kudos to the chief

Lt Col Kennedy of the 13th Iowa, 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, 17 A.C. raising the stars & stripes over the State House Columbia ( Published in: Harper's Weekly, April 8, 1865, p. 209, credited to Theodore Davis.; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2004661347/)

back under federal control – early 1865

On July 22, 1866 President Andrew Johnson reported to Congress that his administration had sent the recently passed Constitutional Amendment to the states for ratification. He used the occasion to explain his opposition to the amendment. He thought it was wrong to change the Constitution until all the states were represented in Congress. The eleven rebel southern states still had not been readmitted. Thanks to the telegraph it didn’t take long for a newspaper in one of those states to applaud the president’s words. On July 24th The Daily Phoenix in Columbia, South Carolina unsurprisingly agreed with the president, who had played the statesman versus Thaddeus Stevens and the rest of the radical Republicans who were abusing the Constitution for their own purposes, “who think that tinkering with the Constitution is a perfectly legitimate mode to advance their ambitious projects.” The people at large had not been given an opportunity to express their opinion of the proposed amendment. It was wrong to change the Constitution without the representation of the eleven states, all of which, except Texas, “have been entirely restored to all their functions as States.” And,

We honor Andrew Johnson for embracing this opportunity to reiterate his sound and patriotic views, at this critical juncture, and to announce to the people of America that the savage warfare waged upon him for months past has not moved him one inch from the policy he avowed at the beginning of his administration. We admire his tact and ability in frustrating, by this official declaration, the lying inventions of his enemies, to deceive the people of the United States as to his present views on the all-absorbing question now before the country. …

36 star flag (1864; https://www.loc.gov/item/97515549/)

only twenty-five represented in Congress

Columbia_sc_ruins (South Carolina, Columbia, view from the State Capitol) (https://catalog.archives.gov/id/533426)

in need of a phoenix

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Politics, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction, Southern Society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

southern states’ side

Mending the family kettle (Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 22, no. 559 (1866 June 16), p. 208.)

a babe in arms

In early June 1866 Congress passed what would become the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 150 years ago today President Andrew Johnson reported to Congress that the amendment had been dutifully sent to the states for their consideration. The president stated that he opposed ratifying the amendment without his approval and before eleven southern states had been allowed representation in Congress. From The American Presidency Project:

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

… Even in ordinary times any question of amending the Constitution must be justly regarded as of paramount importance. This importance is at the present time enhanced by the fact that the joint resolution was not submitted by the two Houses for the approval of the President and that of the thirty-six States which constitute the Union eleven are excluded from representation in either House of Congress, although, with the single exception of Texas, they have been entirely restored to all their functions as States in conformity with the organic law of the land, and have appeared at the national capital by Senators and Representatives, who have applied for and have been refused admission to the vacant seats. Nor have the sovereign people of the nation been afforded an opportunity of expressing their views upon the important questions which the amendment involves. Grave doubts, therefore, may naturally and justly arise as to whether the action of Congress is in harmony with the sentiments of the people, and whether State legislatures, elected without reference to such an issue, should be called upon by Congress to decide respecting the ratification of the proposed amendment. …[1]


The political cartoon was published in the June 16, 1866 issue of Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper
  1. [1] Andrew Johnson: “Special Message,” June 22, 1866. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=71959.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Irish flag was planted on British soil”

Battle of Ridgeway, C.W. (Buffalo, N.Y. : The Sage, Sons & Co. Lith., Print'g & Manufac'g Co., c1869.(LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2006677453/)

“Battle of Ridgeway, C.W.”

150 years ago today an army of Fenians, Irish-Americans who wanted Great Britain to let Ireland become an independent republic, attacked Canadian forces at the Battle of Ridgeway. “The Fenian insurgents [were] led by Brigadier General John O’Neill, a former Union cavalry commander who had specialized in anti-guerrilla warfare in Ohio.” Although the Fenians won the battle, they scampered back across the Niagara River when they realized large British and Canadian reinforcements were on the way, which “convinced many of the Fenians to return in haste to the United States – some on logs, on rafts, or by swimming. O’Neill and 850 Fenians surrendered their arms to waiting U.S. authorities.”

From Ridgeway: An Historical Romance of the Fenian Invasion of Canada by Scian Dubh (I have no idea how authentic the following report is)

By the Army of the Irish Republic, under General O’NEILL, June, 1866.

