Monthly Archives: May 2013

We Consumed the Fruits of the Country~May 1863~ the 29th to 31st

A well-known evangelist calls for more people to do the work of evangelism while a small town pastor in Pennsylvania has no congregation to work with and loses his daughter. Union soldiers and generals alike are optimistic about the fall of Vicksburg. Some Northerners want even more black soldiers.

In the Confederacy some favor a compromise on the slavery issue if by doing so the South can win European support. Others fear a dangerous slave revolt instigated by Yankees. Inflation continues to grow.. Robert E Lee moves on his plan to invade the North. And a young English officer from one of Her Majesty’s most distinguished regiments has run the Union blockade to see for himself what the rebel armies look like. He will provide European eyes looking at some of the dramatic events of the next two months. Yankees and rebels alike will be shaken to their core by the violence and rancor soon coming upon the divided United States in what will be the bloodiest summer of the war.

 

May 29– Friday– Oberlin, Ohio– Reverend Charles G Finney writes to Edwin Lamson about the needs of the church. “The world can never be converted at this rate. But the more experience I have the more ripe is my conviction that the Church must return to God’s order & employ Evangelists on a scale equal to the work to be done, or sinners will continue to go to hell by millions. It is insanity in the churches & in the Pastors to oppose or neglect the employment of evangelists. As well, & even better for the church, might evangelists oppose the employment of Pastors. The fact is both are of God’s appointment & both must be employed.”

Rev Charles Grandison Finney

Rev Charles Grandison Finney

May 29– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a telegram to General Burnside who has tendered his resignation. “Your despatch of to-day received. When I shall wish to supersede you I will let you know. All the Cabinet regretted the necessity of arresting, for instance, Vallandigham, some perhaps doubting there was a real necessity for it; but, being done, all were for seeing you through with it.”

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

May 29– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones records recent remarks by a member of the Confederate Congress. “Honorable E. S. Dargan, Mobile, Ala., writes that it is indispensable for our government to stipulate for aid from Europe at the earliest moment practicable, even if we must agree to the gradual emancipation of the slaves. He says the enemy will soon overrun the Southwestern States and prevent communication with the East, and then these States (Eastern) cannot long resist the superior numbers of the invaders. Better (he thinks, I suppose) yield slavery, and even be under the protection of a foreign government, than succumb to the United States.”

May 29– Friday– Heusonville, Kentucky– George Whitman updates his mother. “Of course we don’t know how long we shall stay here, or which way we will move next, We do picket duty on the roads, about the country here, and our chief business is, to look out for rebel Cavalry raids, as they have been in the habit of dashing through these small country towns, stealing horses and Cattle and everything else they wanted. . . . The news from Grant, down at Vicksburg is very encouraging, I only hope it won’t turn out like the news of the capture of Richmond. If it should turn out, that Vicksburg is certain to fall into our hands in this campaign it will be a heavy blow to the rebs.”

May 29– Friday– Union position outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi– General William Tecumseh Sherman summarizes the campaign for his brother, Senator John Sherman. “The move by way of Grand Gulf to secure a foothold on the hills wherefrom to assail Vicksburg, appeared to me too risky at the time, and General Grant is entitled to all the merit of its conception and execution. In our route we consumed the fruits of the country, broke up the important railroad communications, whipped the enemy wherever encountered . . . . We have Vicksburg closely invested, and its fate is sealed unless the enemy raises a large force . . . and assails us from without. . . . The place is very well fortified, and is defended by twenty thousand brave troops. We have assaulted at five distinct points at two distinct times, and failed to cross the parapet. Our loss was heavy and we are now approaching with pick and shovel. If we did not apprehend an attempt on our rear, we could wait patiently the slow process of besiegers ; but as this danger is great, we may try and assault again. In the mean time we are daily pouring into the city a perfect storm of shot and shells, and our sharp-shooters are close up and fire at any head that is rash enough to show itself above ground.”

May 30– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser describes his day. “Decorating the church for Sunday’s celebration of the Heidelberg Catechism [Reformed Protestant document first approved for use in 1563]. Death of Rev. Feete’s daughter. She will be interred tomorrow at six in the evening. Rev. Feete has lost his last remaining comfort. Without a charge [a call to pastor a church], means, and dependent on friends, his situation can well call forth all the sympathy of those that know him.”

May 30– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– At the request of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, President Lincoln meets with a delegation from New York who encourage the enlistment of 10,000 black soldiers. According to a newspaper reporter, “The President declared that he would gladly receive into the service not ten thousand but ten times ten thousand colored troops; expressed his determination to protect all who enlisted, and said that he looked to them for essential service in finishing the war.”

Senator Charles Sumner, 1860

Senator Charles Sumner, 1860

May 30– Saturday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– General Lee completes the restructuring of the Army of Northern Virginia, creating three corps, one under James Longstreet, one under Richard Ewell and one under A. P. Hill.

May 30– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes that proof has been provided to President Davis of Union intent to foment a massive slave rebellion. “A plan of servile insurrection had been adopted . . . . All the Yankee generals in the South would co-operate: they were to send smart Negroes from the camps among the slaves, with instructions to rise simultaneously at night on the 1st August. They were to seize and destroy all railroad bridges, cut the telegraph wires, etc., and then retire into the swamps, concealing themselves until relieved by Federal troops. It is said they were to be ordered to shed no blood, except in self-defense, and they were not to destroy more private property than should be unavoidable.”

May 30– Saturday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– Sir Arthur James Fremantle, 27 years old, an officer in Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards who has come to view the Confederate military first hand and traveling in the South since April 2nd, describes his day with Confederate General Leonidas Polk. “It rained hard all last night, but General Polk’s tent proved itself a good one. We have prayers both morning and evening, by Dr. Quintard, together with singing, in which General Polk joined with much zeal. Colonel Gale, who is son-in-law and volunteer aid-de-camp to General Polk, has placed his Negro Aaron and a mare at my disposal during my stay. . . . . General Polk’s son, a young artillery lieutenant, told me this evening that ‘Stonewall Jackson’ was a professor at the military school at Lexington, in which he was a cadet.’Old Jack’ was considered a persevering but rather dull master, and was often made the butt of jokes by cheeky cadets, whose great ambition it was to irritate him, but, however insolent they were. He never took the slightest notice of their impertinence at the time, although he always had them punished for it afterwards. At the outbreak of the war, he was called upon by the cadets to make a speech, and these were his words: ‘Soldiers make short speeches: be slow to draw the sword in civil strife, but when you draw it, throw away the scabbard.’ Young Polk says that the enthusiasm created by this speech of old Jack’s was beyond description.”

Sir Arthur James Fremantle of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards

Sir Arthur James Fremantle of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards

May 31– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones to his diary: “The commissioners, appointed for the purpose, have agreed upon . . . [a] schedule of prices for the State of Virginia, under the recent impressment act of Congress; and if a large amount of supplies be furnished at these prices–which are fifty, sometimes one hundred per cent. lower than the rates private individuals arepaying–it will be good proof that all patriotism is not yet extinct.”

May 31– Sunday– Murree, British India (today Pakistan)– Birth of Francis Edward Younghusband, British army officer, journalist, explorer, author of several books on spirituality, and an advocate of free love.

Francis E Younghusband c.1905

Francis E Younghusband c.1905

 

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Preview of Coming Attractions

Stage-Background

My blog posts covering the months of June and July of 1863 will be significantly longer and a bit more detailed than those of most of my past ones covering the American Civil War. As a student of history I believe that those 61 days from June 1st through July 31st mark the most critical turning points of the war. Although the war will last more than 20 months after July, 1863, the defeat of the Confederacy slowly draws closer and closer to finality after the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Literally and figuratively, Gettysburg marks the high water mark of Confederate success. As one historian claims, after the losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the Confederacy becomes a receding tide, leading almost inexorably to the surrender at Appomattox. The parts of the Confederacy west of the Mississippi River will be cut off as the Union draws an increasingly tighter noose around the biggest part of the South.

