Category Archives: The Art of History

Women’s History~Lucy Maynard Salmon

lucy_salmon

Lucy Maynard Salmon

 

Lucy Maynard Salmon, historian, researcher, author, educator, advocate of civil service reform, pacifist, internationalist, supporter of the League of Nations, suffragist and founding member of the American Historical Association, was born in Fulton, New York, on July 27, 1853. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1876 and a master’s degree from the same institution in 1883.

In 1887 Vassar College hired her to establish its history department and serve as Associate Professor of History. At the end of her second year she received a full professorship and remained there for the rest of her career until forced into retirement at age 70. Dr Salmon was a prolific writer, producing over a dozen books and over a hundred essays and public lectures. She rejected the traditional method of teaching history which emphasized mere memorization and recollection of facts about prominent figures and noted events. As a member of the new social history school, she believed that such methods overemphasized political histories, while dismissing other important aspects of the past. Instead, Dr Salmon encouraged scholarly independence by training her students to compare and criticize several interpretations before formulating their own conclusion and to consult primary source material in addition to secondary scholarship. Her courses were designed less to convey historical facts than to train students in the process of historical investigation. She taught her students how to judge and analyze sources and to produce independent work. Her courses emphasized the continuity and unity of history, insisting that “in weighing the merits of different fields of history as a subject of study the element of time in and of itself is the least important.” She and her friend Adelaide Underhill built extensive history holdings in the college library.

salmon with her class-a1dd575

Salmon with her students

 

An active and concerned citizen, every year Dr Salmon attempted to purchase a ticket for the public dinner of the Poughkeepsie Chamber of Commerce and every year they denied her because she was a woman. She served as regent of the Poughkeepsie chapter of the Daughters of the American Republic, opening the first Poughkeepsie playground in 1909. Her success finally prompted the Chamber of Commerce to appoint her to a committee to “Clean up Poughkeepsie”. She served on the National College Equal Suffrage League and on the Executive Advisory Council of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, leading the suffrage movement at Vassar, despite the disapproval of the trustees and of the college’s male president Not until 1914 did the faculty grant students permission to form an on-campus suffrage club. Dr Salmon died in Poughkeepsie on February 14, 1927.

early vassar campus-view

For more information about her, in addition to her own voluminous work, see, Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History (2004) by Chara Haeussler Bohan; Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College (1994) by Elizabeth A. Daniels; Apostle of Democracy: the Life of Lucy Maynard Salmon (1943) by Louise Fargo Brown; Addresses at the Memorial Service for Lucy Maynard Salmon (1927) by Vassar College.

Advertisements

A Word to Readers

Clio the Muse of History

Clio the Muse of History

Dear readers, just a note to say that Clio will be dealing with a family medical situation for a few days. But don’t go away too far. Posts will resume before the end of the month.

And remember, “A page of history is worth a volume of logic.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Be well & be blessed.

Clio

Clio

 

 

Inevitable? A Short Essay & Introduction

Clio, the Muse of History

Clio, the Muse of History

Was the Civil War Inevitable?

A few weeks ago after watching the 1993 film “Gettysburg” with a friend, she asked me if I thought that the Civil War was inevitable. It is a question which has sparked debate among scholars even since the war itself was raging. In fact, before the shooting starting in the spring of 1861, some said aloud or wrote passionately that the conflict was inevitable. I believe that the academic discipline of history is an art form, not an exact or statistical science so that, in my mind, history should provoke discussion, reflection, soul-searching, and meditation, just as the plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Milton or Blake, the art of DaVinci or Picasso, or the music of Bach or Beethoven.

As I have pondered this particular question for myself, I have come to believe that the series of events between 1850 and 1860 constituted a crooked, contorted path which with each step made the Civil War increasingly inevitable. As early as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the elderly Thomas Jefferson bemoaned that the contentious debate scared him as “a fire-bell in the night.” At the same time he wrote that maintaining slavery “as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” Yet things calmed on the American scene and the whole country gained from Southern cotton, tobacco and sugar.

