A Crisis in Our Affairs~January, 1863~ the 22nd to the 31st

As the first month of the new year winds down, union officers as well a Jewish philanthropist and reformer see no end in sight to the conflict. A Southern woman wishes she were a man so she could join the fight and a Confederate clerk takes note of families divided by the war. Soldiers complain of too much mud and too little good food. Slaves seek freedom, sometimes at risk of life and limb, but are not always well-treated once within the Union lines. President Lincoln changes commanders once again. The reformer William Lloyd Garrison speaks up for the insane and abolitionist Frederick Douglass gets his wish as the Federal government authorizes Massachusetts to enlist black soldiers. In the Pacific Northwest Shoshone people are massacred. Unrest spreads in the Russian Empire. In the midst of so much violence and unrest, Rufus M Jones is born, a man who will become an important philosopher, educator and one of the founders of the American Friends Service Committee.

January 22– Thursday– Warsaw, Poland– With a spontaneous protest by young Poles against conscription into the Imperial Russian Army, students, workers and peasants give increased momentum to what will be called “the January Uprising.” From initial protests in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, the liberation struggle will take two years for the Tsar’s forces to suppress. The uprising will soon joined by high-ranking Polish and Lithuanian officers serving in the Russian Army and various nationalist political leaders.

January 23– Friday– Linwood, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes patriotically in her diary. “Though none could regret the dismemberment of our old Union more than I did at the time, though I acknowledge that there never was a more unnecessary war than this in the beginning, yet once in earnest, from the secession of Louisiana I date my change of sentiment. I have never since then looked back; forward, forward! is the cry; and as the Federal States sink each day in more appalling folly and disgrace, I grow prouder still of my own country and rejoice that we can no longer be confounded with a nation which shows so little fortitude in calamity, so little magnanimity in its hour of triumph. Yes! I am glad we are two distinct tribes! I am proud of my country; only wish I could fight in the ranks with our brave soldiers, to prove my enthusiasm; would think death, mutilation, glorious in such a cause; cry, ‘War to all eternity before we submit.’ But if I can’t fight, being unfortunately a woman, which I now regret for the first time in my life, at least I can help in other ways. What fingers can do in knitting and sewing for them, I have done with the most intense delight; what words of encouragement and praise could accomplish, I have tried on more than one bold soldier boy, and not altogether in vain.”

January 24– Saturday– New York City– George Templeton Strong laments the attitudes of some. “I begin to doubt whether the Northern people, with so large a percentage of false, cowardly, despicable sympathizers with Rebellion now prepared to intrigue against our national life, to bow down to the bullies of the South, and to uphold slave-breeding as the noblest of duties, can be saved, ought to be saved, or is worth the trouble of saving.”

January 24– Saturday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes the failed Federal advance due to weather and road conditions. “We can fight Rebels but not mud. . . . I suppose another attempt will be made as soon as the weather becomes good and the mud dries up.”

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

January 24– Saturday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Charlotte Grimke describes the adventure of several fugitive slaves now within the protection of Union forces. “Among them is a man named Michael. . . . . Michael’s master overtook him in the swamp.. A fierce grapple ensued– the master on horseback, the man on foot– the former drew a pistol and shot the slave through the arm, shattering it dreadfully. Still the brave man fought desperately and at last succeeded in unhorsing the master and beat him until he was senseless. He then with the rest of the company escaped.”

January 25– Sunday– South China, Maine– Birth of Rufus M Jones, Quaker author, educator, pacifist.

Rufus M Jones

Rufus M Jones

January 25– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln relieves General Burnside from command of the Army of the Potomac, and replaces him with General Joseph Hooker.

Union General Joseph Hooker

Union General Joseph Hooker

January 25– Sunday– Falmouth, Virginia– Union soldier Joseph Burrage writes to his mother Mary. “A Dutchman has built some ovens near us where he turns out warm bread and pies which are really nice. We had for supper one night before we started some of his bread and butter, followed by a pie. Luxurious wasn’t it? The next night we were laying in the water with nothing but pork and hard tack for eatables. Such are the ups and downs of soldier life. I took but little cold though, and think now I can stand most any weather.”

January 25– Sunday– Stafford Courthouse, Virginia– Robert Gould Shaw writes home. To his sweetheart he writes, “Annie, I have thought a great deal of you– indeed, almost all the time since I left Lenox– and of my visit to you, especially the last part of it. O, dear! You don’t know how much I should like to see you again!” To his sister, Effie, he writes, “They think here that the political troubles at home are going to finish the war before long. If we are not going to fight it out, the sooner it ends, the better. If we do make peace now, we shall have to go at it again one of these days,, I am sure, unless slavery dies out in the mean time. The Paymaster came up with us and we are going to receive four months’ pay.”

