It’s always a day that causes much sadness for those of who love Lincoln. Coupled with the current crisis which the entire world is going through, this day feels more sombre than ever.
Each year, we remember Lincoln on this day in our own way. And this year, more than ever, we need to remember him. Because in remembering him, we keep his spirit alive. We need that spirit to be among us now.
Lincoln is still someone we can turn to. In these turbulent times, when in some ways leadership is failing us, we can look to him for how to conduct ourselves, how to treat others, for guidance, comfort & hope.
Yes – hope. Above all else right now, we need to have hope.
Hope that together we will get through this crisis. Lincoln was no stranger to turbulent times, having to navigate a country he loved so dearly through the greatest crisis it had ever faced to that time – the Civil War. We can still turn to Lincoln in this crisis too. His words are of comfort to many of us. We can learn from them. We can also learn from his life & the way in which he conducted himself. The qualities he possessed as a person are the qualities we need more than ever to find in ourselves – empathy, kindness, compassion.
As sad as we are on these two days & as turbulent of a time as we are going through, let us look to Lincoln for that guidance, comfort & hope we need. Let us remember him for the amazing person he was & learn from him. Let us allow him to inspire us to be better people, not just during this crisis but after it as well. Because we will need heal and “bind up the wounds” from what we have been through.
I will close this post with the words of Lincoln that resonate with me the most right now. These are the words that give me hope we will get through this. He spoke these words 155 years ago as the country was coming out of the Civil War but I believe they still hold relevance for us today because we are going to come out of this crisis, too…
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Let us come through this crisis and be better people. I have every hope that we will. More than ever, let us look to Lincoln. Let us remember him, and in that find the guidance, comfort and hope that we need so very much right now. Let us do that and his spirit will drift among us & help to navigate us towards better times.
I hope wherever you are that you are safe and, most of all, healthy. I know these times are scary & there is so much unknown. But just know in Lincoln you can find comfort and hope. And know that we are going to be okay.
First of all, huge thank you to Stephen from Simon & Schuster for sending me another soon-to-be-released book to review!
I started the book nearly as soon as I recieved it & it had me hooked from the beginning. Oh wait…I’m sure y’all would like to know the title of said book & author…
“Lincoln On The Verge” by Ted Widmer & it is set to be released very soon – April 7, 2020.
So, about the author…
Ted Widmer is an American history, writer, librarian as well as former speech writer for President Clinton. He is a Distinguished Lecturer at Macaulay Honors College. Besides teaching, he writes about American History in the New York Times, The New Yorker as well as the Washington Post. He has also taught at Harvard University, Brown University & Washington College.
So, what’s my verdict on this book? In short…
The book is 624 pages, including bibliographical notes. It is comprised of 14 chapters plus a prologue & epilogue. The beginning of each chapter starts with a few lines from Homer’s Odyssey which is a favourite of mine (I was a Classical Studies major in my university days). There are some really awesome photos throughout the book too, some of which have been recently discovered.
So, just what is “Lincoln On The Verge” about? It is about Lincoln’s thirteen day inaugural journey to Washington, DC in February 1861. Drawing from new research, Widmer tells the “grueling odyssey” of Lincoln getting to Washington. As stated on Simon & Schuster’s Website “Lincoln on the Verge tells the story of America’s greatest president and the obstacles he overcame, well before he could take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address”.
The book is a truly remarkable journey to go on & one which I enjoyed immensely. Widmer did a vast amount of research & weaves it into a narrative that is captivating, informative, & with a bit of humor thrown in there. (Sidenote: I very much appreciate when writers through some humor in there, especially when it’s history). Widmer, at times, alludes to the present day situation in the US with the current administration & he does this quite brilliantly. Right from the start, I was drawn into the narrative & it kept me hooked the whole way through.
Having been a Lincoln nerd since I was 6 (31 years now!), I knew the basic details of the inaugural journey, knew the major cities he had visited, the speeches he gave & some of the trouble had along the way (specifically the Baltimore assassination plot that was undercovered by Allan Pinkerton & his detective agency). But I have never done a deep dive into the inaugural journey & that’s exactly what this book is. But the other awesome thing about this book, is it is not just primarily focused on Lincoln.
The opening chapters of the book are what set the stage for this journey that we as the readers take with Lincoln. Besides what Lincoln was doing in the months leading up to this inaugural journey, Widmer also discusses the advent of the telegraph & what this meant not just for Lincoln but for the entire United States. He gives a very informative discussion on the situation in not just the capital of the U.S. but also the entire country leading up the Civil War. He also discusses the railway & its importance. The thing I found most fascinating about this chapter was the differences between north & south when it came to the railway. Widmer takes the stance that the south was much slower than the north to embrace advances like the railway & his argument is quite convincing. He gives a great overview of the founding of Washington, D.C. After I read that part, I instantly thought of this song from amazing musical “Hamilton”…
All of this just adds so much to Widmer’s narrative & is one of the many things that make this book so captivating! And it also gave me a better understanding of the chaos that had slowly building for many years in the United States leading up the Civil War.
The rest of the book focuses on Lincoln’s inaugural journey (Chapters 4 through 14), which is a very fascinating &, at times, a dangerous one for the President-elect. Widmer devotes a chapter to each major city that Lincoln visited. But in these chapters, not only does he talk about what Lincoln did there & the speeches he gave, but he also discusses the history of the these cities. He also tells how many of these cities figured into the political atmosphere at the time. One of the things I found very cool? Widmer also mentions various people who lived in these cities that would later figure prominently in American history. For the history geek that loves little historical tidbits like that, y’all are gong to be in heaven reading this book. This was me many times whilst reading these little historical facts…
Oh, another cool thing? Widmer also discusses the smaller towns & villages Lincoln visited too. Such as Cadiz Junction & Xenia, Ohio. I have to say I geeked out a little when those little out-of-the-way places were mentioned because I’ve been lucky enough to have been to both along with a couple other places that were mentioned (thanks to my best friend & fellow Lincoln nerd, Geoff a.k.a. @mr_lincoln on Twitter). Again, me….
I have come to have a much better appreciation for what this thirteen journey means when we study Abraham Lincoln. I have a better understanding of just how divided north & south were prior to the Civil War & that the country had been headed towards a war years before Lincoln was elected President. This is a book that was much needed not just in the Lincoln community but in the Civil War community, too.
I hope Widmer will write more in the genre of history, specifically about Lincoln or the Civil War. One thing – whether you know a lot about Lincoln or just a little bit, you are going to enjoy this book. I think it’s the perfect book for any history geek!
