Somber and Surly~November, 1862~the first 5 days

As the year of 1862 heads to a close and cold weather begins to set in, people throughout the United States are feeling somber and surly. In the Confederacy, there is disappointment that the military operations of late summer and early fall ended in failure or stalemate. In the Union, voters express their disappointment at the on-going war by granting significant gains to the Democratic Party even though it is still tainted by its decades of support for slavery. The South hurts from the continuing blockade. The North bristles with resentment about England and the raider Alabama. Resentment simmers in many places about the Emancipation Proclamation. Fighting drags on with no end in sight. Unbeknownst to all the participants, the single bloodiest year of war lies just ahead.

The month of November opens with bad news at the polls for President Lincoln; however, his party holds enough votes to control legislation in Congress. Lincoln finally tires of General McClellan’s inactivity and relieves him of command. Frederick Douglass asks whether the Democrats are playing into the hands of the rebel government. General Robert E Lee appears to have aged significantly. Black troops appear in combat wearing Union blue uniforms. Military technology advances as an inventor receives a patent for what is effectively the first rapid-fire weapon.

President Lincoln

November–Mid-term elections are held throughout the month in the loyal states. For the 185 seats in the House of Representatives, the Republican win 86 seats, the Democrats 72 seats, the Unionist Party 25 seats and Independents 2 seats. While in the popular voting for the House, Republicans lose seats, in the Senate, where senators are selected by state legislatures, the Republicans gain, taking 31 seats, the Democrats take only 10 seats and other parties a total of 7 seats. Democrats do especially well in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and New York. Elated by their advances, Democrats from the Northwest hail the elections as a repudiation of the war in general and President Lincoln’s “heresy” of emancipation in particular. However by reaching out to the Unionists, the Republicans will exercise majority control in the House. [Also, some states make no provision for their soldiers in the field to vote. Major changes in this regard will significantly affect the next presidential election in 1864.]

November– Rochester, New York– In this month’s issue of Douglass’ Monthly, Frederick Douglass comments upon the election. “The re-animation of the Democratic party at this juncture, and its entrance upon a vigorous campaign for place and power, with elements of strength given to it by the mistakes and imperfections of the present administration, constitute our chief danger during the next two months. . . . . If the Democratic party had received direct orders from the rebel Government at Richmond, its program and the manner of executing it could not have been more satisfactory to the rebels.”

Frederick Douglass

November 1– Saturday– Quincy, Illinois– As reported in the New York Times, the Illinois Synod of the Presbyterian Church (Old School) recently passed a series of resolutions which included the following: “We believe it to be the duty of all good men to frown upon all attempts to weaken confidence in the Government, or to divide and distract the loyal people of the country. The efforts of scheming politicians, and selfish demagogues, and of an unprincipled or disloyal newspaper Press, to give aid and comfort to the rebellion by dividing our people and raising up a reactionary party that would sell justice and liberty, and barter away all that is most sacred in our institutions for the sake of the personal aggrandizement of a treacherous and short-lived peace, ought to receive the indignant condemnation of all who fear God and love justice. None but a righteous peace can be permanent.”

November 1– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones, clerk in the Confederate government, describes in his diary a visit from the commanding general. “General Lee made his appearance at the department to-day, and was hardly recognizable, for his beard, now quite white, has been suffered to grow all over his face. But he is quite robust from his exercises in the field. His appearance here, coupled with the belief that we are to have the armistice, or recognition and intervention, is interpreted by many as an end of the war. But I apprehend it is a symptom of the falling back of our army.”

November 1– Saturday– Utrecht, Holland– Birth of Johann Wagenaar, composer and organist.

Johaan Waganaar

November 2– Sunday– New York City– Dr George B Cheever, pastor of the Church of the Puritans [Presbyterian], preaches a sermon advocating full emancipation and declaring that the President’s Emancipation Proclamation does not go far enough. “We must do it as an act of moral obligation, which undone is sure to bring upon us the Divine wrath. It is not enough to emancipate the slaves of rebels alone, assuring protection to loyal slave owners and slave dealers. We must sweep the whole, iniquity away even though every man of us die fighting to clear our skirts of the pollution.”

