Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Sable Arm in Double Battle~February, 1863~the 27th & 28th

The last two days of February are busy. Some “fair belles” of the Confederascy are prettily dressed while raising money to help care for sick soldiers. Several others are captured by Yankees and arrested for smuggling. Some ladies in Pennsylvania go walking and raise their skirts enough to reveal glimpses of their shoes and stockings while Charlotte Forten Grimke interviews former slaves.

Radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison calls for faster Northern action on emancipation. Tired soldier George Whitman requests leave. In Washington President Lincoln calls the Senate into special session and a prominent local theater begins repairs after a fire.

Mexican forces and irregulars are busy fighting the French invaders.

William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison


February 27– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In an article entitled “Inexcusable Silence” in The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison criticizes the sate government. “The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln was issued only a few days prior to the opening of the present session of the Legislature of Massachusetts. Obviously it should have promptly received the strongest endorsement of that body, not only in view of its magnitude and importance, but also to strengthen the hands of the President– nearly two months have been suffered to pass without any proposition being made, or action taken upon that Proclamation! The Legislature is seriously culpable for its inaction, and an indignant constituency should take some measures to compel it to Speak Out.”

February 27– Friday– Newport News Virginia– George Whitman writes to the commander of his regiment, requesting leave. “Having been always with the Regiment since the Organization of it at New York which is now over 18 months, and in all the time never have been excuse from any duty whatever and having urgent business at home which demands my immediate attention, I beg leave of asking you hereby the favor of granting me, leave of absence for ten Days.”

February 27– Friday– Columbia, Tennessee– A local correspondent files a report for the Mobile Register and Advertizer about the preceding evening’s social event. “A concert was given last night at the Atheneum for the benefit of sick soldiers, under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Smith, principal of the Young Ladies’ Seminary of this place . . . . The ladies who participated in the concert role were all dressed in most admirable taste and indeed with no little extravagance, and made the finest display of feminine apparel and attire we have seen in the South since the commencement of hostilities. Perhaps it is due to ladies further South to say that these fair belles of Columbus, have been enabled to dress better and more tastily than their Confederate sisters further southward, from the fact that they have been able during the Yankee occupation of their country, to select such articles of dress and virtue, as others were unable to procure on account of the blockade.”

nice dresses of the period

nice dresses of the period

February 28– Saturday– New York City– Harpers Weekly reports on events in Mexico. “The Mexican nation are putting forth the most vigorous efforts for the defense of their country, while the movements of the French invaders are characterized by any thing but the dash and rapidity of movement which General Forey promised in his proclamation. The Emperor’s direction to act promptly and decisively is apparently being carried out by the rule of inverse proportion. There have been several skirmishes between the Mexicans and French, in which the former have come if victorious. The attack on Puebla, so often deferred, has again been put off, and in the mean time the Mexican Commander Ortega is making it a sort of Sebastopol. The French trains and outposts continually suffer from the depredations of guerrillas and the fearful lasso of the wild Mexican. More than 1200 French mules have been taken by these men.”

February 28– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Local businessman William Heyser writes in his diary about activities in town. “Cloudy and damp. Mild evening. The ladies all out for a promenade despite the muddy foot paths. They take their pleasure at the cost of muddy skirts andheels. Some of the more careful lift the outer garment and expose to public gaze every shade and stripe of ‘Balmoral.’ [The term usually refers to a man’s shoe, a heavy laced walking shoe.] They walk until darkness drives them indoors. This is Saturday evening, and they seem to have enjoyed it.”

February 28– Saturday– Camp Chase, Ohio– Captain Edwin Webber writes to Washington, D. C., requesting orders on how to deal with three prisoners.”There are three female prisoners here, sent from Nashville by order of General Rosecrans. They are charged with aiding the rebels and carrying contraband articles across our line. The evidence against them is here. We have poor facilities for female prisoners. What shall be done with them? Shall their cases be turned over to Special Commissioner Galloway for investigation?”

February 28– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– By executive order, President Lincoln calls the United States Senate into special session, beginning on March 4th, 1863.

February 28– Saturday– Washington, D.C.–Work begins on rebuilding Ford’s Theater after it suffered damage from a fire.