About midnight, on the 31st May, the men commenced moving from Buffalo to Lower Black Rock, about three miles down the river, and at 3:30 A.M., on the 1st of June, all of the men, with the arms and ammunition, were on board four canal boats, and towed across the Niagara River, to a point on the Canadian side called Waterloo, and at 4 o’clock A.M., the Irish flag was planted on British soil, by Colonel Starr, who had command of the first two boats.

NY Times June 3, 1866

NY Times June 3, 1866

On landing, O’Neill immediately ordered the telegraph wires leading from the town to be cut down; and sent a party to destroy the railroad bridge leading to Port Colborne.

Colonel Starr, in command of the Kentucky and Indiana troops, proceeded through the town of Fort Erie to the old Fort, some three miles distant up the river, and occupied it for a short time, hoisting the Irish flag.

O’Neill then waited on the Reeve of Fort Erie, and requested him to see some of the citizens of the place, and have them furnish rations for the men, at the same time assuring him that no depredations on the citizens would be permitted, as he had come to drive out British authority from the soil, and not for the purpose of pillaging the citizens. The request for provisions was cheerfully complied with.

About 10 o’clock A.M., he moved into camp on Newbiggin’s Farm, situated on Frenchman’s Creek, four miles down the river from Fort Erie, where he remained till 10 o’clock P.M.

During the afternoon, Capt. Donohue, of the 18th, while out in command of a foraging party, on the road leading to Chippewa, came up with the enemy’s scouts, who fled at his approach.

Later in the afternoon, Col. Hoy was sent with one hundred men in the same road. He also came up with some scouts about six miles from camp. Here he was ordered to halt.

Freedom to Ireland (New York : Published by Currier & Ives, c1866; LOC: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001699752/)

an independent-minded lass

By this time—8 o’clock P.M.—information was received that a large force of the enemy, said to be five thousand strong, with artillery, were advancing in two columns; one from the direction of Chippewa, and the other from Port Colborne; also, that troops from Port Colborne were to make an attack from the lake side.

Here truth compels me to make an admission that I would fain have kept from the public. Some of the men who crossed over with us the night before, managed to leave the command during the day, and recross to Buffalo, while others remained in houses around Fort Erie. This I record to their lasting disgrace.

On account of this shameful desertion, and the fact that arms had been sent out for eight hundred men, O’Neill had to destroy three hundred stand, to prevent them falling into the bands of the enemy. At this time he could not depend on more than five hundred men, about one-tenth of the reputed number of the enemy, which he knew were surrounding him. Rather a critical position, but he had been sent to accomplish a certain object, and he was determined to accomplish it.

At 10 o’clock P.M., he broke camp, and marched towards Chippewa, and at midnight changed direction, and moved on the Limestone Ridge road, leading toward Ridgeway; halting a few hours on the way to rest the men;—this for the purpose of meeting the column advancing from Port Colborne. His object was to get between the two columns, and, if possible, defeat one of them before the other could come to its assistance.

Battle of Ridgeway, C.W. Victory of Gen'l O'Neil. "Masterly" retreat of the Queens own (1866; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2008661802/)

fleeing Canadians

At about 7 o’clock A.M., 2d of June, when within three miles of Ridgeway, Col. Owen Starr in command of the advanced guard, came up with the advance of the enemy, mounted, and drove them some distance, till he got within sight of their skirmish line, which extended on both sides of the road about half a mile. By this time, O’Neill could hear the whistle of the railroad cars which brought the enemy from Port Colborne. He immediately advanced his skirmishers, and formed line of battle behind temporary breastworks made of rails, on a road leading to Fort Erie, and running parallel with the enemy’s line. The skirmishing was kept up over half an hour, when, perceiving the enemy flanking him on both aides, and not being able to draw out their centre, which was partially protected by thick timber, befell back a few hundred yards, and formed a new line. The enemy seeing he had only a few men—about four hundred—and supposing that he had commenced a retreat, advanced rapidly in pursuit. When they got close enough, he gave them a volley, and then charged them, driving them nearly three miles, through the town of Ridgeway. In their hasty retreat they threw away knapsacks, guns, and everything that was likely to retard their speed, and left some ten or twelve killed and twenty-five or thirty wounded, with twelve prisoners, in his hands. Amongst the killed was Lieut. McEachern, and amongst the wounded Lieut. Ruth, both of the “Queen’s Own.” The pursuit was given up about a mile beyond Ridgeway.

