free at last

Scene at the U.S. District Court, Richmond, Va., Monday, May 13th - Mr. Jefferson Davis brought before the court by Gen. Burton, on a writ of habeas corpus / from a sketch by our special artist. ( Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, 1867 June 1, p. 168.; LOC:

“Scene at the U.S. District Court, Richmond, Va., Monday, May 13th – Mr. Jefferson Davis brought before the court by Gen. Burton, on a writ of habeas corpus”

Having been imprisoned for nearly two years in Fortress Monroe, Jefferson Davis, the one and only Confederate president, was bailed out 150 years ago today. Here’s a summary from the June 1, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 338):


CHIEF-JUSTICE CHASE issued a writ of habeas corpus on May 8, requiring the person of JEFFERSON DAVIS to be brought before the United States Circuit Court for the District of Virginia. The writ was served on General BURTON, the commandant at Fortress Monroe, on May 11, and the same day the prisoner was taken to Richmond, where a mounted guard received him and held him in custody at the Spottswood Hotel until May 13. During Sunday he held a levee, to which his friends were admitted without any restriction. On May 13 he was brought by General BURTON before Judge UNDERWOOD and delivered up to the civil authorities, thus finally releasing him from military custody. Judge UNDERWOOD ordered his arrest on the indictment found against him in his court a year ago, and the prisoner was at once taken in charge. The attorneys of the Government having announced that they were not prepared to prosecute at this term of the court, a motion was made to release the prisoner on bail. The motion was granted, and the bail fixed at one hundred thousand dollars. HORACE GREELEY, AUGUSTUS SCHELL, JOHN MINOR BOTTS, and thirteen others were accepted as securities. …

You can read a more complete account of the proceedings in the May 14, 1867 issue of The New-York Times.

Born, raised and educated in New York State, John Curtiss Underwood “was one of the most conspicuous antislavery activists in Virginia during the 1850s, one of the first members of the Republican Party in Virginia, a federal judge from 1863 to 1873, and the president of the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868.”

Peace_Meeting_of_Horace_Greeley_and_Jeff_Davis_at_Richmond1 (Harper's Weekly June 1, 1867;

“in the court-room at Richmond”

The bail bond of Mr. Jefferson Davis, late president of the Confederate States, with all the original signatures thereto. [Richmond, 1867]. (

freedom for $100K

From the Library of Congress: scene at court from the June 1, 1867 issue of Frank Leslie’s; bail bond; Carol M. Highsmith’s photo at the Richmond Confederate White House. You see the picture of Messrs. Davis and Greeley from the June 1, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly at VCU.
Confederate White House, Richmond, Virginia (by Carol M. Highsmith; LOC:

Confederate White House, Richmond, Virginia

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riled in Richmond

Riot in Richmond, May 11, 1867—The Soldiers Dispersing the Mob (Harper's Weekly, June 1, 1867, p. 341;

rabble aroused?

From The New-York Times May 13, 1867:

More Trouble with the Negroes in Richmond – Arrest of a Speaker at a Freedmen’s Meeting.

RICHMOND, Sunday, May 12.

Another riot occurred in the lower portion of the city last night. The negroes attempted to rescue a drunken negro from the police, and bricks, clubs and pistols were used. Four policemen were badly beaten and one was severely injured. A company of soldiers, who were guarding the Libby Prison, were called out, and captured eighteen of the rioters. While this was going on another difficulty occurred on First-street, but it was quieted by the persuasion of a colored juryman.

To-day mounted soldiers patrolled the streets to keep order, and squads of policemen were placed at all of the churches in view of threats of the negroes to force their way in among the white people.

A large procession of negro societies attended a funeral to-day accompanied by an unarmed company of colored militia, the officers of which carried swords. There was no disturbance.

JEDEKIAH K. HAYWARD, of Massachusetts, was arrested last night for using language at a negro meeting on Friday night, calculated to create a riot. His language was as follows: “After Judge UNDERWOOD leaves you can hold high carnival on what you please. I need not advise you what to do, for great bodies do as they have a mind to.” He was arrested on a warrant from the Mayor, and was released on $3,000 bail to appear to-morrow.

According to The Yale Courant Volume II (1866-1867 page 274 at Google Books:

Jedekiah K. Hayward, who has appeared as an incendiary speech-maker in Richmond, was in Dartmouth College the first year of the war, but did not graduate in consequence of an unpleasantness with his fellow students and the Faculty.

The June 1, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 341) provides an image “soldiers dispersing the mob” and notes “a bitter feeling prevailing against the police, who are former rebel soldiers appointed by the Mayor, who is also an unreconstructed rebel.”

Richmond, Virginia. Washington monument (1865 Apr.; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-01277)

in more peaceful times?

The Harper’s image is provided by Virginia Memory at the Library of Virginia.The photo at Washington’s Monument in Richmond comes from the Library of Congress. It is said to be from April 1865, presumably after the Confederates fled and federals moved in.
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southern radical Republicans

Mobilized in Mobile

From The New-York Times May 4, 1867:

Colored Convention in Mobile.

MOBILE, Ala., Friday, May 3.

A colored mass convention of the State has been in session here for two days, and adjourned to day. The delegates stated that the negroes, in many instances have been cheated out of their earnings, molested and badly treated in the districts they represent; but in some places they were treated well. The Convention declared itself radical. …

The convention resolved to become part of the Republican party after declaring that the political oppressors of the blacks tried to keep them out of the Republican party. The convention endorsed the actions of the area’s military commanders – Generals Pope and Swayne. It called for a standing army to protect black rights and was especially opposed to ex-slaves being terminated from employment for their political views. The convention called for inter-racial peace. It also called for schools, military courts to try violations of the Civil Rights bill, and a Union League in every county.

The following additional resolution was then adopted:

“That it is our undeniable right to hold office, sit on juries, ride in all public conveyances, sit at public tables and visit places of public amusement.”

