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Presidential Elections~1852


In the United States 2016 is a year of a presidential election, a year which promises to be contentious and politically explosive. To place this in the context of American history I begin today a series which will run throughout this year looking at several other election years: 1852, 1856 and 1860, the elections leading up to the American Civil War; the election of 1876, a decade after the War and as difficult and contentious a result as in 2000; 1892 and 1896, election years marked by labor troubles, a country which has changed dramatically in forty years and marking the close of the 19th century; and 1912, 1916 and 1920, elections tied to the broader world and the beginning of 20th century America, its participation in the Great War and the changes which came after the Great War.

As immigration will be a major issue this year, I will consider immigration in each of these election years. In the chronology of each year I will look at political issues, party ideology and political figures as well as the roles of women, workers, minorities, particularly African Americans, peace and war issues, and casual glimpses of religion in American life.


The year of 1852 opens on a Thursday. Around the world, leaders include Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, age 55, ruling since 1825; Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austrian Empire, age 21, ruling since 1848; Sultan Abdulmecid I of the Ottoman Empire, age 28, ruling since 1839; Abbas I of Egypt, age 39, ruling since 1849; King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar of Persia, age 20, ruling since 1848; King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, age 56, ruling since1840; King Leopold I of Belgium, age 61, ruling since 1831; Queen Victoria of Great Britain, age 31, ruling since 1837, and mother of 7 children since becoming Queen; her current Prime Minister is Lord John Russell, age 59, in office since 1846 and Her Majesty’s third Prime Minister since she ascended the throne; President Louis Napoleon of France, age 43, in office since 1848, with eyes looking to return to monarchy; Queen Isabella of Spain, age 21, technically ruling since 1833 but her mother had ruled as regent for 13 years; Sultan Abd al-Rahman of Morocco, age 74, ruling since 1822; President Mariano Arista of Mexico, age 49, in office since 1851; President Millard Fillmore of the United States, age 52, member of the Whig Party, in office since President Zachary Taylor died July 9, 1850.

Religious leaders include Pope Pius IX of the Roman Catholic Church, age 59, ruling since 1846; John Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Church, age 71, in office since 1848; Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, age 49, in office since 1844; Pope Peter VII of the Coptic Orthodox Church, indeterminate age, in office since 1809; Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church, age 69, in office since 1821; Khendrup Gyatso, the 11th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Bhuddhism, age 13, in office since 1842; Philander Chase, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, age 76, in office since 1843.

The world’s major cities include London with 2.37 million people; Peking [now Beijing] with 1.65 million; Paris with 1.3 million; Canton, China with 1.24 million; Constantinople, Turkey, with 900,000; Calcutta, India with 800,000.


The population of the United States is approximately 24,911,000 of whom 19.6 million live in rural areas. Agriculture employs 4.9 million workers; 1.26 million work in manufacturing; 90,000 work in mining. Children under age 5 account for 14% of the total population while persons age 60 and over make up only 3.8% of the total population. Over 3,100,000 people live in slavery. According to the census of two years before, the largest American city is New York with 515,547 people, Baltimore is next 169,054, Boston with a population of 136,881, Philadelphia has 121,376 people and New Orleans is fifth largest with a population of 116, 375. Of other cities, Charleston, South Carolina (15th) with 42,985 people; Washington, D.C. (18th– excluding Georgetown which is 79th largest with 8,366 people) with 40,001; Chicago, Illinois (24th) at 29,963; Richmond, Virginia (26th) at 27,570 people; Detroit, Michigan (30th) with 21,019 people; Mobile, Alabama (32nd) with 20,515; Cleveland, Ohio (41st) at 17,034; Savannah, Georgia (44th) with 15,312 people; Norfolk, Virginia (47th) at population of 14, 326 and Petersburg, Virginia (50th) with 14,010 people.

The country will produce 15,700 tons of lead; 4,909 tons of bituminous coal; 1,232 tons of copper; 883 tons of pig iron; 2902 troy ounces of gold; 39 troy ounces of silver.

By year’s end 12,908 miles of railroad track will be in operation, of which 2,288 will be built this year. Of merchant vessels there are 643 steam powered and 3,495 sail powered, of which 194 are involved in whaling.

This year U S will export $210,000,000 of goods and raw materials while importing $213,000,000 worth, with a trade deficit of $3,000,000.

Of U S exports, raw cotton accounts for 41.9% and leaf tobacco for 4.8%. Both of these are primarily grown in the South. Major buyers of American exports include Great Britain which accounts for 38.6% of exports, France with 9.0%, Canada for 4.8%, and Cuba, Australia and the German states for 2.8% each.

The United States continues to develop as an industrial nation; however, 55.4% of imports are finished manufactured goods. Manufactured food stuffs, including beverages such as wine, account for 13.6% of imports, while sugar is 7.0% of imports, coffee 6.6% and tea 3.3%. Of all imports, 41.8% come from Great Britain, 11.7% from France, 8.5% from Cuba, 5.6% from Brazil and 5.2% from China.


The 32nd Congress of the United States is meeting in its first session. The country now includes 16 free states and 15 slave states. As the session begins, the Senate consists of 33 Democrats, 22 Whigs, 4 Free Soil Party and 3 vacancies. The House of Representatives consists of 128 Democrats, 85 Whigs and 19 from third parties. The new Speaker of the House is Linn Boyd, Democrat from Kentucky, age 51, having served in Congress since 1839. Differences about the Fugitive Slave Law are increasing tensions between North and South while the growing population of the West is concerned about access to land.

It is an election year. President Fillmore hopes to be nominated by the Whig Party but so does his Secretary of State Daniel Webster. The Democratic Party, with commanding strength in the South is looking for a Northern man with pro-slavery sentiments. As the year opens the major contenders are Lewis Cass of Michigan, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, Stephen A Douglass of Illinois and William L Marcy of New York. In both parties none of these hopefuls will win the nomination. The Free Soil Party with its anti-slavery stand is the strongest of several small third parties. The Whig Party, founded in 1833 by Webster and Henry Clay, continues to decline as it has since the Compromise of 1850 around the question of slavery. Northern Whigs with anti-slavery convictions will become part of the formation of the Republican Party. Whigs fearing the increasing number of German and Irish immigrants will move to the Know Nothing or American Party as its members preferred to call it. The Know Nothings began as a secret society in New York state and are expressly anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. The Democratic Party has a splinter group within it, the Southern Rights Party, formed in 1851, who favor unlimited expansion of slavery and protection of Southern interests. While most Democrats still favor the Compromise of 1850, there are some who hold the sentiments of the late Senator John C Calhoun of South Carolina (died March 31, 1850) that the South should never compromise on any aspect with the North. Levi Woodbury, a Democrat from New Hampshire who had served as governor of his state, a cabinet officer under two presidents, a U S senator and on the U S Supreme Court since September of 1845, was seen as a moderate Northern man who would be an acceptable presidential candidate to most Southern Democrats, had died on September 4, 1851, forcing his supporters to look for someone else.


The active duty personnel of the United States military consists of 11,376 in the Army, 8,805 in the Navy and 1,168 in the Marine Corps. The size of the Army is down by 76.0% of what it was in 1848 as the war with Mexico was at its height while the Navy is down by 21.6% from that time and the Marine Corps is 1/3 of its size from 1848. Veterans will receive $2,404,000 in pensions.

The federal government will issue 1,014 patents. It will take in $49,847,000 in receipts and spend $44,195,000, leaving a surplus of $5,652,000. The national debt stands at $66,199,000. Of money expended, 20.2% goes for the Navy (including the Marine Corps) and 18.6% for the Army. Approximately 9.0% of spending is for interest on the national debt.

The postal service operates 20,901 post offices which will issue 54,136 stamps. A stamp costs 3 cents. Postal revenue will reach $5,184,000; however, expenditures will amount to $7,108,000. [The 3 cent stamp would equal 96 cents in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.]

News makers this year will include Louis Napoleon, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elisha Graves Otis, W G Fargo, Clement Studebaker, Peter Roget, Robert Schumann.


Aiding Soldiers ~ March 1865 ~ 30th to 31st

Aiding Soldiers

black preacher

black preacher

It seems that slaves are not as happy and satisfied as their masters claimed. They are escaping in droves to Union lines, helping Confederate soldiers to desert and Yankees escaping from Southern prisons back to Federal positions. A modicum of Southern social life continues yet many from each side feel that the end draws near.

March 30– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Alexander, slave of William B. Randolph, of Henrico county, was sent to the city yesterday by General Longstreet, and committed to Castle Thunder, upon the charge of aiding soldiers to desert to the enemy from the Confederate services.” ~ Richmond Sentinel

March 30– Thursday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “I have endured this life for nearly four years and I sometimes think that I enjoy it. Great events are to happen in a few days and I want to be there to see the end. The end of the war will be the end of slavery and then our land will be the ‘Land of the free.’” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

March 30– Thursday– City Point, Virginia– “I begin to feel that I ought to be at home and yet I dislike to leave without seeing nearer to the end of General Grant’s present movement. He has now been out since yesterday morning and although he has not been diverted from his program no considerable effort has yet been produced so far as we know here. Last night at 10.15 P. M. when it was dark as a rainy night without a moon could be, a furious cannonade soon joined in by a heavy musketry fire opened near Petersburg and lasted about two hours. The sound was very distinct here as also were the flashes of the guns up the clouds. It seemed to me a great battle, but the older hands here scarcely noticed it and sure enough this morning it was found that very little had been done.” ~ Telegram from President Lincoln to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

March 30– Thursday– Macon, Georgia– The state legislature has authorized the use of militia on horseback to stop the escape of slaves to Union lines.

March 30– Thursday– Presov, Austrian Empire [now in Slovakia]– Oleksandr Dukhnovych, priest, writer, educator and social activist, dies at age 61.

Oleksandr Dukhnovich

Oleksandr Dukhnovich

March 31– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “The Negroes would always assist the fugitives [Union soldiers escaping from Confederate prisons]; give them food, and pilot them to the best routes. They said that their masters generally offered them $25 reward to betray a Yankee. In spite of this tempting reward, they acted the part of the Good Samaritan in all cases. ‘They are,’ say the officers, ‘as true as steel in all cases.’ Captain Timpson says, while waiting at the banks of the Saluda River, pursued by a pack of hounds, the chivalry mounted on horseback, to the number of fifteen or twenty, armed with shot-guns, pursuing them, the slaves on the opposite shore hearing the baying of the hounds, one of them pushed into a boat, and rowed rapidly across. He knew from the sound of the dogs that they were in pursuit of some Yankee fugitives. The barking of the hounds grew louder and nearer, and the officers feared they would be overtaken and devoured before the boat could reach the shore. The faithful Negro pulled for dear life, took the officers into this boat, and bore them in safety beyond the reach of the men-hunters and their natural allies the bloodhounds, at the risk of his own life. He piloted the officers around the pickets, who were lying in wait for them, by which means they escaped. The slaves said: ‘Our masters curse you all the day, but we pray for you every night.’” ~ The Liberator.


