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1864: Year of Destiny

An Exhibition

February 10, 2014 – June 8, 2014

curated by Timothy Murray


The year 1864 was a pivotal one in the American Civil War and the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The Union Army had achieved decisive victories in the July 1863 Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and in March 1864, President Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant commander in chief of all Union armies. Under Grant's leadership, Union forces won battle after battle culminating in General William Tecumseh Sherman's Savannah campaign, famously known as Sherman's march to the sea. Perhaps the most critical event of 1864 was the presidential election which pitted Lincoln against his former Army of the Potomac commander George McClellan. McClellan, the Democrat candidate, ran on a platform of asking for immediate peace with the states in rebellion and, in essence, granting them their independence from the Union. Had McClellan and the democrats prevailed in the election there would have likely been two separate nations with no guarantee of reconciliation between them.


Gilmore, James R. (James Roberts), 1822-1903.


Down in Tennessee: and Back by Way of Richmond, by Edmund Kirke.

In this narrative, the Boston businessman, novelist and historical writer James Roberts Gilmore, who often used the pseudonym "Edmund Kirke," recounts his journey through parts of the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. In July 1864 Gilmore was sent unofficially by President Abraham Lincoln to discuss with Jefferson Davis possible terms for ending the Civil War. Davis rejected Lincoln's proposals because of the latter's refusal to recognize the independence of the Confederacy. When Gilmore’s account of his meeting was later published in the Atlantic Monthly, it did much to undermine efforts for a peace treaty in the North and aided in Lincoln's re-election.

Jaquess, James Frazier, 1819-1898.


Rebel Terms of Peace. Visit of Rev. Dr. Jacques [sic] (Colonel Seventy-third Regiment Illinois Volunteers) and J. R. Gilmore (Edmund Kirke) at Rebel Capital. What Jeff Davis Said. The North Must Yield all--the South Nothing! [Washington, Printed by L. Towers for the Union Congressional committee, 1864.]

James F. Jaquess was a well-known clergyman, college president, and colonel of an Illinois regiment. In 1864 he accompanied James Gilmore on his visit with Jefferson Davis about terms of peace. Lincoln recognized his many abilities and invited Jaquess to serve as one of his personal agents. This publication is his report on the meeting with Jefferson Davis.

Swinton, William, 1833-1892.


The War for the Union. The First, Second, Third and Fourth Years of the War. September 9, 1864. New York: Loyal Publication Society, 1864.

The Loyal Publication Society was founded in 1863, during a time when the Union Army had suffered many reverses in the Civil War. The purpose of the society was to bolster public support for the Union effort by disseminating pro-Union news articles and editorials to newspapers around the country. Society members would share the responsibility of reading newspapers to identify particularly useful articles and editorials. They would then contact the editors—before the type had been broken up—and request that additional copies of that particular item be printed. These items would then be distributed to Union soldiers or to newspapers. This essay by the noted war correspondent William Swinton originally appeared in the New York Times.

Sweward, William Henry, 1801-1872


Issues of the Conflict -- Terms of Peace: Speech of William H. Seward, on the Occasion of the Fall of Atlanta, at Auburn, Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864. [Washington, Printed by McGill & Witherow, 1864.]

Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.


Reply of Maj. Gen. Sherman to the Mayor of Atlanta: and Speeches of Maj. Gen. Hooker, Delivered in the Cities of Brooklyn and New York, Sept. 22, 1864. Letter of Lieut. Gen. Grant. [Washington, D.C.: Union Congressional Committee, 1864.]

The overwhelming Union victory in the Battle of Atlanta in September 1864 under the leadership of General William T. Sherman was a pivotal event in the War and a boon to Northern morale and to President Lincoln's political standing.

Schneck, B. S. (Benjamin Shroder), 1806-1874.


The Burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania , by Rev. B. S. Schneck, an eye-witness and a sufferer; with corroborative statements from the Rev. J. Clark ... [et al.]. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1864.

The small borough of Chambersburg in the South Central region of Pennsylvania was the only major northern community burned down by Confederate forces during the war. In July 1864, Confederate forces invaded Chambersburg for a third time. On July 30, under orders from Brig. Gen. John McCausland for failing to provide a ransom of $500,000 in US currency, or $100,000 in gold a large portion of the town was burned down by forces led by General Jubal Early. "Remember Chambersburg" soon became a Union battle cry.



The Loyalty for the Times a Voice from Kentucky. April 1864. Philadelphia: Printed by H.B. Ashmead, 1864.

Kentucky, like Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri, was a border state which remained a member of the Union and had vociferous pro-slavery and pro-Union factions. This pamphlet prints a series of essays and letters condemning slavery. It contains a letter by Abraham Lincoln titled “The Negroes and the war: important letter from the President, Apr. 4, 1864.”

Bayard, James A. (James Asheton), 1799-1880.


Speech of the Hon. James A. Bayard, of Delaware: Delivered in the Senate of the United States, January 19th, 1864, Against the Validity of the Test-oath, Prescribed by the "Act" of July 2, 1862, with the Subsequent roceedings in the Senate, and his Final Remarks before the Resignation of his Seat.Philadelphia: [s.n.], 1864.

United States Senator from Delaware James A. Bayard was a staunch conservative who believed the South should be allowed to secede peacefully, and privately lobbied for the secession of Delaware and a state convention to address the issue. Citing property rights of owners, he opposed abolitionist measures. He also voiced his opposition to the Civil War and to any presidential or congressional acts used to suppress the independence of the Southern states. During the Civil War, the United States Senate passed a rule stating that all senators would have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Union. Bayard was outraged, stating that such an oath would be unconstitutional, and after taking the oath and giving a long speech disputing its legality, he resigned his seat in the Senate. "Standing, therefore, almost alone in this body, I have lost the hope that I can longer be of service to my country or my State.... I have lived to see the elective franchise trodden under foot in my native State by the iron heel of the soldier .... I have lived to see her citizens torn from their homes and separated from their families . . . Without any charge expressed ... and without any known accuser."