Dr George B Cheever, Christian abolitionist

November 2– Sunday– Berlin, Maryland– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary. “At a place called Smoketown we passed the Army hospitals where our wounded men are treated. It was a sad sight, and I thanked God that I have been spared.”

November 3– Monday– New York City– The New York Times reports that another eight ships have been captured and burned by the Confederate raider Alabama.

CSS Alabama

November 3– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward sends instructions to Charles Francis Adams in London. “Mr. Dudley, our consul at Liverpool, informs us that two war vessels which are on the stays at Birkenhead are announced by the press as being built ostensibly for the Chinese government, but really to depredate on American commerce, as the 290 [the Alabama] is doing. The President hopes that you will make such representations concerning them and all similar enterprises to her Majesty’s government, as may induce them to consider whether it can be claimed that a nation is really neutral when vessels-of-war, without restraint and with impunity, are built, armed, manned, equipped, and sent out from its ports to make war on a peaceful and friendly nation.”

Charles Francis Adams, U S Minister to Great Britain; one of his secretaries is his son, Henry Adams

November 3– Monday– coast of Georgia– A week long expedition of Federal troops begins today. They will progress along the east coast of Florida as well. One of the regiments is the First South Carolina Volunteers, a unit of black enlisted men with white officers. The commander is Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 38 years old, a Massachusetts man, published author, Unitarian minister and ardent abolitionist. Eight months ago he sent a letter of encouragement to a young poet by the name of Emily Dickinson.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

November 3– Monday– Sacramento, California– Birth of Henry George, Jr., the first born child of Henry George, a Protestant, and his Roman Catholic wife, Annie Corsina Fox George. At this time the young family is living in near poverty. [Later, in 1884, Henry George Jr will accompany his by then well-known economist father on a lecture tour of Great Britain and will make a career for himself in politics.]

Henry George Jr, circa 1912, while serving in Congress

November 4– Tuesday– Albany, New York– In state-wide election, Democrats win the governorship and four other key state offices. The composition of the state assembly is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, each party winning 64 seats. The loss of the governorship and the strong Democratic showing indicate growing opposition to the war and increased hostility toward the Lincoln Administration.

November 4– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Richard J Gatling, 44 years old, an inventor living in Indianapolis, Indiana, receives a patent for his revolving six-barrel, rapid fire gun. He hopes that his invention will “to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [will] be greatly diminished.” [“Gatling guns” will not come into regular use in the Union Army until the siege of Petersburg, Virginia in late 1864.]

one of the design drawings submitted by Mr Gatling

November 4– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles takes note of this day’s Cabinet meeting. “Stanton, whose dislike of McClellan increases, says that Halleck does not consider himself responsible for army movements or deficiencies this side of the mountains, of which he has no notice from General McClellan, who neither reports to him nor to the Secretary of War. All his official correspondence is with the President direct and no one else. . . . the remarks of Stanton . . . were more sneering in manner than words.”

November 4– Tuesday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– The Daily Rebel warns about selling cotton to the North and praises patriotic women. “Various reasons are given by those who sell cotton to the Yankees, which we propose to notice; one is that we can get gold for it, and with that buy clothing,salt, and other necessary articles. In answer to this, it may be said that the cotton cannot be sold unless it is carried within the enemy’s lines, and then they will not permit clothing, salt, or any necessaries to be brought within the Confederate lines, and, consequently the sale of the cotton can do the Confederates no good. If the Yankees would permit us to exchange cotton for arms, ammunition, clothing, salt and the necessary articles, even then it would be doubtful whether we would not be doing them more good by buying such articles from them than we would be benefitted. We had better learn to rely upon ourselves even it if does cost some hardship, than to furnish the Yankees with cotton. We can make our own clothing, rough though it be. We can make our own gunswith the exception of what we can buy from foreign countries. But it is useless to argue this, because the Yankees will not permit those who sell them their cotton, to bring supplies to our army.” In another article, the paper reports that, “The ladies of the Methodist Church in this place have taken the carpet from their church and given it to the soldiers as blankets. Can a people be conquered when the ladies are so patriotic?”

November 5– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Dissatisfied with General McClellan’s lack of activity and failure to pursue General Lee’s army since the battle of Antietam, President Lincoln relieves McClellan of command of the Army of the Potomac.

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