March 31– Friday– New York City– “Sherman’s officers say that their campaign was made possible by the order of the rebel government that corn be planted instead of cotton. . . . They marched through a land of groaning corn cribs and granaries, and their men and their animals entered Savannah in better flesh than when they left Atlanta.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

March 31– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “Raining; rained all night. My health improving, but prudence requires me to still keep within the house. The reports of terrific fighting near Petersburg on Wednesday evening have not been confirmed. Although General Lee’s dispatch shows they were not quite without foundation, I have no doubt there was a false alarm on both sides, and a large amount of ammunition vainly expended. . . .We are sinking our gun-boats at Chaffin’s Bluff, to obstruct the passage of the enemy’s fleet, expected soon to advance.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

March 31– Friday– Albany, Georgia– “Mrs. Callaway gave a large dining, and I wore a pretty new style of head dress Cousin Bessie told me how to make, that was very becoming. It is a small square, about as big as my two hands, made of a piece of black and white lace that ran the blockade, and nobody else has anything like it. One point comes over the forehead, just where the hair is parted, and the opposite one rests on top of the chignon behind, with a bow and ends of white illusion. It has the effect of a Queen of Scots cap, and is very stylish. The dining was rather pleasant. Kate Callaway’s father, Mr. Furlow, was there, with his youngest daughter, Nellie, who is lovely. As we were coming home we passed by a place where the woods were on fire, and were nearly suffocated by the smoke. It was so dense that we could not see across the road. On coming round to the windward of the conflagration it was grand. The smoke and cinders were blown away from us, but we felt the heat of the flames and heard their roaring in the distance. The volumes of red-hot smoke that went up were of every hue, according to the materials burning and the light reflected on them. Some were lurid yellow, orange, red, some a beautiful violet, others lilac, pink, purple or gray, while the very fat lightwood sent up columns of jet-black. The figures of the Negroes, as they flitted about piling up brush heaps and watching the fire on the outskirts of the clearing, reminded me of old-fashioned pictures of the lower regions.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

Dr Anandi Gopal Joshi

Dr Anandi Gopal Joshi

March 31– Friday– Kalyan, India– Birth of Anandi Gopal Joshi, who will become in March, 1886, the first South Asian woman to earn a degree as a physician of Western style medicine and probably the first Hindu woman to come to the United States. [Dies February 26, 1887, shortly after her return to India.]

A Many-sided Field-day ~ March 1865 ~ 24th to 26th

A Many-sided Field-day


Talk of some type of evacuation of Richmond flourishes at many levels. Lee tries a desperate measure to relieve the siege but suffers a bitter loss. Longstreet worries about the number and morale of his soldiers. Whitman visits his brother George home now from a prison camp. Mexico struggles against the French invaders.

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March 24– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “Clear and very windy. The fear of utter famine is now assuming form. Those who have the means are laying up stores for the day of siege– I mean a closer and more rigorous siege– when all communications with the country shall cease; and this makes the commodities scarcer and the prices higher. There is a project on foot to send away some thousands of useless consumers; but how it is to be effected by the city authorities, and where they will be sent to, are questions I have not heard answered. The population of the city is not less than 100,000, and the markets cannot subsist 70,000. Then there is the army in the vicinity, which must be fed. I suppose the poultry and the sheep will be eaten, and something like a pro rata distribution of flour and meal ordered.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

March 24– Friday– Petersburg, Virginia– “I see no cause for despondency; but on the contrary, I think there is great encouragement to hope. Sherman has gone almost unopposed through the most flourishing portions of the Confederacy; but has he conquered the people? True, his progress will have a deleterious effect upon our cause abroad; but tis far from ‘crushing the rebellion.’ The repulse of our Peace Commissioners, has also produced a desirable effect, causing a greater unanimity of feeling to exist among our people than ever before. The ‘Negro’ bill has been passed, and already the Negroes are being put into the field. This will undoubtedly greatly increase our effective force, since the places of many of our troops now occupying the lines around Petersburg and Richmond can be easily filled; but I think this bill unconstitutional and violently antagonistic to the principles for which we are fighting; if however, tis reported to an act of necessity I cheerfully acquiesce. These men being relieved can operate more successfully upon the enemy’s flanks, and soon we would be ready for another foray into Pennsylvania. I know what you will say to this, since you’ve already told me, you were ‘opposed to invasion;’ but I believe that’s the only way to make the Yankees cry ‘enough.’Tis certainly better for us to enter the enemy’s country, and be fed by them, than remain in these detestable ditches poorly provided for, subject to every manner of disease and to death from the many and fiendish invasions of our foe. More men have been lost since we came south of Richmond than in the celebrated battle of Gettysburg. I’m glad to learn that Senator Hill and others are delivering addresses to the people of Georgia; for I am sorry to say I think they need some stimulus to make them do their duty, since they will not do it voluntarily. Now is the times we need their encouragement and their strongest efforts. Why do they withhold it? Surely they do expect to save anything by submission or reconstruction. On the contrary, they will lose everything, not even their home will be spared.” ~ Letters from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee Maggie Cone.

March 24– Friday– Quebec, Canada– Four political leaders are appointed to negotiate Confederation in London.

March 25– Saturday– New York City– “Benito Juarez, President of Mexico, has issued a New Year’s proclamation, dated Chihuahua, in which he urges upon all Mexicans to fight out the question with the [French] invaders. He reiterates his hope that he will triumph in the end. . . . The British army and navy estimates for the year 1865-6 have just been announced. The cost of the army is $71,000,000; of the navy $51,000,000. Total estimates for the military and naval establishments for the coming year, £24,76,671; or, in American currency, $123,703,355.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly.

President Benito Juarez

President Benito Juarez

March 25– Saturday– Vernon County, Wisconsin– The “Claywater Meteorite” explodes just before reaching ground level. Its fragments, having a combined mass of 1.5 kg, are recovered.

March 25– Saturday– Headquarters First Army Corps, Virginia– “The impression prevails amongst the Georgia troops of this command that persons at home having authority to raise local organizations are writing and sending messages to the men in the ranks here, offering inducements to them to quit our ranks and go home and join the home organizations. The large and increasing number of desertions, particularly amongst the Georgia troops, induces me to believe that some such outside influence must be operating upon our men. Nearly all of the parties of deserters seem to go home, and it must be under the influence of some promise, such as being received in the local forces. I would suggest, therefore, the publication of a general order warning all officers or persons authorized to raise local organizations against receiving such deserters or in any way harboring them, and cautioning all such parties that they shall be punished for such crimes under the twenty-second and twenty-third Articles of War. It may be well to publish the articles in the order, and to send the order South to be published in all the Southern papers. If the order is published, I would suggest that copies be sent to the Southern papers by special messenger or by parties going South who will take pains to have it published, otherwise I fear it may miscarry or be delayed by our irregular mails. Another growing evil seems to trouble us now in the shape of applications to raise Negro companies, regiments, brigades, etc. The desire for promotion seems to have taken possession of our army, and it seems that nearly all the officers and men think that they could gain a grade or more if allowed to go home. I presume that many may try to go merely because they get furloughs. I would suggest, therefore, that some regulation be published upon this subject, and it seems to me that it should require the companies to be mustered in as non-commissioned officers and privates by the enrolling officers, and that all of the officers (general, field, and company) shall be selected from the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates on duty with the armies of the Confederacy. If these matters are not speedily taken hold of by a firm hand, I fear that we shall be seriously damaged by them.” ~ Letter from Confederate General James Longstreet to Colonel W. H. Taylor.

General Longstreet

General Longstreet

March 25– Saturday– Petersburg, Virginia– In a desperate attempt to break the siege, Confederate troops launch a heavy attack against a Federal position called Fort Stedman. After day-long fighting, initial Southern success is turned into a defeat. Total casualties– dead, wounded, missing– are approximately 1400 for the Union and almost 4000 for the Confederacy.

March 25– Saturday– City Point, Virginia– “We may indeed call this a many-sided field-day: a break fast with a pleasure party, an assault and a recapture of an entrenched line, a review by the President of a division of infantry, and sharp fighting at sundry points of a front of eighteen miles! If that is not a mixed affair, I would like to know what is? It has been a lucky day, for us, and the 9th Corps, after patient waiting for eight months, have played the game of the ‘Mine’ against their antagonists. The official despatches will give you the main facts very well, but I can add some particulars. About daylight, the enemy having massed three divisions and a part of a fourth, made a sudden rush and carried Fort Stedman and about half a mile of line commanded by it. The garrisons of the forts on either side stood firm, however, and repelled a severe attack with much injury to the enemy. Meantime, General Parke had ordered that the works should be retaken, if it cost every man in the Corps; and all the scattered regiments immediately at hand were put in and checked a further advance, until General Hartranft (I m not sure about the spelling of his name) brought up the 3rd division, which had been camped in reserve. He person ally led in one brigade of it, with conspicuous gallantry, retook the whole portion lost, and captured, at one swoop, 1800 Rebels. It was just the ‘Mine,’ turned the other way: they got caught in there and could not get out. Their loss also in killed and wounded must have been severe, not only from musketry, but also from canister, which was thrown into a ravine by which they retreated. Upwards of a hundred Rebel dead lay in and round Fort Stedman alone. Our own losses in the 9th Corps will be somewhat over 800, half of whom may be reckoned prisoners, taken in the first surprise. I should guess the loss of their opponents as not less than 2600.” ~ Letter from Union officer Theodore Lyman to his wife Elizabeth.

interior section of Fort Stedman

interior section of Fort Stedman

March 25– Saturday– Mobile, Alabama– Federal forces begin a siege of the city.

