Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just Don't Talk About It

A gag rule was passed in the United States Congress May 26th 1836, so slavery wouldn’t have to be dealt with.

Abolitionists in an attempt to agitate against slavery, beginning in 1831 gushed the United States Congress with petitions requesting restriction or abolishment of slavery. Most of these petitions were presented for the people by John Quincy Adams. The proslavery members of Congress met these petitions with a series of gag rules which deliberately prevented them from even being read or discussed. The United States House of Representatives passed the Pinckney Resolutions, known as the “gag rule” on May 26th 1836 by a vote of 117 to 68. Adams argued against the “gag rule” saying it was a violation of the First Amendment, which gives people the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". Public objection to the “gag rules” added supporters to the antislavery cause. The “gag rules” were rescinded in 1844.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Man, A Flag, A Death

Considered the first casualty of the Civil War, Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth died May 24th 1861.

Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth was born April 11th 1837 in Malta, New York. He grew up in Mechanicville, New York. Ellsworth moved to Rockford, Illinois in 1854 to work for a patent office. While living there he became the drillmaster in 1857 for the local militia company the “Rockford Greys”. After his engagement to Carrie Spafford, at the suggestion of her father he moved to Chicago, Illinois to study law. Ellsworth went to work for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to studied law, and help with Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign. At 5’6” Lincoln called Ellsworth "the greatest little man I ever met." Ellsworth accompanied Lincoln in 1861 to Washington, DC.

When the Civil War started and Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to be raised, Ellsworth recruited the 11th New York Volunteers known as the “Fire Zouaves”. He was their Colonel. On May 24th 1861; Ellsworth went to Alexandria, Virginia to remove a Confederate flag from the roof of a tavern. Ellsworth took the 11th across the Potomac, where he posted men at the railroad station and telegraph office. Then Ellsworth with four men entered the Marshall House Inn and cut down the Confederate flag. As Ellsworth came down the stairs with the flag the owner of the Inn, James W Jackson shot and killed him. Union Corporal Francis E Brownell killed Jackson straight away.

Ellsworth’s body was laid in state in the East Room of the White House. From there he was taken to City Hall in New York City where Union supporters came to see his body by the thousands. He was brought home to Mechanicville, New York, where he is buried in the Hudson View Cemetery. The 44th New York Infantry were formed in Ellsworth’s memory and were known as the “Ellsworth Avengers”.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Last March

The last act of most Union Civil War Soldiers the Grand Review took place on May 23 and 24th 1865 in Washington, DC.

President Andrew Johnsons declared the fighting to be “virtually at an end” on May 10th 1865. Plans began for a review of troops that would be greater then the two celebrations of victory held just before President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. May 23rd 1865 was a clear sunny day. As a single shot fired, the Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue before thousands. In front of the White House was a reviewing stand for the President Johnson, General Ulysses S Grant and other top officials. General George Gorden Meade dismounted in front of this stand to salute his men and watch his army pass. There were about 80,000 infantry lined up 12 across marching with precision.

These were joined by artillery and a seven mile long cavalry that by its self took over and hour to pass. General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee repeated this march the next day.

For most of the Union soldiers this parade was the end of their military duty. During the next few weeks the armies were disbanded.

A good web site for more information on this subject, TO THE LIMITS OF THE SOUL'S IDEAL: THE GRAND REVIEW, MAY 23, 1865

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Amnesty To All

President Ulysses S Grant signed the Amnesty Act on May 22nd 1872, pardoning all the former Confederate troops.

Passed by Congress, and signed by President Ulysses S Grant on May 22nd 1872 the Amnesty Act of 1872 removed the restrictions to holding government office and voting. This applied to all but about 600 of the upper military leaders of the Confederacy. These 600 or so men were still denied the right to hold government office under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which says any citizen who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” could not hold state or federal office.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sealed The Escape Route

Fought on May 21st 1863, the Battle of Plains Store was a part of the campaign against Port Hudson.

In the early morning hours of May 21st 1863, Union Major General Christopher C Augur with the First Division of the XIX Corps moved north from Baton Rouge, Louisiana toward the intersection of Plains Store and Bayou Sara, Louisiana. He was looking for a landing for the rest of Union Major General Nathaniel P Banks’ troops. Leading Augur’s soldiers was Union cavalry under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin W Powers. Powers' men ran into Confederate skirmishers and fighting erupted. The fighting grew as more of the Union troops arrived.

