‘I will fight no more forever’

With 2,000 soldiers in pursuit, Chief Joseph led a band of about 700 Nez Percé Indians—fewer than 200 of whom were warriors, towards freedom—nearly reaching the Canadian border. For over three months, the Nez Percé had outmaneuvered and battled their pursuers traveling some 1,000 miles across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

By the time Chief Joseph surrendered, more than 200 of his followers had died. Although he had negotiated a safe return home for his people, the Nez Percé instead were taken to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In 1879, Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Rutherford Hayes and plead the case of his people. Finally, in 1885, nine years before his death, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to a reservation in the Pacific Northwest—still far from their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.

Library of Congress

Surrendering to Gen. Nelson Miles 138 years ago today, Joseph reportedly said:

Chief Joseph

I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking-glass is dead. Too-hul-hul-suit is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men, now, who say ’yes’ or ’no’. He who led on the young men [Joseph’s brother, Ollicut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people–some of them–have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find;maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever

Or, Alternatively, Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Candlestick

The much disputed Warren Commission Report was issued on this date in 1964. According to the report, the bullets that killed President Kennedy and injured Texas Governor John Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald in three shots from a rifle pointed out of a sixth floor window in the Texas School Book Depository.

The Warren Commission was chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, former Governor of California. It included Senators Richard B. Russell and John Sherman Cooper, House Members Hale Boggs and Gerald R. Ford, and two private citizens with extensive government service, Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy.

“I heard a new CIA joke. Okay: how can we be sure the CIA wasn’t involved in the Kennedy assassination?”
“I don’t know,” said Stone. “How can we be sure?”
“He’s dead, isn’t he?”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Today’s Painting

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy (1940). The original is in the House of Representatives Wing of the U.S. Capitol. 39 of the 55 delegates are pictured — but not the three who did not sign or the 13 who had left the convention. Washington is standing; Franklin seated, turned to face us; Hamilton is directly behind Franklin; Madison is seated to Franklin’s left. The person credited with writing the preamble, Gouverneur Morris, is standing behind and just a little to the left of Hamilton, facing us.

Click image for a much larger version.

America’s Bloodiest Day

“Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure was September 17, 1862. The battle waged on that date, close by Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg in western Maryland, took a human toll never exceeded on any other single day in the nation’s history. So intense and sustained was the violence, a man recalled, that for a moment in his mind’s eye the very landscape around him turned red.”

Stephen W. Sears
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam

The New York Times coverage from 1862 is online.

Antietam gave Lincoln the military victory he needed to issue his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd. It stated that slaves in states or parts of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, would be declared free. The objective of the war had changed.

America’s bloodiest day:

Killed: Union 2,000 Confederate 1,550 Total Killed: 3,650
Wounded: Union 9,550 Confederate 7,750 Total Wounded: 17,300
Missing/Captured: Union 750 Confederate 1,020 Total Missing: 1,770
Total: Union 12,400 Confederate 10,320 Total Casualties: 22,720

As a rule of thumb, about 20% of the wounded died of their wounds and 30% of the missing had been killed (in the days before dog-tags to identify the dead). Accordingly, an estimate of the total dead from the one-day battle: 7,640.

Source: National Park Service

The best single volume on Antietam is Stephen Sears’s Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam.

Best Line of This or Any Other Day

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787

The Appeasement of 1850

California was admitted as the 31st state 165 years ago today (1850).

Admission of California as a free state (that is, no slavery) was the first in the series of five measures known as the Compromise of 1850.

First page of Henry Clay's resolutions
First page of Henry Clay’s resolutions

The second measure organized the New Mexico Territory (which included present-day Arizona), settled the Texas-New Mexico boundary, and paid Texas $10 million to abandon its claims in New Mexico (everything east of the Rio Grande). The act also stated: “That, when admitted as a State, the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.” In other words, slavery in New Mexico would be decided by the people of New Mexico. This became known as “popular sovereignty.”

The third measure was the organization of the Utah Territory (which included Nevada and western Colorado) with an identical provision about slavery.

The fourth was a revised Fugitive Slave Act, amending the law passed in 1793. This act set up commissioners authorized to issue warrants for fugitives and order their return. The commissioners were to receive $10 when the person apprehended was a fugitive slave. They were to receive $5 when they decided he/she was a free person. Fugitives claiming to be freedmen were denied a trial by jury and their testimony was not to be evidence in any of the proceedings under the law. Citizens aiding fugitives could be fined or imprisoned.

The fifth measure was the abolition of the slave trade (but not slavery) in the District of Columbia.

Like most political compromises, there was more for each side to dislike than to like. Slave states disliked California’s admission as a free state. And they disliked the end of the slave trade in D.C., not because it was important but because it demonstrated federal power over any aspect of slavery. Many northerners objected to the Fugitive Slave Act; and many violated it.

And, of course, slavery in the territories became the prime issue of the 1850s, the election of 1860, and coming of the Civil War.

Indeed, was it a compromise at all?

In 1849 and 1850, white Southerners in Congress made demands and issued threats concerning the spread and protection of slavery, and, as in 1820 and 1833, Northerners acquiesced: the slave states obtained almost everything they demanded, including an obnoxious Fugitive Slave Law, enlarged Texas border, payment of Texas debts, potential spread of slavery into new western territories, the protection of the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and the renunciation of congressional authority over slavery. The free states, in turn, received almost nothing (California was permitted to enter as a free state, but residents had already voted against slavery). Hardly a compromise!

Read more: A Proposal to Change the Words We Use When Talking About the Civil War.