A Few Thousand Determined Armed Men~April, 1863~the 1st to the 3rd

As the spring comes, bloodshed increases. Events of this month will lead to key campaigns of the year and an eventual turning point of the war. Turmoil continues in Mexico and in Poland. Thousands of African Americans, encouraged by people such as Frederick Douglass, enlist in the Union Army while many, but not all, white commanders readily receive them. The 54th Massachusetts makes ready to fight its way to glory while its young white colonel prepares to marry before marching off to battle. President Lincoln strengthens economic sanctions against the Confederacy while his Secretary of the Navy remains virulently anti-British. Conditions in Richmond, the Confederate capital, cause hungry women to break into food supplies. Soldiers and civilians think about things other than the war. And around the world life goes on.


Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

April– Rochester, New York– In this issue of Douglass’ Monthly, Frederick Douglass continues to exhort black men to enlist in the Union Army. “He who looks upon a conflict between right and wrong, and does not help the right against the wrong, despises and insults his own nature, and invites the contempt of mankind. . . . Should you refuse to enlist now, you will justify the past contempt of the Government towards you and lead it to regret having honored you with a call to take up arms in its defense.”

April 1– Wednesday– Readville, Massachusetts– From the training camp of the 54th Massachusetts, Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother about his wedding plans. “You must excuse me for saying, I didn’t think your arguments very powerful. If I thought that being married were going to make me neglect my duty, I should think it much better never to have been engaged. . . . Indeed, one reason for my wishing to be married is that we are going to undertake a very dangerous piece of work, and I feel that there are more chances than ever of my not getting back. I know I should go away more happy and contented if we were married. I showed Annie your letter and she wants to show it to Aunt Anna; to which I suppose you have no objection.”

April 1– Wednesday– Falmouth, Virginia– Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain writes to his wife, Fannie. “We shall undoubtedly remain here for a considerable time yet. We are all anxious to have you come back and very sorry you went away. Now the only trouble will be to get a pass. Perhaps the old one will do. Find out through Mrs Harris. Take the old one, erase the other names and see if Colonel Conrad will not renew it. ‘Sick Husband’ being just occasion of visits to the army of the Potomac. Try if you have time to prolong your visit here a little. The sooner the better.”

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

April 1– Wednesday– Chalk Bluff, Arkansas; Carroll County, Missouri; Columbia Pike, Tennessee; Loudon County, Virginia; Rodman’s Point, North Carolina; Clarendon, Arkansas– The emergent spring weather brings varying degrees of blood-letting through fire-fights and skirmishes in a number of places.

Depiction of a Civil War attack

Depiction of a Civil War attack

April 1– Wednesday– Mexico City, Mexico– An American observer writes about the conflict with the French. “The French are doing their best in attacking Puebla, and have been bombarding, cannonading and assaulting, but, so far, without success. On the contrary, the Mexicans have shown themselves the best soldiers and have carried off all the glory. I believe the Mexicans will triumph there.”

April 1– Wednesday– Cape Town, South Africa–The Cape Town and Green Point Tramway Company commences operations with the first horse-drawn trams in the city.

April 2– Thursday– Brooklyn, New York– Jeff Whitman writes to his bother in Washington. “Walt do you ever have a chance to get hold of any of the scientific reports that Uncle Sam prints. Would it be possible for you to obtain a copy of the Pacific R. R. Exploration &c Reports. I should like much to get hold of anything in that line, and would be much obliged to you if you could get them for me. I find them of great use in giving me ideas about my business and they are too cursed costly to buy Look around you and if you catch anything send it along will you.”

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

April 2– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln tightens trade sanctions against the Confederacy as he declares “that the inhabitants of the States of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties of Virginia designated as West Virginia, and except also the ports of New Orleans, Key West, Port Royal, and Beaufort, in North Carolina) are in a state of insurrection against the United States, and that all commercial intercourse . . . between the said States and the inhabitants thereof, . . . and the citizens of other States and other parts of the United States is unlawful and will remain unlawful until such insurrection shall cease or has been suppressed and notice thereof has been duly given by proclamation; and all cotton, tobacco, and other products, and all other goods and chattels, wares and merchandise, coming from any of said States . . . into other parts of the United States, or proceeding to any of said States, . . . without the license and permission of the President, through the Secretary of the Treasury, will, together with the vessel or vehicle conveying the same, be forfeited to the United States.”