March 26– Sunday– Brooklyn, New York– “I write a few lines to tell you how I find the folks at home. Both my mother & brother George looked much better than I expected. Mother is quite well, considering– she goes about her household affairs pretty much the same as ever, & is cheerful. My brother would be in what I would almost call fair condition, if it were not that his legs are affected– it seems to me it is rheumatism, following the fever he had– but I don’t know. He goes to bed quite sleepy & falls to sleep– but then soon wakes, & frequently little or no more sleep that night– he most always leaves the bed, & comes downstairs, & passes the night on the sofa. He goes out most every day though some days has to lay by. He is going to report to Annapolis promptly when his furlough is up. I told him I had no doubt I could get it extended, but he does not wish it. He says little, but is in first rate spirits. I am feeling finely & never enjoyed a visit home more than I am doing this. I find myself perplexed about printing my book. All the printers tell me I could not pick a more inopportune time– that in ten days prices of paper, composition &c will all be very much lower &c. I shall decide tomorrow.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his friends William D. and Ellen M. O’Connor.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

March 26– Sunday– Staunton, Virginia– “I am still at the Hotel & keeping it open. I have been trying hard to make some disposition of it but it seems impossible to do it & I fear the only way to save it until after the war is for me to keep it open & don’t know now who to get in it & for the present will have to stay here myself. Sometimes I think it best for you to come out here & live & when I think of the risk of all of our property I hesitate & can’t decide what is best for us all round but I think it will not be long until we will be able to judge more fully what is best & what to do. I assure you I am very anxious to be with you but I can’t ask you to abandon home with all its comforts to come here with me for my own comfort & pleasure & of course I have concluded to try & stand it longer.” ~ Letter from John Quincy Nadenbousch to his wife Hester.

March 26– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– “I fear now it will be impossible to prevent a junction between Grant and Sherman, nor do I deem it prudent that this army should maintain its position until the latter shall approach too near.” ~ Message from Confederate General Robert E Lee to President Jeff Davis.

General Lee

General Lee

March 26– Sunday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “I feel it my duty this pleasant Sabbath Evening to Inform you that I just came from the hospital from seeing your husband and he requested me to write you a letter to let you know how he was and what had happened him. The Rebs did make a break in through the picket line about one mile from this yesterday morning and we was called out about 5 o’clock and about 6 o’clock we was in line of battle in front of the enemy and we had just gave them two volleys when Sylvester and I was both wounded. Sylvester is wounded through the leg but I guess the bone is not fractured any at least he thinks so. He was in very good spirits to day and I think that it wont be sore very long. I got a slight tap through one of my fingers on the left hand. Mine is a very light wound but it is pretty sore to day. Sylvester was taken to the Hospital just shortly after he was wounded and I came back to camp. There was eight wounded in our Company and one killed. The rest of the boys are all out yet lying at the breast works. There was some of them had to go on picket last night but they will come in this evening but we drove the rebs back and they loosed a good many men. They had taken two or three of our forts before we got to them but we soon took them all back and the report is that we took fifteen hundred prisoners. There was over three hundred of the rebs killed and our loss don’t exceed more than three hundred killed wounded and missing. . . . Old General Lee told his men that they would go to City Point again . . . when they started but the old fellow missed that game . . . . Well I must soon bring my scribbling to a close for I will have to get at and get supper.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Jacob Shearer to Harriet A. McElheney.

My Army Is Dirty, Ragged and Saucy ~ March 1865 ~ 22nd to 24th

My Army Is Dirty, Ragged and Saucy

General Sherman

General Sherman

General Sherman boasts in a letter to his wife. His boast is justified. As he pushes up from North Carolina, he and Grant move closer to catching Lee’s dwindling Confederate force in a powerful vice. As part of list ditch measures, the Confederacy tries to rapidly mobilize black soldiers. Radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, whose newspaper antagonized the South and poked the consciences of the North for decades, announces that his paper will cease publication. It is the end of an era.


March 22– Wednesday– Albany, Georgia– “Up very early and drove to the depot with Mecca. Mr. Godfrey was there and proposed that we should go as far as Smithville with her, and let him drive me out home in the afternoon, but the roads are so bad and the weather so uncertain that I thought I had better go back with sister. The journey was the worst we have made yet. We bogged at one place and had to wade through the mud while Aby helped the mules to pull the carriage over. At Wright’s Creek we found a crowd of soldiers and countrymen on the bank, and they told us the creek was too high to cross. Some of them were exchanged prisoners impatient to get home, and they had determined to swim over. They stood on the bank with bare legs, ready to strip off and plunge in the moment our backs were turned. I couldn’t help being amused at the nonchalance with which one burly fellow pulled off his stockings and commenced playing with his toes while talking to us. Another, wishing to call sister’s attention to the water-mark, grabbed her by the arm and led her down the bank, saying: ‘See this here stick here, where the water has already begun to fall, an hit’ll fall a heap rapider the next hour or two.’ They meant no harm. These are unceremonious times, when social distinctions are forgotten and the raggedest rebel that tramps the road in his country’s service is entitled to more honor than a king. We stood on the bank a long time, talking with the poor fellows and listening to their adventures. There was one old man standing on the shore, gazing across as wistfully as Moses might have looked towards the promised land. He could not swim, but his home was over there, and he had made up his mind to plunge in and try to cross at any risk. The soldiers saluted him with a few rough jokes, and then showed their real metal by mounting him on the back of the strongest of them, who waded in with his burden, while two others swam along on each side to give help in case of accident. Sister and I thought at first of getting General Dahlgren to send us across in his pleasure boat, but soon gave up the idea and concluded to stay at the Mallarys till the creek became fordable, for we knew it would fall as rapidly as it had risen. We bid our soldier friends good-by, and drove away to the Mallarys, where we spent a pleasant day and night. General and Mrs. Dahlgren called after dinner and said that we ought to have stopped with them. Mrs. Dahlgren is a beautiful woman, and only twenty-two years old, while her husband is over sixty. He is a pompous old fellow and entertained us by telling how his influence made General Joseph E. Johnston commander-in-chief of the Army of Tennessee; how Hood lost Atlanta by not following his advice; how he was the real inventor of the Dahlgren gun, which is generally attributed to his brother, the Yankee admiral , and so on.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

Eliza Frances Andrews

Eliza Frances Andrews

March 23– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The President has gone to the front, partly to get rid of the throng that is pressing upon him, though there are speculations of a different character. He makes his office much more laborious than he should. Does not generalize and takes upon himself questions that properly belong to the Departments, often causing derangement and irregularity. The more he yields, the greater the pressure upon him. It has now become such that he is compelled to flee. There is no doubt he is much worn down ; besides he wishes the War terminated, and, to this end, that severe terms shall not be exacted of the Rebels.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

March 23– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “4. The enlistment of colored persons under this act will be made upon printed forms, to be furnished for the purpose, similar to those established for the regular service. They will be executed in duplicate, one copy to be returned to this office for file. No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far as he may, the rights of a freedman, and which will be filed with the superintendent. The enlistments will be made for the war, and the effect of the enlistment will be to place the slave in the military service conformably to this act. The recruits will be organized at the camps in squads and companies, and will be subject to the order of the General-in-Chief under the second section of this act. 5. The superintendent in each State will cause a report to be made on the first Monday of every month showing the expenses of the previous month, the number of recruits at the various depots in the State, the number that has been sent away, and the destination of each. His report will show the names of all the slaves recruited, with their age, description, and the names of their masters. One copy will be sent to the General-in-Chief and one to the adjutant and Inspector General. 6. The appointment of officers to the companies to be formed of the recruits aforesaid will be made by the President. 7. To facilitate the raising of volunteer companies, officers recruiting therefor are authorized to muster their men into service as soon as enrolled. As soon as enrolled and mustered, the men will be sent, with descriptive lists, to the depots of rendezvous, at which they will be instructed until assigned for service in the field. When the organization of any company remains incomplete at the expiration of the time specified for its organization, the companies or detachments already mustered into service will be assigned to other organizations at the discretion of the General-in-Chief.” ~ Directive for the enlistment of black soldiers issued by Inspector General Cooper.


March 23– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Yesterday afternoon the Camps Winder and Jackson battalion paraded on the Capitol Square. In the battalion were two companies of Negroes (not uniformed), which were made up from the Negroes employed about the hospitals. They are not, we believe, in the Confederate military service. In marked contrast to the appearance of these Negroes was that of a squad of Major Turner’s colored troops, neatly uniformed, and showing a good soldierly carriage. These regulars had gone up to look at their colored brethren. Volunteering would be much encouraged by the parade of Major Turner’s men, which will, we hope, soon take place.” ~ Richmond Dispatch.

March 23– Thursday– Goldsboro, North Carolina– “I wrote you from Fayetteville. On our way thence the enemy struck our left flank and I turned on him and after three days maneuvering and fighting defeated him and drove him off towards Raleigh. The fight was near Bentonsville, 20 miles from here on the south side of the Neuse in the direction of Smithfield. I got here to-day and all the army will be in by to-morrow. Thus have I brought the army from Savannah in good order, beaten the enemy wherever he attempted to oppose our progress, and made junction with Schofield and Terry from Newbern and Wilmington on the 21st, one day later than I had appointed before leaving Savannah. It is far more difficult and important than the Savannah march. Besides the immediate results we have forced the Rebels to abandon the whole sea coast. . . . I have no doubt that you will be sufficiently gratified to know that I have eminently succeeded in this last venture, and will trust to luck that in the next still more hazardous I will be again favored. I don’t believe anything has tended more to break the pride of the South than my steady persistent progress. My army is dirty, ragged and saucy. I have promised them rest, clothing and food, but the railroads have not been completed as I expected and I fear we may be troubled thereby. I am just informed that the telegraph line is finished from the sea to this place, so our lines of communication will be shortened. Strange to say we are all in fine health and condition, only a little blackened by the pine smoke of our camp fires. I would like to march this army through New York just as it appears today, with its wagons, pack mules, cattle, Negroes and bummers, and I think they would make a more attractive show than your [Sanitary] fair.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to his wife Ellen.

