Two Hostile & Irreconcilable Systems of Society~July 1863~the 8th to the 11th

Two Hostile and Irreconcilable Systems of Society ~ George Templeton Strong

In a prophetic voice, George Templeton Strong writes of the war’s historical significance. The deaths of soldiers haunt Walt Whitman and Mary Chesnut. The abolitionist Gerritt Smith declares that European powers need to keep their noses out and hands off of America’s struggle. The major European powers still face an unsettled situation in Poland. General Lee offers to resign but President Davis refuses to allow him. President Lincoln meets face-to-face with Frederick Douglass and encourages General Grant. Grant allows military authorities to read the mails passing through areas under his command. [Editor’s query: Hhhmm! Wonder what Grant would think about the military necessity of reading citizens’ private e-mails. Mayhap some things do not change.]

August 8– Saturday– Locust Grove, New York– Birth of Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, ornithologist and nature writer. She will author fourteen books and her writing is considered to be among the best ornithological writing. She will be active in social welfare issues as well, campaigning against child labor, and on behalf of housing, education and recreation for poor youth.

Florence Merriam Bailey c.1904

Florence Merriam Bailey c.1904

August 8– Saturday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– General Lee offers his resignation to President Jefferson Davis. “I have been prompted by these reflections more than once, since my return from Pennsylvania, to propose to your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expressions of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling extends in the army. My brother officers have been too kind to report it, and so far the troops have been too generous to exhibit it. It is fair, however, to suppose that it does exist, and success is so necessary to us that nothing should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more aware than my self of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfil the expectations of others? In addition, I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon your Excellency, from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader ; one that would accomplish more than I could perform, and all that I have wished. I hope your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason, the desire to serve my country, and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.”

August 8– Saturday– St Anns, Nova Scotia, Canada– Angus MacAskill, known as Giant MacAskill, a circus performer who stands 7′ 9″ tall, dies at age 38 of “brain fever.”

Angus MacAskill

Angus MacAskill

August 9– Sunday– Byberry, Pennsylvania– Charlotte Forten Grimke makes music with a friend. “Bessie W came up yesterday afternoon, bringing sunshine with her. She certainly is a charming most refreshing girl. We spent the morning at the piano playing ‘Roll Jordan’ and other songs of the freed people.”

August 9– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to General Grant. “General Thomas has gone again to the Mississippi Valley, with the view of raising colored troops. I have no reason to doubt that you are doing what you reasonably can upon the same subject. I believe it is a resource which if vigorously applied now will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us. We were not fully ripe for it until the river was opened. Now, I think at least one hundred thousand can and ought to be rapidly organized along its shores, relieving all white troops to serve elsewhere. Mr. Dana understands you as believing that the Emancipation Proclamation has helped some in your military operations. I am very glad if this is so.”

August 9– Sunday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– Confederate soldier Richard Brooks writes to his wife. “I could not wish for any better living than when we had as we was going on an after we got through Maryland an into Pennsylvania as far as we went but after we turned back this way again we all have suffered very much ever since for something to eat. We have not had more than half enough to eat since we turned back. . . . My Dear I do hope the war will soon close for I do want to see you an the Children the worst I ever had in my life.”

August 9– Sunday– McMinnville, Tennessee– Lucy Virginia French takes note in her journal of political changes. “As to our political prospects they are in status quo. Tennessee is gone to the Confederacy I suppose, and in my present frame of mind and state of health, I must confess I feel unpatriotic enough not to care a continental about it any way if I could only be well, and quiet for a little while. . . . We were told today that all the ‘rebel girls’ in McMinnville have been made to take the oath, a great triumph for old Armstrong and his crew. Mollie Armstrong has procured the Federal uniform—a blue riding dress and rides around with the Yankees, as she used to do with Morgan’s men. I suppose this would be the end of her Southernism—it was too intense to last long!”

Lucy Virginia French

Lucy Virginia French

August 10– Monday– dateline: Warsaw, Poland– The New York Times reports that the leaders of the Polish revolution have demanded as part of a cease-fire that “All persons under arrest shall be at once liberated; all pursuit on political grounds shall equally cease; all exiles shall return to their country” and “A permanent international commission shall be established in the country for the purpose of seeing the armistice rigorously put in execution.” They “assure the mediating Powers [Great Britain, France and the Austrian Empire] that the engagements that may be contracted on these grounds will be faithfully observed by the Poles.”

