A Day of Intense Excitement~October 1864~19th to 21st

A Day of Intense Excitement ~ Elisha Hunt Rhodes

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, General Phil Sheridan turns a successful Confederate surprise attack into a Federal victory, rallying his troops and pushing the rebels back into the mountains. The Union casualties include the friend and brother-in-law of Robert Gould Shaw who died leading the 54th Massachusetts. The win serves to strengthen President Lincoln’s reelection possibilities while McClellan campaign hard. An eloquent woman campaigns for Lincoln. Lincoln praises the people of Maryland for banning slavery in the new state constitution and calls for Thanksgiving to be observed in November. Confederate soldiers provoke an international incident when they stage a raid from Canada into Vermont. As in the North women of the South help sick and wounded soldiers. A grieving father writes to Whitman. Religious enthusiasm increases in Oberlin, Ohio, as in other parts of the war-torn nation.

Federal cavalry officers

Federal cavalry officers

October 19– Wednesday– St Albans, Vermont– Twenty-five Confederate soldiers under Lieutenant Bennett Young arrive from Canada and in mid-afternoon stage simultaneous robberies of the town’s three. The fire bombs they brought to burn the town do not work. They escape across the Canadian border fifteen miles away with over $200,000. [The United States demands the arrest and extradition of the Southerners. However a Canadian court will rule that the men were soldiers, not spies, and declines to extradite them. Canada returns the $88,000 Canadian officers found on the Confederates. The rebel effort turns many Canadians against the Confederacy as they see the raid as an effort to draw Canada into the war.]

Confederate raiders of St Albans, Vermony

Confederate raiders of St Albans, Vermony

October 19– Wednesday– Oberlin, Ohio– “The scene at the Communion at the First Church, last Sabbath afternoon, was deeply gratifying and encouraging to all friends of religion. Fifty-one, mostly young people, united with the church and partook of the Sacrament. As their names were read, they took their places in the aisles, and lines were formed, on either side, extending from the pulpit nearly the entire length of the church. The usual ceremonies were then performed, some twenty receiving baptism, the remainder having previously been baptized elsewhere. The occasion was one of solemn joy and will be remembered with pleasure, in after years by the converts, as the commencement of their Christian life.” ~ Lorain County News.

October 19– Wednesday– Cedar Creek, Virginia– Early in the morning Confederate troops under General Jubal Early mount a surprise attack on the sleeping Federal camp, initially having significant success. However, Union General Phil Sheridan arrives from Washington in mid-morning, rallies his soldiers, counter-attacks and drives back the Confederates. Total Confederate losses– dead, wounded, missing– amount to 2910 while Federal losses reach 5665. Sheridan can receive replacements; Early can not as Lee has none to send him.

Sheridan leading successful counter-attack at Cedar Creek

Sheridan leading successful counter-attack at Cedar Creek

October 19– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “I am notified that this is a compliment paid me by the loyal Marylanders resident in this District. I infer that the adoption of the new Constitution for the State furnishes the occasion, and that in your views the extirpation of slavery constitutes the chief merit of the new Constitution. Most heartily do I congratulate you, and Maryland, and the nation, and the world upon the event. I regret that it did not occur two years sooner, which I am sure would have saved to the nation more money than would have met all the private loss incident to the measure; but it has come at last, and I sincerely hope its friends may fully realize all their anticipations of good from it, and that its opponents may by its effects be agreeably and profitably disappointed. . . . I may add that in this purpose to save the country and its liberties, no classes of people seem so nearly unanimous as the soldiers in the field and the seamen afloat. Do they not hive the hardest of it? Who should quail when they do not? God bless the soldiers and seamen, and all their brave commanders!” ~ Remarks by President Lincoln to a group of citizens who gathered outside of the White House to sing to him.

October 19– Wednesday– Andersonville, Georgia– A Confederate doctor assigned to the prison camp submits a brutally honest report maintaining that the high death rate among the inmates is due to dysentery, scurvy, and gangrene, caused in large part by poor rations, little medicine, and the accumulation of human waste within the stockade.

Confederate nurse

Confederate nurse

October 19– Wednesday– Athens, Georgia– “Georgia Relief and Hospital Association. This Samaritan of Institutions, with its head at Augusta, and its big heart with every Confederate army, is most justly complimented in a late letter of P. W. A., in the Savannah Republican. We cannot let this occasion pass without adding our mite of praise to this generous association of noble hearted men. For two years past it has been our good fortune to know somewhat of its actings [sic] and doings. And here let us remind our readers that it is not alone to the Georgian it has brought its assistance and succor, but to men from every State in the Confederacy. ‘God bless the Georgia Relief Association,’ has gone up from thousands of hearts not of Georgia – from the plains of Texas, and the mountain streams of Arkansas, from the Mississippi, the Ohio and Potomac, have the men come, who have been the recipients of its kindly charity. A few devoted men, whose names will go down to posterity, as a part and parcel of this war, have bent their wills and energies to this glorious charity.” ~ Athens Southern Banner.

October 19– Wednesday– Dublin, Ireland– Birth of Thomas Pakenham, Irish peer and soldier. [Dies in battle August 21, 1915.]

