Citizenship of Former Slaves ‘Fearful to Contemplate’

May 25, 1865 (Friday) Henry William Ravenel was a botanist from South Carolina. Through his studies he discovered numerous new species of fungi and is still remembered for his work. He was, however, also a slave owner. He had inherited his plantation from his father, and with this inheritance came families of slaves. As theRead More

‘Whenever I Hear Any One Arguing for Slavery, I Feel a Strong Impulse to See it Tried on Him Personally’

March 17, 1865 (Friday) On this date President Lincoln delivered one of his more famous speeches. There were two copies of this message – one from the New York Herald, and another, written shortly thereafter, signed personally by Lincoln. The first was spoken to the 140th Indiana Regiment, which captured a Confederate flag at FortRead More

Davis Signs Bill Authorizing Slaves in the Confederate Army; The Reaction and Plans of the Black Population

March 13, 1865 (Monday) Jefferson Davis could feel it all coming apart. He paced away, as Judah Benjamin later wrote, “the anxious hours when we could not but perceived that our holy and sacred cause was gradually crumbling under a pressure too grievous to be bourne, and when we looked every where for some signRead More

Ensuring the Enslavement of Even those Who Enlisted

March 12, 1865 (Sunday) For months, President Jefferson Davis had hinted that slaves might be impressed into the army. The issue had cut the line between idealism and necessity. Many were, not surpringly, opposed to such measures. “The moment you resort to Negro soldiers,” said Howell Cobb of Georgia, “your white soldiers will be lostRead More

‘Until Every Drop of Blood’ – Lincoln Delivers His Greatest Speech

March 4, 1865 (Saturday) At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during whichRead More

Davis: ‘We are Reduced to Choosing Whether the Negroes Shall Fight for or Against Us

February 21, 1865 (Tuesday) The idea of forcing slaves to fight in the Confederate armies was one of the hottest debates in Richmond. The day previous, the House voted to allow slaves to be drafted as soldiers. Now it had to face the Senate and then the President. Jefferson Davis had already voiced his approvalRead More

‘An Instant and Irrepressible Storm of Applause’ – Lincoln’s Report to the Senate

February 10, 1865 (Friday) It had been a week since the Hampton Roads Peace Conference, and President Lincoln was ready to submit to Congress his report, which was, in fact, simply Secretary of State William Seward’s report with some other bit pasted in. Reporter, and friend of Lincoln, Noah Brooks, was in the gallery thatRead More

Virginia Ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment

February 9, 1865 (Thursday) On this date in 1865, the state of Virginia ratified the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, outlawing slavery. This might seem strange since Richmond, Virginia was where the Confederates made their capitol. This was, however, not the Confederate government of Virginia helmed by Governor John Letcher, but the “RestoredRead More

Davis ‘Preferred to Let the Edifice Fall into Ruins’

February 4, 1865 (Saturday) The Confederate Peace Commissioners – Vice President Alexander Stephens, Assistant Secretary of War John Campbell, and Senator Robert Hunter – returned to Richmond on this date, and met with President Jefferson Davis in the evening. According to Stephens, Davis thought that Lincoln had “acted in bad faith” concerning the rejection ofRead More

Failure at the Hampton Roads Peace Conference

February 3, 1865 (Friday) The proposed Peace Conference that was to happen in Washington between President Lincoln and three Confederate envoys was, a few days prior, moved instead to Fortress Monroe. There was a bit of consternation, but in the end, all agreed to the terms. Lincoln had arrived the night before, and joined SecretaryRead More