NY Times June 4, 1866

fleeing Fenians (NY Times June 4, 1866)

Although he had met and defeated the enemy, yet his position was still a very critical one. The reputed strength of the enemy engaged in the fight was fourteen hundred, composed of the “Queen’s Own,” the 13th Hamilton Battalion, and other troops. A regiment which had left Fort Colburne was said to be on the road to reinforce them. He also knew that the column from Chippewa would hear of the fight, and in all probability move up in his rear.

Thus situated, and not knowing what was going on elsewhere, he decided that his best policy was to return to Fort Erie, and ascertain if crossings had been made at other points, and if so, he was willing to sacrifice himself and his noble little command, for the sake of leaving the way open, as he felt satisfied that a large proportion of the enemy’s forces had been concentrated against him.

He collected a few of his own wounded, and put them in wagons, and for want of transportation had to leave six others in charge of the citizens, who promised to look after them and bury the dead of both sides. He then divided his command, and sent one half, under Col. Starr, down the railroad, to destroy it and burn the bridges, and with the other half took the pike road leading to Fort Erie. Col. Starr got to the old Fort about the same time that he himself did to the village of Fort Erie, 4 o’clock P.M. He (Starr) left the men there under the command of Lieut. Col. Spaulding, and joined O’Neill in a skirmish with a company of the Welland Battery, which had arrived there from Port Colborne in the morning, and which picked up a few of the men who had straggled from the command the day before. They had these men prisoners on board the steamer “Robb.” The skirmish lasted about fifteen minutes, the enemy firing from the houses. Three or four were killed, and some eight or ten wounded, on each side.

It was here that Lieut. Col. Bailey was wounded, while gallantly leading the advance on this side of the town. Here forty-five of the enemy were taken prisoners, among them Capt. King, who was wounded, (leg since amputated,) Lieut. McDonald, Royal Navy, and Commander of the steamer “Robb,” and Lieut. Nemo, Royal Artillery. O’Neill then collected his men, and posted Lieut. Col. Grace, with one hundred men, on the outskirts of the town, guarding the road leading to Chippewa, while with the remainder of the command he proceeded to the old Fort.

NY Times June 6, 1866

General Meade vs. Fenians

About six o’clock A.M., he sent word to Capt. Hynes and his friends at Buffalo that the enemy could surround him before morning with five thousand men, fully provided with artillery, and that his little command, which had by this time considerably decreased, could not hold out long, but that if a movement was going on elsewhere, he was perfectly willing to make the Old Fort a slaughter pen, which he knew it would be the next day if he remained. FOR HE WOULD NEVER HAVE SURRENDERED.

Many of the men had not a mouthful to eat since Friday morning, and none of them had eaten anything since the night before, and all after marching forty miles and fighting two battles, though the last could only properly be called a skirmish. They were completely worn out with hunger and fatigue.

On receiving information that no crossing had been effected elsewhere, he sent word to have transportation furnished immediately; and about ten o’clock P.M. Capt. Hynes came from Buffalo and informed him that arrangements had been made to recross the river.

Previous to this time some of the officers and men, realizing the danger of their position, availed themselves of small boats and recrossed the river, but the greater portion remained until the transportation arrived, which was about 12 o’clock on the night of June 2, and about 2 o’clock A.M. on the morning of the 3d, all except a few wounded men were safely on board a large scow attached to a tug boat which hauled into American waters. Here they were hailed by the tug Harrison, belonging to the U.S. steamer Michigan, having on board one 12-pounder pivot gun, which fired across their bows and threatened to sink them unless they hauled to and surrendered. With this request they complied; not because they feared the 12-pounder, or the still more powerful guns of the Michigan, which lay close by, but because they respected the authority of the United States, in defence of which many of them had fought and bled during the late war. They would have as readily surrendered to an infant bearing the authority of the Union, as to Acting Master Morris of the tug Harrison, who is himself an Englishman. The number thus surrendered was three hundred and seventeen men, including officers.