 

Ulysses S Grant during the Civil War

Ulysses S Grant during the Civil War

These sixty-one days will see Ulysses Grant take new prominence among Union generals while Robert E Lee only adds to his fame by brilliantly fighting an increasingly defensive war. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts will gain immortality as will George Pickett and his division and, to a lesser degree, General John Buford and his cavalry troopers and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin and the 20th Maine. African American soldiers will continue to take a greater part in combat New York City will be shaken by anti-draft and anti-black rioting. Increasing economic problems and increasing casualties .will exacerbate problems in the South.

Robert_E_Lee_in_1863

 The voices you will hear will be those of soldiers–enlisted and officers, political leaders of both sides, citizens, diplomats, Europeans and Americans, editors and journalists, peace advocates and war hawks, women and men, black and white. I hope that what I offer my readers will enable you to become mental travelers who can at least for a few moments experience some of what soldiers and civilians experienced during those two critical months in the terrible summer of 1863.

Regular Siege to Out-camp the Enemy~May, 1863~ the 24th to the 28th

The month of May winds down, Big battles, little skirmishes and siege operations increase casualties. Soldiers and civilians worry and wonder. Gold is discovered in the West. In Boston the black enlisted men and the white officers of the 54th Massachusetts take ship for the South and their encounter with destiny. Former Congressman Vallandigham is turned over to the Confederacy. General Grant fails to take Vicksburg, Mississippi by direct assault and settles down to an intense siege. Another Union force surrounds Port Hudson, Louisiana, and begins a siege there. Life goes on.

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

May 24– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln and Senator James Doolittle, of Wisconsin, visit three area hospitals. The New York Herald reports, “The President expressed his gratification at the excellent condition of the hospitals and the comfortable condition of the patients. He shook hands with over one thousand soldiers, nearly all of whom were able to stand up. The soldiers seemed highly delighted as the President grasped them by the hand.”

Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin

Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin

May 24– Sunday– Green River, Kentucky– William Taylor writes to his wife, Jane, warning her about the bad habits he is acquiring in the army and will bring home after the war. “Still it may not be so bad after all dear. Do not despair of me. If anything can be done with me, it is you that can do it. I will try to be as agreeable as I can, for I don’t want to loose your good opinion as yet, and maybe with taking the right plan you may get me brought round to be a little like other folks after all. I guess you did not foresee all these matters when you consented to let me go . . . . However, there is one thing in favor of your making a good job of me yet. I have with all these bad habits, learned a good one, that is to obey orders, so that if you give orders right you may have things pretty near your own way after all.

May 24– Sunday– Woodbury, Tennessee; Mill Springs, Kentucky; Mechanicsburg, Mississippi; Lake Providence, Louisiana; Austin, Mississippi– Bloodshed continues.

May 25– Monday– outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Under a flag of truce, former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham is turned over to Confederate guards. The Memphis Bulletin reports: “Part of the exile’s provision for his pilgrimage into rebellion very properly consisted of two boxes of whisky.”

Clement Vallandigham

Clement Vallandigham

May 25– Monday– White County, Tennessee– In her diary, Amanda McDowell evaluates her brother’s loyalty to the Confederacy. “He still advises us to buy clothing as if we could buy anything here. He talks of the Confederate money being good in the North and going so well in Kentucky. If it is very good, it is more than it is here. Though we could buy some things at some price, I reckon, was there anything to buy. He has been so used to carrying things through that he commenced, that he can’t for the life of him believe but what the South will come out all right. . . . . he can’t help but look on the brighter side altogether. I know he has got sense enough to see things in their proper light if he would only look.”

May 25– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi–A frontal assault having failed, General Grant reluctantly settles into a siege. He issues Special Order #140: “Corp commanders will immediately commence the work of reducing the enemy by regular approaches. It is desirable that no more loss of life shall be sustained in the reduction of Vicksburg and the capture of the garrison.” Privately he writes, “I determined upon a regular siege to ‘out-camp the enemy,’ as it were, and to incur no more losses.”

Vicksburg besieged

Vicksburg besieged

May 25– Monday– Port Hudson, Louisiana– Confederate General Franklin Gardner decides not to evacuate his position but rather to mount a staunch defense as the Union forces work to encircle him.

May 26– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Union General Lawlor in his report of the fight at fight at Big Black River Bridge on may 17th comments on the death of a fine officer. “The death of Colonel Kinsman, of the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteers, whose brave and gallant conduct is the theme of universal praise, fills the hearts of all who knew him with poignant sorrow. A splendid soldier, a perfect gentleman, and a finished scholar, endowed in the highest degree with the noblest qualities of true manhood, his loss cannot prove less to his State and country than a public calamity to the officers and soldiers of his command, who had learned to love and respect him with an earnestness and devotion rarely equaled. His loss is irreparable, but he fell as the true soldier wishes to fall in the moment of victory, when his country’s flag waved in triumph over the stronghold of rebel treason, and died as the true soldier wishes to die, with Christian resignation and fortitude.”

May 26– Tuesday– Alder Gulch, Idaho, Territory [later, Virginia City, Montana– Word of a potentially rich gold discovery is creating a flood of prospectors and merchants into the area. It will grow into a boom town in a matter of weeks, with no law officers and an active vigilante committee. Many of the original arrivals are suspected of being Southern sympathizers.

May 26– Tuesday– Rouen, France– Birth of Charles-Victor Langlois, historian and paleographer. His 1897 book will be one of the first comprehensive manuals on the application of scientific techniques to historical research. He will serve as director of France’s National Archives from 1913 until his death in 1929.

May 27– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to Thomas P. Sawyer: “Well, . . . the great battle between Hooker & Lee came off, & what a battle it was– without any decisive results again, though at the cost of so many brave men’s lives & limbs– it seems too dreadful, that such bloody contests, without settling any thing, should go on. The hospitals here are filled with the wounded, I think the worst cases & the plentiest of any fighting yet.”.

May 27– Port Hudson, Louisiana– The Confederates repulse the first assault on their positions. Their casualties total 235 while the Union force loses a total of 1995.

Union siege gun attacking Port Hudson

Union siege gun attacking Port Hudson

May 27– Wednesday– Crowthorne, England–The Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum receives its first patients.

Broadmoor Asylum, c. 1867

Broadmoor Asylum, c. 1867

May 28– Thursday– Boston, Massachusetts– The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry parades through the city to the docks where they board ships for Hilton Head, South Carolina. One newspaper declares: “No regiment has collected so many thousands as the Fifty-fourth. Vast crowds lined the streets where the regiment was to pass, and the Common was crowded with an immense number of people such as only the Fourth of July or some rare event causes to assemble. . . . No white regiment from Massachusetts has surpassed the Fifty-fourth in excellence of drill, while in general discipline, dignity, and military bearing the regiment is acknowledged by every candid mind to be all that can be desired.” They march past the house of the eloquent abolitionist Wendell Phillips on Essex Street and see Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison watching from the second floor. At the wharf Frederick Douglass stands to watch them depart until the vessels are out of sight. [Two months from now 54 of them will be dead and 52 others missing in action.]

May 28– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln telegraphs Union General Rosecrans at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “I would not push you to any rashness, but I am very anxious that you do your utmost, short of rashness, to keep Bragg from getting off to help Johnston against Grant.” Rosecrans acknowledges receipt of the message but does nothing.

