The Act of Secession is Legally Nothing~November 1863~8th to 12th

The Act of Secession Is Legally Nothing ~ President Lincoln

President Lincoln denies the legality of the secession acts passed by southern states. He allows tobacco shipments to European powers who paid for it before the war began. Russian naval officers arrive in Washington. Soldiers write about fighting, wounds, furloughs, food, warm clothes of the lack of such things. Reverend Finney honors the wife of his predecessor. Slaves keep escaping. Labor unrest occurs in the coal fields of Pennsylvania. And the world continues to turn.

November 8– Sunday– Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria– Birth of Jean Raphael Adrien Rene Viviani, politician, who will briefly serve as Prime Minister of France from June, 1914 to October, 1915.

Viviani in 1914

Viviani in 1914

November 8–Sunday– St Petersburg, Russia– The U S Minister advises Washington that the Tsar views the reception given by Americans to the Russian navy as United States’ support for Russia against Britain, France and Austria.

November 9– Monday– Oberlin, Ohio– Reverend Charles G Finney writes to the editor of the Lorraine County News. “The enclosed notice of the life and death of our Christian sister, Mrs. President Mahan, I cut from the Adrian [Michigan] Daily Expositor, of Oct. 28. It will much gratify the numerous friends of President and Mrs. Mahan in this place, to see it in your paper. All who knew Mrs. M. can testify to the truthfulness of this notice. We, who have best known her, can bear the fullest testimony to her many excellent traits of character. She was indeed a most judicious wife and mother, and as a Christian lady she was always exemplary. All who knew them in this community, sympathize deeply with the President and his family in view of their irreparable loss. I must not indulge my feelings in dwelling upon the excellencies of Mrs. M.; nor, on the other hand, upon the great loss her family has sustained. . . . . I have received two letters from the President in regard to the death of his wife. He is, as we should all expect, greatly sustained by the grace of our Lord Jesus. His inward consolation abounds under his outward sore bereavement. God bless him and his bereaved children.” [Asa Mahan served as the first president of Oberlin College and resigned in a dispute with the faculty in the summer of 1850. Finney was selected as president in Mahan’s place. Mary Hartwell Dix Mahan married Asa in 1828 and bore him seven children. Their son Theodore was mortally wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December of 1862.]

Asa Mahan

Asa Mahan

November 9– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I have always thought the act of secession is legally nothing, and needs no repealing. Turn the thought over in your mind, and see if in your own judgment, you can make any thing of it.” ~ Letter from President Lincoln to Benjamin Flanders, a special agent of the U S Treasury Department in New Orleans, concerning whether or not a vote is officially needed to repeal Louisiana’s act of secession from January, 1861.

November 9– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Received and entertained fifty Russian officers, the Cabinet, foreign ministers, and the officers of our own Navy who were in Washington, and all professed to be, and I think were, gratified. It was a question whether some of the legations would attend, but I believe all were present at our party.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

November 9– Monday– Union Headquarters along the Rappahannock River, Virginia– “It was now late on this Sunday afternoon and the troops were massing, to bivouac. There seemed really no end of them; though but part of the army was there; yet I never saw it look so big, which is accounted for by the fact that the country is very open and rolling and we could see the whole of it quite swarming with blue coats. . . . We recrossed the Rappahannock at the railroad, and saw the fresh graves of the poor fellows who fell in the assault of the redoubt. The Rebel officers said it was the most gallant thing they had seen. Two regiments, the 6th Maine and 7th Wisconsin, just at sundown, as the light was fading, charged up a long, naked slope, in face of the fire of a brigade and of four cannon, and carried the works at the point of the bayonet. . . . . I think it no small praise to General Meade to say that his plans were so well laid out that our loss in all is but about 400. No useless slaughter, you see, though there was plenty of room for a blunder, as you would have known had you seen the lines of breastworks the fellows had; but we took part of them and scared them out of the rest.” ~ Letter from Union officer Theodore Lyman to his family.

November 10– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “In consideration of the peculiar circumstances and pursuant to the comity deemed to be due to friendly powers, any tobacco in the United States belonging to the government either of France, Austria, or any other state with which this country is at peace, and which tobacco was purchased and paid for by such government prior to the 4th day of March, 1861, may be exported from any port of the United States under the supervision and upon the responsibility of naval officers of such governments and in conformity to such regulations as may be presented by the Secretary of State of the United States, and not otherwise.” ~ Executive Order issued by President Lincoln.

Lincoln depicted in a patriotic political cartoon

Lincoln depicted in a patriotic political cartoon

November 10– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “I do not know that I told you that both of my parents were dead but it is true and now Walt you will be a second Father to me wont you, for my love for you is hardly less than my love for my natural parent. I have never before met with a man that I could love as I do you still there is nothing strange about it for ‘to know you is to love you’ and how any person could know you and not love you is a wonder to me. Your letter found me still here and not yet ready to start home my Papers have not yet returned from headquarters. . . . I suppose you have heard that we received some 90 wounded men Sunday night a number of which were Rebels. Among the wounded were the Col and the Maj. of the 6th Wisconsin Regt. and quite a number of privates a great many of them were very badly wounded, more so than any lot I have seen come in, eight of them died while on the way. And now Dear Comrade I must bid you good by hoping you will enjoy your visit and when you return have a pleasant and safe journey be assured you will meet with a warm welcome from many in Armory Square. You will yet be rewarded for your kindness to the Soldiers.” ~ Letter from Elijah Douglass Fox to Walt Whitman. Whitman is at home in Brooklyn, New York, visiting his family. [For information about Whitman’s difficult family circumstances at the time, see The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War by Roy Morris, pp 154 to 159.]