Thomas Pakenham, the 5th Earl of Longford

Thomas Pakenham, the 5th Earl of Longford

October 20– Thursday– New York City– “Another victory by Sheridan. News came today at noon. . . . He seems a brilliant practitioner, and our best fighting general. . . . Either we fight better of late, or the rebels fight worse.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

October 20– Thursday– somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia– “I take the earliest opportunity to inform you of our glorious victory, since I wrote to you before, the rebels, attacked our lines the day that I wrote home, the fight lasted from morning till dark at night, the fields lay full of wounded and dead rebels, over double the number of ours, and we captured 54 pieces of artillery . . . . this is the third time that we whipped them very badly since the 1st of last month, General Sheridan was at the head of his brave soldiers in the engagement, there is not a soldier here but would sacrifice their lives for the brave General, Sheridan’s army has crowned its self with victory. I am well.~ Letter from Union soldier Josiah Bloss to his sister.

fighting at Cedar Creek

fighting at Cedar Creek

October 20– Thursday– Winchester, Virginia– “Yesterday was a day of intense excitement in this city. . . . The Rebel Cavalry were all about the outskirts of town, and I had all I could do looking after the pickets. Many rebel families prepared food for the expected Rebel Army, but they did not come, and at night we received the news of Sheridan’s glorious victory. Hurrah for Sheridan! He is the man for me. . . . Our Army is now pursuing Early into the mountains. I hope they may catch him and use him up entirely.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

October 20– Thursday– Middletown, Virginia– Union General Charles Russell Lowell, age 29, a nephew of the editor and author James Russell, dies of wounds he received yesterday at the battle of Cedar Creek. His wife, Josephine Shaw Lowell, age 20, a sister of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who died in July, 1863, while leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, is eight months pregnant with her first child. [To honor the memory of her husband and her brother she will be active in social and political reform until her death on October 12, 1905. She never remarries.]

Josephine Shaw Lowell & her husband Charles Russell Lowell

Josephine Shaw Lowell & her husband Charles Russell Lowell

October 20– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with his guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new: sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our working-men in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions. Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid, that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the, land which it has pleased him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.” ~ Proclamation by President Lincoln.

October 20– Thursday– a prison camp in the Union lines outside of Petersburg, Virginia– “Knowing your anxiety to know my fate, I embrace this opportunity for the purpose of sending you a short note. I was captured in the action of yesterday and am doing well. You need not suffer any uneasiness about me. I will write every opportunity. Give my love to all and reserve a goodly portion for yourself.” ~ Letter from a Confederate soldier to his father.

October 20– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “In reply to your letter . . . addressed to His Excellency [Joseph Brown, Governor of Georgia], and desiring to know under what conditions he would be in favor of a reconstruction of the old Federal Union, and go into fraternal embrace with the foul invaders of our homes and rights, the murderers of our brave men, and the abusers and insulters [sic] of our women, in a word, the base and fiendish uncivilized of the age, I am directed by the Governor to say that his position on this subject has been so often given to the country in an official form that he does not consider it his duty to spend time in further explanations. All who wish to understand it have the means of information at hand.” ~ quoted from a Georgia newspaper in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch.

October 21– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Miss Anna E. Dickinson. We have no words to fittingly describe the lecture of this talented young female orator, delivered at Ilion [New York] on Tuesday evening. For nearly two hours and a half she held a crowded audience in almost breathless attention. Her treatment of the Chicago Convention and of its nominees– especially her vivid historical, sketch of McClellan’s military career– was most bitterly sarcastic, and many portions of it most beautifully sublime. She has a power over the feelings and hearts of the people which few can resist; and it is a satisfaction to know that it is exercised ever in the cause of Justice and the Rights of Humanity.” ~ The Liberator. Today’s issue also reports that the widow, two daughters and one son of the radical John Brown are traveling with a guard of Federal troops as they cross Idaho Territory on their way to California.

Anna E Dickinson

Anna E Dickinson

October 21– Friday– Jersey City, New Jersey– “I have just returned home last evening from Washington, being there to see about getting the body of my son Captain Michael Mullery of Company I, 7th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers who was killed while leading his men in a desperate charge before Petersburg, Virginia, June 16th . I took a friend with me from Jersey City (T. C. Brown Esq.) but could only get a pass for one, so Mr. Brown has gone to City Point to get the Body. He took the boat for City Point last Wednesday at 3 o’clock and is now I hope on his way back with the body. Your friend Jesse came home from Washington June 23rd on a 30 days furlough, and the same evening received the sad intelligence of the death of our son Michael, when Jesse came home he was so reduced and weak that I thought he could not live a week, but he gained fast after a week or two . . . . he returned September 5th, and is there yet at Ward U S. General Hospital, Center Street. I took Breakfast with him yesterday morning. He looks well and is fleshy, but not fit for the front. I will write to him to day and send him your letter, and he will call and see you at his earliest convenience, he spoke very highly of you when he came home and had your ‘carte de visite’ and took it back with [him] to Newark, he is now assistant cook in the Hospital. He belongs in the 7th Ward. His Brother James is still at the front with Sheridan he is well and so far unhurt. Thank God, he has never been home since he went in the service, if he lives, we look for him next August when I must write to him, and let him know about the invitation you have given him to call & see you. I have another son Joseph who enlisted September 9th last year, for one year. . . . I remain Truly & Respectfully Yours Much Obliged.” ~ Letter from William Mullery to Walt Whitman.

McClellan campaign poster

McClellan campaign poster

October 21– Friday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “As the McClellan procession was passing through Ritchietown yesterday morning, a man in the procession got off and struck a boy for some real or imaginary offence. The man was arrested and taken into an Alderman’s office, when some of the McClellan men moved as if to attempt a rescue. Some Union men interfered to preserve the peace when a sort of a general row commenced, during which stones were thrown and several persons were more or less hurt.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

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