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NEWS OF 150 YEARS AGO

March and April of 1860

Before the transcontinental railroad or the transcontinental telegraph, communications between the eastern half of the United States and California was difficult, accomplished either by a slow overland route by wagon or a slow sea route around South America or sometimes with a hazardous overland shortcut across the isthmus of Panama. In April 1860, fast mail service by the Pony Express was instituted by a company founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell that regularly moved mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California in the unheard-of time of only ten days. This created a national sensation, dutifully reported in the press with ringing superlatives.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, April 15, 1860.

Nine Days from California.

Only Eleven Days from San Francisco to St. Louis, direct-Grand Triumph for the Central Route-The Past and Present.

We record to-day one of the grandest triumphs in the annals of American enterprise. The California news presented in extenso to our readers, this morning, was made up in the city of San Francisco expressly for the DEMOCRAT, only a little more than a week ago. It left that city at 4 P. M., on the 3d inst. by steamboat, arrived in Sacramento, the capital of the State on the morning of the 4th, came 27 miles by railroad to Folsom, thence 29 miles by stage coach to Placerville, and thence by relays of horses, 1,800 miles across the continent. Thus it came flying from station to station; (employing thirty-six couriers, and nearly one hundred horses on the trip) to the Missouri river and by railroad to this city. By the free use of the telegraph every city in the Union was at an early hour on Saturday morning placed in possession of news from the Pacific Ocean only ten days old.

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Although Effie Carstang won her first breach of promise suit against Henry Shaw in June 1859, Shaw's appeal won him a new trial, partly on the basis of irregularities involving certain members of the jury. The second trial opened March 9, 1860, to much publicity in the press. The DEMOCRAT reported extensively on the trial, printing complete transcripts of the proceedings beginning on March 20 and trumpeting the fact in its columns that, of course, this was being done at great expense to the newspaper. The second trial ended March 31 with a decision in favor of Mr. Shaw. The DEMOCRAT commented on the result in the following editorial.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, April 2, 1860.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE BREACH OF PROMISE TRIAL.

Our readers will bear witness that for twenty days we have faithfully followed the proceedings in the famous breach of promise trial, which terminated on Saturday evening by a verdict for the defendant. Both the oral testimony and depositions from abroad have been given fuller than ever before attempted by any paper in the West; and though the pressure upon our columns has been enormous, we have succeeded in giving full reports of its progress. The trial is now over, and the retrospect fills the mind of every reader. It has severely tested those who have been concerned nearest, and the judges, jury and counsel are entitled to praise for the unwavering patience manifested at every stage. Had not the zeal of Judge Reber kept the court in session from nine to twelve hours every day, the trial would not have been through for a fortnight hence.

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In 1860, the civil war in Mexico was two years old. The “Reform War”, rooted in conservative and clerical opposition to laws which restricted the power of the Catholic Church and confiscated much of its property, pushed the constitutional government of President Benito Juarez out of Mexico City to an enclave on the coast at Vera Cruz. The conservative military junta produced a series of leaders, the most recent of whom was Miguel Miramón, who assumed power on February 2, 1860. During this time, the United States continued to recognize the Juarez government. In March 1860, Miramón's forces were outside of Vera Cruz. A brief attempt at a peace commission failed, and the battle for the city commenced March 15. Warships of the United States, Great Britain, France and Spain were all anchored off Vera Cruz. Two steamships, outfitted in Havana by the conservatives as men-of-war, sailed past the port without displaying colors. Ships of the U.S. squadron followed them and demanded identification, sending a small boat toward them. One of the conservative ships opened fire on the boat, and the U.S.S. Saratoga returned a broadside. After a brief engagement, U.S. forces boarded and captured both steamers. This caused a furor in the Republican press in the United States, which charged the Democratic Buchanan Administration with conspiracy to provoke a war with Mexico.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, March 22, 1860.

WAR WITH MEXICO.

President Buchanan had at length succeeded in compassing his long cherished design. Actual war now prevails, by his contrivance, between Mexico and the United States. Two Mexican steamers were attacked on the 6th inst. before Vera Cruz, by a portion of the United States Gulf squadron, and captured. Fifteen Mexicans were killed in the encounter. This much and no more can be known from the dispatches, for the news has come from Washington, and the telegraph office there, like some others nearer home, manufacture lies without scruple. Whoever peruses the telegraphic statement will not fail to notice a palpable design on the part of the reporter for the Associated Press, to mislead public opinion and furnish a justification in advance of the conduct of the naval authorities.

