Tag Archives: ALPM

Emancipation

Emancipation

Emancipation

What must it have been like in that room on September 22, 1862? After having stated with no uncertain terms that the war being fought was one of preserving the Union, President Lincoln announces his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Though not freeing a single slave, this document changed the shape and scope of the Civil War.

Lincoln had been of two minds. Personally, he had no use for slavery.  He knew that just as the Southerners were fighting to preserve their “peculiar institution“, Northerners would not really be too keen to fight a war to end it. At the same time a number of border states, who were still clinging to slavery, teetered on the edge between Union and Confederacy. For Lincoln, his proclamation was a calculated risk. And it paid off.

Through careful wording of his document Lincoln skillfully re-framed the war as one to not only save the Union but to secure the basic tenets of human freedom. At least that is what it seemed. The document stated that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceword, and forever free.” Think about for a second. He only freed the slaves in states that the government had no control over. Slaves still in the North, and those in the border states (Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware) were not subject to the proclamation.

Lincoln heard from all sides. To some, it did not go far enough. To others, it seemed to go too far. What it did do for certain was stem the growing tide o support for the Confederacy in the courts of  Europe. Most importantly though it allowed the United States to claim a moral high ground in a war that was tearing families apart.

 

The Civil War Begins

The Civil War Begins...

The Civil War Begins

This mural located at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, by artist Danilo Montejo, shows Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor under fire on April, 12th 1861. From the batteries on the shore, the Confederate States of America instigated hostilities.  The shells began falling on the last remaining Federal outpost in the South.  Of course, there is a case to be made that Lincoln’s actions up to that fateful day in regards to Ft. Sumter served to instigate the conflict and thus the war. Choosing to resupply the fort rather than surrender it opened the door to the bloody war that followed, regardless of who fired the first shot. That discussion is for a later time.

The bombardment of the fort started at 4:30 AM 4/12/1861 when the Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard (the first general in the Confederacy) opened fire from the chain of forts surrounding the harbor. The Union forces under Major Robert Anderson return fire the best they could, but they were dramatically outgunned. The fort could not hold and there was no chance of reinforcements. After 34 hours and thousands of shots being fired Anderson was forced to surrender.

It was a miracle for sure, but during the bombardment, no one was killed on either side. In what can only be seen as a bitter irony, during the surrender ceremonies on the 14th, a cannon exploded killing two Union soldiers, the first of the war.

The spectacular mural above does a wonderful job of capturing the events of the battle. There would be many, many more to come as the sound of the guns that broke the pre-dawn stillness that morning would continue for four very long years. The Civil War had begun.

Lincoln The General

President Abraham Lincoln had a daunting task in front of him in April 1861.  Several states had seceded from the Union and war seemed pretty much inevitable.  When the first shots came and the rest of the Southern states left the task seemed nearly impossible. Lincoln himself had a very limited experience with war and at the start he leaned heavily on those around him. As defeat after defeat piled up and the idea that the war would be short started to fade, Lincoln started to come into his own as Commander In Chief.

As a grand strategist Lincoln had several priorities that he set the army to. First was the protection of Washington DC. He knew that if for some reason the capital were to fall to the rebels the war would pretty much be over.  He also believed strongly in gaining control of strategic points on the map. Control of the Mississippi River was top of this list as well as the blockade of the coast. He was also a strong proponent of the idea that the Confederate Army should be the target of operations with the goal of destroying the Confederate ability to carry on the war.

In the end that would be the strategy that would win him the war, but getting it carried out became a herculean task that made the actual activity on the battlefield pale in comparison. Opposed to him were his generals that wanted to follow their own path. Opposed were politicians, in his party and in the other, that all looked to further their own needs.

The longer the war went on the more the army began to look like what Lincoln wanted. He would visit the War Department several times a day to read the telegraph dispatches that up dated him on the status of the army and current actions. When battles were engaged he would stay in the telegraph office and monitor events happening hundreds of miles away. Once he even intervened in a battle sending orders to the commanders based on what he was seeing develop.

It’s easy to remember Lincoln the politician, or even the emancipator, but it was his ability to become a warrior on the fly, and to be a leader that truly set him apart.

 

Play Dixie For Me

This painting that hangs in a gallery at the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library captures one of moments that made Lincoln who he was. There are a couple of different versions of this story, the one below comes from the Daily National Intelligencer a Washington paper at the time.

On April 9th, 1865 General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant, effectively ending the Civil War. The next day thousands of people flooded into the streets of Washington DC to celebrate the victory by marching and signing through the streets. Eventually the crowd was able to catch the attention of the President who after some cajoling came forward to address the crowd. Below is the brief address that Lincoln gave to the crowd.

