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”

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