peace as soon as practicable

although, maybe not on the floor of the Democrat convention

On the second day, the Democratic convention in Chicago adopted its platform for the 1864 campaign. The chairman of the convention, New York Governor Horatio Seymour, opened the day with a speech. A proposal to add an explicit States’ Rights plank to the platform was rejected as the reported resolutions were adopted. With the platform agreed upon nominations for the presidential candidate were entertained. After seconding the nomination of Thomas H. Seymour, Maryland Congressman Benjamin Gwinn Harris caused a ruckus by laying into previously nominated George B. McClellan for stomping on the rights of Marylanders while he was active as a Union general.

NY Times 8-31-1864

NY Times 8-31-1864

From The New-York Times August 31, 1864:

THE CHICAGO CONVENTION; No Nomination Made Yesterday. The Platform and How It Was Adopted. A Piece for the Peace Democrats. A SOP FOR THE SOLDIERS. HIGH DUDGEON OF THE PEACE MEN A Furious Speech by Congressman Harris, of Maryland. McClellan Denounced As a Tyrant. He is Nailed to the Wall on Arbitrary Arrests. A STORMY TIME IN PROSPECT.

CHICAGO, Tuesday, Aug. 30.

The National Democratic Convention reassembled at 10 o’clock this morning.

The attendance both inside and outside the Wigwam is even greater than yesterday. …

On taking the Chair, Governor SEYMOUR spoke as follows:

GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION: I cannot forecasts the resolutions and action of this convention, but I can say that every member of it loves the Union, desires peace, and will uphold constitutional freedom. …

Hon. Horatio Seymour (between 1855 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpbh-01842)

Republicans were “animated by intolerance and fanaticism”

Four years ago a convention met in this city, when your country was peaceful, prosperous and united. Its delegates did not mean to destroy our Government, to overwhelm us with debt, or to drench our land with blood; but they were animated by intolerance and fanaticism, and blinded by an ignorance of the spirit of our institutions, the character of our people, and the condition of our land. They thought they might safety indulge their passions and they concluded to do so. They would not heed the warnings of our fathers, and they did not consider that meddling besets strife.

Their passions have wrought out their natural results. They were impelled to spurn all measures of compromise. Step by step they have marched on to results which, at the onset they would have shrunk with horror from; and even now when war has desolated our land, has laid its heavy burdens upon labor, and when bankruptcy and ruin overhang us, they will not have the Union restored except upon conditions unknown to our Constitution.

They will not let the shedding of blood cease even for a little time to see if Christian charity or the wisdom of statesmanship may not work out a method to save our country.

Nay, more than this, they will not listen to a proposal for peace which does not offer that which this Government has no right to [???]. [impose?] …

Gentlemen, I do trust that our proceedings here will be marked by harmony. I do earnestly believe that we shall be animated by the greatness of this occasion. In all probability the future destiny of our country hangs upon our action. Let this consideration inspire us with a spirit of harmony.

God of our fathers, bless us now ; lift us up above all personal considerations; fill us with a just idea of the great responsibilities which rest upon us, and give again to our land its union, its peace and its liberty.

Loud and enthusiastic cheers greeted Gov. SEYMOUR as be concluded his speech.

[At the 4 PM session the platform was adopted and then presidential nominations were accepted.]

Mr. HARRIS, of Maryland, seconded the nomination of THOMAS H. SEYMOUR, and proceeded to eulogize his party services and abilities. Mr. HARRIS continued as follows:

One man nominated here to-day is a tyrant. [Cheers and hisses.] He, it was, who first initiated the policy by which our rights and liberties were stricken down. That man is GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN. [Confusion.] Maryland, which has suffered so much at the hands of that man, will not submit to his nomination in silence. His offences shall be made known. This Convention is a jury appointed by the people to pass upon the merits of the public men whose names may be presented for the support of the great Democratic party. Gen. MCCLELLAN, I repeat, is a tyrant. [Great confusion.] He stood here to indict him.

A DELEGATE — I call him to order.

The President said that he hoped there was no man present who would deny the right of free speech. Certainly no Democrat will. At the same time he hoped that no delegate would feel called upon to pursue a course of remarks so offensive as to interfere with the harmony of the convention.

Mr. HARRIS read MCCLELLAN’s order of arrest against the Maryland Legislature, and proceeded to comment upon the same; but the confusion was so great that the speaker could not be heard, except to say that all the charged of usurpation and tyranny that can be brought against LINCOLN and BUTLER he can make and substantiate against MCCLELLAN.

