Union’s Financial Situation Dire; Rural New England Migrates

March 14, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 11 (179 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Union’s Financial Situation Dire

On March 14, 1864, Ohio Governor Brough wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to express his concern that the country’s financial position was critical. He noted that every man who joins the army cost the country over $300, and that the country was incurring a debt that could not be paid, but that enlisting fewer soldiers would be disastrous.

About the same time Secretary Salmon P. Chase was asked what the nation’s war debt was. Chase replied that it was about $2,500,000,000. When he was asked how much more the country could stand, he replied, “If we do not suppress the rebellion, when it reaches $3,000,000,000 we shall have to give it up.”

William P. Fessenden, the former Senator from Maine, would succeed Chase as Secretary of the Treasury on July 5, 1864. Fessenden would write to his friend Senator James W. Grimes of Iowa, ‘Things must be taken as I find them and they are quite bad enough to appall any but a man as desperate as I am.'”


James Ford Rhodes, History of the Civil War 1861-1865, p. 360

Rural New England Population Migrates, Houses Abandoned

March 13, 1864. “In 1862 [but particularly after the passage of the Homestead Act in May], all over New England, men and boys had already begun to flood into cities of the East and into the Midwestern heartland where they could find a prosperity that their own land no longer held. . . . Farmhouses in the Pelham Hills to the east of Amherst [Massachusetts] and in the Berkshire Mountains to its west stood vacant, and Massachusetts [and all of New England] would never be the same again. Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst, wrote

A House upon the Height —
That Wagon never reached —
No Dead, were ever carried down —
No Peddler’s Cart — approached —
Whose Chimney never smoked —
Whose Windows — Night and Morn —
Caught Sunrise first — and Sunset — last —
Then — held an Empty Pane —
Whose fate — Conjecture knew —
No other neighbor — did —
And what it was — we never lisped —
Because He — never told —


From Emily Dickinson, Cynthia Griffin Wolff (1988). p. 448.

– Both pieces in this edition were submitted by Vermont Humanities Council Executive Director Peter A. Gilbert

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