Great naval victory in Mobile Bay, Aug. 5th 1864 (New York : Published by Currier & Ives, 152 Nassau St., [1864?]; LOC:

federal presence about three years earlier

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Sickles’ salient

"The tyrannical military despotism of our Republic" / Th. Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. XI, no. 543 (1867 May 25), p. 324.; LOC:

veneration issues

After the war General Daniel Sickles commanded the army in South Carolina area. On March 11, 1867 he was appointed commander of the second military district (North and South Carolina) under Congress’s Reconstruction Acts. 150 years ago today he halted a parade in Charleston until an American could be procured and displayed. He detailed exactly how the marchers were to respond to the national banner.

From The New-York Times April 28, 1867:

Fireman’s Parade at Charleston, S.C. – No Stars and Stripes in the Procession – Gen. Sickles Stops the Parade until one is Procured.

CHARLESTON, S.C., Saturday, April 27.

The annual parade of the Fire Department of Charleston was to have taken place this morning at 10 o’clock. The procession was about starting, but here [sic] being a total absence of an American flag in the column, notwithstanding the great number of all sorts of other banners, Gen. SICKLES addressed the Post Commandant, Brevet Brig. Gen. CLITZ, the following letter, and ordered the column not to move until the requirements of this letter were complied with:

Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles of 70th New York Infantry Regiment and General Staff U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment in uniform] / From negative in Brady's National Portrait Gallery (LOC:

march choreographer

GENERAL: You remember the regrets we expressed to prominent citizens on the day of the last firemen’s parade, that the American flag was not seen in the column. It was then said to have been an inadvertant omission. It is reported to me this morning that among the various emblems borne by the several companies at the rendezvous on the citadel parade ground the flag is not there. I desire that you will at once send for the Chief of the Fire Department, and inform him that the national standard must be borne in front of the column; that an escort of honor, to consist of two members of each company present, will be detailed by himself to march with the colors; that the colors be placed opposite the reviewing personages on the ground designated for review, and that every person in the column shall salute the colors by lifting his hat or cap on arriving at the point three paces distant from the colors, and carrying the cap uplifted, marching past the colors to the point three paces distant from the same.

The Mayor of the city, the Chief of the Fire Department and the foremen of the companies will be held responsible for the observance of this order, and they are hereby authorized and required to arrest any person who disobeys it. You will take such measures as you may find to be necessary to insure the execution of this order. Very respectfully,

D.E. SICKLES, Major-General Commanding.
To Brevet Brig. Gen. H.B. CLITZ, United States Army. Commanding Post of Charleston, S.C.
Official: J.W. CLOUS, Captain Thirty-eighth Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

When informed of this order by Gen. KLITZ, the Chief of the Fire Department expressed, on behalf of the Fire Department, cheerful obedience, and the procession is now waiting until an American flag can be procured.


A flag has been procured and the procession is now moving.


An editorial denied that General sickles’ order was arbitrary authoritarianism. The commandant knew best. From the May 25, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 323):

THE action of General SICKLEs in ordering the National flag to be carried and respected by the Firemen’s procession in Charleston has been severely criticised by the Copperheads as the “iron heel,” and by some Union papers as an unnecessary and therefore impolitic stretch of authority. Now it is precisely such details of conduct which can not be judged at a distance. The wisdom or impolicy of such an order depends entirely upon the information of the commander upon the spot. Of course it seemed at first sight harsh that the General should have ordered the flag to be borne in a procession which, as it was reported, never carried any flag. It appeared to be as arbitrary as an order to any private person or corporation to display the flag upon his dwelling-house or office. But if the General had issued such an order as that, have we not had experience enough to know that probably it would not have been without reason?

The state bank at Charleston, S.C. (- Illus. in: Harper's Weekly, v. 15, 1867; LOC:

no national banner at the state bank in Charleston

So it proves in the present case. It appears that at the Firemen’s parade of last year the American flag was not seen; the General expressed his regrets, and the omission was reported to him by the authorities and citizens as an inadvertence. When the column was assembling upon this occasion, instead of appearing without flags or emblems, which was stated to be the rule, the companies carried various emblems, but the American flag was omitted. The Stonewall Fire Engine Company appeared in the rebel gray uniform, and with a full-sized portrait of STONEWALL JACKSON suspended over their engine. It was plain that the parade was to be a covert ovation in memory of the rebellion, and the Major-General of the United States commanding the district therefore said to the proper authorities: “I shall not forbid the honor you wish to show in this way to a man whom you respect, but it certainly shall not be done at the expense of the honor of the United States; you will also carry and respect the National flag.”

Such an act of firmness shows to the mourners of the “lost cause” that the United States are in earnest. When a State is under military rule it is so because the State is in a condition in which words and forms are deeds. The commanding General, who understands exactly what public demonstrations mean, is the best judge what shall be allowed to be said and done.

Authority is an interesting thing. It’s already been almost four years since Day 2 at the Battle of Gettysburg. Without General Meade’s authorization General Sickles moved his Third Corps to the Peach Orchard about .7 miles ahead of the main Union line on Cemetery Ridge. A salient was born. Although the Third Corps was routed and Sickles lost his leg, some historians believe the unexpected position in the Peach Orchard may have confounded and somewhat disrupted the rebel assault.
Gettysburg_Battle_Map_Day2 (Map by Hal Jespersen,

got ahead in the field

Gettysburg battlefield / Jno. B. Bachelder, del. ; Endicott & Co. lith, N.Y. (LOC:

Bird’s Eye View of Gettysburg Battlefield

The battle of Gettysburg (by Edwin Forbes; LOC:

temporary insanity?

April 28th: Yesterday I forgot to mention what originally forgot to mention last month. Thomas Nast’s cartoon of the firemen venerating the Stonewall Jackson portrait reminded me that On March 24, 1867 John Decatur Barry died. It is written that at the time Major Barry gave the order to fire that wounded Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Chancellorsville. According to the Wikipedia link “Some of his friends and family said that Barry “died of a broken heart” for his role in Jackson’s death.” The North Carolinian was 27 tears old when he died.


