People: Civil War / Reconstruction

Philip Bazaar was a Chilean immigrant and a resident of Massachusetts. He was a member of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. As a seaman on the USS Santiago de Cuba, he participated in the assault on Fort Fisher, a Confederate fort. He and five other seamen carried dispatches during the battle. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1865 for his bravery.
William Carney was born a slave in Virginia. His father escaped from slavery with the help of the Underground Railroad and earned enough money to buy his family’s freedom. William Carney enlisted in the all African American 54th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War, which was led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. William Carney was quoted in The Liberator as saying “Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God by serving my country and my oppressed brothers.” He fought bravely at the Battle of Fort Wagner, outside Charleston, South Carolina, and earned a promotion to sergeant. He was shot four times and survived. He is the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky, and his family soon moved to Mississippi. His father had been an officer in the Revolutionary War. Davis attended the Military Academy at West Point, served in the Black Hawk War, and later returned to Mississippi to become a cotton planter. He allowed his slaves to grow and sell their own food, and is considered to have treated them well compared to other slave owners.

A supporter of slavery and a strong advocate of the rights of states against federal interference, he represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. He supported the Fugitive Slave Act and proposed extending the line set by the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific Ocean. He also called for a reinstitution of the slave trade. As tensions grew and talk of southern secession grew, Davis gave speeches arguing against secession and appeared to oppose the idea. However, upon President Abraham Lincoln’s election, he yielded to the wishes of the citizens of Mississippi and announced the state’s secession in 1861. He described leaving the Union as “necessary.” Davis was soon after elected president of what was called the Confederate States of America.

Davis assigned Robert E. Lee to command the Army of Northern Virginia, and later appointed Lee Commanding General. After the Civil War, Davis was indicted for treason. While imprisoned, he sold his estate to one of his former slaves. The treason case against him was dropped after several years. He was later re-elected to the U.S. Senate, but was unable to take office because of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Ulysses S. Grant was born in 1822. Grant was educated at West Point Academy where he graduated in the middle of his class. He fought in the U.S.-Mexican War where he served under General Zachary Taylor. President Lincoln appointed him General of the Union Army during the Civil War, and he won the first major Union victories of the war. On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant. Grant wrote out the terms of surrender in such a way as to prevent treason trials. He became the 18th President of the United States in 1868. As President, he presided over the government similar to the way he ran the Army. He brought part of his Army staff to the White House, and his presidency was plagued by corruption.
Angelina Grimke was born in South Carolina. She and her sister, Sarah Grimke, were Quakers and abolitionists. Grimke published an anti-slavery letter called “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper The Liberator. In it, she urged women to convince the men in their lives that slavery was a “crime against God and man…If you believe slavery is sinful, set them at liberty.” Aware of the importance of freedom of speech and press, she wrote, “It is through the tongue, the pen, and the press, that truth is principally propagated…” She also encouraged women to circulate and sign petitions urging an end to slavery.

Threats from South Carolina slave owners prompted Grimke and her sister to move to New York. There, the Grimke sisters became the first women to lecture on behalf of the Anti-Slavery Society. Religious leaders who disapproved of public speaking by women condemned them. During the Civil War, Grimke spoke out in support of President Abraham Lincoln. She celebrated the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Years later, she tested the Fourteenth Amendment by attempting to cast a vote.

In later life, Grimke spoke out for women’s suffrage and the Biblical equality of men and women. She and her sister opened a private school, to which Elizabeth Cady Stanton sent her children.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the most famous figures in American Civil War history. He was a strong-willed, naturally gifted military leader. He graduated from West Point, served in the U.S. Army, fought in the U.S.-Mexican War, and was a Confederate general in the Civil War. Perhaps best known for his courageous ability to face an opposing army like a “stone wall” without backing down, Jackson was a veteran of many Civil War battles and skirmishes. He was revered by the Confederate armies of the South, not only for his years of dedicated military service but also for his repeated displays of bravery and valor. Jackson died in May, 1863 as a result of complications from wounds received at Chancellorsville and pneumonia. When Stonewall died, Robert E. Lee said, “I have lost my right arm.” Stonewall Jackson was buried at Lexington, Virginia.
Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia and attended the Military Academy at West Point, later becoming the institution’s Superintendent. He spent his life serving in the military. He served in the U.S.-Mexican War and on the Texas frontier. He was called back to Virginia in 1859 where he remained until the Civil War.

