Memphis riots

Scenes in Memphis, Tennessee, during the riot (Harper's weekly, 1866 May 26, p. 321. )

Memphis Riot, May 1-4, 1866

According to The Freedmen’s Bureau Report on the Memphis Race Riots of 1866 the immediate cause of the Memphis riots of 1866 was an altercation between white policemen and blacks on the evening of April 30, 1866. The following afternoon policemen tried to arrest some boisterous and intoxicated recently discharged black soldiers. Another fight broke out and the violence escalated. Here’s a summary from the report:

The remote cause was the feeling of bitterness which as always existed between the two classes. The minor affrays which occurred daily, especially between the police and colored persons.

The general tone of certain city papers which in articles that have appeared almost daily, have councilled the low whites to open hostilities with the blacks.

The immediate cause was the collision heretofore spoken of between a few policemen and Negroes on the evening of the 30th of April in which both parties may be equally culpable, followed on the evening of the 1st May by another collision of a more serious nature and subsequently by an indiscriminate attack upon inoffensive colored men and women.

Memphis and vicinity for General Sherman (

Memphis and Vicinity

Three Negro churches were burned, also eight (8) school houses, five (5) of which belonged to the United States Government, and about fifty (50) private dwellings, owned, occupied or inhabited by freedmen as homes, and in which they had all their personal property, scanty though it be, yet valuable to them and in many instances containing the hard earnings of months of labor.

Large sums of money were taken by police and others, the amounts varying five (5) to five hundred (500) dollars, the latter being quite frequent owing to the fact that many of the colored men had just been paid off and discharged from the Army.

No dwellings occupied by white men exclusively were destroyed and we have no evidence of any white men having been robbed.

From the present disturbed condition of the freedmen in the districts where the riot occurred it is impossible to determine the exact number of Negroes killed and wounded. The number already ascertained as killed is about (30) thirty; and the number wounded about fifty (50). Two white men were killed, viz., Stephens, a policemen and Dunn of the Fire Department. …

According to General George Stoneman declared martial law on the third day of the riots in an attempt to restore order.

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From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1866:

ORGANIZING A MILITARY COMPANY. – We understand Maj. H.B. Compson, of Tyre, is authorized to organize a military company in this town and Tyre, for Col. Steele’s regiment of National Guards. We hope he may be successful in organizing a good company.

According to Seneca County Historian Walt Gable, H.B. Compson worked as U.S. marshal and postmaster after mustering out. By 1885 he was serving with the regular U.S. army in Utah.[1]


his resume with the 8th New York Cavalry

Hartwell Compson, Civil War Medal of Honor

now organizing a militia company


8th NY Cavalry’s standard

Hey, Walt’s book has been google-ized!
You can read an 1864 letter from Captain Compson to his father from near Malvern Hill
The New York State Military Museum provides the image of the 8th Cavalry’s standard and H.B. Compson’s roster entry. Wikipedia publishes more information about the seal of the U.S. National Guard and Medal of Honor recipient Hartwell Thomas Benton Compson

following in the minutepeople’s footsteps

  1. [1] Gable, Walter Seneca County And The Civil War. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014. Print. page 66.
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main street rails


NY 148th’s regimental color

One of the the things I remember from the American Civil War’s 150th anniversary is that the New York 148th Infantry Regiment experienced trench warfare during the 1864 Overland Campaign. 150 years ago this month the regiment’s first colonel was working on infrastructure construction down South.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1866:

DOWN IN TENNESSEE. – Col. Wm. Johnson, of this village [Seneca Falls], is down in Memphis, Tenn., building street railroads. We have before us the Memphis Avalanche of the 5th inst., which says the cars will be running from one end of Main street to the other by the first of May.

William Johnson organized the 148th as a three-year regiment in late summer 1862. He was discharged a little over a year later.

William Johnson. NY 148th

William Johnson. NY 148th

Thanks to Google and Arcadia Publishing I found some backup for the Seneca County clipping: “The first street railway system, developed in 1866, initially consisted of mule-drawn streetcars. An electric streetcar was introduced in 1891 …” I was surprised by the concept of animal-powered streetcars, but horsecars were an improvement on city omnibuses which had a slow bumpy ride over cobbled or unpaved city streets: “The minimal friction of steel wheels on steel rails (or iron on iron) allowed a horse to pull a larger load and make better time than he could with a road vehicle.” I haven’t seen any Memphis horsecars, but here are a couple other examples.

A horsedrawn streetcar. Rapid transit. Covington Ga. (between ca. 1888 and ca. 1917; LOC:

Covington, Georgia, between ca. 1888 and ca. 1917

MuleDrawn1870s (

Houston, Texas on wooden tracks, late 1870s

Memphis 1870 (LOC:

Memphis 1870

In the above bird’s eye view from 1870 I can make out Main Street and what looks like mule or horse-drawn conveyances on rails. Main Street is two or three blocks from the river and sort of parallels it.

