Interest in the Affairs of Our Own Country~ April, 1863~ the 9th to the 13th

In the South a government official complains of exploitation by European monied interests and profiteering blockade runners, a tailor laments the coming of the war and asserts his loyalty to the Confederacy and a young girl breaks up with her boy friend.

A major Northern paper gloats about the “Bread Riot” in Virginia. General Sherman plays unwilling host to a man he despises. The Army of the Potomac begins to move against the Army of Northern Virginia. Black soldiers make ready for war. In New York’s theater district women are making successful careers.

The crisis in Poland simmers but an American diplomat asserts that the United States is interested only in its own affairs. Tensions between Great Britain and the United States continue.

April 9– Thursday– Brooklyn, New York– The American Freedman’s Friend Society holds its first public meeting this evening, at Henry Ward Beecher’s church. Reverend Dr George Cheever and editor. Horace Greeley address the meeting. The declared intent of the society is to provide material aid and education to escaped slaves who are entering Union lines in significant numbers.

Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley

April 9– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– With an attitude of blaming somebody and a touch of anti-Semitism, government clerk John Jones writes: “British and French capitalists have taken a cotton loan of $15,000,000, which is now selling at a premium of four per cent. in those countries. Our government can, if it will, soon have a navy of Alabamas and Floridas. [warships built for the Confederacy by British firms] But we are in danger of being sold to the enemy by the blockade-runners in this city. High officers, civil and military, are said, perhaps maliciously, to be engaged in the unlawful trade hitherto carried on by the Jews. “

April 9– Thursday– Paris, France– The French Foreign Minister Edouard de l’Huys advises the American Minister William Dayton that France, in conjunction with Great Britain and Austria, are about to express their concerns about the rebellion in Poland and encourage moderation by Russia. Dayton replies that the Polish situation is strictly a European affair and while the Lincoln Administration may have “a general interest . . . it is wholly subordinate to our interest in the affairs of our own country and continent.”

William Dayton

William Dayton

April 10– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator reports that a committee appointed by Governor Andrew to assist in recruiting men to serve in the 54th Regiment now in training at Readville “desire to state to the public that they are greatly in need of funds to facilitate the object of their appointment . Owing to the sparseness of the colored population in Massachusetts, men were sought at distant points, whose transportation and subsistence are defrayed by the Committee. Not unfrequently recruits are rejected by the surgeon, and the expense of their return home is likewise borne by the Committee.” [According to the 1860 Census the total black population of Massachusetts was 9,602 while the state’s white male population between the ages of 18 and 45 alone was 258,419.]

April 10– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports in a self-satisfied manner about the “Bread Riot” in Virginia, writing that the paper was “just informed . . . that on last Wednesday the women of Petersburg [25 miles south of Richmond where the event actually happened], soldiers’ wives and others, rose en masse, and visiting the stores of the mercenary speculators who have been enriching themselves by holding all necessities of life at an enormous prices, helped themselves forcibly to what they wanted, pitching out goods to the poor and needy as they went.”

April 10– Friday– Richmond, Virginia–President Davis calls upon farmers in the Confederacy to reduce the amount of cotton and tobacco which they grow and instead plant more oats and vegetables.

April 10– Friday– Carroll County, Tennessee– Williamson Younger, a tailor, confides his true feelings to the pages of his diary. “I believe this wicked war an uncalled for calamity. It might have been avoided had it not been for mean men North and South. I thought we of the South should have waited, and if we were not interrupted in our sovereign rights as States by Mr. Lincoln and the party in power, then of course no cause for rebelling. If we had been, I think there would have been a sufficient party in the United States to have put down any such encroachment on states rights. I believe the North has aggravated the South by her liberty bills [laws proposed or actually passed in several Northern states which protected escaped slaves and after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 forbade state officials from aiding in the return of fugitives to the South] and insults in the Federal congress to do what she has done. I have never been able to see sufficient grounds for secession and war. Both were brought on without my aid or voice at the ballot box. Now that both are upon us, my sympathies are entirely with my country and my people.”