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Political humor occasionally found its way into the columns of the DEMOCRAT. This is a representative sample.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, March 9, 1860.

POLITICAL ITEMS.

A Douglas paper tells us that the Little Giant is a “fixed fact.” Well, so are jackasses, on the score that “facts are stubborn things.” - Louisville Journal.

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Baseball was not yet the national pastime, but it was quickly gaining ground as a popular sport. This article enumerates the complete rules of the game of the time, as officially compiled.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, April 26, 1860.

BASE BALL RULES.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

GENTLEMEN.-In addition to the rules and regulations for playing base ball, as adopted by the “United States Convention of Base Ball Players,” I send you a diagram of the field, with the position of each man when engaged in a match. As you expressed yourself desirous of publishing the latest rules of our national game, I thought a diagram of the field would be quite necessary to those unaccustomed to play according to the rules. And I would further state that the United States Convention recognize no playing unless in strict conformity to these rules and regulations.

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1860 was a Presidential election year, and the political conventions began early. The Democratic Convention opened in Charleston, South Carolina, in late April. There was much speculation about who the nominee would be, with Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas being the leading candidate, although he faced determined opposition within his own party.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, April 18, 1860.

THE CHARLESTON CONVENTION-PROBABILITY OF DOUGLAS BEING THE NOMINEE.

Next Monday the great quadrennial Witena gemote of the National Democracy meets in the Capital of Niggerdom. There will be but one question before it-whether Stephen Arnold Douglas shall, or shall not be nominated. The sectional contest within the party will be fought on this alone. Platforms and resolutions of all kinds will be swallowed by the supporters of Douglas, with the same facility with which jugglers swallow, or seem to swallow knives.

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From Charleston.

Mr. Douglas's Prospects Doubtful, &c., &c.

[Special Dispatch to the N. Y. Tribune.]

CHARLESTON, Thursday, April 19, 1860.

All expectation of a great gathering here is now abandoned and there is a general feeling of disappointment at the prospect. The Mills House, which was prepared for over 1,000, has only 100 so far, and other hotels relatively few. The Northwestern delegations are provided for at the Mills House, but sleep at Hibernian Hall, a few yards distant, where 132 cots are spread in a single room.

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, April 24, 1860.

BY TELEGRAPH.

THE CHARLESTON CONVENTION.

Temporary Organization.

LETTER FROM THE WOOD DELEGATION.

CONFUSION AND WRANGLING RAMPANT.

Manager Richardson Exhorts to Peace.

DOUGLAS PROSPECTS REVIEWED.

CHARLESTON, S. C., April 23.-The Democratic National Convention was called to order by Judge Smalley, chairman of the National Committee.

Francis B. Flourney, of Arkansas, was chosen temporary chairman, and returned thanks to the convention for the honor.

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, April 25, 1860.

BY TELEGRAPH.

The Charleston Convention-Reports and Rumors.

CHARLESTON, S. C., April 23.-The city is quiet to-night. There is no public speaking at headquarters. The votes of the delegations to-day are regarded as indicating the nomination of Douglas. All the Douglas delegates voted in favor or the Soft Delegation from New York. The Committee on Credentials will report largely in their favor, and also in favor of the Illinois Douglas Delegates. It is believed the Softs will vote for Douglas. Alabama will demand a slave code, and an effort will be made to ballot for a candidate before the Committee on Platforms reports. The indications are that the Convention will adjourn by Thursday.

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Living beyond one's means is not a new problem in society, as the following article demonstrates. It describes a court case in New Orleans regarding a husband's liability for his wife's purchases.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, April 24, 1860.

WIVES AND THEIR SHOPPING BILLS.

A JUDICIAL BLOW AT FINERY AND FEMALE EXTRAVAGANCE.

[From the New Orleans Delta.]

It has been long observable that in this country, and especially in this city, the wives and daughters of citizens of limited means dress in the style and with the extravagance of millionaires' wives and daughters in other communities. Thus are many worthy citizens ruined, or their noses kept all the while at the grindstone. That amiable weakness of our men, which regard wives and daughters more as ornaments and dolls than as helpmates, companions, and reasonable beings, and extends to them an indulgence in expenditures and extravagance beyond their means, is the source of this very great evil. We cannot so much blame the fair creatures who yield to a weakness, a love of parade, so natural to their sex, and which is so fostered and encouraged by vain-glorious husbands and weak parents. The evil, however, is one which demands reform and correction, and we are neither surprised or indignant to discover that our judges have set to work to arrest this prevailing extravagance.

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