Category Archives: Civil War

14th Amendment 150th Anniversary


Today marks the sesquicentennial of the passage by Congress of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on June 13, 1866, which was ratified on July 9, 1868.  Section 1 provides:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


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Memorial Day Sesquicentennial

free-vector-poppy-remembrance-day-clip-art_106032_Poppy_Remembrance_Day_clip_art_smallWhile there are competing claims for the exact date and place, today marks the 150th anniversary of the first (or certainly one of the first) official observances of Memorial Day.

On May 5, 1866, a ceremony was held in Waterloo, N.Y., to honor local veterans of the Civil War. Flags flew at half staff, and local businesses closed in observance. In 1966, the U.S. Congress declared this to be the “birthplace” of Memorial Day.

It was first recognized as a federal holiday in 1971, when it was placed on the last Monday in May.


Memorial Day History at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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13th Amendment Ratified, 1865


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, forever ending slavery in the United States.  On December 6, the reconstruction Georgia legislature ratified the amendment, marking the 27th, meaning that two thirds of the states had done so.  On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed that the amendment had been adopted.

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Execution of Henry Wirz, 1865

150 years ago today, November 10, 1865, Confederate Army Captain Henry Wirz was executed by hanging.  He had served as commander of the Andersonville Prison Camp, where 13,000 of the 45,000 prisoners died.

It appears that Wirz was well aware of the appalling conditions in his camp, sought supplies from the Confederate government, and even released prisoners to carry a message to the Union seeking a prisoner exchange.  Nonetheless, he was convicted of murder and executed.

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Last Surrender of the Civil War: CSS Shenandoah

CSS Shenandoah. Wikipedia photo.

The last surrender of the Civil War took place 150 years ago today, November 6, 1865, when the CSS Shenandoah surrendered in Liverpool England.

The Shenandoah was a commerce raider whose mission was to interfere with Union shipping. The Scottish-built ship was originally called the Sea King, and was secretly purchased in England in September 1865. In October, off the coast of Spain, she was converted into a warship, with Captain James Iredell Waddell in command. When General Lee surrendered to Union forces in April 1865, the ship was in the South Pacific, and had already captured thirteen Union merchant ships. The ship headed toward the Bering Sea, crossing the Arctic Circle on June 19. She then headed south along the Alaska coast, where she encountered Union whaling ships and destroyed most of them. The last two shots of the Civil War took place on June 22, when the Shenandoah fired upon a fleeing whaler, the Sophia Thornton.

On June 27, the captain of one of the captured ships produced a San Francisco newspaper, and it was then that Capt. Waddell first learned of Lee’s surrender. But since the newspaper also carried President Jefferson Davis’s proclamation that the “war would be carried on with renewed vigor,” Waddell continued to capture Union whaling ships, taking ten more. The Shenandoah set sail for San Francisco, where Waddell had intended to carry out a raid.

But on August 2, the Shenandoah encountered an English ship, and Waddell learned of the Confederacy’s total collapse. Waddell then repainted the ship, converted it to a merchant ship by stowing the cannon below deck, and set about figuring out the best way to surrender. He assumed (probably correctly) that he would face hostility if he tried to do so in an American port. After all, he had captured numerous innocent ships after the cessation of hostilities. There was a real risk of being tried for piracy and having himself and the crew hanged.

Staying well off shore, the Shenandoah headed south and around Cape Horn and thence to Liverpool, where he surrendered to an officer of the British Royal Navy. After an investigation by the British Admiralty Court, the crew were released.

In her year at sea, the Shenandoah logged over 58,000 miles and has the distinction of being the only Confederate vessel to have circumnavigated the world.


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Civil War Veteran and the Radio

OldSoldierRadioThis photo from the October 14, 1922 issue of Radio World shows a veteran of the Civil War listening to the radio. According to the caption: “The Grand Army veteran . . . wanted to listen in and the owner of a set obliged him. Before he had satisfied his longing, the old soldier was able to tune in himself…. The old fighter said that becoming acquainted with this new wonder gave him a new lease on life.”

While there might be a few younger, most Civil War veterans at that time would have been at least 75 years old. (A man born in 1847 would have been 18 years old at the time of the war.) He was probably born in the Polk administration, fought in the Civil War, and his sons or even his grandsons could have fought in the Spanish-American War or the First World War. The telegraph was barely in existence when he was born, and he lived to see electrification, motor cars, phonographs, the telephone, and even radio.

The world became a very different place during this one lifetime.

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Sherman takes Savannah, 1864


150 Years Ago today, General Sherman concluded his March to the Sea with the taking of Savannah, as announced in this telegram to President Lincoln, offering the city to the President as a Christmas present.

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Burning of Atlanta, 1864

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the burning of Atlanta. On November 14, 1864, General Sherman began his march to the sea, with orders to burn the City of Atlanta, excepting only its courthouse, churches, and dwellings. This photo shows Atlanta’s Union Station in ruins.