Ford's Theater as it appears today in Washington, D.C.

Ford’s Theater as it appears today in Washington, D.C.

February 28– Saturday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke describes her conversation with former slaves. “Had a nice long talk with some of the people this afternoon. The more one knows of them the more interested one becomes in them. I asked if there used to be people sold at auction in the market-place at Beaufort. They said, ‘yes, often.’”

The Sable Arm in Double Battle~February, 1863~the 22nd to the 26th

In the last part of February harsh winter weather besets Rebels and Yankees both. Charlotte Forten Grimke writes down the words to African American songs. Walt Whitman receives an invitation to visit his brother George and a rejection letter from Harper’s Weekly. Robert Gould Shaw is eager to begin training his regiment while his wealthy father and a well-known ex-slave work at recruitment. Fuss about General McClellan continues. The Cherokee Nation, which had mostly supported the Confederacy, splits as those loyal to an elderly leader re-assert their loyalty to the Union.

February 22– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Navy Secretary Gideon Welles notes the weather. “A severe snowstorm. Did not venture abroad.”

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

February 22– Sunday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke notes transcribing songs of the escaped slaves she is teaching. “Did a great deal of chatting. Copied several of the people’s hymns for the Colonel [Higginson] and Dr [Rogers] . . . . Dr [Rogers] and I had two games of chess, wouldn’t that shock some people! In both of which I was most ignominiously defeated. Nevertheless I enjoyed them.”

Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson

February 22- Sunday– near Nashville, Tennessee– Union soldier David Shoemaker writes to his friend Henry Bitner at home in Ohio. “I do not know of any regiment in the service which has been moved about quite as much as the ‘Gipsies,’ as General Wise used to call us. I am glad to hear that you are having good times in old Southampton. Do not imagine that the toils and privations of a soldier’s life have made such a misanthrope of me that hearing of those good things you describe would cause ‘hard thoughts.’ As far as wishing myself out of the army is concerned I have wished it long ago, but shall only get out honorably– either an honorable discharge or death. Give my ‘Best’ to all the friends and especially remember me to ‘Katie darling.’”

February 22– Sunday– Sacramento, California– Workers break ground on construction of the Central Pacific Railroad.

February 23– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his fiancee Annie. “We have opened the camp at Readville . . . . I like Governor Andrew more and more every day. . . . All my mornings are spent in the State House, and as in-door, furnace-heated work does not agree with me, I shall get out to Readville as soon as possible.”

February 23– Monday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– Confederate General Robert E Lee writes to his wife Mary about conditions in camp. “The weather is now very hard upon our poor bushmen. This morning the whole country is covered with a mantle of snow fully a foot deep. It was nearly up to my knees as I stepped out this morning, and our poor horses were enveloped. We have dug them out and opened our avenues a little, but it will be terrible and the roads impassable. No cars from Richmond yesterday. I fear our short rations for man and horse will have to be curtailed. Our enemies have their troubles too. They are very strong immediately in front, but have withdrawn their troops above and below us back toward Aquia Creek.”

February 23– Monday– Paris, France–The U S Minister to France reports to the Lincoln Administration that in return for support of the North, Russia expects American support against British and French intervention in Poland.

February 24– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his father about recruiting efforts for black soldiers. “The regimental committee here have engaged a colored man, named W Wells Brown, to go to New York and help along the enlistments there. He will call at your office immediately after his arrival.” [Francis George Shaw, Robert’s father, an ardent abolitionist and one of the wealthiest men in America in this period, set up an office to help with recruitment. William Wells Brown, 48 years old at this time, had escaped from slavery at the age of 20 years. A militant abolitionist who served as a conductor on the underground railroad for ten years, by 1863 he is well known in England and in the United States as an orator and author.]

February 24– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– The Federal government organizes Arizona as a United States territory.

