Monthly Archives: April 2015

The End of April 1865

The Lowell Courier has been my main source of information for the reaction of the people of Lowell, who lost many soldiers on the Union side, in the War Between the States. If it is true, as is written in John Quincy Adams’ statement to the Supreme Court, that there was little choice but going to war over slavery, then the war was fought by a Lincoln who had to protect slavery in the four states that did not secede. If the war was fought over secession, then a whole new luster is placed on our efforts. The statements of the President often seemed to state that the war was over secession, not slavery. But, right in the middle of this anamoly was the 13th. Amendment banning slavery. So, the war was fought over both of these issues.

Lincoln said, in his first Inaugural Address:

“Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.” (1st. Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

It was obvious that anarchy and despotism was not something that this President was going to tolerate. The war was going to be fought partially over secession, which was totally inadmissible in this President’s eyes, and slavery as the secondary issue.

So, where was Lowell in this fight. Right in the middle of it. Lowell sent more men per household percentage, than other cities in the Commonwealth. Our favorite citizen, Benjamin Butler, delivered so many men to Governor Andrew that he was appointed a General in the Army. He was destined to not be very effective, but he was also destined to be looked upon affectively. He was partially loved by the people of Lowell.

Between April 22, 1865 and May 1, 1865, there was still some fighting by Confederates who did not belong to Lee’s beloved Army of Northern Virginia. They were, more or less, guerilla fighters. They fought for Jeb Stewart and fought the Army forces of William Tecumseh Sherman.

On April 24, 1865, the Courier noted that the “Mob spirit, when excited, is dangerous in all countries and expecially so in a free country. The only salvation or safety of this country, under God, is in the supremacy of the law and the law can only be excuted by its chosen officers.” (Page 2) Speaking about Lincoln, the newspaper stated that, “No unworthy spirit of revenge ever found a pace in his heart; there was manifested in his life no want of courage, manliness, vigor, or sense of justice; but all these were tempered with a mildness, kindness, and friendliness toward all the people of the country. (Ibid) It then compared his pull on the heartstrings to be like George Washington’s. “…others, under the excitement of the moment, interpret the death of Mr. Lincoln as a visitation of Divine Providence upon him because his policy was not sufficiently severe upon the rebels.” (ibid)

Upon his death, there were those who said that Andrew Johnson would be harder on the rebels than Abraham Lincoln and that was to be a good thing. That is exactly what the newspaper was alluding to; and the argument did not necessarily fall upon deaf ears. Some people wanted to exact revenge. Lincoln had said in his Second Inaugural Address, “With malice towards none.” Some peope wanted malice.

The Lowell Courier continued to print the first page full of advertisements, most dealing with lotions and spirits designed to cure any illness. Again, Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court justice and a medical doctor, stated that all medicines extant at that period of time could be loaded onto a ship and sunk at sea and no harm would come to those people who took that medicine. The paper also had a huge obituary for the Honorable George S. Boutwell, who died on April 19th, 1865. It was quite an obituary.

Returning to Lincoln, in the Boutwell obituary it said, “He recognized the obligation to return fugitives from slavery, and it was no part of his purpose to interfere with slavery in the States where it existed…His purpose was the supression of the rebellion.” (April 27, 1865). Negro troops made a spirited fight with guerillas along a line. They drew fire from four forts. They were in the zone in forty five minutes “This was a sight seldom seen in a lifetime before this bloody war. Generals Andrew and Steele were among the killed.” In small skirmishes the war continued on. Not all of the Confederates immediately laid down their arms. “Do not know where we are to go, but were put under marching orders at one o’clock.” (ibid)

The “Montreal Gazette” stated on April 25th. that the “opinion…(is)…that when the Confederates get their 300.000 slave soldiers in the field, fighting for freedom, they will astonish the Federals. We think so too.” (April 25, 1865) On April 27, 1865, the Courier again took the time to welcome less than benevolent treatment of the Confederate States by Andrew Johnson. Specifically, it said that we tender “…to Andrew Johnson…our cordial and hearty support in the discharge of the duties charge to him in the dispensation of Providence have so suddenly devolved upon him.” (ibid.) In the same page, under another headline, we learn by Telegraph
“J. Wilkes Booth Killed.” Apparently, he hid in a barn in St. Mary’s County, Maryland and was fired upon by Colonel Baker’s forces. His companion, named Harold, was captured and Booth was reportedly killed. “The body of Booth and Harold are now in Washington.” (ibid)

On Friday, April 28, 1865, the Lowell Preacher Dr. Davis cited that it was difficult making sense of worldly news, especially when it was as heavy-hearted as the death of a beloved President. “Nothing can be accomplished in the way of right progress, without calm consideration,” he said.

He continued, “The first state of mind was surprise.” Then the imagination takes over and envisions the dark telegraph story. “Down leaps th murderous Booth and flies across the stage, while the screams of the wife draws all attention to the iron ball…” (ibid). Our nation stands not in a President, it has survived the death of a Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, and it will outlive the violent death of President Lincoln.” He wished that Lincoln could have seen the triumph of his cause.