I was a little bit blue until I finally found a Beal [sic] Street, which runs easterly from the Mississippi. You too can get a better bird’s eye view of 1870 Memphis at the Library of Congress, which also provides other images –  in Covington and on Beale Street. The Houston mulecar comes from the University of Houston. You can find the 148th’s regimental color at the New York State Military Museum
Beale Street, Memphis Tennessee (1939; LOC:

Beale Street (1939)

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emancipation celebration

[I forgot to publish this yesterday morning. The celebration occurred April 19, 1866. Sorry]

Celebration of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia by the colored people, in Washington, April 19, 1866 / sketched by F. Dielman. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 10, no. 489 (1866 May 12), p. 300. ; LOC:

“Celebration of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia by the colored people, in Washington, April 19, 1866 / sketched by F. Dielman.” – Library of Congress

NY Times April 20, 1866

NY Times April 20, 1866

150 years ago today Washington, D.C. celebrated the April 16, 1862 abolition of slavery in the nation’s capital. Thanks to Google and the University of Tennessee Press we can read a bit of President Johnson’s remarks to the freedmen. The president seemed flattered that the crowd stopped by. The colored population of the United States would soon discover that some politicians considered them “a hobby and a pretence” by which to obtain and maintain political power; other political leaders were the true friends of freedmen and wanted them to “participate in and enjoy the blessings of freedom.” President Johnson didn’t want to appear egotistical but he had done more than anyone else to ensure the abolition of slavery throughout the United States by the ratification of the 13th amendment to the constitution.

Emancipation Day is still celebrated in Washington, D.C.

I don’t know why April 19th was chosen as the celebration date in 1866, although it is a significant day for American liberty. Back in 1775 American patriots started shooting what they saw as the British aggression at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and in 1862 a crowd in Baltimore contested the movement of what they considered Northern coercers through the streets of their city. Were Union and Liberty really inseparable? It was going to be four years of bloodshed and misery to come to some sort of conclusion to that debate.

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“Treason and Slavery” did it

Washington, D.C. Rocking chair used by President Lincoln in Ford's Theater (1865 April; LOC:

“Rocking chair used by President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater” – Library of Congress)

To commemorate the first anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President Johnson ordered public offices closed. The House of Representatives met to adjourn – and Congressman James Garfield from Ohio spoke some words of tribute. From The Works of James Abram Garfield (thanks to Google):



April 14, 1866.

On motion of Mr. Garfield, the reading of the Journal of yesterday was
dispensed with. He then said : —

NY Times April 13, 1865

NY Times April 13, 1865

MR. SPEAKER, — I desire to move that this House do now adjourn. And before the vote upon that motion is taken I desire to say a few words.

This day, Mr. Speaker, will be sadly memorable so long as this nation shall endure, which God grant may be “till the last syllable of recorded time,” when the volume of human history shall be sealed up and delivered to the Omnipotent Judge. In all future time, on the recurrence of this day, I doubt not that the citizens of this republic will meet in solemn assembly to reflect on the life and character of Abraham Lincoln, and the awful, tragic event of April 14, 1865, — an event unparalleled in the history of nations, certainly unparalleled in our own. It is eminently proper that this House should this day place upon its records a memorial of that event.

The last five years have been marked by wonderful developments of individual character. Thousands of our people, before unknown to fame, have taken their places in history, crowned with immortal honors. In thousands of humble homes arc dwelling heroes and patriots whose names shall never die. But greatest among all these great developments were the character and fame of Abraham Lincoln, whose loss the nation still deplores. His character is aptly described in the words of England’s great Laureate, — written thirty years ago, — in which he traces the upward steps of some –

Abraham Lincoln (c1865; LOC:

“Ours the Cross, His the Crown”

“Divinely gifted man,
Whose life in low estate began
And on a simple village green;

Who breaks his birth’s invidious bar,
And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
And breasts the blows of circumstance,
And grapples with his evil star;

Who makes by force his merit known
And lives to clutch the golden keys,
To mould a mighty State’s decrees,
And shape the whisper of the throne;

And, moving up from high to higher,
Becomes on Fortune’s crowning slope
The pillar of a people’s hope,
The centre of a world’s desire.”

Such a life and character will be treasured forever as the sacred possession of the American people and of mankind.

Mourning badge of colored satin with portrait of Lincoln]. Assassinated at Washington 14 April 1865. I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by. And if it be the pleasure of almighty god to die by. A. Lincoln (LOC:

“Divinely gifted man,
Whose life in low estate began …”

In the great drama of the rebellion there were two acts. The first was the war, with its battles and sieges, its victories and defeats, its sufferings and tears. That act was closing one year ago to-night, and, just as the curtain was lifting on the second and final act – the restoration of peace and liberty — just as the curtain was rising upon new characters and new events, the evil spirit of the rebellion, in the fury of despair, nerved and directed the hand of an assassin to strike down the chief character in both.

It was no one man who killed Abraham Lincoln; it was the embodied spirit of Treason and Slavery, inspired with fearful and despairing hate, that struck him down, in the moment of the nation’s supremest joy.

Sir, there are times in the history of men and nations, when they stand so near the veil that separates mortals from the immortals, time from eternity, and men from their God, that they can almost hear the beatings and feel the pulsations of the heart of the Infinite.

Through such a time has this nation passed. When two hundred and fifty thousand brave spirits passed from the field of honor, through that thin veil, to the presence of God, and when at last its parting folds admitted the martyr President to the company of these dead heroes of the republic, the nation stood so near the veil that the whispers of God were heard by the children of men.

Gen. James Garfield (

General James Garfield

Awestricken by His voice, the American people knelt in tearful reverence and made a solemn covenant with Him and with each other, that this nation should be saved from its enemies, that all its glories should be restored, and, on the ruins of slavery and treason, the temples of freedom and justice should be built, and should survive forever.

It remains for us, consecrated by that great event, and under a covenant with God, to keep that faith, to go forward in the great work until it shall be completed. Following the lead of that great man, and obeying the high behests of God, let us remember that –

“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant my feet,
Our God is marching on.”

I move, sir, that this House do now adjourn.

In 1881 President James A. Garfield was assassinated during his first year in office. He was shot on July 2nd and lingered until his death on September 19th.

