Lincoln proclaims blockade on southern ports

Today, April 19, 1861, President Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the states in rebellion. Not only was he attempting to keep supplies from coming in, knowing that the south didn’t have much of an industrial base, but he was trying to keep cotton from going out. Well, and there’s a reference to the states in rebellion threatening to issue letters of marque to entitle Confederate ships to legal piracy on US vessels, which was probably quite irksome to the president of the US.


Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein comformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:

And whereas a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States: And whereas an Executive Proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session, to deliberate and determine thereon:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the law of Nations, in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize, as may be deemed advisable.

And I hereby proclaim and declare that if any person, under the pretended authority of the said States, or under any other pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


One thing I like about Mr. Lincoln, he kept his proclamations short and sweet even with all the legal language.

Published in: on 19 April, 2011 at 18:13  Leave a Comment  
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The powers granted them…might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression

April 16, 1861, the Secession Convention Delegates in Richmond, Virginia, met in secrecy to consider a very brief document. It read, in its entirety:


To Repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight-eight, having declared that the powers granted them under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United State of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This Ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Sec’y of Convention.

The “injury and oppression” here is of course the fear of emancipation. The white slaveowners who met in Richmond were not concerned with the injury and oppression they had inflicted and were inflicting upon enslaved people for two hundred years. The secession ordinances of the southern states all cited fears of emancipation, despite Lincoln’s declaration in his inaugural address:

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Published in: on 16 April, 2011 at 12:00  Leave a Comment  
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April 15, 1861

Today, President Lincoln proclaimed a state of insurrection. There is certainly an argument to be made that he had waited a Christless long time to admit the obvious, but he was playing a fairly delicate game with international opinion. He did not need foreign powers deciding to recognize the Confederacy, he needed them to stay out of affairs. So he waited until after Fort Sumter fell, until after the Confederate States had fired the first shots of the war, and issued a proclamation.


Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law,

Now therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. The details, for this object, will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to re-possess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date.

Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at 12 o’clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July, next, then and there to consider and determine, such measures, as, in their wisdom, the public safety, and interest may seem to demand.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord One thousand, Eight hundred and Sixtyone, and of the Independence the United States the Eightyfifth.


Lincoln did one other thing that day. He offered command of the US Army to a career army officer named Robert Edward Lee. Lee turned down the offer, waiting to see what his home state of Virginia would do. Since the first guns fired on Fort Sumter, calls for secession had been growing louder. Indeed, a secession convention had been meeting since the 13th of February. Lee felt that his first duty was to Virginia, not the Union, and so he waited to see what would happen.

Published in: on 15 April, 2011 at 19:10  Leave a Comment  
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His soul is marching on.

So here it is, the end of December, 1859. John Brown has been dead for weeks but the fuze he lit at Harpers Ferry continues to burn. Across the south, slaveowners who were always alert for the whiff of rebellion are beginning to reach new heights of paranoia. Sectional tensions after the bloodshed in Kansas (in which Brown had his part) were already running high, and here! Here was proof that abolitionists intended to see Southern whites murdered in their beds.

The still-young Republican Party, founded partly on abolitionist principles, moved to distance itself from Brown, while the Democratic party began to split down the middle like a rock split by ice. To top it all off, the country was about to enter an election year.

The Republicans would hold only their second nominating convention in May of 1860, but as 1859 drew to a close they were still casting about for candidates. They would eventually put 13 on the ballot at their convention. Among them were Charles Sumner, who had been beaten bloody by Preston Brooks four years earlier; and a Kentucky lawyer who had made his home in Illinois, named Abraham Lincoln.

Five questions for Art Shutt.

Art is a living historian and a member of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 9th Michigan is color guards and escorts for the Lincoln Look-Alike Organization.

1) How did you get involved with the 9th Michigan?

2) Your impression is Private Samuel Obadiah Watson. Was he a real person? Why did you select him?

3) What’s your favorite part of being a living historian?

4) Union impressions are vastly outnumbered by those portraying Confederates in the modern world of the Civil War. What draws you, personally, to the Union?

5) The most common question living historians get is “Aren’t you hot?” What are some of your favorite questions to answer?


Published in: on 10 August, 2009 at 04:45  Leave a Comment  
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Temporal Fractures

It’s a little weird sometimes, being this engrossed in the Civil War. The major re-enactments run on a five year cycle, so right now in the re-enactment world, it’s August of 1864. Of course here in Sesquicentennial Madness world, it’s August of 1859, which is fracturing my weird little world even further. This temporal dislocation occasionally causes awkward moments, like when I was discussing getting the Emergency Backup Dog with my friend at Blackthorn Kennel, and said I was looking at getting a pup in late 2010 or early 2011, so as to have the EBD ready to go in time for Fredericksburg in December, 1862. Because in my head, that made sense.

So anyway, step over here into my temporally fractured and weird little world for a moment. It’s August, 1859. The country is headed towards war; it’s beginning to look like a when and not an if. What are our principle actors up to?