Ellen Sherman

Ellen Sherman

March 24– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “It is true that we have concluded to discontinue the Liberator at the close of the present year, which will complete its Thirty-fifth volume. As we commenced its publication for the express purpose of effecting the extinction of slavery, and as that sublime event has been consummated by a constitutional decree of the nation, so that henceforth no salve is to beheld within the domains of the American Union, it seems to us historically fitting that the Liberator should simply cover the whole period of the struggle, and terminate with it. Unless, therefore, something should occur beyond our present belief or anticipation to make it necessary to change our decision, we shall not prolong the existence of the paper beyond this Year of Jubilee; and have instructed our General Agent to take no subscription for a longer period. This is not the occasion for us to say all that such a conclusion naturally suggests. Let it be deferred till the time is at hand. On many accounts, we shall regret to discontinue a paper which has cost us so much of trial and fiery persecution, experienced so many vicissitudes, wrought out such results, afforded us such opportunities to test the spirit of the age, attracted to its support such pure-minded and noble spirits, and absorbed the larger portion of our earthly life. But this will not necessarily sunder our connection with the press, nor prevent our publishing another journal, under a new title, and for other reformatory purposes. Whether we shall retire altogether, or commence anew in the manner suggested, we leave it for Divine Providence to determine. If nearly forty years of editorial service (begun when we were only twenty years of age) have made it ‘as second nature,’ and if we should feel out of our element divorced from that service, still, with advancing years, we confess that, ‘though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak;’ and that something of repose and seclusion is coveted by us, in order to recuperate both mind and body. Yet let not those whose cause we espoused when all was dark and desperate, and the whole weight of the nation was brought to crush us– in whose behalf we have periled all that is dear to man, through a whole generation of conflict– whose chains are now happily broken, whose reproach is fast passing away, and whose future is now one of glorious promise– imagine, for one moment, that we shall ever grow weary in maintaining their rights, or consent to any abatement of their claims to ‘liberty, equality, fraternity.’ We have always made, and shall continue to make, their case our own. It was not on account of their complexion that we gave them our sympathy and advocacy, but because they were members of one great human family, endowed by their Creator with the same attributes and prerogatives, and destined to the same immortality as all other races; and, therefore, their enslavement was a blow struck at the liberties of mankind. We claimed for them, at the outset, all of justice and fair-dealing; and we have never since claimed anything less. . . . They can firmly demand whatever is yet wrongfully withheld from them, and still be neither factious nor insolent. They can protest against bring victimized in any direction on account of their complexion, and yet be filled with thanksgiving that such mighty changes have taken place in their favor in so short a time. There is now, very generally, a deep sympathy and a warm-hearted interest in their condition as a people; and a growing purpose to make, as far as practicable, atonement for the past, and to give security for the future. What contributions are made, what labors put forth, what means of enlightenment provided, what sacrifices offered, in behalf of the millions who are coming out of the Southern house of bondage! Is not all this as wonderful as it is cause for joy and gratitude? Let there be no revulsion in this tide of benevolent feeling caused by any unseemly behavior or unreasonable fault-finding; but let it be rejoicingly taken at its flood, and accepted as the harbinger of complete enfranchisement at no distant day.” ~ The Liberator.

William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison

February’s Frustrations–Part the Second–1862

The frustrations of February continue throughout the month. The Lincoln family mourns the death of a 12 year old son. The Confederacy endures the loss both of Fort Donelson and the city of Nashville. Union forces fail to stop a Confederate move against Santa Fe. West Virginia moves closer to statehood by adopting a state constitution but bans African Americans. Officials of the Sanitary Commission complain about a lack of governmental and military support. [The Sanitary Commission was a private relief organization intended to provide help to individual Union soldiers and to Union hospitals caring for the wounded and sick.] Anti-British sentiment continues in the North, despite the resolution of the messy Trent business. Mexico fails to gain help in solving its debt crisis or stopping European intervention. The Filipino people lose a great, elderly poet. As the month draws to a close, Yankees from New York businessmen to soldiers in the ranks wonder if the Army of the Potomac will begin to move as the weather warms. Northerners find cheer in their new hero– General “Unconditional Surrender” Grant while aside from the American Civil War life around the world moves on in a mysterious cycle of life and death.

February 13– Thursday– near Dover, Tennessee– Despite the mild weather turning into rain and sleet with temperatures falling to 10 degrees F by night, Union land and naval forces commence bombardment of Fort Donelson.

Harpers Weekly shows Union gunboats moving in support of Grant

February 13– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia–The West Virginia Constitutional Convention adopts a provision banning any slave or free person of color from settling in the new state.

February 15– Saturday– near Dover, Tennessee– In an attempt to break the siege, Confederate forces sally forth from Fort Donelson. In a bitter day long fight in cold weather the Confederates gain some ground but are driven back into the fort by nightfall. By that time 44 year old “Mother” Mary Ann Bickerdyke, self-appointed nurse and hospital “administrator,” is taking care of wounded men in an improvised field hospital. Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest flee southeast rather than surrender. Two Confederate generals do likewise.

"Mother" Bickerdyke, hero to wounded soldiers

February16– Sunday– near Dover, Tennessee– After three days of hard fighting, the Confederate commander of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River asks General Grant for terms of surrender. Grant replies, “No terms except an immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted.” Low on ammunition and food and having suffered heavy losses, the Confederates surrender. Grant takes 12,000 prisoners. Battle casualties for the last three days are heavy on both sides: 2,832 Union killed, wounded and missing and approximately 1,500 Confederate dead, injured or missing.. Grant wins an important Union victory and opens an attempt to split the Confederacy into eastern and western parts.

February 17– Monday– Tsuwano, Japan– Birth of Mori Ougai, novelist, poet, editor and physician.

Mori Ougai in adult life, 1911

February 18– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong complains in the pages of his diary about the apparent lack of support from President Lincoln, Secretary of War Stanton and General McClellan for the work of the Sanitary Commission. “We cannot go on asking the community to sustain us with money as an advisory government organ after six months’ experience like this.”

February 18– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia–For the first time the Congress of the Confederate States of America convenes.

February 18– Tuesday– Wheeling, West Virginia–The West Virginia Constitutional Convention finishes three months of work and adopts the first constitution for the proposed new state of West Virginia.

February 19– Wednesday– Vilnius, Russia– Birth of Lev Kekushev, architect who will design a number of art nouveau buildings in Moscow during the 25 years before the outbreak of the First World War.

February 19– Wednesday–New York City– Discussing General Grant’s demand for the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson, the New York Times declares, “let the insurgents understand that we are not sacrificing our brothers by the thousands and our money by the millions for the sake of having knightly passage at arms with them.” The North’s sole objective must be “the absolute submission of the culprits.”

February 20– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Willie Lincoln, 12-year-old son of President Lincoln, dies from typhoid fever.

February 20– Thursday– Nashville, Tennessee– Worried by the Federal advance after the capture of Fort Donelson, Confederate authorities announce that the state capital is being moved to Memphis.

February 20– Thursday– Udyong, Bataan, the Philippines– Francisco Baltazar y de la Cruz, whose nom-de-plume is Francisco Balatagos, dies at age 73. He is considered an important poet in the development of Filipino literature.

February 21– Friday–New York City– Federal authorities hang Nathaniel P Gordon, an American sea captain, for engaging in African slave trade. George Templeton Strong writes in his diary of the execution that “our unprecedented execution of justice on a criminal of this particular class and at this particular time will do us good abroad, perhaps with the pharisaical shop-keepers and bagmen of England itself.”

February 21– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– Today’s Liberator reports on the activities of J Sella Martin, 29 years of age, who escaped from slavery in the deep South six years ago and is now an ordained Baptist minister. “Rev. J. Sella Martin, of this city, was well received in England, where he was engaged in upholding the Union cause. He has done more for that cause in England than has been done by any white American, and the English naturally listen to him more readily than they would to white men, most of the latter not speaking adversely to slavery.”

February 21– Friday– Valverde, New Mexico Territory– In a vain attempt to stop a Confederate advance on Santa Fe, a Union force attacks a Confederate column but is repulsed. The Federal losses total 263 dead, wounded and missing while the Confederate casualties amount to 186 dead, wounded and missing.

 February 22– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– On the 130th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the first President of the Confederate States of America. Alexander Stephens is inaugurated Vice President.

February 22– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Because of the death of his son President Lincoln does not attend the Washington’s Birthday celebration at the Capitol Building. He has authorized Dr Charles D Brown to perform the relatively new process of embalming on Willie’s body and this evening the boy’s body lies in state in the Green Room at the White House.

February 22– Saturday– New York City– Today’s issue of Harper’s Weekly gives vent to on-going anti-British sentiment in the Northern states. “The apprehensions of foreign intervention, to which we referred last week, were revived a day or two since, first by an alarming letter from Mr Thurlow Weed and subsequently by dispatches from the reporter of the Associated Press, asserting that Napoleon was about to interfere and raise the blockade, with or without the assistance of England. Those false reports are happily set at rest by Napoleon’s speech to the Chambers [of Deputies] on 27th [of January], in which he stated positively that, so long as the rights of neutrals were respected, France would confine itself to the earnest wish that the dissensions in the United States would be speedily brought to a close. Is it too much to hope that our gullible fellow-citizens will be on their guard hereafter against the monstrous lies of the British newspapers? These foreign writers, and among them we must, we fear, class the European correspondent of the New York Associated Press, have deliberately and systematically misrepresented European, and especially French sentiment ever since the war broke out: seeming to labor, if not in reality laboring, in the interest and for the comfort of the Southern rebels. They have been convicted of falsehood as often as Dr Russell [William Russell, correspondent from the Times of London, seen in the North as a rebel sympathizer] has been convicted of blundering. Yet every fresh canard which they choose to publish sends a thrill through the nerves of our people. When shall we begin to understand them?”

?”February 22– Saturday– Stange, Norway– Birth of Karen Hulda Bergersen Garborg, author, poet, playwright, educator, women’s rights activist and advocate for the preservation of traditional Norwegian dress, cooking and folk-dancing.

February 24– Monday– Sore, Denmark– Bernhard Ingemann, novelist, port and hymn writer, dies at age 62. His works for children challenge Hans Christian Anderson in period popularity among the Danes.

February 25– Tuesday– Nashville, Tennessee–Federal forces occupy the city without bloodshed as most Confederate forces have moved out. This is the first Confederate state capital to fall into Union hands.

February 25– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In Congress, the Senate defeats a measure to lend Mexico enough money to pay the Mexican debt to European powers.

February 25– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– In a message to the Confederate Congress, President Davis writes of recent “serious disasters” and asks for a strengthening of Confederate forces.

February 25– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina–Southern socialite Mary Chesnut comments in her diary. “They have taken at Nashvillemore men than we had at Manassas; there was bad handling of troops, we poor women think, or this would not be. Mr. Venable added bitterly, ‘Giving up our soldiers to the enemy means giving up the cause. We can not replace them.’”

February 25– Tuesday– Lima, Peru–U S Minister Robinson reports to Secretary of State Seward that the president of Peru told him that the struggle in Mexico is like the French Revolution, “a war of the crowns against the Liberty Caps.” However, he expressed his certainty to Minister Robinson that the people will prevail over the imperial powers.

Army of the Potomac stuck in the mud, Harpers Weekly

February 26– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– In his journal Elisha Hunt Rhodes of Rhode Island notes that “Rumors of movement are plenty. . . . In the evening I attended a fair on 20th Street held by a Methodist church . . . and I went home with some young ladies.”