[Hisses, cheers, and cries of "Vote for JEFF. DAVIS."] …

The meeting was adjourned for the day as the delegates were still debating the merits of McClellan.

You can read the Democratic platform at the Richmond Daily Dispatch September 3, 1864:

The platform.

At the afternoon session of the Convention, on Tuesday, Mr. Guthrie, from the special committee to prepare resolutions, reported the following platform, which was adopted with only four dissentient voices:

Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength, security and happiness as a people, and as the framework of a government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

Resolved, That this Convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, (during which, under the pretense of military necessity or the war power, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down and the national prosperity of the country essentially impaired,) justice, humanity, liberty and the public welfare, demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities with a view to an ultimate convention of all the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authority of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and the repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired, and they hereby declare that they consider the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers, not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial and sentence of American citizens, in States where the civil law exists in full force; the suppression of the freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of States’ rights; the employment of unusual test oaths, and the interference with, and the denial of, the right of the people to bear arms, as calculated to prevent the restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now are, and long have been, prisoners of war in suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation and scorn alike of the public and common humanity.

Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiers of our army who are, and have been, in the field under the flag of our country, and, in the event of our attaining power, they will receive the care, protection, regard and kindness that the brave soldiers of the Republic have so nobly earned.

I swapped the order of the last two resolutions in keeping with all the other sources.

The September 3, 1864 issue of Harper’s Weekly (at Son of the Southpreviewed the Chicago Convention and let it’s reader know what it thought about a Democratic peace with this image by Thomas Nast:

DEDICATED TO THE CHICAGO CONVENTION.  (Harper's Weekly September 3, 1864 (by Thomas Nast)

peace price

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The Democracy (divided) convenes

Shelby Foote said that after President Lincoln wrote his prediction of electoral defeat and pledge of co-operation with the incoming administration, he folded it shut, brought it to a cabinet meeting, and had each of the attendees sign it – without telling them what it contained. However, he thought things would get a bit better after the Democrat Convention in Chicago because

he saw trouble for his opponents once they came out in the open, where he had spent the last four years, a target for whatever mud was flung. The Old Democratic rift, which had made him President in the first place, was even wider than it had been four years ago … The front runner was Major General George B. McClellan, who was expected to attract the soldier vote, although numbers of Democrats were saying that that they would accept no candidate “with the smell of war on his garments.” Either way, as Lincoln saw the outcome, platform and man were likely to be mismatched, … “they must nominate a Peace Democrat on a war platform, or a War Democrat on a peace platform,” he told a friend who left that weekend for the convention in his home state, “and I personally can’t say I care much which they do.” [1]

A Richmond paper’s coverage of the first day of the convention contained a telegram published originally in The New-York Times that seemed to agree with Mr. Lincoln: “The peace men will construct the platform, and then consent to set little “Mac” upon it.”

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch September 3, 1864:

The first day of the Chicago Convention.

The Chicago Convention met on the 29th, and the New York papers of the 30th are full of what was said and done there. We copy such of the preliminary proceedings as are interesting. Governor Seymour, of New York, withdrew his name on the 28th positively, and the New York delegation, then being polled, stood: For McClellan, 53; scattering, 13. Ohio delegation: McClellan, 16; against him, 26. Missouri: McClellan, 13; scattering, 9. Indiana: McClellan, 18; scattering, 6. Illinois: McClellan, 22; scattering, 10. Betting was freely done at four to one that McClellan would be nominated on the first ballot. At 12 o’clock on Monday the Convention was called to order by Auguste Belmont in a short address, in which he said:

Depot of the Ill. Central RR Chicago, Illinois (by Samuel Fisher Corlies, 1863; LOC: LC-DIG-stereo-1s01449)

“Depot of the Ill. Central RR Chicago, Illinois” (1863) (Library of Congress)

The past and the present are sufficient warnings of the disastrous consequences which would befall us if Mr. Lincoln’s re-election should be made possible by our want of patriotism and unity. The inevitable results of such a calamity must be the utter disintegration of our whole political and social system, amid bloodshed and anarchy, with the great problems of liberal progress and self-government jeopardized for generations to come. The American people have at last awakened to the conviction that a change of policy and administration can alone stay our downward course; and they will rush to the support of your candidate and platform, provided you will offer to their suffrages a tried patriot who has proved his devotion to the Union and the Constitution, and provided that you pledge him and ourselves to maintain their hallowed importance by every effort and sacrifice in our power.