So, if in our locked-down, stay-at-home-state we are in amid this COVID-19 crisis, you are looking for something read, I would highly recommend “Lincoln On The Verge” by Ted Widmer. It truly is a wonderful addition to the world of Lincoln, the Civil War & history in general. It is refreshing view on this important journey that Lincoln took.
Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read this blog post. If you’ve read “Lincoln On The Verge”, please comment & let me know what you thought! Thank you again to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book. In the meantime, be well, be safe and remember, we will get through this.
Before we get into this review, this post is dedicated to friend Mark who passed away just a week ago. For quite awhile, I had lost faith in myself as a writer but Mark always told me to have faith. He told me to always find that faith. He was a wonderful human and those of us that knew him were all the better for it. I couldn’t be there today to say goodbye and so I decided to write, to find the faith he always told me to find and though he was in my life for just a short time, I will carry this with me always. I’ve thrown a lot of humour into this review – it’s unconventional. But Mark loved to laugh and he loved life. This is my way of celebrating the person that Mark was – full of life, laughter & always finding a way to live life to the fullest.
Back in November, I was contacted by representative from Simon & Schuster asking if I would like a copy of a very recently released book about General Grant & the Vicksburg Campaign.
Of course, I was not about to let this opportunity pass me by…
And I’m so happy I didn’t let that opportunity pass me by: in short that book was awesome & I recommend it highly! Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with the opportunity to read the book (and nope, I was not paid to write this review. It is 100% genuine).
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
“Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke The Confederacy” is written by Donald L. Miller.
Miller is primarily known for being a scholar of World War II & U.S. history, This is his first foray into writing about the Civil War. After reading “Vicksburg”, I certainly hope it isn’t his last because his writing in on par with Trudeau and Sears, two of my favourite Civil War authors.
Miller is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History Emeritus at Layfayette College. He has written ten books, with “Vicksburg” being his most recent. He is most widely acclaimed for his books on World War II, including the bestselling “Masters Of The Air”. As you’ve probably already figured out, I am so happy he made the jump into Civil War history because the field needs more books like this one with a compelling & easy flowing narrative.
Onto the review…
The book is 663 pages, including the notes and index. It is divided into four different parts plus a prologue, & epilogue. As stated by Miller in the prologue “This book takes in the full compass of Grant’s Mississippi Valley campaign, from Cairo to Vicksburg, along with Farragut’s capture of New Orleans & his frustrating summer in front of Vicksburg in 1862 which is an essential part of Unions Vicksburg campaign & not a mere prelude to it.” (Miller xviii). This book is the result of 22 years of research in 40 major archives and it’s based on letters, diaries, memoirs and official reports.
The amount of research (and the years it took. Miller started this book in 1997) definitely shows. He conveys the story of Grant & the Vicksburg Campaign brilliantly. What I love is that it isn’t just about Grant – it’s also about the story of the army, the navy as well as the civilians. Miller takes all of this and makes it into a gripping, engaging, easy flowing narrative that is detailed but not to the point where I felt overwhelmed. Admittedly, going into this book, Vicksburg was a campaign I did not know much about even though I primarily study the Western theatre (as many of you know, my focus is on Chattanooga and Sherman’s March To The Sea)…
…but this book has given me the much needed introduction that I needed to the Vicksburg Campaign. If you have enjoyed the writing of Noah Andre Trudeau, you will enjoy Miller’s book about Vicksburg. His narrative is quite similar – he brings in the words of those that were involved in the campaign from the commanders to the common soldiers as well as the civilians that were caught in the middle of it all. When I went into it, I expected it to be Grant-centric especially given the title.
It wasn’t that way at all! Miller found a wonderful balance of telling Grant’s story & how his genius as a General was what won Vicksburg for the Union but also by telling the story of those that aided him along the way – Farragut, Porter, and yes, my boy Sherman…
I learned so much than what I expected to. In particular, I learned about the role the Navy had, especially when it came to this bad ass foster brother duo of Admiral David “Damn The Torpedoes” Farragut & Admiral David Dixon Porter…
I have come away from this book having a greater appreciation for the Vicksburg Campaign and, more importantly, how it shaped Grant as a commander and was the campaign that which was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. It was this campaign and the ultimate victory of it that helped to spur Grant even forward into the spotlight and, ultimately, into him becoming Lieutenant General in early 1864, a post not held since George Washington.
Miller’s portrayal of Grant is very humanizing, much like Ronald C. White’s was in the amazing Grant biography “American Ulysses”. And yes – I’m sure y’all are wondering this – Miller does discuss Grant’s drinking throughout the book and even discusses a few times where Grant may (or may not) have been drunk during the Vicksburg Campaign. His source is Chernow and he does mention this. While I have yet to read Chernow, I am trying to reserve judgement of the times this came up in this particular book. I felt it didn’t take away from the narrative but I also felt it didn’t add to it either.
Overall though, this is a compelling, enthralling book that is great addition to the sources we have for the Civil War. The way Miller wraps everything up at the end basically had me like this…
He really drives home the importance of the Vicksburg Campaign and how much it plays into the breaking of the Confederacy. It so often gets overshadowed by Gettyburg, which Miller does mention. I am no in any way discounting the importance of Gettysburg. Vicksburg, and the western theatre in general (no pun intended. Shout out to my fellow punster and BFF Geoff ), get overshadowed by Gettysburg and the eastern theatre. I’m not saying they’re any less important but they all have their place in the narrative that is the US Civil War and sometimes, I think the Western Theatre needs a little more love. Vicksburg plays a very important role in helping to end the war. I’m not going to go into detail here because I needed to read this book for it to all come full circle for me. Let’s just say I completely agree with what Miller has to say about how important the Vicksburg Campaign is.
I’m sure y’all have figured it out but I highly recommend “Vicksburg” by Donald L. Miller. I hope he writes more books about the Civil War because his writing is compelling, and most of all, accessible. It’s a narrative that drew me in and took me through a campaign I didn’t understand very well. I came out of it understanding it, and it’s role in the Civil War, better than before. This is why Miller’s book deserves a read. Thank you to him for his contribution to the field of the Civil War.
I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read this view. If you have read this book, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Also, if you have other books you can recommend about the Vicksburg Campaign, please let me know.
Until next time (which I hope is sooner than the last time),
April 14th & 15th. Sad, somber days for those of us who love, study and admire Abraham Lincoln. I won’t go into the details of the assassination that so wrongly robbed the world of this great man – we know those details all too well. Instead, in this blog post I want to remember and reflect upon the amazing man that Abraham Lincoln was and still continues to be to this day. He brought so much to the world when he was alive and he still continues to give us so much to this day.