As we can see from the Times clipping Secretary of State William H. Seward announced President Johnson’s order that public offices were to be closed on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Of course, Mr. Seward was nearly knifed to death on April 14, 1865. It is not certain when he learned of President Lincoln’s death, but Noah Brooks reported [although disputed] that a few days after the 14th Seward asked that his bed be moved near a window. He saw the flag at half-mast at the War Department and told his attendant that the president was dead: “If he had been alive he would have been the first to call on me; but he has not been here, nor has he sent to know how I am, and there’s the flag at half-mast.” And then the tears flowed over his “gashed cheeks”.[1]

James A. Garfield served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives during Reconstruction before his election as president. Here’s an undated quote:
I am trying to do two things – dare to be a radical, and not a fool; which, if I may judge by the exhibition around me, is a matter of no small difficulty. [2]
Mr. Garfield seemed almost Lincolnesque in not pointing his finger at Booth, et. al. and mentioning that the government tracked down the conspirators and hung several of them. On the other hand, the treasonous, slavery-loving states were kept out of the 39th Congress for the most part.
Coincidences still seem to be happening with this weblog. The same week I put up this post I discovered a current reference to the 1880 Republican convention at which James Garfield was nominated on the 36th ballot. [3]
Images from the Library of Congress: chair, cross-crown,badge, general, campaign bio
v (1880; LOC:

… and Radical?

  1. [1] Stahr, Walter Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man. 2012. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. Print. page 438 and note.
  2. [2] Seldes, George, compiler. The Great Quotations. 1960. New York: Pocket Books, 1967. Print. page 804.
  3. [3] “United States: Open conventions; A user’s manual.” The Economist 9 April 2016: 26. Print.
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historic “cause of irritation”

Outside of the galleries of the House of Representatives during the passage of the civil rights bill ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 10, no. 487 (1866 April 28), p. 269. ; LOC:

“Outside of the galleries of the House of Representatives during the passage of the civil rights bill” – Library of Congress

April 9, 1866 marked the first anniversary of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. On that same day the United States House of Representatives overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. In conjunction with the Senate’s override vote on April 6th this represented “the first time in American history [that] Congress enacted a major piece of legislation over a President’s veto”[1]

Eric Foner explains that President Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill did not isolate the Radicals – it made moderate Republicans realize that the president’s policies were dangerous for the party, especially since the Civil Rights Act was the right thing to do and naturally followed the Union victory in the war. President Johnson thought he would win on the Civil Rights Bill because racism was “deeply embedded in Northern as well as Southern public life” and because of the importance of individual state sovereignty over local affairs, as Frederick Douglass noted. “Given the Civil Rights Act’s astonishing expansion of federal authority and blacks’ rights, it is not surprising that Johnson considered it a Radical measure and believed he could mobilize voters against it.”[2]

The Civil Rights Bill and Freedmen’s Bill of early 1866 impinged on the embedded racism in Alabama’s public life and on Alabama’s notions of state control over local matters, as Walter L. Fleming’s 1905 Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama pointed out:

NY Times April 7, 1866

NY Times April 7, 1866

New Conditions of Congress and Increasing Irritation

The first general assembly under the provisional government ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, “with the understanding that it does not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the political status of freedmen in this state.” The same legislature requested the President to order the withdrawal of the Federal troops on duty in Alabama, for their presence was a source of much disorder and there was no need of them.

The President was asked to release Hon. C. C. Clay, Jr., who was still in prison. At the end of the session a resolution was adopted approving the policy of President Johnson and pledging coöperation with his “wise, firm, and just” work; asserting that the results of the late contest were conclusive, and that there was no desire to renew discussion on settled questions; denouncing the misrepresentations and criminal assaults on the character and interest of the southern people; declaring that it was a misfortune of the present political conditions that there were persons among them whose interests were promoted by false representations; confidence was expressed in the power of the administration to protect the state from malign influences; slavery was abolished and should not be reëstablished; the negro race should be treated with humanity, justice, and good faith, and every means be used to make them useful and intelligent members of society; but “Alabama will not voluntarily consent to change the adjustment of political power as fixed by the Constitution of the United States, and to constrain her to do so in her present prostrate and helpless condition, with no voice in the councils of the nation, would be an unjustifiable breach of faith.”

NY Times April 10, 1866

NY Times April 10, 1866

During the year 1866 there was a growing spirit of independence in the Alabama politics. At no time had there been a subservient spirit, but for a time the people, fully accepting the results of the war, were disposed to do nothing more than conform to any reasonable conditions which might be imposed, feeling sure that the North would impose none that were dishonorable. To them at first the President represented the feeling of the people of the North, perhaps worse. The theory of state sovereignty having been destroyed by the war, the state rights theories of Lincoln and Johnson were easily accepted by the southerners, who were content, after Johnson had modified his policy, to leave affairs in his hands. When the serious differences between the executive and Congress appeared, and the latter showed a desire to impose degrading terms on the South, the people believed that their only hope was in Johnson. They believed the course of Congress to be inspired by a desire for revenge. Heretofore the people had taken little interest in public affairs. Enough voters went to the polls and voted to establish and keep in operation the provisional government. The general belief was that the political questions would settle themselves or be settled in a manner fairly satisfactory to the South. Now a different spirit arose. The southerners thought that they had complied with all the conditions ever asked that could be complied with without loss of self-respect. The new conditions of Congress exhausted their patience and irritated their pride. Self-respecting men could not tamely submit to such treatment.

