier of fortune Frederick Townsend Ward, who has been training and leading troops of the Imperial Army for the last two years, dies of wounds he received yesterday in defeating rebels. As he lies dying he dictates a will providing for the care of his Chinese wife as well as his sister and brother.

Frederick Townsend Ward

September 22–Monday– Berlin, Germany– By the appointment of King Wilhelm I, Otto von Bismarck becomes prime minister.

Otto von Bismarck, c.1861

September 22–Monday–Washington, D.C.– Buoyed by Union success at Antietam, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. At its heart, he declares, “That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free, and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any effort they may make for their actual freedom.” He further adds that “All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.”

a period cartoon depicts woodsman Lincoln forcing down the rebellion by cutting down slavery

September 22– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles describes in his diary the Cabinet meeting about the Emancipation Proclamation. The President’s “mind was fixed, his decision made.” Welles own mind is more unsettled. “For myself the subject has, from its magnitude and its consequences, oppressed me, aside from the ethical features of the question. It is a step in the progress of this war which will extend into the distant future. A favorable termination of this terrible conflict seems more remote with every movement.”

September 23– Tuesday– Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota– At the battle of Wood Lake, 2000 Federal troops defeat about 950 Sioux fighters. Among the dead Sioux is Chief Mankato, killed by artillery fire. This marks the end of major fighting. Since the conflict began in mid-August about 500 settlers and soldiers have been killed and about 60 Sioux.

Battle of Wood Lake

September 23– Tuesday– London, England– As yet unaware of the result of the Battle of Antietam, Prime Minister Palmerston writes to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell. “If the Federals sustain a great defeat . . . [their] Cause will be manifestly hopeless.” He goes on to say that in such a case Britain can push for an armistice, the lifting of the Union blockade and mediation by Her Majesty’s Government.


ant-British cartoon depicts John Bull trying to set the dogs on Lady Liberty while she deals with the snake of “treason”

September 24– Wednesday– Altoona, Pennsylvania– At the invitation of Pennsylvania’s Governor, Andrew Curtin, a two day conference of “loyal war governors” convenes at the Logan House hotel. Curtin is a Republican and strong supporter of Lincoln. The other governors in attendance come from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin as well as Francis Pierpoint, Governor of loyal Virginia and key figure leading the formation of the separate state of West Virginia. With the support of all present except for Governor Bradford of Maryland, the conference calls for raising additional troops in response to President Lincoln’s call for more soldiers, support of the Lincoln Administration, support of the Emancipation Proclamation and the recall of General McClellan.

September 24– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Benjamin Schneck writes to his sister Margaretta Keller about the wounded from the Antietam battle. “We have already a great many wounded here & more are to come tonight. Our Ladies are engaged almost day & night getting up beds and nursing them. Rebecca is almost worn out.”

September 24– Wednesday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln issues a proclamation suspending the writ of habeus corpus. “Now, therefore, be it ordered, first, that during the existing insurrection, and as a necessary measure for suppressing the same, all rebels and insurgents, their aiders and abettors, within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia draft or guilty of any disloyal practice affording aid and comfort to rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by courts-martial or military commissions; second, that the writ of habeas corpus is suspended in respect to all persons arrested, or who are now or hereafter during the rebellion shall be imprisoned in any fort, camp, arsenal, military prison, or other place of confinement by any military authority or by the sentence of any court-martial or military commission.”

September 24– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones writes in his diary. “The papers this morning are still in doubt whether Lee has returned to the Virginia side of the Potomac, or remains in Maryland. My theory is that he is per due for the present, hoping all the enemy’s forces will enter Virginia, from Washington–when he will pounce upon that city and cut off their retreat. The Northern papers contain intimations of the existence of a conspiracy to dethrone Lincoln, and put a military Dictator at the head of the government. Gen. Fremont is named as the man. It is alleged that this movement is to be made by the Abolitionists, as if Lincoln were not sufficiently radical for them!”

soldiers dance with ladies visiting their camp

September 24–Wednesday– Linwood, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan takes pride in the deprivations of living in the struggling Confederacy. “Yesterday the General saluted us with ‘Young ladies, if you will ride in a Confederate carriage, you may go to dress parade this evening.’ Now, in present phraseology, ‘Confederate’ means anything that is rough, unfinished, unfashionable, or poor. You hear of Confederate dresses, which means last year’s. Confederate bridle means a rope halter. Confederate silver, a tin cup or spoon. Confederate flour is corn meal, etc. In this case the Confederate carriage is a Jersey wagon with four seats, a top of hickory slats covered with leather, and the whole drawn by mules. We accepted gladly, partly for the ride and sight, partly to show we were not ashamed of a very comfortable conveyance; so with Mrs. Badger as chaperon, we went off in grand style. I must say I felt rather abashed and wished myself at home as we drove into town, and had the gaze of a whole regiment riveted on us. But soon the men fell in line, and I did not feel so painfully conspicuous. I was amused at a contrast near by, too. There was but one carriage present, besides ours, though there were half a dozen ladies on horseback. This carriage was a very fine one, and in it sat three of the ugliest, dowdiest, worst dressed females I ever saw. We three girls sat in our rough carriage as comfortable as could be, dressed– well, wecould not have been dressed better– and looking our very best. Sans mentir, I think the Confederates were much the most respectable.”

September 25– Thursday– Maryland Heights, Maryland– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother, an anti-slavery activist. “So the ‘Proclamation of Emancipation’ has come at last, or rather, its forerunner. I suppose you are all very much excited about it. For my part, I can’t see what practical good it can do now. . . . . I don’t mean to say that it is not the right thing to do, but that, as a war measure, the evil will overbalance the good for the present. Of course, after we have subdued them it will be a great thing.” saying how much he misses the family, he writes, “I wish we could feel whenever we are thinking of each other; you don’t know how often I have thought of you during those terrible days . . . . it seemed to me as if I could see the house and all of you there.”


William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator

September 26– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–The Liberator carries the complete text of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of the 22nd and then harshly criticizes it. “Though we believe that this Proclamation is not all that the exigency of the times and the consequent duty of the government require, and therefore are not so jubilant over it as many others still, it is an important step in the right direction, and an act of immense historic consequences. . . . The objectionable features of the Proclamation are its avowed readiness to return to bloody stripes, and horrible torture, and life-long servitude, (if he be not killed outright,) any hunted bondsman on the mere oath of the villain claiming him, that he is loyal to the government, its seemingly contradictory talk (for the first portion of it is a characteristic jumble of words) about emancipating the slaves in all existing rebel States, on the first of January, 1863 (a time sufficient to enable Jeff. Davis and his traitorous confederates to anticipate that measure themselves, and thus secure their independence by foreign intervention) its proposition to make a new overture to the Slave States to sell their slave system at a bargain and its mean, absurd and proscriptive devices to expatriate the colored population from their native land.”

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