I Shall Have Awful Thoughts & Dreams~May 1864~18th to 20th

I Shall Have Awful Thoughts & Dreams ~ Walt Whitman In the midst of much suffering and death Whitman tells his mother that in the future “I shall have awful thoughts & dreams.” Many soldiers who survive will likewise suffer. Lincoln takes quick action against the newspapers that printed the false proclamation and the culprit is soon arrested by military authorities. A significant group of editors speak up for the press and its freedom. Lincoln seeks help for the widow of a black soldier. Nathaniel Hawthorne dies.

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

May 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Whereas there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning in the New York World and New York Journal of Commerce, newspapers printed and published in the city of New York, a false and spurious proclamation purporting to be signed by the President and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and to the rebels now at war against the Government and their aiders and abettors, you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy; and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission for their offense. You will also take possession by military force of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce, and hold the same until further orders, and prohibit any further publication therefrom.” ~ Executive order from President Lincoln to General John Adams Dix.

May 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Mother, I see such awful things– I expect one of these days, if I live, I shall have awful thoughts & dreams– but it is such a great thing to be able to do some real good, assuage these horrible pains & wounds, & save life even– that’s the only thing that keeps a fellow up,” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

May 18– Wednesday– Cassville, Georgia– “I am happy to inform you that I am yet in the land of the living and am well as common with the exception of being worn out marching, hope these few lines may soon find you in the best of health. Frances, I am sorry to inform you that we have fallen back. We have retreated about 60 miles and are yet retreating. But, my dear Frances, we have seen hard times for the last two weeks. We went into line of battle the 7th of this month, and we have had some powerful hard fighting, and the tyrannical foe has outdone us. They come on us with such overwhelming forces that we could not hold our hand with them. But they did not attack us in front. They flanked us out of our breastworks, got in our rear. I expect this has been the bloodiest battle that has ever been fought during this war. . . . So I am out of all hopes of us ever gaining our independence. We are a ruined people. Our little government is gone up. Where we have already come, we have ruined Georgia, and the enemy is still behind us finishing it.” ~ Letter from a Confederate soldier to his girl friend

May 18– Wednesday– Cassville, Georgia; Foster’s Plantation, Virginia; Fletcher’s Ferry, Alabama; Kingston, Georgia; near City Point, Virginia; Pike County, Kentucky; Yellow Bayou, Louisiana; Clarksville, Arkansas; Pine Log Creek, Georgia; Old Oaks, Louisiana; Searcy, Arkansas– Raids, skirmishes, firefights, clashes and armed affairs.

May 19– Thursday– Plymouth, New Hampshire– Friends discover that the well-known author Nathaniel Hawthorne, age 59, has died in his sleep. At this time he is famous for five novels and six collections of short stories. [Other, mostly unfinished materials, will be published posthumously.]

May 19– Thursday– Clarendon, New York– Birth of Carl Ethan Akeley, a taxidermist, biologist, conservationist, inventor, sculptor and photographer, who will be considered the founder of modern taxidermy. [Dies November 18, 1926.]

May 19– Thursday– New York City– “The undersigned, editors and publishers of a portion of the daily press of the city of New York, respectfully represent that the leading journals of this city sustain very extended telegraphic news arrangements, under an organization established in 1848 and known as the New York Associated Press, which is controlled by its members, acting through an executive committee, a general agent in this city, and assistant agents immediately responsible to the association at every important news center throughout this country and Europe. Under the above-named organization the rule has always been to transmit by telegraph all intelligence to the office of the general agent in this city, and by him the same is properly prepared for publication, and then written out by manifold process on tissue paper, and a copy of the same is sent simultaneously in sealed envelopes to each of the editors who are entitled to receive the same. From foregoing statement of facts Your Excellency will readily perceive that an ingenious rogue, knowing the manner in which the editors were supplied with much of their telegraphic news, could, by selecting his time and opportunity, easily impose upon editors or compositors the most wicked and fraudulent reports. . . . The very late hour at which the fraud was perpetrated left no time for consideration as to the authenticity or genuineness of the document . . . . The undersigned beg to state to Your Excellency that the fraud, which succeeded with The World and the Journal of Commerce, was one which, from the circumstances attending it and the practices of the Associated Press, was extremely natural and very liable to have succeeded in any daily newspaper establishment in this city, and inasmuch as, in the judgment of the undersigned, the editors and proprietors of the Journal of Commerce and The World were innocent of any knowledge of wrong in the publication of the fraudulent document, and also in view of the fact that the suspension by Your Excellency’s orders of the two papers last evening has had the effect to awaken editors and publishers and news agents, telegraph companies, &c., to the propriety of increased vigilance in their several duties, the undersigned respectfully request that Your Excellency will be pleased to rescind the order under which The World and the Journal of Commerce were suppressed.” ~ Message from Sidney Howard Gay of the New York Tribune, Erastus Brooks, of the New York Express, Frederick Hudson for James G. Bennett, of the New York Herald and Moses Sperry Beech, of the New York Sun to President Lincoln. [Sydney Howard Gay, age 50, a graduate of Harvard, is an ardent abolitionist and a friend of William Lloyd Garrison, has worked at the Tribune since 1857 and as managing editor since 1862. Erastus Brooks, age 49, and his brother James manage the New York Express. Frederick Hudson, age 45, began working for Bennett at age 18 and manages the paper when Bennett often travels. Hudson will write the first comprehensive history of American journalism in 1873. Moses Beech, age 41, took over the New York Sun when his father retired in 1848 and is a friend of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. The four of them together represent a spectrum of both journalistic approaches and political views.]

