I Can Better Serve the Nation in Its Need~August 1864~the 18th & 19th

I Can Better Serve the Nation in its Need ~ President Lincoln.

Advisors and friends warn the President that he cannot win reelection. The New York Times attacks his critics. Lincoln meets with the radical abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Grant cuts one of Lee’s supply lines and takes a hard line on prisoner exchanges. Once again authorities discover two women serving in the Federal army. A friend writes to Whitman, longing for news. Hard times and hard fighting in many places.

campaign flyer

campaign flyer

August 18– Thursday– Little Compton, Rhode Island– “I had really begun to wonder why you had so wholly forgotten me. Not one line to me have you written since leaving Washington, and now that I am away from there I have to wait for news of you in this long, roundabout way. After seeing you every day, & so much of you those last days when you were sick, it seems doubly strange not to have had a word from you. You will not think me foolish if I tell you that it hurt me a little, will you? You know what a foolish, absurd person I am, where I love anyone as I do you, and knowing this, and now I having confessed, you will pardon. . . . I am so glad that there is some hope of your book coming out soon. I long to see it. Just think, Walt, of my being a lion down here on your account, because it is known that I have the honor of your acquaintance. Such is the fact, & I was made to talk two entire evenings about you– it is so funny, some time I will tell you all about it. The bathing here is good, & the ocean– oh! so good. I board at a farm house, & keep as you do early hours– up at 6 or earlier & to bed at 9. I have been here two weeks, & am so brown that I could easily pass for a good ‘contraband’ [fugitive slave], I nearly live out doors. The rocks tempt me, & there I sit & see the waves & foam dash up over them, & it breaks into fine spray, & is so beautiful. I never loved the sea so much, & I though before I loved it more than any thing. How I wish you were here! It would cure you Walt, & how much I should like it. . . . Mr. Howells tells me he has seen your mother, & he is enthusiastic about her. Thinks her such a grand old lady as one sees only once in a lifetime. . . . Have you seen a pretty little poem by Juliette H. Beach called Claire? It was published in the Leader I judge, & I saw it copied; from it, I infer that she has a new baby, a girl.” ~ Letter from Ellen M. O’Connor to Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

August 18– Tuesday– New York City– “The National Intelligencer notices our strictures upon the recent manifesto, and the general political temper, of Messrs. Wade and Davis not to controvert them, but to claim that they apply with equal force to the Administration in its conduct of the war. We denounced what we deem the ultra radicalism and barbarism which have characterized the action of these gentlemen ever since the war began. The Intelligencer says that inasmuch ‘as they have previously uttered no complaint against the Administration,’ their theory of the war must be presumed to be that of the Administration itself. This is a non sequitur. Even if the fact alleged were true, the inference of the Intelligencer would not follow. They may have been restrained from complaining of the Administration at an earlier day, by many other motives than a full concurrence in its policy. They may have expected or desired office under it, and therefore kept silent. They may have lived and labored in the hope of inducing or forcing the President, sooner or later, to accept their dictation, and therefore have forborne earlier denunciation. Or, their sense of duty and responsibility to the country– their desire to quell the rebellion and save the Union– may have restrained them from openly assailing the Government by which alone that vast and imperative work can be accomplished. These motives might possibly have kept them still– if they had kept to themselves the discontent which has at last broken out in the fierce and intemperate manifesto with which they have lately delighted the breast of every rebel and Copperhead in the land. But as a matter of fact, of which we think the Intelligencer cannot be unaware, neither of these gentlemen has for a long time past concealed his complaints of the President. Both have more than once expressed their utter and complete discontent with the theory on which the Administration has conducted the war. Both have urged, publicly and privately, upon the President and upon Congress, a policy of confiscation, of subjugation, of extermination much more sweeping and summary than either has seen fit thus far to adopt.” ~ New York Times.

August 18– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “I beg of you, as citizens of this great Republic, not to let your minds be carried off from the great work we have before us. This struggle is too large for you to be diverted from it by any small matter. When you return to your homes, rise up to the height of a generation of men worthy of a free government, and we will carry out the great work we have commenced. I return to you my sincere thanks, soldiers, for the honor you have done me this afternoon.” ~ Remarks of President Lincoln to Union soldiers from Ohio who are returning home.


August 18– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Leonard Swett meets with President Lincoln, cautioning him that it is doubtful that he can win reelection and suggesting that Lincoln withdraw his acceptance of the nomination. He informs the President that elements of the Republican Party plan to hold a another convention in September and nominate someone else. Lincoln refuses, telling Swett, “I confess that I desire to be reelected.” Later in the day, Lincoln tells another visitor, “I have the common pride of humanity to wish my past four years administration endorsed; and besides I honestly believe that I can better serve the nation in its need and peril than any new man could possibly do.” [Swett, 1825– 1899, a lawyer from Illinois, has been a confidant and friend of Lincoln for many years.]

August 18– Thursday– near Petersburg, Virginia– “I have only time to write a word to say that I am well, and that I this morning send you by Express $405.00 I send a note with the Express package. Please write as soon as you get the money.” ~ Letter from George Whitman to his mother Louisa. [The $405 to his mother would equal $6190 in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.]

August 18– Thursday– City Point, Virginia– Despite pleas from Federal inmates at the Andersonville, Georgia, prison to reestablish large scale prisoner of war exchanges with the Confederacy, General Ulysses S. Grant refuses a Southern offer for a large scale prisoner exchange, worrying that released Confederate soldiers would be used to re-enforce the resistance against General Sherman in Georgia. Grant also remains determined the black Union soldiers held prisoner must be exchanged man-for-man, a position which the South refuses to accept. The Confederacy needs the manpower and feeding so many Federal prisoners drains their increasingly limited resources.