John D. Barry, 1839-1867 (

John D. Barry

Hal Jespersen’s map is licensed by Creative Commons
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good rebellion, bad rebellion

Civil War Memorial, Monument Square, Concord MA (,_Monument_Square,_Concord_MA.jpg)

Faithful Unto Death

Ninety-two years after militia in Lexington and Concord started the shooting rebellion against Great Britain a monument was dedicated in Concord. The monument honored those who gave their lives putting down the South’s more recent rebellion.

From The New-York Times April 21, 1867:

Dedication of a Soldiers’ Monument at Concord.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON delivered the address at the dedication of a Soldiers’ Monument at Concord, Mass, the 19th inst. It was mainly devoted to items of personal history of the men of the town who fell in the war, attesting their heroism and touchingly detailing their sufferings, privation and dangers in the war, introduced in the orator’s most pleasing and eloquent manner, together with a running commentary upon the education which the suffering of the war gave the people of the country; alleging that it conclusively proved that that State only could live in which injury to the least member is a damage to the whole. In conclusion Mr. EMERSON said: “The obelisk records only the names of the dead. There is something partial in this distribution of honor. Those who went through those dreadful fields and returned not deserve much more than all the honor we can pay. But those also who went through the same fields, and returned alive, put just as much at hazard as those who died, and, in other countries, would wear distinctive badges of honor as long as they lived. I hope the disuse of such medals or badges in this country only signifies that everybody knows these men, and carries their deeds in such lively remembrance that they require no badge or reminder. I am sure I need not bespeak your gratitude to these fellow citizens and neighbors of ours. I hope they will be content with the laurels of one war.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing right (

“the cannon volleys have a sound of funeral echoes”

But let me, in behalf of this assembly, speak directly to you, our defenders, and say, that it is easy to see that if danger should ever threaten the homes which you guard, the knowledge of your presence will be a wall of fire for their protection. Brave men! you will hardly be called to see again fields as terrible as those you have already trampled with your victories.
There are people who can hardly read the names on yonder bronze tablet, the mist so gathers in their eyes. Three of the names are of sons of one family. A gloom gathers on this assembly, composed as it is of kindred men and women, for, in many houses, the dearest and noblest is gone from their hearth-stone. Yet it is tinged with light from heaven. A duty so severe has been discharged, and with such immense results of good, lifting private sacrifice to the sublime, that, though the cannon volleys have a sound of funeral echoes, they can yet hear through them the benedictions of their country and mankind.”

I took the final quotation directly from, where you can read the entire address with tons of notes and addenda. You can read more about Concord’s Monument at CT In addition to being the date of the Pratt Street riot, April 19, 1861 was also the day volunteers from Concord first departed for the Civil War.

John Phelan’s 2010 photo of the Concord Civil War monument is licensed by Creative Commons
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a war welcome

NY Times 4-6-1917

NY Times 4-6-1917

In April 1917 the United States entered World War One. 100 years ago today New Yorkers could read a sort of welcoming poem hot off the cable from a famous British writer.

NY Times 4-13-1917

NY Times 4-13-1917

Rudyard Kipling had personal experience of the war-related dying flesh. His “son John was killed in action in the First World War, at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, at age 18.”

Leviathan HistofWorldWar (

big doughboy conveyor

Rudyard Kipling (LOC:

“For Freedom’s Brotherhood”


Thanks to The Economist for explaining that the U.S. entered the war on April 6, 1917; I didn’t have the month down. In his column Lexington wrote about President Calvin Coolidge at the dedication of a World War I monument in Kansas City, Missouri in 1926. It doesn’t seem that the president took the part of or spoke as if he were The American Spirit, but he did refer to it: “If the American spirit fails, what hope has the world?”
Lexington also mentioned that members of the 69th New York State militia (“the fighting Irish”) were so angry to be issued uniforms with British brass buttons when they got to Europe in 1917 that they tore the tunics up. The 69th eventually fought alongside the British against the oppressive tyrants of the world. This gives me a chance to mention that the 1867 St. Patrick’s Day celebration in New York City, not included a serious riot initiated by marchers from Brooklyn, but also the presentation of a “stand of colors” to the 69th. The mayor complimented the regiment for its Civil War service. Lt. Col. James Cavanagh thanked the city for the colors and pledged that he and his men would defend the “emblems of a nation’s life and power.”
Uncle Sam shaking hands with the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) (Paris : Cornille & Serre, [1917]; LOC:

“Uncle Sam shaking hands with the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834)”

To France (

“To France!”

From the Library of Congress: Rudyard Kipling, Lafayette and Uncle Sam, Liberty Memorial. The image of Leviathan née Vaterland was published in History of the World War, by Francis A. March and Richard J. Beamish at Project Gutenberg, where you can also view the American political cartoon
 Liberty Memorial, 100 West Twenty-sixth Street, Kansas City, Jackson County, MO (1936?; LOC:

Liberty Memorial, K.C

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NY Times April 2, 1867

NY Times April 2, 1867

I can’t keep up, and I’m getting slower. This has been a great hobby, and I am learning some facts about the Reconstruction era, but there seems like so much to try to understand. And I keep getting distracted. I was looking through some headlines trying to find something about Generals Ord and Pope as they took over their new military districts in the South, but I was drawn to a headline that said natives killed about eighty occupants of a fort out West, so I investigated.

From The New-York Times, April 2, 1867:


WASHINGTON, Monday, April 1.

