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.

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