February 27– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes a hint of possible activity by General McClellan. “Two significant advertisements in last night’s papers from two steamboat lines. They discontinue their trips for the present, because the government has engaged all their vessels. For the Potomac?”

Opera star, Pauline Gueymard-Lauters in costume

February 28– Friday– Paris, France– The opera La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba) by Charles Gounod premieres at the Paris Opera House with the 27 year old Belgian soprano Pauline Gueymard-Lauters singing the role of the queen.

Happy Yuletide!

A happy and joyous Yuletide to you! I am a believer in the old traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the series of festive days beginning Christmas Day (the 25th of December) and running to January 6th the traditional observation of the visit of the Magi. This period is also known as Christmastide, Yuletide or Twelvetide. That’s what the gift giving is about in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas–you know, French hens, golden rings and dancers and all. As I write this on the Ninth Day of Christmas I have Christmas music playing, loudly and happily. I try to ignore it in the stores and on the radio from Halloween to Christmas. After that you don’t hear it publicly or on the radio but I enjoy such music all through Christmastide and Epiphany. In this regard, I am terribly old-fashioned. How old-fashioned you ask? Oh, just medieval England old-fashioned.

Traditionally the Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of January 5th but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night. In medieval England this period was one of almost constant merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night became increasingly popular with William Shakespeare’s stage play entitled Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. Some of these traditions were adapted from older European customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide. Some roles and practices traditionally include the mocking of authority and the principal male lead in skits, dances and pantomime played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or “Dame”, is played by a man.

The Epiphany season is the liturgical period following the Christmas season. It begins on the day of Epiphany, and ends at various points depending on usage by various Christian denominations. In the Anglican, Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the Epiphany season begins at Evening Prayer on the Eve of the Epiphany (which may be celebrated on January 6th or the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th ) and ends at Evening Prayer (or Night Prayer) on the Feast of the Presentation (which may be celebrated on February 2nd or on the Sunday between January 28th and February 3rd ). The Epiphany season is seen as a continuation of the Christmas season, and together they last forty days. The three events in main focus during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’s miracle at the marriage at Cana. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity.

As a gift this evening I offer the following Carol for New Year’s Day from a black-letter collection printed in 1642. If you want to sing it, the music is Green Sleeves. You have to imagine harpsichord or viola or lute.

The old year now away is fled,

The new year it is entered;

Then let us now our sins down tread,

And joyfully all appear.

Let’s merry be this holiday,

And let us run with sport and play,

Hang sorrow, let’s cast care away—

God send you a happy new year.


And now with new year’s gifts each friend

Unto each other they do send;

God grant we may our lives amend,

And that the truth may appear.

Now like the snake east off your skin

Of evil thoughts and wicked sin

And to amend this new year begin—

God send us a merry new year.


And now let all the company

In friendly manner all agree,

For we are here welcome all may see

Unto this jolly good cheer.

I thank my master and my dame,

The which are founders of the same,

To eat to drink now is no shame—

God send us a merry new year.


Come lads and lasses every one,

Jack, Tom, Dick, Bess, Mary, and Joan,

Let’s cut the meat unto the bone,

For welcome you need not fear.

And here for good liquor we shall not lack,

It will whet my brains and strengthen my back,

This jolly good cheer it must go to wrack—

God send us a merry new year.


Come, give us more liquor when I do call,

I’ll drink to each one in this hall,

I hope that so loud I must not-bawl,

But unto me lend an ear.

Good fortune to my master send,

And to my dame which is our friend,

God bless us all, and so I end—

And God send us a happy new year.


October’s Obstacles

October 1861 brings no hope of speedy resolution of the six month old conflict. President Lincoln deals deftly with Muslims and with Catholics. In the North the debate about emancipation of slaves continues. Confederate emissaries Mason and Slidell begin their journey to Europe and the international incident which will threaten war between the United States and Great Britain. A prestigious journal rejects Whitman’s poems. Anti-Semitic feeling raises its ugly head in the Confederate War Department. An upstart Union general antagonizes an old war horse. Confederate forces win another battle. Replaced by transcontinental telegraph service the Pony Express goes out of business. And a Russian anarchist arrives for a short stay in the United States.

 October 1–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Helped by Senator Charles Sumner, the publishing house of Walker, Wise and Company publishes The Rejected Stone, or Insurrection versus Resurrection in Americaby Moncure Daniel Conway, a twenty-nine year old abolitionist minister, originally from a slave-holding family in Virginia. In his book Conway presents a powerful and thoughtful argument detailing the necessity of emancipation.

Moncure Daniel Conway


October 2–Wednesday–Washington–President Lincoln sends a letter to Abd ul Aziz Khan, who succeeded his brother on the throne of the Ottoman Empire when the brother, Abd ul Mejid Khan, died back on June 25th of this year. Lincoln sends his regrets and best wishes. “Permit me also to assure Your Majesty of my constant and earnest desire to maintain the amity and good correspondence which have always subsisted and still prevail between the two nations, and that nothing shall be omitted on my part to cultivate and promote the friendly sentiments always entertained and cherished by this Government in its relations with His late Majesty. And so I recommend Your Majesty to the protection of the Almighty.”

October 3–Thursday–London–Britain, France and Spain sign a treaty agreeing to undertake joint military operations to collect debts from Mexico.

October 4–Friday–The U S Navy awards a contract to John Ericson to build an iron-clad warship, a “Monitor.”

October 4-Washington–General Winfield Scott writes to Secretary of War Simon Cameron, complaining of the General McClellan’s conduct. “He, however, had hardly entered upon his new duties, when, encouraged to communicate directly with the President and certain members of the Cabinet, has in a few days forgot that he had any intermediate commander, and has now long prided himself in treating me with uniform neglect, running into disobedience of orders of the smaller matters – neglects, though, in themselves, grave military offenses.”

October 4–Canton, New York–Birth of Frederic S. Remington, American artist and sculptor who will become famous for his art about the American West.

October 5–Sunday–London–In an editorial, the London Post expresses support for an independent “Southern Nation” in North America and urges Her Majesty’s Government to support the Confederacy.

October 8–Tuesday–General William Tecumseh Sherman replaces General Robert Anderson as commander of Union forces in the Department of the Cumberland.

October 9–Wednesday–Washington–The President’s Cabinet meets in special session tonight to hear a report by General McClellan on army readiness and operational plans.

Walt Whitman

October 10–Thursday–Boston, Massachusetts–The editors of The Atlantic Monthly send a rejection letter to Walt Whitman of Brooklyn, New York. “We beg to inclose to your address, in two envelopes, the three poems with which you have favored us, but which we could not possibly use before their interest, which is of the present, would have passed.”

October 11–Friday-Washington–President Lincoln writes to Mohammed Said Pacha, Viceroy of Egypt concerning the treatment of an employee of some American missionaries.”Great and Good Friend: I have received from Mr. Thayer, Consul General of the United States at Alexandria, a full account of the liberal, enlightened and energetic proceedings which, on his complaint, you have adopted in bringing to speedy and condign punishment the parties, subjects of Your Highness in Upper Egypt, who were concerned in an act of cruel persecution against Faris, an agent of certain Christian missionaries in Upper Egypt. I pray Your Highness to be assured that those proceedings, at once so prompt and so just, will be regarded as a new and unmistakable proof equally of Your Highness’ friendship for the United States, and of the firmness, integrity and wisdom with which the Government of Your Highness is conducted.”

October 12–Saturday–Charleston, South Carlina–The Theodora leaves Charleston Harbor for Havana, Cuba. On board are the Confederate commissioners to England (James Mason) and France (John Slidell).

October 13–Sunday–Danish West Indies–The U S warship San Jacinto, under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, arrives in St Thomas on its way home from duty on the African coast where it was looking for slave ships.

Captain Charles Wilkes, USN

October 14–Monday–Secretary of War Cameron authorizes General William Tecumseh Sherman to organize and arm fugitive slaves if Sherman deems it necessary for his operations.

October 15–Tuesday–San Francisco, California—Mikhail Bakunin, Russian revolutionary and anarchist, arrives in the United States.


Michael Bakunin

October 16–Wednesday–Cuba–Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell arrive to take transit to England on a British ship. Captain Wilkes of the San Jacinto also arrives in Cuba and learns from local informants and newspapers that the Confederate commissioners will depart from Cuba on November 7th on a British ship.

October 16–Clontibret, Ireland–Birth of J B Bury, Irish historian, classical scholar, and philologist.

October 17–Thursday–Washington–President Lincoln hosts Thomas Clay, son of Henry Clay, and several other Kentuckians as dinner guests.

October 18–Friday–Boston, Massachusetts-Today The Liberator lists the total number of colored persons in the New England States, based on last year’s census. In all of the New England states, 24,141 in total, of whom 9,454 live in Massachusetts.

October 20–Suday–Berlin, Germany–Birth of Maximilian Harden, influential German journalist and editor.

October 21–Monday–Virginia–In a decisive victory at Ball’s Bluff, Confederate forces defeat Union forces of almost equal numerical strength, inflicting heavy casualties. Union losses total 921, dead, wounded and missing, while the Confederates lose about 155 total, dead, wounded and missing.

October 21–Washington–President Lincoln contacts the Roman Catholic Archbishop Hughes of New York regarding chaplains for military hospitals. He writes, “Rt. Rev. Sir: I am sure you will pardon me if, in my ignorance, I do not address [you] with technical correctness. I find no law authorizing the appointment of Chaplains for our hospitals; and yet the services of chaplains are more needed, perhaps, in the hospitals, than with the healthy soldiers in the field. With this view, I have given a sort of quasi appointment, (a copy of which I inclose) to each of three protestant ministers, who have accepted, and entered upon the duties. If you perceive no objection, I will thank you to give me the name or names of one or more suitable persons of the Catholic Church, to whom I may with propriety, tender the same service. Many thanks for your kind, and judicious letters to Gov. Seward, and which he regularly allows me both the pleasure and the profit of perusing.”

October 24–Thursday–Western Union completes the final segment of the transcontinental telegraph from Denver, Colorado to Sacramento, California. The Sacramento office sends the first transcontinental telegram to President Lincoln in Washington.


Romanticized Pony Express rider

October 24–Washington–President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, attend the funeral of Colonel Edward D. Baker, who died three days ago, during the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia. At the time of his death, Baker served as a U.S. Senator from Oregon. Some years before, he practiced law in Springfield, Illinois, where he became a good friend to Lincoln. Lincoln named his second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, in Baker’s honor.