A letter from a wife of a distinguished Army officer at St. Louis, received here this morning, confirms the report of the capture of Fort Buford, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone, on the upper Missouri. Col. RANKIN, his wife, a child and the whole garrison were slaughtered, in all about eighty souls. …

Fort_Buford_2010 (

*all that’s left*

The Philadelphia Inquirer of Monday morning, publishes the following extract from a private letter, dated Fort Sully, Dakotah Territory, Feb. 25, and received in that city on Saturday, concerning the affair mentioned above:

“There has been quite a stirring excitement in this part of the country with the red skins. I suppose you know of the Fort Kearney affair also. You ask me how far it is from us? It is about 1,500 miles northwest from here. By the upper mail, which arrived here to-day, we heard some very bad news from Fort Buford. There was one company of our regiment stationed there, under the command of Col. RANKIN. The Indians made an attack on that little band, and it appears from all accounts that they fought bravely until outnumbered by the red skins, who killed them all but the Colonel and wife. They then took them a few yards from the post, and having built a fire, tied the Colonel’s hands and feet and put him in the fire, while his wife was compelled to see him burning. After that was done they maltreated her in a shameful manner, and having rolled her up in a buffalo robe, they fastened her on a wild [?] horse and turned him loose. God only knows how long she was on the prairie, but it happened, very fortunately, that the mail carriers for that fort encountered her in that condition, and after they had heard who she was they took her in charge and returned with her and the mails to Fort Rice.

- Fort Buford, Old Powder Magazine, Buford, Williams County, ND (Documentation compiled after 1933; LOC:

*remains of Fort Buford’s powder magazine*

The Indians were 1,800 strong – our men only ninety-six. They fought them three days; but on the third day the Indians took the place, scalped all the dead, and those who were officers they cut up into small pieces and ate them. That is considered bravery. It will not be good for them if they make their appearance around this fort. We are very well guarded. There are six companies here – four of infantry, one of cavalry and one of artillery. The weather has been very cold. We have lost nearly all of our stock – frozen to death. …

What a horrible story … but it turns out that it was just a story. The letter was fictitious. I did some de facto fact-checking at Wikipedia’s article about Fort Buford; it seems that the reported massacre was a hoax:

Sitting Bull / photographed & published by Palmquist & Jurgens, St. Paul, Minn. (c1884.; LOC:

forked tongue white skins

The harassing raids and resulting lack of communication from the isolated post led to the perpetration of a hoax, the “Fort Buford Massacre”, purporting that the fort had been wiped out, Capt. Rankin captured and tortured to death, and Rankin’s wife captured and abused. The episode began when the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story April 1, 1867, based on a letter allegedly written from the fort, which was then picked up and run the next day nationwide. It was given “legs” by a letter published April 6 in the Army and Navy Journal, attributed to the wife of a prominent Army officer, confirming the massacre. Although by April 4 many newspapers had begun to question the validity of the report, The Chicago Daily Times, Detroit Free Press, New York Daily Tribune, New York Times, and Boston Herald, among others, continued to feed the rumors with further stories for another month, many of them accusing the Army and the Johnson Administration of covering up the massacre. The hoax was eventually exposed by Rankin himself in correspondence to the war department.

Although the general harassing by the Lakota of Fort Buford lasted until the early 1870s, the worst was during that first year, June 1866 to May 1867. In May, the Missouri River thawed allowing the sternwheeler steamboat Graham to reinforce the garrison with additional riverboats arriving in June carrying Companies B, F, G, and part of E thereby enabling the garrison to better defend itself and allow for more permanent structures to be built.

Actually the New-York Times began publishing a few articles that doubted the truth of the massacre starting April 6th. By May 19th the paper had no doubt that the letter was false:

The Reported Massacre at Fort Buford

Map14-35 (;

plenty of real violence

It is now authoritatively settled that the reported massacre at Fort Buford was a deliberate misrepresentation. Advices have been received from Col. RANKIN, bearing date subsequent to that of the alleged massacre. It is almost impossible to conceive a mind base enough to invent so malicious a falsehood, one so calculated to wring the feelings of those who had friends in that isolated garrison.

The story probably had its origin among emigrants’ agents, who were interested in turning the tide of emigration from the Northwest to points further South, and for the few weeks during which the reports of Indian outrages were uncontradicted it probably had its effect. The fact, however, that the garrison at Fort Buford was not massacred, as reported, does not lessen in the slightest degree the force of the criticism which that report revoked. … [The Indians are threatening and have killed some whites. There are many soldiers idling around Eastern states. They should be sent west to protect the emigrants.]

The Indian is naturally a coward when brought in conflict with the white man, and never attacks unless the superiority of numbers is with him. To save the Indians as well as the whites, troops should be sent to the plains. [especially cavalry. The garrisons are “baits to whet the bloody appetite of the Indians”. The Government hasn’t done anything to prevent a real massacre.]

Wikipedia’s Fort Buford article does say there was sporadic fighting with casualties between Lakotas (at least once led by Sitting Bull) and the garrison at Fort Buford from its beginning in June 1866.

FlintWestwood’s 2010 photo of Fort Buford is licensed by Creative Commons. *According to this link at Wikipedia all the main structures still remaining at Fort Buford were built after 1867, including the stone powder magazine, the photo of which I got at the Library of Congress. Also from the library: Sitting Bull portrait (c1884) and with family (c1882). The United Sates Army provides the map (Fort Buford in modern North Dakota) via Wikipedia
Sitting Bull, squaw and twins (c1882; LOC:

“To save the Indians as well as the whites, troops should be sent to the plains”

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mega ice cube

Baron de Stoeckl (LOC:

a little land to sell

Are you kidding? I’m kind of sitting here dumbfounded, double-checking the calendar, but it doesn’t seem to be April 1st yet. I mean, we paid how many U.S. (1867) dollars for what? A whole bunch of remote ice, they say.

Over the decades I’ve been aware of Seward’s Folly. On March 30, 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward and Russian ambassador Eduard de Stoeckl signed the treaty that sold Russian America (Alaska) to the United States for $7.2 million. Not all reaction was negative. An early editorial was mostly positive and praised the acquisition for it’s possibilities as the United States was in sort of commercial pivot to Asian markets. Strains of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine might also have been it. Russian America boxed in part of British America.

