Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Slow Beginning To The End

An “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” in the state of New York was passed on March 29th 1799.

Governor John Jay a prominent leader in the antislavery movement, passed an emancipation law which would abolish slavery through a gradual manumission. Freedom would be granted only to the children of slaves who served their Mother’s master till the age of 25 for women and 28 for men. It made the exportation of slaves illegal. This law did not however speak of any civil rights for the freed slave. Although passed on March 29th 1799, it didn’t go into effect until July 4th of that year. New York State would not end slavery until 1827.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The High Water Mark Of The West

On the Santa Fe Trail on March 28th 1862 the end of the Confederate push happened at the Glorieta Pass.

The Glorieta Pass is to the southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico on the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. On the morning of March 26th 1862 Union Major John M Chivington led about 400 troops to the pass. At about noon they captured some advanced Confederate soldiers. This was when they learned about the 300 Texans under Confederate Major Charles Pyron. The Union force moved on the Confederates, but were pushed back by artillery fire. Chivington than split his men in half and caught the Confederates in a crossfire. Pyron pulled his men back to a narrow part of the pass and prepared a defensive line. Again the Union caught them in a crossfire, this time forcing the Confederates into a camp at Kozlowski’s Ranch.

The next day, March 27th 1862,  there was no fighting. Lieutenant Colonel William R Scurry reinforced the confederates with about 1000 troops, while the Union line saw an increase of about 900 men arriving with Colonel John P Slough. Both sides decided to attack early on March 28th 1862, and they met in the canyon at about eleven. The Confederate held their ground through out the afternoon. When the fighting ended Slough retired to the Ranch with Scurry following him thinking he had won the battle.

Chivington’s Union soldiers however had destroyed all of Scurry’s animals and supplies. This forced the Confederates to have to retreat to Santa Fe, and on back to San Antonio Texas, making this the Confederate high water mark in the west. The Battle at Glorieta Pass became the turning point of the Civil War in the New Mexico territory.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The First Civil Rights

On March 27th 1866 President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

As a counter measure against the Black Codes which had been enacted in the former slave states following the passage of the 13th Amendment, the Republican controlled Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Included in this act were rights that included the ability to make contracts, sue, own private property, inherit, and be witness in court. President Johnson vetoed the bill because it would “operate in favor of the colored and against the white race”, and he didn't believe blacks had the qualifications to be United States citizens. Fortunately the Republican’s had enough votes in congress to override the Presidential Veto, and the Act passed on April 9th 1866. This Civil Rights Act of 1866 was strongly undermined by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and in the end failed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Telegrapher's Telegrapher

One of the founders of Western Union, Anson Stager died on March 26th 1885. He was the leader of the Military Telegraph Department during the Civil War.

Anson Stager was born April 20th 1825 in Ontario County New York the son of Joseph and Elmira Stager. When he was sixteen, Stager was working as an apprentice for the “Rochester Daily Advertiser” in Rochester New York. The owner Henry O’Reilly was a printer and telegraph builder. After O’Reilly built a telegraph line from Harrisburg to Philadelphia Pennsylvania he placed Stager as an operator in Philadelphia, Lancaster and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. In 1848 he became the chief operator of a national line in Cincinnati Ohio.

When the Civil War started in 1861 Stager went into service as a quartermaster of volunteers. In February 1862 he was called to Washington DC and was given an appointment to the head of the Military Telegraph Department, which oversaw all government telegraph departments. It was here that he created a military cipher that was used through out the war. He was made Brevet Brigadier General of the volunteers for his service, and stayed with the military until September 1868.

