Humble Discharge of Duties~March 1863~the 28th to 31st

Fighting erupts on many fronts as the month ends, a foreshadowing of what is to come this spring and summer. President Lincoln comments upon Milton’s Paradise Lost and asks the nation to fast and pray for unity and peace. Gideon Welles takes a deliberately negative view of Lord Russell’s speech of March 23rd. Colonel Chamberlin of Maine, a professor rhetoric at Bowdoin College before the war, misses his wife. Greece selects a new king.

March 28– Saturday– Wellington, New Zealand– As required by the Constitution Act of 1852, representative districts are redrawn because of population growth from a substantial number of European immigrants. Today begins 18 days of supplementary elections to send members to the parliament.

the old capitol building in Wellington, New Zealand

the old capitol building in Wellington, New Zealand

March 29– Sunday– New York City– George Templeton Strong relates a story about a senator calling upon President Lincoln. The senator compares Satan’s lines in Milton’s Paradise Lost with some of Confederate President Jeff Davis’ statements, to which Lincoln responds, “Yes, I always thought the Devil was some to blame.”

illustration of Satan for 1860's edition of Paradise Lost

illustration of Satan for 1860’s edition of Paradise Lost

March 30– Monday– Dutton’s Hill, Kentucky; Zoar Church, Virginia; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; Cross Hollow, Arkansas; Vernon County, Missouri; Washington, North Carolina– Almost as a preview of upcoming spring offensives, extensive and sometimes bloody skirmishing takes place.

March 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues a proclamation. “Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

March 30– Monday– Falmouth, Virginia– Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin of the 20th Maine writes to his wife Fannie. She has returned to Maine after spending several weeks in camp with her husband. “When the [railroad passenger] cars moved away carrying my soul with them, I sprang on my grey horse ‘Prince’ who gave a wild snort and away we flew like the wind. He knew, noble fellow, that it was a heart-breaking day for me, and that he and my sword were all that was left me now, and a right wild scamper we had of it– we three– we have been together on more awful mornings than that, but my eye was always dry before. . . . . so I must bear it again– my heart with you, my trust in God.”

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

March 30– Monday– Athens, Greece– The Parliament selects Prince Wilhelm George of Denmark, only 17 years of age, as the new King of Greece to replace King Otto who was deposed last October.

King George I of Greece, 1863

King George I of Greece, 1863

March 31– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles gives a forthright opinion of Great Britain to the pages of his diary. “Earl Russell gives us to understand that the English Government do not intend to interpose to prevent the Rebels from building, buting, and sending out from England cruisers, semi-pirates, to prey upon our commerce. In plain language, English capital is to be employed in destroying our shipping interests. If we are silent and submissive, they will succeed, and we shall waken to our condition when our vessels and merchant seamen are gone. . . . . The conduct and attitude of Great Britain, if persisted in, foreshadow years of desolation, of dissolution, of suffering and blood. . . . she has no magnanimity, no sense of honor or of right. She is cowardly, treacherous, and mean, and hates and fears our strength. In that alone is our security.”

March 31– Tuesday– Jacksonville, Florida– Federal troops complete their evacuation of the city.

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