January 25– Sunday– Union camp near Vicksburg, Mississippi– General William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his brother, Senator John Sherman. “Two years have passed and the rebel flag still haunts our nation’s capital our armies enter the best rebel territory and the wave closes in behind, scarcely leaving a furrow mark behind. The utmost we can claim is that our enemy respects our power to do them physical harm more than they did at first ; but as to loving us any more, it were idle even to claim it. Our armies are devastating the land and it is sad to see the destruction that attends our progress we cannot help it. Farms disappear, houses are burned and plundered, and every living animal killed and eaten. General officers make feeble efforts to stay the disorder, but it is idle. The South . . . . [has] an abundance of the best cannon, arms and ammunition. In long range cannon they rather excel us and their regiments are armed with the very best Enfield rifles and cartridges, put up at Glasgow, Liverpool and their new Southern armories, and I still say they have now as large armies in the field as we. They give up cheerfully all they have. ‘I still see no end or even the beginning of the end. The early actors and heroes of the war will be swept away, and those who study its progress, its developments, and divine its course and destiny will be most appreciated. We are in for the war, and must fight it out, cost what it may.”

January 26– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a private letter to General Joseph Hooker. “I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. . . . . What I now ask of you is military success . . . . The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticizing their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it. And now, beware of rashness -Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.”

January 26– Washington, D. C.– The War Department authorizes the governor of Massachusetts to recruit black troops.


John Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts, who quickly issues a call for black soldiers

John Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts, who quickly issues a call for black soldiers

January 27– Tuesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Rebecca Gratz, Jewish educator, philanthropist, and social reformer, 81 years of age, writes to her sister-in-law, Ann Boswell Gratz. “I hope you have not suffered uneasiness from my unusual silence tho I acknowledge it mortifies me to think I have been neglectful of your last kind letter. I believe I have been more busy, more lazy and a little annoyed by a cold which in this damp warm weather I have found it hard to get rid of. . . . . I have been looking over domestic omissions which, having recently changed our man servant, have been staring me in the face. Well, we have changed for the better, got an industrious, colored man in place of an idle white one. My cold is better, and I only wait a change in the weather to be well again. . . . . The changes and chances and mischances that reach us from the Political world do not seem to advance our progress through this terrible war.”

Rebecca Gratz in her youth

Rebecca Gratz in her youth

January 27– Tuesday– Kenner, Louisiana– Union Lieutenant Charles L Stevens reports to brigade headquarters on the situation of “contraband” black people [slaves who have run away from their masters as well as slaves captured by Federal forces] and who have been laboring for the U S Army. “The men were in a shocking condition in regards clothing Many were entirely barefooted, and others nearly so–Others with no shirts, and a majority without pants excepting in the most ragged state. In this condition they worked daily on the Levees. Hardly an article of clothing had been issued, excepting about 75 pairs of shoes, and not a single blanket. I immediately issued all the clothing on hand . . . . The rations are given out every day. Either Sergeant Hagerthy or myself have attending to issuing them in order to be sure that the proper persons receive them. Many of the women are in even a worse condition than the men as regards clothing. From 5 to 16 work daily on the levee, more would if they had shoes Their rations we issue once a week. They receive 2 qts of meal and 2 lbs pork for a week. Yesterday we issued to 248 men–19 sick and 74 women, Total 341. The total number of deaths has been 78. None have died since I have been here.”

January 28– Wednesday– Athens, Georgia– An ad for “New Music” in the Southern Banner of Athens shows Stonewall Jackson’s celebrity status. “‘Stonewall Jackson’s Grand March’, ‘Rock me to Sleep Mother’, ‘Lorena’, ‘Let me kiss him for his mother’, ‘Maiden’s Prayer’. Just received.”

January 29– Thursday– along the Bear River, Washington Territory [now Preston, Idaho]– Soldiers attack an armed camp of the Shoshone people. The battle, fought in deep snow, lasts from early morning to late afternoon. When the Shoshone run out of ammunition, they resort to tomahawks and bows and arrows. The soldiers finally overpower the camp and kill most of the men and children, rape the women and burn the camp. In the fight, 21 soldiers are killed and 46 wounded; 410 Shoshone people are killed, another 164 wounded and/or captured.

Shoshone Prayer Tree marking the site of the massacre

Shoshone Prayer Tree marking the site of the massacre

January 30– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In The Liberator, Garrison encourages readers to sign a petition, addressed to the General Court of Massachusetts. “We publish it with the hope that it may be circulated extensively for signatures, so as to challenge the most serious attention . . . .the laws pertaining to those who are alleged to be insane are not what they ought to be to ensure absolute justice to the accused, but give scope for the exercise of tyrannical power whereby the weak and defenseless are crushed, and all chance of redress rendered hopeless.”

William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator

William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator

January 30– Friday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Charlotte Grimke comments about a religious writer whose work is full of “cant” unlike “Mrs [Harriet Beecher] Stowe [who] always has something about religion in her books, but it is so differently administered that it is only pleasant and beautiful.”

January 31– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones observes the nature of civil war. “A few days ago, Lieutenant Buchanan was killed on a United States gun-boat by our sharpshooters. He was the son of Admiral Buchanan, in the Confederate service, now at Mobile. Thus we are reminded of the wars of the roses–father against son, and brother against brother. God speed the growth of the Peace Party, North and South; but we must have independence.” [His reference is to three decades of civil war in England during the 15th century.]


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