Fw: SmithsonianCivil War Studies e-Mail Newsletter
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Subject: SmithsonianCivil War Studies e-Mail Newsletter
Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter
Washington, D. C. April, 2003 Vol. 5 No. 9
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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS: CIVIL WAR SMITHSONIAN JOURNEYS
These unique Civil War tours and cruises take you to the fields of action.
The country's most eminent historians and authors, including Edwin C. Bearss
and A. Wilson Greene host each event. Follow the links and reserve today!
THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN
April 23-27, 2003, five days
Tour the Jackson area and then head out to Vicksburg for three days of Civil
War history. Examine the military maneuvers that led to the final success of
the Union Army.
WILDERNESS TO COLD HARBOR
May 8-11, 2003, 4 days
Retrace the battles that marked the beginning of the end for the Army of
Northern Virginia. Explore Germanna Ford, the Lacy House, the North Anna
River, Cold Harbor Crossroads, and more
THE WESTERN FRONTIER OF THE CIVIL WAR
June 4-9, 2003, 6 days
Visit Westport and Minefield Battlefields and Ft. Scott in Missouri. See
Carthage, General Sweeney's and Wilson Creek Battlefields and more!
STRUGGLE FOR ATLANTA
July 19-25, 2003, 7 days
Follow the Union's advance, beginning with the Battle of Ringgold Gap,
Battle of Resaca, the savage Battle of Allatoona Park, and along the New
Hope-Dallas line. Visit the Kennesaw Civil War Museum.
THE PENNSYLVANIA CAMPAIGN OF 1862
September 24-28, 2003
Visit Fort Monroe, the largest most-encircled masonry fortification in
America. Retrace the battles at Lee's Mill and Dam No. 1, and visit the
Confederate headquarters at Endview Plantation.
MUSIC AND CULTURE IN CIVIL WAR SOUTH
September 26-October 4, 2003, 9 days
Board the steamboat Delta Queen for a journey along the Tennessee and
Cumberland Rivers that witnessed some of the Civil War's most crucial
battles including Shiloh and Chattanooga. Also learn about the region's rich
CIVIL WAR: THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN
November 12-16, 2003, 5 days
Join renowned historian Edwin Bearss as he retraces the drama and spectacle
of one of the most important battles in American history!
THE LINCOLN GROUP OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Tuesday, April 15
Join the oldest operating Lincoln Group at their next dinner meeting at Ft.
McNair Officers' Club. Featured speaker, Illinois State Historian Thomas
Schwartz, will talk about Abraham Lincoln and Death Threats. To attend,
e-mail dennisu@... or go to http://www.lincolngroup.org
HAPPENINGS IN THE CIVIL WAR
April 4, 1865
President Lincoln meets with Union and Confederate figures in Richmond,
April 5, 1839
Robert Smalls, the only black naval captain during the Civil War, is born in
Beaufort, South Carolina.
April 7, 1865
Lincoln wires Grant: "General Sheridan says, 'If the thing is pressed I
think that Lee will surrender.' Let the thing be pressed."
April 9, 1865
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S.
Grant at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War.
April 13, 1861
After 34 hours of bombardment, Fort Sumter is forced to surrender to the
Confederates, opening the Civil War.
April 14, 1865
President Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre, Washington
April 17, 1861 and 1865
1861: Virginia adopts ordinance of secession.
1865: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to General William
T. Sherman near Durham Station, North Carolina.
April 21, 1865
Train bearing President Lincoln's body leaves Washington en route to
Ø Compiled from the Library of Congress Civil War Calendar, Pomegranate
CIVIL WAR TRIVIA
QUESTION LAST ISSUE: What is a "doggery"?
CORRECT ANSWER: A "place of dissipation or idle resort, " a saloon.
When running against Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln used the word in an
1858 letter to a campaign associate. Lincoln learns that the opposition is
sending outsiders into the district to pad the vote for Douglas. Lincoln
became suspicious when he observed a group as they "dropped in about the
doggeries" of the town. In the letter, Lincoln presents a plan to counter
with a tactic of his own. He wrote, "It would be a great thing, when this
trick is attempted upon us, to have the saddle come up on the other horse...
If we can head off the fraudulent votes we shall carry the day." They did
not carry the day, but the campaign against Douglas brought Abraham Lincoln
national prominence, setting the stage for his presidential victory in 1860.
