1868: The President On Trial

I’m now ready to write this much-delayed blog post which will conclude August’s series on the Reconstruction Era. Rest assured, I plan to revisit the era in 2018 and address more details. This week’s delay (sorry!) was caused because I was determined to finish the book I was reading about Johnson’s impeachment trial; I wanted to make sure I was sharing accurate information and discovered that I no longer agreed with the source I had intended to reference for facts.

Today’s post is an overview. If you want a more in-depth study, I’d recommend David O. Stewart’s book Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson And The Fight For Lincoln’s Legacy. That was the book I couldn’t stop reading once I got it the study. Continue reading

1862: “I Must Save This Government If Possible”

Private

Executive Mansion,

Washington, July 26, 1862.

Hon Reverdy Johnson

My Dear Sir.

Yours of the 16th. by the hand of Governor Shepley is received. It seems the Union feeling in Louisiana is being crushed out by the course of General Phelps. Please pardon me for believing that is a false pretense. The people of Louisiana – all intelligent people every where – know full well, that I never had a wish to touch the foundations of their society, or any right of theirs. With perfect knowledge of this, they forced a necessity upon me to send armies among them, and it is their own fault, not mine, that they are so annoyed by the presence of General Phelps. They also know the remedy – know how to be cured of General Phelps. Remove the necessity of his presence… They very well know the way to avert all this is simply to take their place in the Union upon the old terms. If they will not do this, should they not receive harder blows rather than lighter ones? Continue reading

1862: “It Is The Practice Of The Commander Of The Conquering Army To Protect”

Confidential.

Brocket, 11 June, 1862.

My Dear Sir, – I cannot refrain from taking the liberty of saying to you that it is difficult if not impossible to express adequately the disgust which must excited in the mind of every honorable man by the general order of General Butler given in the inclosed [enclosed] extract from yesterday’s Times. Even when a town is taken by assault it is the practice of the Commander of the conquering army to protect to his utmost the inhabitants and especially the female part of them, and I will venture to say that no example can be found in the history of civilized nations till the publication of this order, of a general guilty in cold blood of so infamous an act as deliberately to hand over the female inhabitants of a conquered city to the unbridled license of an unrestrained soldiery. Continue reading

Elizabeth Van Lew: A Union Spy In The Confederate Capital

She wasn’t the only Union spy in Richmond, Virginia, but her story is worth telling because of its uniqueness. Though history has often tried to portray Elizabeth as crazy or as using a crazed persona to cover her actions, some historians are arguing against this portrayal, claiming that from sources it seems unlikely and may simply have been a degrading way to see this remarkable woman.

Either way, Elizabeth boldly supported the Union cause through subterfuge. Continue reading

1861: “The Slavery Question In This Camp”

Gazette665 Blog Series 1861: In Their WordsJune 2, 1861

Yesterday morning three negroes came to the picket-guard and gave themselves up. Upon a separate examination of these men it satisfactorily appeared that they were field hands, owned by one Colonel Mallory, a resident of this neighborhood, heretofore a lawyer, and now engaged in the defence [defense] of the soil of Virginia – that’s what they call it – as the commandant of the active militia of this immediate district; that Mallory proposed to take them to Carolina, to be employed in military operations there; that one of them had a wife – a free woman – and several children in the neighborhood; and that they all objected to having anything to do with the fighting. Under these circumstances, General Butler concluded that the property was contraband of war, seized upon it, and turned it over to the Quartermaster’s Department, where labor is much wanted. He proposed to receipt to Colonel Mallory for the men, if desired, as he would for the same number of beeves [beef-cattle] coming into this inclosure under like circumstances… Continue reading