Alabama 1866 (LOC:

Alabama 1866

During the latter part of 1865 and in 1866, ex-Governor Parsons travelled over the North, speaking in the chief cities in support of the policy of the President. He asked the northern people to rebuke at the polls the political fanatics who were inflaming the minds of the people North and South. He demanded the withdrawal of the military. There had been, he said, no sign of hostility since the surrender; the people were opposed to any legislation which would give the negro the right to vote; and it was the duty of the President, not of Congress, to enforce the laws.

Much angry discussion was caused by the passage of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill in 1866. The Bureau officials had caused themselves to be hated by the whites. They were a nuisance, when no worse, and useless,—a plague to the people. Though there were comparatively few in the state, they were the cause of disorder and ill-feeling between the races. Though there was now even less need of the institution than a year before, the new measure was much more offensive in its provisions. There was great rejoicing when the President vetoed the bill, which the Mobile Times called “an infamous disorganization scheme of radicalism.” The Bureau had become a political machine for work among white and black. The passage of the bill over the veto was felt to be a blow at the prostrate South.

The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 was also a cause of irritation. There was a disposition among the officials of the Freedmen’s Bureau to enforce all such measures before they became law. Orders were issued directing the application of the principles of measures then before Congress. The United States commissioner in Mobile decided that under the “Civil Rights Bill” negroes could ride on the cars set apart for the whites. Horton, the Radical military mayor of Mobile, banished to New Orleans an idiotic negro boy who had been hired to follow him and torment him by offensive questions. Horton was indicted under the “Civil Rights Bill” and convicted. The people of Mobile were much pleased when a “Yankee official was the first to be caught in the trap set for southerners.”

Another citizen of Mobile, a magistrate, was haled before a Federal court, charged with having sentenced a negro to be whipped, contrary to the provisions of the “Civil Rights Bill.” The magistrate explained that there was nothing at all offensive about the whipping. He had not acted in his magisterial capacity, but had himself whipped the negro boy for lying, stealing, and neglect of duty while in his employ. The agent of the Bureau at Selma notified the mayor that the “chain gang system of working convicts on the streets had to be discontinued or he would be prosecuted for violation of the ‘Civil Rights Bill.’” Judge Hardy of Selma decided in a case brought before him that the “Civil Rights Bill” was unconstitutional. He declared it to be an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

The man that blocks up the highway. (1866; LOC:

Congress found a detour

Poster offering fifty dollars reward for the capture of a runaway slave Stephen. (1852; LOC:

1852: “Poster offering fifty dollars reward for the capture of a runaway slave Stephen.” – Library of Congress

Negroes, descendants of former slaves of the Pettway Plantation. They are living under primitive conditions on the plantation. Gees Bend, Alabama (1937 Feb.; LOC:

1937: “Negroes, descendants of former slaves of the Pettway Plantation. They are living under primitive conditions on the plantation. Gees Bend, Alabama” – Library of Congress

Alabamians receiving rations / sketched by A.R. Waud. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1866 Aug. 11, p. 509; LOC:

1866: “Alabamians receiving rations / sketched by A.R. Waud.” – Library of Congress

From the Library of Congress: outside the House; map; read the cartoon’s (square) speech balloons; runaway poster; old plantation; Alfred Waud’s drawing of folks receiving rations appeared in the August 11, 1866 edition of Harper’s Weekly. The text above the image seems to be discussing the Freedmen’s Bureau’s work in Alabama, although there doesn’t appear to be very many freedman in the drawing. “Much of the money expended by the Bureau has gone to the support of the poor … Major PIERCE – an officer, who is one of many I have met, sacrificing their personal comfort and desire to be at home to a sense of duty; and, of all trying positions, it is hard to imagine anything worse than that of a Bureau officer …”
  1. [1] Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: HarperPerennial, 2014. Updated Edition. Print. pages 250-251.
  2. [2] 251.
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this just in

On April 2, 1866 President Andrew Johnson proclaimed the American Civil War officially ended, finished, no more. You read the document at the Library of Congress and at The American Presidency Project. Here’s a bit of it:

… Whereas there now exists no organized armed resistance of misguided citizens or others to the authority of the United States in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida, and the laws can be sustained and enforced therein by the proper civil authority, State or Federal, and the people of said States are well and loyally disposed and have conformed or will conform in their legislation to the condition of affairs growing out of the amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting slavery within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States; and

Whereas, in view of the before-recited premises, it is the manifest determination of the American people that no State of its own will has the right or the power to go out of, or separate itself from, or be separated from, the American Union, and that therefore each State ought to remain and constitute an integral part of the United States; and

Whereas the people of the several before-mentioned States have, in the manner aforesaid, given satisfactory evidence that they acquiesce in this sovereign and important resolution of national unity; and

Whereas it is believed to be a fundamental principle of government that people who have revolted and who have been overcome and subdued must either be dealt with so as to induce them voluntarily to become friends or else they must be held by absolute military power or devastated so as to prevent them from ever again doing harm as enemies, which last-named policy is abhorrent to humanity and to freedom; and

Whereas the Constitution of the United States provides for constituent communities only as States, and not as Territories, dependencies, provinces, or protectorates; and

NY Times April 3, 1866

NY Times April 3, 1866

Whereas such constituent States must necessarily be, and by the Constitution and laws of the United States are, made equals and placed upon a like footing as to political rights, immunities, dignity, and power with the several States with which they are united; and

Whereas the observance of political equality, as a principle of right and justice, is well calculated to encourage the people of the aforesaid States to be and become more and more constant and persevering in their renewed allegiance; and

Whereas standing armies, military occupation, martial law, military tribunals, and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are in time of peace dangerous to public liberty, incompatible with the individual rights of the citizen, contrary to the genius and spirit of our free institutions, and exhaustive of the national resources, and ought not, therefore, to be sanctioned or allowed except in cases of actual necessity for repelling invasion or suppressing insurrection or rebellion; and

Whereas the policy of the Government of the United States from the beginning of the insurrection to its overthrow and final suppression has been in conformity with the principles herein set forth and enumerated:

Now, therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida is at an end and is henceforth to be so regarded.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 2d day of April, A. D. 1866, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninetieth.