We were about to take ourselves to glory, he says, and not give the glory to God. The April 29th. and 30th. editions speak of a typhus scare. They are worried about a mosquito-borne disease. They do note the surrender of Confederate guerilla General Johnston. The war is finally over.

Other issues divided the country and still do. Patriot’s Day is celebrated only in Massachusetts, while Jefferson-Jackson Day is celebrated in the South. Jefferson and Jackson were both noted slaveholders. Slaves were emancipated but did not know what to do or where to go. Congress began the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March, 1865, before the end of the war. You could take advantage of the Homestead Act and garner Forty Acres and a Mule, to allow you to farm your own forty acres. The Freedman’s Act gave out 17 million dollars in food and clothing to worthy Caucasians and African Americans. It was an amount unheard of up to that time.

That is where Lowell was at the end of the Civil War, which really ended with the surrender of General Johnston. Lowell looked forward to re-establishing its cotton cloth-making mills in the future. By the 1880’s, the steam driven power looms would replace the canal-run looms. Soon, the south would take over its manufacturing of its own cloth, signalling the end of an era in Lowell. World Wars would keep the looms running through the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. A trolley and bus strike, augmented by the use of the automobile, would end organized labor in Lowell’s mills. They would become historic by the 1970’s, when Paul Tsongas, a little-known Congressman from Lowell would make them into the first Urban National Park.

The Case for One High School

I am a firm believer in Lowell High School. It is where I studied and graduated. It prepared me for extremely good grades in my Bachelor’s Degree and my Master’s Degree at UMass-Lowell. Because I went to Lowell High School I met a number of interesting people, including the late Senator Paul Tsongas, U.N. Undersecretary General F. Bradford Morse, and Dr. Patrick Mogan, who served as our past School Superintendent. I acted in plays in that school. We did plays that other high schools would not touch, such as “Tom Jones,” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” as well as “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” I met many interesting people in that school, many of whom became good friends. Senior Class President Michael Viggiano stood out as did Bill Lekites, who ended up running the air force of the United Parcel Service (UPS). Jim Neary was a good friend. Most of the preparation for my life was done in my three years at LHS. I have more than a passing interest in what is being promoted as a move towards educational excellence through the expansion of the current high school.

My interest in LHS did not end with my graduation from the high school. My interest in the school continues on to this day. I taught there for fifteen years until medical problems caused me to retire. In that time, I learned about a variety of things. I learned that so called “Business” students were interested in being prepared for college. I learned that a large influx of foreigners could not grind the school to a halt, but rather raise the school to new heights by preparing people with a very limited English background to acheive great success. I learned that there was tolerance in this city for people who were not even “blow-ins” (which I certainly was) but immigrants. I learned to love to teach American History to people who had just arrived in America. I learned how to help deal with a student who lost a parent in an horrific accident and had to deal with a new life without that parent.

My Freshman year, I was in Harvey, Illinois, attending a large high school in an integrated city. The high school had over five thousand students, making it much larger than Lowell High School. We had problems, and things got really difficult when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. We moved from a high school that was over forty percent minority to one, LHS, that was largely Irish and Greek in inclination. My brother was so bored, that he studied like crazy and soared to the top of his class at LHS. I was not bored, I was challenged by my relationship with my father, School Superintendent Dr. Wayne R. Peters, to make the high school large enough to house the many people, over two thousand at that time, who studied there. At the high school, I was not a good student, but I was good enough to get into Lowell State College, and I was well-prepared by the high school to excel at LSC.

After spending my time at Lowell State College, I got the nod to write the headline story for the college newspaper, “The Advocate,” to write the main story about the formation of the university. At the time, we did not know whether it was going to be Lowell State University or the University of Lowell. My degree, as I was in the first graduating class of the university, was from the University of Lowell. That was awarded in 1976. John Duff was the President of the University. We had presidents then.

As a teacher at Lowell High School, I had the most difficult classes. They were largely Business students, students whose study habits would see them having a difficult time outside of the menial section of the business world. Vocational students attended the Lowell Trade School. Business students graduated and were expected to take the most menial of jobs. We educated them, but we did not prepare them. At least, that was my thought. I sat on a committee dealing with “tracking,” as it was called, which voted to remove the “Business” label and teach College and Honors students. That happened early in my tenure at the high school.

So, I taught College bound students. With the assistance of the Memorial Library staff, we put somewhere around four hundred books on History, Politics, and Social Studies on stacks in my room. Any student who found an interesting book there could take the book and read it and not bring it back. It was their book to keep. This was designed to start the students forming their own bookshelves at home.