November 10– Tuesday– near Knoxville, Tennessee– “Molly, I notice that since I wrote you that I thought I would get a furlough this winter that you have been writing every time for me to come home. Now you must stop that as it is only makes me feel bad and I cannot get one now. I will get one as soon as I can. There is no one that wants a furlough worse than I do. I have not tried to write to John and it is so cold that I am trembling now.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier William Stilwell to his wife Molly.

November 11– Wednesday– near Morton’s Ford, Orange County, Virginia– “The Colonel was wounded through the right lung. He seemed to know that there was no chance for him to live. Our forces fell back that night after he was wounded so they had to move him to Gordonsville where he lived until last Thursday. . . . . I did not hear of the Colonel’s death until last night. Our Regiment is very sad about his death and besides we lost a good many others. The [loss] in our Regt is over hundred and fifty, most of them is taken prisoner. I hope God will give Miss Fannie and yourself strength to [bear] this sad news. For if we loved him who was no kin to him how much more must those that was so near to him. I shall have his Horse taken care of– you had better send Ransome [the Colonel’s slave] back after him and let him take him thru the country. The Colonel thought a good deal of his horse.” ~ Letter from Confederate Captain Gary Williams to Fannie Holmes’s husband, Dr. Allmond Holmes, describing the circumstances of Colonel William Sillers’ death. Fannie is the sister of William Sillers.

November 11– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Ran away from the subscriber, on the night of the 5th of this month, (November) near Charlotte Court House, Virginia, my three men Pompey, Miles, and George– Pompey is a black, fat, stout, short man, 27 years old, and was my cook. Miles is a slender and rather dedicate gingerbread-looking man, 38 years old, and if made to hold out his hand is very tremulous, and was my carriage driver. George is a stout, slouchy walking gingerbread looking fellow, 25 years old, and is a pretty good blacksmith and carpenter. As these Negroes ran off without any provocation whatever, it is presumed their object is to make their way to the Yankees. They were raised at Weston, on James river, and no doubt will endeavor to make their escape in that direction. I will pay a reward of $100 each for the apprehension and imprisonment of these Negroes so that I get them again, or will pay $100 each and their expenses if delivered to me at Charlotte C H, Virginia. John A Selden.” ~ Richmond Dispatch.


runaway slaves

runaway slaves

November 11– Wednesday– outside Chattanooga, Tennessee– “Food &clothing are both pretty scarce with the Army now, & I fear we shall suffer for both before very long. In fact, we do to a limited extent now. We can buy nothing at all to eat, & all are very scarce of clothing, especially shoes, socks & blankets. There are a good many men in the Army now without the sign of a shoe on their feet, & I know of but few who can say they sleep warm; & if things do not get better, I know a great many will desert this winter, & some are now deserting. . . . . We have not drawn any meat of any kind since day before yesterday, & Sam is cooking some peas without any grease for dinner or supper, just as you choose to call it, for we only eat twice a day. I am nearly barefooted both for shoes & socks, but I think I will get shoes before long &, as for socks, I have no idea when I will get any, & I only have one pair, which are cotton & full of holes & heels & toes all gone.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier John Farris to his wife Mary.

November 11– Wednesday– Paris, France– Birth of Paul Signac, neo-Impressionist painter and political anarchist.

Paul Signac

Paul Signac

November 12– Thursday– New York City– “In the coal region of Pennsylvania the strike is combined with organized resistence to the draft and has attained serious dimensions. . . . . in fact, a Copperhead insurrection that holds two or three counties. The insurgent strikers are mostly lewd fellows of the baser sort . . . committing all manner of murderous brutality.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

coal miners meeting

coal miners meeting

November 12– Thursday– Liberty, Virginia– “I get a plenty to eat. I do not eat all the rations I draw. We draw hard bread, pork, beef, beans, sugar, coffee, sometimes molasses and potatoes. There is no danger of anyone starving on that living. I have not drawed [sic] an over coat yet. I am in want of one very much. I expect to have one soon. I have a good warm blanket and a piece of tent, so I get along pretty well, only when I am on guard. Then I need an over coat. I think we shall soon be paid off, then you will get 60 dollars. I shall get enough to pay my passage home out of the 18 dollars. If you sell the wagon, don’t sell it less than 30 dollars. It is worth that if it is worth anything. I would like to keep it, but if you are short of money you better sell it.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Henry Butler to his wife Mary. [The $30 for the wagon would equal $566 in current dollars. However, the economic value of the wagon would equal about $6770 in today’s economy.]

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