By the President:


Secretary of State.

As it turns out the war was only almost officially at an end. As The Civil War points out, President Johnson only listed ten states in his April proclamation because The Lone Star State … rebel territory was alone again. Texas had not yet formed a new state government. It looks like we’re going to have to wait another four months.

The end of the rebellion in the United States, 1865 / C. Kimmel. (c1866; LOC:

It ended in 1865?

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planes, trains, and auto trucks

On March 9, 1916 Francisco (Pancho) Villa’s“guerrilla militia” attacked a United States army outpost at Columbus, New Mexico and killed several Americans. In response General John J. Pershing lead the Villa Punitive Expedition into Mexico. Despite pulling out seemingly all the technological stops, the guerrilla leader was proving difficult to capture.

Army camp Columbus, N.M., auto truck supply train about to leave for Mexico / Shulman. (1916?; LOC:

“Army camp Columbus, N.M., auto truck supply train about to leave for Mexico …” (Library of Congress)

NY Times March 24, 1916

NY Times March 24, 1916

NY Times March 25, 1916

NY Times March 25, 1916

Carranza and U.S. troops use trains in search for Villa--Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916 (LOC:

“Carranza and U.S. troops use trains in search for Villa–Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916” (Library of Congress)

NY Times March 26, 1916

NY Times March 26, 1916

NY Times March 27, 1916

“Aeroplanes are patrolling the line of communication from Columbus.” (NY Times March 27, 1916)

NY Times March 31, 1916

“It is officially confirmed by aeroplane that the southernmost American cavalry forces are pressing Francisco Villa hard.” (NY Times March 31, 1916)

Lieut. C.G. Chapman preparing for a scouting expedition at Casas Grandes, Mexico--Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916 (LOC:

“Lieut. C.G. Chapman preparing for a scouting expedition at Casas Grandes, Mexico–Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916” (Library of Congress)


And motorcycles, machine guns, and wireless

8th Machine Gun Cavalry in action on Mexican border--Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916 (c1916 April 20.; LOC:

“8th Machine Gun Cavalry in action on Mexican border–Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916” (Library of Congress)

Receiving wireless messages from the border near Casas Grandes, Mexico - Mexican-U.S. Campaign after Villa, 1916 (c1916; LOC:

“Receiving wireless messages from the border near Casas Grandes, Mexico – Mexican-U.S. Campaign after Villa, 1916” (Library of Congress)

Motorcycle squad attached to brigade headquarters near Casa Grandes, Mexico Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916. (c1916 May 6.; LOC:

“Motorcycle squad attached to brigade headquarters near Casa Grandes, Mexico Mexican-U.S. campaign after Villa, 1916.” (Library of Congress)

This post certainly has even less to do with the Civil War and/or Reconstruction than usual, but technology did seem to be a theme during the Civil War 150th remembrance. I always liked stories of the telegraph, but by 1916 the army was using wireless. Thaddeus Lowe used hot air balloons were used for aerial reconnaissance during the Civil War; 50 years later aeroplanes were up in the air keeping track (and Zeppelins were still full of hot air). Technological change can be gradual – there were plenty of horses in use as I browsed through all the excellent photos from the Villa Expedition. And sometimes old technology can come to the rescue of the new stuff.

Fair Oaks, Va. Prof. Thaddeus S. Lowe observing the battle from his balloon "Intrepid" (1862 May 31.; LOC:

1862: “Fair Oaks, Va. Prof. Thaddeus S. Lowe observing the battle from his balloon “Intrepid”” – Library of Congress)

The camp blacksmith at Casas Grandes, Mexico (c1916.; LOC:

1916: “The camp blacksmith at Casas Grandes, Mexico”

Capt. B.D. Foulois and Lieut. J.E. [or J.C.?] Carberry picked up by Mexican along road [in wagon] after their aeroplane had fallen 1500 feet - Mexican-U.S. Campaign after Villa, 1916 (c1916 April 27; LOC:

“Capt. B.D. Foulois and Lieut. J.E. [or J.C.?] Carberry picked up by Mexican along road [in wagon] after their aeroplane had fallen 1500 feet – Mexican-U.S. Campaign after Villa, 1916” (Library of Congress)

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NY Times March 28, 1866

NY Times March 28, 1866

In February 1866 President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau extension act. On March 27th he vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Here’s an 1896 summary from The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction by Charles Ernest Chadsey:

6. After the President had thus publicly stigmatized the opponents of his policy as instigators of a new rebellion, and classed Stevens, Sumner and Wendell Phillips as traitors to be compared with Davis, there could be no hope of reconciliation, and the Republican party grimly settled down to fight for its principles. The first important measure to take effect was the civil rights bill.