From The New-York Times March 31, 1867:

A Large Territorial Acquisition.

It is announced that, by treaty with Russia, our Government has acquired possession of the large Arctic domain known as Russian America.

Northwestern America showing the territory ceded by Russia to the United States. (1867; LOC:

from sea to frozen ocean

There are from four to five hundred thousand square miles in this new Territory – fully enough to make nearly a dozen States as large as New-York. Be the bargain what it may, it is big enough.

It’s value, however, is not likely to be measured by any theory of territorial expansion. The Russian ports on the coast, or rather in the islands bordering thereon, have had a small and diminishing fur trade for many years, and possibly this is susceptible of development under a new government and by means of American enterprise. But that at the best is a small matter. The great commercial advantages which would accrue to us from possessing a number of good harbors along a coast extending from latitude 55 to the Frozen Ocean hardly need to be pointed.

Bust of William H. Seward in Seward, Alaska, United States photographed June 30, 2010 (by Michael A. Haase;

American Empire or bust?

The Whale trade of the North Pacific would receive an impetus and encouragement it has never had before. Wherever our fast-growing commerce with Northeastern Asia extends the advantages of these Northern ports would be beneficially felt. The lines of commercial intercourse between our Western ports and China, Japan, &c., that we are now opening up, could hardly fail to profit by the additional feeders from a new quarter which this expansion of our political authority and commercial enterprise would necessarily supply. But the prime gain – if it is a gain at all for a leading Power to extend its sway beyond a certain limit – would have to be sought in the increased influence which our Government would acquire in all that affects individual States on this Continent, and the relations of the whole, alike with Asiatic and European powers. If it desirable to gain an influence thus paramount, there could be no more practical way of setting about it than by getting hold of a vast coast-line like this of Russian America, which incloses [sic] with an impassable wall a section of British territory running down from 50° to less than 55°, and gives us (beside the islands) an additional coast of over 1,000 miles on the Pacific. The advantages of this acquisition may not be without something of a counterbalancing kind. Increased power and dominion bring increased responsibilities. When we hear all about the terms of the treaty, and have weighed the question coolly and calmly, we shall no better how to value the purchase, and how to felicitate ourselves over having made it. Meanwhile we do not exactly see how it should have come to pass, as an evening paper has it, that in the precincts of the British Embassy at Washington the British lion should have been heard, yesterday, howling with anguish. Sir FREDERICK BRUCE is supposed to be a man of some common sense; and if all the preliminaries of the treaty spoken of are fair and square, no Government – least of all that of Great Britain – need feel greatly demoralized over the transaction.

Harper’s Weekly did immediately pan the purchase. In it’s April 13, 1867 issue (page 226) saw a political motivation and said that size does not necessarily matter:

Seward's purchase (Full page of advertisements and a political cartoon "Preparing for the heated term; King Andy and his man Billy lay in a great stock of Russian ice in order to cool down the Congressional majority"; caricature of Pres. Andrew Johnson and Sec. of State William Seward carrying huge iceberg of "Russian America" in a wheelbarrow "treaty"; refers to Seward's purchase of Alaska in Dec. 1866 ( Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 24, no. 603 (1867 Apr. 20), p. 80. ; LOC:

“King Andy and his man Billy lay in a great stock of Russian ice in order to cool down the Congressional majority”

A more inopportune moment than this for the territorial expansion of the United States could not have been found; and it would hardly have been suggested except by an Administration conscious that it has forfeited the approval of the country and casting about to devise some appeal to that vulgar sense of national honor which mistakes size for splendor. The sale of Russian America to the United States for seven millions of dollars would be undoubtedly a good thing for Russia; but that it would be equally desirable for us is not evident. It is a territory covering some four hundred thousand square miles, and is inhabited by sixty or a hundred thousand people, half of whom are Esquimaux; and it would be practically a remote colony, with a foreign population. The advantages to us are the control of the fisheries and the fur trade; but the continuity of our coast line would be interrupted by that of the British possessions, a territory which Great Britain would not care to relinquish, but which would necessarily expose the friendly relations of this country and England to disturbance.

The paper went on to say that the United States should further assimilate its current territory and populations before continuing on its “‘manifest destiny” to rule the continent”.

In an editorial in its April 27, 1867 issue entitled “THE NEW NATIONAL ICE-HOUSE” (page 248) Harper’s criticized the rapid and hush-hush way the treat was approved in the Senate without giving the people a chance to learn the details:

Building an Eskimo igloo (1924; LOC:

it’s our ice house now

It would seem that the Secretary of State and the United States Senate might have consulted the people of the country in the usual way before enlarging the national domain by an arctic territory and the population by some scores of thousands of Esquimaux and nondescripts. It is surely a subject in which the people are all interested and upon which they have a right to be heard, and the manner in which this Russian treaty has been hurried through the Senate before there was fair opportunity for its intelligent discussion by the country is simply discreditable. The project was first revealed to the country on Sunday, March 31, and on Tuesday, April 9, the treaty was ratified. It can not be said to have been heartily approved any where except, as is reported, in California. …

It went on to say that the Louisiana purchase wasn’t like Alaska because the United States couldn’t let the mouth of the Mississippi be controlled by a foreign power; it thought that because of Secretary of State Seward’s ploy “the United States are about to enter upon a colonial system”. It worried about giving Russia over $7 million in gold when the country was heavily indebted, especially for an area which “under ordinary human conditions, will never be largely peopled except by savages”. The editorial thought that Mr. Seward was trying to refurbish his public image that was damaged when he “engineered” President Johnson’s disastrous 1866 “Swing Around the Circle”.


