This Union Will Conquor~April, 1863~the 19th to the 24th

The poet Walt Whitman, nursing wounded soldiers in Washington, expresses hope for the Union. General Sherman worries about the loss of good officers. Secretary Welles worries about a new crisis with Great Britain. President Lincoln issues a code of conduct for Union soldiers. Black soldiers make good impressions while the 54th Massachusetts trains for fighting. Union soldiers find things to admire in Tennessee and in Kentucky. Federal troops massacre Native Americans in California. The French government wants the United States to apply pressure on Russia regarding the situation in Poland.

In the Confederacy President Jeff Davis is ill. General Lee worries about food for his men. Blockade runners seem to be flourishing along the Rio Grande.

April 19– Sunday– Nashville, Tennessee– A Union soldier visits a local church. “John Marvin, Tim Marvin, Jos Blackson Harvey . . . & My Self went to a presbyterian church in the lower end of town heard a very good sermon the text taken from Corinthians first chapter & 21st verse the preacher prayed for the welfare of the union & the success of our army there was but very few citizens at church about a dozen Ladies and a number of Children and some twenty five or 30 men the balance were Soldiers the church was not over one third full it is the finest and best finished church I have seen in Nashville. . . . we went to the Presbyterian church this evening and saw a great many young secesh ladies they try to look sour at the soldiers but pleasant and smiling countenance will beat out in spite of their teeth.”

nice dresses of the period

nice dresses of the period

April 19– Sunday– near Keyesville, California– Federal cavalrymen shoot or saber to death 35 Native Americans suspected of being hostile to white settlers.

April 20– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones observes: “It is thought by many that Hooker will change his base from the Rappahannock to the Pamunky, embarking his army in transports. If this be so, we shall again have the pleasure of hearing the thunders of battle, this summer, in Richmond.”

April 20– Monday– near Columbia, Tennessee– Union Lieutenant Albert Potter to his sister. “I don’t believe I think more of the Negro. . . but I do believe and say they ought to have their freedom and they shall have it—not only because they are human and have souls, but because their masters have forfeited all right to them and their loss is our gain—And again they make good soldiers, good Fighting soldiers, and I say let them fight. They are no better to stop a ball than I am—- If working men are so opposed to arming the Negro let them take the musket out of their hands and come along. Show one a man, who is down on our Negro soldiers and who keeps hanging back and shirking and I will show you a coward. Yes a moral coward and I believe God hates a coward.”
April 21– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong has a report from the South. “Dr March, one of our Sanitary Commission inspectors, just from Port Royal, says the First South Carolina is the best regiment he has ever seen– the best disciplined, the most subordinate, and the most pugnacious. It’s a regiment of Negroes with an infusion of Florida Seminole blood.” [This is the regiment commanded by Thomas Wentworth Higginson.]

George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

April 21– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to Thomas P Sawyer. “I believe this Union will conquer in the end, as sure as there’s a God in heaven. This country can’t be broken up by Jeff Davis, & all his damned crew. Tom, I sometimes feel as if I didn’t want to live– life would have no charm for me, if this country should fail after all, and be reduced to take a third rate position, to be domineered over by England & France & the haughty nations of Europe &c and we unable to help ourselves. But I have no thought that will ever be, this country I hope would spend her last drop of blood, and last dollar, rather than submit to such humiliation.”

Walt Whitman in a photo by Matthew Brady

Walt Whitman in a photo by Matthew Brady

April 21– Tuesday– Hightown, Virginia– Confederate cavalry on a raid to damage the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad reach this vicinity.

April 21– Tuesday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– General Lee reports to Richmond that the men of the Army of Northern Virginia are being supplied with a daily ration of one pound of flour and a quarter-pound of meat. There are increasing reports of typhoid fever and scurvy among his troops.

April 21– Tuesday– London, England– The Zoological Society receives a report from Australia that the quest for a living specimen of the didunculus strigirostris [“tooth-billed pigeon” thought to be related to the dodo bird] has been unsuccessful as the bird appears to be nearly extinct due to “wild cats.”

April 22– Wednesday– Washington, D. C.– Navy Secretary Gideon Welles takes note of foreign trade with the Confederacy. “Admiral Bailey writes . . . that an immense trade has sprung up on the Rio Grande; that there are at this time one hundred and eighty to two hundred vessels off the mouth of that river, when before the War there were but six to eight at any one time.”