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

May 19– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The bogus proclamation has been the principal topic to-day. The knowledge that it is a forgery has not quieted the public mind.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 19– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The bearer of this is the widow of Major Booth, who fell at Fort Pillow. She makes a point which I think very worthy of consideration which is, widows and children in fact, of Colored soldiers who fell in our service, be placed in law, the same as if their marriages were legal, so that they can have the benefit of the provisions [for] the widows and orphans of white soldiers. Please see and hear Mrs. Booth.”~ Letter from President Lincoln to Senator Charles Sumner. [The law in many states did not recognize slave marriages.]

May 19– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “About a year ago, at the solicitation of the military authorities here, the City Council passed an ordinance, prohibiting the sale of liquor to soldiers. The ordinance has been very rigorously executed in many instances and nearly all of the saloon keepers have been made to pay the penalties of its violation, but as yet no liquor seller has been fined for selling liquor to officers. Although language of the ordinance is plain it has heretofore been construed to apply only to enlisted men. Yesterday two officers took a drink at the house of George Dusch. They were observed by a policeman, who at once summoned them to appear before Alderman Robertson to testify against Dusch, but the officers declined to be sworn, and so the matter rests for the present. Under this construction of the ordinance, which is doubtless the proper one, General Grant himself, could not get, in one of our bar rooms, a drink of the whisky of which he was once reputed to be so fond.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

May 19– Thursday– Spotsylvania, Virginia– The heavy fighting which has raged in this area since May 8th concludes with today’s battle. Total losses for the Union– dead, wounded, missing– amount to 18,399 while the total for Lee’s Confederates reaches 12,687. [The correct numbers continue to be a matter of on-going debate.] Lee has kept Grant from a direct advance against Richmond but with fearful losses for both sides. Grant can expect reenforcements and a continued steam of supplies. Lee can not.

General Grant

General Grant

May 19– Thursday– Spotsylvania, Virginia– “We sharpshooters took our positions again after the fight. They left a great many guns but carried off their dead and wounded except one dead man and one of our boys got a watch from him. We can see where they drug off their dead, and blood in profusion through the woods. Old Grant is a tough customer but Lee is an overmatch for him. There is no telling when the fight will end. The prisoners say that Grant says he is going to Richmond or Hell one [or the other], before he quits, and had no idea of recrossing the river as long as he has a man left.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

May 19– Thursday– Atlanta, Georgia– “We are stopped daily on the street, almost at every step, by people who anxiously inquire the news. A large number of these quidnuncs [“what now”] wear the longest faces they can put on, and their pallid looks would lead one unacquainted with them to suppose they had lost their dearest and best friend, or perhaps a whole family of friends. They cry in our ears a most dismal cry. Some of them say to us: ‘Why do you publish such flattering opinions about the situation? You know as well as I do that Johnston is falling back, and that Atlanta is threatened. You are misleading the people by holding out to them hopes which will be dashed to the ground. Johnston is being outflanked up there and we are losing ground that will never be regained.’” ~ Daily Intelligencer

May 20– Friday– New York City– “I have arrested and am sending to Fort Lafayette Joseph Howard, the author of the forged proclamation. He is a newspaper reporter, and is known as ‘Howard,’ of the Times. He has been very frank in his confession– says it was a stock-jobbing operation, and that no person connected with the press had any agency in the transaction except another reporter, who took manifolds and distributed the proclamation to the newspapers, and whose arrest I have ordered. He exonerates the Independent Telegraph Line . . . . His statement in all essential particulars is corroborated by other testimony.” ~ Report from General John A Dix to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Union General John A Dix

Union General John A Dix

May 20– Friday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– “I was absent today, but Mr. Stoner opened your dispatch & saw Mr. Hutton. He will give particular attention to inquiries about your son. . . . [General] Sigel lost about 1200 men, he informs me, but brought most of his wounded off & is more in a safe position.” ~ Letter from newspaperman Alexander McClure to Eli Slifer.

May 20– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “Your welcome gift of money for wounded here, ($5) came safe to-day & is most acceptable. Most of wounded brought up here now are without a cent. Many of the cases appeal very strongly– (I sometimes think [I am the] only one going among the men as I do, with personal feeling & my own way of investigation understands how deep & what sort the appeal is)– the hospitals are very full. Armory Square has more inmates than many a well known New England village. I go as usual to one or another hospital & to Alexandria, day & night. Dear friend, I shall always be glad to hear from you. Should you find any you know who are able & who feel to aid the wounded, through me, it would come very acceptable now.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to John Townsend Trowbridge.

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