The words “remembrance” & “reflection” are defined as follow:
The action of remembering something
The action of remembering the dead, especially in ceremony
Serious thought or consideration
It is these two words that define how I am thinking of Lincoln today and how I think of him every year at this time. I know I am not alone in that as many others are doing the same. And that brings me comfort. It brings me comfort to know I am not the only one who is sad on these two days.
While many years and generations have passed since Lincoln was taken from us, here we are 154 years later still talking of this man, writing of him, tweeting, blogging and podcasting about him. And each year on this day, we still mourn his loss and we think “what if…?”.
But that’s just it. 154 years later and we still speak of him, write about him and read about him. We rememberand reflectupon all that he did and all that he continues to bring to us.
We look to Lincoln for inspiration. To laugh. For comfort. All of us have different reasons but the common ground we all share is we love him. We know what an amazing man he was. And we continue to celebrate his life to this day. We are constantly rememberingand reflectingupon Lincoln and his life.
For some of us, Lincoln is our inspiration to be a better person or as we battle the demons of depression. For others, he motivates us to never give and to follow our dreams. He is our comfort if we have experienced loss or sadness for we can look to his words to find that comfort we need.
For all of us though, he is like a friend. And Lincoln is always there when we need him. And on this day, it does feel as though we have lost a close friend.
But that’s just it. Have we really lost him given how much we speak of him, read of him, write of him? Have we really lost him given how much we choose to remember and reflect upon him, his words and his life? How we choose to do this regarding Lincoln will be different for each and every one of us. But in remembering and reflecting upon Lincoln not just today, but each and every day, we are keeping his spirit alive. And that is amazing. In doing that, his spirit still floats among us. He continues to inspire us. Motivate us. Comfort us.
As sad as I am on these two days, I also feel blessed more than ever to have this amazing man in my life. Through him, I have met many amazing people that I have formed lifelong friendships with. Through him, I have found the strength to battle against the demons of depression. And through him, I find inspiration, motivation and comfort. His words are timeless and more accessible to each and every one of us than ever before.
While Lincoln is not here in person, his spirit is here among us. It is because of us that in some way, he is still here. And he will always be here because we keep his memory alive.
As sad as we are on this day, let us take comfort he drifts among us. That he is still doing amazing for this world. And in remembering and reflecting upon his life, not just today but each and every day, he always will be among.
Guess what? I’ve teamed up with my good friend, the awesome, talented artist & fellow Sherman lover Jennifer Roling (please follow along on Twitter @JenRolingArt) to co-author some posts about General Sherman (and some may be illustrated with Jen’s amazing artwork!)! If you’d like to learn more about Jen, please read this post here. Thanks to her for taking the time to answer the questions!
And now, let’s get to our first article that we’ve written about Sherman & we thought it best to kick off our collaborative efforts on Cump’s birthday. This will hopefully be the first of many we’ll co-author together.
As you know, I live, eat and breathe all things Lincoln, Sherman & the Civil War. I have for, going on, 30 years now.
Jen is much like me. We are history hobbyists, enthusiasts, or history nerds. You’ll also see us refer to ourselves as “Sherman’s Flames” on Twitter. These articles are written as part of our passion for General Sherman, whom is our favourite of all the Union Generals. It is our hope that they will encourage further learning of our favorite general, William Tecumseh Sherman. In honor of his birthday on February 8th, we wanted to write a post about the general that most folks don’t know too much about or were too put off by his myth to inquire further. He is a very misunderstood gentleman, and, in our opinion, just doesn’t get the love or respect he deserves at times.
We would like to make a few remarks on the comments and criticisms that could befall us as we release this series of articles.
Secondly – Sherman as a person. We know William Tecumseh Sherman was not a perfect man. We don’t even consider Abraham Lincoln to be perfect. No, in fact they were both products of their time and by our standards today, they had flaws and there is absolutely no disputing that.
We acknowledge that Sherman’s treatment of the indigenous peoples of North America was appalling and downright cruel. That said, the mindset of 19th century United States is that of a very xenophobic and white-centric people. This article is not celebrating Sherman’s awful acts as General of the army after the civil war. We don’t condone his behavior as a xenophobic and racist (by our standards today) 19th century white male. We do, however, understand that he is a product of his time and that he acted in accordance with society’s standards at that time. The reason we still love and respect Sherman is because, we feel that if he were approached with today’s logic, he would easily be convinced that killing off a native people and discriminating a human based on its skin color would be ultimately wrong. We have come to this opinion through reading his memoirs, biographies, and personal letters. We have also read primary sources from witnesses of General Sherman’s behavior in public as well private life.
Thirdly – the myths of Sherman. Sherman was no monster despite the South tarnishing his reputation. He never ordered his soldiers to kill or rape. While we don’t doubt that that may have happened, it was not Sherman’s intention nor desire to kill and rape the civilians of Georgia. His sole purpose was to destroy the war making industry of the South. Sherman loved the Union, believed in it and wanted to see the entire United States back together. In fact, he issued evacuation orders to the mayor of Atlanta. Those that stayed put themselves and their families at risk when they had every chance to leave. Sherman was, as Robert O’Connell so aptly had it as the title of his biography of Sherman, a “Fierce Patriot”. He abhorred secession and was just as for keeping the Union together as what Abraham Lincoln was. If you’d like to know more about Sherman’s thoughts of secession, I wrote a 3-part series about Sherman’s time in Louisiana, which includes his reaction to secession. Start off with Part 1 right here.
The purpose of this series of blog posts is to hopefully encourage you to pick up his memoirs or a biography and read a little more about the South’s “devil” rather than to buy into the myth. He’s an interesting fellow and when you get to know him, he’s great company.
Oh, and he’s handsome too…
So, over the next little while, I hope you’ll follow along as Jen and I write about our favourite Sherman books, what songs he may have had on his playlists, and interesting facts about him. We encourage you to comment and ask us questions specifically related to general Sherman and his involvement in the civil war.
For now, that ends our introductory post in this series. We will be back soon with another post. For today, we are going to go raise a glass to Uncle Billy. Until next time, take care!
I’ve asked my very good friend, Jen, whom I met on Twitter last year, if she wanted to be a contributor on my blog. It started when we decided to write a series of posts about General Sherman’s, starting with one on his birthday. He is our absolute favourite Union General. When that happened, I thought “What the hell? She should just be a contributor on here and not just for Sherman’s birthday”. So, from time to time you’ll see her around here. Believe me, that’s a good thing. I’m thrilled to have her as part of this and as a great friend & kindred spirit.
Jen is an artist and is incredibly talented! Since Uncle Billy is a favourite, they’ve done a lot of artwork with him as the subject matter.