April 10– Friday– Union camp outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi– General William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his brother Senator John Sherman. The General has been playing unwilling host to Charles A Dana. Dana, age 43 and a well-known journalist and author, is now an Assistant Secretary of War reporting directly to Edwin Stanton. General Sherman despises all journalists and has made no secret of his dislike but under orders from General Grant to be nice to Mr Dana, Sherman is the soul of courtesy and cooperation. “Mr. Dana is here. He spent a few hours with me yesterday, and I went over with him many of the events of the past year, with the maps and records with which I am well supplied. Indeed, all look to me for maps and facts. Dana remarked to one of Grant’s staff incidentally, that he was better pleased with me than he could possibly have expected. In the two days he has been here he has seen an illustration of the truth of my proposition, which has drawn on me such volumes of abuse.” [Mr Dana will submit glowing reports to Secretary of War Stanton about both General Grant and General Sherman.]

Charles A Dana, author, journalist & government official

Charles A Dana, author, journalist & government official

April 11– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reviews a performance at Laura Keene’s theater by Rose Eytinge. Ms Keene, British-born, age 36, owns, manages and schedules productions in the theater which bears her name and was built by and for her. She often assigns leading roles to herself. Ms Eytinge, age27, Philadelphia-born, caused a stir last year by divorcing her husband, David Barnes, after seven years of marriage. “Miss Eytinge infused into it [her role] a quiet, graceful and earnest interest that gave abundant evidence of her delicate and unusual powers. The lady’s freedom from affectation of speech and exaggeration of action, without detracting from the force that is required, are so marked that we are sure in a higher range of play . . . she will win and merit a career before a metropolitan audience.”

Rose Eytinge

Rose Eytinge

April 11– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Navy Secretary Welles describes a new crisis. “Seward is in great trouble about the mail of the Peterhoff, a captured blockade-runner. Wants the mail given up. Says the instructions which he prepared insured the inviolability and security of the mails.”

April 11– Saturday– Williamsburg, Virginia; Pattersonville, Louisiana; Saulsbury, Tennessee; Courtney’s Plantation, Mississippi; Webber’s Falls, Indian Territory [Oklahoma]; Squirrel Creek Crossing, Colorado Territory– Skirmishing and fire-fights add to casualty figures.

Confederate charge

Confederate charge

April 11– Saturday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke records a wonderful day. “Had a perfect ride to-day with Colonel Higginson and Dr Rogers. . . . The Colonel has been reading me (a magnificent reader he is) some of the ballads of the old Cavaliers. How grand, how stirring they bare. And how Robert Browning is too. Afterward the Doctor read me a little of the Faerie Queene.”

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

April 12– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles relates, “Went to the Executive Mansion. Read the dispatches to and full conversation with the President. Sumner came in and participated.”

April 12– Sunday– Mill Creek, Tennessee– Young Mary Pearre makes note of a visit from a young man named Bob. “After a while we got upon another subject in which he paid me some compliments. I have forgotten what. At which I pretended to be angry and retorted with, ‘I don’t thank you sir. I will not stand being confounded and flattered all together.’ He jestingly reached his pistol towards me saying, ‘here, take this and blow my brains out if you wish’—I coldly extended my hand to take it. He drew it back saying, ‘I don’t like the expression of your eyes. I believe you would as lief shot as not.’ I told him yes, just for the sake of a new sensation, etc. Yet after all his confidence and our long-long head and heart confabulations, we are scarcely friends. I told him so tonight & that our intimacy was a mere pretense and pastime. He vowed I was the meanest girl he ever saw.”

April 12– Sunday– on the Amite River, Louisiana– Intense fire fight takes place.

April 13– Monday– Washington, D.C.–The British Minister, Lord Lyons, advises Her Majesty’s Government that some in the Lincoln government favor war with Britain over the issue of British equipping of Confederate ships.

April 13– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Navy Secretary Welles mentions the British Minister. “Lord Lyons now writes very adroitly that the seizure of the Peterhoff mails was in violation of the order of our Government . . . . He makes no claim for surrender by right, or usage, or the law of nations, but it was by order of our Government to the Secretary of the Navy. No such order was ever given.”

April 13– Monday– Cincinnati, Ohio–General Burnside orders the deportation to the Confederacy of any person who criticizes the Union war effort or publicly expresses sympathy for the South.

April 13– Monday– Falmouth, Virginia– Union General George Stoneman takes 10,000 cavalrymen westward, intending to eventually turn southeast and cut Confederate General Lee’s supply lines.

George Stoneman

George Stoneman

April 13– Monday– Liverpool, England– The steamer Southerner has arrived with about 3,000 bales of cotton, having run the Union blockade via Nassau.

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