He nominated Ex-Governor Bigler, of Pennsylvania, for temporary President, and the nomination was carried. Ex-Governor Bigler, on taking his seat, made what might be called in peace times a “Union” speech, saying a great deal about the North, South, East and West rallying under the Constitution, (what Constitution?) which is of no interest to our readers in the Confederacy. After the appointment of the proper committees, various resolutions were read and referred. Among them was one by Governor Hunt, of New York, for a convention of all the States; one by Mr. Long, of Ohio, asking Lincoln to suspend his draft for 500,000 men until after the Presidential election; one by Mr. Price, of Missouri, pledging all the (United) States to stand by each other if the “rights” of any one are trampled on by Lincoln; and the last one by Mr. Allicks, of Pennsylvania, re-affirming the Monroe doctrine!! The Convention then adjourned till the next day. A telegram from Chicago, in the New York Times, dated the 29th, says:

As yet, little or no difference of opinion is manifested as to the character of the platform. An armistice, a convention of the States, and the adoption of every means consistent with Christianity and civilization to bring about a permanent and honorable peace, seem to be the points generally agreed upon by all the delegations.

The streets and squares about the principal hotels have been filled with immense through all the evening, and at this late hour clubs are marching, bands playing, and large meetings are being held at several points.

The excitement grows more intense as the final action of the Convention is neared.

To-night the committees on resolutions and on organization and rules are in session.

Many of the great lights of the party are here, and the wires are being industriously pulled. Vallandigham is here, and excites as much curiosity as a loosed elephant would in our streets. Crowds follow him wherever he goes — they enter his hotel with him, and are clamorous for a speech. Loyal men are indignant that such an arch traitor is permitted to stalk through our streets, trampling upon the authority of the Government and defying its power.

All shades of the Democracy are here. But it is evident, even now, that the positive men–the Woods and Vallandigham — will control the Convention. The peace men will construct the platform, and then consent to set little “Mac” upon it. I am convinced that he has the inside track, and that he will be nominated by a large majority. I may be mistaken, but such are the indications now.

My old Free Soil Barn-burning friend, Dean Richmond, is on hand. He pleads rather faintly for a vigorous prosecution of the war; but Wood’s voice is in the ascendant now, and Dean will have to take a lower seat.

As to the platform, that has already been foreshadowed. They will resolve for an armistice — just what the rebels want, in their present condition, in order to recruit their armies and fill up their exhausted commissariat. Then they will resolve for a national convention to adjust matters, and here they will stop. They know that no adjustment short of recognition of the independence of the South can take place, and they know that an armistice would be greatly to the advantage of the rebels, and hence they favor it.

Mr. Fillmore’s strength in the Convention will be confined to those States in which there are but few foreigners. In the West his Know-Nothing record of 1856 would ruin him, and it will throw him out of much strength he would otherwise have in the Convention.

There are two delegations from Kentucky, one called the Bramlette delegation, and the other the Powell and Wickliffe delegation. Considerable of a fight is expected in the Convention on the question of the admission of one or the other of these.

The war-horses of the party are already on the ground. Old Sam. Medary and Cox, of Ohio; Guthrie, Robinson, and several others, from Kentucky; Richmond, the Woods, Belmont, McKcon, Seymour, and a host of lesser lights, from New York; Dana, from Maine; J. Glancey Jones, of Pennsylvania; Ex-Governor Campbell, S. R. Peyton and others, of Tennessee, and Rice, of Minnesota. Of course, it is such men who do all the managing — all the wire-working and thimble-rigging for the concern, who are, in fact, the party — the balance of the Convention being merely on hand for show, for ornament, and not for use. At the present writing, I do not anticipate any serious dissentious in the Convention. The leaders have the party too well drilled for that. There may be some sparring, as between lawyers; but I look for nothing more. I may be found to be mistaken when the curtain lifts, but I think not.

Camp Douglas, Chicago, Ill. 1864 (LOC: LC-USZ62-15612)

Copperheads to free captive rebels?

Vallandigham is holding forth to a crowd in the Court-house square. Of course he is constantly cheered, and is evidently the lion of the day, and Fernando Wood is lion No. 2.