At noon Confederate Colonel William R Miles left Port Hudson, Louisiana with reinforcements to support. By the time Miles reached the field however Power had retreated and the Union troops were going into camp for the night. Miles still made the decision to attack, and at first was successful. Then Augur collected his troops and made a counter attack. The Confederates retreated from Plains, pulling back into the defenses of Port Hudson. This sealed the route of escape for the Confederates garrisoned at Port Hudson.

Friday, May 20, 2011

160 Acres Of Free Land

On May 20th 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act was designed to settle the undeveloped land west of the Mississippi River, held by the United States government. The Act passed Congress in 1860, but President James Buchanan vetoed it under pressure from the South. The Homestead Act was sponsored in Congress by Galusha A Grow and supported by the Republican party. It offered applicants a free title to 160 acres of land, if they fulfilled three requirements. First they has to file an application, then make improvements to land, and finally file the deed to the land. The applicant had be at least 21 years old, have never fought against the United States government, and had to live on the land for five years while making improvements. President Abraham Lincoln sign the Homestead Act into law on May 20th 1862.

About 40% of those who applied for a homestead completed the process and obtained the deed to their land.

Another web site for more information about this subject is Homestead Act of 1862 and Teaching With Documents: The Homestead Act of 1862

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Harlot Slavery

United States Senator Charles Sumner gave his “Crime Against Kansas” speech May 19th 1856 on the floor of the United States House.

United States Senator Charles Sumner, an antislavery Massachusetts Republican rose from his seat to address the Senate on May 19th 1856 as to whether or not Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state. Sumner’s speech a “Crime Against Kansas” identified two fellow senators, Andrew Butler of South Carolina and Stephen A Douglas of Illinois as the main culprits of the crime. Sumner called Douglas a "noise-some, squat, and nameless animal . . . not a proper model for an American senator." Andrew Butler was charged by Sumner as having "a mistress . . . who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean, the harlot, Slavery."

Andrew Butler’s relation, United States Congressmen Preston Smith Brooks entered the Senate after adjournment where he found Sumner at his desk. Brooks took his metal topped cane and repeatedly beat Sumner with it. When the beating ended Sumner was carried out of the chamber bleeding heavily, and Brooks walked away calmly. Both would become heroes of their causes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Man With No Country

Clement Laird Vallandigham an Ohio Copperhead Democrat was on May 5th 1863 arrested under General Order Number 38, and forced to leave the United States.

Clement Laird Vallandigham was born in New Lisbon, Ohio July 29th 1820, the son of Clement and Rebecca [Laird] Vallandigham. He graduated from Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Following graduation Vallandigham moved to Tibet, Ohio and opened a law practice in 1842. Vallandigham was a Democrat and was elected to the Ohio State legislature in 1845. He ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1856 and was narrowly defeated, but was elected in the next term and was serving when the Civil War began.

With the Civil War in force the population of Dayton, Ohio decided they didn’t want Vallandigham in 1862. This was primarily do to Vallandigham’s staunch support of Constitutional State’s Rights. He believed states had the right to secede, and that the Union government had no constitutional right to regulate the legal institution of slavery, nor use military force to subdue the Confederacy. Vallandigham was the leader to the Copperheads and created their slogan "To maintain the Constitution as it is, and to restore the Union as it was." Union General Ambrose E Burnside issued General Order Number 38, which stated that in Ohio any sympathy for the enemy would not be tolerated. Vallandigham gave a speech charging that the Civil War was being fought not to save the Union but to free slaves, he denounced the war and called for President Abraham Lincoln to be removed on May 1st 1863. On May 5th 1863 he was arrested. Vallandigham was tried in military court May 7th 1863 and sentenced to 2 years of prison. Instead of being sent to prison Lincoln ordered him sent to the Confederacy under military guard. After crossing over in Tennessee to the Confederacy, Vallandigham took a blockade runner to Bermuda, and then a ship to Canada. Once in Canada he declared his candidacy for Governor of the State of Ohio. Ohio Democrats nominated him by a vote of 411 to 11, and Vallandigham set up a campaign office in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. His campaign platform was for freedom, and for the State of Ohio to secede from the Union. He lost the race in 1863, but in 1864 Vallandigham appeared at the 1864 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Vallandigham wrote the “peace plank” for the convention and was included on the ticket as the Secretary of War.

Following the war Vallandigham returned to Ohio where he pick back up his law practice. He ran unsuccessfully for United State Congress. Vallandigham accidentally shot himself while defending a man for a killing in a bar room fight. He died from this shot June 17th 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio and is buried in the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

For more about this subject Ohio History - Clement Vallandigham

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

One Reconstruction Idea

The Wade - Davis Reconstruction Act passed in the United State House May 4th 1864.