But enough of my rambling. I’ll let you find out who Jen is. Thanks in advance to her for answering these questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself (education, etc)…
Well, I’m mostly a self taught artist but I did manage to finish an associates degree with an emphasis on graphic design. I briefly studied at the University of Utah for illustration before embarking off on my own endeavors and have traded traditional university for a more specialized illustration program. SVS Learn with Will Terry and Jake Parker.
My goals are to use my illustration skills to create more interest in the American civil war and possibly reach a younger crowd by “modernizing” civil war art with funny cartoons, pop-culture cross overs, and a combo of serious as well as humorous full illustrations.
What sparked your interest in history?
Well, like so many of my new friends (“twitterstorians,”) it was a way to escape but also a way to understand what was happening around me. In a way, for me, history can kind of tell the future of things. When I feel lost it seems like digging through the past can help cope with the future? I know that probably sounds strange but hear me out: I suffer from depression and ADD. Finding a historical figure that had accomplished great things with the the same/ similar ailments I have, helped me cope and find new ways of coping. It also reminds me that I’m not alone in my struggle.
How did you become interested in Abraham Lincoln?
Lincoln was my father figure growing up. My parents weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed but they did have good old fashioned horse sense. But I needed more.
The earliest I can remember really needing Lincoln was probably 5th grade. When I started learning about how he was made fun of and about how his parents weren’t educated, and how he took learning into his own hands I really latched on to him. I wanted, well NEEDED, to know more. How did he cope? That’s where I learned about self deprecating humor. I was made fun of a lot but when I discovered how to poke fun at myself and make others laugh, it seemed to disarm the bullies. After that little experiment worked I was hooked forever!
I became interested in Lincoln because he was the ONLY one I could find that seemed to have all the answers I needed. Whatever vexed me, vexed him as well and I went to him for everything. I spent hours in our library reading his legal works, his biographies, whatever I could find to suit whatever awkward life situation I found myself in.
What sparked your interest in General Sherman?
This is a different story all together! I didn’t really start getting into the civil war until my senior year in high school. I remember we were going in depth about the March to the Sea, and when my teacher put his photo up on the projector, I was love struck! Yep. Most of my friends fell in love with JTT, remember him? NOPE! Not me, I immediately fell head over boots for an angry looking civil war general. I have always kept Billy to myself though until recently. Hell, I was already made fun of for not fitting in, I really didn’t want anyone to know I had a teenage girl crush on a grizzly looking historical figure. Thank the gods for the internet! I am not alone! LOL!
What is it about General Sherman that you love so much?
Oh lawd! Lets see, on first glimpse I do tend to dig men that have stern, strong expressions but have hints of laughter to them. My paternal grandpa was like that. He was stern but he was easy to get laughing if you knew what buttons to push. As an artist I pay close attention to the tiny details on people’s faces so imagining Bill smiling is easy and melts my heart.
Aside from physical qualities, he’s the kind of male I like most. Studious, alert, funny, makes the best of things as best he can and works hard. Nothing is more attractive to me than a man who knows what he likes doing and does it well and with his very best efforts.
What’s your favourite band? (I had to throw a random question like that in there)
I don’t have a favorite band. My tastes are so eclectic when it comes to music. I am so mood driven. I like soundtracks and instrumentals the most though.
If you could recommend one book about Abraham Lincoln for people to read, what would it be?
Well, most common people don’t like to read huge books so I like to recommend something nice and small for starters. Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua W. Shenk is one of my favorites. It really humanizes Lincoln. Followed by D.H.D’s LINCOLN bio. Ugh, it’s hard to recommend ONE book. I feel like you need to have one good bio followed by a specialty book “chaser.” LOL!
What one book would recommend to people about General Sherman?
Oh jeeze well, his memoirs! Those are the most amusing but I supposed Fierce Patriot by Robert L. O’Connell would be a good companion. Fierce Patriot is written with people 45 or younger in mind so it has some “modern” vocabulary and funny analogies in it. Oops, that’s two books again. In my opinion, you really gotta have “chaser” books to full bios. I think it helps humanize and bring the person to life.
Favourite Uncle Billy quote?
” I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” W.T.Sherman
This one hits home for me since I was in the army for 8 years as an 89B, ammunition specialist. I spent 14 months in Iraq and while I was not infantry and did not have as difficult a time as many of my fellow soldiers, the suffering and despair was still very visible.
As many of you probably know, I’m referring in the title to this gentleman and today is indeed his birthday….
Perhaps not the most flattering of nicknames & one I’m sure was not used to his face. I mean, can you imagine General Grant coming up to General Meade and being all “How ya doin’, Ole Snapping Turtle?” as he gives him a friendly slap on the back. Yeah, no. Not the best idea when Meade has earned himself the reputation of having “a rage so magnificent that it seemed capable of moving mountains”. Basically Meade if you pissed him off…
All kidding aside though, when we talk of Meade we are also talking a man who had one of the most challenging first weeks on the job EVER as he was given command of the Army of the Potomac just THREE days before the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. A battle in which, I might add, he delivered a MUCH needed victory for the Union. Despite this and other important contributions he made during the Civil War – like pushing Stonewall’s troops back at Fredericksburg (unfortunately, Meade did not have enough backup and had to retreat but still…he pushed further than any other Union line that day in December of 1862), taking over Hooker’s Corp when Hooker was wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 and bravely defending Henry House Hill during the Second Battle of Bull Run as Union troops had to retreat. History, unfortunately, has not been as kind to Meade when it comes to giving credit where credit is due. Unlike the countless bios of Grant and Sherman, very few exist of Meade. And he still takes criticism over his performance at Gettysburg as well as why Lincoln named him as commander of the Army of the Potomac in the first place. To me, he’s underrated and doesn’t get enough credit. But that’s for a whole other blog post…
While Meade did achieve much during the Civil War, his pre-Civil War life is equally as interesting. Unlike Grant and Sherman, who struggled to find success before the Civil War, Meade did indeed find it his own way. But that’s part of his story that isn’t well known either. And that’s the story I want to tell you today. I believe in studying the Civil War Generals that their pre-war lives are just as important as their lives during the war. Where did they attend school? Who did they marry? What jobs did they have? Did they struggle? Did they achieve? To me, it helps make them more real and not just a General on a battlefield commanding troops. They had lives before the war and sometimes, decisions they made during the war may very well have been influenced by the lives they led pre-war. So enough of my rambling, let’s get to the post and learn more of General George Gordon Meade’s pre-Civil War life…
Meade’s story begins in Cadiz, Spain on the last day of 1815 where he is born to Richard and Margaret Meade. That’s right, Meade was born in Europe. His parents were American but had moved to Spain in the early 1800’s because that is where his father’s business ventures took him. George is their eighth child.