The Fenian banner (1866; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2003656467/)

The Fenian banner

The officers were taken on board the Michigan, and were well treated by Capt Bryson and the gentlemanly officers of his ship, while the men were kept on the open scow, which was very filthy, without any accommodation whatever, and barely large enough for them to turn round in. Part of the time the rain poured down on them in torrents. I am not certain who is to blame for this cruel treatment; but whoever the guilty parties are they should be loathed and despised by all men. The men were kept on board the scow for four days and then discharged on their own recognizances to appear at Canandaigna [probably Canandaigua] on the 19th of June, to answer to the charge of having violated the Neutrality Laws. The officers were admitted to bail. The report generally circulated, and, I might say, generally believed, that the pickets were left behind, and that they were captured by the enemy, is entirely false. Every man who remained with the command, excepting a few wounded, had the same chance of escaping that O’Neill himself had.

To the extraordinary exertions of our friends of Buffalo, F.B. Gallagher, Wm. Burk, Hugh Mooney, James Whelan, Capt. James Doyle, John Conners, Edward Frawley, James J. Crawley, M.T. Lynch, James Cronin, and Michael Donahue, the command were indebted for being able to escape from the Canadian side. Col. H.R. Stagg and Capt. McConvey, of Buffalo, were also very assiduous in doing everything in their power. Col. Stagg had started from Buffalo with about two hundred and fifty men, to reinforce O’Neill, but the number was too small to be of any use, and he was ordered to return. Much praise is due to Drs. Trowbridge and Blanchard, of Buffalo, and Surgeon Donnelly, of Pittsburg, for their untiring attendance to the wounded.

All who were with the command acted their parts so nobly that I feel a little delicacy in making special mention of any, and shall not do so except in two instances: One is Michael Cochrane, Color Sergeant of the Indianapolis Company, whose gallantry and daring were conspicuous throughout the fight at Ridgeway. He was seriously wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy. The other is Major John C. Canty, who lived at Fort Erie. He risked everything he possessed on earth, and acted his part gallantly in the field.

In the fight at Ridgeway, and the skirmish at Fort Erie, as near as can be ascertained, the Fenian loss was eight killed and fifteen wounded. Among the killed was Lieut. E.R. Lonergan, a brave young officer, of Buffalo. Of the enemy, thirty were killed and one hundred wounded.

You can get a ton of information about the battle, including maps and Peter Vronsky’s book here. The New-York Times headlined the Fenian raid from June 2- June 10 and had a lot of fun with the Fenians and the “F” alliteration. HistoryNet provides a good summary.

From the Library of Congress:  Red Green (the Wikipedia link up top mentions that the Canadian units involved wore either British red or a dark-green; the Fenians wore old Civil War uniforms with green facings or civilian clothes with green scarves); lass; flight; banner. Óðinn’s photo of the Peace Bridge is licensed by Creative Commons
The Peace Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Erie,_Ontario#/media/File:Peace_Bridge.jpg)

nowadays: Peace Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo from Canadian side

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on “Irish flag was planted on British soil”

national hero

Gen. Winfield Scott  (1861; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/cwp2003001689/PP/)

Great Scott

When the American Civil War broke began in 1861 the United States army was commanded by Winfield Scott, a native Virginian who was 74 years old and in ill health. In April 1861 General Scott wanted another career officer from Virginia – Robert E. Lee to command the United States armies. Unlike Winfield Scott, Robert E. Lee decided to defend his home state and turned down the Union offer.

In the early states of secession and war General Scott crafted an overall strategy for Northern victory, which became known as the Anaconda plan. The plan was never formally adopted, but the Federal government certainly used two of its main features – a blockade of Southern ports and total control of the Mississippi – to eventually help subdue subdue the Confederacy.

On November 1, 1861 General Scott resigned from the army and then headed farther North.

150 years ago today the old national warrior died at West Point. From The New-York Times May 30, 1866:

NY Times May 30, 1866

NY Times May 30, 1866

A heavy blow long suspended has fallen at last. WINFIELD SCOTT, renowned and peerless, has gone to his rest. After years of lingering, away from his home, but surrounded by the exponents of the art he loved so well, and attended by all that respectful affection could bring to his dying couch, he closed a long and eventful career yesterday morning at 11 o’clock, at West Point, on the Hudson. For more than half a century he was among the foremost men of the world, renowned as well for his eloquence and [can’t read word] as for his scientific [attainment ?] and personal worth. The momentous of the past five years came upon the nation when the old chieftain’s best days were gone, his mental energy weakened, and his physical strength impaired, so that in the busy rush of men and things, to a great extent he was forgotten. At times, however, as, when the late President LINCOLN sought his advice, and again when Gen. GRANT paid him a visit of courteous inquiry, the old man’s prestige was revived in the minds of his countrymen, and the heart of the nation beat proudly in remembrance of his early service. …