August 10– Monday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln meets with Frederick Douglass. They discuss a variety of topics including the treatment and pay of black soldiers in the U. S. Army.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

August 10– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes a letter of condolence to Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Haskell, the parents of Erastus Haskell of the 141st New York Infantry. “I write to you this letter, because I would do something at least in his memory; his fate was a hard one, to die so. He is one of the thousands of our unknown American young men in the ranks about whom there is no record or fame, no fuss made about their dying so unknown, but I find in them the real precious & royal ones of this land, giving themselves up, aye even their young & precious lives, in their country’s cause.”

August 10– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– Mary Chesnut relates a strange experience. “To-day I had a letter from my sister, who wrote to inquire about her old playmate, friend, and lover, Boykin McCaa. . . . . To tell the truth, she writes, ‘in these last dreadful years, with . . . everything dismal, anxious, and disquieting, I had almost forgotten Boykin’s existence, but he came here last night; he stood by my bedside and spoke to me kindly and affectionately, as if we had just parted. I said, holding out my hand, Boykin, you are very pale. He answered, I have come to tell you good-by, and then seized both my hands. His own hands were as cold and hard as ice ; they froze the marrow of my bones. I screamed again and again until my whole household came rushing in, and then came the Negroes from the yard, all wakened by my piercing shrieks. This may have been a dream, but it haunts me. Some one sent me an old paper with an account of his wounds and his recovery, but I know he is dead.’ ‘Stop !’ said my husband at this point, and then he read from that day’s Examiner these words: ‘Captain Burwell Boykin McCaa found dead upon the battle-field leading a cavalry charge at the head of his company. He was shot through the head.’”


August 10– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Grant issues regulations regarding mail going to or coming from states in the Confederacy. “The establishing of mails within the insurrectionary States of this department being for the exclusive benefit of the military authorities and those connected therewith, the following regulations are established and will be observed, until otherwise ordered, by all persons employed in their transmission, at all military posts south of Memphis, Tennessee: 1. Postmasters will transmit no letters but those coming from designated military authorities, nor deliver any received at their respective offices to citizens or civilians, excepting through the same channels. 2. Mails will be made up at department, corps, division, and post headquarters, and by all provost-marshals, quartermasters, and commissaries, sent regularly to the post offices by them, and promptly forwarded by the post inspector of each post. 3. The military authorities above designated will forward no letters from any citizen in any insurrectionary State in this department, without first examining the same and marking their approval thereon.”

August 11– Tuesday– Albany, New York– In a speech Gerrit Smith, 66 years old, abolitionist, politician and philanthropist, declares, “We must also insist that, during the prosecution of this war, all other nations must let us alone. Ours is a family quarrel with which there must be no outside interference. We will tolerate neither intervention nor mediation. The one we shall pronounce impertinence, and the other we shall construe into war. I have said we must insist on the unconditional submission of the rebels. Our opposition to the rebels must also be unconditional.”

August 11– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong writes prophetically about the war. “We hardly appreciate, even yet, the magnitude of this war, the issues that depend on its result, the importance of the chapter in the world’s history that we are helping to write. . . . It is the struggle of two hostile and irreconcilable systems of society for the rule of this continent. . . . I think that Grant and Rosecrans, Lee and Stonewall Jackson . . . will be more conspicuous and better known to students of history A.D. 1963 than . . . Napoleon, Frederick [the Great], Wellington . . . not as greater generals, but as fighting on a larger field and in a greater cause than any of them. So will our great-great-grandchildren look back on them a century hence, whatever be the result.”

August 11– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis refuses General Lee’s offer to resign. “Where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required ? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished, and you will do me the justice to believe that, if Providence should kindly offer such a person for our use, I would not hesitate to avail of his services. My sight is not sufficiently penetrating to discover such hidden merit, if it exists, and I have but used to you the language of sober earnestness, when I have impressed upon you the propriety of avoiding all unnecessary exposure to danger, because I felt your country could not bear to lose you. To ask me to substitute you by someone in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of reflecting men in the country, is to demand an impossibility. It only remains for me to hope that you will take all possible care of yourself, that your health and strength may be entirely restored, and that the Lord will preserve you for the important duties devolved upon you in the struggle of our suffering country for the independence of which we have engaged in war to maintain.”

P G Doumergue, c.1924

P G Doumergue, c.1924

August 11– Tuesday– Algues-Vives, France– Birth of Pierre Paul Henri Gaston Doumergue, who will serve as Prime Minister of France from December, 1913 to June, 1914 and again for ten months in 1934.

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