CONGRATULATIONS to Joe Woltz of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Joe came across the
answer when reading to his young son from Huckleberry Finn, the chapter
where they are searching for the king and find him in "little low doggery."
For answering our trivia question, Joe wins the book, Jeb Stuart, The Last
Cavalier, by Burke Davis.
QUESTION THIS ISSUE: Who was the "Cleopatra of the Confederacy"?
Be the first to submit the correct answer and amaze your friends, win fame,
fortune and/or a Smithsonian gift item. E-mail your answer to us at:
SPECIAL TO THE TSA CW NEWSLETTER:
The Smithsonian Institution During the Civil War
By Kathleen W. Dorman, Associate Editor, Joseph Henry Papers
Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives
When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, the Smithsonian Institution itself
was vulnerable. Located between the Capitol Building and the White House,
the institution was not immune from the forces threatening to turn the city
of Washington into an armed camp. Both the Smithsonian and Joseph Henry,
its first Secretary, somehow persevered. "The interruptions and
embarrassments," he wrote, "although frequent, and in some cases perplexing,
have not prevented the continuance of the general operations of the
Institution." However, were it not for his steadfast leadership, the
institution might have suffered permanent damage.
The Smithsonian Building, physically cut off from the rest of the city by
the Washington Canal, was close to the Potomac River, which divided the
District of Columbia from Virginia and the rebel south. For its defense the
secretary of war issued the following order: "The Colonel of Ordnance will
cause to be issued to Professor J. Henry of the Smithsonian Institute twelve
muskets and 240 rounds of ammunition, for the protection of the Institute
against lawless attacks."
Trying to accommodate the sudden influx of soldiers, the government used a
variety of public buildings and proposed that the Smithsonian Building also
be used. Henry suggested that if the Smithsonian had to be used by troops,
it would be "more in accordance with the spirit of the Institution" to use
it as an infirmary. Fortunately, the building was not used.
Henry had always tried to keep the Smithsonian out of the controversies of
the day and his political opinions private. It is clear, however, that he
abhorred war and favored a peaceful separation over a bloodbath. His
assistant, Spencer Baird, not only did not volunteer for the Union but also
cautioned other young men not to volunteer. He also, like Henry, clearly
saw the Smithsonian as an institution founded, in the words of James
Smithson's will, "for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men,"
meaning, throughout the world. He thus expressed a sentiment undoubtedly
shared by Henry: "Whatever power may control Washington, it is our hope to
be allowed to carry out our sublime mission in the most catholic manner."
Living in the Smithsonian Building, Henry's family couldn't help but be
affected by the many soldiers passing through Washington throughout the war.
In her diary, his oldest daughter wrote of streets filled with soldiers and
the sound of drums. Mary Henry found the flashy New York Zouaves "quite
disorderly since their arrival." But, she found the nearby Union
encampments "indescribably picturesque."
The Smithsonian soon began to feel the impact of the war on its programs.
One of the first affected was its national network of volunteer weather
observers. As soon as the war started, observers in the South and West
stopped sending monthly reports. After the war, one observer in Richmond
sadly informed Henry that when Sheridan's troops occupied his house, his
barometer had been broken and the mercury taken out. Even in the North
reporting was disrupted as some observers left for military duty and were
unable to find substitutes. The program was also hurt by government
preemption of the telegraph lines, which telegraph operators used to report
daily weather information for display on a map in the Smithsonian Building
and for publication in the evening paper. Henry wrote in December of 1861,
"Our system of meteorology has been sadly broken in upon by the war."
The war affected the Smithsonian's pocketbook also. The institution had
three main sources of income at this time. The first derived from the
principal of Smithson's bequest and amounted to about $31,000 a year. The
second was $141,000 remaining of the interest the bequest had earned prior
to 1846. The third was an annual congressional appropriation of $4000.
Throughout the war Henry worried whether the government funds would be late
or not paid at all; the currency itself was devaluated; and the
institution's investments in the state bonds of Virginia, Tennessee, and
Georgia stopped yielding interest. Henry feared that if Congress failed to
appropriate money for the museum, "we shall be obliged to close the doors or
charge an admittance to visitors." (Fortunately for us all, that precedent
was not set.)