Negotiations had been going on for awhile. Walter Stahr writes that Mr. Seward was at his D.C. home playing whist during the evening of March 29, 1867. About 10 P.M. Baron de Stoeckl came calling to announce that he had received “telegraphic permission” to sign the treaty and wanted to meet the next day to complete the work. The secretary of state didn’t want to wait: “Let us sign the treaty tonight.” The Russian was surprised because the state department was closed and both men’s aides were scattered around town. Seward told Stoeckl to show up at the state department before midnight and they could get to work. Mr. Seward got Senator Charles Sumner, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, involved. Everyone got together at the State Department and hammered out a deal. The Americans refused Russian requests for changes, but sweetened the pot by about $200,000. The treaty was signed about 4 A.M. on the 30th.[1]

The House of Representatives approved the money for the acquisition in July, 1868, and the Russians finally got paid in August, 1868 (see check).

Taku Glacier, Alaska (

Taku Glacier, Alaska

Even though Harper’s wasn’t a big fan of Andrew Johnson, it did stand up for him in the article before its April 13th Alaska editorial. It denounced General Benjamin F. Butler for insinuating that President Johnson was an accomplice in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Are “nondescripts” something like “deplorables”?
From the Library of Congress: Eduard de Stoeckl; 1867 map; cartoon originally published in the April 20, 1867 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper; igloo construction; Taku Glacier. From Wikipedia: Michael A. Haase’s photo of the Seward bust in Seward, Alaska.
  1. [1] Stahr, Walter Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man. 2012. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. Print. pages 485-486.
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deposed by the feds

Gallier Hall (Old City Hall), interior New Orleans, Louisiana. Old painting of John T. Monroe, mayor of New Orleans in the late 1860s (

ex-Mayor John T. Monroe

In mid-March 1867 General Philip Sheridan was appointed to command one of the five military districts that Congress created in the South. His Fifth District was made up of Texas and Louisiana. By the end of the month he had removed and replaced three officials in Louisiana. From The New-York Times March 28, 1867:


Removal of Civil Officers in Louisiana and new Ones Appointed.

NEW-ORLEANS, Wednesday, March 27.

The following order was issued to-day:


GENERAL ORDER NO. 5. – ANDREW S. HERRON, Attorney-General of the State of Louisiana; JOHN T. MONROE, Mayor of New-Orleans, and EDMUND ABELL, Judge of the First District Court of the City of New-Orleans, are hereby removed from their respective offices, from 12 M. to-day:

The following appointments are made, to take effect the same date:

B.L. LYNCH, Attorney-General of the State of Louisiana; EDWARD HEATH, Mayor of New-Orleans, and W.W. HOWE, Judge of the First District Court of the City of New-Orleans. Each person removed will turn over all books, papers, records, &c., pertaining to his office, to the one appointed thereto. The authority of the latter will be duly respected and enforced.

By command of

                             Major-Gen. P.H. SHERIDAN


Mr. HEATH, the new mayor, is a well-known merchant of this city.

In his Memoirs published in 1866 General Sheridan described taking command of the Fifth Military District (Texas and Louisiana) and soon after replacing the three officials:

The first of the Reconstruction laws was passed March 2, 1867, and though vetoed by the President, such was the unanimity of loyal sentiment and the urgency demanding the measure, that the bill became a law over the veto the day the President returned it to Congress. March the 11th this law was published in General Orders No. 10, from the Headquarters of the Army, the same order assigning certain officers to take charge of the five military districts into which the States lately in rebellion were subdivided, I being announced as the commander of the Fifth Military District, which embraced Louisiana and Texas, a territory that had formed the main portion of my command since the close of the war.

Maj. Genl. Philip H. Sheridan: U.S. Army (New York : Published by Currier & Ives, [between 1856 and 1907]; LOC:

‘determined to zealously execute’ the Reconstruction Acts

Between the date of the Act and that of my assignment, the Louisiana Legislature, then in special session, had rejected a proposed repeal of an Act it had previously passed providing for an election of certain municipal officers in New Orleans. This election was set for March 11, but the mayor and the chief of police, together with General Mower, commanding the troops in the city, having expressed to me personally their fears that the public peace would be disturbed by the election, I, in this emergency, though not yet assigned to the district, assuming the authority which the Act conferred on district commanders, declared that the election should not take place; that no polls should be opened on the day fixed; and that the whole matter would stand postponed till the district commander should be appointed, or special instructions be had. This, my first official act under the Reconstruction laws, was rendered necessary by the course of a body of obstructionists, who had already begun to give unequivocal indications of their intention to ignore the laws of Congress.

A copy of the order embodying the Reconstruction law, together with my assignment, having reached me a few days after, I regularly assumed control of the Fifth Military District on March 19, by an order wherein I declared the State and municipal governments of the district to be provisional only, and, under the provisions of the sixth section of the Act, subject to be controlled, modified, superseded, or abolished. I also announced that no removals from office would be made unless the incumbents failed to carry out the provisions of the law or impeded reorganization, or unless willful delays should necessitate a change, and added: “Pending the reorganization, it is, desirable and intended to create as little disturbance in the machinery of the various branches of the provisional governments as possible, consistent with the law of Congress and its successful execution, but this condition is dependent upon the disposition shown by the people, and upon the length of time required for reorganization.”

Under these limitations Louisiana and Texas retained their former designations as military districts, the officers in command exercising their military powers as heretofore. In addition, these officers were to carry out in their respective commands all provisions of the law except those specially requiring the action of the district commander, and in cases of removals from and appointment to office.

In the course of legislation the first Reconstruction act, as I have heretofore noted, had been vetoed. On the very day of the veto, however, despite the President’s adverse action, it passed each House of Congress by such an overwhelming majority as not only to give it the effect of law, but to prove clearly that the plan of reconstruction presented was, beyond question, the policy endorsed by the people of the country. It was, therefore, my determination to see to the law’s zealous execution in my district, though I felt certain that the President would endeavor to embarrass me by every means in his power, not only on account of his pronounced personal hostility, but also because of his determination not to execute but to obstruct the measures enacted by Congress.

