Real Nature of the Contest~October 1 to 5, 1862

Throughout October, 1862, there is much discussion, commentary and reaction to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Diplomats and politicians, soldiers and journalists in the North, the South and Europe have things to say. As in Maryland, the rebel invasion of Kentucky is turned back. Union General McClellan has his defenders and his detractors. Soldiers on both sides write letters home about what concerns them. The Federal draft has participants and resistors. During the month about 2300 Americans, some in blue uniforms, some in grey, will die in battle, an average of better than 74 per day. Mid-term elections loom on the horizon with potential dangers for the Lincoln Administration.

Internationally, tensions between the United States and Great Britain again start rising to a boiling point. French intervention in Mexico continues to meet stiff resistence from the Mexican people but indifference from the warring Americans. As in the United States railroad building goes on elsewhere, shaping a dramatic change for the rest of the century. Births, deaths, changes go on, not waiting for the resolution of the American internal strife.

In the first five days of the month, a major northern paper forecasts a long war but ultimate Union victory. A soldier sends to the widow of his commanding officer a letter of condolence, typical of the time. North and South, in public and in private, people respond to the prospect of freedom for slaves. Black citizens of New York City honor an African American hero. A general’s wife defends her husband while the Commander in Chief privately expresses some scepticism.

Frederick Douglass


October– Rochester, New York– Frederick Douglass devotes much of this month’s issue of his journal to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 22nd. “Opinion will widely differ as to the practical effect of this measure upon the war. All that class at the North who have not lost their affection for slavery will regard the measure as the very worst that could be devised, and as likely to lead to endless mischief. . . . The careful, and we think, the slothful deliberation which he [President Lincoln] has observed in reaching this obvious policy, is a guarantee against retraction. . . . It changes the character of the war in European eyes and gives it an important principle as an object, instead of national pride. It recognizes and declares the real nature of the contest and places the North on the side of justice and civilization.” To his allied readers in England and Ireland, Douglass includes a piece asking for their on-going support. “The 22d of September is the beginning of a new dispensation in America. . . . An important reason for soliciting your continued aid and cooperation in keeping anti-slavery pure and simple before the American people . . . [is because there exists] a disposition, in some minds, to stop work before the bell rings.”

October 1– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times analyzes the war’s duration in light of President Lincoln’s recent action. “That proclamation indicates the most determined and earnest warfare. It compels it also. And when the logical results of this new policy appear, we expect a speedy climax or crisis to the war. Yet looking at all the elements of the problem, considering our scarcity of eminent military talent, the intense passion and determination of the rebels, the vast territory which they defend, we may rationally expect a war of some duration; while regarding their essential weakness in the system of Slavery, their inferiority in numbers and resources, the superior personal bravery of our men and the justice of our cause, together with our immense naval power, we cannot doubt of the final result.”

October 1– Wednesday– New York City– The Christy Minstrels are performing in the theater at 585 Broadway, under the leadership of George Christy who seems to have taken over since his step-father’s suicide back in May.

October 1– Wednesday– South Salem, Ohio– Birth of Esther Boise Van Deman, archaeologist who will become an authority on ancient Rome.

Esther Boise Van Deman

October 1– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– The Richmond Whig attacks Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. “It is a dash of the pen to destroy four thousand millions of our property, and is as much a bid for the slaves to rise in insurrection, with the assurance of aid from the whole military and naval power of the United States.”

October 1– Wednesday– Staunton, Virginia– Confederate soldier Edward Walton sends a letter of condolence to Mary Baylor on the death of her husband, Colonel Baylor. “He asked not less than half a dozen times, during the day, an interest in my prayers, in view of the impending conflict, and the last words that he spoke to me were ‘Walton, I do hope that Christians are praying for us, at home.’He frequently conversed with Gen. Jackson on religious subjects. It is well known that the General indulged the warmest feeling of esteem and affection for your Husband. . . . Our whole Brigade mourns with you his irreparable loss. ”

October 2– Thursday– New York City– In the evening a large crowd of black people assemble at Shiloh Church to honor and to listen to Robert Smalls, the slave who escaped Charleston with his family by stealing the ship Planter back in May of this year. In response to praise from other speakers, the former slave delivers “a very modest and touching address, recounting his desperate venture, and expressing the hope, that as he was about to return to his duty as a pilot on the Union fleet at Port Royal, he might yet guide it safely into Charleston harbor. Mrs Smalls and her little boy Robert were presented, and the whole family were erected with wild prolonged cheering.”

October 2– Thursday– Frederick, Maryland–President Lincoln arrives at General McClellan’s headquarters to consult and plan.