A program for Southern Reconstruction, the Wade - Davis Bill, was written by Radical Republicans Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade and Maryland Representative Henry Winter Davis. The Bill grew from a plan initiated by New York Senator Ira Harris in February 1863. The provision in the Bill would make it nearly impossible for the Southern seceded States to re-enter Union and they would then have to remain under National control.

President Abraham Lincoln objected to the Bill’s idea that the Southern States needed to re-join the Union. He felt that since the Southern State had no constitutional right to secede in the first place, they were still and always had been a part of the Union. The Bill required States to draw up new State Constitutions banning slavery, which at that time Congress had no power to require. Lincoln felt the Confederates should be coaxed through a reconstruction, while the Bill wished to punish them as traitors. Lincoln but an end to the Bill using a pocket veto.

Two web sites that will give you more information on this subject are Wade - Davis Bill and Wade-Davis

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Second Time's The Charm

The Second Battle of Fredericksburg a part of the Battle of Chancellorsville was fought May 3rd 1863.

Confederate Major General Jubal Anderson Early’s division was left to hold Fredericksburg, when General Robert E Lee marched the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia to Chancellorsville. Union Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps moved into the area on May 3rd 1863. Sedgwick moved slowly, as the memory of fighting on this ground in Dec 1862 was fresh. Early’s men were defending Marye’s Height along a reserve artillery and one division from Barkdale’s Brigade, strong out in a thin line north and south of the Heights.

Sedgwick moved through Fredericksburg below the Heights, engaging in artillery fire through out most of the morning. Around noon Sedgwick sent ten Union regiments against the Confederate defenses on the Heights. The lead unit in this assault was the 5th Wisconsin, their Colonel told his men, “When the signal forward is given you will advance at double-quick. You will not fire a gun, and you will not stop until you get the order to halt. You will never get that order.” The 5th charged forward with the other regiments following. The Union troops stalled for a time when they hit a concentrated fire from the Confederates behind a four foot high stonewall. Some of the Union soldiers on the right found a way around the stone wall flanking the Confederate left, placing them under an enfilading fire. Charging with bayonets fixed the Union troops captured several Confederate guns, and forced them to withdraw to the west and southeast of Fredericksburg. Sedgwick captured Marye’s Heights.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Last House Of The Confederacy

The Burt - Stark Mansion in Abbeville, South Carolina was the site on May 2nd 1865 of the last Confederate Council of War meeting.

The original owner of the Burt - Stark Mansion was David Lesley. He hired an English landscaper to design the property. When Lesley died in 1855, the property was purchased by a Presbyterian minister, Thomas A Hoyt. Hoyt sold it to Andrew Simonds a banker from Charleston, South Carolina, who in turn sold the home to Armistead Burt. Jefferson Davis’ wife Varina had met Burt when her husband was first in the United States Congress in 1845. At the beginning of the Civil War the first reading of the South Carolinia secession papers happened in the Burt - Stark Mansion. When Richmond, Virginia became un-safe Varina Davis and her children were invited by Burt to his home on April 17th 1865. After Richmond fell Jefferson Davis went to the house.

In the early evening of May 2nd 1865 Jefferson Davis held his final war council in the Burt - Stark Mansion. Among those who were in attendance were the Secretary of War John C Breckinridge and Braxton Bragg. Davis argued to continue fighting using the Confederate forces located west of the Mississippi River, but he was only one in favor. After some seething Davis excepted the decision, effectively bring an end to the Confederate States of America.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Opened The Way

A part of the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of Port Gibson was fought May 1st 1863.

In the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S Grant started his Vicksburg Campaign by moving his army south from Milliken’s Bend. He planed to cross the Mississippi at Grand Gulf, but the Union ships weren’t able to silence the Confederate guns there. The Union troops marched further south and crossed the river on April 30th 1863 at Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Advancing along the Rodney Road on May 1st 1863 moving toward Port Gibson, Grant’s troops under Brigadier General Eugene A Carr ran into Confederates shortly after midnight near the Shaifer House. They skirmished until after 3 am when the Union soldiers advanced along a plantation road at dawn. The Confederates engaged a Union advance at 5:30 am bringing on the Battle of Port Gibson. The Union side pushed the Confederate soldiers back. Several times during the day the Confederates established new lines of defense, but they could not hold off Grant’s men. The Confederates found they could not defend their line on the Mississippi River and retreated to the Bayou Pierre bottoms. This left the way to Vicksburg open for Grant’s army.

For more about this battle look at Peter Joseph Osterhaus's official report