April 2– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles notes the day’s activities. “Had a call last evening and again to-day from Senator Sumner. Our conversation was chiefly on our foreign relations, the unfortunate condition of public affairs, the inexcusable attitude of England.”

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy

April 2– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia–A mob of civilians, mostly women and girls, demands bread from a supply wagon. The crowd loots military supplies and groceries from a number of shops. President Jeff Davis begs the crowd to disperse and asserts that shortages are due to the Yankee blockade rather than the Confederate government. Police and soldiers eventually restore calm.

April 2– Thursday– Paris, Kentucky– George Whitman writes home to his mother. “I suppose you will be quite surprised to see that we are away down here in old Kaintuck [sic], We are now about 70 miles from Cincinnati Ohio. I like the country about here first rate and think likely we will have a good time. I believe there is no large force of Rebs, in this State, but they say, there is a good many small bands of Guerrillas, that scive [sic] around and do considerable mischief. We had a pretty long ride in the cars, having come by Rail all the way from Baltimore but it was not quite as bad as marching, although I got pretty well tired of it.”

April 2– Thursday– Hill’s Point, North Carolina; Little Rock Road, Arkansas; Snow Hill, Tennessee; Jackson, County, Missouri– Skirmishing, sniping and bullet-filled exchanges occur. One by one body counts rise.

Civil War canon and its crew

Civil War canon and its crew

April 2– Thursday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke updates her diary. “Drearily, drearily the days drag on. Can do nothing but knit, and that grows wearisome. Have discovered a music box that was taken from a ‘Secesh’ house in Beaufort– a remarkably fine one. Only wants a little cleaning to be perfect. The tone is exquisite. The airs . . . recall home.”

April 3– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator updates readers on the new regiment. “There are now four full companies in the colored regiment, at Readville. The men are improving rapidly in drill, and the officers are confident that it will be an excellent regiment. About fifty soldiers, recruited in Albany and Western New York, arrived in Boston on Friday of last week, en route for the camp of the 54th (colored) regiment at Readville. They were recruited by Frederick Douglass by whom they were accompanied.” The paper also reports that two young black men, free-born, who were personal servants to Union officers, were captured and sold into slavery in Texas.

April 3– Friday– Readville, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his father. “As regards our being married, Mr and Mrs Haggerty seem as much opposed to it as Mother.. . . I can’t help feeling that if we are not married before I go, I shall feel very much dissatisfied and discontented. For the sake of Annie’s and my own peace of mind, I want it.”

April 3– Friday– Reading, Pennsylvania– A crowd protests the arrest of four men accused of being rebel sympathizers.

April 3– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– Clerk John Jones comments on the events of yesterday. “No account of yesterday’s riot appeared in the papers to-day, for obvious reasons. The mob visited most of the shops, and the pillage was pretty extensive. Crowds of women, Marylanders and foreigners, were standing at the street corners to-day, still demanding food; which, it is said, the government promised to them. About midday the City Battalion was marched down Main Street to disperse the crowd.”


artillery and cavalry ready to move

artillery and cavalry ready to move

April 3– Friday– Palmyra, Tennessee— Union forces destroy the town.

April 3– Friday– Union camp outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi– General William Tecumseh Sherman summarizes the nature of the war in a letter to his brother, Senator John Sherman. “People must learn that war is a question of physical force and courage. A million of men engaged in peaceful pursuits will be vanquished by a few thousand determined armed men. The justice of the cause has nothing to do with it. It is a question of force. Again we are the assailants, and have to overcome not only an equal number of determined men, however wrongfully engaged, but the natural obstacles of a most difficult country.”

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