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The Civil War Month by Month: Mar 1861

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.

March 1861

This Month's Events

  • 3 March. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard receives orders from Jefferson Davis to plan on attacking Fort Sumter which is on an island in the harbor of Charleston. The next day he is made a Confederate brigadier general.

  • 4 March. Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as President of the United States.

  • 4 March. The Confederate convention at Montgomery adopts an official flag with seven stars and three stripes. However, in the chaos of battle, this flag will be too easily confused with the Stars and Stripes. The Confederate army then adopts a "battle flag" with the Cross of Saint Andrew and stars; this flag is what most people visualize when we hear "Confederate flag".

  • 9 March. The Confederate convention passes a bill authorizing the issuing of currency.

  • 11 March. The Confederate constitution is adopted.

  • 11 March. David Schenck of Lincoln County, North Carolina, soon to be a delegate to the Secession Covention, writes in his diary, "Every hour and day brings some startling news... Men, women and children look anxiously for the mails and fireside conversation is confined to the great issue of the day -- "Will there be Civil War?"" (Schenk's diaries are now in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC, Chapel Hill.)

  • 21 March. In Savannah, Alexander Stephens, vice-president of the Confederacy, makes a speech which will become known as the "Cornerstone Speech". He describes aspects of the new Confederate constitution, declaring, "So, taking the whole new constitution, I have no hesitancy in giving it as my judgment that it is decidedly better than the old." On the issue of slavery, he says, "But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. ... Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition."

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Abe : a novel, by Richard Slotkin. pub. 2000, 478 p. Slotkin's young Abe Lincoln may owe something to Twain's Huck Finn and his trip down the great Mississippi, but it owes far more to Slotkin's own fine wit and inventiveness as well as years of research into American frontier life. Novels about revered historical figures are notoriously difficult to bring to life, being chained to plausibility and to a story line already too well known. Slotkin's Lincoln, traced from a toddler of two to a muscular 23 embarking on his first campaign for public office, is funny, robust, a rough and tumble lad of the frontier who longs to live on a greater stage--an idea planted in him by a few treasured books.

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Abraham Lincoln, by George McGovern, pub. 2009, 184 p. In this compact but convincing portrait, McGovern assesses Lincoln's greatness in terms of his ability to use his humble origins, empathy, keen sense of justice, uncommon skill in seeing the essence of an issue, faith in American democracy, gifts of language, and personal self-confidence-all to become a masterly lawyer, a party leader, commander in chief, and a heroic figure with both the vision and the practicality to realize his purposes. McGovern breaks no new interpretive ground here, but he knows the recent scholarship well enough and kneads it into his book.

Reminiscences of peace and war, by Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, pub. 1904, 402 p. Sara Pryor was a Virginian. Married to a pre-war Congressman, who left to support the Confederacy, became a brigadier general, and then resigned to become a private (!), she followed her husband throughout the war. Her memories, written when she was in her 70s, describe pre-war Washington, life in the army camps, the hospitals in Richmond, and such incidents as a bread riot in Richmond.

Children's Nonfiction

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