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.”

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