Unfortunately, Richard gets caught up in some bad business deals & ends up in a Spanish prison for two years (I’d love to envision ties to the mafia here and some Godfather-scale shit happening but it’s probably not that exciting…). He is released in 1817 but his wife and children, including a nearly 2 year old George, return to the US and settle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Richard stays behind in Cadiz in attempt to recover some of the money he lost. He returns to the US in 1819 & eventually the family moves to Washington, DC where Richard makes a “futile campaign to get the government to reimburse him the $375, 879.75 he had lost in Spain” (Huntington 12) & unfortunately, he never gets any of the money back.
George attends a boarding school in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania that modelled itself after West Point. In many ways, this would have been young George’s introduction to military life. General Meade’s son, also called George, describes his father at school:
He was considered an amiable boy, full of life, but rather disposed to avoid the rough-and-tumble frolics of youth of his age; quick at lessons, & popular with both teachers & scholars.
At the age of 12, George loses his father when Richard dies at the age of 50 in 1828. Also in this same year, George leaves the board schooling and attends a school in Washington D.C. that is run by Lincoln’s future Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase (Huntington 12). It was a classical school & Chase had opened it while studying law in DC.
In 1831, Andrew Jackson appoints Meade to West Point. While Meade wanted to go into law, his mother persuaded him to go to West Point. Being is she was a widower with 11 children, the free education that West Point offered was no doubt quite of benefit for her. So, at the age of 15, George begins his education at West Point. His son again describes how George was while he was there:
His bearing was dignified, & manly, his manners affable, his opinions were of weight among the members of his corps, & he was universally liked & respected.
In 1835, Meade graduated from West Point. In his class of 56 pupils, he graduated 19th. One of his classmates was none other than Montgomery Blair, who later would be President Lincoln’s Post Master General (Huntington 13).
Meade is commissioned, upon graduation, as a brevet Second Lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery. He is sent to Florida, where is involved in the Seminole War. Guess who else was involved in that war (though not at the same time as Meade)? Cause you know I need to stick him somewhere in this post…
But I digress…
While in Florida, Meade ends up contracting an illness, which Tom Huntington tells us in his book “Searching For George Gordon Meade” was probably malaria. Huntington goes on to tell us that:
Pronounced unfit to continue serving in the tropics, Meade received orders to escort some Seminoles on a roundabout journey to Arkansas, after which he travelled to Washington & received a new assignment in the exotic locale of Watertown, Massachusetts. (Huntington 13) **I LOVE that Huntington throws humor and sarcasm into his book about Meade.**
Basically Meade when he finds out about Watertown…
So, in 1836, Meade decides to GTFO of the military since he didn’t think it was the sort of life he wanted. We know of a couple other West Point graduates who did this too and met with little success…
The “Sherman” stare
“Unconditional Surrender” Grant
Unlike Sherman & Grant, however, Meade would meet with success in a non-military life. He went on to pursue a career in Civil Engineering. Huntington outlines this quite well in his book telling us that Meade does some railway work which brought him back to Florida. He did surveys of various rivers, including the mouth of the Mississippi. In 1840, he was in Maine surveying the border between America and what was then British territory but is now my country of Canada (Huntington 13). Sidenote: I love when I find out the Generals have some connection to my country.
Within all this work, other life events are happening for Meade. In between his work as a civil engineer, he was courting a lovely young lady from Washington D.C. named Margaretta Sergeant….
Margaretta was the daughter of John Sergeant, a Whig politician (yay for another connection to Lincoln). He had been Henry Clay’s running mate in the 1832 election (Huntington 13). Meade must have impressed Margaretta very much because on his birthday in 1840 (aka TODAY), they were married in Philadelphia. I’d like to imagine this is Meade courting Margaretta but I highly doubt it…
George & Margaretta would have 7 children: John, George, Margaret, Spencer, Sarah, Henrietta, & William. He would also write her many letters during his absences from her, including during the Civil War. He was described in one blog post I read as being tenderly devoted to Margaretta & one of his letters he wrote during the Civil War shows this. Ladies, find yourself a man that writes letters (or texts) to you like George wrote to Margaretta…
You were so kind & loving to me when I lay wounded & helpless that tho’ I thought I loved you as much as it was possible for a man to love a woman I think now I love you more than ever.
I’d like to think this was Margaretta after she read this letter…
In 1842, Meade decides he is going to rejoin the Army. Much like Grant & Sherman, he gets pulled back in…
For a married man with a growing family, the army no doubt was much more lucrative to Meade. He is now a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corp of Topographic Engineers, where he works on designing lighthouses (Huntington 14).
Meade ends up receiving orders to report to Texas in August of 1842. This is due to the Mexican-American war. No doubt it was hard to leave his family behind but Meade remains faithful they will see each other again, writing that “there is no use in fretting over what cannot be helped & there only remains for us to pray God to protect us & bring us together in good pleasure”.
During the Mexican war, Meade serves on the staffs of a few different generals, including future President, Zachary Taylor.
During the Mexican-American war, Meade is brevetted First Lieutenant for gallant conduct at the Battle of Monterry, fought on September 21-24, 1846. It should be noted that Meade is not the only future Civil War General to be involved in the Mexican-American War…
Confederate General Braxton Bragg
General Ulysses S. Grant. RAWR!!
Those eyes tho… *swoons*
After the Mexican-American war, Meade stays in the Army but is involved with lighthouse and breakwater construction. He designs a hydraulic lamp that was adopted by the lighthouse board for use in American lighthouses. Some of the lighthouses he was involved in the designing of include:
Barnegat Lighthouse, Long Beach Island
Abescon Lighthouse, Atlantic City
Cape May Light, Cape May
Jupiter Inlet Light, Jupiter, Florida
Sombrero Key Light, Florida Keys
In 1857, Meade takes over surveying of the Great Lakes. He completes the survey of Lake Huron, which is the Great Lake that my town of Goderich happens to sit on:
For Lake Michigan, he extends the surveys down to Grand an Traverse Bays.
This surveying work of the Great Lakes kept Meade busy until 1861. By the this time, the Civil War had broken out and that’s where I will end this story about Meade.
I am not done though. His story continues but on Twitter. I invite you to follow along as I tweet today and this evening about his time in the Civil War. Please find me on Twitter as @Miss_Bellatrix or Civil War Fangirl. Feel free to chime in and add your own bits of info.
With that, I complete this blog post. But first…
Happy birthday to this fellow…
Happy Anniversary to these two…
And a very Happy New Year to all my followers of this blog, on Twitter and Facebook. All of you are awesome. I thank you for all of your support in 2018 and I look forward to what 2019 will bring.