There is a feverish anxiety all over the city — especially among the woman. There are so many stories afloat as to the purpose of the Copperheads that it creates much excitement. It is feared that one part of the plot is to release the rebel prisoners in Camp Douglas, in which case all expect the city to be fired and plundered. The authorities have some misgivings, as the wives and families of all the officers have been removed from the camp, and this fact adds to the uneasiness. And then the seizure of arms at Indianapolis, and the general belief that the Irish are armed here, adds not a little to the general concern. Never was a political convention held in this country around which cluster so many omens of evil.

But my opinion still is that there will be no disturbance. The leaders are not prepared for this step yet, at least.


War and peace; Democrats meet in Chicago; “a feverish anxiety all over the city”; welcome to the 1968 Democrat National Convention

  1. [1] Foote, Shelby. The Civil War, A Narrative. Vol. 3. Red River to Appomattox. New York: Random House, 1986. Print. pages 550-551.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Northern Politics During War, Northern Society, The election of 1864 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

worn out

The Democrat National Convention opened in Chicago on August 29, 1864. 150 years ago this month a local Democrat publication found reasons to believe that the Lincoln administration was on the way out.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in August 1864:

Weary of the War.

Abraham Lincoln, head-and-shoulders portrait, seated, facing right (by Douglas Volk, 4-24-1922; LOC:  LC-USZ62-130959)


That the People, North and South, are weary of this most unnatural war, is as certain as that day follows the night. The change in public sentiment during the past few weeks is a most hopeful sign of the times. The People desire peace and a restored Union, and this sentiment pervading the masses, will compel, and soon too, an armistice, to be followed, we ardently hope, by an honorable sentiment of our national troubles. The recent letter of the President, fastening a pure abolition plank in the administration platform before peace can be secured, has opened the hitherto sealed eyes of thousands of the people. The failure of Grant’s campaign, and the call for 500,000 additional men has startled the whole land in the falsity of previous promises. The incapacity and perfidy of those who are temporarily at the head of the government, is now comprehended by thousands who have hitherto supported the administration, and these are among the boldest in denouncing the crimes and blunders of the President and his advisers. The zeal of officeholders and of those who depend on government patronage for their bread is of course unabated, and some there are who follow the reigning power no matter wither it tends or who conducts it. But notwithstanding the immense military and civilian power of the administration, there can be no longer a doubt that the vast majority of the people are against it. Neither threats, seductions, personal appeals to a false patriotism can silence the voice of a majority of the people. They desire to see an end to this war, an end to crushing taxation, an end to the high prices of living, and above all an end to an administration as weak as it is wicked, and as despotic as it is bloody and revolutionary.

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lost and found

Full standing black soldier, rifle with fixed bayonet] (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-11520)

Union soldier

In the summer of 1863 prisoner exchanges between North and South were stopped, for the most part, because the South would not exchange captured black soldiers.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch August 27, 1864:

Captured negroes.

–Among the captures from the Yankee army on the occasion of the explosion of one of their mines near Petersburg, about six weeks since, were eighty-odd runaway negroes, who were enlisted troops in Burnside’s corps. Soon after their capture they were sent to Danville, Virginia, for confinement, but on Wednesday last they were transferred to Castle Thunder. For the information of persons whose servants have run away the following list is appended:

Two brothers in arms (between 1860 and 1870; LOC:  LC-DIG-ppmsca-13484)

“Two brothers in arms” (LOC)