February 25– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles confides to his diary. “Had a brief call from General McClellan this P.M. He looks in good health, but is evidently uncomfortable in mind. Our conversation was . . . of the little progress made, the censoriousness of the public, of the dissatisfaction towards both of us, etc. The letter of General Scott, of the 4th of October, 1861, complaining of his disrespect and wanting obedience, is just brought out.” [General Winfield Scott, then age 76 and commander of the Union Army at the war’s outset, wrote to Simon Cameron, then Secretary of War, complaining about McClellan’s disrespect and wilful insubordination. At the end of the letter, Scott tendered his resignation which President Lincoln shortly thereafter accepted. It is not clear who made the letter public at this time.]

General Winfield Scott

General Winfield Scott

February 25– Wednesday– Newport News, Virginia– George Whitman writes to his brother Walt. I have just written to Mother1 and although it is pretty late I will write you a word to let you know that I am flourishing as well as ever. Walt you see I ain’t got my furlough yet. . . . Walt we have a splendid camp here. I have a bran new tent and when I get it fixed up to suit me, it will just be gay I tell you. If I find out for certain, that I cant get home very soon you must come down here and see a feller, and if I do go home you must come as soon as I get back, I shall have my tent fixed up Bully in a day or two.”

February 25– Wednesday– off the coast of St Thomas, West Indies– A United States warship seizes the British blockade runner Peterhoff.

February 26– Thursday– New York City– “The Editor of Harpers Weekly begs to return the enclosed verses to Mr. Walt Whitman with his compliments and many thanks.” {Exactly which poems the paper rejected is not certain.]

February 26– Thursday– Washington, D.C.–As part of a plan to standardize and stabilize U S currency, President Lincoln signs into law the National Currency Act, creating a national banking system, a Currency Bureau and the office of Comptroller of the Currency.

John Ross, a leader of the Cherokee Nation

John Ross, a leader of the Cherokee Nation

February 26– Thursday– Northeastern Indian Territory [now Oklahoma]– Members of the Cherokee Nation loyal to the elderly chief John Ross, repudiate alliances with the Confederacy, abolish slavery among them and pledge their loyalty to the Union cause.

The Sable Arm in Double Battle~February, 1863~the 16th to the 21st

Reaction, good and bad, at home and abroad, continues in response to Mr Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the use of black troops. Robert Gould Shaw arrives home in Massachusetts and feels some stress about his new assignment and joy about his engagement. Federal forces probe the defenses of Vicksburg, Mississippi while Union General Sherman complains about journalists. Abolitionist and Transcendentalist David Wasson evaluates the cost of the war from moral and philosophical points of view in an article which delights Charlotte Forten Grimke. New York lawyer George Templeton Strong evaluates things in Europe.

Confederate General Lee, worried about the safety of Richmond, moves troops into the area. A 17-year old Southern girl wonders if she will live to see the end of the war.

Memories of the mutiny in India six years ago come to mind as heroes of the struggle die. What will become the International Red Cross begins to take shape in Switzerland. The first college under the 1962 Morril Act is chartered. [“All we are saying is ‘give peace a chance.’”]

emblem of the International Red Cross

emblem of the International Red Cross

February 16– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts- Robert Gould Shaw meets with Governor Andrew to discuss details of his new regiment and to select a place for a training camp. Shaw writes to his fiancee, Annie, that “Governor Andrew’s ideas please me extremely, for he takes the most common sense view of the thing. He seems inclined to have me do just what I please.”

February 16– Monday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes international news.. “Louis Napoleon seems steadily and stealthily picking his way toward recognition or intervention or both, encouraged by the Northern Dirt-Eaters’ shameless sympathy with treason. . . . In England there seems reaction in our favor, mainly among the ungenteel classes. Large meetings applaud the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1. . . . Strange to say, they will rather weaken the Administration with the masses here, as being British sympathy with accursed Abolitionists.”

February 16– Monday– Washington, D.C.– The Senate passes a new Conscription Act in order to increase the size of army.

February 16– Monday– Lake Providence, Louisiana– Union soldier William Christie writes to his father. “We are always hearing of discontent among the People on account of the President’s Proclamation giving the Blacks their Liberty. I’ve learned yesterday also that there was a mutiny among the Officers and men at New Orleans on account of there Being Black troops raised there and being put in to the field. I know it is grievous among ourselves down here to see men forget every thing but there Prejudices on the slavery question. And as a general thing our officers are worse than the privates, often sending away the darkies [back to the plantations from which they escaped], when the men would keep them.”