“…the country generally will realize that we have lost only only an able Military leader, but a man who had he survived was qualified to heal the National Strife, which has been raised by designing and ambitious men”.
These are the words written by General Sherman to General Lorenzo Thomas about the death of General James B. McPherson on this day in 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta. This is part 2 of my post about the loss of General McPherson. You can read Part 1 here.
We left off with McPherson having been called back to the army after wanting a leave to marry his fiancee, Emily Hoffman. We’ll pick right up with the Atlanta Campaign…
McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee made up the right wing of Sherman’s forces as he moved against Atlanta beginning in May of 1864. The Army of the Cumberland, led by the Rock of Chickamauga, General George H. Thomas and the Army of the Ohio, led by General John M. Schofield made up the rest of the army on the Atlanta Campaign.
The Atlanta Campaign, at least while Confederate Forces were commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston, was like a game of cat and mouse. Attempt after attempt was made to try and out manouvre Johnston, but this was to no avail.
The first battle in the Atlanta Campaign was the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, fought from May 7 until May 13, 1864. The purpose was quite simple – destroy General Johnston’s Army. This was not to be the case though. While the battle resulted in a Union victory since it forced Johnston to withdraw, they did not still not have Johnston and his army. The game of cat and mouse would continue with battles like Kennesaw Mountain, which would see McPherson’s troops suffer heavily while assaulting its steep slopes.
Playing cat and mouse stopped on July 17, 1864 when Jeff Davis was at the end of his rope with Johnston’s constant retreating. In what could be considered an “ultimate” in throwing shade, he replaced him with winner for a having a perpetual frown and McPherson’s former classmate, General John Bell Hood. The exact opposite of the cautious Johnston, Hood was described by General Schofield to Sherman as being “bold even to rashness and courageous in the extreme”. The game had changed and there would now be fighting, as Sherman told his commanders.
The bulk of this fighting would happen in what would become known as the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Oddly enough, Atlanta would not be taken until September 2, 1864.
Leading up to July 22, there had been small skirmishes and, no doubt, some back and forth name calling on the picket lines (and maybe some brief truces for some trading of coffee and tobacco. I’d have been after some good whiskey myself).
The morning of July 22, McPherson rode to update Sherman and discuss with him orders he had received from him. Sherman recalls in his memoir the vivid details of what would be their last meeting – that they discussed Hood and they needed to be cautious and prepared for hard fighting because “Hood, though not deemed much of a scholar, or of great mental capacity was undoubtedly a brave, determined and rash man” . What stuck in my mind most of all from Cump’s memoirs was that Cump described McPherson as being “in excellent spirits, well pleased at the progress of events so far”. While starting out at what was called the Howard House, Sherman and McPherson made their way back outside and sitting at the base of a tree, studied a map of troop positions. It was determined that once the Augusta Road had been ripped up, he wanted McPherson to shift his troops by the rear to General Thomas’ extreme right.
It was during this meeting under the tree, they began to hear the sounds of skirmishing and artillery, which seemed to replying to those of what Schofield was throwing the Confederates way. Similar sounds were heard along Thomas’ lines and than to McPherson’s left. Using Sherman’s compass, they determined the sounds were coming from the rear left and McPherson called for his horses and staff. He quickly left.
This is the last time Cump would see his talented General McPherson alive.
Soon after, Sherman was walking back up to Howard House. Around him, he could hear the sound of artillery. It was at this time, a member of McPherson’s staff quickly rode up to him, explaining that McPherson was either “killed or prisoner”. It was explained to Cump that upon leaving, McPherson and his men had ridden rapidly across the railway. The sounds of battle had grown had begun to increase. Ordering and placing his divisions where they needed to be, he then ventured off into the woods, “doubtless with an absolute sense of security”.
It was later learned that McPherson was riding his horse to his old 17th Corps and a line of Confederate skirmishers appeared. They told him to halt. In an attempt to escape, he made as if he was going to remove his hat, but instead wheeled his horse and tried to flee. It was then he was mortally wounded, falling off his horse and the horse bolting back out of the woods. Confederate troops approached and asked an orderly who they had just killed. The orderly responded…
“Sir, it is General McPherson. You have killed the best man in our army”.
It was soon after, the sounds of muskets were heard and McPherson’s horse returned from the woods. The horse was bleeding, wounded and riderless. Having to think quickly, Sherman sent staff members off with orders for where the troops needed to be placed.
It was within an hour, the fate of McPherson was known. Sherman tells us in his memoirs an ambulance came bearing his body. It was taken inside Howard House. It was determined the wound, which had passed close to his heart, had probably killed him within a few minutes after being shot. Sherman also quickly discovered that the pocketbook McPherson always carried with him was gone. This pocketbook contained orders that Sherman had given him just that morning.
Cump tells us that:
Fortunately the spot in the woods where McPherson was shot was regained by our troops in a few minutes, and the pocketbook found in the haversack of a prisoner of war captured at that time and it and its contents were secured by McPherson’s staff.
Sherman was deeply affected by the death of McPherson. Robert L. O’Connell, writing in “Fierece Patriot” stating that once the body was brought back, Sherman paced with “tears streaming down his cheeks” and “he took turns giving orders as reports came in and bemoaning the fate of his thirty-four year old golden boy”.
Writing to General Lorenzo Thomas the next day, one can tell that the death of McPherson is still raw for Cump: “…the country and army will mourn his death, and cherish his memory at that of one who though comparitively young, had risen by his merit and ability to the command of one of the best Armies…”.
He goes on to write:
His public enemies, even the men who directed the fatal shot, never spoke or wrote of him, without expressions of marked respect, those whom he commanded love him even to idoltry and I his assosciate and Commander failed in words adequate to express my opinion of his great worth.
He is said to have also said in the days following the loss of McPherson that “I had expected him to finish the war. Grant and I are likely to be killed or set aside…and McPherson would have come into chief command at the right time to the end. He had no enemies”.
We know just from Sherman’s words that McPherson must have been deeply respected and loved by many who knew him.
His former classmate and now adversary John Bell Hood even mourned for him, writing of what he felt when he found out McPherson had been killed.
I will record the death of my classmate and boyhood friend, General James B. McPherson, the announcement of which caused me sincere sorrow. Since we had graduated in 1853, and had each been ordered off on duty in different directions, it has not been our fortune to meet. Neither the years nor the difference of sentiment that had led us to range ourselves on opposite sides in the war had lessened my friendship; indeed the attachment formed in early youth was strengthened by my admiration and gratitude for his conduct toward our people in the vicinity of Vicksburg. His considerate and kind treatment of them stood in bright contrast to the course pursued by many Federal officers.