However, in my mind, the Compromise of 1850, which included the powerful Fugitive Slave Law, the publication of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), the case of Anthony Burns in Boston (1854), the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the bloodbath in Kansas (from 1854 through 1860–for all practical purposes a dress rehearsal for the Civil War), the assault on Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber by a Southern Congressman (1856), the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of 1858 (students and faculty snatched a fugitive slave from arresting officers and spirited him away), John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and the election of Lincoln in 1860 indeed made the outbreak of war inevitable in 1861. These events aroused passionate responses on many sides and heightened the determination of many to resolve the questions by force if necessary.

By 1864 many people could back to 1859, only five years past, and see it as the last year of peace. The election of 1860 polarized the American people and by the end of that year secession had begun. So I’m beginning an overview of 1859, particularly looking for signposts of the coming war. Consider for yourselves, gentle readers, whether or not the war was “inevitable” by 1859.

I Believe in a Communion of Saints Such as These

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Gandhi in 1907 in South Africa

Gandhi in 1907 in South Africa

 

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen

Julius Nyerere

Julius Nyerere

Toussaint Louverture

Toussaint Louverture

 

Osceola

Osceola

A Delivery Solemn & Impressive~Gettysburg~November 19, 1863

On this day 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of greatest pieces of oratory known to recorded history, short, concise, heart-grabbing and gut-wrenching. For me, one of the most powerful readings of that address I ever heard was in a recording of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with the poet Carl Sandburg reading some of those famous words. In my soul, it is the American “Sermon on the Mount.”

As with so many things in Lincoln’s life, the writing and delivery of the Gettysburg Address is enveloped in a complicated mixture of myth and fact, entangled further by time and distance, and shaped no doubt by one’s perceptions of Lincoln. What follows is from an intriguing article, written over a hundred years ago. You, gentle reader, may find the whole of it at “The Gettysburg Address: When Written, How Received, Its True Form” by Major William B Lambert, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, volume 33, #4 (1909), pp 385 – 408.

Gettysburg national cemetery

Gettysburg national cemetery

 

*********************************************************

In the History of the Battle of Gettysburg (published in 1875) Samuel P. Bates in giving an account of the dedication ceremonies quotes the Address and says, “Its delivery was more solemn and impressive than is possible to conceive from its perusal.” Major Harry T. Lee, who was one of the actors in the battle and who was present upon the platform at the dedication, says that the people listened with marked attention throughout the two hours that Mr Everett spoke ; * * * * * but that when Mr. Lincoln came forward and, “with a voice burdened with emotion, uttered these sublime words the bosoms of that vast audience were lifted as a great wave of the sea; and that when he came to the passage, ‘The brave men living and dead, who struggled here’ there was not a dry eye.”

Arnold in his Life of Lincoln (1885), after citing the Address, states, “Before the first sentence was completed, a thrill of feeling like an electric shock pervaded the crowd. That mysterious influence called magnetism, which sometimes so affects a popular assembly, spread to every heart. The vast audience was instantly hushed and hung upon his every word and syllable. Every one felt that it was not the honored dead only, but the living actor and speaker that the world for all time to come would note and remember, and that the speaker in the thrilling words he was uttering was linking his name forever with the glory of the dead * * * All his hearers realized that the great actor in the drama stood before them, and that the words he said would live as long as the language; that they were words which would be recollected in all future ages among all peoples, as often as men should be called upon to die for liberty and country. As he closed, and the tears and sobs and cheers which expressed the emotions of the people subsided, he turned to Everett and, grasping his hand, said, ‘I congratulate you on your success.’ The orator gratefully replied, ‘Ah! Mr. President, how gladly would I exchange all my hundred pages to have been the author of your twenty lines.’”

Major Mekerson, of the 8th Ohio, who had been severely wounded in the battle, was present at the dedication and had a seat on the platform within a few feet of the speakers, gave an account in Scribner’s Magazine July, 1893, of his “Two Visits to Gettysburg.” He says, “Others, too, have differed as to the immediate effects of the President’s remarks. I give the impressions received at the time, which were also identical with those of all with whom I spoke. I thought then and still think it was the shortest, grandest speech to which I ever listened. * * * My own emotions may perhaps be imagined when it is remembered that he was facing the spot where only a short time before we had our death grapple with Pickett’s men and he stood almost immediately over the place where I had lain and seen my comrades torn in fragments by the enemy’s cannon-balls—think then, if you please, how these words fell upon my ear.” Then, quoting a portion of the Address, the Major adds, “If at that moment the Supreme Being had appeared with an offer to undo my past life, give back to me a sound body free from the remembrance even of sufferings past and the imminence of those that must necessarily embitter all the years to come, I should have indignantly spurned the offer, such was the effect upon me of this immortal dedication.”