William, slave of Alexander Gray, Charles co., Md.; Churchill, slave of Miss M. A. Wilson, Annapolis, Md.; Joseph, slave of Alexander Butcher, Baltimore; Luke, slave of Major Pri, Charles co., Md.; George, slave of John G. Perry, St. Mary’s co., Md.; Washington, slave of Robert Young, Charles co., Md.; Lewis, slave of George B. Wilson, Norfolk; Henry, Geo. W. Owen, Dorchester, Md.; John, slave of John Wayland, Howard co., Md.; Charles, slave of Captain Arnold, Colburn, Md.; Frank, slave of Alfred Oden, Pike co., Mo.; John, slave of Jim Leighter, Dorchester, Md.; Sam, slave of Robert Tung, Charles co., Md.; Andrew, slave of William Gordon, Marion co., Mo.; George, slave of John Ronsells, Rowell, Mo.; John, slave of Seth M. Wayland, Worcester, Md.; Ephraim, slave of John Hammond, Howard, Md.; John, slave of Mrs. Ward, Marion, Mo.; Willis, slave of L. Vaughan, Hanover, Va.; Charles, slave of John Ayres, Ronsells, Mo.; Peter, slave of R. L. Gordon, Orange, Va.; Isaac, slave of Dr. Shaw, St. Mary’s, Md.; John, slave of Thos. Deralbis, Frederick, Md.; John, slave of Wm. Boesy, St. George, Md.; Lewis, slave of W. Wedington, Frederick, Md.; George, slave of W. Wall, Prince George, Md.; James, slave of Dr. Pike, Charles co., Md.; Charles, slave of A. L. Finley, Pike co., Mo.; Charles, slave of John Netewell, Kent co., Md.; Benjamin, slave of W. B. Walker, Baton Houge, La.; Robert, slave of Miss Delia Jane Warfit, Baltimore; John, slave of Wm. Roby, Charles co., Md.; Marshall, slave of Robert M. Miller, Jefferson, Ky.; John, slave of Gray Boulware, Caroline, Md.; Francis, slave of C. C. McGruder, Prince George, Md.; Miles, slave of Washington Posey, Charles county, Md.; Peter, slave of — Ross, Wakely, Tenn.; Lewis, slave of John McGran, Hemford, Md.; John, slave of Alex. Dyer, Charles county, Md.; Frank, slave of Dr. Meriwether, Jefferson, Ky.; Ashburn, slave of heirs of William Galt, Queen Anne, Md.; William Bowser, slave of William Peckham, Eastern Shore, Md.; Noble, slave of Miss Leonora Floyd, Charles county, Md.; Elias, slave of Ossian Pendleton, Culpeper, Va.; John, slave of Philip Cox, Brunswick, Va.; George, slave of C. Gardner, Prince George, Va.; Henry, slave of B. Embry, Nashville, Tenn.; George, slave of Joseph Davis, Rockville, Md.; Lloyd, slave of F. McGruder, Prince George, Md.; Yarmouth, slave of Alexander Kilga, Montgomery, Md.; Alfred, slave of John Hill. Richmond, Va.; Orange, slave of James N. Hill, St. Lawrence, Mo.; Frederick, slave of Betsy Bryding, Somerset, Md.; James, slave of John T. Wilson, Mason, Ky.; Thomas, slave of John Loates, Frederick, Md.; Thomas, slave of Mrs. Slocum, Dorchester, Md.; Edward, slave of Alfred Gordon, Charles co., Md.; Amos, slave of Mary A. Bower, Eastern Shore, Md.; Hiram, slave of B. Wyatt, Drew co., Ark.; Jesse, slave of Thos. Anderson, Marion, Mo.; John, slave of Samuel Clark, Kent co., Md.; George, slave of H. Hesth, Anderson dist., S. C.; Solomon, slave of W. Brewer, Montgomery, Md.; Calvin, slave of Abraham Gardner, Southampton, Va.; James, slave of J. F. Chaplain, Port Royal, S. C.; John, slave of George Rausser, Baltimore; Charles, slave of Miss Eva Fields, Prince George, Md.; Sam, slave of J. Green, Baltimore; Isaac, slave of James Connelly, Clarke co., Va.; William, slave of Hugh Delts, Parkersburg, Va.; Abraham, slave of Charles Stewart, Anderson, Md.; Robert, slave of Mrs. Amanda Mathews, Charles co.; Md.; Charles, slave of Mrs. S. B. Jeter, Quinely, Mo.; John, slave of Jacob Calvin, Louisville, Ky.; Samuel, slave of G. Burcher, Louis, Va.; Winston, slave of Stephen Turner, Pike co., Mo.; John, slave of Washburn Rowe, Carrol, Md.; Lewis, slave of J. Roeth, Eastern Shore, Md.; Robert, slave of A. L. Milton, Prince George, Md.; Charles, slave of A. Spead, Fairfax, Va.; Henry Lynch, a free negro.

According to the National Park Service Confederate officials approached Union General Benjamin Butler in the summer of 1864 about resuming prisoner exchanges, including blacks. General Grant was amenable to one-to-one exchanges but did not agree to paroling unexchanged prisoners because he assumed the rebels would rejoin the army while the northern soldiers would stay home.

Castle Thunder, Richmond, Va (LOC: LC-USZ62-15997)

slave quarters?