On the first day of the session Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, had introduced a bill looking to the personal protection of the freedmen. It was aimed directly at the “black laws” of the Southern States, and declared all laws, statutes, acts, etc., of any description whatsoever, which caused any inequality of civil rights, in consequence of race or color, to be void. In his speech of December 13, 1865, explaining his reasons for introducing the bill, Wilson said that, while honest differences as to the expediency of negro suffrage might exist, he could not comprehend “how any humane, just and Christian man can, for a moment, permit the laws that are on the statute-books of the States in rebellion, and the laws that are now pending before their legislatures, to be executed upon men whom we have declared to be free. * * * To turn these freedmen over to the tender mercies of men who hate them for their fidelity to the country is a crime that will bring the judgment of heaven upon us.”

This bill and a similar bill introduced by the same senator on December 21, and one introduced by Senator Sumner on the first day of the session, never came to a vote, the last two being postponed indefinitely by the Senate. In place of these bills, Senator Trumbull of Illinois, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, on January 5, 1866, introduced a bill which, slightly amended, became a law. This measure passed the Senate on February 2, was amended and passed by the House on March 13, and the amendments were concurred in by the Senate on the 15th. It was returned to the Senate by the President, without his approval, March 27, and on April 6 the Senate passed the bill over the veto of the President by a vote of 33 to 15. Three days later the House passed the bill by a vote of 122 to 41, and the measure became a law.

The lobby of the House of Representatives at Washington during the passage of the civil rights bill ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 10, no. 487 (1866 April 28), pp. 264-265. ; LOC:

“The lobby of the House of Representatives at Washington during the passage of the civil rights bill” – Library of Congress

As passed it was entitled, “An Act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means of their vindication.” It first declared “all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed,” to be citizens of the United States. Such citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous servitude, were declared to have the same rights in all the States and Territories, as white citizens, to make and enforce contracts; to “sue, be parties, and give evidence; to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property;” to enjoy the equal benefit of all laws for the security of person and property, and to be subject only to the same punishments. The second section provided penalties for the deprivation of equal rights. The third gave to the United States courts exclusive cognizance of all causes involving the denial of the rights secured by the first section. The remaining sections specified the powers and duties of the district attorneys, marshals, deputy marshals and special commissioners, in connection with the enforcement of the act, the ninth section providing: “It shall be lawful for the President of the United States, or such person as he may empower for that purpose, to employ such part of the land or naval forces of the United States, or of the militia, as shall be necessary to prevent the violation and enforce the due execution of the Act.”

From this summary of the act its nature can be seen plainly. Up to this time there had been no legislation affecting the status of the freedman. This declared him to be a citizen of the United States, and thereby entitled to all the privileges of citizenship. The war having resulted in the anomalous condition of the several millions of freedmen, some such legislation was necessary, especially in view of the fact that discriminative legislation was being enacted in the South. The bill was moderate in its terms, the most questionable portion being the section empowering the President to enforce the act through the war department, but even that in the then unsettled condition of the country had much to justify it.

Andy veto (Root & Cady, Chicago, 1866. ; LOC:

act would “break down the barriers which preserve the rights of the States”

The President’s veto message was a lengthy document and discussed in detail the significance of the bill. He questioned the policy of conferring citizenship on four million blacks while eleven of the States were unrepresented in Congress. He doubted whether the negroes possessed the qualifications for citizenship, and thought that their proper protection did not require that they be made citizens, as civil rights were secured to them as they were, while the bill discriminated against the intelligent foreigner. Naturally, he also declared that the securing by federal law of equality of the races was an infringement upon state jurisdiction. “Hitherto, every subject embraced in the enumeration of rights contained in this bill has been considered as exclusively belonging to the States.” The second section he thought to be of doubtful constitutionality and unnecessary, “as adequate judicial remedies could be adopted to secure the desired end, without invading the immunities of legislators, * * * without assailing the independence of the judiciary, * * * and without impairing the efficiency of ministerial officers. * * * The legislative department of the United States thus takes from the judicial department of the States the sacred and exclusive duty of judicial decision, and converts the State judge into a mere ministerial officer bound to decide according to the will of Congress.” The third section he characterized as undoubtedly comprehending cases and authorizing the “exercise of powers that are not by the Constitution within the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States.” He also considered the extraordinary powers of the numerous officials created by the act as jeopardizing the liberties of the people, and the provisions in regard to fees as liable to bring about persecution and fraud.

In addition to these objections he argued that the bill frustrated the natural adjustment between capital and labor in a way potent to cause discord. It was “an absorption and assumption of power by the General Government which, if acquiesced in, must sap and destroy our federative system of limited powers, and break down the barriers which preserve the rights of the States. * * * The tendency of the bill must be to resuscitate the spirit of rebellion, and to arrest the progress of those influences which are more closely drawing around the States the bonds of union and peace.”

Here is the last part of the president’s veto message from TeachingAmericanHistoryorg:

Andrew Johnson, Prest. U.S. / printed in oil colors, by Bingham & Dodd, Hartford, Conn. (c.1866; LOC:

