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.

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