Although Henry lamented the human losses, he viewed the war as an
opportunity for scientific research. He foresaw "investigations as to the
strength of materials, the laws of projectiles, the resistance of fluids,
the applications of electricity, light, heat, and chemical action, as well
as of aerostation [ballooning]." Historian Robert V. Bruce has pointed out,
however, that most of the technology used in the Civil War was invented
before the war and that because the war was not expected to last long,
little research was initiated. He also concluded that the war actually had
a negative effect on science, by diverting personnel and resources, and on
individual scientists, whose skills or even lives were given to the war
effort. He mentions particularly the case of George Gordon Meade, best
known as the Union commander at Gettysburg. Before the war, Meade had been
a captain in the army's Corps of Topographical Engineers in charge of the
Great Lakes Survey. Henry had cautioned Meade not to become "mere food for
powder." Meade survived the war but never returned to science.
In early 1861, Henry promoted the work of the balloonist T.S.C. Lowe,
believing he could be "of advantage to the Government in assisting their
reconnaissance of the district and country around Washington." In mid-June,
Lowe ascended from the site now occupied by the National Air and Space
Museum to prove the feasibility of communicating by telegraph between
balloons and the ground. With Henry's support, Lowe became head of a
balloon corps that was to provide Union commanders with accurate
information. According to historian Bruce, this was the first successful
military air force in American history.
The height of the Smithsonian Building's highest tower made it a superior
location to test signaling systems. Surviving manuscripts refer to the
testing of different signaling systems between the Smithsonian and the Coast
Survey office on Capitol Hill, between the Smithsonian and Fort Washington
sixteen miles south of the city, and between the Smithsonian and the U.S.
Soldier's Home, the second highest elevation in Washington.
A famous anecdote relating to signaling appears in Carl Sandburg's biography
of Lincoln. He writes, "One dark night Lincoln with four other men climbed
up the tower of the Smithsonian Institution. Toward hills encircling
Washington they flashed signals. The next day an army officer marched into
Lincoln's office a prisoner, Professor Joseph Henry, secretary and director
of the Smithsonian Institution, the most eminent man of learning in the
employ of the United States Government. 'Mr. President,' said the officer,
'I told you a month ago Professor Henry is a rebel. Last night at midnight
he flashed red lights from the top of his building, signaling to the Secesh.
I saw them myself.'
Lincoln turned. 'Now you're caught! What have you to say, Professor Henry,
why sentence of death should not immediately be pronounced upon you?' Then,
turning to the army officer, Lincoln explained that on the previous evening
he and others had accompanied Henry to the Smithsonian tower and
experimented with new army signals."
Although Henry devoted many hours of unpaid labor to the Union effort, he
was a target of rumors questioning his loyalty. His opposition to a series
of abolitionist lectures in the Smithsonian Building was one cause. His
earlier friendship with Jefferson Davis was another. Davis had been a
regent of the Smithsonian from 1847 to 1851 and proved to be one of Henry's
most consistent supporters and an effective advocate in Congress of the
In trying to assert the Smithsonian's international scientific character,
Henry may have seemed less than patriotic. He was criticized for not flying
the United States flag over the Smithsonian Building throughout the war.
His reason was that he wanted the institution to be viewed as independent.
In addition, no Smithsonian employees actually served in the military.
Spencer Baird was eligible but hired a "colored substitute" for three years
at a cost of $278. Solomon Brown wrote Baird in September 1864 that he had
received a draft notice but was "Exempted on the grounds of Physical
disability." Chief Clerk William Jones Rhees and paleontologist Fielding B.
Meek were also drafted but were excused by the examining surgeon.
Henry, somewhat bitterly, made this remark to Baird near the end of the war.
"I know that I shall not be considered as good a patriot as some of your
friends I could name, who, while expressing with one hand in violent
gesticulations their devotion to their country have with the other been
filling their pockets with the spoils of office."
Despite the turmoil of four years of war, the Smithsonian emerged in a
surprisingly strong position. To explain this, we need to look to Joseph
Henry, who never lost sight of what he wanted the Smithsonian to be. With
his vision of an institution devoted to the support of basic research and
dissemination of its findings throughout the world, he took the
"interruptions and embarrassments" caused by the war and used them to
further realize that vision. As a result, both the Smithsonian Institution
and the nation became stronger.
We are indebted to Kathleen Dorman for providing this summary and sharing
her research. For the complete text and more information and links
associated with the Joseph Henry Papers project go to:
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