Anson Stager moved in 1869 to Chicago, Illinois, were he was the president of Western Electric, the Chicago Telephone Company and Western Edison Company. He died in Chicago March 26th 1885. He is buried in the Lake View Cemetery.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Twin Relics of Barbarism

In Utah March 23rd 1858 Brigham Young ordered the faithful to move to Provo, Utah and prepare for their homes in Salt Lake City to be burned as part of his “Sebastopol Policy”

From 1857 to 1858 what is known as the Utah War occurred between the United States Government and the Mormon settlers in the Utah Territory. The election in 1856 between Democrat James Buchanan and Republican John C Freemont was close enough to shake the Democratic Party. The Republicans charged the Democrats during that election as being soft on the “Twin Relics of Barbarism”; polygamy and slavery. In order to stand up to the charge Buchanan had do something, he decided his only political option was to replace Brigham Young as the governor of the Utah Territory and make a stand against polygamy. Alfred Cumming was appointed the new governor and sent to Utah under an Army escort.

The first troops to march for Utah were lead by General William S Harney, but they were forced to return to Kansas. Then a detachment under Colonel Edmund Alexander got started, only to meet up with and give command to Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston. The Utah militia known as the Nauvoo Legion under the command of Lot Smith harassed the federals. Johnston decided to settle for the winter in the burned out Fort Bridger.

When spring arrived the United States Army was re-supplied and reinforcements arrived. With negotiation underway Brigham Young accepted the replacement governor; bring peace back to the territory.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


In Warren County, NC Braxton Bragg was born on March 22nd 1817.

He graduated from West Point in 1837, the fifth in his class. He saw service with the US military in War with Mexico, and the Seminole war. In 1861 he was put in charge of the Army of Louisiana and was made Brigadier General in the Confederate Army in March of that year. He fought in many battles including Shiloh, and Chickamauga. Confederate President Jefferson Davis assigned him to duty in Richmond, VA in February 1864. In November of that year he was placed in command of the Department South Carolina, holding his army that winter at Wilmington, NC. He was in command of troop during the final battle with General William Tecumseh Sherman. After Robert E Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Bragg accompanied Jefferson Davis on his attempted escape.

After the war he was Chief Engineer for the state of Alabama. He died in Galveston, TX September 27th 1876 where he was working as an inspector for a railroad. US Army Fort Bragg in North Carolinian was named in his honor.

Some other information
Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat

Friday, March 20, 2009

Uncle Tom

One of the most famous American novels “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was first published in two volumes on March 20th 1852. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel sold an amazing three hundred thousand copies in the first year. It is a melodramatic tail which tells the story of runaway slaves, overseers and what slavery did to families. This book raised the number of abolitionist and enraged those who defended the practice. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” has caused a great deal of controversy over the years, with first whites feeling that the black characters in the book were to positive, than blacks criticizing that those same character were formulaic. Regardless of the controversies “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” brought issue of slavery into the homes of many Northern white Americans and made many of them into abolitionist sympathizers.

Other reading that might be of interest
The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy, And Transatlantic Culture In The 1850s

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Judge-Advocate

John Bingham who presented the Government’s side in the trial of the assassins of President Abraham Lincoln died March 19th 1900.

John Bingham the son of a carpenter was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania, January 21st 1815. After working for a few years as a printer, he decide to study the law at Franklin College. After being admitted to the bar he opened a practice in Cadiz, Ohio in 1840. He served as a Republican Representative from Ohio from 1855 to 1863. He advocated for emancipation, and in January 1864 was appointed judge-advocate. It was in that position that he presided over the trial of Abraham Lincoln’s assassins.

Bingham returned to Congress in 1866 and was one of the leaders in trying to impeach President Andrew Johnson. He drafted the first section of the 14th Amendment during reconstruction, extending constitutional protection of due process. In 1873 he was appointed United States Minister to Japan, a position he held for twelve years. He died March 19th 1900 in Cadiz, Ohio.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Great Flood

As the nation looked south toward the war; on March 17th 1865, in eastern New York state there was great flood in the making.

The combination of a heavy accumulation of ice on the rivers and a sudden Spring thaw caused one of the worst floods in the history of Rochester,NY. Ninety percent of the streets were underwater, with about 54,000 cubic feet of water flowing every second into the city. Abandoned horse drawn streetcars were swept off the Main Street Bridge, and went over the falls horses and all, a New York Central Railroad Bridge was also sweep away. Below Albany,New York the water in the Hudson was running eight to ten feet high, submerging docks and piers. Damages in the state in towns along the Genesee River, Hudson River and Mohawk River were in excess of one million dollars. The flooding even delayed the opening that year in navigation on the Eire Canal.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Union Cavalry Show They Can

The winter of 1863 saw both Armies settled into camps on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River. There were several small skirmishes, but on March 17th 1863 an important cavalry raid at Kelly’s Ford broke out.