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mechanics of war

Quartermaster's mechanics, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps in front of Petersburg, Va., August, 1864 (photographed 1864; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-33503)

“Quartermaster’s mechanics, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps in front of Petersburg, Va., August, 1864″ (LOC)

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“annihilated by their own stomachs”

Captain James H. McDonald of the 50th New York Engineers has already served in the war for over three years. He recovered from being wounded in the arm at Fredericksburg. In this recruiting letter he promoted the Engineers as being the most desirable branch in the service during a siege, at least for the enlisted men. He also believed that if the North had enough will for war and enough men in its armies, it was only a matter of time before the South would succumb.

Jericho Mills, Virginia. Party of the 50th New York Engineers building a road on the south bank of the North Anna River (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 5-24-1864; LOCLC-DIG-cwpb-03576)

on the regiment’s resume: “Jericho Mills, Virginia. Party of the 50th New York Engineers building a road on the south bank of the North Anna River” May 24, 1864

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1864:


BURG, Va., August 25th, 1864.

HON. BENSON OWEN – Dear Sir: – I observed in the Courier that you were connected with the recruiting business. As my regiment is one of the most desirable organizations in the service to enlist into, on account of pay, comfort, and chances for promotion to intelligent mechanics, I have taken the liberty of writing you on the subject. There is at present a vacancy for one hundred and fifty men. My Company numbers one hundred and forty-five men, and I can give a place to five good mechanics.

I lost one man killed at the Chickahominy, June 12th, and have had very few men hurt at all; so you see the chances for returning after the war are better than in an infantry regiment. The officers have far more cause to fear being mustered out by the Johnnies’ bullets than the men, because the former have charge of large details of infantry during a siege, while the enlisted men are preparing siege material at a safe distance in the rear.

If there is any branch in the service that has the preference over all others, it is the Engineers, especially to an enlisted man, if he is intelligent, active and persevering. I presume more recruits can be had for the regiment than any other, as I have frequent applications to transfer sergeants of infantry to my Company as privates. Anything you can do for my Company in this way I assure you will be appreciated very highly.

As a friend to the policy of prosecuting the war in the most vigorous manner, you can appreciate our feelings, and justify the sentiments when we say, “Give us more men, and that speedily, and the Rebellion is used up.” If we had one hundred thousand fresh troops given us to-day, the war would end in three months. There is no possible doubt about this; for by simply holding the Rebel forces where they are, and cutting off there communications, they are annihilated by their own stomachs. Give us more men here; roll up a vote this Fall that will strengthen the arm and warm the heart of the soldier, and we will soon come out of this contest victorious.

Yours very respectfully,
Captain, 50th N.Y. Engineers.

As stonesentinels points out one enlisted man in the 50th had a bit different view of a siege and its relative safety. A marker at Petersburg quotes Thomas M. Blythe of the 50th:

Monotonous Toil

“The romance of a soldier’s life disappears in a siege. The change of scenery and the lively marches are gone, and the same monotonous unvaried rounds of toil take their place. Sunday and weekday are all alike.”

T.M. Blythe
50th N.Y. Engineers

Thomas M. Blythe

months of Sundays

In his new book, Walt Gable, our County Historian, wrote about an incident involving Captain McDonald and his company from a couple years before this letter:

On August 13, 1862, McDonald’s Company K was ordered to the Chickahominy River, some twenty miles distant, to prepare the way for the army [of the Potomac] to evacuate the peninsula. Arriving at Charles City Court-House, they found a gallows standing in the courthouse yard. An aged Negro told them that it had been used to hang several of his race who had attempted to escape slavery. Company K men used their axes to destroy the gallows and used the wood as a campfire to heat their coffee.[1]

A canvas pontoon bridge (

“Stereograph showing an aerial view from the north bank of the North Anna River of a canvas pontoon bridge constructed by the 50th New York Engineers near Jericho Mills, Virginia in May 1864.”

  1. [1] Gable, Walter Seneca County And The Civil War. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014. Print. page 56.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Military Matters, Siege of Petersburg, The election of 1864 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

deadline – six months

It’s about a week before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and President Lincoln seems to have his political future on his mind. Yesterday he explained why he thought it was worth fighting even three more years to save the Union with its promise of equal opportunity for all. Since the war was the main issue, it seemed that the Democrats would need to develop a platform that distanced themselves from the Republicans. 150 years ago today Mr. Lincoln concluded that he was going to have to make sure the Union got saved before the inauguration of a Democrat president-elect.

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:


This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward.


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“an inestimable jewel”

Why President Lincoln continues the war

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:

AUGUST 22, 1864.