October 24–West Virginia–In a controversial election, a significant number of voters come out in favor of creating a new state as spelled out by the Wheeling Convention.

October 25–Friday–Berlin, Germany–Death of Friedrich Carl von Savigny, age 82, one of Europe’s most respected and influential 19th century jurists and historians.

October 26–Saturday–The Pony Express announces its closure. Since it began operations in April, 1860, the operation has lost about $200,000 and is now surpassed in speed by the transcontinental telegraph.

October 27–Sunday–Richmond–John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the War Department of the Confederacy complains to the pages of his diary. “Still the Jews are going out of the country and returning at pleasure. They deplete the Confederacy of coin, and sell their goods at 500 per cent profit. They pay no duty . . . . The press everywhere is thundering against the insane policy of permitting all who avow themselves enemies to return to the North . . . . I tremble when I reflect that those who made the present government, and the one to succeed it, did not represent one-third of the people composing the inhabitants of the Confederate States.”

October 29–Tuesday-Near Pilot Knob, Missouri–A Union infantryman named Horace writes to his mother, describing the rebel forces encountered in a recent fight. “I went on the battlefield as I said and can say for sure that the rebels are not half clad. The were most all in shirt sleeves, with no uniforms at all. Some with caps, some with hats and all poor ones at that. Why I never saw a lot of threshers but what looked more like soldiers than they. They were armed with every variety of arms imaginable. They were, it is said, 5000 strong; 1500 cavalry, that run in every direction at the first volley from our troops.”

October 30–Wednesday–Chambersburg, Pennsylvania–Today’s issue of The Valley Spirit attacks General Fremont and the idea of emancipation. “A proclamation of emancipation by the President would not be worth the paper on which it is written in assisting our armies to victory. It is necessary to whip the rebel armies before we can reach the slaves–and after we do whip their armies the supposed necessity for arming their slaves would no longer exist. Emancipation as the means of subduing rebellion is sheer humbug. . . . The whole agitation of this subject is a practical absurdity, as irrational as all the theories of the crazy Abolitionists. But they are never easy unless plotting some sort of mischief. Happily the Government turns a deaf ear to their outcries. We have no idea that the policy of emancipation will be attempted and have therefore confined ourselves to exposing its utter folly and absurdity as a means of suppressing rebellion.”

October 31–Thursday–President Lincoln relieves the elderly General Winfield Scott from duty as Supreme Commander of the United States Army.

91 or 72 Equal (Rights) 19



It was twenty years ago today,

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

They’ve been going in and out of style,

But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.

So may I introduce to you

The act you’ve known for all these years

Sgt. Pepper’s lonely hearts club band.

–The Beatles

 Actually, it was 91 years ago today that enough states ratified the proposed Nineteenth Amendment to the constitution of the United States that it came into effect. Its language is simple:

 XIX–Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.

“Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

 The process was established in Article V of the constitution as drafted in 1787. “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution, or on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”

 With forty-eight states in the Union in 1920, Article V required ratification by thirty-six states to add the amendment to the constitution. That 36th state ratifying it was Tennessee, on August 18, 1920. And it had been 72 years since Elizabeth Cady Stanton had taught the band of suffragists to first sing at Seneca Falls. Suffrage was not the main focus of the convention. Indeed, Lucretia Mott and others present at Seneca Falls worried that adding the suffrage issue would hurt the cause of women. It was the eloquent speech of Frederick Douglass which moved the convention to accept Stanton’s full “Declaration of Sentiments” which included the demand for the right to vote.

 In the thirteen years between the Seneca Falls Convention and the outbreak of the Civil War, agitation for woman suffrage advanced slowly, then came to a standstill as the nation dealt with secession. The woman suffrage movement took hold after the war, during the period of Reconstruction (1865 to 1877). In this period, women’s rights leaders advocated for the inclusion of universal suffrage as a civil right in the Reconstruction amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments). However, the issue fractured the antebellum alliance between women and men in the abolitionist movement. When the Fifteenth Amendment enfranchised only African-American men, some women opposed the adoption of it. Males such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, while continuing to support civil rights, including suffrage, for women, took the position that “a half of a loaf is better than none.” Some women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton took the position that upper-class, educated white women were better qualified to vote than black men and illiterate European immigrant men. And women who favored suffrage divided–sometimes bitterly–among themselves on whether to demand an amendment to the U S constitution or to fight state-by-state to gain voting rights or to concentrate on other issues such as working conditions and changes in divorce laws and put suffrage on the back burner or to concentrate solely on suffrage as they figured once women could vote they could gain the full exercise of other civil rights.


Lucy Stone

Two rival organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), formed in 1869. Some prominent leaders in the movement, including Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, argued strongly against Stanton’s “all or nothing” position. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was founded in May 1869 by Susan B Anthony and Stanton, who served as its president for 21 years. The NWSA opposed passage of the Fifteenth Amendment without changes to include female suffrage and, under Stanton’s influence in particular, championed a number of other issues deemed too radical by more conservative members of the suffrage movement. The better-funded and larger group was the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), founded in November and led by Stone, Blackwell, and Howe. They openly and firmly supported the Fifteenth Amendment as written. Following passage of that Amendment the AWSA preferred to focus primarily on woman suffrage rather than advocate for broader rights The NWSA attempted several unsuccessful court challenges during the 1870’s. Their legal claims, known as “the New Departure,” were that the Fourteenth Amendment (granting universal citizenship) and Fifteenth Amendment (granting the vote irrespective of race) taken together gave a de facto guarantee of women’s right to vote. Three Supreme Court decisions between 1873 and 1875 rejected this argument.


Susan B Anthony

In January 1878, Senator Aaron Augustus Sargent, a Republican from California, introduced a proposed constitutional amendment in the very language that later become the 19th Amendment. Sargent’s wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, a leading voting rights advocate and a friend of Susan B. Anthony, introduced Anthony to her husband. [Interestingly, Sargent also gave key support to Belva Lockwood’s efforts to become the first woman to argue a case in the Supreme Court, opening a big door for other women in the legal profession.] Sargent’s suffrage proposal sat in committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887, after he had retired from the Senate. For the next twenty plus years, the full Congress took no action on the suffrage question, despite petitions, letters and the occasional hearing.

Senator Sargent


In February 1890, Susan B Anthony, using all her diplomatic skills, arranged the merger of the NWSA with Lucy Stone’s AWSA, creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The merger came about in part because Anthony admired Anna Howard Shaw, who worked with the AWSA and was a powerful and effective speaker. The controversial merger and Anthony’s pursuit of alliances with moderate suffragists created some lasting tensions between her and more radical suffragists. Shaw was a licensed physician and the first woman to be ordained in the Methodist Protestant church in the United States. Lucy Anthony, a niece of Susan B. Anthony, became Shaw’s dear companion. Dr Shaw served as president of NAWSA from 1904 to 1915.


Dr Shaw

Elizabeth Cady Stanton died on October 26, 1902. Anthony died on March 13, 1906. Before her final illness, Anthony said to a woman who asked if suffrage would ever come, “it will come, but I shall not see it. . . . It is inevitable. We can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage. It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation.” She added her favorite phrase: “Failure is impossible.”

Grave of Susan B Anthony

Indeed, the West held some promise. Wyoming recognized that women had the right to vote in 1869, followed by Colorado in 1893 and Idaho in 1896. Increased activism on the suffrage question during 1910 and 1911 brought success in the states of Washington and California. Then Oregon followed suit in 1912, as well as Kansas and Arizona. In 1914 Montana and Nevada saw the light. That year the U S Senate again considered the proposed federal constitutional amendment and again rejected it. On January 12, 1915, a suffrage proposal came before the House of Representatives, but went down to defeat by a vote of 204 to 174.

In the general election in 1916, Montana voters elected the first woman, Jeanette Rankin, to the House of Representatives. During 1917, Arkansas and New York saw the light and recognized the right of women to vote while against the wishes of Carrie Chapman Catt, who succeeded Anna Howard Shaw as president of NAWSA, Representative Rankin voted her peace principles and against U S entry into the Great War.


Carrie Chapman Catt

Another proposal for a suffrage amendment came before the House of Representatives on January 10, 1918. The previous evening, President Woodrow Wilson made a strong appeal to the House to pass the measure. (Interesting, because just the year before, in January 1917, he had women arrested who demonstrated in front of the White House for suffrage and he condoned their force-feeding when they went on a hunger strike in the workhouse.) The suffrage measure passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. When the measure moved into the Senate, Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage.


Suffragists picketing the White House

In President Wilson’s State of the Union message, delivered on December 2, 1918, he declared, “And what shall we say of the women, of their instant intelligence, quickening every task that they touched; their capacity for organization and cooperation, which gave their action discipline and enhanced the effectiveness of everything they attempted; their aptitude at tasks to which they had never before set their hands; their utter self-sacrifice alike in what they did and in what they gave? . . . . The least tribute we can pay them is to make them the equals of men in political rights as they have proved themselves their equals in every fieldof practical work they have entered, whether for themselves or for their country. These great days of completed achievement would be sadly marred were we to omit that act of justice. . . .we carry them at our hearts and thank God that we can say that we are the kinsmen of such.”

 On February 10, 1919, the proposed amendment again went down to defeat. However, many politicians of both parties wanted the proposal made part of the Constitution before the 1920 general elections, so President Wilson called a special session of Congress. On May 21, 1919, the proposed amendment passed the House with 42 votes more than necessary. On June 4, 1919, it came before the Senate and, after some heated debate, passed with 56 yes and 25 no votes.


HQ aganist suffrage--count the number of men

Opponents of woman suffrage, both women and men, who had battled against suffrage for decades, put their campaign into high gear. Frequently they invoked the family as they described the ways that women voting would violate gender roles. Gender norms of the era identified women with the family and men with the domains of market and politics. The prospect of women voting threatened female nature and the family as well. [Am I hearing an echo of a certain current debate?] Anti-suffragists emphasized that women were specially suited and exclusively destined for the work of family maintenance; in their view, women lacked the capacity for managing public affairs, and such effort would distract them from their obligations as wives and mothers. “To the husband, by natural allotment … , fall the duties which protect and provide for the household, and to the wife the more quiet and secluded but no less exalted duties of mother to their children and mistress of the domicile,” declared the House Judiciary Committee in 1883.


Suffragist being arrested

The anti-suffragists often used two arguments about the household as the mainstay of their case. First, the argument of virtual representation. Women did not need the vote because they were already represented in the body politic by the men who were the proper heads of household. Second, changing the distribution of the franchise would threaten the unity of the family. Granting women the right to vote would introduce domestic discord into marital relations and distract women from their primary duties as wives and mothers.