I am glad, I am out of the scrape!  (1861; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2008661627/)

loyal to Lincoln

Lieutenant General Scott's grand funeral march (1866; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200000292/)

lingered a long time and a long way from his home state

Hero's funeral march  (1866; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200000076/)

from Chippewa to Chapultepec … and beyond

Major Genl. Winfield Scott / Wood pinxt. ; Edwin sc. ([Philadelphia] : Publish'd by M. Thomas, 1814 Oct. 25.; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2012645312/)

27 year old Brevet Major General for the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in 1814

Major General Winfield Scott. General in chief, United States Army  (New York : Published by Currier & Ives, c1846.; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/94505109/)

celebrated by Currier & Ives, c1846

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Secession and the Interregnum, Veterans | Tagged , , | Comments Off on national hero

conjugal visit?

Jeff. Davis in prison(catalog.hathitrustorgRecord006540127)(Prison life of Jefferson Davis. 1866)

before his wife arrived

NY Times May 26, 1866

NY Times May 26, 1866

After former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops on May 10, 1865 near Irwinville, Georgia, he was imprisoned at Fort Monroe for two years from May 22, 1865. Initially Mr. Davis was confined to a casemate at Fort Monroe and investigated as a possible co-conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln. He was ill during the first several months of his confinement. Eventually Mr. Davis was moved to a bigger room in the fort, his health gradually improved, and his wife moved in. “In May 1866, his wife, Varina Howell Davis, took up permanent residence at Fort Monroe.” (Encyclopedia Virginia). It was reported by The New-York Times that 150 years ago today (see cutting to right) Mrs. Davis visited President Johnson to request that the Fort Monroe authorities take better care of her husband. The president informed her that her husband was already allowed freedom of movement within the fort and the attending surgeon would be consulted for questions of proper care.

After it became clear that Jefferson Davis was not implicated in the Lincoln assassination, he was still charged with treason. The May 19, 1866 issue The New-York Times reported that either the House or Senate Judiciary Committee found there was insufficient evidence to support the charge that “JEFF. DAVIS is guilty of complicity in the assassination of Mr. LINCOLN.” The May 15, 1866 issue of the Times headlined that the treason trial was scheduled for June.

Mrs. Jefferson Davis, full-length studio portrait, standing, facing slightly right with left hand resting on the back of a chair (between 1860 and 1870; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2005677223/)

Mrs. Davis went to Washington (and Fort Monroe)

Here’s a bit about the imprisonment from Frank H. Alfriend’s sympathetic The Life of Jefferson Davis (1868; from page 640):

Next came the atrocious proclamation charging Mr. Davis with complicity in the assassination of President Lincoln. It is safe to say that incidents hitherto prominent by their infamy, will be forgotten by history, in comparison with the dastardly criminal intent which instigated that document. Circumstances warrant the belief that not one of the conspirators against the life and honor of Mr. Davis, believed either then or now, that the charge had one atom of truth. Had the charge been honestly made, it would have been disavowed, when its falsity became apparent. But this would not have subserved the end of the conspirators, and the poison was permitted to circulate and rankle, long after the calumny had been exploded during the investigations of the military commission, in the cases of Mrs. Surratt and Captain Wirz. At length justice was vindicated by the publication of the confidential correspondence between Holt and Conover, which disclosed the unparalleled subornation and perjury upon which the conspirators relied. Well has it been said that the world will yet wonder “how it was that a people, passing for civilized and Christian, should have consigned Jefferson Davis to a cell, while they tolerated Edwin M. Stanton as a Cabinet Minister.”

We have no desire to dwell upon the details of Mr. Davis’ long and cruel imprisonment. The story is one over which the South has wept tears of agony, at whose recital the civilized world revolted, and which, in years to come, will mantle with shame the cheek of every American citizen who values the good name of his country. In a time of profound peace, when the last vestige of resistance to Federal authority had disappeared in the South, Mr. Davis, wrecked in fortune and in health, in violation of every fundamental principle of American liberty, of justice and humanity, was detained for two years, without trial, in close confinement, and, during a large portion of this period, treated with all the rigor of a sentenced convict.

jeffdavis (The Life of Jefferson Davis, by Frank H. Alfriend 1868)

one among millions?