February 16– Monday– Topeka, Kansas– State authorities establish the Kansas State Agricultural College as the first land grant college newly created under the 1862 Morrill Act.

February 16– Monday– Dublin, Ireland– Denis Dynon dies at age 40. He had been awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in a battle fought October 2, 1857 during the “Indian Mutiny.”

February 17– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones records the latest military news. “General Lee is not sending troops to Charleston. He is sending them here for the defense of Richmond, which is now supposed to be the point of attack, by land and by water, and on both sides of the James River. Well, they have striven to capture this city from every point of the compass but one–the south side. Perhaps they will make an attempt from that direction; and I must confess that I have always apprehended the most danger from that quarter. But we shall beat them, come whence they may!”

February 17– Tuesday– Geneva, Switzerland–The first meeting of what will become the International Committee of the Red Cross is held here, following the lead of humanitarian Henry Dunant.

Henry Dunant, moving force behind the foundation of the red Cross

Henry Dunant, moving force behind the foundation of the red Cross

February 18– Wednesday– Boston, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his beloved Annie. “Do write to me often, Annie dear, for I need a word occasionally from those whom I love, to keep up my courage. Whatever you write about, your letters always make me feel well.”

February 18– Wednesday– Richmond, Kentucky– Federal authorities disperse a convention of the Democratic Party because some members support the Confederacy.

February 18– Wednesday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke writes of a pleasant day. “After tea the Dr [Rogers, serving with Colonel Higginson’s regiment] read to us a grand article in the February Atlantic by his friend Mr Wasson called “The Law of Costs.” It is in relation to the war, and is certainly the best thing I have yet seen on the subject. Full of noble truths told in the most beautiful language.” [David Atwood Wasson is a Transcendentalist and abolitionist. His ten page article analyses the costs of war, the loss of blood and treasure, from political and philosophical viewpoints. Near the end of the piece he argues, “If, therefore, we are already a house divided against itself and tottering to its fall,– to what is all due? Simply to the fact that no nation can long unsay its central principle, and yet preserve it in faithfulness and power,– that no nation can long preach the sanctity of natural right, the venerableness of man’s nature, and the identity of pure justice with political interest, from an auction-block on which men and maidens are sold,– that, in fine, a nation cannot continue long with impunity to play within its own borders the part both of Gessler and Tell, both of Washington and Benedict Arnold, both of Christ and of him that betrayed him. We must choose. For our national faith we must make honest payment, so conserving it, and with it all for which nations may hope; or else, refusing to meet these costs, we must suffer the nation’s soul to perish, and in the imbecility, the chaos, and shame that will follow, suffer therewith all that nations may lawfully fear.”

cover of the first issue of Atlantic Monthly-1857

cover of the first issue of Atlantic Monthly-1857

February18– Wednesday– in the Union siege works before Vicksburg, Mississippi– General William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his brother John and he calls for censorship and limitations on the press. “In the South this/ powerful machine was at once scotched and used by the rebel government, but at the North was allowed to go .free. What are the results? After arousing the passions of the people till the two great sections hate each other with a hate hardly paralleled in history, it now begins to stir up sedition at home, and even to encourage mutiny in our armies. What has paralyzed the Army of the Potomac? Mutual jealousies kept alive by the press. . . . The only two really successful military strokes out here have succeeded because of the absence of newspapers, or by throwing them off the trail. Halleck had to make a simulated attack on Columbus to prevent the press giving notice of his intended move against Forts Henry and Donelson. We succeeded in reaching the Post of Arkansas before the correspondents could reach the papers.”

General William Recumseh Shreman

General William Recumseh Shreman

February 19– Thursday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes ponders the future. “The storm still continues and we sit over our fires and wonder what will happen next.. Furloughs are still given to the men and it is hard for me to tell who ought to go first.”

February 19– Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Grant’s Federal forces probe Confederate defenses north of the city resulting in a day of hard skirmishing.