Statue of Union general Philip Sheridan at Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Avenue's "Embassy Row," in front of the Egyptian ambassador's residence, Washington, D.C. (by Carol M. Highsmith; LOC:

Phil also Fightin’ the obstruction of Reconstruction

Having come to this conclusion, I laid down, as a rule for my guidance, the principle of non-interference with the provisional State governments, and though many appeals were made to have me rescind rulings of the courts, or interpose to forestall some presupposed action to be taken by them, my invariable reply was that I would not take cognizance of such matters, except in cases of absolute necessity. The same policy was announced also in reference to municipal affairs throughout the district, so long as the action of the local officers did not conflict with the law.

In a very short time, however, I was obliged to interfere in municipal matters in New Orleans, for it had become clearly apparent that several of the officials were, both by acts of omission and commission, ignoring the law, so on the 27th of March I removed from office the Mayor, John T. Monroe; the Judge of the First District Court, E. Abell; and the Attorney-General of the State, Andrew S. Herron; at the same time appointing to the respective offices thus vacated Edward Heath, W. W. Howe, and B. L. Lynch. The officials thus removed had taken upon themselves from the start to pronounce the Reconstruction acts unconstitutional, and to advise such a course of obstruction that I found it necessary at an early day to replace them by men in sympathy with the law, in order to make plain my determination to have its provisions enforced.

Infrogmation of New Orleans’ photo of Mayor Monroe in Gallier Hall, New Orleans is licensed by Creative Commons. From the Library of Congress: Currier & Ives’ portrait; Carol M. Highsmith’s photo of the Sheridan statue at Sheridan Square, Washington, D.C.; Mardi Gras published in the April 6, 1867 issue of Frank Leslie’s
Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 6 - Procession of the "Mistick Krewe of Comus" [Epicurean floats] ( Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 24, no. 601 (1867 Apr. 6), p. 41. )

the party’s over

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more ping-pong

On March 19, 1867 Congress passed a law to supplement the initial Reconstruction Act of March 2nd. The new law’s purpose was to to set up the machinery for beginning Congressional Reconstruction. It provided “for the registration of perspective voters able to swear to past loyalty by registrars appointed by the military commanders, as well as for the calling of conventions and the ratification of their resolutions by a popular majority”.[1]

150 years ago today Congress received President Johnson’s veto message and immediately smashed the bill right back at him: Both Houses of Congress overrode the veto on the 23rd.

You can also read the Supplementary Act at the University of Houston.

Project Gutenberg provides President Johnson’s veto message:

WASHINGTON, March 23, 1867.

To the House of Representatives:

I have considered the bill entitled “An act supplementary to an act entitled ‘An act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States,’ passed March 2, 1867, and to facilitate restoration,” and now return it to the House of Representatives with my objections.


oath from March 23rd law

This bill provides for elections in the ten States brought under the operation of the original act to which it is supplementary. Its details are principally directed to the elections for the formation of the State constitutions, but by the sixth section of the bill “all elections” in these States occurring while the original act remains in force are brought within its purview. Referring to these details, it will be found that, first of all, there is to be a registration of the voters. No one whose name has not been admitted on the list is to be allowed to vote at any of these elections. To ascertain who is entitled to registration, reference is made necessary, by the express language of the supplement, to the original act and to the pending bill. The fifth section of the original act provides, as to voters, that they shall be “male citizens of the State, 21 years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been residents of said State for one year.” This is the general qualification, followed, however, by many exceptions. No one can be registered, according to the original act, “who may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion”—a provision which left undetermined the question as to what amounted to disfranchisement, and whether without a judicial sentence the act itself produced that effect. This supplemental bill superadds an oath, to be taken by every person before his name can be admitted upon the registration, that he has “not been disfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States.” It thus imposes upon every person the necessity and responsibility of deciding for himself, under the peril of punishment by a military commission if he makes a mistake, what works disfranchisement by participation in rebellion and what amounts to such participation. Almost every man—the negro as well as the white—above 21 years of age who was resident in these ten States during the rebellion, voluntarily or involuntarily, at some time and in some way did participate in resistance to the lawful authority of the General Government. The question with the citizen to whom this oath is to be proposed must be a fearful one, for while the bill does not declare that perjury may be assigned for such false swearing nor fix any penalty for the offense, we must not forget that martial law prevails; that every person is answerable to a military commission, without previous presentment by a grand jury, for any charge that may be made against him, and that the supreme authority of the military commander determines the question as to what is an offense and what is to be the measure of punishment.

The fourth section of the bill provides “that the commanding general of each district shall appoint as many boards of registration as may be necessary, consisting of three loyal officers or persons.” The only qualification stated for these officers is that they must be “loyal.” They may be persons in the military service or civilians, residents of the State or strangers. Yet these persons are to exercise most important duties and are vested with unlimited discretion. They are to decide what names shall be placed upon the register and from their decision there is to be no appeal. They are to superintend the elections and to decide all questions which may arise. They are to have the custody of the ballots and to make return of the persons elected. Whatever frauds or errors they may commit must pass without redress. All that is left for the commanding general is to receive the returns of the elections, open the same, and ascertain who are chosen “according to the returns of the officers who conducted said elections.” By such means and with this sort of agency are the conventions of delegates to be constituted.

As the delegates are to speak for the people, common justice would seem to require that they should have authority from the people themselves. No convention so constituted will in any sense represent the wishes of the inhabitants of these States, for under the all-embracing exceptions of these laws, by a construction which the uncertainty of the clause as to disfranchisement leaves open to the board of officers, the great body of the people may be excluded from the polls and from all opportunity of expressing their own wishes or voting for delegates who will faithfully reflect their sentiments.

