Connections The Nation Grows Honest Men Secure Their Future For Us An Amazing Day

Today in History, March 10:

I was researching for today and found amazing connections – I love connections in History! This will be a long post, but in summary:

In 1804 a ceremony was held in St. Louis commemorating the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of our young nation overnight.

In 1848 the US Senate ratifies the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War and again doubling the size of our nation.

Many believed the Mexican-American War was an unjust, fabricated conflict, much as many of us argue today about the Iraq War and its costs (not saying what my beliefs are…but I always stand with my beloved country).

Two of the men who felt the Mexican-American War was unjust spoke out vocally about their beliefs. One was a Congressman who disagreed with men he respected on the issue. The other who spoke out was a young Army officer who, in spite of his beliefs, fought courageously during the war.

In 1864 the Congressman, now President, signed documents promoting the young officer to Lt. General of the US Army (a rank only George Washington had previously held as permanent) so no other officer would be his equal. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant believed wholeheartedly in their cause during the Civil War.

Today in History, March 10, 1804:

In St. Louis (not yet Missouri), an official ceremony is conducted, transferring possession of the “Louisiana Purchase” from Spain to the United States, virtually doubling the size of the American landscape overnight.

Today in History, March 10, 1848:

Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic, or the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War is ratified by the US Senate after several amendments were made by that Congressional body.

The treaty had been negotiated in Mexico, documenting monies to be paid by the United States to Mexico and territories including modern day California, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah to be ceded to the US.

Senators to include Thomas Hart Benton, Jefferson Davis, Sam Houston, Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Calhoun fought over the final draft.

Today in History, March 10, 1864:

President Lincoln signs documents promoting Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Grant was only the second person to hold the rank, the first having been George Washington. Winfield Scott had held the rank in the interim, but only as a “brevet” or temporary rank.

Lincoln wanted his commanding general to have a rank above his other generals for leadership purposes. Grant would answer only to the President. I didn’t find anything to document it, but have to wonder if this was partially because Grant had been promoted over several more senior officers to command the army due to his runaway successes in the west.

The End of an Era – The Age of Sail was Over

Today in History, March 9, 1862:

The Battle of Hampton Roads.

Few are able to be part of a truly history changing event.

When the Civil War began, the Union abandoned the Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia, burning everything they could in retreat.

The Confederacy took the base, and raised the sunken Union USS Merrimack. They then rebuilt her into the ironclad CSS Virginia.

The Union Navy placed an embargo on all Southern ports, including the entrance to the Southern capitol of Richmond. The South attempted to break this embargo with their new ironclad ship, sinking two Union wooden “ships of the line” in the process.

The Virginia returned to base for the night, then returned to finish off the last major embargo ship on 9 March, 1862.

She was confronted by the Union version of the ironclad…the USS Monitor. The two new iron ships battered away at each other for over three hours without seriously damaging each other, and then withdrew.

The Virginia would be scuttled at her base as the Union advanced…the Monitor would be lost at sea.

But more importantly….navies worldwide…Britain, France, Spain, the Far East, watched and realized that their wooden navies had suddenly become obsolete.

Brotherhood

Today in History, February 18, 1862:

“I know you are separated from your people, and perhaps you need funds.  My purse is at your disposal.”  Union General Ulysses Grant to Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner as Buckner prepared to board a river boat taking him north to a Yankee prison.

On February 16, 1862 after a hard-fought battle and investment, Confederate Fort Donelson in Tennessee had surrendered to Union forces.

Tennessee was a strategic area in the Civil War, providing resources, people and a launching point to move against the rest of the South.

General U.S. Grant had been little known to the public before this battle, but the victory would change all that.  He coordinated with the US Navy to bombard Ft. Donelson and surround the 12,000 men there.  After assaults and counter assaults, the Confederate commanders came to the realization loss of the fort was a foregone conclusion, a tragedy for the South.

Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner was actually third in command.  His superiors resigned their positions so they could sneak out and escape.  Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest took some of his Cavalry and fled also, leaving Buckner to stay with his men and surrender.

Buckner sent a note through the lines asking Grant for terms.  And here is where Grant became famous.  He wrote out his response for delivery to Buckner,

No terms except unconditional and imme­diate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.

In a time when furloughs and prisoner exchanges were common in battle, Buckner found the response to be “ungenerous and unchivalrous.”  Yet he had no choice, his only option was surrender.  Having had little but bad news for some time, the Northern papers seized upon the victory.

They used Grant’s initials to rename him “Unconditional Surrender Grant.”  Turns out it wasn’t the first time others had changed his name for him, but that’s another story.

The public was finding out something those serving with Grant had learned…he was unpretentious, unceremonious and tenacious.  He got results.  President Lincoln would eventually say of him, “I can’t spare this man; he fights” in defense of Grant’s reported drinking problem.

If you want History to be more than dates on a page, watch out for the back stories…the facts that bring out the humanity in what you’re reading.

The story reads good already.  But lets dig further.

When Grant was younger, he wanted an education.  His father worked hard and secured him an appointment to West Point.  Initially, Grant didn’t want to go.  But once in, he liked it.  His uncanny horsemanship impressed fellow cadets and instructors.  And he made friends among the other cadets, including Simon Bolivar Buckner, who was attending at the same time.

Grant and Buckner, among many other officers in the US Army, served together and performed heroics in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

After that conflict Grant found himself assigned to the frontier in California, where he missed his family grievously and took to drink.  In July of 1854 he suddenly resigned his commission from the Army and sought transport home.

Grant found himself in New York without even enough money to get a meal or pay for a room.  And then he happened upon an old classmate and friend, Simon Bolivar Buckner.

The two enjoyed a visit, talked old times and Buckner, who was doing much better financially, paid for his friend’s room and board.