new federal bureaucrats won’t work themselves out of a job

… I do not propose to consider the policy of this bill. To me the details of the bill are fraught with evil. The white race and black race of the South have hitherto lived together under the relation of master and slave—capital owning labor. Now that relation is changed; and as to ownership, capital and labor are divorced. They stand now, each master of itself. In this new relation, one being necessary to the other, there will be a new adjustment, which both are deeply interested in making harmonious. Each has equal power in settling the terms; and, if left to the laws that regulate capital and labor, it is confidently believed that they will satisfactorily work out the problem. Capital, it is true, has more intelligence; but labor is never ignorant as not to understand its own interests, not to know its own value, and not to see that capital must pay that value. This bill frustrates this adjustment. It intervenes between capital and labor, and attempts to settle questions of political economy through the agency of numerous officials, whose interest it will be to foment discord between the two races; for as the breach widens, their employment will continue; and when it is closed, their occupation will terminate. In all our history, in all our experience as a people living under Federal and State law, no such system as that contemplated by the details of this bill has ever before been proposed or adopted. They establish for the security of the colored race safeguards which go indefinitely beyond any that the General Government has ever provided for the white race. In fact, the distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored against the white race. They interfere with the municipal legislation of the States; with relations existing exclusively between a State and its citizens, or between inhabitants of the same State; an absorption and assumption of power by the General Government which, if acquiesced in, must sap and destroy our federative system of limited power, and break down the barriers which preserve the rights of the States. It is another step, or rather stride, towards centralization and the concentration of all legislative powers in the National Government. The tendency of the bill must be to resuscitate the spirit of rebellion, and to arrest the progress of those influences which are more closely drawing around the States the bonds of union and peace.

My lamented predecessor, in his proclamation of the 1st of January, 1863, ordered and declared that all persons held as slaves within certain States and parts of States therein designated, were, and thenceforward should be free; and further, that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, would recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons. This guaranty has been rendered especially obligatory and sacred by the amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States. I, therefore, fully recognize the obligation to protect and defend that class of our people whenever and wherever it shall become necessary, and to the full extent, compatible with the Constitution of the United States. Entertaining these sentiments, it only remains for me to say that I will cheerfully co-operate with Congress in any measure that may be necessary for the preservation of civil rights of the freedmen, as well as those of all other classes of persons throughout the United States, by judicial process under equal and impartial laws, or conformably with the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

I now return the bill to the Senate, and regret that in considering the bills and joint resolutions, forty-two in number, which have been thus far submitted for my approval, I am compelled to withhold my assent from a second measure that has received the sanction of both Houses of Congress.
Andrew Johnson

Washington, D.C., March 27, 1866.

The cruel uncle and the vetoed babes in the wood ( Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 22, no. 554 (1866 May 12), p. 128.; LOC:

he’s got his hands full

The Senate on April 6th and the House on April 9th voted to override President Johnson’s veto. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which you can read at PBS, became federal law.

Outside of the galleries of the House of Representatives during the passage of the civil rights bill ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 10, no. 487 (1866 April 28), p. 269. ; LOC:

“Outside of the galleries of the House of Representatives during the passage of the civil rights bill” – Library of Congress

Many thanks to the Library of Congress for all the images: song; portrait; cartoon (from Frank Leslie’s May 12, 1866; the two images from Harper’s Weekly April 28, 1866 (during the early April override vote?) – lobby, joy
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Pancho and Black Jack

General Grant's Richmond march (1865,1866; LOC:

and then Schofield on to Mexico City?

As Walter Stahr explains in his biography of William H. Seward, after the American Civil War ended, famous Union generals were eager to invade Mexico and drive the French and Maximilian I out of North America. Ulysses S. Grant “was keen to enforce the Monroe doctrine in Mexico,” by supporting the U.S. recognized Benito Juárez government. In July 1865 President Johnson read a letter from General Philip Sheridan to Grant stating that he and his troops were eager to cross the Rio Grande and march towards Mexico City.

Despite having been nearly killed in mid-April, Secretary Seward worked hard during the rest of 1865 to prevent a second Mexican war. He based his approach on his doubt that “invaders from the United States would be more welcome in Mexico than the French”. He argued at cabinet meetings that the French would eventually leave Mexico of their own volition and that, if the United States did drive out the French, “‘we could not get out ourselves.'” The Secretary of State co-opted General John Schofield, whom Grant intended to lead a joint American-Mexican army, by sending him to Paris. Mr. Seward limited the Juárez government ambassador’s access to President Johnson and assured General Grant that he was going to get the French out of Mexico with diplomacy. But he also used the threat of an invasion in his negotiations with the French. By the end of 1865 “Seward had not solved the Mexican crisis, but he had prevented Grant from leading the United States into a second Mexican war, and he had increased the pressure on France to get out of Mexico.” [1]

100 years ago this week another (at least soon to be) famous American general did invade Mexico in pursuit of a Mexican force commanded by Pancho Villa. John J. Pershing led the Pancho Villa Expedition, which:

was launched in retaliation for Villa’s attack on the town of Columbus, New Mexico, and was the most remembered event of the Border War. The declared objective of the expedition by the Wilson administration was the capture of Villa. Despite successfully locating and defeating the main body of Villa’s command, responsible for the raid on Columbus, U.S. forces were unable to prevent Villa’s escape and so the main objective of the U.S. incursion was not achieved.

 Generals Obregon, Villa and Pershing meet at Ft Bliss, TX (1). Immediately behind Pershing on the left is his aide Lt. George S. Patton. (

Pancho and Black Jack (August 27, 1914)

Here’s a little more detail, from The Story of General Pershing by Everett Titsworth Tomlinson:

In Pursuit of Villa

General Pershing had been sent to the Mexican border in command of the Southwestern Division early in 1915. In command of the El Paso patrol district, he necessarily was busy much of his time in guarding and patrolling the long thin lines of our men on duty there.

NY Times March, 10 1916

NY Times March, 10 1916

The troubles with Mexico had been steadily increasing in seriousness. The rivalry and warfare between various leaders in that country had not only brought their own country into a condition of distress, but also had threatened to involve the United States as well. Citizens of the latter country had invested large sums in mining, lumber and other industries in Mexico and were complaining bitterly of the failure of our Government either to protect them or their investments. Again and again, under threats of closing their mines or confiscating their property, they had “bought bonds” of the rival Mexican parties, which was only another name for blackmail.

