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Tag: civil war history

The other 13th Amendment

Joint Resolution Proposing a 13th Amendment to the Constitution signed by President James Buchanan, March 2, 1861. National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Joint Resolution Proposing a 13th Amendment to the Constitution signed by President James Buchanan, March 2, 1861. National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government, RG 11.

The year 1861 was a dire one for the United States. In its opening months, five southern states joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union. In the recent 1860 election, the victor Abraham Lincoln hadn’t even appeared on the ballots of a third of the states in the Union. A bloody civil war loomed. In their final hours in office, President Buchanan ¬†and Congress were desperate to preserve the Union, even if it meant preserving the practice of slavery.

On March 2, 1861, two days before leaving office, Buchanan endorsed an amendment to the Constitution that had been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives just weeks before South Carolina seceded. It read:

The following article be proposed to the legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, where ratified by three-fourths of said legislatures, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz:

Article XII. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to

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FHF: The Civil War story of Ben Hur

Union General Lewis Wallace and his bodacious goatee (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 111-B-4095)

Union General Lewis Wallace and his bodacious goatee (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 111-B-4095)

When you think of Ben Hur, your mind probably goes to Charlton Heston riding a chariot around (and around) an arena in the 1959 classic. But what you should be thinking of is Union General Lewis Wallace’s impressive goatee.

Lew not only fought in the Civil War, but authored the novel that is one of the best selling in American history. His work knocked Uncle Tom’s Cabin from its top spot, and surpassed Gone With the Wind when Charlton Heston brought it to the big screen.

But where did a Civil War general get the idea for a formative novel about ancient Rome and the story of Jesus? We might have Ulysses S. Grant to thank for that.

In the epic, a tile falls off the roof of the main character’s house when the new governor, Gratus, is passing by. The tile startles the governor’s horses and Gratus is nearly trampled. Because of this accident, Ben Hur’s childhood friend and now military officer, Messala, condemns Ben Hur to the galleys while his wife and sister are imprisoned. In short, an innocent accident destroys Ben Hur’s life and he is betrayed by an old friend.

Lew Wallace was a young general at the decisive Battle of Shiloh and … [ Read all ]