Robert Miller, who had been the Adjutant of an Ohio Regiment of 100 days’ volunteers, was a member of the Ohio Legislature and attended the dedication ceremonies, stated in a letter published in the Eaton, Ohio, Register, November 30,1863: “The tall form of the President appeared on the stand and never before have I seen a crowd so vast and restless, after standing so long, so soon stilled and quieted. Hats were removed and all stood motionless to catch the first words he should utter, and as he slowly, clearly, and without the least sign of embarrassment read and spoke for ten minutes you could not mistake the feeling and sentiment of the vast multitude before him. I am convinced that the speech of the President has fully confirmed and I think will confirm all loyal men and women in the belief that Abraham Lincoln, though he may have made mistakes, is the right man in the right place.”

The Commissioners representing Massachusetts at the dedication, in their report to Governor Andrew, say, “The brief speech of President Lincoln * * * * made a profound impression” and that it was spoken with great deliberation. The correspondent of the Boston Daily Advertiser, who was probably one of the Commissioners, in his letter to that paper expressed a similar view and added that the remarks “seemed to be emphatically the right words in the right place.”

A committee from the city of Boston attending the dedication reported, “Perhaps nothing in the whole proceedings made so deep an impression on the vast assemblage or has conveyed to the country in so concise a form the lesson of the hour, as the remarks of the President, their simplicity and force make them worthy of a prominence among the utterances from high places.”

The opinions of these Commissioners and of Lieutenant Miller are especially valuable because expressed and recorded immediately after they had heard the address. John Russell Young, who was present on the speaker’s platform as representative of the Philadelphia Press, in an article published in 1891, based upon his recollections and memoranda made at the time, says that the report made by the Associated Press “was studded with applause, but I do not remember the applause and am afraid the appreciative reporter was more than generous—may have put in the applause himself as a personal expression of opinion, * * * I have read * * * of the emotions produced by the President’s address, the transcendent awe that fell upon every one who heard those most mighty and ever living words, to be remembered with pride through the ages, I have read of the tears that fell and the solemn hush, as though in a cathedral solemnity in the most holy moment of the Sacrifice. * * * There was nothing of this, to the writer at least, in the Gettysburg Address.”

Gettysburg Address

In Lamon’s account he professes to quote Mr. Lincoln’s own opinion of his Address and says that, “After its delivery on the day of commemoration he expressed deep regret that he had not prepared it with greater care. He said to me on the stand immediately after concluding the speech, “Lamon, that speech won’t scour! It is a flat failure and the people are disappointed.’ He seemed deeply concerned about what the people might think of his address, more deeply, in fact, than I had ever seen him on any public occasion. * * * The occasion was solemn, impressive, and grandly historic. The people, it is true, stood apparently spell-bound; and the vast throng was hushed and awed into profound silence, and attention to his words arose more from the solemnity of the ceremonies and the awful scenes which gave rise to them than from anything he had said. He believed that the speech was a failure. He thought so at the time and he never referred to it afterwards in conversation with me, without some expression of unqualified regret that he had not made the speech better in every way. On the platform from which Mr, Lincoln delivered his address and only a moment after it was concluded, Mr. Seward turned to Mr. Everett and asked him what he thought of the President’s speech. Mr. Everett replied, ‘It is not what I expected from him, I am disappointed.’ Then in his turn Mr. Everett asked, ‘What do you think of it, Mr. Seward?’ The response was, ‘He has made a failure and I am sorry for it. His speech is not equal to him.’ Mr. Seward then turned to me and asked, ‘Mr. Marshal, what do you think of it ?’ I answered, I am sorry to say that it does not impress me as one of his great speeches.’

