An Emergency…”Temporary” Tax

Today in History, August 5, 1861:

“This bill is a most unpleasant one. But we perceive no way in which we can avoid it and sustain the government. The rebels, who are now destroying or attempting to destroy this Government, have thrust upon the country many disagreeable things.”

— Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means speaking on the Revenue Act of 1861, the nation’s first income tax, which was signed into law by President Lincoln on this date.

The law also provided for certain property taxes and levies on imports, which Lincoln feared would be impeded in the Southern ports by seceding states.

The tax was by intent and design temporary, meant to fund the fight to restore the Union in the Civil War. Changes would be made in 1862, and the law would be repealed in 1871.

But the dye had been cast, and the 16th Amendment of 1909/1913 would bring the ever increasing tax back for good.

“Damn the Torpedoes!”

Today in History, August 5, 1864:

“Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!!”

The Battle of Mobile Bay. During the Civil War, Confederate “blockade runners” (Rhett Butler types) kept the South in vital supplies by running past the Union Navy blockade from Cuba to ports like Mobile Bay, Alabama.

US Navy Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was tasked with closing this last Confederate source of supplies. His fleet had to fight past the Confederate fleet of ironclads and two forts that guarded the bay. As the battle progressed, the Union fleet began to fragment, until Farragut rallied his sailors with famous admonition, winning the battle.

Mobile would remain in Confederate hands, but access to it was cut off for the duration. Farragut was the adopted son of US Naval Officer David Porter, who also raised his biological sons, famous Naval officers David Dixon Porter, and William Porter. One family played such a vital role in the glory of the US Navy. Can you imagine being a part of it?

Damn the Torpedoes!


Today in History, August 5: 1864 – “Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!” New Orleans had been captured from the Confederacy in 1862, leaving Mobile Bay as the only source of foreign supplies for the South, via blockade runners (like the fictional Rhett Butler). On this date the Union Navy sent a fleet of ships led by ironclads into Mobile Bay, fighting a squadron of Confederate Ships and two “batteries” or forts with cannon, and a withering fire that almost immediately sank the USS Tecumseh, an ironclad. The Union fleet began to scatter, until the US Navy’s first Rear Admiral, David Glasgow Farragut inspired them on to victory with his now historic courageous command. By the way, “torpedoes” in 1864 were not propelled explosives as we know of them today, but what we know as mines. This would not be the only battle that would lead to Farragut’s lasting legacy with the US Navy.