This also provides us with an example of, despite a Civil War that was tearing a country apart, feelings of friendship and respect still existed among those who fought against each other.
General Ulysses S. Grant said of McPherson that he had been one of the army’s “ablest, purest and best generals”.
And what of Emily Hoffman, McPherson’s fiancee? Sherman wrote her a heart-felt letter of condolence after McPherson’s death:
My Dear Young Lady,
A letter from your Mother to General Barry on my Staff reminds me that I owe you heartfelt sympathy and a sacred duty of recording the fame of one of our Country’s brightest and most glorious Characters. I yield to none on Earth but yourself the right to excel me in lamentations for our Dead Hero. Why should death’s darts reach the young and brilliant instead of older men who could better have been spared?
Nothing that I can record will elevate him in your mind’s memory, but I could tell you many things that would form a bright halo about his image. We were more closely associated than any men in this life. I knew him before you did; when he was a Lieutenant of Engineers in New York, we occupied rooms in the same house.
Again we met at St. Louis, almost at the outset of this unnatural war, and from that day to this we have been closely associated. I see him now, so handsome, so smiling, on his fine black horse, booted and spurred, with his easy seat, the impersonation of the Gallant Knight.
We were at Shiloh together, at Corinth, at Oxford, at Jackson, at Vicksburg, at Meridian, and on this campaign. He had left me but a few minutes to place some of his troops approaching their position, and went through the wood by the same road he had come, and must have encountered the skirmish line of the Rebel Hardee’s Corps, which had made a Circuit around the flank of Blair’s troops.
Though always active and attending in person amidst dangers to his appropriate duties, on this occasion he was not exposing himself. He rode over ground he had twice passed that same day, over which hundreds had also passed, by a narrow wood road to the Rear of his Established Line. He had not been gone from me half an hour before Col. Clark of his Staff rode up to me and reported that McPherson was dead or a prisoner in the hands of the Enemy.
He described that he had entered this road but a short distance in the wood some sixty yards ahead of his Staff and orderlies when a loud volley of muskets was heard, and in an instant after, his fine black horse came out with two wounds, riderless. Very shortly thereafter, other members of his staff came to me with his body in an ambulance. We carried it into a house, and laid it on a large table and examined the body. A simple bullet wound high up in the Right breast was all that disfigured his person. All else was as he left me, save his watch and purse were gone.
At this time the Battle was raging hot and fierce quite near us, and lest it should become necessary to burn the house in which we were, I directed his personal staff to convey the body to Marietta and thence North to his family. I think he could not have lived three minutes after the fatal shot, and fell from his horse within ten yards of the path or road along which he was riding. I think others will give you more detailed accounts of the attending circumstances. I enclose you a copy of my official letter announcing his death.
With affection & respect, W. T. Sherman
Emily would go into deep mourning for her beloved James. She spent nearly an entire year in her bedroom. Just as General John Reynold’s fiancee Kate never married after John was killed, Emily never would either. Their stories are just two examples of many where loves were lost during the Civil War.
General McPherson would be the second highest ranking Union killed in the Civil War. The first was General John Reynolds, killed just over a year before at the Battle of Gettysburg.
General McPherson is buried at McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, Ohio.
Thank you for reading these posts about McPherson.
Until next time,
Selected Correspondance of Sherman
“Fierece Patriot” by Robert L. O’Connell
Ohio Civil War Central https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=118
“History tells us of but few who so blended the grace and gentleness of the friend, with the dignity, courage, faith and manliness of the soldier”. These are the words written on July 23, 1864 by General William Tecumseh Sherman to General Lorenzo Thomas. He is writing to him of the death of General James B. McPherson, shot during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864.
Even in just this one sentence of these eloquently strung together words, we know that Sherman must have been deeply affected by the death of one of his best Generals who led the Army of the Tennessee.
In researching about the Battle of Atlanta, I came to realize the death of General McPherson was felt near and far. Judging not just by Cump’s words but others as well. I felt that it warranted not just tweets, but a couple of blog posts.
Just who was General James B. McPherson? Allow me to tell you a little of this gentleman who was respected by his peers from both North and South…
James Birdseye McPherson was born in Clyde, Ohio on November 14, 1828. After attending the Norwalk Academy in Norwalk, Ohio, he went onto (surprise, surprise!) West Point. In 1853, he graduated first in his class! Like so many other generals from the Civil War, he was in the same class as a few others who would grow to become prominent figures in the looming conflict. These included General Philip Sheridan and General John M. Schofield, both of whom would fight for the Union in the Civil War. His other classmate (and winner of the permanent frown award) was John Bell Hood, who would go onto to fight in the Confederate Army during the war, and subsequently against Sherman, Schofield and McPherson during the Atlanta Campaign.
Perma-frown winner General John Bell Hood
I don’t know what to say about Schofield
Upon graduation, McPherson decided to make a career of being in the Army and was commissioned into the Corp of Engineers. From 1854 until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the talented McPherson was involved with such projects as improvements to the New York Harbor, the construction of Fort Delaware, as well as the (and this is cool!) the construction of the fortifications on Alcatraz Island in San Fransisco Bay.
It was while he was in San Francisco from 1857 until 1861, that he met a lady named Emily Hoffman. She hailed from a prominent Baltimore, Maryland family but was in San Fransisco to help care for her sister’s children. Falling in love quickly, they soon became engaged but, like so many other couples, their wedding was sadly put off because of the Civil War.
Once the war had broken out, McPherson requested a transfer back east. He knew he would fight for the Union and states his reasons why in this letter:
My mind is perfectly made up, and I can see that I have but one duty to perform, and that is, to stand by the Union and the support of the General Government. I left home when I was quite young, was educated at the expense of the Government, received my commission and have drawn my pay from the same source to the present time, and I think it would be traitorous for me, now that the Government is really in danger, to decline to serve and resign my commission. Not that I expect any service of mine can avail much; but such as it is it shall be wielded in behalf of the Union, whether James Buchanan or Abraham Lincoln is in the Presidential chair.
Once back east, he served under General Henry Halleck. McPherson managed to rise through the ranks and in November of 1861, he was promoted to the command of the Department of the West. He was chosen to be an aide-de-camp to General Halleck but also received a promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel.
Not long after this, he was transferred to the command of one of my union Rock Stars, General Ulysses S. Grant. McPherson served as Chief Engineer to Grant during the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. He was involved in many key battles of the Civil War, including Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, as well as the Vicksburg Campaign. It was at Vicksburg where he commanded the 17th Corps in the Army of the Tennessee. He displayed incredible talent throughout all of this, rising through the ranks and eventually, on August 1, 1863 was made Brigadier General in the regular army.