May 28– Thursday– Wartrace, Tennessee– Confederate soldier Hiram Holt writes to his wife. “There is a woman in the guard house . . . who fought through the battles of Murfreesboro & Perryville. She was dressed like a man & is still. She and the other prisoners play cards together just as if she was another man. She will be sent home soon, what do you think of her?”

Weather Is Just Right for a Campaign~May, 1863~the 18th to the 23rd

One Southern woman arrives in a Federal prison on spying charges while others take the opportunity to sell things to the Yankee soldiers. A Union soldier reveals herself as a woman and is sent home. Walt Whitman’s mother sends him some badly needed clothes. The daughter of a Cabinet member is involved in romance with a new senator. Wives and girl friends occupy the minds of soldier husbands and lovers.

President Lincoln orders Vallandigham to be sent to the Confederacy and considers changing the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Anglo-American relations remain tense.

General Grant begins the final encirclement of Vicksburg but fails to take it by direct assault. General Lee moves ahead with plans to invade the North. Clerk John Jones expects Confederate troops to occupy Philadelphia in two weeks. Around the world, life goes on.

The height of fashion

The height of fashion

May 18– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Grant’s forces begin investing the city, digging trenches and placing artillery.

May 18– Monday– London, England– In Parliament’s House of Lords some members complain about the seizure by the United States of British ships attempting to run the blockade of Confederate ports. Lord Russell declares that Her Majesty’s Government finds no objection to American conduct and the Crown will not interfere in the American war.

May 19– Tuesday– Martinsburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser of Chambersburg is in attendance at a large-church-wide meeting. “Cool. We are bringing our classes to a close here, after electing several groups for the different Synods to meet next year. Even here, we have petty politics among religious groups to vie for honors to represent their views of ideas. I was much honored and congratulated on my writings and method of conducting prayer services, often mistaken for one of the clergy. Why did the Lord choose the business world for me, when I was better fitted for the church?”

May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles records a bit of high society gossip. “Governor Sprague and Miss Kate Chase called this evening. I have been skeptical as to a match, but this means something. She is beautiful, or more properly perhaps, interesting and impressive. He is rich and holds the position of Senator. Few young men have such advantages as he, and Miss Kate has talents and ambition sufficient for both.” [William Sprague, age 32 at this time, comes from a wealthy manufacturing family, has just finished three consecutive one-year terms as Rhode Island’s governor and, when Congress came into session in March, took his seat in the U S Senate. Kate Chase is 22 years old at the time. She and her younger sister Janette are the two of the six daughters of Treasury Secretary Salmon P Chase who survived childhood. She is known to be ambitious and resentful that Lincoln rather than her father won the Republican nomination in 1860.]

Kate Chase

Kate Chase

May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends an order via Secretary of War Stanton to General Burnside in Ohio. “The President directs that without delay you send C. L. Vallandigham under secure guard to the Headquarters of General Rosecrans, to be put by him beyond our military lines; and in case of his return within our lines, he be arrested and kept in close custody for the term specified in his sentence.”

May 19– Tuesday– Washington, D. C– Walt Whitman thanks his mother for her care package. “O mother, how welcome the shirts were– I was putting off, & putting off, to get some new ones, I could not find any one to do them as I wear them, & it would have cost such a price & so my old ones had got to be, when they come back from the wash I had to laugh, they were a lot of rags, held together with starch. I have a very nice old black aunty for a washwoman, but she bears down pretty hard I guess when she irons them, & they showed something like the poor old city of Fredericksburg does, since Burnside bombarded it. Well, mother, when the bundle came, I was so glad & the coats too, worn as they are, they come in very handy & the cake, dear mother, I am almost like the boy that put it under his pillow & woke up in the night & eat some.”

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

May 19– Tuesday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Grant tries to take the city by a direct assault but the Confederates repulse him, costing about 1000 Union casualties.

May 19– Tuesday– Harrington, Prince Edward Island, Canada– Birth of John Alexander Mathieson, jurist, politician and who will serve as Premier of Prince Edward Island from 1911 to 1917.

John Mathieson

John Mathieson

May 20– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– A heated debate takes place in today’s Cabinet meeting about whether or not the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 remains in effect and whether known escaped slaves ought to be allowed to enlist in the Union army.

May 20– Wednesday– Alton, Illinois– The Federal prison here receives a Miss Mollie Hyde of Nashville, Tennessee, arrested under the orders of Union General Rosecrans and convicted of “spying and other misdeeds.” She is to be held until the war ends.

May 20– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis and Secretary of War Seddon receive news of General Pemberton’s defeat at Big Black River at the same time they receive a letter from General Lee stating that he must have General Longstreet and his men to invade Pennsylvania and cannot spare them to assist General Pemberton.

May 20– Wednesday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor writes to his wife Jane at home in Pennsylvania. “I have another idle day to look forward to unless the quartermaster brings a lot of clothing up with him I will have nothing to do, and even if he does it will only make an hour or more work. If we must stay on here I will begin to wish for the arrival of my fish hooks that I may go and fish some, even if they are small ones. I have some reading matter, but get tired doing that all the time. I have Les Miserables, of 800 pages and am about half through. I only read about 50 pages a day of it as I don’t want to get done too soon, and then have nothing left.”

May 21– Thursday– Battle Creek, Michigan–The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is formed.

May 21– Thursday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes in his diary: “We have been fixing up our camp, and we look very fine. I do not imagine that we shall stay here very long for the weather is just right for a campaign.”

May 21– Thursday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor to his wife Jane: “A while ago two women came up. They had with them in a basket some geese and ducks. They were cooked & stuffed. Our cook was away and only the quartermaster and myself in. They made us buy two geese and a duck. Geese cost 50 cents a piece; the duck 25 cents. One of the women was pretty, the only pretty one I have seen in Kentucky. She was a widow too. She came on purpose to see the quartermaster. She had heard a good deal about him. She is rich– has nine hundred acres of land, two children and twenty five ‘n******.’ She sold us a stack of hay, and says we can have one of her meadows & cut in the shares.”

May 22– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln offers command of the Army of the Potomac to General Darius Couch, age 40, West Point Class of 1846 and a career soldier. General Couch refuses the President’s offer and recommends General George Meade, age 47, West Point Class of 1835, also a career soldier. In the afternoon, President Lincoln meets in the East Room of the White House with a group of 20 to 30 veterans who have each lost a leg. He praises their courage and thanks them for their service.

May 22– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones records a recent conversation. “I met with Robert Tyler to-day, who offers to wager something that General Stuart will be in Philadelphia in a fortnight, and he said there was a proposition to stop the publication of newspapers, if the President would agree to it, as they gave information to the enemy, and at such a time as this did no good whatever. He thinks they are on the eve of revolution in the North.”

May 22– Friday– Nashville, Tennessee– The Nashville Dispatch reports that “A female soldier, who has been in service twenty-two months, reported at headquarters yesterday, for impersonation to Minnesota, where she resides. She was in the battles of Shiloh and Stone River, and twice wounded severely. She enlisted in the same company as her husband, and was with him up to the time of his death, which occurred at Murfreesboro, and she concluded to leave the army and return to her friends.”

May 22– Friday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– The well-positioned Confederates repel a second Union assault. Federal killed, wounded and missing total 3,199; Rebel losses are under 500 total.

May 22– Friday– Fort Hudson, Louisiana– Union forces begin to besiege the Confederate position.

May 23– Saturday– Columbus, Ohio– Throughout the state people are signing and circulating petitions in protest of the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of the Honorable C L Vallandigham.”

