Whispers of Fearful Change~March, 1863~the 1st to the 9th

The pale-fac’d moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change;
Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war.
– Richard II by William Shakespeare, Act !!, scene 4

March brings the promise of eventual spring and renewed campaigning. Citizens South and North complain, grumble and worry, particularly about rising costs. Smuggling continues. A Southern woman wonders if she would be better off without her college education. Former slave Frederick Douglass recruits young black men for the army. The new Congress, re-shaped by last falls elections, begins to meet in Washington. President Lincoln nominates a Californian for the Supreme Court and signs the legislation authorizing conscription to sweel the ranks of Union forces. Censorship rears its head. Revolution in Poland threatens the peace of Europe.


March 1– Sunday– Berlin, Germany– A journalist reports on activities in Poland. “Private letters received here from Warsaw state that the Government is publishing a journal for private circulation exclusively amongst military men. The reports from the theatre of war contained in this journal admit the Russian losses to be constantly augmenting, and state that the insurrection is daily increasing.”

March 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Congress rejects the Executive Order of January 21st by President Lincoln to adopt a standard railroad gauge of 5 feet and instead adopts the 4 foot, 8 and one-half inches gauge.

Clapham Junction Railway Station

Clapham Junction Railway Station

March 2– Monday– Borough of Wandsworth, London, England– Clapham Junction railway station opens as passenger service continues to expand throughout Great Britain.

March 3– Tuesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Local businessman William Heyser diaries some information about financial conditions. “Great sale of old coins in New York, bringing astounding prices. An 1804 penny brought $36.00. I still have a five dollar gold piece of 1796, the year I was born.” [The $36.00 would equal approximately $665.00 in current vale.]

March 3– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs into law the Conscription Act (a/k/a the National Enrollment Act of 1863) which requires quotas of draftees by state, but allows well-to-do men to buy their way out of service for $300. He also signs legislation requiring that all tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar captured or abandoned in the rebellios states is to be turned over to the U S Treasury.

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

March 4– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs the bill which establishes the Territory of Idaho. The 38th Congress begins its first session with members chosen last November. Mr Lincoln’s Republicans control 66% of the Senate seats and 45.9% of the House of Representatives seats. Democrats hold 20% of seats in the Senate and 39.3% of seats in the House. The remainder of seats, 14% in the Senate and 14.8% in the House, are held by third parties.

John Henry Wigmore, American jurist

John Henry Wigmore, American jurist

March 4– Wednesday– San Francisco, California– Birth of John Henry Wigmore, American jurist who will become an expert in the law of evidence and will serve as the dean of Northwestern Law School from 1901 to 1929.

March 4– Wednesday– Atlantic Ocean– U S warships capture two Spanish merchant ships attempting to run the blockade.

George Templeton Strong

George Templeton Strong

March 5– Thursday– New York City– Attorney George Templeton Strong writes in his diary. “Sharply cold for a day or two. . . . War news very little and not good, though people seem generally in a sanguine fit just now. I can’t tell why.”

March 5– Thursday– Columbus, Ohio– Federal soldiers ransack the offices of The Crisis, an allegedly pro-Confederacy newspaper.

March 5– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles visits the Senate and in his diary compares it to his impression during his first visit when John Quincy Adams was president. “If the present room is larger, the Senators seemed smaller.”

March 6– Rochester, New York– Frederick Douglass writes to Gerrit Smith about efforts to recruit black me for the army. “I have visited Buffalo and obtained seven good men. I spoke here last night and got thirteen. I shall visit Auburn, Syracuse, Ithaca, Troy and Albany and other places in the State till I get one hundred men. Charley my youngest son was the first to put his name down as one of the company.”

March 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln nominates Stephen J Field for the position of an associate justice on the Supreme Court. The 46 year old Field, a Democrat strongly loyal to the Union, has been serving as Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court since 1859.

March 6– Friday– Mill Creek, Tennessee– Mary Louise Pearre, ardent secessionist, age 25, a graduate of Franklin Female College and teaching school here, opens her heart to her diary. “Bob is a flatterer. This is quite palpable in his conversation. Says women should be educated. Taught to reason to think and above all should cultivate a fondness for reading. I agree with him, yet I told him that a woman that thought & reasoned to an extent was unhappy, that they find they have to feed too much on mere ‘husks.’The outward world that they hide within their hearts do not agree. If I had read less, imagined less & educated my mind for the practical instead of the ideal in life, I would have been better adapted for the prosaic existence that appears to be mine. That is my fate so far. Yet I threw away (I fear) my hope of earthly happiness & must wait until the troubled heart moans itself unto the rest which knows no waking.” As for slaves, she writes, “I wish they were all in their native land beyond the sea. God only knows if slavery be right. Yet all men were certainly not born equal. If so they surely would have obtained their rights before now. I am a half fatalist. Naturally cannot help it. Have never read any works tinctured with that belief. If I had four years since, what would I have been now.”

Belle Kearney

Belle Kearney

March 6– Friday– Flora, Mississippi– Birth of Belle Kearney, temperance advocate and suffragist who will become the first Southern woman elected to a state legislature, serving two terms in the Mississippi State Senate, beginning in 1924.

March 7– Saturday– Baltimore, Maryland– Federal authorities ban the sale of music which favors secession and Union soldiers confiscate several stocks of alleged “treasonous” music.

March 8– Sunday– Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia– In a daring night-time raid, Confederate cavalry under Captain John Mosby capture a Union brigadier general, two captains and 30 others as well as horses and weapons. They make good their escape, avoiding Union patrols.

Colonel John S Mosby, a/k/a The Grey Ghost

Colonel John S Mosby, a/k/a The Grey Ghost

March 9– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– James Louis Petigru, lawyer, politician and judge, dies 8 weeks away from his 74th birthday. An out-spoken Union supporter, after South Carolina seceded in 1860, Petigru remarked, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Despite his unpopular views, many of the citizens of the city love and respect him. His funeral will draw a large attendance.

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