Andersonville POWs Hang Their Own; Lincoln Willing to Pursue Peace . . .

July 11, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 28 (196 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Confederate Army Threatens Washington

July 11-12, 1864. In the summer and fall of 1864, General Robert E. Lee sent General Jubal Early’s corps to sweep Union forces from the Shenandoah Valley and to threaten Washington, DC. Lee hoped that doing so would cause Grant to send re-enforcements north from where they faced Lee around Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.

Early’s arrival in the Washington area was delayed first by an inconclusive battle near Harpers Ferry, and then by his resting his troops for three days. Those delays meant that while he arrived at the outskirts of Washington on July 11 when it was modestly defended, he was not able to attack the Union’s capital. There were skirmishes and exchanges of artillery. Early’s troops burned down the home of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, Maryland, and got within five miles of the White House.

During the raid on Washington, Lincoln visited Camp Stevens, part of the defensive line just outside the city. Historian John Stauffer writes, “Wearing his signature stovepipe hat, he looked over the parapet as bullets whistled by. He seemed to be courting death. The veteran soldier and future Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. took him for a naïve civilian and yelled, ‘Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot!'” Lincoln did.

Lee crossed into Virginia on July 13 and then led his troops into the Shenandoah Valley, where the action would focus through the summer and fall.


John Stauffer, Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, 275-6.

– Submitted by Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter A. Gilbert

Union POWs at Andersonville Hang Six of Their Own

On July 11, 1864 six Union soldiers who were prisoners at the infamous Confederate Andersonville prison camp in Georgia, were hanged after having been found guilty by their fellow prisoners of theft and general thuggery throughout the camp. At 5:00 pm, the six condemned men — “Moseby,” “Murray,” “Terry,” “Sarsfield,” “Delainy,” and “Curtis” by name — were marched into the camp by Confederate guards and delivered to a group of prisoner “Regulators” headed by “Limber Jim.” Sergeant Eugene Forbes from New Jersey recorded the scene in his diary:

“A gallows had been previously erected in the street leading from the southwest gate. . . . Limber Jim, with his assistants, proceeded to bind the prisoners’ hands, the Captain [the prison camp’s warden, Henry Wirtz] having withdrawn the guard to the outside, leaving the condemned to be disposed of by our men. When Curtis was about to be bound, he exclaimed, “This cannot be,” and made a dash through the crowd and toward the creek; he succeeded in reaching the other side, but was arrested and brought back. Shortly after five o’clock, the whole six were swung off, but Moseby’s rope broke, bringing him to the ground, but he was soon swung up again. After having hung about fifteen minutes they were cut down, when the crowd quietly dispersed. So endeth the raid on Dowd [a particularly dramatic incident of thuggery], three of the principal assailants being among those executed. And it is to be hoped that it will also end the system of organized robbery and ruffianism which has so long ruled this camp.”

In September, Sgt. Forbes, the diarist who recorded the incident, was transferred to another prison camp at Florence, South Carolina. He died there on February 7, 1865, two months before the end of the war.

Andersonville Prison, Ga., August 17, 1864, Library of Congress

Andersonville Prison, Ga., August 17, 1864, Library of Congress


Sheehan-Dean, Aaron, The Civil War: The Final Year Told By Those Who Lived It, New York: The Library of America, 2014, 244-245.


Diary of a Soldier and Prisoner of War in the Rebel Prisons, by Eugene Forbes

– Submitted by Dwight T. Pitcaithley, New Mexico State University

Lincoln Willing to Pursue Any Confederate Peace Offer that Provides for Restoring the Union and Ending Slavery

Radical Anti-Lincoln Northerners Stockpile Arms, But “Vast Army of Northern Sons of Liberty Ready to Rise and Overthrow Lincoln’s Tyranny Turned Out to be a Phantom”

President Lincoln had written New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley on July 9, 1864 in response to Greeley’s letter indicating that the Confederate President is ready to negotiate a peace settlement. Greeley had learned that two envoys from Jefferson Davis were at Niagara Falls, Canada, with peace proposals. Lincoln wrote, “Your letter of the 7th., with inclosures, received. If you can find, any person anywhere professing to have any proposition of Jefferson Davis in writing, for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery, what ever else it embraces, say to him he may come to me with you, and that if he really brings such proposition, he shall, at the least, have safe conduct, with the paper (and without publicity, if he choose) [back] to the point where you shall have met him. The same, if there be two or more persons. Yours truly”

Horace Greeley, circa 1844-1860, courtesy Library of Congress

Horace Greeley, circa 1844-1860, courtesy Library of Congress

Historian James M. McPherson writes, “Lincoln knew perfectly well that Davis had not authorized negotiations on such conditions. He also knew that the rebel agents had come to Canada not to negotiate but to stir up antiwar opposition in the North. Union detectives had infiltrated copperhead groups that were in contact with these agents in Canada. The detectives had uncovered a series of bizarre plots linked to the Richmond government. . . .”

In a secret session on February 15, 1864, the Confederate Congress had appropriated $5 million for Canadian-based sabotaged operations against the North. Jefferson Davis instructed the leader of this initiative to engage escaped rebel prisoners and northern copperheads sympathetic to the Southern cause or desirous of peace. These plans met with little success in part because, as McPherson points out, they involved trying to urge peace Democrats to go to war with their own government. “A few bellicose copperheads did hide caches of arms in anticipation of the glorious day of insurrection against Union arsenals and POW camps. But that day never came, for these ‘leaders’ could not mobilize their followers. The vast army of Sons of Liberty ready to rise and overthrow Lincoln’s tyranny turned out to be a phantom. No fewer than five planned ‘uprisings’ died a-borning.”


Lincoln Speeches and Writings 1859-1865, Library of America, p. 606, 608; James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 762-65.


Letter from President Lincoln to Greeley

– Submitted by Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter A. Gilbert

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864

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