Raids were becoming increasingly prevalent near the border and already Americans were reported to have been slain by these irresponsible bandits who were loyal only to their leaders and not always to them. The condition was becoming intolerable.

Germany, too, had her agents busy within the borders of Mexico, artfully striving not only to increase her own power in the rich and distracted country, but also to create and foment an unreasonable anger against the United States, vainly hoping in this way to prevent the latter country from entering the World War by compelling her to face these threatening attacks from her neighbor on the south. President Wilson was doing his utmost to hold a steady course through the midst of these perils, which daily were becoming more threatening and perplexing.

Columbus, after the battle.

“Columbus, after the battle.”

The climax came early in March, 191[6], when Francesco Villa, the most daring and reckless leader of all the Mexican bandit bands, suddenly with his followers made an attack on the post at Columbus, New Mexico. The American soldiers were taken completely by surprise. Their machine guns (some said there was only one at the post) jammed and their defense was inadequate. They were not prepared. When Villa withdrew he left nine dead civilians and eight dead American soldiers behind him.

Instantly the President decided that the time had come when he must act. There was still the same strong desire to avoid war with Mexico if possible. The same suspicion of Germany was in his mind, but in spite of these things Villa must be punished and Americans must be protected. Quickly a call for regulars and State troops was made and General Pershing was selected as the leader of the punitive expedition.

NY Times March 17, 1916

NY Times March 17, 1916

The New York Sun, in an editorial at the time of his selection, said: “At home in the desert country, familiar with the rules of savage warfare, a regular of regulars, sound in judgment as in physique, a born cavalryman, John J. Pershing is an ideal commander for the pursuit into Mexico.”

The selection indeed may have been “ideal,” but the conditions confronting the commander were far from sharing in that ideal. Equipment was lacking, many of his men, though they were brave, were untrained, and, most perplexing of all, was the exact relation of Mexico to the United States. There could not be said to exist a state of war and yet no one could say the two countries were at peace. He was invading a hostile country which was not an enemy, for the raids of bandit bands across the border did not mean that Mexico as a state was attacking the United States. He must move swiftly across deserts and through mountain fastnesses, he was denied the use of railroads for transporting either troops or supplies, enemies were on all sides who were familiar with every foot of the region and eager to lure him and his army into traps from which escape would be well nigh impossible. The fact is[122] that for nearly eleven months Pershing maintained his line, extending nearly four hundred miles from his base of supplies, in a country which even if it was not at war was at least hostile. It is not therefore surprising that after his return the State of New Mexico voted a handsome gold medal to the leader of the punitive expedition for his success in an exceedingly difficult task.

It was on the morning of March 15, 1916, when General Pershing dashed across the border in command of ten thousand United States cavalrymen, with orders to “get” Villa. A captain in the Civil War who was in the Battle of Gettysburg, when he learned of the swift advance of General Pershing’s forces, said: “The hardest march we ever made was the advance from Frederick. We made thirty miles that day between six o’clock a.m. and eleven o’clock p.m. But Maryland and Pennsylvania are not an alkali desert. I have an idea that twenty-six miles a day, the ground Pershing was covering on that waterless tramp in Mexico, was some hiking.” And the advance[123] is one of the marvels of military achievements when it is recalled that the march was begun before either men or supplies, to say nothing of equipment, were in readiness. …

The Pershing "punitive" expedition : well named (Published in: New York Herald, Nov. 26, 1916, p. 2. ; LOC:

punishing Pershing?

Although the punitive expedition failed in its main purpose,—the capture of Villa,—the opinion in America was unanimous that the leadership had been superb. The American Review of Reviews declared that “the expedition was conducted from first to last in a way that reflected credit on American arms.”

An interesting incident in this chapter of Pershing’s story is that fourteen of the nineteen Apache Indian scouts whom he had helped to capture in the pursuit of Geronimo, in 1886, were aiding him in the pursuit of Villa. Several of these scouts were past seventy years of age; indeed, one was more than eighty, but their keenness on the trail and their long experience made their assistance of great value. One of the best was Sharley and another was Peaches. Several of these Indian scouts are with the colors in France, still with Pershing. …

"U.S. Army Punitive Expedition after Villa, Mexico: General Pershing and General Bliss inspecting the camp, with Colonel Winn, Commander of the 24th Infantry" (Library of Congress)

“U.S. Army Punitive Expedition after Villa, Mexico: General Pershing and General Bliss inspecting the camp, with Colonel Winn, Commander of the 24th Infantry” (Library of Congress)

Villa & staff, Mexico (between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915; LOC:

the uncatchable General Villa and staff (between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915)


Another Wikisummary:

Villa subsequently led a raid against the U.S.-Mexican border town of Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. The U.S. government sent U.S. Army General John J. Pershing to capture Villa in an unsuccessful nine-month incursion into Mexican sovereign territory that ended when the United States entered World War I and Pershing was called back.

Untitled. [I've Had About Enough of This] (

border matters?

Image 9 of The New York times, April 9, 1916, Edition 1 (LOC:

NY Times April 9, 1916

The Library of Congress provides the images of Richmond March, cactus cartoon, Black Jack inspecting, Pancho and staff (“X” marks Villa’s spot), NY Times photo page. The Library also links to the photo of Pershing and Villa standing together. The man to the right of Villa is Álvaro Obregón; the soldier to the left of Pershing might be George S. Patton. The barbed wire cartoon can be found at the National Archives.
  1. [1] Stahr, Walter Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man. 2012. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. Print. pages 440-446.
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