In March of 1864, he rose even further, taking command of the Army of the Tennessee. And why did this happen? Well, this was when my favorite guy, General Sherman, was promoted to command all armies in the West. It was not long after this that Sherman began to move upon Atlanta, in what would be come known as his Atlanta Campaign and would culminate with Sherman being able to state, and most likely quite proudly, “Atlanta is ours and fairly won”.
But there would be a huge loss before this to not just the Army of the Tennessee but to a lady named Emily Hoffman, who was waiting for the war to be over so that she could marry her fiancee, James B. McPherson. Although McPherson had requested and been granted temporary leave so he could go to Baltimore to marry Emily, Sherman had quickly rescinded the order, stating McPherson was very much needed on the Atlanta Campaign. No doubt McPherson and Emily were both extremely disappointed. Sensing this, Sherman did write to Emily, explaining why he needed her fiancee. Writing quite eloquently to her on June 9, 1864, the letter is worth a read in it’s entirety:
My Dear Young Lady, I hardly feel that I should apologize for intrusion, for I can claim an old acquaintance with your Brother and Sister in California, and feel almost that I know you through them, and others of your honored family. It has come to my knowledge that you are affianced to another close friend and associate of mine Maj General McPherson, and I fear that weighing mighty matters of State but lightly in the Realm of Love, you feel that he gives too much of his time to his Country and too little to you.
His rise in his profession has been rapid, steady and well earned. Not a link unbroken. Not a thing omitted. Each step in his progress however has imposed on him fresh duties that as a man and a soldier, and still more as a Patriot, he could not avoid.
I did hope as he returned from Meridian, when his Corps the 17th was entitled to go home on furlough, that he too could steal a month to obey the promptings of his heart, to hasten to Baltimore and I so instructed, but by the changes incident to General Grant’s elevation, McPherson succeeded to the Command of a separate Army and Department, and could not leave.
There is no rest for us in this war till you and all can look about you and feel there is Reason and Safety in the Land. God purifies the atmosphere with tempests and storms which fall alike upon the just and unjust, and in like manner he appeases the jarring elements of political discord by wars and famine. Heretofore as a nation we have escaped his wrath, but now with the vehemence of anhundred years accumulation we are in the storm, and would you have us shrink?
But I will not discuss so plain a point with one who bears the honored name of Hoffman, rather tell you of him whose every action I know fills your waking and sleeping thoughts, him so young but so prominent, whose cause is among the gallant and brave, who fight not for oppression and wrong but that the Government bequeathed to us by your ancestors shall not perish in ignominy and insult: but which shall survive in honor and glory, with a power to protect the weak and shelter the helpless from the terrible disasters of a fratricidal war.
I know McPherson well, as a young man, handsome and noble soldier, activated by motives as pure as those of Washington, and I know that in making my testimony to his high and noble character, I will not offend the Girl he loves.
Be patient and I know that when the happy day comes for him to stand by your side as one Being identical in heart and human existence you will regard him with a high respect and honor that will convert simple love into something sublime and beautiful.
Yours with respect W. T. Sherman
I found the letter on a blog post on Civil War Women Blog about Emily Hoffman and you can view the post here. It’s well worth checking out.
That, my awesome readers, is where I shall leave you today. Part 2 will be posted next week on the anniversary of the Battle of the Atlanta. I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about General McPherson. I know I certainly enjoyed researching about him.
Until next time,
Selected Correspondance of Sherman
“Fierece Patriot” by Robert L. O’Connell
Ohio Civil War Central https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=118
“The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven”. This sentence was written 153 years ago today by Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of Navy, Gideon Welles. Lincoln often referred to him as his “Neptune”. He is writing, of course, of the passing of President Abraham Lincoln, who died at Peterson House in Washington DC on April 15th, 1865. The diary entry of Gideon Welles from this day is really resonating with me today and I felt I should write a post about it.
As he lay dying, Lincoln was surrounded by doctors, politicians, members of his cabinet and his son, Robert. Of Robert, Welles writes that “he bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner”. This passage captures some of what everyone in that room must have been feeling as they watched Abraham Lincoln’s life slip away. The sadness and grief that was present in the room must have been profound from the moment he was brought to Peterson House to the minutes following his death.
Upon his death, the room is said to have fallen silent for a few minutes.
Welles tells us that eventually “a prayer followed from Dr. Gurley”. The words of this prayer are not known. All of us who study and read about Lincoln know that Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War spoke next. There is some debate as to what he said and it was either “Now he belongs to the angels” or “Now he belongs to the ages”. Either way, those words have become immortalized and will forever be associated with the passing of Abraham Lincoln.
Eventually, Welles made his way home. His wife, Mary Jane, was very good friends with Mary Lincoln. While Mary Jane had not been well “and confined to the house from indisposition for a week”, after a second messenger arrived at the house and she learned the details of what happened, she went to the White House (which Welles also refers to as the Executive Mansion) to be with Mary Lincoln.
Welles, by the time he arrived home, had been up all night. He described himself as being “wearied, shocked, exhausted, but not inclined to sleep, the day, when not actually and officially engaged, passed strangely”. I felt upon reading this passage that everything must have felt very surreal to him at that time.
He makes his way over to the Executive Mansion. The weather that day captured the mood and grief of the entire city, a grief that would eventually flow through the country:
“There was a cheerless cold rain and everything seemed gloomy”.
The gloomy, inclement weather had not stopped a crowd from gathering:
“On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred coloured people, mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss. This crowd did not appear to diminish through the whole of that cold, wet day; they seemed not to know what was to be their fate since their great benefactor was dead, and their hopeless grief affected me more than almost anything else, though strong and brave men wept when I met them”.
He describes the White House as being silent. When he went to leave with Attorney General James Speed (brother of Lincoln’s very good friend, Joshua Speed), Welles writes about Tad and captures not only Tad’s grief but his own:
“As we were descending the stairs, “Tad”, who was looking from the window at the foot, turned and seeing us, cried aloud in his tears, “Oh, Mr. Welles, who killed my father?”. Neither Speed nor myself could restrain our tears, nor give the poor boy any satisfactory answer”.
It was quite profound to read about the day of April 15th, 1865 as Gideon Welles experienced it. While the entry is short, I believe it captures some of the grief that was being felt and how surreal all the events must have been for those involved. All of this happened 153 years ago today. 153 years.And here I am writing about it. Here I am feeling sadness. A friend and fellow Lincoln fan and I were talking earlier today about how amazing it is that 153 years later, the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln still resonates with people and moves them. We still feel grief 153 years later. It truly is remarkable and a testament to what an amazing person Lincoln truly was and that he still means so very much to us.
Source: Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson