The Questions Are of Vast Magnitude~August 17th to 22nd

The Questions Are of Vast Magnitude~Gideon Welles

President Lincoln reveals his favorites among the works of Shakespeare. Members of his Cabinet discuss reconstruction after the war. The draft, enforced by the presence of Federal troops, resumes in New York City. Confederate-held forts Wagner and Sumter in Charleston harbor endure heavy bombardment. Raiders in Kansas commit atrocities. Throughout the country the incidents and accidents of a nation in the midst of civil war continue.

August 17– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to James Hackett.” For one of my age I have seen very little of the drama. The first presentation of Falstaff I ever saw was yours here, last winter or spring. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is to say, as I truly can, I am very anxious to see it again. Some of Shakespeare’s plays I have never read, while others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any un-professional reader. Among the latter are Lear, Richard III., Henry VIII., Hamlet, and especially Macbeth. I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful. Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in Hamlet commencing ‘Oh, my offense is rank,’ surpasses that commencing ‘To be or not to be.’ But pardon this small attempt at criticism. I should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of Richard III. Will you not soon visit Washington again? If you do, please call and let me make your personal acquaintance.” [Hackett, age 63, from New York City, has gained fame by, among other roles, portraying Falstaff in Shakespeare’s plays. Earlier in this year he published a book about Shakespeare’s plays and various actors who performed them. He sent a complimentary copy to the President.]

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

August 17– Monday– Monongalia, West Virginia– Three women dressed in men’s clothing and assisted by a 14 year old boy, capture three suspected Confederate sympathizers and turn them over to Federal authorities.

August 17– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– As Federal forces renew their efforts against the city, gunboats and artillery fire 938 rounds into Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter.

August 17– Monday– Lagro, Indiana– Birth of Geneva Grace Stratton, a/k/a Gene Stratton-Porter, author and naturalist, the 12th child of Mary and Mark Stratton. By the time of her death in 1924, her nineteen published books will have sold almost 9 million copies.

Gene Stratton-Porter

Gene Stratton-Porter

August 18– Tuesday– Barre, Massachusetts– Mary Babbitt writes on behalf of her brother Caleb Babbitt to Walt Whitman. “My brother wishes me to inform you of the state of his health, also of his journey home he arrived home last week Wednesday very much exhausted & he was obliged to take to his bed from which he has not yet got up. He has put off writing every day thinking the next day he would be able to write himself. He often speaks of you telling of your kindness during his sickness there, and wishes he could see you.”

August 18– Tuesday– Boston, Massachusetts– On her way to see other friends, Charlotte Forten Grimke arrives from Pennsylvania via New York City. “Mr Pierce and Mr [Francis] Shaw met me at the Station. The latter has a good, noble face, but very sad.” [Francis Shaw is the grieving father of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.]

August 18– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes to his mother Louisa about his plans. “Mother, I want to see you & all very much. As I wish to be here at the opening of Congress, & during the winter, I have an idea I will try to come home for a month, but I don’t know when. I want to see the young ones & Mat & Jeff & every body.” [The next session of Congress will convene on December 7th, 1863].

August 18– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “A Benevolent Action. In these times of extortion, it is refreshing to hear of any one’s doing a good deed, and it is with pleasure that we record the fact that General Joseph R Anderson, of the Tredegar [Iron] works, has recently purchased a large quantity of wheat, sent it to the mills of this city to be converted into flour, and is to let his employees have it at cost price. Such an example is worthy of imitation, and we trust all our large employers will do likewise, and thereby aid to bring down [the cost of] this necessary of life.”– The Richmond Sentinel.

August 18– Tuesday– Charleston, South Carolina– For a second day Union artillery and gunboats bombard Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter.

August 18– Tuesday– Nasville, Tennessee– The Nashville Daily Press reports an accident. “A wagon and team, in charge of George W Bell, an employee of Lieutenant Irvin, yesterday knocked down and ran over a woman on the Public Square. The team was been driven at headlong speed, and the wagon tongue struck the woman on the temple, felling her to the ground, and then two of the wheels passed over her body. Miraculous enough, she was neither killed or seriously hurt, but it was not because of a want of recklessness on the part of the teamster. The woman was taken to the hospital of the Eighteenth Michigan, and after her wounds were carefully dressed she walked home. Bell was quickly arrested and sent to the Penitentiary.”

August 18– Tuesday– Saint Louis, Missouri–Union General Thomas Ewing issues orders freeing slaves of any Missourians actively involved with the Confederate Army.

August 19– Wednesday– New York City–Federal troops help to maintain order as the draft resumes.

August 19– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Count Nicholas Giorgi, newly appointed minister to the United States from the Empire of Austria, presents his credentials to President Lincoln.

August 19– Wednesday– Charleston, South Carolina– For the third day in a row, Federal heavy artillery pounds Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter.

August 19– Wednesday– Blackwater Creek, Missouri– About 350 men under the command of William Quantrill leave for a raid on Kansas. Quantrill, age 26, Ohio-born and a former school teacher, calls himself a general, having deserted Confederate General Sterling Price’s command in order to form his guerrilla band which includes Jesse and Frank James as well as Jim, John, Bob and Cole Younger who will gain fame after the war as outlaws.



August 20– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– Once again Union gun boats and canon shell Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter for most of the day.