May 23– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Charles Russell Lowell to Robert Gould Shaw: “E. [Effie, Gould’s sister, whom Charles loves and will eventually marry] wrote me an account of your flag presentation and sent the speeches: I suppose the responsibility of your own speech to follow prevented you from appreciating the Governor’s speech as he was delivering it– but, as read, it seems full of feeling and sense, lofty sense and common sense– he is a trump. Your regiment has proved such an entire success– has given such good promise of taking a very high place among our Massachusetts regiments– that it is easy to forget the circumstances under which you took hold of it; I feel like telling you now, old fellow (as an officer and outsider, and not as your friend and brother), how very manly I thought it of you then to undertake the experiment.”

Charles Russell Lowell

Charles Russell Lowell

May 23– Saturday– Middleburg, Kentucky– William Taylor to his wife Jane: “When I can’t write I only think the more about you. It is not because I am discontented however that I think of home and you, but because I feel happy in doing so. It is better to do that than make oneself uncomfortable by finding fault with the little inconveniences that present themselves so often. A look in fancy towards home has made me feel warm many a cold night, and kept the wet from settling into my bones, and I can make any annoyance vanish by bringing the light of your smile up before it. I don’t know what the poor fellows do who have no sweethearts at home. I can really pity them, and I think I could pick them out from among the others. I heard to day that Capt. Geibner was killed at the last battle at Fredericksburg. Do you know if it is so? We have not yet seen any list of the killed and wounded since that fight.”

 the wife of a Union soldier prays for her husband

the wife of a Union soldier prays for her husband

May 23– Saturday– Leipzig, Germany–Ferdinand Lassalle 37 year old socialist jurist, founds the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (General German Workers’ Association, ADAV), the first socialist workers party in the country.

Ferdinand Lassalle

Ferdinand Lassalle

Seeing the Enemy Mowed Down~May, 1863~the 13th to the 18th

General Robert E Lee, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Attorney George Templeton Strong and poet Walt Whitman all feel the effects of the battle at Chancellorsville and ponder it all. President Lincoln cautions General Hooker. The black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts receive their battle flags and various honors. General Grant moves on rather successfully to isolate Vicksburg, Mississippi. General Lee has a radical new plan. A 12 year old boy is arrested as a spy.. Some Northerners still support slavery and oppose emancipation. Romance blossoms in the ranks of soldiers. Charlotte Forten Grimke believes that no white man could love a woman of her complexion. Life around the world goes on.

May 13– Wednesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong takes note: “Today’s only news is a seemingly trustworthy report that the very salient rebel Stonewall Jackson died last Sunday of pneumonia, which attacked him while weakened by a recent amputation. He seems to have been a brave, capable, earnest man, good and religious according to his Presbyterian formulas, but misguided into treason by that deluding dogma of state allegiance.”

George Templeton Strong

George Templeton Strong

May 13– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles takes note. “I am apprehensive our loss in killed and prisoners was much greater in the late battle than has been supposed.”

May13– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes to his mother, describing the death of a soldier under his care. “I was in hopes at one time he would get through with it, but a few days ago he took a sudden bad turn, & died about 3 o’clock the same afternoon– it was horrible– he was of good family (handsome, intelligent man, about 26, married) his name was John Elliott of Cumberland Valley, Bedford County, Penn., belonged to 2d Pennsylvania Cavalry. I felt very bad about it– I have wrote to his father– have not rec’d any answer yet– no friend nor any of his folks was here & have not been here nor sent, probably didn’t know of it at all.”

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

May 13– Wednesday– Nashville, Tennessee– Federal authorities arrest 12 year old Martin Fogarty who has apparently been spying for the rebels and acting as a courier.

May 14– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln to General Hooker: “It does not now appear probable to me that you can gain anything by an early renewal of the attempt to cross the Rappahannock. I therefore shall not complain if you do no more for a time than to keep the enemy at bay and out of other mischief by menaces and occasional cavalry raids, if practicable, and to put your own army in good condition again. Still, if in your own clear judgment you can renew the attack successfully, I do not mean to restrain you. Bearing upon this last point, I must tell you that I have some painful intimations that some of your corps and division commanders are not giving you their entire confidence. This would be ruinous, if true, and you should therefore, first of all, ascertain the real facts beyond all possibility of doubt.”

May 14– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes to a friend about his work in the hospitals, regularly bringing food which he has cooked and fresh fruit which he has purchased. “Yet after all this succoring of the stomach (which is of course most welcome & indispensable) I should say that I believe my profoundest help to these sick & dying men is probably the soothing invigoration I steadily bear in mind, to infuse in them through affection, cheering love, & the like, between them & me. It has saved more than one life. There is a strange influence here. I have formed attachments here in hospital, that I shall keep to my dying day, & they will the same, without doubt.”

May 14– Thursday– Jackson, Mississippi– Union General Grant tightens the noose around Vicksburg. After a morning of intense fighting the Confederates withdraw, having lost 850 killed, wounded and missing. Union forces’ losses total 286. In the afternoon, Union soldiers burn part of the city and destroy the railroad connection to Vicksburg.

Battle of Jackson, Mississippi

Battle of Jackson, Mississippi

May 14– Thursday– Hamilton, Ontario, Canada– Birth of John Charles Fields, mathematician and educator.

John Charles Fields

John Charles Fields

May 15– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– As evidence of pro-slavery sentiment in the North, the Liberator quotes the Manchester [New Hampshire] Union. “The Abolitionists will fail. . . . They accepted war, which might have been avoided with honor, because they thought it would furnish an occasion to strike at slavery. . . . Slavery will not be abolished by this war, and our sacrifices of men and women will be in proportion to the extent to which that purpose is carried in its management. . . . A majority of our people will not willingly take any part in any war whose purpose is not the restoration of the old Union.”

May 15– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln announces renewal of the Saturday concerts by the Marine Corps band on the White House grounds.

May 15– Friday– Evansville, Indiana– Birth of Annie Fellows Johnston, author of children’s books.

Annie Fellows Johnston [on the left]

Annie Fellows Johnston [on the left]

May 15– Friday– Liverpool, England– Birth of Frank Hornby, inventor, businessman and politician. His Meccano Ltd (1908) will become world famous for its toy trains and die cast miniature vehicles.

May 16– Saturday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor writes bitterly to his wife Jane about the people of Kentucky. “Their garden arrangements are all in equal bad taste with their farming, and that equally bad with their dress and personal appearance. They are a hard set of people to look at and we see plenty of them, They come in numbers into our camp both men and women, selling us such things as they can spare. The principal articles are butter, eggs, poultry, corn bread, soda biscuit and cider. But these are so bad that they are beginning to sell very little of them. We of our mess have quit buying altogether.”

May 16– Saturday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– A soldier reports an interesting event. “To-day we had a novel wedding. The bridegroom was private J. N. Hamilton, of the 15th Indiana volunteers, and the bride Miss A. Bonn a volunteer nurse from Chicago. The ceremony took place on the bank of Stone river—on the very place where the 15th Indiana fought so nobly in the battle of Dec. 31st,1862. The nuptial knot was tied by Rev Post Chaplain at Murfreesboro. A large circle of friends and acquaintances was present and just as the ceremony was over, and the newly married couple were receiving the well wishes and congratulations of their friend, . . . [three generals] drove up in a carriage, but too late to witness the ceremony. They were not too late however, to exact a kiss from the blushing bride.”

May 16– Saturday– Champion Hill, Mississippi– In another bloody and day-long battle, General Grant defeats another Confederate force. Federal casualties total 2,441dead, wounded and missing. Confederate losses amount to 3,851. Later, Grant will write of ths campaign: “While a battle is raging, one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure; but after the battle these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to alleviate the sufferings of an enemy as a friend.”