I do not deem it necessary further to investigate the details of this bill. No consideration could induce me to give my approval to such an election law for any purpose, and especially for the great purpose of framing the constitution of a State. If ever the American citizen should be left to the free exercise of his own judgment it is when he is engaged in the work of forming the fundamental law under which he is to live. That work is his work, and it can not properly be taken out of his hands. All this legislation proceeds upon the contrary assumption that the people of each of these States shall have no constitution except such as may be arbitrarily dictated by Congress and formed under the restraint of military rule. A plain statement of facts makes this evident.

In all these States there are existing constitutions, framed in the accustomed way by the people. Congress, however, declares that these constitutions are not “loyal and republican,” and requires the people to form them anew. What, then, in the opinion of Congress, is necessary to make the constitution of a State “loyal and republican”? The original act answers the question: It is universal negro suffrage—a question which the Federal Constitution leaves exclusively to the States themselves. All this legislative machinery of martial law, military coercion, and political disfranchisement is avowedly for that purpose and none other. The existing constitutions of the ten States conform to the acknowledged standards of loyalty and republicanism. Indeed, if there are degrees in republican forms of government, their constitutions are more republican now than when these States, four of which were members of the original thirteen, first became members of the Union.

Congress does not now demand that a single provision of their constitutions be changed except such as confine suffrage to the white population. It is apparent, therefore, that these provisions do not conform to the standard of republicanism which Congress seeks to establish. That there may be no mistake, it is only necessary that reference should be made to the original act, which declares “such constitution shall provide that the elective franchise shall be enjoyed by all such persons as have the qualifications herein stated for electors of delegates.” What class of persons is here meant clearly appears in the same section; that is to say, “the male citizens of said State 21 years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been resident in said State for one year previous to the day of such election.”

Without these provisions no constitution which can be framed in any one of the ten States will be of any avail with Congress. This, then, is the test of what the constitution of a State of this Union must contain to make it republican. Measured by such a standard, how few of the States now composing the Union have republican constitutions! If in the exercise of the constitutional guaranty that Congress shall secure to every State a republican form of government universal suffrage for blacks as well as whites is a sine qua non, the work of reconstruction may as well begin in Ohio as in Virginia, in Pennsylvania as in North Carolina.

We accept the situation / Th. Nast. (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 537 (1867 April 13), p. 240. ; LOC:

” this fearful and untried experiment of complete negro enfranchisement—and white disfranchisement, it may be, almost as complete”

When I contemplate the millions of our fellow-citizens of the South with no alternative left but to impose upon themselves this fearful and untried experiment of complete negro enfranchisement—and white disfranchisement, it may be, almost as complete—or submit indefinitely to the rigor of martial law, without a single attribute of freemen, deprived of all the sacred guaranties of our Federal Constitution, and threatened with even worse wrongs, if any worse are possible, it seems to me their condition is the most deplorable to which any people can be reduced. It is true that they have been engaged in rebellion and that their object being a separation of the States and a dissolution of the Union there was an obligation resting upon every loyal citizen to treat them as enemies and to wage war against their cause.

Inflexibly opposed to any movement imperiling the integrity of the Government, I did not hesitate to urge the adoption of all measures necessary for the suppression of the insurrection. After a long and terrible struggle the efforts of the Government were triumphantly successful, and the people of the South, submitting to the stern arbitrament, yielded forever the issues of the contest. Hostilities terminated soon after it became my duty to assume the responsibilities of the chief executive officer of the Republic, and I at once endeavored to repress and control the passions which our civil strife had engendered, and, no longer regarding these erring millions as enemies, again acknowledged them as our friends and our countrymen. The war had accomplished its objects. The nation was saved and that seminal principle of mischief which from the birth of the Government had gradually but inevitably brought on the rebellion was totally eradicated. Then, it seemed to me, was the auspicious time to commence the work of reconciliation; then, when these people sought once more our friendship and protection, I considered it our duty generously to meet them in the spirit of charity and forgiveness and to conquer them even more effectually by the magnanimity of the nation than by the force of its arms. I yet believe that if the policy of reconciliation then inaugurated, and which contemplated an early restoration of these people to all their political rights, had received the support of Congress, every one of these ten States and all their people would at this moment be fast anchored in the Union and the great work which gave the war all its sanction and made it just and holy would have been accomplished. Then over all the vast and fruitful regions of the South peace and its blessings would have prevailed, while now millions are deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen and after nearly two years of legislation find themselves placed under an absolute military despotism. “A military republic, a government founded on mock elections and supported only by the sword,” was nearly a quarter of a century since pronounced by Daniel Webster, when speaking of the South American States, as “a movement, indeed, but a retrograde and disastrous movement, from the regular and old-fashioned monarchical systems;” and he added:

Daniel Webster (c1906.; LOC:

look up Webster’s words

If men would enjoy the blessings of republican government, they must govern themselves by reason, by mutual counsel and consultation, by a sense and feeling of general interest, and by the acquiescence of the minority in the will of the majority, properly expressed; and, above all, the military must be kept, according to the language of our bill of rights, in strict subordination to the civil authority. Wherever this lesson is not both learned and practiced there can be no political freedom. Absurd, preposterous is it, a scoff and a satire on free forms of constitutional liberty, for frames of government to be prescribed by military leaders and the right of suffrage to be exercised at the point of the sword.

I confidently believe that a time will come when these States will again occupy their true positions in the Union. The barriers which now seem so obstinate must yield to the force of an enlightened and just public opinion, and sooner or later unconstitutional and oppressive legislation will be effaced from our statute books. When this shall have been consummated, I pray God that the errors of the past may be forgotten and that once more we shall be a happy, united, and prosperous people, and that at last, after the bitter and eventful experience through which the nation has passed, we shall all come to know that our only safety is in the preservation of our Federal Constitution and in according to every American citizen and to every State the rights which that Constitution secures.


From the Library of Congress: Thomas Nast cartoon originally published in the April 13, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly on page 240; Daniel Webster
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 281.
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