Say What Saturday: Happy Birthday to “U.S.”


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016

“The United States is the only country with a known birthday. All the rest began, they know not when, and grew into power, they know not how. If there had been no Independence Day, England and America combined would not be so great as each actually is.” {1} These words were spoken by Maine resident James G. Blaine (1830-1893) former Speaker of the House of Representatives and United States Senator.

Beginning in 1776 the 4th of July was celebrated with parades and picnics, speeches and toasts with fireworks and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. During the Antebellum, Americans continued to observe the 4th of July but the day could not be celebrated by all. For many living in the nation there was no need to celebrate independence for they lived enslaved as Frederick Douglass reminded the nation on July 5, 1852 in his speech:​

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”
“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” {2}

According to the United States Census in 1860 there were 31,429,891 people living in the country, of which 3,952,838 or 12.58% were slaves. {3} When President Lincoln arrived in Washington he was met with a divided nation and war on the horizon. There were (four) 4th of July’s on the calendar during the Civil War. Depending on where you lived depended on how it was observed.​

Thursday, July 4, 1861 - The Union and Confederate Armies have faced several skirmishes. The City of Boston advertises a “Union Concert” is to be held that morning. Patriotic songs resound throughout the city. “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle” is heard as an all day party is planned including a balloon ascension, a children’s program, a rowing regatta concluding with fireworks. {4} Meanwhile, in the South:​


Friday, July 4, 1862 - The Union Army had high hopes of celebrating this year by occupying the city of Richmond, but it was not meant to be. If anything and with thanks to General George McClellan it’s a tough 4th of July for the North.

After reading an account of the Battle at Gaines’ Mill, Georgia native Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas writes a 4th of July journal entry:​


On the same day “The Philadelphia Inquirer” editorialized - - -​

“Since the Fourth of July last our people have accomplished much, both on land and water. We have driven Rebellion from some of its strongest haunts, and bound it within straitened limits; we have conquered back States to the Union; we have resumed dominion over the Western waters; we have successfully maintained a blockade of unprecedented extent and efficiency; we have held in check the hostility of European powers, by the display of the most formidable military resources, and of a genius which has reconstructed modern naval warfare.” {6}

Saturday, July 4, 1863
- The country was in the thick of fighting with little to no hope of wrapping up the conflict as the armies met in consequential battles in the East and the West. This date also proved a turning point in the celebration of the 4th of July in the South.​


Confederate General John B Gordon remarked of that 4th:
“The shock of Vicksburg was felt from one end of the Confederacy to the other.” {5}

The Richmond Dispatch felt the mood of the changing tide when they wrote on July 5th, the previous celebrating of 4th of Julys had been fueled with “patriotic sentiments of Southerners, and everyone happily honored the nation”. But they added “the day is now changed We have no holiday. The ruthless enemy who has trampled upon every principle and right commemorated by the day itself, given no intermission for festive enjoyments, were we so inclined.” {8}

Monday, July 4, 1864
- Generals Grant and Lee are at a standoff around Petersburg, while General Sherman marches toward Atlanta. Washington City will soon be threatened by Confederate troops. In Pittsburg, the hometown paper reminded their readers that “There will be no celebration, in general or particular, will be observed by every man according to his own mind” {8}.

For one lucky fellow and his lady there was this invitation from the First Regiment North Carolina Union Volunteers’ Fourth of July celebration to be held at Fort Macon, North Carolina.​


On July 5, 1864 the publication “North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder” published the following editorial:​

“Monday was the fourth of July, a proud day for all of us while we claimed the United States for our country. A few years ago it was ushered in with the booming of cannon and the glad huzzas of millions; for it was the anniversary of a nation’s birth and many pleasant associations clustered around it. How great the change which a short time has wrought! Its significance passed away with the government to which we once acknowledged allegiance, and its recurrence in 1864 was scarcely noticed. Weightier concerns press on us now. Along our borders the horrid sounds of war are heard. Loved ones from every household are standing in battle array, or, it may be, engaged in deadly conflict for the preservation of our liberties and the sanctity of our homes. They are contending with the descendants of those who stood shoulder to shoulder with our ancestors in the first great struggle for freedom in America. God grant that our brave boys may win the fight and that the next fourth of July may shine on us a prosperous, free and independent nation.” {10}

Tuesday, July 4, 1865 -
the first 4th of July after the war - a victory for the North; a defeat for the South and understandably celebrations would prove to be difficult for some; euphoric for others. The New Hampshire Sentinel wrote:

“Never before since the birth of the nation, had we so abundant cause for public rejoicings as now. Formerly we rejoiced in a country gained; now, in a country gained and a country saved.” {4}

For the North, remembering their victories of a previous 4th of July at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the day fostered strong patriotic sentiments. Towns celebrated with the reading of the Declaration of Independence along with the Emancipation Proclamation.​

Georgia’s “The Macon Telegraph” summed up Southern thoughts when they wrote on July 4, 1865:​

“our people are in no condition to engage in hilarity and festivity. Where plenty once smiled upon us, we now see the impoverishment and exhaustion resulting from four years war.”

We see the land draped in mourning, the maimed soldier hobbles through the streets, the cry of the widow, and the orphan is heard. Many, very many, sleep their last sleep, and will never again celebrate this anniversary of American independence.”

Vicksburg Mississippi would not celebrate a 4th of July until 1949. It was a holiday that for many Southerners, especially among the whites, equated with the end of the Confederacy. {11}


Not all papers in the South expressed their defeatism as “The Baton Rouge Gazette” wrote of that first 4th after the war:​

“the coming anniversary be celebrated as of old, when Maine and Louisiana gloried in it together and when one people from Lakes to Gulf claimed it as their own.” {11}

The July 5th edition of the “Columbia Daily Phoenix” of South Carolina noted that an officials celebration was organized by blacks and that a smaller group of whites joined them. They concluded it was:

“the duty of the people of the South to accept, and acquiesce in the result, and to submit in good faith to the authority of the United States government.” {11}

In 1863, the father of future United States Associate Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendall Holmes, penned a poem titled “Voyage of the Good Ship Union” {*} and the last words reflected his optimism for the future of the country.​


🎆🎆🎆🎆 🎆

7. “The Destructive War William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”, by Charles Royster
{*} “Competing Visions of America: The Fourth of July During the Civil War. Thesis by Jared Jefferson Bond; Virginia Tech”
Oliver Wendell Holmes entire poem - -
All Photos Public Domain


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

The introduction and preamble (for entire document source #1)

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”


January 1, 1863
By the President of the United States of America:
A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.