May 16– Saturday– Carthage, Missouri; Ravenswoord, West Virginia; Tickaw Bridge, Louisiana; Piedmont Station, Virginia; Elizabeth Court House, west Virginia– Rebels and Federals have at one another.

May 17– Sunday– Big Black River Bridge, Hinds County, Mississippi– Grant’s forces defeat a smaller Confederate force while suffering 276 dead, wounded and missing. Confederate lose about 300 killed and wounded but 1700 are take prisoner by the Union army. For all practical purposes, Vicksburg is now surrounded. Confederate General Pemberton must either fight or surrender but after today he and his men cannot escape Vicksburg.

Battle at Big Black River Bridge

Battle at Big Black River Bridge

May 17–Sunday– Puebla, Mexico–After a two month siege, the French forces take the town.

May 17– Sunday– Padron, Galicia, Spain– The writer Maria Rosalia Rita de Castro, age 26, publishes a book of poetry entitled Cantares Gallegos, her first book in the Galician language. [The day continues to be observed as Galician Literature Day.]

May 18– Monday morning– Readville, Massachusetts– Frederick Douglass, Professor Louis Agassiz, Josiah Quincy [the former mayor of Boston and retired president of Harvard is 91 years old at this time], William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Reverend Samuel J May, and many others, black and white, women and men are present to watch Massachusetts Governor Andrew present the American flag, the Massachusetts state flag, a white flag with the Goddess of Liberty and a blue flag with a large cross to the 54th Massachusetts. The flags were hand-sewn by women from Boston just for this regiment.

May 18– Monday evening– Readville, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw to his mother: “I am so sorry you were not here to-day. The presentation went off finely. The Governor made a beautiful speech. My response was small potatoes. The day has been beautiful; and on the whole it was a success. After the ceremony, we had a Battalion drill, and then refreshments for guests at my head-quarters. The Governor handed me a telegram from the Secretary of War, saying, ‘The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts will report to General Hunter; make requisitions for transportation, so that they may go at once.’”

May 18– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a letter of congratulations to Queen Victoria on the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark on March 10th.

May 18– Monday– Fredericksburg Virginia– Confederate General Lee returns to his headquarters after concluding several days of meetings with President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Cabinet to discuss strategy for the coming summer campaigns. He has convinced them that his plan to invade the North without sending any of his troops to reinforce Vicksburg will draw Grant away from Vicksburg and win the war. His planning for summer campaigning is hindered by the loss of 12 brigade commandeers, killed or wounded, at Chancellorsville.

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

May 18– Monday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke writes about a Mr Thorpe. “Report says that he more than likes me. But I know it is not so. Have never had the least reason to think it. Although he is very good and liberal he is still an American, and would of course never be so insane as to love one of the prescribed race.”

Most Urgent Occasion, Amounting to a Manifest Necessity~ May, 1863~ the 8th to the 12th

The consequences of the battle at Chancellorsville begin to be felt. In the capital, Walt Whitman helps to nurse scores of wounded coming from the fight. To the sorrow of the Confederacy and the relief of the Union, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson dies of pneumonia contracted after the amputation of his arm. Another Confederate General is murdered by an angry husband for the general’s philandering. Feeling the need of more soldiers, President Lincoln orders that aliens who are becoming citizens are subject to the draft. Colonel Shaw returns from his honeymoon and finds the 54th Massachusetts fit and ready for duty. General Grant makes steady progress against Vicksburg, much to the concern of President Jeff Davis. Soldiers write home about food and tobacco.

Abolitionist editor Garrison argues for the rights of all women and of black men. Secretary of State Seward instructs several American ministers to make clear to Britain, France and Russia that as the United States opposes European intervention in the American war, so too American policy opposes intervention in Russian affairs in Poland. In a foretaste of the organizing efforts of industrial workers which will be a key part of American society in the half century after the Civil War, railroad engineers organize. Around the world life goes on.

May 8– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison writes that “The agitation of the Negro’s rights, and the discussion of the rights of woman, have from the beginning gone hand in hand. What natural alliance could be closer? The advocates of each have been forced to occupy common ground, because the claims of both the Negro and woman are based upon the same general principles, and the success of one necessitates the progress of the other.” Today’s issue also honors the 20 year old Anna E. Dickinson, a passionate abolitionist speaker, by grouping together “some of the numerous flattering testimonials which this gifted young lady has recently elicited from the press, and from distinguished professional gentlemen and prominent citizens, in various places.”

Anna E Dickinson, abolitionist & feminist

Anna E Dickinson, abolitionist & feminist

May 8– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues a proclamation requiring military service of aliens who have declared their intent to become citizens and are of the appropriate age. “I do hereby order and proclaim that no plea of alienage will be received or allowed to exempt from the obligations imposed by the aforesaid act of Congress any person of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath his intention to become a citizen of the United States under the laws thereof, and who shall be found within the United States at any time during the continuance of the present insurrection and rebellion or after the expiration of the period of sixty-five days from the date of this proclamation.”

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

May 8– Friday– Marshall, Michigan–Initial organization of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

May 8– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis writes to General E Kirby Smith, seeking information about what is happening along the Mississippi River and expressing his concern. “You are doubtless aware of General Pemberton’s position and of the presence of the enemy’s fleet between Vicksburg and Port Hudson and therefore cannot look until there is a change of circumstances for anything from the east side of the River. The guns & ammunition which have been sent out for you cannot now be transported and it therefore becomes of increased importance to push forward the work on the foundry near Shreveport, as well for the casting of guns, as shot and shell. Powder, I hope, you will be able to bring, in requisite quantities from the Rio Grande.”

May 8– Friday– Spring, Hill, Tennessee– Wealthy local doctor George Peters walks into the mansion where Confederate General Earl Van Dorn, age 42, has his headquarters. He calmly shoots the general in the head, killing him instantly as retribution for Van Dorn’s affair with the beautiful Jessie Peters, the doctor’s much younger wife. Van Dorn, a West Point graduate, married to the same woman for twenty years, had a reputation as a “ladies’ man” and was considered by colleagues as “a danger to ugly husbands.” The doctor will never be prosecuted.

May 9– Saturday– Utica, Mississippi; Big Sandy Creek, Mississippi; Bayou Tensas, Louisiana; Stone County, Missouri; Oiltown, West Virginia– Skirmishes and raids add to the death toll.

May 10– Sunday– Guiney Station, Virginia– Stonewall Jackson dies at a field hospital near here from pneumonia which he contracted after the amputation of his left arm. His last fevered words are, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” He is only 39 years old.

Jackson shot by his own men

Jackson shot by his own men

May 10– Sunday– Hamilton’s Crossing, Virginia– Confederate soldier Henry Dedrick to his father “We had one of the hardest fights that we ever had since the war begun. General Jackson has lost one of his arms and [has] now got the pneumonia. He is not expected to live. He was shot by our own pickets. He got out side of our pickets after night and he come up in a gallop and they fired on him and wounded him and all of his guard but one. Our loss is said to be twenty thousand killed wounded and missing. I don’t know what the [loss] of the enemy was but it must be terrible. I have just heard that General Jackson was dead. If he is it is a great loss to the Southern confederacy.” Dedrick also invites his father to visit and bring food to sell: ” wish you would come down and bring me something to eat for we don’t get half enough and I can’t stand it. If you do come you can bring something along and make more off of it [than] you can make any other way. You can get from 50 to 75 cents for a pie, and tobacco is very high. You can sell most anything atall [sic],potatoes 50 cents per quart.” [That 50 cents would equal about $9.24 today.]