‘FELLOW CITIZENS: I am very greatly rejoiced to find that an occasion has occurred so pleasurable that the people cannot restrain themselves. [Cheers.] I suppose that arrangements are being made for some sort of formal demonstration, this, or perhaps, to-morrow night. [Cries of `We can’t wait,’ `We want it now,’ &c.] If there should be such a demonstration, I, of course, will be called upon to respond, and I shall have nothing to say if you dribble it all out of me before. [Laughter and applause.] I see you have a band of music with you. [Voices, `We have two or three.’] I propose closing up this interview by the band performing a particular tune which I will name. Before this is done, however, I wish to mention one or two little circumstances connected with it. I have always thought `Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. [Applause.] I presented the question to the Attorney General, and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is our lawful prize. [Laughter and applause.] I now request the band to favor me with its performance.’”

The band played the song and then rounded it out with a flourish of Yankee Doodle. At the end Lincoln led the crowd in a round of cheers for General Grant and his soldiers and then the valiant Navy. He then left the crowd who moved on to the War Department to continue. A week later Lincoln was assassinated. Was it his favorite song or was it just a great piece of propaganda? Which one of the dozen versions of the story is true? Honestly it doesn’t really matter. All that does matter is that Lincoln and the Union Army brought Dixie home in the end.

Douglas and Lincoln

In the contest for the Illinois Senate in 1858 Stephen A Douglas and Abraham Lincoln faced off in a series of seven debates that went on to become probably the most famous debates in history. At the heart of the debates was the question of the expansion of slavery in the territories of the  United States. Douglas, a Democrat, espoused the idea of Popular Sovereignty. Under this plan the people of the territories would decide themselves if they would form in Free or Slave states. Lincoln, a Republican, stood firm against any expansion of the peculiar institution. These debates, though only for a state seat, would soon become a national phenomenon as both sides followed them intensely.

The issue of what to do about slavery in the United States had been haunting the country since its very founding. Was it protected by the Constitution? Could the courts decide the issue? Would the growing divide between the sections of the country develop into an irreconcilable split? Time and time again the question was kicked down the road by the government by a series of compromises that were intended to keep the balance of power between Free and Slave states.

The debates between Lincoln and Douglas did not start the Civil War, the country was already well on that path. What they did do was set the stage for what would be the last gasp of the attempts to resolve the issue peaceably. Douglas won the debates and his re-election to the Senate. In the process though, because he equivocated on the issue lost the support of the Southern Democrats which would lead to his failed presidential run a few years later. Lincoln lost the debates, but enjoyed an increased national profile that would lead him to win the next presidential election.

And that led directly to the Civil War…

William H. Carney, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers

 

William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers was born a slave in Norfolk Virginia. His father was able to make good his escape and years later was able to purchase his family’s freedom. William spent the rest of his childhood in New Bedford Massachusetts and with the Civil War playing out in the background on February 17, 1863 he joined the 54th Massachusetts one of the first “colored” units in the Federal Army.

Colored troops had been used up to this point on both sides of the conflict, mainly as manual labor. For the North the question as to whether or not they could fight as well as white man was something openly discussed. When the 54th was formed men such as William were ready and desperate to fight but they were seen mainly as tokens. One of Williams compatriots in the 54th wrote the following, “There is not a man in the regiment that does not appreciate the dangers, and maybe ignoble death that awaits him if captured and when a thousand men are fighting for their very existence, who dare say them men wont fight determinedly?”

On 18 July 1863 the 54th  and William had their chance at Ft. Wagner in South Carolina. While the unit was devastated they proved themselves to many people that day. The question of whether they would fight was answered with blood and steel. William would survive the battle and finish his enlistment.

The picture above is of his uniform and shows a good idea of what the standard 1863 Federal uniforms looked like.

History in a Hat

 

In the distance of this photo sitting on the red background in an alarmed case, under lock and key and in constant sight of a museum worker is a very distinct and special historical artifact.  One of several stove-pipe hats that belonged, and was actually worn by, President Abraham Lincoln.

The tall black hat, usually felt sometimes silk, seemed somehow to make the tall man even taller. He was easily picked out of a crowd while wearing that hat and at least once the hat possibly saved his life.

See, in August 1864 with the Civil War in full swing President Lincoln was not a very popular man in some circles. In a time  before the Secret Service and twenty-four hour protection Lincoln too his life in his hands every time he stepped way from the White House. On this night he was riding his horse to the Soldiers Home, a small stone cottage a few miles north of Washington DC. Lincoln would spend time there sometimes when the pressure of the war would get to him during the summers.  Suddenly a shot rang out from the side of the road and the President’s hat flew off.

Private John W. Nichols of the Pennsylvania 150th Volunteers was standing guard duty at the Soldiers Home that night and witnessed the bareheaded President come riding down the road and through the gates. Later soldiers found the missing hat with a bullet hole just above the crown. It would seem that in the low light the would be assassin could not see where Lincoln’s head ended and his hat began.

The hat above is not that one but the story is still kind of neat. It should be mentioned that you are not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibit where the hat is currently being shown.  This pic was taken from a hallway and timed perfectly so that the wandering Docent didn’t see it. The things I do for you people…

 

 

The Quotable US Grant

Rather than do another post rehashing the biography of General Grant (later President Grant) I thought it would be fun to look at some of the most famous quotes attributed to the man. So here are some of my favorites:

Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.