Smith, James E., fl. 1864.


Pocket diary, 1864 January 1–1864 May 5.

This diary was kept by a member of the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, possibly named James E. Smith, from January 1 to May 5, 1864, during the U.S. Civil War.
The author begins the diary by describing his enlistment in Provincetown, Massachusetts, during which spirits were high and after which the new recruits were paraded through town "bunting flying." He continues by describing the process of drilling and mustering in Provincetown. The author notes that he is a photographer musician in civilian life, and a bugler in the army. By April, his unit had left Massachusetts and marched to Camp Holmes in Annapolis, Maryland. They then marched south into Virginia. He describes life in the army as harsh and unpleasant with rations being scarce. The entries end abruptly after May 5, in which he states that he had endured a hard, thirty mile march to a point near the Rapidan River in Virginia. This date and location coincides with the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6, 1864) in which the 56th Massachusetts participated. James E. Smith is listed in official records as having died November 6, 1864, in Danville, Virginia.

Emerson, H. A.


Daily Journal, 1864 January 1–1864 December 29.

H. A. Emerson kept this diary from January 1 to December 29, recording aspects of his job as the proprietor of the paper mill in Franklin, Massachusetts. Emerson wrote about his daily activities at the paper mill, including quantity and type of paper produced, as well as machinery maintenance and efficiency, and the number of hours he worked. Almost every entry mentions the weather of the day, sometimes describing how weather hindered production at the paper mill. Emerson was involved in the local church choir and frequently mentions it in his journal. Other entries describe social life in Franklin and other nearby Massachusetts and New England towns, as well as family visits, brief references to national political affairs, alluding to the ongoing Civil War. In his entry for T, April 26, Emerson briefly reports “News come that Plymouth, N.C. was taken by the Rebels. 1500 Prisoners 25 pieces of artillery all Surrendered.” The Battle of Plymouth, N.C. took place on April 17-20 and was a decisive Confederate victory.



Camp in Virginia field, front of Petersburg, Va., Autograph letter to Samuel Townsend, 15 July 1864, 4 pp.

Edmund Townsend served in the army as a quartermaster of the 3rd regiment of the Delaware infantry. He fought in several battles in Virginia in 1864. His letters to family members describe the battle of Second Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg and the mine explosion there, the fighting at Globe Tavern and Weldon Railroad, and the battle of Boydton Plank Road. He also describes being arrested and brought before a court martial twice. By the end of 1864 Townsend is looking forward to being mustered out of the army, which he was on June 3rd, 1865.

Townsend family papers



Signed guest pass to Hampton for Elias Pierce,1864 August 5, 1 p. From Provost Marshal's Office, Head Quarters Department Virginia and North Carolina, Fort Monroe, Virginia. By command of Major General Butler. Seal of John Cassels, Capt. and Provost.



Mendenhall, W. S., Autograph letter of instructions for Elias Pierce to proceed to Petersburg, Virginia ,1864, 1 p.

This autograph letter from W.S. Mendenhall provides instructions on how Elias Pierce can retrieve the body of George K. Pierce from the Field Hospital,18th Army Corps. George K. Pierce was born in New Castle, Delaware on September 12, 1838. He served as a private in Company D of the 97th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers until his death following a battle in an area between Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, on July 26, 1864. His commanding officer was Captain William S. Mendenhall. Captain Mendenhall arranged for Elias Pierce to retrieve the body of his son following George's death.

Pierce Family papers



Lawson, N. W., Autograph letter to Mr. [John W.] Hall, 1864 August 17, 2 pp.

Born in Frederica, Kent County, Delaware, John Wood Hall (1817-1892) was a merchant and shipowner who served as Governor of Delaware from January 21, 1879 until January 16, 1883. This 1864 letter appears to have been written by one of his workers whose crew had a hostile encounter with Confederate troops during a mercantile expedition near City Point, Virginia at a place called "Duck Gap.".

Virden family papers



Lilley, David.
Autograph letter to Annie Lilley, 1864 June 22, 1 p.

David N. Lilley (1842-1887), a Newark, Delaware, resident for most of his life, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He writes this letter from a camp near City Point, Virginia. A transcription of the letter accompanies.

Camp near City Point va
June 22nd 1864

Dear Sister

I take this oppertunity of writeing you these few lines to inform you that I am well at this time hopeing this may find you the Same we are now laying about 2 miles from the James River waiting for our papers to Be made out and for Transportation to Washington and if we have luck I guess By tomorrow we will be on the way home and then you Can clear the decks for action I think if nothing Happens to detain us that we will Be at home the last of teh month I don't think much sooner for it will take take us some time to get settled up with the Government But I guess we can make it by the 4th any how or I hope So at least

I remain your Brother David Lilley



Packer’s List of Medical Stores, 1864 December 13, 1 item, 1 p.
Printed form with an autograph list of medicines and supplies delivered to R. B. McKee at Monrovia, Maryland.

This document provides an interesting glimpse into Civil War medicine. Robert B. McKee received his medical training at Pennsylvania Medical College in 1859. Leaving his hometown of Middletown, Delaware, in 1861, McKee volunteered to serve as a surgeon in the Civil War. He worked as a hospital steward and an assistant surgeon for most of the war in Company B of the 1st Delaware Volunteer Cavalry in various areas of Virginia and Maryland.

Robert B. McKee papers




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