May 10– Sunday– Hanover, Germany– Violinist Joseph Joachim marries contralto Amalie Schneeweiss. Considered one of the greatest violinists of the 19th century, Joachim is 32; Ms Schneeweiss, who performed under the stage name Amalie Weiss, is 24 and gives up a promising career. She will bear six children to her husband.

May 10– Sunday– Moshua, Begal [now Bangladesh]– Birth of Upendrakishore Ray, Bengali writer, painter, violinist and composer.

May 11– Monday– Readville, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw to his father: “I found the regiment looking remarkably well; there are already one hundred men for the Fifty-fifth. . . . . I hope Mother and you will come on very soon. We [the regiment] shall get away next week without a doubt, if nothing unexpected turns up. General Wilde goes to New York Wednesday, and sails for Newbern on Friday. We [he and his new wife, Annie] are settled at Mrs. Crehore’s, and ready to receive you whenever you can come.”

May 11– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward instructs William Dayton, American Minister to France, to inform the French government that the United States will not join or support any European alliance intervening in Poland. “Our policy of non-intervention, straight, absolute and peculiar as it may seem to other nations, has thus become a traditional one, which could not be abandoned without the most urgent occasion, amounting to a manifest necessity. Certainly it could not be wisely departed from at this moment, when the existence of a local, although as we trust only a transient disturbance, deprives the government of the counsel of a portion of the American people, to whom so wide a departure from the settled policy of the country must in any case be deeply interesting.” Seward sends copies of this communication to Charles Francis Adams in London and to Cassius Marcellus Clay, American minister to Russia. He tells Clay that there could “be no impropriety in your informally making known the contents of the paper to Prince Gorchakov,” the Russian Foreign Minister. Clay, 52 years old, a cousin to the late Henry Clay, had emancipated his own slaves years ago and became an out-spoken anti-slavery activist, twice surviving assassination attempts by slave-holders.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, abolitionist & diplomat

Cassius Marcellus Clay, abolitionist & diplomat

May 11– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln inquires of General Dix: “Do the Richmond papers have anything about Grand Gulf or Vicksburg?”

May 11– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman describes to his friend Moses Lane the flood of casualties from recent fighting and gives an opinion about the state of the war. “Now coming up in one long bloody string from Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battles, six or seven hundred every day without intermission. We have already over 3000 arrived here in hospital from Hooker’s late battles. . . . You there north must not be so disheartened about Hooker’s return to this side of the Rappahannock and supposed failure. The blow struck at Lee & the rebel sway in Virginia, & generally at Richmond & Jeff Davis, by this short but tremendous little campaign, of 2d, 3d, 4th & 5th inst’s, is in my judgment the heaviest and most staggering they have yet got from us, & has not only hit them nearer where they live than all McClellan ever did, but all that has been leveled at Richmond during the war. I mean this deliberately. We have I know paid for it with thousands of dear noble lives, America’s choicest blood, yet the late battles are not without something decisive to show for them.”

fighting at Chancellorsville

fighting at Chancellorsville

May 11– Monday– Middleburg, Kentucky– Union soldier William Taylor to Jane, his wife. “I have not quit smoking, and you need not expect I will be likely to do it here, where the tobacco is growing all around me. I don’t smoke such a great deal however. John Haworth sent me a pound of tobacco at Newport News, and George brought me a pound when he came. It has kept Willie and me in smoking ever since, and is not more than half done. This is not considered heavy smoking here. Dick Holmes would smoke twice that much himself in the same time.”

May 12– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong in his diary: “General Grant has taken Jackson and thereby made Vicksburg untenable. We shall see.”

May 12– Tuesday– Washington, D. C.– Gideon Welles in his diary: “We have information that Stonewall Jackson, one of the best generals in the Rebel, and in some respects, perhaps in either service, is dead. One cannot but lament on the death of such a man, in such a cause, too. He was fanatically earnest, and a Christian but bigoted soldier.”

Jackson on his deathbed

Jackson on his deathbed

May 12– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones in his diary: “The departments and all places of business are still closed in honor of General Jackson, whose funeral will take place to-day. The remains will be placed in state at the Capitol, where the people will be permitted to see him. The grief is universal, and the victory involving such a loss is regarded as a calamity.”

Ulysses S Grant during the Civil War

Ulysses S Grant during the Civil War

May 12– Tuesday– Raymond, Mississippi– In a battle which lasts several hours, a Confederate brigade tries and fails to stop Union General Grant’s advance toward Vicksburg. Each side sustains about 500 casualties.

The Time Appointed by God for Deliverance~May, 1863~the 4th to the 7th

Attitudes harden and casualties mount. General Lee wins an important victory at Chacellorsville but at a terrible cost. The after-shocks ripple to Washington and New York City. Union General Hunter praises the enthusiasm of black soldiers and the those of the 54th Massachusetts are ready to go to war. Senator Sherman writes that the South does not want peace and compares the Confederacy to the French Revolution of 1789. Southern officials complain of the arrest by Union soldiers of two “very excellent young ladies belonging to the best families.” In Ohio a former Congressman is arrested and speedily brought to trial on charges of treason. A friend warns Whitman that some important people are prejudiced against him because he is doing nursing.

In the midst of bloodshed and unrest soldiers of both sides enjoy romance. Confederate General Pickett writes to his sweetheart with a soldier’s fantasy of glory, designed to make her swoon. Union Colonel Shaw enjoys his time with his new wife.

May 4– Monday– Readville, Massachusetts– James Gooding, one of the African American soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts, sends a description to the Mercury newspaper. “The past week has been one of encouragement and interest to the 54th ; our muster is now 868 men, and this week I hope to chronicle the pleasing intelligence, ‘the 54th is full.’ We have sufficient reason to warrant us in saying that such will be the case. Fast Day [April 30th as requested by President Lincoln] was observed here by a respite from drilling in the forenoon, and a grand review in the afternoon. Indeed it looked like anything but a day of humiliation and prayer– it seemed more like a grand gala day, if judged by the number of visitors on the ground.” He comments upon the number of healthy, young males who visit but have not enlisted. “I could not but put the question to myself, when I saw so many strong, able-bodied looking young men, why are you not here? why come as spectators when there is ample chance for you to become actors? I felt a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow– joy, because I felt the men who stood as actors in the scene were superior, in the eyes of all patriotic men, to those who came to see the show; sorrow, because these men had the effrontery to come here and look patronizingly upon those who are on the eve of going to secure them a home hereafter. . . . The regiment will be full; but it would be more credit to the State if it were filled by her own colored citizens.”

May 4– Monday– New York City– George Templeton Strong receives news. “Telegram at No 823 [New York office of the Sanitary Commission] this afternoon from Sanitary Commission, Washington office, calling for large supplies of hospital stores. . . . My anticipations are gradually settling downward. I now expect Hooker to fail, though perhaps after punishing the enemy severely. The obstinate silence of the War Department, the absence of official reports, is uncomfortable, and if the rebels be in the right place in which we suppose them, they will assuredly fight like cornered rats.”

fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia

fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia

May 4– Monday– Chancellorsville, Virginia–On the fourth and final day of the battle, the Confederate forces finalize their victory as Union forces retreat. Union casualties–dead, wounded-missing– total 17, 287 since May 1st; Confederate casualties amount to 12,764. However, the victory is costly for General Lee. His casualties total about 21% of his total force whereas General Hooker’s casualties are less than 13% of his total force.