I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.

Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.

Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.

If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.

I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation, exempting only the last resting place of the dead and possibly, with proper restrictions, church edifices.

I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.

It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training.

The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.

Grant was good man and a good general. He lacked as President because he was a good man who felt like he needed to take of his friends. There is no doubt that his two terms were by far, to this point, the most corrupt administration on record. That should never take away from the man himself.

Thanks to Brainy Quote for these gems.

Ulysses S. Grant. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/u/ulysses_s_grant.html, accessed August 23, 2016.

The First Asssassin

When he was a boy he met found himself in front of a fortune-teller that read his palm. The Gypsy proclaimed that the boy would have short but grand life, doomed to die young while meeting a bad end. The boy wrote down the proclamation and would spend many, many years dwelling on trying to suss out the meaning from the cryptic words. (OK, so it was pretty much straight forward, but perhaps denial added mystery?)

In 1857 he made his stage debut in a production of Richard III in Baltimore. He asked to be billed as J.B. Wilkes in order to not draw comparisons to his father and brother, both already well-known actors. In 1858 he suffered such stage fright that he stumbled over his lines causing the audience to respond in gales of laughter. He shook it off and his acting career took off, Audiences loved his energy and fearlessness on the stage. He soon became famous in his own right. Called by some “the most handsomest man America.”  He threw himself into role after role, but one in particular always drew him in, Brutus the tyrant slayer who ended the life of Julius Caesar.

On April 12th 1861 on the eve of war this son of Virginia found himself on the stage in Albany New York singing the virtues of the valiant and heroic south. The audience drove him from the stage but he was not to be daunted and crisscrossed the war-torn country playing to audiences North and South.

As the war progressed he felt more and more like he was missing out and as the 1864 election drew nearer he found a focus for his anger. President Abraham Lincoln. His first act of treason came with planning to kidnap the president, he and his gang nearly carried off the plot and if not for a sudden change of plans by Lincoln history could be very different.

On April 12th, 1865 the war all but ended as Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrender his army and all but ended the war. Now lost in a well of anger and feeling betrayed he set out to end the president’s life, perhaps stirring the South into a continuing the fight.

The night of April 14th, at Fords Theater in Washington DC, the most famous actor in the country became the first presidential assassin. He thought he would become a hero but instead became the most wanted man in the country. On April 26th Federal forces caught up with him and after a brief struggle killed him at the very young age of 26. I wonder if in his final moments John Wilkes Booth thought back to the Gypsy prophecy and smiled as it certainly came true.

One Crazy Election

1860

 

No, not this one. Though there is a lot of craziness to come. The election of 1860 was almost as tense an encompassed almost as many different and disparaging views as 2016. There were four candidates to choose from that year that represented four different political parties. (Look, I know that picture is not the best not all will be grand! Just roll with it.)

John Bell from the Constitutional Union party was from Tennessee and managed to carry 3 states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia) and 39 electoral votes.  The party was made of former Whigs, former Know Nothings and some Southern Democrats and was named for their single party platform, “”to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws”. Since the 1860 election revolved around the issue of slavery (it did whether you agree or not) they decided to take no stand on the issue and hoped to avoid Southern secession but kicking the proverbial can down the road.

At the 1860 Democratic National Convention held in Charleston that year the proceedings became to fractious over the question on the extension of slavery into the new territories that many delegates walked out and split the party in two with a second convention held later that year in Baltimore Maryland.

The Northern Democratic candidate was Stephen Douglas from Illinois who managed to win 1 state and 12 electoral votes.  Missouri if you must know. This defeat pretty much ended a long political career that helped bring another Illinois politician to prominence. Douglas and his branch favored Popular Sovereignty, which would allow the new territories to decide for themselves if they would join the Union as free or slave states. A compromise that well past its time.

The Southern Democrats, who favored not only expanding slavery in the territories but also reopening the international slave trade were represented by John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. He managed to win 11 states (guess which ones) and 72 electoral votes.

The big winner was the brand spanking new Republican Party that ran on a platform that was firmly anti-slavery. Their candidate was Abraham Lincoln of Illinois who managed to win 18 states (All northern) and 180 electoral votes. his election was seen by the southern states as a sign that the days of slavery were  to be numbered and they decided to take action. We know how that turned out.

It is interesting when you look at the stats from that election that even if you add the votes of all three opponents together, Lincoln still won handily:

Electoral vote: Lincoln 180 All Others Combined 123

States Won: Lincoln 18 All Others Combined 15

Though he would have lost the popular vote:

Popular vote: Lincoln 1,865,908 All Others Combined 2,819,122

So hey, when you watch the news tonight just be glad that we have winnowed it down to a two-party system, elections should be much less crazy now right? (I apologize to all the Libertarians, but seriously unless you get serious the best you can be is a spoiler.)