Wednesday April 17


An ordinance of secession is adopted by the Virginia convention (the vote is 88 to 55). Joy reigns in the streets for the secessionists. "The sign, in gilt letters, -United States Court, - over the north entrance to the Custom House, was taken down and broken in pieces by the populace.."


from Sandburg's The War Years

One afternoon after Lincoln had issued his call for troops, he sat alone in this room, and a feeling came over him as if he were utterly deserted and helpless. He thought any moderately strong body of secessionist troops, if there were any in the neighborhood, might come over the 'long bridge' across the Potomac, and just take him and the members of the Cabinet - the whole lot of them. Then he suddenly heard a sound like the boom of a cannon. 'There they are!' he said to himself. He expected every moment somebody would rush in with the report of an attack. The White House attendants, whom he interrogated, had heard nothing. But nobody came, and all remained still.

Then he thought he would look after the thing himself. So he walked out, and walked, and walked, until he got to the Arsenal. There he found the doors all open, and not a soul to guard them. Anybody might have gone in and helped himself to the arms. There was perfect solitude and stillness all around. Then he walked back to the White House without noticing the slightest sign of disturbance. He met a few persons on the way, some of whom he asked whether that had not heard something like the boom of a cannon. Nobody had heard anything, and so he supposed it must have been a freak of his imagination.




On the morning of the 17th, an election of regimental officers was held. Lieut. Col. Timothy Munroe, of Lynn, was elected Colonel, and, the office of Major being vacant, Adjutant E. W. Hinks, of Lynn, Lieut. Col.; Lieut. Andrew Elwell, of Co. G (Gloucester), was chosen Major. The men were furnished with overcoats, and, as far as possible, with knapsacks and haversacks.

A soldier in the Newburyport company writes home:

[from Barlow letters (USAMHI)]

Dear Ellen

We are In Boston But Expetc [Expect] To Go To Washington To Day. Kiss The Children For me Tel(l) mother To keep up good Spirits. Give my Love To All.

I may Be Gone 3 months ?There Days?. From your Husband,

April 17, 1861 (from Boston)

Joseph Barlow

P.S. I Shall go and See Sar(a)h (?) If I Can.

Governor Andrew finally decides to appoint Benjamin F. Butler to the command of the brigade then forming. There was another choice - Brig. Gen. Ebenezer W. Pierce of Assonet Village. Although it was apparent to most that Butler was the better choice militarily, Andrew vacillated because Butler was also Breckenridge Democrat. A fact that did not rest easy with Republican Andrew. Butler receives the appointment at 10 am.

Butler set up his HQ at the State House, and there set about preparing the troops for War Dept orders. The 6th and 8th Regiments were ordered to Washington; 3rd and 4th to Fortress Monroe.

A telegram arrived from Sec'y of War

"Send [them] by railroad; they will arrive quicker, the route through Baltimore is now open."


The Salem Light Infantry receive their marching orders. They are detached from the 7th Regiment and are assigned to the 8th Regiment, and redesignated as Company J (they had been Co. A), to function as the right flank company of skirmishers.

In the evening, 30 more recruits are voted in, one of whom is Edward T. Osgood, my ancestor.