February 19– Thursday– Liverpool, England– Here and in the city of Carlisle, British workers hold mass meetings to declare their support for Mr Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

February 20– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his cousin, Elizabeth “Mimi” Russell Lyman. “You will be astonished to hear . . . that I am engaged to Miss Annie Haggerty. Perhaps you remember that two years ago I told you she would be my ‘young woman’ some time. . . . . [Your brother Harry and I] are at home now together, he as Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, and I as a Negro Colonel, for Governor Andrew has given me the command of his black regiment.”

Annie Haggerty

Annie Haggerty

February 20– Friday– London, England– The London Pneumatic Despatch Company inaugurates its pneumatic tube atmospheric railway for parcels between Euston station and the General Post Office, North Western District sorting office, a distance of 0.75 mile.

February 21– Saturday– Cleveland, Tennessee– Myra Adelaide Inman, age 17, describes her day and ponders her future. “A very rainy morn. Got up this morn, made up my bed, dressed, ate breakfast,worked on Sister’s chemise band, ate dinner, posted my journal, helped with supper, ate supper, washed and went to bed. This is the manner in which I usually spend my Saturdays. Wonder if I will live to see the war ended and if it will be over this time next year. Wonder where______ is today, they are expecting a battle there soon.”

February 21– Saturday– Meerat, India– Irish-born Samuel Hill, age 36, is killed in action against “bandits.” Hill had been awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in a November, 1857 battle during the “Indian Mutiny” at Lucknow, India.

The Sable Arm in Double Battle~February, 1863~the 8th to the 15th

As February moves on, Robert Gould Shaw changes his mind and accepts the governor’s offer to command the Massachusetts black regiment. His friends are delighted. Yankee soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes complains of bad weather and while on picket duty enjoys a rebel band concert but will not trade with Confederate pickets. The African American teacher Charlotte Forten Grimke, a daughter of a prosperous black family in Philadelphia, takes pride in the black soldiers serving under Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson and enjoys socializing with other teachers, officers and soldiers. The New York Times and New York attorney George Templeton Strong belittle France’s offer of mediation.. Some northern industrial workers go out on strike despite the war.

A Southern diplomat continues his efforts to win England’s support for the Confederacy. Food grows more scarce in Richmond. A Confederate officer held in a Union prison praises Southern women. Southerners like the government clerk John Jones hope that the Emancipation Proclamation and the enlistment of black soldiers will fracture the Federal government and the Union army.

February 8– Sunday– Stafford Courthouse, Virginia–Robert Gould Shaw has changed his mind about Governor Andrew’s offer and explains to his sweetheart. “I shall feel that what I have to do is to prove that a Negro can be made a good soldier . . . . You know how many eminent men consider a Negro army of the greatest importance to our country at this time. If it turns out to be so, how fully repaid the pioneers in this moverment will be, for what they may have to go through! And at any rate I feel convinced I shall never regret having taken this step.”

Robert Gould Shaw~"Blue-eyed Child of Fortune"

Robert Gould Shaw~”Blue-eyed Child of Fortune”

February 8– Sunday– St Helena, Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke records a conversation between the white abolitionist doctor serving with Higginson’s troops and a white Southern woman with a superior attitude. “She spent a long time in trying to convince Dr Rogers that she and her husband had devoted themselves to the good of their slaves, and lamented their ingratitude in all deserting her . . . . Robert Sutton, now Corporal in the Regiment, was formerly her slave and said the people were cruelly treated.” Grimke also reports that in a recent fight, Colonel Higginson did not see a Confederate soldier taking deadly aim at him with a pistol when three black soldiers “seeing his danger, fired at once, killing the rebel officer.”

First South Carolina Volunteers

First South Carolina Volunteers

February 8– Sunday– Atlanta, Georgia– The Southern Confederacy reports that Confederate Senator Herschel Vespasian Johnson, age 50, former governor of Georgia, has proposed an amendment to the Confederate Constitution, allowing any state to secede peaceably if they chose to do so. [The amendment will never be added.]

February 9– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– Captain Charles Russell Lowell, nephew of the writer James Russell Lowell, writes to his mother Anna. “You will be very glad to hear that Bob Shaw is to be Colonel, and Norwood Hallowell Lieutenant-Colonel of the Governor’s Negro Regiment. It is very important that it should be started soberly and not spoilt by too much fanaticism. Bob Shaw is not a fanatic.”

