Solidarity of the Nation~December, 1863~the 1st to the 4th

Solidarity of the Nation~ Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass speaks of his vision for a nation reborn. A Baptist clergyman writes of the abuses of the slave system and its corrupting influence on American politics. The dome of the Capitol Building is completed at last, a sign of hope to some. Even as the year heads into its final month there is plenty of fighting and the tide shifts in Tennessee. A sick rebel spy is deported. One of Walt Whitman’s brothers dies. Some worry about excessive consumption of alcohol. The Russian Minister to the United States writes disparagingly of American democracy. And apart from war in American the world goes on.

Reverend Francis Wayland

Reverend Francis Wayland

December– Boston, Massachusetts– “If slaves are not chattels, they are human beings, with brains and muscles,– brains at least intelligent enough to comprehend the stake they have in this controversy, and muscles strong enough to do good service in the cause of constitutional liberty and republican institutions. Is it wise to reject their offered assistance? Will not our foes have good cause to despise our folly, if we leave in their hands this most efficient element of their power? . . . . And again, while you object to the enlistment of Negroes, you are unwilling that any member of your family should leave your household and expose himself to the many hazards of war. Now is it not too plain for argument, that every Negro who is enrolled in our army prevents, by just that unit, the necessity of sending one Northern soldier into the field? But will the slaves consent to enlist? Let the thousands who have forced their way to Union camps . . . tracked by blood-hounds, and by their inhuman oppressors more savage than blood-hounds, answer the insulting inquiry. Are they brave? Will they fight for the cause which they have dared so many dangers to espouse? I point you to the bloody records of Vicksburg, Milliken’s Bend, Port Hudson, and Fort Wagner; I appeal to the testimony of every Union officer under whom black soldiers have fought, as the most fitting reply to such questions. . . . . Blush for your own unmanly and ungenerous prejudices, and ask yourself whether future history will not pronounce the black man, morally, not only your equal, but your superior, when it is found recorded, that, denied the rights of citizenship, long proscribed, persecuted, and enslaved, he was yet willing, and even eager, to save the life of your brother on the battle-field, and to preserve you in the peaceable enjoyment of your property at home. Is the efficient aid of such men to be rejected? Is their noble self-sacrifice to be slighted? . . . . It is precisely because the awful and too long unavenged sufferings of the slave must be inevitable, while Slavery exists, that these questions must sooner or later be asked and answered, and that your political upholding of such a system becomes a monstrous crime against humanity. After all, my dear Andrew, why are you so sensitive on the subject of Slavery? You certainly can have no personal interest in the peculiar and patriarchal institution. . . . . You have lived to see the Dagon before which you and your friends have for so many years cheerfully prostrated yourselves fall to the ground, and lie a helpless, hopeless ruin on the very threshold of the temple where it lately stood defiant and dominant.” ~ From “Letter to a Peace Democrat” by Francis Wayland Jr in this month’s issue of the Atlantic. [Wayland (1796 to 1865) was a Baptist clergyman, educator, author, advocate of community libraries and the president of Brown University in Rhode Island for 28 years. At the time of this article he is retired from the ministry but remains active in civic affairs.]

December 1– Tuesday– Lancaster, Pennsylvania– “Pickpockets: At the recent dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, a great number of persons had their pockets picked. Forty empty pocket books were found the next day, at Hanover Junction.” ~ Lancaster Intelligencer.

December 1– Tuesday– Prospect, Tennessee– “It has been a most unfortunate blow for the rebels losing the control of this portion of Tennessee. We are well supplied with all kinds of Fresh Meat and Corn Meal. We have a Steam Bakery and get soft Wheaten bread about three times a week. What we want most is Salt, Candles, Soap, letters and Newspapers. I do not know anything that has happened since we came here as I have only seen two papers since our arrival. We have heard there has been a great victory near Chattanooga, but we know nothing of the particulars although we are in the same state and belong to the same Army.” ~ Letter from Union soldier George Cadman to his family.

December 1– Tuesday– Maynardville, Tennessee; Benton, Arkansas; Cedar Point, North Carolina; Jonesville, Virginia; Salyersville, Kentucky; Ripley, Mississippi; harbor at Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Devall’s Bluff, Arkansas; Jenning’s Farm, Virginia; Jackson, Kentucky; Pulaski, Tennessee; Mount Sterling, Kentucky– Artillery bombardments, skirmishes, ambushes, fire-fights, brawls and armed clashes make folks wonder if the year’s fighting will ever end.

December 1– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Suffering from a bout of typhoid fever, Confederate spy Belle Boyd is deported to Richmond.

Belle Boyd

Belle Boyd

December 1– Tuesday– Christchurch, New Zealand– Opening of first steam-operated passenger railway in the country.

December 2– Wednesday– Andover, New Hampshire– Jane Means Appleton Pierce, wife of former President Franklin Pierce, dies at age 57 from consumption. Since leaving Washington in 1857 when her husband’s term expired, she has grown more and more withdrawn and focused on her two dead young sons, Frank, who died in 1844 of disease at age 4, and Benny, who was killed in a train accident in 1853 at age 12.

Jane Pierce

Jane Pierce

December 2– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Under the supervision of architect Thomas Ustick Walter, age 59,the dome of the Capitol Building is capped with the placement of the Statue of Freedom, completing the structure. [The work had begun in the fall of 1855. Walter had carefully unified the work of the three previous architects who had worked on the Capitol Building. President Lincoln refused to let the war delay the completion. The casting of the statute at the factory of a Mr Clark Mills in suburban D. C., was supervised by Philip Reid, a former slave and master craftsman, about 42 or 43 years old. The statute cost $23,796.23 to make. In today’s dollars, without adjusting for cost of materials, it would cost approximately $449,000 to make, based upon the Consumer Price Index.]

the figure on top of the Capitol Dome, Washington, D.C.

the figure on top of the Capitol Dome, Washington, D.C.