Lee was personally devoted to the Constitution and privately denounced secession. However, when Virginia seceded, he turned down an offer to command the Union Army and instead took command of Virginia’s forces on behalf of the Confederacy. He was later made a General and then General-In-Chief by Jefferson Davis in January 1865. By that April, however, it was clear the South would be defeated. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 rather than lose the lives of any more soldiers.

After the war, Lee supported President Andrew Johnson’s plans for a speedy rebuilding of the Southern states. He spoke out against equal rights for former slaves, saying it would “excite unfriendly feelings between the two races.”

Abraham Lincoln taught himself the law by reading Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. He served in the Illinois House of Representatives and in 1846 was elected to U.S. Congress. He served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives before returning to his law practice.

Lincoln’s concerns about the Kansas-Nebraska Act lured him back into politics. Lincoln challenged its sponsor, Stephen Douglas, in the 1858 race for the Senate. Lincoln lost the election but his performance in debates with Douglas gained him national attention. In 1860 he was elected President of the United States. Upon his election, seven southern states seceded from the Union, and others followed suit. In his First Inaugural Address, he argued that secession was not proper under the Constitution. He cited the Articles of Confederation as creating a “perpetual Union,” furthered by the Preamble’s goal of a “more perfect Union.”

After the fighting began, Lincoln called for the suspension of writs of habeas corpus. This meant rebel fighters could be arrested and held without trial. The case of ex parte Milligan addressed the constitutionality of the suspension of habeas corpus.

As the war continued, Lincoln consulted with Frederick Douglass about conditions faced by Army soldiers. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 announcing that slaves in rebelling states were free and that the Union Army would enforce their freedom. Later that year Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, invoking the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and its promise of equality. At his Second Inaugural Address in March of 1865, the war was coming to an end. Lincoln urged his countrymen to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and called the war God’s punishment to a country that tolerated the evil of slavery. When the Confederate capital of Richmond was captured, Lincoln made the symbolic gesture of sitting at Jefferson Davis‘ desk.

Five days after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April of 1865, Lincoln was assassinated. His Vice President Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. Later that year, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery throughout the nation.

Hiram Rhodes Revels was born a free man in 1827. An ordained minister for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he spent the years of the Civil War recruiting African Americans to fight as well as serving as a chaplain to their regiments. After the war, he moved to Mississippi where he continued to serve as a minister as well as establishing schools for the freed slaves. In 1868 he became involved in politics and served in the Mississippi State Senate where he made a name for himself. At that time the state legislatures selected the U.S. Senators, so in 1870, he was selected as the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress as a Senator. While in the Senate he actively supported amnesty for former Confederates.
Harriet Tubman, an enslaved field hand who could not read, escaped to freedom in 1849. Thirty years of poverty and abuse had left her small body battered and scarred, but her spirit was unstoppable. “There was one of two things I had a right to—liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have the other,” she later said.

Not content with securing her own freedom, Tubman then turned to helping others escape. Although she faced death or re-enslavement if caught, Tubman became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad in the 1850’s. At first, she returned south to rescue her family. Over time, she saved hundreds of slaves. She was clever and gifted at avoiding capture, so successful that she was nicknamed “Moses.” Nineteen times, she made the dangerous 650-mile journey from Maryland to Canada. She was never caught, and “never lost a passenger.” During the Civil War, she became a scout, spy, nurse, and cook. She recruited freedmen to the Union cause, and helped lead raids that freed hundreds more slaves.

With unequaled courage, Tubman pursued liberty for every American, and in doing so became a legend. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, ended slavery forever in the United States.