Chase’s Speech to the Blacks of Charleston

In May 1865, Chief Justice Salmon Chase visited the southern states to see for himself their condition. The civil war was almost over, it was clear that the southern states would rejoin the United States, but the terms on which they would join were not clear. In particular, it was not clear whether the federal…

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Salmon Chase and Memorial Day

Memorial Day originated after the Civil War, as communities gathered at this time of year to honor those who had died in the War. In late May 1869, Chief Justice Salmon Chase received a letter from South Carolina, inviting him to speak at a cemetery there. He responded as follows: “Your note inviting me to…

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Lincoln, Baltimore and the Black Laws

I was watching Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch last night, talking about their great new book, The Lincoln Conspiracy, on which I provided some research help. Brad lamented our tendency to worship people like Lincoln, saying that this prevents us from seeing Lincoln as a person, one who made some mistakes as well as did…

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Chase and Gettysburg, Part 2

Many of my Civil War friends gather every November in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the Lincoln Forum. It is a wonderful event: a mix of book talks, panel discussions and performances. It is a chance to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. I have been consistently impressed by the level of historical…

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Chase Previews Gettysburg

A month before Lincoln gave his great speech at Gettysburg, in November 1863, Chase gave a good speech, although much longer, at Indianapolis. Chase had traveled from Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio, to vote in the state election there, in favor of the Union ticket. On the day after the Ohio election, Chase went by train…

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Chase and the Coronavirus

I am fortunate that most of what I do, researching and writing about Chase, I can do from home, while we are quasi-quarantined here because of the coronavirus. One thing that I cannot do is go to a library to check a letter, so I am having to make some educated guesses about what letters…

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Seward in the Grand Canyon

My wife Masami and I are just back from four great days in the Grand Canyon. We joined an REI Adventures group, two guides and seven guests, walking down to the bottom of the Canyon, spending two nights at the Phantom Ranch, then walking back up on the fourth day. My wife Masami, once again,…

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Lincoln’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. A few thoughts on the day. Often, in my books, I “chip away” at bits of the Lincoln legend. For example, in early December 1861, Lincoln was surprised when the report of Simon Cameron, his secretary of war, argued for using the former slaves as…

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Chase and McDowell

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Secretary Chase was responsible for placing General Irvin McDowell in command of the Union forces in northern Virginia in 1861. Even Wikipedia accepts this. The Wikipedia page for McDowell states that he “was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on May 14, 1861, and was given…

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Chase DV

A brief progress report on my biography of Salmon Chase. I have now completed thirteen chapters, about 113,000 words. I just finished 1859, so I have only a few years left, until his death in 1873. But the next few years, the Civil War, were busy ones, so those chapters will be longer than the…

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