December 2– Wednesday– McGregor, Iowa– Birth of Charles Ringling, one of the seven sons of August and Marie Salome Juliar Rungeling. He and four of his brothers will establish what will become known as the Ringling Brothers Circus and in 1907 they will acquire Barnum & Bailey for a purchase price of $410,000. [That would equal $10.3 million today, using the Consumer Price Index.]

December 2– Wednesday– Dalton, Georgia– Confederate General Braxton Bragg relinquishes his command to General William Hardee.

December 2– Wednesday– Omaha, Nebraska–The official ground breaking for the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad takes place.

December 3– Thursday– Brooklyn, New York– “I have just telegraphed to you that Andrew was dead. Poor boy he died much easier than one would have supposed. I do hope to God you will come on. I have been with him . . . almost all the time since you left. . . . . Andrew was very desirous of having us all around him when he died. The poor boy seemed to think that would take nearly all the horror of it away. If you will come on I will try and give you the passage money. Mother and the rest take it very hard. I hope to get an answer by telegraph.” ~ Letter from Jeff Whitman to his brother Walt. [Andrew Whitman, age 36, had been ill for some time.]

December 3– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “It has been a long time since our readers have heard of a temperance meeting. The subject of temperance was abandoned by its advocates some years ago, after having labored earnestly and faithfully, though vainly, to effect the needed reforms. Particularly since the rebellion has the question remained undisturbed. The discussion of the matter of a prohibitory liquor law until the public sentiment of the State shall have been prepared for it. Rev. Mr. Barnes, Senator Young, Dr. T. H. Logan, Delegate Wheat, and others, spoke upon the subject, in favor and against the passage of a prohibitory liquor law at this time. The meeting was unquestionably in favor of some kind of a liquor law, the only difference of opinion being in regard to the time the law should go into effect. It was finally resolved to continue the agitation of the subject, with a view of preparing public sentiment for such a law as the one now before the Legislature.” ~ Wheeling Intelligencer

December 3– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “Your note with $20 from a friend, (formerly a Breckenridge democrat) came safe. Doctor, I have been away for a few days, but have now returned to remain here certainly for the winter & ensuing spring, & probably for two or three years. I feel much possessed with the wounded & sick soldiers– they have taken a powerful hold of me, & I am very happy among them– it is perhaps the greatest interchange of magnetism human relations are capable of. I have told you how young & how American they mostly are– so on my own account I shall continue as a missionary among them as sure as I live– I shall continue for years– tell your friend that his money is being distributed as money or what little purchase I find appropriate for the men of all states– I reject none of course– not rebel wounded nor blacks, nor any when I find them suffering & dying. Doctor to the other friends that assisted me in Boston & to yourself, I send my regards & love.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to Dr. Le Baron Russell.

December 3– Thursday– Camp Sedgwick, Virginia– “We moved to this camp . . . . I do not understand the late movements, but I presume General Meade does.” ~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

December 3– Thursday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Miss Maxwell of Davidson County is authorized to keep a shot-gun and pistols for protection of herself and property.” ~ Executive order from Union military governor Andrew Johnson.

December 3– Thursday– Knoxville, Tennessee– Confederate forces under General Longstreet begin a withdrawal to Greeneville.

December 4– Friday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “We have outlived the old Union. We had outlived it long before the rebellion came to tell us– I mean the Union, under the old pro-slavery interpretation of it– and had become ashamed of it. The South hated it with our anti-slavery interpretation, and the North hated it with the Southern interpretation of its requirements. . . . . the better part of the people . . . shuddered at the idea of so sacrilegious a crime. They had already become utterly disgusted with the idea of playing the part of bloodhounds for the slave-masters, watch-dogs for the plantations. They had come to detest the principle upon which the Slave States had a larger representation in Congress than the Free States. They had already come to think that the little finger of dear old John Brown was worth more to the world than all the slaveholders in Virginia put together. What business, then, have we to fight for the old Union? We are not fighting for it. We are fighting for something incomparably better than the old Union. We are fighting for unity; unity of idea, unity of sentiment, unity of object, unity of institutions, in which there shall be no North, no South, no East, no West, no black, no white, but a solidarity of the nation, making every slave free, and every free man a voter.” ~ Speech by Frederick Douglass delivered at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

December 4– Friday– Washington, D.C.–The Russian Minister, Baron de Stoeckl, reports to the Tsar’s government that the number of problems in the United States come from “the rising streams of radicalism and universal suffrage . . . the influx of socialists and anarchists from Europe . . . . What can be expected from a country where men of humble origins are elevated to the highest positions?”


Eduard de Stoeckl

Eduard de Stoeckl

December 4– Friday– Kingston, Tennessee; Niobrara, Nebraska; Loudon, Tennessee; Meadow Bluff, West Virginia; La Fayette, Tennessee; Ripley, Mississippi– Skirmishes and plenty of shooting.


December 4– Friday– Charleston, South Carolina– Federal artillery and ships complete seven consecutive days of bombarding Fort Sumter, having lobbed more than 1300 rounds into already badly damaged remains of the structure.


December 4– Friday– London, England– James Duffield Harding, landscape painter and lithographer, dies at age 65.


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