May 4– Monday– Port Royal, South Carolina– Union General David Hunter writes to Governor Andrew of Massachusetts to express his satisfaction with the black soldiers under his command. “They have never disgraced their uniform by pillage or cruelty, but have so conducted themselves, upon the whole, that even our enemies, though more anxious to find fault with these than with any other portion of our troops, have not yet been able to allege against them a single violation of any of the rules of civilized warfare. These regiments are hardy, generous, temperate, patient, strictly obedient, possessing great natural aptitude for arms, and deeply imbued with that religious sentiment – call it fanaticism, such as like – which made the soldiers of Cromwell invincible. They believe that now is the time appointed by God for their deliverance; and under the heroic incitement of this faith, I believe them capable of showing a courage and persistency of purpose which must in the end extort both victory and admiration.”

Union General David Hunter

Union General David Hunter

May 4– Monday– Tullahoma, Tennessee– Isham Harris, governor of the state when Tennessee voted to secede, writes to Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon about the arrest of two young women by Union soldiers back on April 7th. “I send you herewith a note which I have just received from Colonel Joel A. Battle upon the subject of the arrest and imprisonment at Camp Chase [Ohio] of his daughter Miss Fannie Battle and Miss Booker. They are refined and very excellent young ladies belonging to the best families in the county, and were arrested alone upon the ground of their strong and openly avowed sympathies with the Confederate cause. Miss Battle has had two brothers killed in battle and her father dangerously wounded at the head of his regiment (the Twentieth Tennessee) at the battle of Shiloh. General Bragg tells me that he can do nothing here in the premises and advises me to address you upon the subject. I trust that the peculiar character of this case will be held to justify the most speedy and decided action. If these ladies are not liberated is it not legitimate to retaliate by placing in close confinement a number of Federal officers?” [Nine days from now the two young women will be released to Confederate authorities under a flag of truce at City Point, Virginia.]

May 5– Tuesday– Boston, Massachusetts– James Redpath to Walt Whitman: “I did not answer your last letter because I could not reply to the questions it put. I have heard since that Emerson tried to have something done about you, but failed. Believing that he would write to you, I didn’t. There is a prejudice against you here among the ‘fine’ ladies & gentlemen of the transcendental School. It is believed that you are not ashamed of your reproductive organs, and, somehow, it would seem to be the result of their logic that eunuchs only are fit for nurses. If you are ready to qualify yourself for their sympathy & support, that you may not unnecessarily suffer therefrom is the sincere wish of your friend.”

James Redpath

James Redpath

May 5– Tuesday– Dayton, Ohio– Acting on orders from General Burnside, Union soldiers arrest former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham, age 42, the leader of the Peace Democrats known as “Copperheads.”

May 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles in his diary: “It is strange . . . that no reliable intelligence reaches us from the army of what it is doing, or not doing. This fact itself forebodes no good.”

May 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to his mother: “The condition of things here in the Hospitals is getting pretty bad– the wounded from the battles around Fredericksburg are coming up in large numbers. It is very sad to see them.”

May 5– Tuesday– Suffolk, Virginia– General George Pickett to his sweetheart, Salle Corbell: “I am ordered instead to proceed at once with three of my brigades to Petersburg, via the ‘Jerusalem-Plank-Road,’ to intercept a cavalry raid. Perhaps, my darling, I shall have met these raiders ere this reaches you. Who knows how many of us may then hear the roll-call from the other side and be sorry? . . . . my darling, there is no death, and you must feel, must know now and always, that whether here or there, at the roll-call your Soldier answers, ‘Here!’ Now, adieu, my beloved. Close your brown eyes and feel my arms around you, for I am holding you close oh, so close!”

May 5– Tuesday– Thompsom’s Crossroads, Virginia; King’s Creek, Mississippi; Peletier’s Mill, North Carolina; Rover, Tennessee; Fort Scott, Kansas– Skirmishing, raids and cavalry clashes add to the death toll.

May 6– Wednesday– Lennox, Massachusetts– While spending time away with his new bride, Robert Gould Shaw writes to his sister, Effie. “Annie and I shall be in Boston on Monday. . . . . what a pity the weather is so bad; it has been beautiful up here until now. I have been in quite an angelic mood ever since we got here— as is becoming — and haven’t felt envious of any one. Excuse this short note, for I am dreadfully busy. Annie sends love to you and Charley. We haven’t seen a single soul until today, and we’ve only been off the place twice. We began to read The Mill on the Floss, but have only finished three or four chapters. We read it three years ago together, when I was here on a visit. Our own ideas are more interesting to us just now, than Miss Evans.” [Mary Ann Evans, 1819 – 1880, wrote under the pen name of George Eliot.]

Robert Gould Shaw~"Blue-eyed Child of Fortune"

Robert Gould Shaw~”Blue-eyed Child of Fortune”

May 6– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles records that after a night filled with an ominous and violent rainstorm Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts came into Welles’ office “and raising both hands exclaimed, ‘Lost, lost, all is lost!’ I asked what he meant. He said Hooker and his army had been defeated and driven back to this side of the Rappahannock. Sumner came direct from the President, who, he said, was extremely dejected.” Later Welles observed President Lincoln to be “uneasy, uncomfortable and dissatisfied.”

May 6– Wednesday– Bank’s Ford, Virginia– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes to his diary: “Thank God I am alive and well. I shall be glad when the war is over and I can be civilized again. I do not like so much death and destruction.”

May 6– Wednesday– London, England– Irish-born Sir Robert Arbuthnot, British military officer who served with great distinction on the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic wars, winning the Army Gold Cross, dies at age 79.

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot

May 7– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong to his diary: “Storm continues, but grows less savage. It is cloudy and cold and northeasterly but rain has ceased. Moral coloring of the day livid blue. Failure and repulse again! Hooker has retired across the Rappahannock and is where he was a month ago, but no doubt sorely shattered.”

May 7– Thursday– Mansfield, Ohio– Senator John Sherman to his brother, General William Tecumseh Sherman: “If only the people will be patient so long, all will be well. The best of it is, they can’t help themselves. The rebels won’t let us have peace even if we wanted it. . . . This war has always seemed to me a tragic necessity. I have watched its progress, and hope to see its termination. It may, like the French Revolution, travel in a large circle, destroying all that have taken part in it ; still there is no way but to go ahead. We may slowly learn wisdom in its prosecution, for we certainly have not shown it thus far.”

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

May 7– Thursday– Dayton, Ohio– At the conclusion of a two-day trial by a military commission, Clement Vallandigham is found guilty of expressing treasonable sympathies.

Clement Vallandigham

Clement Vallandigham

May 7– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles reports, “Our people, though shocked and very much disappointed, are in better tone and temper than I feared they would be.” Yet he suggests that the President wants an explanation of the serious Union defeat. “There are, indeed, many matters which require explanation.”

So Much of the Heart-Breaking~May, 1863~the 1st to the 3rd

The month of May opens with plenty of conflict. In Virginia, a vicious battle begins at Chancellorsville. In the course of the fighting Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is seriously injured by his own men and losses an arm. In Mississippi, Union General Grant begins to encircle Vicksburg. Elisha Hunt Rhodes suffers a minor wound. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw marries his sweetheart. Charlotte Forten Grimke writes about black church services.. Elizabeth Cady Stanton calls for Northern women to become more patriotic. A Confederate soldier praises Southern women for their patriotism. A writer in The Atlantic Monthly describes the South as enslaved to the system of slavery. George Templeton Strong despises the British. And life goes on outside of the American Civil War.

 

May– Boston, Massachusetts– This month’s issue of The Atlantic Monthly contains, among other things, two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier, an essay by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, an essay by Professor Louis Agassiz, a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne and an essay by D A Wasson entitled “Shall We Compromise?” The writer concludes with this: “Even would the Secessionists consent to partial compositions, as they will not, they must inevitably break faith, as ever before. They are slaves to the slave-system. As wise were it to covenant with the dust not to fly, or with the sea not to foam, when the hurricane blows, as to bargain with these that they shall resist that despotic impetus which compels them. They are slaves. And their master is one whose law is to devour. Only he who might meditate letting go a Bengal tiger on its parole of honor, or binding over a pestilence to keep the peace, should so much as dream for a moment of civil compositions with this system. Its action is inevitable. And therefore our only wisdom will be to make our way by the straightest path to this, which is our chief, and in the last analysis our only enemy, and cut it through and through.”