February 10– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Mr Alanson Crane receives the first US patent for a fire extinguisher.

February 10– Tuesday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes of his observation of rebel soldiers while his regiment was on picket duty. “It seemed queer to see them only a few yards away in their gray clothes. One of their bands played every day and we enjoyed the music with them. They were very anxious to procure New York papers and coffee, but we obeyed orders and did not give them any.”

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

February 10– Tuesday– St Louis, Missouri– Confederate Captain Griffin Frost, a prisoner in a Union prison, notes the care which rebel prisoners receive. “The Southern ladies of St. Louis by their untiring kindness, make us forget as far as possible, that we are strangers as well as prisoners. Our own families could do no more for us. We are continually receiving from their hands, contributions of clothing, to be distributed among the most needy. The only return the helpless captive can make is fervently to pray, ‘God bless them.’ We are divided into messes, six or seven together, and take it by turns cooking. It looks odd to see a man round with an apron on, cooking and washing dishes. Since they have let our ‘Old Woman’ [an elderly woman peddler allowed by the Federal guards to sell small items to the inmates] come back and sell to us, we get along pretty well—fix up a bread pudding occasionally, probably not in the style our lady wives would order, but we enjoy it hugely.”

February 11– Wednesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–Iron workers begin a strike which will last close to two years; however, they will make no gains or improvements.

February 11– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones describes the food shortage in the Confederate capital. “Some idea may be formed of the scarcity of food in this city from the fact that, while my youngest daughter was in the kitchen to-day, a young rat came out of its hole and seemed to beg for something to eat; she held out some bread, which it ate from her hand, and seemed grateful. Several others soon appeared, and were as tame as kittens. Perhaps we shall have to eat them!”

February 11– Wednesday– London, England– Confederate commissioner James Mason delivers a speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in an attempt to garner support for the Confederacy.

February 12– Thursday– New York City– The New York Times evaluates French efforts to mediate an end to the war. “It is extraordinary that a man of the practical sagacity of the French Emperor, and with a personal knowledge like his of the character of the American people, derived from a prolonged sojourn in our midst, should cling to the idea that he can be of some service in promoting peace between our Government and those in rebellion against it. There never was a completer hallucination. If one-third of France were in revolt against the government of Napoleon III, or one-third of England against the government of Queen Victoria, most assuredly neither of them would listen for an instant to any proffer by the Government of the United States of friendly offices, calculated to bring about an arrangement between the ‘belligerent’ parties. Either of them would repel it, if not as an indignity, at least as an impertinence. But our case is immeasurably stronger than that. The question with us is not simply a question as to the national head, but as to the national existence.”

Napoleon III of France

Napoleon III of France

February 12– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong comments about the French Emperor. “Louis Napoleon itches to have a finger in our pie, but I do not think he is quite ready to ‘mediate’ or to ‘intervene.’ It exasperates me to hear the talk even of honest and high-toned people about that scoundrel.”

February 12– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– The constitutional convention reconvenes following Congress’s request that certain wording about slavery be modified.

February 13– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes of dissension in the Union ranks. “There is a rumor in the papers that something like a revolution is occurring, or has occurred, in the West; and it is stated that the Federal troops demand the recall of the Emancipation Proclamation. They also object to serving with Negro troops.”

February 14– Saturday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke records that despite very stormy weather, she and several friends, five ladies and two gentlemen, had a Valentine’s Day party. “Miss Laura Towne told us some delightfully horrible stories and then Mr French told us some stories from Virgil, in which he seems well read. We had a very pleasant, social evening.”

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

February 14– Saturday– London, England–Lord Russell reports that Her Majesty’s Government has no objection to French efforts to mediate the civil war in the United States.

February 15– Sunday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes bad weather. “Today it is raining and our usual Sunday inspection has been omitted.”