SOLDIERS—I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the services you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged, I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country.

Civil War envelope showing Columbia with shield and American flag and White House (N.Y. : C. Magnus, 12 Frankfort St. ; 1862 June 22; LOC:  LC-DIG-ppmsca-26466)

Mr. Lincoln a temporary tenant

I almost always feel inclined, when I say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them, in a few brief remarks, the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for the day, but for all time to come, that we should perpetuate for our children’s children that great and free government which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen, temporarily, to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each one of you may have, through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field, and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life with all its desirable human aspirations—it is for this that the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthrights—not only for one, but for two or three years, if necessary. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.

The 166th Ohio Infantry was a “100 days” regiment made up of Ohio militia mustered into federal service in May 1864. They were supposed to guard rear areas to free up other troops for the Army of the Potomac’s advance into Virginia. The regiment lost 29 or 39 men to disease during its relatively brief service.

Unidentified soldier in Ohio Volunteer Militia uniform with bedroll and musket (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-37409)

“Unidentified soldier in Ohio Volunteer Militia uniform with bedroll and musket
” (LOC)

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Lincoln Administration, Northern Politics During War, Northern Society, The election of 1864 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

a death at Elmira

Elmira Prison, Elmira, New York (by Moulton & Larkin, between 1864 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-33993 )

“Elmira Prison, Elmira, New York”

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch September 8, 1864:

… Mr. W. B. Egerton, a citizen of Petersburg, died in the Federal prison at Elmira, New York, on the 21st ultimo.

Elmira started accepting Confederate prisoners on July 6, 1864. By August it was already holding thousands.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in August 1864:

REBEL PRISONERS. – There are now over eight thousand rebel prisoners in the barracks at Elmira.

Monument to Confederate dead at Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, NY. Photo by Hal Jespersen, May 2010.

At Woodlawn (2010 photo by Hal Jespersen)

I don’t know the specific cause of Sergeant Egerton’s death, but it could certainly have something to do with overcrowding. Chemung County History points out that there were only enough barracks to house 5,000 prisoners. The site also says that the photo up top of the camp is from December 1864, but it would seem that tents were already probably being used in August. According to Wikipedia:

During the 15 months the site was used as a prisoner of war camp more than 12,100 Confederate soldiers were incarcerated there; of these, nearly 25% (2,963) died from a combination of malnutrition, continued exposure to harsh winter weather, and disease from the poor sanitary conditions on Foster’s Pond combined with a lack of medical care. The camp’s dead were prepared for burial and laid to rest by the sexton, an ex-slave named John W. Jones, at what is now Woodlawn National Cemetery.

Records at the Chemung County History site give Sergeant Egerton’s date of death as August 22, 1864. His Woodlawn Cemetery number is 38.

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honoring General Forrest

For what it’s worth, Nathan Bedford Forrest seems to have been defending himself against charges that he ordered/condoned a massacre of blacks at Fort Pillow.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch August 20, 1864:

General Forrest and the Negroes.

–It is known that the negroes of the Methodist congregation at Uniontown, Alabama, recently contributed one thousand dollars to the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers, and being informed that this contribution was sufficient to constitute a life director, they selected General Forrest for that honor. The Selma Reporter publishes the General’s letter to Dr. Neely acknowledging the compliment, in which he says:

Memphis City Directory for 1855-6.

Memphis City Directory for 1855-6.

“I am not indifferent to the compliment paid me by ‘the Methodist Congregation of Negroes at Uniontown.’ I prise this manifestation on the part of the negro more than I fear the thousand calumnies with which a defeated and vanquished foe are endeavoring to blacken my name. It has been my fortune to have much dealing with the negro since I arrived at manhood, and I have uniformly treated them with kindness and humanity. Those that have been forcibly taken from me I know are sighing for the happy home from which they have been seduced. These that heeded not the ridiculous promises of the Yankees, and who still remain with me, fly from his approaching footsteps with the same instincts of fear and danger that they would fly front a leprosy. I predict that, after peace shall have been restored, most of the negroes that have been decoyed from their homes will gladly and joyfully return, infinitely preferring slavery among the Southern people to freedom at the North. Instead of guilty of the stricture charged upon me, I have my sympathies for the negro. He had [been misled?] by false promises, and I had much rather make [war?] upon the white man, who has deceived him.”

The Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers is discussed in a book review at H-Net Online.

General Forrest led a surprise raid on Memphis on August 21, 1864.

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