The Battle of Kelly’s Ford was the first chance the Union Cavalry had to bring together a large force. Union Brigadier General William Averell received orders in early March to leave the Army of the Potomac. He was to take his men west and cross the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford, expecting to engage the Confederates ten miles west of the ford at Culpeper. On March 16th about 3,000 Cavalry with a battery of six cannon, started out. Worring about a flanking move on his right, Averell sent about 900 of his men north of Kelly’s Ford to Catlett Station.

Confederate Cavalry Commander Fitzhugh Lee soon learned of Averell’s movements, and reinforced the twenty Confederates guarding Kelly’s Ford. The rest of Lee’s command, along with Captain James Breathed’s four cannon battery were stationed in Culpeper. The Confederate defenders at Kelly’s Ford, numbering about 85, from the 2nd and 4th Virginia, block the ford on both sides of the river with felled trees.

On the morning of March 17th 1863 the Union troops tried three times to cross the ford. For two hours they tried to remove the trees. Averell believed his opponent would attach, decided to rest his men, and withdrew about a mile behind a stone wall. This gave Fitzhugh Lee, along with General Jeb Stuart the chance to move forward. Lee ordered the 3rd Virginia to charge the stone wall. Finding a gap in the wall the Virginian’s tried to cut the Union men off from the ford. However on the Union left Colonel Alfred Duffie moved a brigade forward, trying to bait the Rebels into charging. When the Confederates were about seventy-five yard away, Duffie ordered the 1st Rhode Island forward striking the Confederates on both flanks.

Fitzhugh Lee pulled his men back about a mile to near Dean’s Shop. As the Union approached, Lee’s Cavalry charged, however the attack was quickly put down. Averell’s counter attack was feeble, and fearing he was facing a large force of the enemy, he withdrew.

The Battle of Kelly’s Ford was a victory for the Confederates, but it cost them 146 men wounded, killed or missing. The Union loss only 85. Although Averell failed in reaching his objective, the Union Cavalry showed that they would fight.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The C S M C

The Confederate Provisional Congress on March 16th 1861 created the Confederate Marine Corp.

The same act that provided for the organization of the Confederate Navy, authorized the Marines. A Corp was to consist of one Major, one Quartermaster Sergeant, and six companies of a hundred men each. The record of the Confederate States Marines were destroyed at the end of the war by order of the Confederate Secretary of Navy Stephen R Mallory, but it is thought to have never numbered more than between six hundred and twelve hundred troops. Most of recruits and their officers trained in Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia at Camp Beall. Detachments of the Marine Guard served at Charleston, Mobile, Richmond, Savannah, and Wilmington.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

One Of The Raiders

John Henry Kagi one of John Brown’s Raiders, was born March 15th 1835 in Bristolville, Ohio.

John Henry Kagi the son of a respected blacksmith was born March 15th 1835 in Bristolville, Ohio. John was mostly self-taught, but well educated. In 1855 he taught school in Virginia, however do to his abolition views he didn’t last long in the South. He moved on to Nebraska where he became a lawyer and newspaper reporter writing for the New York Times. He was shot by a pro-slavery judge, the bullet only being stopped by a book from going into his heart. After a long recovery, and a visit home to Ohio, Kagi went to Kansas and joined John Brown. In Brown he found a like minded spirit, and KagI would become John Brown’s Secretary of War. Kagi helped Brown with his raid on Harper’s Ferry, designed to get weapons to be used in a slave revolt. Kagi was only 24 when he was shot to death on October 17th 1859 during the raid.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Arsenal Destroyed