But if indeed Mr. Davis was thus to be prejudged as the “traitor” and “conspirator” which the Stantons, and Holts, and Forneys declared him to be, why should he be selected from the millions of his advisers and followers, voluntary participants in his assumed “treason,” as the single victim of cruelty, outrage, and indignity? What is there in his antecedents inconsistent with the character of a patriotic statesman devoted to the promotion of union, fraternity, harmony, and faithful allegiance to the Constitution and laws of his country? We have endeavored faithfully to trace his distinguished career as a statesman and soldier, and at no stage of his life is there to be found, either in his conduct or declared opinions, the evidence of infidelity to the Union as its character and objects were revealed to his understanding. Nor is there to be found in his personal character any support of that moral turpitude which a thousand oracles of falsehood have declared to have peculiarly characterized his commission of “treason.”

No tongue and pen were more eloquent than his in describing the grandeur, glory, and blessings of the Union, and in invoking for its perpetuation the aspirations and prayers of his fellow-citizens. In the midst of passion and tumult, in 1861, he was conspicuous by his zeal for compromise, and for a pacific solution of difficulties. No Southern Senator abandoned his seat with so pathetic and regretful an announcement of the necessity which compelled the step. …

Jefferson Davis remained imprisoned until May 1867. On March 4, 1868 “The U.S. government files in federal court its final indictment against former Confederate president Jefferson Davis on charges of treason. The trial is further delayed because of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.” On February 15, 1869 “U.S. Attorney enters “nolle prosequi” into the record for United States v. Jefferson Davis, thus ending the case.” (Encyclopedia Virginia)

The casemate, Fortress Monroe, Jeff Davis in prison (1865; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2004660790/)

isolated and dogged in the casemate

Union soldiers in Andersonville prison / The rebel leader, Jeff Davis, at Fortress Monroe / Th. Nast.  (1865; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2008661832/)

pampered Jeff

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Month, Aftermath, Postbellum Politics, Reconstruction | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on conjugal visit?

nickname serendipity

NY Times May 16, 1866

NY Times May 16, 1866

In February 1866 President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Freedmen Bureau extension bill. His insensitive and demeaning remarks in a Washington’s Birthday talk angered Republicans in Congress, which in early April overrode the president’s veto of the Civil Rights bill. 150 years ago today Andrew Johnson vetoed a bill that would have made Colorado a state and admitted it into the Union. He thought the population was too small and transient (miners looking for the next hot prospect) to pay the taxes associated with statehood. The vote of residents in favor of statehood was by a small majority in an election unauthorized by Congress. It would be unfair to give approximately 30,000 people three votes in the Electoral College without some overriding public interest. U.S. Representatives at the time were apportioned per 127,000 people.

President Johnson concluded his veto message by stating that he didn’t think it was right that new states would be admitted into the Union before the eleven southern rebel states were allowed representation in Congress. From The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction by Charles Ernest Chadsey (1896; page 72):

[2 views] (1) Banking-House, Denver City, Colorado - miners bringing in gold dust [interior]; (2) The Overland Coach Office, Denver City, Colorado [street scene] (Harper's Weekly, January 27, 1866 p.27; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2006675494/)

“[2 views] (1) Banking-House, Denver City, Colorado – miners bringing in gold dust [interior]; (2) The Overland Coach Office, Denver City, Colorado [street scene]” Library of Congress

The next clash between the executive and legislative branches of the government was over the Colorado bill. This bill provided for the admission of Colorado into the Union, and was passed May 3, being vetoed by the President on May 15, in accordance with the policy which he was endeavoring to carry out. The nominal grounds, while strong in themselves, had less weight in Johnson’s mind than the argument reserved for the final sentence of the message. This referred to the fact that eleven of the old States were unrepresented in Congress, and that it was in the “common interest of all the States, as well those represented as those unrepresented, that the integrity and harmony of the Union should be restored as completely as possible, so that all those who are expected to bear the burdens of the Federal Government shall be consulted concerning the admission of new States; and that in the mean time no new State shall be prematurely and unnecessarily admitted to a participation in the political power which the Federal Government wields.” A second bill for the admission of Colorado was vetoed on January 29, 1867. In the message President Johnson stated that he could change none of his opinions expressed in the first veto, while he now saw many additional objections. Neither bill was passed over the veto.