In the intervening years until 1861 and the beginning of the Civil War, Grant was somewhat of a hard luck case.  He tried farming, he tried real estate, nothing worked.  When the war began he was working for his brothers and his father in a store as a clerk.

When Southern states began seceding many in the US Army that were from those states, resigned their commissions and joined the Confederate Army, including Buckner.  Thus the old friends found themselves on opposite sides.

Thus, after the Battle at Fort Dolelson, Grant sought out Buckner before Buckner boarded the boat taking him off to prison in an attempt to return an old favor. Buckner, ever the gentleman, politely refused the return of the kindness.

Grant, of course, would become commander of all Union Armies and eventually President.

Buckner would eventually be exchanged for a Union general officer and continue to serve in the Confederate Army.

He surrendered in New Orleans in 1865 for a second time.  He would become Governor of Kentucky among other political successes.

In 1904 he visited the White House and asked President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint his son to West Point.  TR quickly agreed.

His son, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr would be killed at Okinawa in WWII, the highest ranking officer killed by enemy fire in WWII.

The Bivouac of the Dead

Today in History, July 17, 1862:

President Lincoln signs a Congressional act authorizing National Cemeteries across the nation.

The huge numbers of dead from the Civil War battles were buried pretty much where they fell. After the national cemeteries were established, they were moved to more honorable resting places…it took five years to accomplish.

Many of the national cemeteries are in the Southeastern US, where so many of the Civil War battles were fought, like this one at Stones River, Tennessee. God bless the men and women that have made our freedom possible. It is up to us to ensure they did not give up their lives in vain.

The White House Razed

Today in History, June 28, 1862:

Union soldiers inadvertently burn the White House.  No, not that White House.  In fact, the Executive Mansion which housed the President wasn’t known by that name until 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt renamed it.

Another difference between these “White Houses”, is that George Washington never resided in the Presidential Mansion along the Potomac.  His successor, John Adams was the first President to live there.

But he courted and married the widow Martha Custis at and near the White House on the Pamunkey River.

One of General Washington’s officers was Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.  His son, Robert E. Lee, would marry Martha Custis-Washington’s granddaughter, Mary.

Together they would live in Arlington House, overlooking the Potomac…and the Executive Mansion.  When the Civil War began, Robert E. Lee chose to support “his country”, Virginia; which also meant the Confederacy.  As a result he and his family had to leave Arlington House and move to one of their more southern Virginia properties…the White House on the Pamunkey.

As the Union dead mounted, Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the area around Arlington House to be used as a cemetery so that Lee could never again live there.  Today it is Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1862 during the Seven Day’s Battles, Union forces pushed the Confederates back past the Lee family’s new home at White House Landing, using it as a major supply base.

Before she fled further south from yet another home, Mary Lee left a message on the door of the residence, “Northern soldiers, who profess to reverence Washington, forbear to desecrate the house of his first married life, the property of his wife, now owned by her descendants.”

Union soldiers agreed.  General George McClellan ordered a guard to posted around the house to prevent looting or vandalism.

McClellan took a lot of heat from the press and DC for the protection of General Washington’s one-time home.  It should be used as a hospital for Union soldiers!  Even though it had but six rooms.

As was frequent in the Civil War, the lines moved back north after moving south.  And on this date in 1862 Confederates took White House Landing back.  As the Union Army fled, McClellan ordered all supplies and outbuildings burned to prevent their use by the Confederates…with the exception of the White House, it was to be spared.

As often happens in war, orders from the top rarely get carried out to the letter.  The White House was burned to the ground.

Going West…The Homestead Act

Today in History, May 20, 1862:

President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which would give 160 acres of western lands to anyone that would farm it successfully for 5 years and build a residence upon it (often a sod building).

The Act would encourage vastly expanded settlement of the west; bad news for Native Americans, good news for those newer Americans wanting to improve their lot in life.

Congress had attempted to pass similar acts in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but each time the attempts were shot down by Southern Democrats who were afraid that if the west were populated it would result in more “free” states, which would result in more votes against slavery.

Once the Republican Lincoln was elected, and the Civil War began, the Southern Democrats were no longer part of the equation in Congress. The Republicans soon passed the Homestead Act and the settlement of the west began in earnest. By the end of the war 15,000 settlers (some of which were merely pawns for land speculators) had accepted their lands. Eventually 80 Million acres would be settled.

Confederate Big Easy Defenseless

Today in History, April 25, 1862:

Have you ever walked along the levee in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana? If you have, it’s difficult not to be awed when you look UP at the top of the levee and see a ship floating across the water…well above you.

The view makes it very obvious how incredibly vulnerable the city is to the Mighty Mississippi and the massive ships sailing her channel.

On this date in 1862 Union Admiral David Farragut had already led his fleet of US Navy ships past Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Phillips below the Crescent City, he and his crews blew past nascent the Confederate “Navy” and placed their heavy guns off of New Orleans.

The New Orleans military, government and citizens were told…it was obvious…if they didn’t surrender, the US Navy would fire DOWN into the wooden structures of the Quarter….they may, if necessary, blast a hole in the levee and simply let nature flood out the defenders.

Confederate General Mansfield Lovell told Major Moore what would happen if resisted. So they stalled while Lovell shipped his troops and equipment north by rail to Vicksburg.

Finally on April 29 the residents folded. By May 2 the Confederates relinquished the largest, most industrial, cosmopolitan city in the Confederacy. Remember the rivers were the thoroughfares in the 1800’s.

The Union now had control of NOLA’S resources, and now the Union could ship supplies north from the Gulf as far as Vicksburg and north to south.

The War had seen a major change. And the citizens of New Orleans would find peace with General Butler worse than war with Farragut. But thats a different story.