General William Techumseh Sherman’s continued his march north on March 11th 1865 when he captured the town of Fayetteville, North Carolina. He promptly ordered the Fayetteville Arsenal destroyed. The women who worked at the Arsenal had turned out over 900,000 rounds over seven months of 1864, mostly .58 caliber cartridges known as “minnies“. Most of the machinery being used at the Arsenal was made before the war at Harper’s Ferry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


President Abraham Lincoln on March 10th 1863 had orders issued which gave amnesty to Union soldiers who were absent without leave. As long as the men who were AWOL reported to their units by the first of April they wouldn’t be considered deserters.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The High Commander

President Abraham Lincoln, impressed with Ulysses S Grant's fight and ability to win, had him promoted to Lieutenant General and on March 9th 1864 Grant took over command of all the Union forces.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 Ulysses S Grant was a Colonel in the 21st Illinois Infantry. In February 1862 he became the Major General of volunteers. When his forces caused the surrender in July 1863 of the Confederates at Vicksburg he was made Major General. In March 1864 Grant was promoted the Lieutenant General after his victory at Chattanooga. After receiving this promotion Grant was place in command of all of the Union armies, and decided to accompany the Army of the Potomac in the Eastern theater, which caused that Army’s commander; General George Gorden Meade a great deal of frustration.

He served in this position from March 9th 1864 to March 4th 1869, commanding the army during Reconstruction.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On To North Carolina

The Battle of Wyse Fork was fought in North Carolinia on March 8th 1865.

Major General Jacob Cox was directing his Union force in February from New Berne, at the same time Major General John Schofield was moving inland from Wilmington. Cox’s men were stopped at Southwest Creek near Kinston, North Carolinia when they encountered Robert Hoke’s divisions under Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

On March 8th 1865 the Confederates attacked the Union flanks at the Battle of Wyse Fork. Although the Confederates saw some initial success, do to poor communication the attack came to a stand still. The next day reinforcements on the Union side pushed Bragg’s men back. After heavy fighting during the next few days the Confederates withdrew across the Neuse River ending with the fall of Kinston on March 14th 1865.

This was a Union victory in which about 12,000 Union troops and 8,500 Rebel troops were engaged. The casualties are estimated at about 2,601. This battle is also known as Wilcox’s Bridge, Wise’s Fork, Second Kinston, Second Southwest Creek, Kelly's Mill Pond.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Cows Come Home

Charles Goodnight a cattle rancher, perhaps one of the best known ranchers in Texas was born on March 5th 1836.

Goodnight was born in Macoupin County, IL. He was the fourth child of Charles and Charlotte [Collier] Goodnight. He moved with family to Texas in 1846, where he became a Texas Ranger in 1857. With the coming of the Civil War Goodnight joined the Confederate Army. He spent most of the war on the Texas frontier protecting against raids by Indians.

When the Civil War ended Charles Goodnight took part of the “making the gather”, which was a state wide round up of the cattle that roamed pretty much free during the four years of the war. Than in 1866 he and Oliver Loving drove the wild Texas Longhorn cattle north to the railroads where they would supply the US Army.

Goodnight died December 12th 1929 in Tucson, AZ.

Some other places for information
Charles Goodnight Historical Center

Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman

Charles Goodnight: Father of the Texas Panhandle

Monday, March 2, 2009

Texas Splits

Despite the wishes of Sam Houston, Texas became member of the Confederate States of America on March 2nd 1861.

Following a statewide election in which the people of Texas voted 3 to 1 to secede, Texas joined the rest of the Confederate States on March 2nd 1861. Governor Sam Houston called this act illegal. But the politicians that brought the vote about, were powerful enough to have Houston replaced by his Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. Houston chose not to take the Oath of Loyalty to the Confederacy, and was evicted from his office on March 16th. President Abraham Lincoln sent United States Colonel Frederick W Lander to offer Fifty thousand troop in order to hold Texas, but Houston turned him down, saying "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State.”

[Interestingly to this date, Sam Houston was born on March 2 1793 on his families plantation near Timber Ridge Church, Lexington , Rockbridge, VA.]