Fort Collins 1865ish (circa 1865; LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/75693134/)

Fort Collins (probably between 1864 and 1867)

Here’s the last paragraph of President Johnson’s veto message (from Edward McPherson’s 1871 The political history of the United States of America during the period of reconstruction, (from April 15, 1865, to July 15, 1870):

The condition of the Union at the present moment is calculated to inspire caution in regard to the admission of now States. Eleven of the old States have been for some time, and still remain, unrepresented in Congress. It is a common interest of all the States, as well those represented as those unrepresented, that the integrity and harmony of the Union should be restored as completely as possible, so that all those who are expected to bear the burdens of the Federal Government shall be consulted concerning the admission of new States; and that in the mean time no new State shall be prematurely and unnecessarily admitted to a participation in the political power which the Federal Government wields, not for the benefit of any individual State or section, but for the common safety, welfare, and happiness of the whole country.

Andrew Johnson.
Washington, D. C, May 18, 1S66.

President Johnson likened Senator Charles Sumner to a traitorous rebel in his Washington Birthday remarks. According to David Herbert Donald’s Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man, the senator also opposed Colorado’s admission into the Union and the corresponding two extra Republican votes in the Senate because the Colorado state constitution refused blacks the right to vote: “No more States with inequality of rights!”

I like The Centennial State as a state nickname. It seems so factual – 1876 is and will always be 100 years after the Declaration of Independence. On the other hand, 1866 was the centennial of the Declaratory Act, so Coloradans could still have used the nickname. From the Library of Congress: Denver City from the January 27, 1866 issue of Harper’s Weekly, Fort Collins, which served as a fort between 1864 and 1867, and Carol M. Highsmith’s photograph of scenery at Colorado National Monument
in Colorado territory

that Colorado territory

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Politics, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on nickname serendipity

graves matter

On May 5, 1866 residents of Waterloo, New York dedicated the day to honoring their Civil War dead:

… all businesses were closed, and the village was decorated with flags at half-mast, draped with evergreens and mourning black. The women of the village gathered at Townsley Hall on Virginia Street to make bouquets of lilacs and pine branches. Veterans, civil societies and residents, led by General Murray, marched to the strains of martial music to the three village cemeteries. There, impressive ceremonies were held, including placing bouquets on each of the graves of fallen comrades, as well as offering prayers and speeches commemorating their sacrifice for their country.[1]

Credit is given to Waterloo druggist Henry C. Welles for suggesting the idea of decorating the soldiers graves in 1865. After he mentioned his idea the next year to General John B. Murray, a committee was formed and the May 5th commemoration was observed.

Many towns North and South claim to have observed the first Decoration Day. The Library of Congress focuses on the first official nationwide observance on May 30, 1868. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a good overview of Memorial Day. Congress officially recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial day in 1966. President Lyndon B. Johnson noted the Congressional resolutions in his May 26, 1866 proclamation calling on Americans to pray for peace during the Vietnam War.

Waterloo sure knows how to celebrate all Memorial Day weekend long, but it continues to observe its solemn commemoration on May 30th every year. It will be the same this year; just like 150 years ago three village cemeteries will be visited.

It is written that most claims of the first Memorial Day are “apocryphal legends”. In his book Seneca County Historian Walt Gable explains that all copies of the Waterloo Observer were destroyed in an 1877 fire at the newspaper’s office, so there are apparently no extant copies that covered the May 5th 1866 events. Nevertheless, Mr. Gable points out other sources that document Waterloo’s 1866 observance[2]

Daisies gathered for Decoration Day, May 30, 1899] (LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/2001703674/)

Decoration Day Daisies (1899)

  1. [1] Gable, Walter Seneca County And The Civil War. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014. Print. page 127.
  2. [2] ibid. pages 131-132.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Society, Veterans | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on graves matter

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 (https://www.loc.gov/item/2006636341/)

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

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction, Southern Society, Veterans | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Memphis riots


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.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Month, Aftermath, Postbellum Society, Veterans | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on guards

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: https://www.loc.gov/item/2012646773/)

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

MuleDrawn1870s (http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/p15195coll2/item/55)

Houston, Texas on wooden tracks, late 1870s

Memphis 1870 (LOC: https://www.loc.gov/item/73694530/)

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: https://www.loc.gov/item/fsa1998013760/PP/)

Beale Street (1939)

Posted in 150 Years Ago This Month, Aftermath, Southern Society, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on main street rails