February 15– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes hopefully in his diary of Northern dissatisfaction with the Emancipation Proclamation. “Already, as if quite certain that the great Northwest would speedily withdraw from the Eastern United States, our people are discussing the eventualities of such a momentous occurrence. The most vehement opposition to the admission of any of the non-slaveholding States, whose people have invaded our country and shed the blood of ourpeople, into this Confederacy, is quite manifest in this city. But Virginia, ‘the Old Mother,’ would, I think, after due hesitation, take back her erring children, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and perhaps one or two more, if they earnestly desired to return to her parental protection”

The Sable Arm in Double Battle~February, 1863~the 1st to the 7th

The Sable Arm in Double Battle

In February reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation continues. Bad weather is wide-spread and problematic for men and animals in both armies. Many feel pessimistic about the war and its human costs. Trouble in Poland escalates. France wants to mediate but Britain refrains from interference. Yet above all else, irregardless of the prejudice or indifference of many, the essential nature of the war is changing. More slaves are fleeing to Union lines. More black men are enlisting and more involved in the fight, making an appearance of “the Sable Arm.” Frederick Douglass aptly foretells a struggle on two fronts for such soldiers. The governor of Massachusetts begins planning for black units commended by white officers and the 54th Massachusetts begins its march to glory.

February– Boston, Massachusetts– This month’s edition of The Atlantic Monthly contains a patriotic poem entitled “Boston Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

February– Rochester, New York– In a column entitled “Condition of the Country” in this month’s issue of Douglass’ Monthly, Frederick Douglass gives a frank critique. “During this very administration slavery has been the all commanding and all controlling political power at Washinton as well as at Richmond. The saying that cotton is king was never an empty boast. It was king and ruled us all with iron. . . . Assuming that the Washington Government will cure its Cabinet of the Presidency, and its army of disloyalty, and call to important commands such men as Fremont and Phelps, men who are now in sympathy with the policy of the war, there is hope for the country and for the slave. . . . Colored men going into the army and navy of the United States must expect annoyance. They will be severely criticized and even insulted– but let no man hold back on this account. We shall be fighting a double battle, against slavery at the South and against prejudice and proscription at the North– and the case presents the very best assurances of success. Whoever sees fifty thousand well drilled colored soldiers in the United States, will see slavery abolished and the union of these States secured from rebel violence.”

February 1– Sunday– Falmouth, Virginia– George Whitman writes to his brother Walt, complaining about the weather and his lack of leave. “We had a regular old Northern snow storm last week, but it is nearly gone now but the mud is quite plenty just about here. Capt Sims tells me tonight that he has been promised a leave of absence for 10 days and will probably start for Brooklyn in a day or two. I suppose he will call on you in Washington. As soon as he gets back, I shall apply, and if I don’t get it I don’t know but I will send in my resignation as it is hardly a fair shake for some to go home two or three times a year while others can’t get away at all, but I don’t blame Sims at all for going whenever he can get a chance.”

February 1– Sunday– Union camp near Murfreesboro, Tennessee– A member of the 7th Kansas Cavalry records his regiment’s protection of escaped slaves. “One day a man came into camp inquiring of one of the comrades for his black boy who had run away. Another comrade at a little distance asked what that man wanted.’He wants his runaway black boy,’ was the reply.’Shoot him,’ shouted Comrade # 2. Other comrades, hearing it, repeated the call and several of them surrounded the man with drawn revolvers. Of course they would not have dared to shoot the man, but he did not know that, and was glad to make his escape after a solemn promise to never show himself in our camp again, and he kept his promise. At another time a middle-aged colored woman came into camp. She happened to fall in with our teamsters. As they wanted a cook, they had her cook for them. They gave her a government uniform to wear as a disguise and named her Tom. She rode in one of the wagons on the march. One day her master passed the wagon looking for her but did not recognize her. It was well for him that he did not, for if he had, and had attempted a rescue, he doubtless would have gotten some bullet holes in his coat.”

February 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– A bill introduced by Thaddeus Stevens, 70 years old, abolitionist and Republican Representative from Pennsylvania, which calls for the enlistment of 150,000 black soldiers in the Union Army, passes by a vote of 83 to 54 after weeks of acrimonious debate. [The Senate will defeat the measure, asserting that measures to enlist black fighters are already in place and no further measures are required.]

February 2– Monday– Marijampola, Poland–A squadron of well-armed Russian cavalry attacks and massacres a group of Polish peasants armed only with scythes and other farm implements near the town.

