Real Nature of the Contest~October 25 to 31, 1862

As the month ends, President Lincoln shows his impatience with General McClellan. Also he meets with a Quaker woman who brings a peace message. Some in the North believe, particularly after the Emancipation Proclamation, that Mr Lincoln is a mere tool in the hand of the abolitionist trouble-makers and ponder the hugh cost of the war. Mary Lincoln visits a military installation and is warmly received.

The Secretary of the Navy desires order and justice in the armed forces. A scholarly Union general dies of disease. Northern women continue to raise money to meet the medical and personal needs of soldiers. Omens of things to come appear. General Grant takes command in an important theater of operations. Black soldiers take a role in combat against the rebels. And railroads, which will dramatically reshape the United States in the coming fifty years, take more attention, even that of the President.

Secretary of State Seward and Minister Charles Francis Adams evaluate international affairs, including the coup in Greece, the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation in Europe and British collusion with the Confederacy in arming and staffing the raider Alabama. Mexico stiffens its resistance to French intervention while the French emperor seeks to mediate the American war.

October 25– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– In response to a message from General McClellan, President Lincoln writes to the general. “I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?”

October 25– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Welles writes on the Cabinet meeting. “Some discussion was held yesterday in Cabinet in regard to the course which should be pursued towards General J. C. Davis who killed Major General Nelson [on September 29th].. The grand jury . . . have ignored the bill [of indictment] . . . . I remarked that if the transaction had occurred in the Navy, we should at least have had a court of inquiry.”

Gideon Welles

October 25–Saturday– Corinth, Mississippi– General Ulysses S. Grant takes command of Union forces comprising the 13th Army Corps and the Department of Tennessee.

October 25– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser, local shopkeeper and farmer, confides to his diary. “Pleasant. Business at the bank, rode to my farm to inspect the new seeding. Home early in the evening to do some writing. . . . I fear Lincoln is a tool in the hands of the Abolitionists. We need a man of [President Andrew] Jackson’s iron will in our present emergency to hold our National Government together.”

October 25– Saturday– Jersey City, New Jersey– A boiler in a locomotive of the New York and Erie Railroad explodes, killing five workers.

October 26– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports that Mexico City is preparing to resist the French. “The last accounts from Vera Cruz received in Havana mention the arrival in the former place of a Spaniard, proceeding from Mexico City, who brings accounts of the enthusiasm displayed in the capital and other places to resist the French invasion. Several forts have been built, and every one in the City of Mexico has been obliged to take up arms.”

October 26– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Mrs. Eliza P. Gurney, the American widow of Joseph J. Gurney, an English Quaker philanthropist who opposed capital punishment and slavery, meets with President Lincoln in his office and prays with him for peace. In a note of appreciation to her, the President writes, “I am glad of this interview, and glad to know that I have your sympathy and prayers. We are indeed going through a great trial—a fiery trial. . . . If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.”

Eliza P Gurney–seated in the middle–with family members

October 26– Sunday– Linwood, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes in her diary. “This place is completely overrun by soldiers passing and repassing. Friday night five stayed here, last night two more, and another has just gone. One, last night, a bashful Tennesseean, had never tasted sugar-cane. We were sitting around a blazing fire, enjoying it hugely, when in answer to our repeated invitations to help himself, he confessed he had never eaten it. Once instructed, though, he got on remarkably well, and ate it in a civilized manner, considering it was a first attempt.”

Sarah Morgan

October 27– Monday– Mexico City, Mexico–The Juarez government informs its minister in Washington that French agents are purchasing mules and supplies in U S territory for operations against the Mexicans.

October 28– Tuesday– Augusta, Maine–The Maine Central Railroad is formed by merger of the Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad with the Penobscot and Kennebec Railroad.

October 28– Tuesday– London, England– Charles Francis Adams updates Secretary of State Seward on the situation in Europe. “The insurrection in Greece is a new event, not unlikely to be productive of further complications in Europe. The agitation of the eastern question, as indicated in the published correspondence between the Russian and the British cabinets, is also an element of importance in estimating the probabilities of the approaching year. Possibly the rapid increase of clouds in this atmosphere may have had its effect in producing the most decided manifestation of good will to the President that has been made since I have been here. The effect here will be beneficial.”

October 29– Wednesday– Brooklyn, New York– Accompanied by several high ranking officers from the Navy and the Army, Mary Todd Lincoln visits the Navy Yard. She is enthusiastically cheered by the sailors and marines.

commanders house at Brooklyn Navy Yard

October 29– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser notes the vast cost of the war. “Out to my farm for inspection of the seeding. Nearly opposite there is an encampment of the drafted militia under Col. George Wiestling, who is to get them in military trim. They are a raw set of men. It is hoped to get at least 600,000 men for another army together to crush this rebellion. Meanwhile our national debt is staggering, some 640,000,000 dollars. The expenditure of a million and a quarter a day to keep this war machine going.”

October 29– Wednesday– Island Mount, Missouri–At the end of three days of skirmishing the First Kansas Colored Volunteers drive off a larger Confederate force. This is the first recorded battle involving regular African American soldiers. They suffer 8 dead and 12 wounded. Confederate losses are estimated between 25 and 40.

October 30– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward writes to Charles Francis Adams, U S Minister in London, about British violations of neutrality. “I send herewith a communication which has been received at this department from the Secretary of the Navy, giving information of a breach of international obligations by the commander of her Britannic Majesty’s gunboat Bull Dog, in July last, by transporting from Nassau to Bermuda one Pegram and seven other persons, who were proceeding from this country to England to take commands in the gunboat 290 [the CSA Alabama], a steam war vessel then being built, manned, and equipped in, and since despatched from, a British port, and since engaged in committing depredations on American commerce on the high seas, equally in violation of the treaties existing between Great Britain and the United States, the law of nations, and the iaws of Great Britain. The President desires that you will bring the subject to the notice of Earl Russell, and ask that an examination of the case may be instituted, and that such redress may be thereafter afforded to the United States as the result of the investigation shall give them a right to expect.”

Secretary of State Seward

October 30– Thursday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Union General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, age 52, dies of yellow fever. Mitchel was a pioneering American astronomer who began publication of the first astronomy magazine in the United States. He was also a lawyer, surveyor and college professor.

General Mitchel, astronomer and professor–nicknamed “Old Stars” by his soldiers

October 30– Thursday– Paris, France–Emperor Napoleon III requests that Great Britain and Russia join him in forming a council to mediate an end to the war in the United States.

October 31– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the recent fund raising activity of the Rose Hill Ladies’ Relief Union for Military Invalids. “A reunion of the most cordial character took place on Wednesday evening in the Rose Hill Methodist Episcopal Church. Its object was to assist, by subscription and immediate donation of money, the self-sacrificing and patriotic efforts of the Society of ladies who give their special attention to the military wards of Bellevue Hospital.” The article concludes that “a much larger sum was collected than was expected, and the best of it was that the money was sent up with the names and often without, some being too modest to be known.” The same issue carries a letter from a Union soldier fighting in Virginia. “Last evening one of the loyal Virginians of this place remarked to me that the President’s Proclamation would do more toward the finishing of the war than all other military measures combined. Sixty years spent in the South enables him to speak intelligently of what pertains to Southerners. Such is the impression entertained by all the loyal Virginians, whom I have met. And who more competent to judge? On our recent advance to Charlestown, the effects of the proclamation on the rebels were very apparent.”

illustration of various activities of women during the Civil War

October 31– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln meets with several political and business leaders to discuss building a railroad from Point of Rocks, Maryland to the city of Washington.

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