August 20– Thursday– Memphis, Tennessee– The Union Army command issues a directive regarding horses. “The practice of shipping horses and mules from the several posts of this command in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky to the North having been found to encourage a system of robbery and stealing, both from the Government and the citizens, must be put a stop to. Hereafter no such shipments to private individuals will be permitted, except in cases of property purchased from sales by quartermasters and provost-marshals, for which proper vouchers will be given.”

August 21– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends an urgent telegram to General George Meade.”At this late moment I am appealed to in behalf of William Thompson of Company K, Third Maryland Volunteers, in Twelfth Army Corps, said to be at Kelly’s Ford, under sentence to be shot to-day as a deserter. He is represented to me to be very young, with symptoms of insanity. Please postpone the execution till further order.”

August 21– Friday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– Confederate soldier Jedediah Hotchkiss writes to his brother Nelson. “Our men are being nicely clothed and shod and will soon present a nice appearance; a uniformed army. The Commissariat of our army is in fine condition too and today the soldiers had roasting ears issued to them, a barrel to the hundred men, and that much is to be issued daily while the roasting ears season lasts. There is enough to eat. The bugbear of starvation has fled; the enemy has cruelly said that they would starve us and Heaven answered them with blessing our land with abundance. We fasted until a 6 P.M. dinner. We had roasting ears, tomatoes, potatoes, good light rolls, and beefsteak, a good enough dinner for any one and so fare the soldiers now while we are resting, and it is well it is so for the times of privation always come when marching and fighting begin, as begin it must, although there are no signs now of any movements and a profound quiet reigns everywhere, the enemy having retired further away. I hope you succeeded in getting in something to eat and do not have to buy at the horrid prices now prevailing. A change must come before long in some way, no one knows how, but it is sure to come.”

August 21– Friday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– Union forces reach the Tennessee River opposite the city and Federal artillery begins shelling the town. The bombardment catches many soldiers and civilians by surprise as many are in church observing a day of prayer and fasting. The cannoneers sink two steamers docked at the landing and raise concerns about another Vicksburg-type siege among the Confederates. The shelling will continue periodically over the next two weeks, .

August 21– Friday– Lawrence, Kansas–Confederate raiders, numbering about 350, under William Quantrill attack the town in supposed retaliation for a Union raid on Osceola, Missouri. They kill 164 civilians, mostly men and boys, and destroy many buildings. The guerrillas suffer about 40 killed and wounded. After holding the town several hours, they withdraw.

the massacre at Lawrence Kansas

the massacre at Lawrence Kansas

August 22– Saturday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes the resumption of the draft. “Troops continue to arrive here from Meade’s army . . . . We have already more than enough to ensure the execution of the draft in this city.”

August 22– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles describes his conversation with Salmon P Chase. Chase, age 55, a former member of the Free Soil Party and former governor of Ohio, known for his strong opposition to slavery, is serving as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury. “Mr. Chase called and took me this evening for a two hours’ ride. We went past Kalorama north, crossed Rock Creek near the Stone Mill, thence over the hills to Tenallytown, and returned through Georgetown. The principal topic of conversation, and the obvious purpose of this drive was a consultation on the slavery question, and what in common parlance is called the reconstruction of the Union with the incidents. After sounding me without getting definite and satisfactory answers, he frankly avowed his own policy and determination. It is unconditional and immediate emancipation in all the Rebel States, no retrograde from the Proclamation of Emancipation, no recognition of a Rebel State as a part of the Union, or any terms with it except on the extinction, wholly, at once, and forever, of slavery. I neither adopted nor rejected his emphatic tests, for such he evidently meant them. The questions are of vast magnitude, and have great attending difficulties.”

Salmon P Chase

Salmon P Chase

August 22– Saturday– Charleston, South Carolina– For the sixth consecutive day, Union guns blaze away at Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter. Wagner is covered with sand from the impact of exploding shells. Only four Confederate canon remain operable in Fort Sumter.

August 22– Saturday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Union Sergeant Charles Alley takes note of Southern culture. “This last week things have been changing here considerably. Numbers of market wagons come in daily and the people no matter how much they may hate the Yankees appear still quite willing to turn an honest penny selling them the products of their farms at exorbitant rates. They only charge $2 per bushel for potatoes, 75 cents for a single watermelon, 50 cents per pound for butter, 20 cents per quart for milk sweet, but they sometimes charge only that price for buttermilk, and double that for sweet and everything else in proportion. Yesterday a wagon stopped just opposite our camp with watermelons. The wagon was driven by a slave, a stout lusty fellow. He handed out the melons to the buyers. The buyers paid the money to the female owner of the teamster, who was seated in a buggy, which was driven by a female slave. ‘There’ thought I is slavery illustrated in one phase any how, takes three persons to do the work of one. Another curious point– ‘The Yankees’ say these chivalrous owners of the souls and bodies of men, ‘are come in here to burn, desolate and reduce to a desert our beautiful country, to slay our men with the sword, to ravish our women and have our little ones to perish,’ and then to show how much they believe their own lying assertions they go off, stay away, lie round in the woods and murder Yankees; and leave their women to buy from, sell to and get gain from these same Yankees and trust that they will be honorably dealt with and do not trust in vain neither. Ah, slavery, what a demoralizer art thou. Surely he was not far wrong that first denounced thee as the sum of all villains. May heaven grant the morning shall soon dawn that shall find no trace of thee in the length and breadth of our large and goodly land.”

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