February 3– Tuesday– Washington, D. C.– The French Minister, Henry Mercier, officially extends France’s offer to mediate the Civil War.

Henri Mercier, the French Minister to the United States, 1860 to 1864

Henri Mercier, the French Minister to the United States, 1860 to 1864

February 3– Tuesday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Union Colonel John Beatty reports to his private journal. “This has been the coldest day of the season in this latitude. The ground is frozen hard. I made the round of the picket line after dinner, and was thoroughly chilled. Visited the hospital this evening. Young Willets, of the Third, whom I thought getting along well before I left for home, died two days before my return. Benedict is dead, and Glenn, poor fellow, will go next. His leg is in a sling, and he is compelled to lie in one position all the time. Mortification has set in, and he can not last more than a day or two. Murfreesboro is one great hospital, filled with Nationals and Confederates.”

February 3– Tuesday– Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada– Birth of James White, geographer. In 1906 he and his team will produce the first edition of the Atlas of Canada.

February 4– Stafford Courthouse, Virginia– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his sweetheart. “Father has just left here. He came down yesterday and brought me an offer from Governor Andrew of the Colonelcy of his new black regiment. The Governor considers it a most important command and I could not help feeling, from the tone of his letter, that he did me a great honor in offering it to me.” He goes on to say that he declines the offer.

Robert Gould Shaw~"Blue-eyed Child of Fortune"

Robert Gould Shaw~”Blue-eyed Child of Fortune”

February 5– New York City– George Templeton Strong confides his pessimism to his diary. “But (between me and my journal) things do in fact look darker and more dark every day. We are in a fearful scrape and I see no way out of it. Recognition of the ‘Confederacy’ is impossible. So is vigorous prosecution of the war twelve months longer.”

February 5– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a message to the Senate. “I submit to the Senate, for consideration with a view to ratification, a ‘convention between the United States of America and the Republic of Peru for the settlement of the pending claims of the citizens of either country against the other, signed at Lima on the 12th January ultimo.”

February 5– Thursday– London, England– In a message to Parliament Queen Victoria, through her Prime Minister, writes that the government has abstained from any attempt “to induce a cessation of the conflict between the contending parties in the North American States, because it has not yet seemed to Her Majesty that any such overtures could be attended with a probability of success.” The Queen has been almost a recluse since the death of husband, Prince Albert, in December of 1861.


the youthful Queen Victoria

the youthful Queen Victoria


February 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward informs the French Minister, Mecier, that the United States declines the offer from France to mediate an end to the war with the Confederacy.

February 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– In response to the Senate’s request, President Lincoln provides that chamber information about Frederick Townsend Ward, an American citizen who died in battle in China on September 21, 1862, leading Chinese Imperial troops.

February 6– Friday– camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia– Confederate General Robert E Lee writes to his daughter Agnes. “The storm of the last twenty-four hours has added to our stock of all, and we are now in a floating condition. But the sun and the wind will carry all off in time, and then we shall appreciate our relief. Our horses and mules suffer the most. They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud, and suffer all the time with hunger. The roads are wretched, almost impassable.”

February 7– Saturday– New York City– Harpers Weekly carries an advertisement for “India-Rubber Gloves cure Chapped Hands, Salt Rheum, &c., making them smooth and white, and are suitable for all kinds of house-work.” They come in various ladies sizes and sell for 87 cents per pair. [In current dollars that would equal $16.10 a pair.]

February 7– Saturday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke records a conversation with one of the black soldiers serving under Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson about a recent fight with the rebels. If he had to face his master, “I’d fight un, Miss, I’d fight un till I turned to dust!” When he and his colleagues were taunted and insulted by rebels, they yelled back, “Hole your tongue and dry up” because “we wasn’t feared of dem, dey couldn’t hurt us now. Didn’t we laugh to see dem so mad!”

the wreck of HMS Orpheus

the wreck of HMS Orpheus

February 7– Saturday– Auckland, New Zealand–The HMS Orpheus, a ship only two years old and flagship of Her Majesty’s Australia squadron, sinks while attempting to enter Manukau Harbor. Of the 259 total crew and soldiers on board, 189 men die.