General Grant on horseback

General Grant on horseback

August 18– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Edward C. Elmore and Henry R. Pollard were before the Mayor, yesterday, to answer the charge of ‘being about to break the peace by engaging in a duel with deadly weapons.’ Messrs. Pollard and Elmore had been arrested on the previous evening, when the former was admitted to bail, for his appearance before the Mayor yesterday, and the latter committed to jail, the privileges of bail being refused.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

August 18– Thursday– along the Weldon Railroad, Virginia– In an effort to cut the supply lines for Petersburg and Richmond, Federal troops occupy a mile-long stretch of the vital railroad in hard, costly fighting.

August 18~ Thursday– Memphis, Tennessee– “Two females dressed in Federal uniform were brought to the Irving Block from the front on Tuesday [16th]. They were arrested in the camps of the 21st Missouri Infantry, in which they were serving, one as a drummer and the other as teamster, under the names of Charley Davis and William Morris. The drummer’s real name is Jane Short. Previous to joining the 21st Missouri, she served for over a year as private in the 6th Illinois cavalry; into which regiment she enlisted from Shawneetown, Illinois, where she resided before the war. She was at the battle of Shiloh, and was there wounded in the hand by a musket ball. After recovering she rejoined her regiment and participated in various conflicts, until prostrated by sickness and sent to the hospital, which led to her discharge. She then came to Memphis and lived, she does not say how for several months, when pining for the excitement of glorious war again, she joined the band of the 21st Missouri, in which she performed excellent service on the base drum until the time of her arrest. In appearance she is thick set, full-faced, has short hair of a light color, and blue eyes. In uniform one would never suspect her to be a woman; she looks much like an unsophisticated country lad of twenty years and earnest modesty. Lou Morris, alias Bill Morris, the younger of the two, is much better looking than her companion, seems more active and sprightly, and, consequently, less modest. She formerly resided in St. Louis, from which place she enlisted in the ‘Red Rovers’ of the 10th Missouri cavalry, eighteen months since, and served nine months, passing unhurt through several engagements. She then deserted and coming to Memphis, lived as a woman until meeting with Jane short, with whom she started of the wars again, as teamster in the 2nd Missouri Infantry. They were never acquainted before meeting at a hotel in this city. They claim that they have not revealed their sex, nor was it discovered by any of their comrades since they entered the service, and that their enlistment was promoted by patriotic motives only. They wanted to do a small share towards ‘licking therebs’ as Lou said. The cause of their arrest, Lou informed me, was that Jane became frightened at the report that the regiment was to be sent out, with others, to meet [Confederate General] Forrest, and revealed their sex to one of the officers, who reported them at headquarters, when they were sent to the Provost Marshal of the right wing of the 16th Army Corps, and thence to Memphis. Lou said she was not frightened, and intends to join another regiment if she gets a chance. Jane is content to return to the paths of peace again. Lou, when dressed in uniform, looks as little like a woman as her companions, and presented the appearance of a hardy boy of eighteen. They are much tanned by exposure. It is the intention of the authorities to sent to their homes, if they have any.” ~ Memphis Bulletin.


August 18– Thursday– Cobb County, Georgia– “It is very warm this morning– for 3 days past the days & nights have been very warm. . . . I and the Chaplain (Griffith) made Mr. Shepard a long visit this afternoon, heard no news, only someone had managed to get into his Bed Room during the day, & stolen his Razors– it requires very close watching to guard against robberies these days. Soldiers straggling, scouts, & bad citizens about roam over the Country committing depredations.” ~ Diary of William King.

August 18– Thursday– Monza, Italy– Birth of Matilda Cesira, a/k/a Gemma Bellincioni, operatic soprano, one of the most famous of the late 19th century. [Dies April 23, 1950.]

Gemma Bellincioni

Gemma Bellincioni

August 19– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln meets with the abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the White House. They discuss ways to help slaves escape and how to increase black enlistment in the army and navy.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

August 19– Friday– along the Weldon Railroad, Virginia– Confederate soldiers attempt to retake control of the railroad line.

August 19– Friday– Cobb County, Georgia– “I heard yesterday that from some cause Mr. Benedict has been sent from the place with his family over the Lines, I have not been able to learn the cause. This morning . . . on my walk . . . I found 4 Wagons from the country, some having come 15 miles with vegetables, fruit & chickens, which they had brought in to exchange for Bread & Meat, but they had been stopped there by the pickets, saying they had positive orders to allow no one to go farther into town, and the soldiers were around them to buy, but as they had nothing but money, while they wanted provisions in exchange; they intended to return home with their little supplies. I advised them to wait a while, as I understood Dr. Miller (the Chief Physician at the Military Institute) had sent to town to get permission for them to pass to the Hospital, it is an unwise arrangement, as it will discourage the country people from bringing in their little supplies, so much needed by the town people and Hospitals. In the afternoon my friend the Chaplain (Griffin) took a long & pleasant walk of about 2 miles off for exercise, he is a very agreeable companion of much good sense & piety. I will miss him much when he leaves. I learn the difficulty of Mr. Benedict was he was detected in trying to send Letters through . . . some person who told him he was going to pass South without permission. I would have thought Mr. B. would have better understood duties of a good citizen as we all are, to have done so.” ~ Diary of William King.

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