“In the face of these facts it has been repeatedly published that this speech was received by the audience with loud demonstrations of approval; that amid the tears, sobs, and cheers it produced in the excited throng, the orator of the day, Mr. Everett, turned to Mr. Lincoln, grasped his hand and exclaimed, ‘I congratulate you on your success’ adding in a transport of heated enthusiasm, ‘Ah! Mr. President, how gladly would I give my hundred pages to be the author of your twenty lines!

 “As a matter of fact, the silence during the delivery of the speech, and the lack of hearty demonstration of approval immediately after its close, were taken by Mr. Lincoln as a certain proof that it was not well received. In that opinion we all shared. If any person then present saw, or thought he saw, the marvelous beauties of that wonderful speech, as intelligent men in all lands now see and acknowledge them, his superabundant caution closed his lips and stayed his pen. * * * * I state it as a fact, and without fear of contradiction, that this famous Gettysburg speech was not regarded by the audience to whom it was addressed, or by the press and people of the United States, as a production of extraordinary merit, nor was it commented on as such until after the death of the author.”

gettysburg-address-2

While there may be some truth in Lamon’s narrative, and the language ascribed to Lincoln seems natural and characteristic, allowance should be made for the author’s idiosyncrasies as exhibited in the Life of Lincoln published in 1872, that, purporting to have been written by Lamon, and was based upon information that had been secured by him, was really written by Chauncey F . Black, son of President Buchanan’s Attorney-General. Certainly Lamon’s assertion concerning Everett’s criticism of the Address is not consistent with his letter to the President on the following day, in which, after thanking Mr. Lincoln for the kindness shown himself and his daughter at Gettysburg, Mr. Everett said, “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you with such eloquent simplicity and appropriateness at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

 The President’s reply was characteristically modest; I quote the reference to himself: “In our respective parts yesterday you could not have been excused to make a short address nor I long one. I am pleased to know that in your judgment the little I did say was not a failure.”

Mr. Clark E. Carr, who was present at Gettysburg as a Commissioner from Illinois, is the author of an address, “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” in which he quotes liberally and with approval from Lamon and from Nicolay, and also gives his own impressions concerning the President’s Address, saying: “His expressions were so plain and homely, without any attempt at rhetorical periods, and his statements were so axiomatic, and, I may say, matter-of-fact, and so simple, that I had no idea that as an address it was anything more than ordinary.” But he adds, ” Every one was impressed with his sincerity and earnestness,” and, There was one sentence that did deeply affect me—the only one in which the President manifested emotion. With the close of that sentence his lips quivered, and there was a tremor in his voice which I can never forget. * * * The sentence was, ‘ The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'”

This sentence that so impressed Mr. Carr attracted the attention of George William Curtis, who, in Harper’s Weekly, December 5,1863, said of the Address, but with special reference to the sentence quoted: “The few words of the President were from the heart to the heart, they can not be read even without kindly emotion. It was as simple and felicitous and earnest a word as was ever spoken.”

***********

In an address so brief, but so momentous, every syllable tells; and though the differences between the final revision and the speech as actually delivered are few and seemingly immaterial, the changes intensify its strength and pathos and add to its beauty, and as so revised the speech cannot be too jealously preserved as the ultimate expression of the author’s sublime thought. Increasing appreciation of Lincoln’s character and of his fitness for the great work to which in the providence of God he was called enhances the value of his every word, and surely the form by which he intended this utterance should be judged is that in which we should perpetuate the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln Memorial at Gettysburg

Lincoln Memorial at Gettysburg

Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi~October 2, 1869

“Born of Hindu parents in 1869, Gandhi traveled to London as a young adultto study law. He corresponded with Tolstoy, sending him a copy of IndianHome Rule and seeking Tolstoy’s comments. Tolstoy replied that India andhumanity as a whole needed the practice of passive resistance.”

Gandhi in 1907 in South Africa

Gandhi in 1907 in South Africa

“Gandhi gained employment with a Muslim law firm in South Africa. There,with his dark complexion, he encountered extreme racial prejudice. Reading the Bible, the Koran, and Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God Is Within You, he became increasingly convinced that only nonviolence could heal the wounds of the world, both personal and national. He worked tirelessly on behalf of Indian immigrants’ civil rights, refusing to depart from nonviolence to achieve political purposes. Instead he relied on satyagraha, a term he coined, meaning “holding on to Truth” or “Soul force”. He achieved remarkable changes on behalf of South African Indians during this period.”

