Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the category “Gideon Welles”

Early Mornings…

Morning, y’all!
Here’s how a Civil War fangirl spends her morning when she has a silly head cold.

A good cup of tea, Donald’s bio on Lincoln (White’s bio is also there too) and a cool bookmark from Iceland.

I couldn’t sleep so rather than tossing and turning, I decided to be productive and make some headway in Donald’s bio of Lincoln (which, I confess, I have taken far too long in reading. I’m a slow reader AND I usually have five books on the go).


I graffiti the hell out of my books and sticky notes have become my friend again. I need to write notes and highlight or else I have a tough time retaining information.
So, this morning I’ve been reading about my fav guy Lincoln winning the election, and now I’m onto his cabinet selection. It’s amazing how much reasoning and calculation went into selection of his cabinet. He was striving for balance, as he said to Thurlow Weed, whom felt Lincoln had given favour to the democrats: “You seem to forget that I expect to be there; and counting me as one, you see how nicely the cabinet would be balanced and ballasted”. Again, he knew exactly what he was doing!

Of course when I’m reading too, tons of blog post ideas flood my mind! I do go through lulls where I don’t get many ideas, but lately I’ve had quite a few. So, expect posts about:

  • Little Sorrel – General Jackson’s horse. I did a poll on Twitter and over on my Facebook page for this blog. Little Sorrel was the popular one.
  • Rienzi – Philip Sheridan’s horse. You might also know him as Winchester.
  • A post or post(s) (haven’t decided yet) about the relationship between Sherman and Lincoln. I’ve been reading a bio about Sherman and am just passed the part about First Bull Run. There’s a quite a story about his interaction with Lincoln here and that’s where I came up with the idea.
  • Posts about some of Lincoln’s cabinet members – Gideon Welles definitely comes to mind for this. He’s one of my favorites and his diary is an amazing primary source for anything to do with Lincoln’s cabinet and the Civil War.

Those are just a few of the ideas floating around in my mind right now. Do you have any suggestions for posts I could do? Just let me know in the comments below, on Twitter or on my Facebook page. I’m always open to suggestions!

Hope y’all are doing well. As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Saturday!

-Mary

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Cool Things I Learned About The Civil War This Week…

Whew! Yeah, it’s kind of a long title, I know. I don’t need to tell any of you that Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War are huge passions of mine. While I’m not a scholar in either area, I still do a great amount of reading and research about it. I do that for personal interest but also for blog posts on here.

I always come across things every day that I find really interesting. It’s usually just some random, little fact.  I decided that every week (or perhaps more) I’m going to try and do a post about some cool things I learn about Abraham Lincoln and/or the Civil War. Or perhaps it’ll just be some random facts I’ve known for awhile and just feel like writing about them. Some of the things I find might even turn into longer blog posts.

So, what are some things I found out this week? This week it’s mainly about horses cause that’s what I’ve been researching…

– Rienzi (also known as Winchester), General Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War, was born on a farm near Lakeport, Michigan. This town is just up the road from Port Huron, Michigan, a town I’m quite familiar with and only about 90 minutes from me.  Soon after the Civil War began, a group of citizens from Port Huron, Michigan, pooled their money together and purchased Rienzi, at the time called John, for Captain Archibald Campbell. Captain Campbell was a member of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Unfortunately, he had little experience as a rider and John the horse could be a little, as they say, head-strong. Long story short, Captain Campbell’s Commander was Colonel Philip Sheridan (later to became a General), who happened to be an excellent horseman. Colonel Sheridan took a liking to Captain Campbell’s horse. This was noticed by Campbell, who ended up giving the horse to Sheridan in June of 1862. Sheridan christened the horse as “Rienzi”, named after the the Mississippi town they were encamped in.

– After their deaths, Rienzi and Little Sorrel (General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s horse) were mounted (another word for “stuffed”) by the same taxidermist, Frederic S. Webster. Both horses are on display – Rienzi is in the Hall of Armed Forces at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Little Sorrel is at the Virginia Military Institute Museum in Lexington, Virginia.

– Before being on permanent display at the Smithsonian, Rienzi was on display at Governors Island, New York. After a fire in 1922, Rienzi was moved to the Smithsonian.

– I was reading excerpts from Gideon Welles’ diary this week. I’ve mentioned his diary earlier in this post and this one. I read his entry recounting the Grant Review of the Armies, which happened April 23rd and 24th, 1865 (Oddly, Welles has the dates as 22nd and 23rd). He delayed his proposed trip south so as he could “witness this magnificent and imposing spectacle”. He recounts the thousands of people that came out to see the armies as they marched by and that public offices were closed for two days. The one part of the entry that really moved me? He ends by writing:

But Abraham Lincoln was not there. All felt this.