President Lincoln meeting with General McClellan & his staff

October 3– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–The Liberator reports, “The Chicago delegation, recently with the President, presented to him a memorial in favor of national emancipation, adopted by Christians of all denominations, at a meeting held in Chicago.”

October 3– Friday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser, local shopkeeper and farmer, updates his diary. “Rain, which we need badly. We see untold thousands of dollars drained from our Treasury by unscrupulous men using the war to further their personal affairs. We have several cases in our town that did not get their wealth honestly, but robbed by men in official stations.”

October 3–Friday– Frederick, Maryland–As the sun rises, President Lincoln and an aide walk to nearby hilltop. Surveying the headquarters camp, President Lincoln comments: “This is General McClellan’s bodyguard.”

Confederate President Jeff Davis

October 3– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis tells the Congress that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is “the most execrable measure in the history of guilty man.” He declares that Union officers captured at the head of black soldiers will be punished as “criminals engaged in inciting servile insurrection” and executed.

October 3– Friday–Kongsvinger, Norway–Kongsvingerbanen, Norway’s third railway, opens between here and Lillestra.

railroad station at Kongsvinger, Sweden today

October 4– Saturday– New York City– Harper’s Weekly reprints a recent letter form a Connecticut newspaper in which the writer details comments made to him by Ellen Mary McClellan, wife of General George McClellan. “I told her I thought the General had not done justice to himself, in not explaining to the public circumstances which looked unfavorable to him. ‘Do you not think,’ said she, ‘that it was more patriotic in him to bear his wrongs in silence, rather than to trouble the Government, as some others have done, with demands for investigations and courts-martial, when the delays caused by them would be injurious to the country? The General,’ she remarked, ‘when the clouds covering him were of the darkest hue, had faith that God would yet make him an instrument of good to the cause of his country.’”

Ellen Mary McClellan seated by her husband

October 4– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times evaluates Southern reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. “There would be no sudden uprising of an outraged people, demanding resistance and vengeance. The edict would not add a soldier to the ranks, or a dollar to the vacant Treasury of the Confederation. No new armies would rush to the field to resent the assault on Southern institutions and drive back the invaders. The practical effect would be simply nil. The rebel Congress has received and read the proclamation, and some report of their comments and resolutions has reached us and we still cleave to the belief that the Presidential document will be received with apathy.”

October 4– Saturday– Elizabeth, New Jersey– Birth of Edward Stratemeyer who will author and publish over 1300 books for children.

October 4– Saturday– Frederick, Maryland– President Lincoln speaks to the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. “I return thanks to our soldiers for the good services they have rendered, the energy they have shown, the hardships they have endured, and the blood they have shed for this Union of ours; and I also return thanks, not only to the soldiers, but to the good citizens of Frederick, and to the good men, women, and children in this land of ours, for their devotion to this glorious cause; and I say this with no malice in my heart towards those who have done otherwise. May our children and children’s children, for a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under these glorious institutions, bequeathed to us by Washington and his compeers.”

October 4– Saturday– Corinth, Mississippi–At the end of a fierce two day fight, Federal forces repel a sustained Confederate attack, inflicting heavy losses. Confederate dead, wounded and missing total 4,233 while Union dead, wounded and missing amount to 2,520.

battle of Corinth, Mississippi

October 4– Saturday– London, England– The Home Office postpones the scheduled October 11th execution of Jessie McLachlan for the July murder of Jess McPherson in Glasgow, Scotland, to November 1st, pending the completion of an additional investigation.

October 5– Sunday– Maryland Heights, Maryland– Union officer Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother. “Don’t imagine from what I said in my last [letter], that I thought Mr Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ not right; as an act of justice, and to have real effect, it ought to have been done long ago. I believe, with you, that the closer we adhere to Right and Justice, the better it will be in the end, and that if we want God on our side, we must be on His side; but still as a war-measure, I don’t see the immediate benefit of it, and I think much of the moral force of the act has been lost by our long delay in coming to it.”

October 5– Sunday– Port Royal, South Carolina– Mr E. P., one of the Massachusetts white men teaching free black people, writes home. “The President’s proclamation does not seem to have made a great deal of stir anywhere. Here the people don’t take the slightest interest in it. They have been free already for nearly a year, as far as they could see . . . . After telling them of the proclamation and its probable effects, they all ask if they would be given up to their masters in case South Carolina comes back to the Union. I tell them there is little chance of such a thing, but a strong probability that there will be a long, bloody war, and that they ought to prepare to do their share of the fighting.”

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