Gandhi at age 21

Gandhi at age 21

“Returning to India, Gandhi took up the cause of freedom from British rule. He endured imprisonments without trial, and fasted for weeks on end to purify both his own motives and those of others in the freedom movement whose frustration with setbacks and slow progress often led to violence. He founded the weekly paper Harijan to address the need of “untouchables,” and created two ashrams.

Ultimately the goal of independence for India became a source of great sadness to Gandhi. He refused to attend the independence celebration on August 15, 1947, unwilling to be a party to what he termed “India’s vivisection”: the partitioning off of Pakistan from India. During the civil unrest following independence, Gandhi fasted for communal peace. He personally visited areas beset with riots, to no avail. In January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated as he was on his way to a prayer meeting.

Gandhi’s timeless influence inspired Dr. Martin Luther King and countless other peace activists, and brings light to our world in these dark days.

Recommended readings: Gandhi on Non-Violence, A Selection from the Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, edited and with an introduction by Thomas Merton; and, The Words of Gandhi, selected by Richard Attnborough, Director of the award-winning film “Gandhi” (1982), for which Attenborough prepared through 20 years of study about Gandhi and his life.” — from Gratefulness.org, A Network for Grateful Living.

Kasturba, Gandhi's wife, in 1915

Kasturba, Gandhi’s wife, in 1915

 

“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”~ Gandhi

Two Hostile & Irreconcilable Systems of Society~July 1863~the 8th to the 11th

Two Hostile and Irreconcilable Systems of Society ~ George Templeton Strong

In a prophetic voice, George Templeton Strong writes of the war’s historical significance. The deaths of soldiers haunt Walt Whitman and Mary Chesnut. The abolitionist Gerritt Smith declares that European powers need to keep their noses out and hands off of America’s struggle. The major European powers still face an unsettled situation in Poland. General Lee offers to resign but President Davis refuses to allow him. President Lincoln meets face-to-face with Frederick Douglass and encourages General Grant. Grant allows military authorities to read the mails passing through areas under his command. [Editor’s query: Hhhmm! Wonder what Grant would think about the military necessity of reading citizens’ private e-mails. Mayhap some things do not change.]

August 8– Saturday– Locust Grove, New York– Birth of Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, ornithologist and nature writer. She will author fourteen books and her writing is considered to be among the best ornithological writing. She will be active in social welfare issues as well, campaigning against child labor, and on behalf of housing, education and recreation for poor youth.

Florence Merriam Bailey c.1904

Florence Merriam Bailey c.1904

August 8– Saturday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– General Lee offers his resignation to President Jefferson Davis. “I have been prompted by these reflections more than once, since my return from Pennsylvania, to propose to your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expressions of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling extends in the army. My brother officers have been too kind to report it, and so far the troops have been too generous to exhibit it. It is fair, however, to suppose that it does exist, and success is so necessary to us that nothing should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more aware than my self of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfil the expectations of others? In addition, I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon your Excellency, from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader ; one that would accomplish more than I could perform, and all that I have wished. I hope your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason, the desire to serve my country, and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.”

August 8– Saturday– St Anns, Nova Scotia, Canada– Angus MacAskill, known as Giant MacAskill, a circus performer who stands 7′ 9″ tall, dies at age 38 of “brain fever.”

Angus MacAskill

Angus MacAskill

August 9– Sunday– Byberry, Pennsylvania– Charlotte Forten Grimke makes music with a friend. “Bessie W came up yesterday afternoon, bringing sunshine with her. She certainly is a charming most refreshing girl. We spent the morning at the piano playing ‘Roll Jordan’ and other songs of the freed people.”

August 9– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to General Grant. “General Thomas has gone again to the Mississippi Valley, with the view of raising colored troops. I have no reason to doubt that you are doing what you reasonably can upon the same subject. I believe it is a resource which if vigorously applied now will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us. We were not fully ripe for it until the river was opened. Now, I think at least one hundred thousand can and ought to be rapidly organized along its shores, relieving all white troops to serve elsewhere. Mr. Dana understands you as believing that the Emancipation Proclamation has helped some in your military operations. I am very glad if this is so.”