May 1– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator gleefully reports that “Thomas Sims, who was returned from Boston in 1851, to his master in Georgia, under the Fugitive Slave Law, arrived in Boston on Thursday of last week, with his family. He came direct from Vicksburg, where he had been employed as a bricklayer, having escaped from that city about three weeks ago, to General Grant’s lines, in a dugout, with his wife, child, and four colored men.” [The Sims case created a passionate demonstration against the new Fugitive Slave Law of September, 1850, so much so that President Millard Fillmore sent U S Marines into the city to escort the slave catchers and Sims to the ship which took them south.] This issue also reprints a patriotic speech by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. “The women of the South know what their sons are fighting for. The women of the North do not. They appreciate the blessings of Slavery; we do not the blessings of Liberty. . . . What are wealth and jewels, home and ease, sires and sons, to the birthright of freedom, secured to us by the heroes of the Revolution– liberty to universal man? Shall a priceless heritage like this be wrested now from us by Southern tyrants, and Northern women look on unmoved, or basely bid our freedmen sue for peace? No! No!” At this time Stanton is 47 years old with four of her seven children under age 12 yet she remains extremely active in the causes of abolition and woman’s rights.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with 2 of her sons, c.1847

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with 2 of her sons, c.1847

May 1– Friday– New York City–Cornelia Knight and Dr James Knight open the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled Children, the first orthopedic hospital in the United States.

May 1– Friday– New York City– George Templeton Strong in his diary: “At the Society Library tonight looking through English magazines and papers. Their misrepresentations about us are amazing and many of their blunders must be dishonest and malignant. . . . The fair-minded honest old English people, in which I believed so many years so firmly, has ceased to exist.”

May 1– Friday– Chancellorsville, Virginia– Having correctly anticipated that Union General Hooker was trying to outflank him, Confederate General Lee, having left part of his force at Fredericksburg, prepares to blunt the Union attach. In response Hooker stops advancing and takes up defensive positions. In the evening, Lee and Stonewall Jackson consult and decide to split the Confederate force yet again, with Jackson taking 26,000 of the Confederate’s 47,000 to launch a surprise attack on Hooker’s right flank, although the Union force totals almost 70,000 soldiers.

General Hooker & his staff as portrayed in Harper's Weekely

General Hooker & his staff as portrayed in Harper’s Weekely

May 1– Friday– Port Gibson, Mississippi– Union General Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg takes a big step forward as his soldiers defeat a Confederate force. Union killed, wounded and missing total 861; Confederate losses amount to 787.

May 1– Friday– Blountsville, Alabama; Washington, Louisiana; Suffolk, Virginia; Chalk Bluff, Arkansas; La Grange, Arkansas; Lizzard, Tennessee– Skirmishes, raids and small but intense pitched battles add by the tens and by the hundreds to casualty lists.

May 1– Friday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke reflects in her diary. “This is a glorious moomlight night. From the window I can see the water in silver waves shining in the clear soft light. Sat a long time on the piazza . . . thinking of some loved ones who are far, far away.”

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

May 1– Friday– Dunedin, New Zealand– The Evening Star newspaper, founded by G. A. Henningham and Co and edited by George Henningham, publishes its first issue. The paper will be in continuous publication until 1979.

May 2– Saturday– Brooklyn, New York– Jeff Whitman to his brother Walt Whitman: “I suppose, dear Walt that you will have more to do in the Hospitals than ever pretty soon. I hardly can see how you can stand seeing so much of the heart-breaking I certainly could not do it. I am sure it would make me sick enough to die.”

May 2– Saturday– New York City– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw marries Annie Kneeland Haggerty at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

Church of the Ascension in NYC as it looks today

Church of the Ascension in NYC as it looks today

May 2– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in to diary: “Thick rumors concerning the Army of the Potomac . . . . This indefiniteness, and the manner attending it, is a pretty certain indication that the information received is not particularly gratifying.”

May 2– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– The Washington Chronicle reports that during the past week a certain gentleman called on President Lincoln, requesting a pass to go to Richmond. “Well,” said the President, “I would be very happy to oblige you, if my passes were respected; but the fact is, sir, I have, within the past two years given passes to 250,000 men to go to Richmond, and not one has got there yet.”

May 2– Saturday– Chancellorsville, Virginia– At 6 o’clock in the evening Confederate General Stonewall Jackson launches an attack upon the unprepared Union right flank while General Lee mounts a limited and distracting attack against the Federal front. Union troops fall back. Jackson considers continuing with a night attack and rides forward to see for himself what the Federals are doing. Returning in the dark from scouting Union positions, General Jackson is accidentally shot by some of his own soldiers. His pickets, mistaking his party for Federal soldiers, open fire. Three of Jackson’s staff are killed and the general is seriously wounded in his left arm. In a matter of hours, surgeons amputate the arm.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

May 2– Saturday– New Orleans, Louisiana– Colonel Grierson’s Union cavalry raiders arrive in the city. He reports that in 16 days he and his men have killed about 100 rebel soldiers, taken another 500 prisoners, captured more than 1000 horses and mules as well as 3000 weapons and destroyed more than 50 miles of railroad and telegraph lines as well as several depots and warehouses of supplies.. His casualties are 3 dead, 7 wounded and 9 missing. His raiders covered 600 miles through enemy territory.

May 3– Sunday– Chancellorsville, Virginia– Union forces continue to fall back as the Confederates push hard against them. However, General Lee’s final push does not take place as he turns to defend himself against Union General Sedgwick who has pushed through Fredericksburg and attacks Lee’s right wing.

May 3– Sunday– Salem Church, Virginia– From late afternoon until nightfall, Sedwick’s Union soldiers and Lee’s Confederate soldiers maul each other. Lee successfully prevents Sedwick from joining Hooker’s troops at Chancellorsville, thus ensuring a Confederate victory. Elisha Hunt Rhodes is one of the Union soldiers participating in the bitter struggle. He is slightly injured. “One iron bullet struck me upon my foot causing me to jump into the air, but only lamed me a little. I picked up the iron bullet and put it in my pocket and will send it home.” He adds that in today’s fighting his regiment lost 7 killed, 68 wounded and 9 missing.

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

May 3– Sunday– Franklin, Tennessee- A Confederate soldier writes: “God bless the ladies, the part they have acted in this war will never be forgotten, and that part is no little. Their fair hands have clothed our army, have woven the fabric that warmed the soldiers frozen form, as he laid down to sleepat night in the cold winters blast, and have administered to the wants of the sick and wounded; they have breathed words of consolation to the sick and afflicted; and by their spirited address, have nerved men on to deeds of daring.”

May 3– Sunday– Dubuque, Iowa– Roman Catholic Bishop Clement Smyth, Irish born, 53 years old and a Union supporter, cautions church members not to become involved with the pro-Southern Knights of the Golden Circle.

May 3– Sunday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke writes about religion among the freed slaves. “Too weary and ill to go to church . . . I always like to see the people, looking so bright and cheerful in their Sunday attire, and to hear them sing. . . . . It is wonderful that perfect time the people keep with hands, feet, and indeed with every part of the body. I enjoy these ‘shouts’ very much.”

May 3– Grand Gulf, Mississippi– Confederate troops evacuate their fortified position, worried about being encircled and cut off by General Grant.