 So the battle moved to the states. Thirty-six needed to ratify the amendment to add it to the constitution. On June 10, 1919 Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan ratified it. Six days later, Kansas, Ohio and New York. June 24th–Pennsylvania. The next day, Massachusetts. Texas ratified on June 28th. Iowa on July 2nd, followed by Missouri the next day. So far, so good, yes? Eleven of the required thirty-six. No nay-sayers. Yet. Then, Georgia rejected it on July 24, 1919. Arkansas voted in favor on July 28, followed in quick succession by Montana and Nebraska on August 2, 1919. In September, Minnesota (the 8th) and New Hampshire (the 10th) ratified and Alabama (on the 22nd) rejected the proposed amendment. Utah joined in on October 2nd while California (November 1, 1919), Maine (November 5, 1919), North Dakota (December 1, 1919), South Dakota (December 4, 1919) and Colorado (December 15, 1919) ratified. By year’s end the box score was 22 yes and 2 no. Suffrage advocates had 61% of the states they needed.

Leaflets for the cause

 The first month of 1920 saw Kentucky (January 6), Rhode Island (January 6), Oregon (January 13), Indiana (January 16) and Wyoming (January 27) ratify it and South Carolina reject it (January 28).

Suffrage parade in Michigan

Then in February, Nevada (February 7), New Jersey (February 9), Idaho (February 11), Arizona (February 12), New Mexico (February 21) and Oklahoma (February 28) ratified while Virginia (February 12) and Maryland (February 24) joined the nay-sayers. March 10th West Virginia ratified followed by Washington on March 22nd while Mississippi rejected on March 29, 1920. No more states took action until Delaware rejected on June 2 and Louisiana rejected on July 1, 1920. So August 1st saw 35 states in favor, 7 opposed and only 6 not yet on record. Then in Tennessee a 24 year-old legislator named Harry Burn at the insistence of his mother changed his vote from no to yes and ratification was completed on August 18, 1920.


It's actually happening!

Of course, there was a challenge or two. A federal court case from the right. Ms Alice Paul, radical feminist, on the left. But that’s another story . . . .


Alice Paul

Lincoln Veterans

Lincoln Battalion button

As I think back on it, I’m not sure when and where I first heard about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Civil War in Spain. Franco still lived and continued to rule Spain in my youth. My favorite uncle, who raised my political consciousness, spoke with venom about fascists in general and Franco in particular. A radio program introduced me to the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca and I learned of his death in the early days of the war in Spain in 1936.

The poet Lorca in 1934

In high school or college, on one of my albums by Pete Seeger, I heard him sing “Viva La Quince Brigada”–”Long Live the 15th Brigade”–”we fought against the mercenary and the fascist”–“on the Jarama front we have no tanks, no canon, no airplane”–”it was our only desire to defeat fascism.” In my baccalaureate history major I took a course on modern totalitarian states from a brilliant professor, a course which included a section on Spain, its terrible civil war and the rise of Franco.

Then life, work, family and other things kept that war and those soldiers out of mind. Until a Sunday in the late 1980’s or early 90’s when CBS Sunday Morning ran a piece on the elderly American veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade [actually a misnomer–it was the Lincoln Battalion, a part of several battalions which made up the 15th International Brigade]. I felt moved to tears as I watched those old soldiers tell their stories. “I left an arm in Spain but brought back so much more,” declared an amputee. Now I am rereading Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp, a novel which I find beautiful, deeply moving, and intensely thought-provoking. In this 1985 novel, Michael Chandal, greatly loved father of the main character, Ilana Davita Chandal, is a journalist and left-wing activist who goes to Spain to cover the war for his newspaper and dies during a bombing raid while trying to save a nun. And those Lincoln veterans have stepped to the front of my mind, their clenched fists raised in salute, their voices raised in singing the Internationale.

Internationale songsheet

In July 1936, right-wing military officers in the Spanish Army led by General Franco attempted to overthrow the newly elected government of Spain. Hitler and Mussolini quickly joined in support of Franco. The Spanish Civil War lasted until 1939. Over half a million people are believed to have died on all sides. Approximately 2,800 American volunteers took up arms to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco. They fought alongside 35,000+ volunteers from fifty-two countries In keeping with “Popular Front” culture, as the government’s supporters called themselves, the Americans named their units the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the George Washington Battalion, and the John Brown Battery. Together with British, Irish, Canadian, and other nationals they formed the Fifteenth International Brigade. These U S citizens came from all walks of life and most all regions of the country. They included the unemployed, teachers, artists, dancers, students, seamen, mechanics, miners, lumberjacks, and salesmen They established a truly racially integrated military unit. The exact number of killed and injured continues to be a disputed matter. At least 750 died, perhaps more. Many suffered permanent injuries.

The 15th International Brigade

Nearly 80 American women joined their countrymen in defiance of their government to volunteer for what was known as the “Good Fight.” Most all of these women served with the American Medical Bureau as nurses, doctors, technicians, and ambulance drivers. In 2007 Julia Newman produced and directed a wonderful film called “Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War.” Ms Newman said of her project, “They were extraordinary people, but they were ordinary people who had found their way to a cause that caught their heart. And this is part of my own background. My parents were supporters of the republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and they had friends who fought and died in Spain. And I realized that I knew nothing about the fact that there were eighty women who had gone to Spain as volunteers to serve, primarily as medicals, in support of the international brigades. And I wanted that history to be known.” Righteous work in my opinion, Ms Newman. You did a fine job.

Martha Gellhorn, a renowned war correspondent who was Ernest Hemingway’s third wife, said, “I was in Germany in 1936 and could not avoid seeing these headlines about the ‘red swine dogs’ in Spain. I had been in Spain, but I knew nothing about what had happened, that the king had gone, that there was a republic, but all I needed was to read in a German paper that it was the red swine dogs to know whose side I was on: theirs.”

Virginia Cowles, a reporter for The New York Times who covered the war in Spain, declared, “In spite of numerous and conflicting political terms used to classify the Spanish conflict, the fundamental issue lies neither between republicanism and fascism nor between communism and monarchism. Mainly and simply it is a war between the proletariat and the upper classes.”

About 1,200 Canadians formed a separate battalion named for William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, who led the 1837 Rebellions in Canada. The battalion was under the command of Edward Cecil-Smith, a Montreal-based journalist and trade union organizer. The Canadians who made up the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion came from all parts of Canada. Unlike Britain and the United States, where a significant number of students and intellectuals enlisted, the Canadian group consisted almost wholly of working class laborers who had been driven to the political left by their experiences during the Great Depression.

Canadian volunteers in Spain

These volunteers included members of the CCF (a predecessor of the current New Democratic Party) as well as some Liberals and others with no political affiliation. A large percentage of those who enlisted had been born in Europe, the two largest groups being Finns and Ukrainians. Better than half these Canadians died in Spain. In 1975 the National Film Board of Canada produced an award-winning film called “Los Canadienses” about the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. The moving film includes many period photographs and film clips along with interviews of aging survivors.

American celebrities such as Albert Einstein, Dorothy Parker, Gene Kelly, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, A. Philip Randolph, and Gypsy Rose Lee supported the Republican cause. In one of her newspaper columns, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Three very interesting people came to dine with us last night: Miss Martha Gellhorn, Mr Ernest Hemingway, both writers, and Mr Joris Ivens, a maker of films. After dinner, the two men showed us a film which they made. The profits are going into the purchase of ambulances to help the sick and dying in a part of the world which is at present war-torn.”

In her interview in 2007 with film maker Julia Newman on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman noted that, “Eleanor Roosevelt disagreed with her husband. Eleanor Roosevelt was a close friend of Martha Gellhorn, the war correspondent.”

White House photo of Eleanor Roosevelt

Ms Newman replied, “Yes. She did everything she could to help convince FDR to go against the [arms] embargo [against the Spanish government]. Ultimately, he was too politically frightened I guess isn’t too strong a word. He was a consummate politician, and he did not want to alienate what he saw as a collection of powerful lobbies in this country who were primarily Catholic, but who were pro-Franco. There was a strong movement here that was pro-Franco, along with the fact that most Americans were not.”

Ms Goodman: “Led by a powerful radio talk show host.”

Ms Newman: “Named Father Coughlin, yes. Father Coughlin was the radio priest, and he was quite rabid in rallying his listener-ship to Franco.”

In November 1938, as a last attempt to pressure Hitler and Mussolini into repatriating their troops, the Spanish prime minister Juan Negrin ordered the withdrawal of the International Brigades. The German and Italian coalition refused to follow suit and Madrid fell in March 1939.The Lincoln veterans returned home as heroes of the anti-fascist cause but enjoyed no official recognition of their deed.

In the 1950’s many of these veterans suffered harassment or were forced out of their jobs by the FBI. Some were prosecuted under legislation like the Smith Act and state sedition laws, although over time all but a few convictions were overturned. Yet both in the United States and Canada the majority of the veterans continued to be active on the political left.

From 1937 through 1948, the FBI maintained files on these men. About 160 pages of this material was publicly released in 2008. I find the following from that file quite revealing: “The American people were misled. into thinking that the Spanish Civil War was only between the forces of darkness and light, ignorance and enlightenment, retrogression and progression, tyranny and freedom, Fascism and Democracy. This was precisely what the Communists wanted the American people to believe. As was indicated earlier in this memorandum the truth is there was no clear cut, black and white issue in the Spanish Civil War. Each side was made up of differing factions, and of men with varying social viewpoints. No one side had a monopoly on any virtues or vices pertaining to human relations. As the war progressed Communists under the guidance of Russia came to infiltrate and influence the Loyalist Government. And the one thing which did have the sound ring ot certainty to it was: Communists were not attempting to establish democracy in Spain. On the contrary they were opposed to democracy and sought to establish Communism; a dictatorship of the proletariat as a satellite of Soviet Russia. Judging from the evaluation made of public opinion in the United States the American people did not seem to fully understand or appreciate the fact, remaining contused about it all as so many Americans today appear to be confused and misled.” This from the agency that kept secret files on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Rev Martin Luther King, Jr, Jane Addams and Dr Benjamin Spock.

Moe Fishman, a veteran of the Lincoln Brigade who died in August of 2007 at age 92, once said, “The International Brigade, of which we were a part, consisted of about 40,000 to 45,000 volunteers from fifty-two countries who came to the aid of the Spanish Republic, and I want to emphasize ‘came to the aid of.’ It was the Spanish Republic and their people who fought this war and deserved the major credit for the big fight that they put up, which gave the democracies a two-and-a-half-year window of opportunity to change from a policy of appeasing fascism, led by Chamberlain of Britain and subscribed to by [President] Roosevelt, to one of actively fighting fascism. If they had actively fought fascism in 1936-1939, we would have stopped Hitler.”