August 9– Sunday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– Confederate soldier Richard Brooks writes to his wife. “I could not wish for any better living than when we had as we was going on an after we got through Maryland an into Pennsylvania as far as we went but after we turned back this way again we all have suffered very much ever since for something to eat. We have not had more than half enough to eat since we turned back. . . . My Dear I do hope the war will soon close for I do want to see you an the Children the worst I ever had in my life.”

August 9– Sunday– McMinnville, Tennessee– Lucy Virginia French takes note in her journal of political changes. “As to our political prospects they are in status quo. Tennessee is gone to the Confederacy I suppose, and in my present frame of mind and state of health, I must confess I feel unpatriotic enough not to care a continental about it any way if I could only be well, and quiet for a little while. . . . We were told today that all the ‘rebel girls’ in McMinnville have been made to take the oath, a great triumph for old Armstrong and his crew. Mollie Armstrong has procured the Federal uniform—a blue riding dress and rides around with the Yankees, as she used to do with Morgan’s men. I suppose this would be the end of her Southernism—it was too intense to last long!”

Lucy Virginia French

Lucy Virginia French

August 10– Monday– dateline: Warsaw, Poland– The New York Times reports that the leaders of the Polish revolution have demanded as part of a cease-fire that “All persons under arrest shall be at once liberated; all pursuit on political grounds shall equally cease; all exiles shall return to their country” and “A permanent international commission shall be established in the country for the purpose of seeing the armistice rigorously put in execution.” They “assure the mediating Powers [Great Britain, France and the Austrian Empire] that the engagements that may be contracted on these grounds will be faithfully observed by the Poles.”

August 10– Monday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln meets with Frederick Douglass. They discuss a variety of topics including the treatment and pay of black soldiers in the U. S. Army.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

August 10– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes a letter of condolence to Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Haskell, the parents of Erastus Haskell of the 141st New York Infantry. “I write to you this letter, because I would do something at least in his memory; his fate was a hard one, to die so. He is one of the thousands of our unknown American young men in the ranks about whom there is no record or fame, no fuss made about their dying so unknown, but I find in them the real precious & royal ones of this land, giving themselves up, aye even their young & precious lives, in their country’s cause.”

August 10– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– Mary Chesnut relates a strange experience. “To-day I had a letter from my sister, who wrote to inquire about her old playmate, friend, and lover, Boykin McCaa. . . . . To tell the truth, she writes, ‘in these last dreadful years, with . . . everything dismal, anxious, and disquieting, I had almost forgotten Boykin’s existence, but he came here last night; he stood by my bedside and spoke to me kindly and affectionately, as if we had just parted. I said, holding out my hand, Boykin, you are very pale. He answered, I have come to tell you good-by, and then seized both my hands. His own hands were as cold and hard as ice ; they froze the marrow of my bones. I screamed again and again until my whole household came rushing in, and then came the Negroes from the yard, all wakened by my piercing shrieks. This may have been a dream, but it haunts me. Some one sent me an old paper with an account of his wounds and his recovery, but I know he is dead.’ ‘Stop !’ said my husband at this point, and then he read from that day’s Examiner these words: ‘Captain Burwell Boykin McCaa found dead upon the battle-field leading a cavalry charge at the head of his company. He was shot through the head.’”

chestp

August 10– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– General Grant issues regulations regarding mail going to or coming from states in the Confederacy. “The establishing of mails within the insurrectionary States of this department being for the exclusive benefit of the military authorities and those connected therewith, the following regulations are established and will be observed, until otherwise ordered, by all persons employed in their transmission, at all military posts south of Memphis, Tennessee: 1. Postmasters will transmit no letters but those coming from designated military authorities, nor deliver any received at their respective offices to citizens or civilians, excepting through the same channels. 2. Mails will be made up at department, corps, division, and post headquarters, and by all provost-marshals, quartermasters, and commissaries, sent regularly to the post offices by them, and promptly forwarded by the post inspector of each post. 3. The military authorities above designated will forward no letters from any citizen in any insurrectionary State in this department, without first examining the same and marking their approval thereon.”