Clearly, he and many others were still feeling the loss of their beloved President. This is what I love about Welles’ diary – I can always get a sense of what he was feeling when he wrote an entry. When I read his diary, I do feel as though he’s actually talking to me. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of it (I got mine from iBooks – it’s free on there).

–  I want to end with a picture. This one is of Ellen Ewing Sherman. I first saw this picture a few months ago but I was reading a bit about her this week. She is my favourite of the Civil War wives. Is that any surprise, given that her husband is my favourite General? She was quite an interesting lady and I plan on writing more about her on my blog…

Ellen Ewing Sherman

What interesting things have you learned recently about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War or just in general? Feel free to post in the comments.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time…

______________________________

Sources

Little Sorrel & Rienzi: Morgan Mounts of the Civil War. https://www.morganhorse.com/upload/photos/904LittleSorrelAndRienzi2012.pdf

Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson.

 

 

 

“All felt the solemnity and sorrowed as if they lost one of their own household…”

The title of this blog comes from Gideon Welles’ diary entry from Wednesday, April 19th, 1865. He is writing of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. It was on this day that Washington D.C. said goodbye and a nation began to mourn the loss of their beloved president. Welles’ diary gives us a glimpse into how the city mourned and just how much sorrow their was everywhere. It is quite touching to be able to read his words and see the funeral through his thoughts.

In writing of the days following the assassination, Welles describes the city as having fallen into mourning as “every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor”. While he describes more elaborate displays on public buildings and wealthy homes, it was “the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white [that] is more touching”.

In his entry from the 18th, we do get some sense of what Welles’ himself was going through, and it is evident he was feeling the loss of Lincoln immensely. He writes “I have tried to writing something consecutively since the horrid transactions of Friday night, but I have no heart for it, and the jottings down are mere mementos of a period, which I will try to fill up when more composed, and I have leisure or time for the task”. The passage that struck me the most from this entry was this: “Sad and painful, wearied and irksome, the few preceding incoherent pages have been written for future use, for the incidents are fresh in my mind and may pass away with me but cannot ever be by me forgotten”. In reading that, I felt he was probably capturing what many at the time felt. No doubt many were still feeling shock and disbelief at what had happened to President Lincoln and their was an air of sorrow that the people of the Washington D.C. and the country had never felt before.

On the day of the funeral, Welles remarks that business was suspended for the day. His words again capture the deep sorrow that was felt by most, if not all, who attended Lincoln’s funeral & the feelings of many people…

“…imposing, sad and sorrowful. All felt solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household…”

Those words stick with me so much right now as I write this and try to imagine the grief that was flowing through everyone at that time.

The funeral was held in the East Room of the White House. Chandeliers were taken down or draped in black. Huge mirrors were covered in white cloth. The day before, mourners had come through to pay their respects to the slain President, with a line stretching from the White House more than a mile long.

The funeral was attended by 600 people. Robert Todd Lincoln was the representative for the immediate family at the funeral. Mary, too overcome with grief, stayed up in her room. I cannot even imagine the grief and sorrow she must have been feeling at the loss of her husband. Tad was present at first but had to be taken away because, as one person remarked, he was crying “as if his heart would break”.

Afterwards, a funeral procession was led down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capital, where again President Lincoln would lie in state, giving the people of Washington one final time to say goodbye to him. It was here, just six weeks prior on March 4th, that Lincoln had been sworn in for his second term as president and gave his second inaugural address. This is when he spoke the words that have resonated ever since the first time I read them when I was younger: “…with malice toward none…”

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The funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln

In the procession, Welles rode with Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. His entry of the procession captures the mood again of the entire city:

“There were no truer mourners, when all were sad, than the poor colored people who crowded the streets, joined the procession, and exhibited their woe, bewailing the loss of him whom they regarded as a benefactor and father. Women as well as men, with their little children, thronged the streets, sorrow, trouble, and distress depicted on their countenances and in their bearing”

Everything had “given way to real grief”.

Welles even writes of Seward, who was unable to attend the funeral due to not only injuries from a carriage accident a few weeks prior but a brutal assassination attempt upon him the same night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination:

“Seward, I am told, sat up in bed and viewed the procession and hearse of the President, and I know his emotion”.

Once at the Capitol, Welles writes that Reverend Gurley said a brief prayer in the Rotunda. The statues were all covered with black except for that of George Washington. Upon leaving, Welles’ writes an emotional sentiment: “we left the remains of the good and great man we loved so well”.

Here at the Capitol, Lincoln would lie in state for 36 hours before beginning his journey on a train to his final resting place: his home of Springfield, Illinois. The train would make many stops on its way there, the entire journey taking three weeks, giving the people of his beloved country a chance to say one final goodbye.

 

“There was a cheerless cold and everything seemed gloomy”

“The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven”. This sentence was written 151 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 151 years ago today. 151 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 151 years later, the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln still resonates with people and moves them. We still feel grief 151 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

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