national hero

Gen. Winfield Scott  (1861; LOC:

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:

loyal to Lincoln

Lieutenant General Scott's grand funeral march (1866; LOC:

lingered long time and ways from his home state

Hero's funeral march  (1866; LOC:

from Chippewa to Chapultepec

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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:

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:

isolated and dogged in the casemate

Union soldiers in Andersonville prison / The rebel leader, Jeff Davis, at Fortress Monroe / Th. Nast.  (1865; LOC:

pampered Jeff

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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:

“[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:

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

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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:

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.
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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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