April 22– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones takes note of sentiments in the capital. “The President is reported to be very ill to-day– dangerously ill– with inflammation of the throat, etc. While this is a source of grief to nearly all, it is the subject of secret joy to others. I am sure I have seen some officers of rank to-day, not fighting officers, who sincerely hope the President will not recover. He has his faults, but upon the whole is no doubt well qualified for the position he occupies. I trust he will recover.”

April 22– Thursday– Lexington, Kentucky– George Whitman writes to his brother Jeff. “I sent $350 to Mother, tell her not to be afraid to use it. Kentucky is the most beautiful Country I ever saw, the people seem much more intelligent, and every way better, than in any other part of the South I have ever been. I like Ky first rate and am very glad we were brought here, as the living is good, and there is none of that devilish, Virginia mud to travel through, the roads here are the finest I ever saw as hard and firm as a floor, so that its no trouble at all to march 15 or 20 miles.”

April 23– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– The Lincoln Administration still struggles about what to do with the international mail taken at the seizure of the Peterhoff. Secretary Welles records that “Senator Sumner called this P.M. to talk over the matter of the Peterhoff mail. Says that he has been examining the case, that he fully indorses my views. Seward, he avers, knows nothing of international law and is wanting in common sense, treats grave questions lightly and without comprehending their importance and bearing.”

April 23– Thursday– Union camp outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Sherman writes to Senator Sherman about Washington’s orders to reduce the number of officers as some units are brought greatly below strength by casualties. “Grant started to-day down to Carthage, and I have written to him, which may stave it off for a few days, but I tremble at the loss of so many young and good officers, who have been hard at work for two years, and now that they begin to see how to take care of soldiers, must be turned out. . . . If not too late, do, for mercy’s sake, exhaust your influence to stop this consolidation of regiments. Fill all the regiments with conscripts, and if the army is then too large disband the regiments that prefer to serve north of the Potomac and the Ohio. Keep the war South at all hazards. If this Consolidation Law is literally enforced, and no new draft is made, this campaign is over. And the outside world will have a perfect right to say our Government is afraid of its own people.”

General William Recumseh Shreman

General William Recumseh Shreman

April 23– Thursday– Paris, France– The French Foreign Minister writes to Henri Mercier, France’s Minister to the United States. He instructs Mercier to ask the United States to join in a European declaration to Russia on behalf of the Polish people. “The good relations which exist between the government of the United States and the court of Russia cannot but give greater weight to the counsels presented in a friendly form; and we rely entirely on the cabinet of Washington to appreciate the measure in which it will be able most satisfactorily to open its views to the Russian government.”

April 24– Friday– Readville, Massachusetts– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw writes to his father. “Everything continues to progress favorably with the 54th. We have now about 730 men. . . . All our ordinance has come from Washington. I expect to get it out here tomorrow. We have Enfield Rifles. The Ladies’ committee have agreed to pay an instructor for a band, so I shall have one going before long.” [The Enfield was an English-made weapon with fairly good accuracy and range. By the war’s end about 800,000 of these rifles will be in use by soldiers on both sides.]

Enfield rifle of the type issued to the 54th Massachusetts

Enfield rifle of the type issued to the 54th Massachusetts

April 24– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator reports that “We are informed that a circle of young ladies are exerting themselves to procure a suitable flag for the Massachusetts 54th (colored) regiment. Communications for the Committee may be addressed to Miss Addie Howard, 40 Poplar street, or to Miss Mary Louise Lockley, 31 Garden street.”

Sergeant-Major Lewis Douglass, 54th Massachusetts [a son of Frederick Douglass]

Sergeant-Major Lewis Douglass, 54th Massachusetts [a son of Frederick Douglass]

April 24– Friday– Washington, D.C.– Prepared by Francis Lieber and promulgated as General Orders No 100 by President Lincoln, The Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field are issued to all Union commandeers. Article 37 of the 157 articles declares that “The United States acknowledge and protect, in hostile countries occupied by them, religion and morality; strictly private property; the persons of the inhabitants, especially those of women: and the sacredness of domestic relations. Offenses to the contrary shall be rigorously punished.” Lieber, over 60 years of age, a German immigrant, scholar and jurist, developed these articles at Lincoln’s request in order to direct proper conduct by all Union officers in areas such as the use of martial law, the limits of military jurisdiction and the treatment of prisoners, spies, deserters and non-combatants. [Other scholars will use this document, one of the first such on the modern laws of war, to develop other such codes and Lieber’s work will influence in part the Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906 and 1929.]

Francis Lieber, legal scholar & jurist

Francis Lieber, legal scholar & jurist

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