Thought-provoking. One of those “what-if” questions that make the study of history vibrate. Regardless of the apparent failure of the International Brigades, those women and men have things to teach us. At an address in New York City in April, 2007, the singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte declared so movingly, “I say to the Lincoln Brigade, thank you so much for what you have given all of us, me in my youth and the youth of today. Without your courage, without your vigilance, without your insight, America could never have hung on as tenaciously as we have done to the things hat are decent about this country. It is your example, it is that which you have given us, that has helped guide us through some of the darkest times in the history of this nation. We defeated Hitler, but we did not defeat fascism. We defeated McCarthy, but we did not defeat fascism. . . . We still have work to do. We must still be vigilant. And all we need to do when we have moments of doubt is to look back at what was given us by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the valiant sacrifices that were made by them to know what we have to do in our time.”

Preach it Brother Harry! As President Lincoln said about the dead of another war: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Monument to the U S volunteers

 The final word I leave to a great historian, the late Howard Zinn. “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.”

Monument to the Canadian volunteers

The First Day, The First Time

“That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”–President Abraham Lincoln

“War is hell.”–General William Tecumseh Sherman

“War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus.”–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, pilot, poet, author

I was 11 years old the first time I saw the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Although I did not fully understand all that happened there, the place made a lasting impression upon my mind and heart. And it has in the several visits I have made since that summer. My mother did not believe in the extravagance of guided tours, even if she could have afforded one, which she could not. She had a simple chart of the battlefield. She drove slowly around, parked wherever she could and we walked to all kinds of places, taking our time to look at monuments and statues and to read many plaques. We moved quietly and respectfully through the rows upon rows of graves. I remember looking in awe at the place where Lincoln gave his short, eloquent speech.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

There are well over 640 history books written just about the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course the battle is discussed in hundreds more books written about the Civil War, President Lincoln and others connected with the events of those three days. I’ve read only a handful and more articles than I can remember. Today, July 1, marks the date of the start of the battle. I’m reflecting on some of those people and events.

Determined to take the war into northern territory, General Robert E Lee launched an invasion of Pennsylvania in the last days of June, 1863. Lee himself entered Pennsylvania on June 27th. Lee’s forces were spread out like the prongs of pitchfork. He was hampered by a lack of communication with General Jeb Stuart, his dashing, rash but brilliant cavalry commander. As a result Lee’s infantry, artillery and supply columns marched somewhat blind in unfamiliar country and without cavalry protection. The Confederate forces, indeed, many parts of the South, were low on food stuffs, short of horses and without a solid industrial base to maintain a regular supply of weapons and ammunition.

Unlike what the Federal troops under General William Tecumseh Sherman would do in Georgia in 1864 and ‘65, Lee’s troops were ordered not to steal or plunder and to “pay” in Confederate script for goods taken. Not all soldiers followed these orders. Nonetheless, many Amish and Mennonite farmers as well as others gave water, milk, bread, butter, flour and bacon to the Confederates without resistance. Aware of a supply of shoes warehoused at Gettysburg and unaware of how close the Union forces really were, Confederates under General Heth headed for the area.

Southern soldiers under General Albert Jenkins seized black people in the areas around Mercersburg and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. While a few were fugitive slaves, most were free born persons. Some managed to escape their captors; however, about 50 or more were shipped south into slavery.

Just as most Union soldiers who had been less than 35 miles from home before the start of the war, most Confederates had little idea of how others lived. Rebel officers expressed shock to see young white women, without shoes or bonnets, working in the fields. A Confederate infantyman wrote to his family, complaining that “Dutch and Irish girls” in Pennsylvania were “dirty and [the] meanest looking creatures to call themselves white girls.” Beer in Pennsylvania, brewed by German immigrants, proved to be much stronger than that known to many Southern lads. Officers and enlisted men over-indulged. Because of several days of rain, Confederate soldiers chose not to march on the muddy roads but rather through fields full of standing grain, damaging crops.


General Buford

On Tuesday, June 30th, two brigades of Federal cavalry, under the command of General John Buford, entered Gettysburg. Buford, like President Lincoln, was born in Kentucky. His family, including his father, owned slaves. He graduated from the military academy at West Point and served in combat against the Sioux on the western plains and with the Federal forces who had tried to end the bloodshed between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in “Bleeding Kansas,” a prelude to the current war. Buford correctly determined that Lee’s forces were headed away from the state capital at Harrisburg and had turned in a new direction. Despite being significantly out-numbered, Buford dismounted his troopers and determined to make a fight west of Gettysburg until General Meade could bring up the main Union forces. Buford’s men were well-armed with new Spencer 7-shot rifles which enabled them to fire as much twenty-one rounds per minute as compared to the Confederate infantry armed with muzzle-loading muskets who could, with experience, fire four rounds per minute. Most likely, Buford’s determination provoked a battle at a time and on terrain Lee had not chosen. However, despite his brilliant performance at Gettysburg, Buford, like many other generals from both armies, did not live to see the end of the war. He died on December 16th, 1863 in Washington, DC, probably from typhoid fever.

One of the statues I remember clearly from my first visit is a likeness of John Burns. By the standards of the time, he was quite elderly, being 69 years old and a veteran of the War of 1812. On that afternoon of July 1, 1863, as Confederate forces pushed toward the town, Burns shouldered his old musket and calmly joined the men of the 24th Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Infantry, known as the “Iron Brigade.” The tough young men respected the old man who stood with them, firing away until he suffered a minor wound. In November, 1863, John Burns met and walked with President Lincoln when Lincoln came to dedicate the national cemetery. Of the 496 men of the Iron Brigade who went into battle on July 1st, only 99 were present and fit for duty the next morning.

John Burns

The first infantry units to arrive in support of Buford were under the command of General John Reynolds. Reynolds hailed from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had also graduated from West Point, had combat experience in War with Mexico and against Native Americans. At age 42, he was considered smart, handsome and very well-liked by his troops. Reportedly, President Lincoln offered him the command of the Army of the Potomac to replace the ineffective General Hooker. Reynolds declined and Lincoln picked George Meade. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Reynolds wanted the kind of unrestricted command Lincoln later gave Ulysses S Grant. As Reynolds directed infantry into position, a bullet, most likely fired by a Confederate sharpshooter, entered his neck, knocking him from his horse and killing him almost instantly. His true love, Miss Kate Hewitt, learning of his death, entered a Roman Catholic convent in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Death of General Reynolds


The Lutheran Theological Seminary served Union officers and later Confederate officers as an observation tower and still later as a field hospital during the three days of battle. Ironically, one of the men who played a key role in founding the Seminary, Rev Samuel S Schmucker, was an active abolitionist. He used places at the Seminary and rooms in his own house as safe places for fugitive slaves escaping from the South. Union soldiers destroyed anti-slavery materials found at the Seminary to prevent the items from falling into Confederate hands. For two months after the battle, wounded soldiers from both sides were treated at the Seminary as well as in most churches and large buildings in town.

Lutheran Seminary

In 1925, Liberty Augusta Hollinger Clutz, at age 78, put down in writing her memories of the Battle of Gettysburg. She was 16 in July, 1863, one of five children in the Hollinger family living in the town. Her recollections are simply told and deeply moving. She wrote of how the Confederates took her father’s old horse and finding it too old to be useful, let it go and how they ransacked her father’s warehouse, destroying the foodstuffs they could not take with them. In her narration she mentioned how on the first day a young retreating Union soldier left his backpack with her mother and he never returned for it. She saw General Lee on horseback ride past her family’s house. On the second day of fighting, a distinguished looking Confederate doctor asked politely if he might rest a few moments on their porch. His uniform was bloody and caked with mud. When Augusta’s mother offered to feed him, he declined, saying that spending a morning amputating limbs left him with no appetite and he needed only a few minutes quiet to renew his soul. After the battle, she, her sisters and her parents spent days moving wounded off the field and nursing them as best they could. A young Union soldier in her care, a man from Portland, Maine, died the day before his mother arrived to take care of him. For months the young Augusta gathered up abandoned army coats and used them to cover skeletal remains which she and others kept finding. Later she married a Lutheran minister, Jacob Clutz, who taught for some years at the Lutheran Seminary.

Remains of dead horses after the battle

By sundown on July 3rd, the Union forces had sustained 23,049 dead, wounded and missing; the Confederates, 28,063 dead, wounded and missing. Lee managed to disengage and make a painful retreat into Maryland. The cautious General Meade waited and then moved slowly in pursuit, much to Lincoln’s annoyance. Meanwhile, out west, a feisty, short-of-stature, bearded, hard-drinking general named Ulysses S Grant, captured Vicksburg, Mississippi and would provide Lincoln the kind of general the President wanted.

During the Civil War, at least 646,392 Americans were killed or wounded by other Americans. They accounted for 1.96% of the total population. In the South, in 1865, 1 of every 4 white males over age 16 was dead or permanently disabled. Compare those numbers with approximately 50,000 Americans killed or wounded in the Revolution; 211,454 killed or wounded in Vietnam; 320,518 killed or wounded in the First World War.

Unfinished grave of Confederate dead

I tell students that the Civil War was the defining American experience in our 235 years of history. And the issues are still not resolved. Looking at the newspapers, blogs, and television and listening to the radio I still hear the debate of federal power versus states’ rights, the place of African Americans in our society and the meaning and intent of the Constitution as modified by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Have those honored dead really died in vain? I think we don’t yet have a definitive answer.

“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”–Jeannette Rankin, one of 50 members of the House of Representatives who voted against U S entry in World War One in 1917.

“War is the unfolding of miscalculations.”–Barbara Tuchman, historian, author of The Guns of August.

“In peace, children inter their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to inter their children.” Herodotus, Greek historian (circa 484-425, B C E).

“No one can claim to be called Christian who gives money for the building of warships and arsenals.”–Belva Ann Lockwood, first woman lawyer to practice before the U S Supreme Court and vice-president of the Universal Peace Union.

About the Civil War, Lockwood wrote, “No woman voted a subsidy to maintain it . . . . when the great outlay of blood and treasure is summed up, including the amount paid and to be paid for pensions, enough money would have been peaceably spent to have bought out of bondage every slave.”–Lockwood in Lippincott’s Magazine, February, 1888.

Attorney Belva Lockwood