August 11– Tuesday– Albany, New York– In a speech Gerrit Smith, 66 years old, abolitionist, politician and philanthropist, declares, “We must also insist that, during the prosecution of this war, all other nations must let us alone. Ours is a family quarrel with which there must be no outside interference. We will tolerate neither intervention nor mediation. The one we shall pronounce impertinence, and the other we shall construe into war. I have said we must insist on the unconditional submission of the rebels. Our opposition to the rebels must also be unconditional.”

August 11– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong writes prophetically about the war. “We hardly appreciate, even yet, the magnitude of this war, the issues that depend on its result, the importance of the chapter in the world’s history that we are helping to write. . . . It is the struggle of two hostile and irreconcilable systems of society for the rule of this continent. . . . I think that Grant and Rosecrans, Lee and Stonewall Jackson . . . will be more conspicuous and better known to students of history A.D. 1963 than . . . Napoleon, Frederick [the Great], Wellington . . . not as greater generals, but as fighting on a larger field and in a greater cause than any of them. So will our great-great-grandchildren look back on them a century hence, whatever be the result.”

August 11– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis refuses General Lee’s offer to resign. “Where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required ? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished, and you will do me the justice to believe that, if Providence should kindly offer such a person for our use, I would not hesitate to avail of his services. My sight is not sufficiently penetrating to discover such hidden merit, if it exists, and I have but used to you the language of sober earnestness, when I have impressed upon you the propriety of avoiding all unnecessary exposure to danger, because I felt your country could not bear to lose you. To ask me to substitute you by someone in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of reflecting men in the country, is to demand an impossibility. It only remains for me to hope that you will take all possible care of yourself, that your health and strength may be entirely restored, and that the Lord will preserve you for the important duties devolved upon you in the struggle of our suffering country for the independence of which we have engaged in war to maintain.”

P G Doumergue, c.1924

P G Doumergue, c.1924

August 11– Tuesday– Algues-Vives, France– Birth of Pierre Paul Henri Gaston Doumergue, who will serve as Prime Minister of France from December, 1913 to June, 1914 and again for ten months in 1934.

What Are They Trying to Hide?

The American Historical Association, of which I am a member, brought this to the attention of the membership. In the name of a budget reduction measure the state of Georgia is closing access by the public to the state archives. This will affect not only historians but scholars in other professions, students, teachers, journalists and genealogists, among many others. It makes me wonder what the state of Georgia is trying to hide. Are they ashamed of the past?

 

***********************************************

From the News column of the October 2012 issue of Perspectives on History:

In response to news that the state of Georgia intends to effectively close its archives in a cost-cutting move, AHA Executive Director James Grossman sent the following letter to Governor Nathan Deal:

September 17, 2012

Dear Governor Deal:

I write on behalf of the American Historical Association the leading organization of historians in the United States to express our grave concern about plans to effectively close the Georgia Archives.

An early and active proponent of state archives laws in the United States, the AHA remains committed to the preservation of our heritage, and to its accessibility. We understand that a shortage of financial resources has forced the state to make some difficult financial choices, and that in such situations, everyone claims that their particular activity is sacrosanct. The Georgia Archives, however, tells the story of all Georgians. Genealogists, students, historians, journalists: all require access to these vital records to participate in the preservation of the state’s heritage and the practical use of its past.

Beyond the interests of historical researchers stand a wide variety of civic-minded Georgians who depend on open access to archives. Teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, leaders of neighborhood associations all rely not only on the vital records housed in the Georgia Archives, but on the expert advice of its archivists.

The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records. Closing the doors to the Archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Georgia’s future.

I urge you to reconsider this decision, and to work with the Secretary of State to allocate resources that will enable this vital service to remain open and accessible to all.

Regards,

James R. Grossman

Executive Director, American Historical Association

Background on This Issue

The issue began on September 13, 2012, when Georgia Secretary of State BrianKemp announced that “effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.” .Kemp also declared his intention to “fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so that the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.” The National Coalition for History (NCH) rapidlydisseminated information about the Georgia state decision and also providedetailed suggestions for action.

Nearly every state in the union is facing budget shortfalls, and all are lookingfor places to trim expenses. The AHA hopes that a significant protest toGeorgia’s proposed cuts will also catch the attention of decision makers inother states. If a public outcry helps stop the closure of the archives inGeorgia, other states will be far less likely to attempt similar actions.