In my first years at the high school, I was teaching what we called “Communications,” which was really an English class. My Master’s Degree was in English, so that was fine. Then I got moved into History, which was my hobby and avocation. I got classes that had more and more Southeast Asian students. I had to make the school day interesting to those students, so I tried my best. Souvanna Pouv of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, still calls me “Mr. Peters,” so I guess I had some respect somewhere there. Recently, on one of the television shows I produce “This Town’s Character,” Bopha Malone asked Souvanna why he did not call me “Jim.”

“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” he said.

I learned more from the students than they ever learned from me. I learned about respecting the individual, promoting a work ethic, and loving a course of study. I learned that Lowell absorbed thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Thailand immigrants who looked at you with expectation and the hope of a promise. I learned that my own children would embrace the differences between their friends and give back more than they ever took. I learned all that from the students, both Asian and Caucasian. It was a lesson that I learned well.

Now, we have a responsibility to all of the students at and coming to the high school. That responsibility is to build them a school that promises what this city always promised, to give our students the right to graduate with high expectations in the Math and Sciences; the Languages; History and the Social Sciences, and other areas of interest to them. If we build two schools, will there have to be busing to handle the fact that a great many students will be minorities from the various sections of city? Will we be in compliance with state regulations at a separate but equal level? Is there such a thing as “Separate but Equal, in our planning for the new school?

Lowell High has always worked because it integrated the Irish with the English, the French Canadians with the Irish, the Greeks with everyone else, and the Southeast Asians with the populace. Its saving grace is in its diversity. We have to be careful to maintain that diversity as we go forward. The building of a high school needs to be done at one level, that level being the one that educates the greatest number of students with an eye towards integration. We cannot build two high schools. That would pull apart what Lowell has been so successful at acheiving, a greatness because of our diversity. Integration of separate cultures as part of our code of honor.

Lowell needs one high school. LHS should be left standing. All of my children are graduates of Lowell High School, so I practice what I preach. It needs to be built as an adjacent building to the existing high school. The only way I see that happening is building it on the site of the past Merrimack Mills, which is the headquarters for the Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank. That would put it next to the Riverview Towers but also next to the Merrimack River. That would be the least expensive, even if we have to buy out the bank, option. Somewhere, especially at Cawley Stadium, we would have to buy out all of those lienholders who have businesses near the baseball and soccer fields. That would be extremely expensive.

The trick to understanding education is that there is little that really significantly changes over the years. True, some people do invent wonderful inventions and open up new areas of opportunity. However, the words used to describe an educational innovation seldomly are altered. In 1836, Lowell’s School Superintendent required teachers to give up their Saturdays to study “White’s Pedagogy.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, pedagogy is just a fancy word for teaching. Why do we demand that new words describe old actions? Education is nothing if not a study of the obvious. We think we know more than the teachers because we went to school. The teachers make up new words and rules, more phrases and degrees, to separate themselves from the basics of teaching. Those Saturday classes could probably have been shortened by allowing the teachers to interact together and determine what drives Johnny to learn.

Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence” together. But, they disagreed on just what education was about. Jefferson saw it as an academic exercise, while Benjamin Franklin saw it as a vocational exercise. We still argue about those goals two hundred plus years later. Some parents and teachers define education in terms of vocational goals, while some see it as something to make you “think.” It is academic. I have a large library. It contains approximately three thousand books. I picked

a few to make a point. In “The Qualitative School” Duane Manning says “In what other way can mathematics become a part of people’s lives to the degree that a modern technical society demands?” (1963) Sound familiar? Content validity was just as important in 1963 as it is in 2015. What we need to know, I believe, is to what extent we are reteaching, and to what extent people learn. Louis Armstrong sings that we will never know what young children will know. He may be right. The question we have to ask is what degree is comfortable. Education is a well-taught and well-thought-out topic that we will study the way Jefferson and Franklin did hundreds of years ago. The technology changes, but the basics of learning, and the need for greater learning stay basically the same. Let’s support the professionals who donate so much of their time to learning how to teach. And, let’s not repeat ourselves ad nauseum. Parents need to be active in their children’s learning, how we do it will help decide how we rebuild Lowell High School.

Lowell Happenings, April 1865

Abraham Lincoln’s “long term goals remain as fixed as a rock: end the war and revive the Union. {Jay Winik; April, 1865, the Month That Saved the Union; Page 211.} Lincoln’s own people did not agree with him when it came to how to save the Union. There were Senators and Representatives who wanted there to be voting only for the African Americans. “True, there were fleeting moments of cooperation. He and the Radicals had happily collaborated on Lincoln’s boldest stroke, the historic Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery forever.” {ibid} In Lowell, the news was about a black (colored, African American, etc.) robber named Woodbine. The headline for the day was “Victory, Union, Liberty.” {Lowell Courier, Pg. 2}.

This was the news for April 11, 1865…They, the citizens of Lowell, had a Lowell party to celebrate the end of hostilities. The “Old Lowell Brass Band,” was stationed in the gallery. Many woman came. A Mr. Webber remarked to the paper that “Their capitol is hell for we read that the spirits of the wicked are turned into hell.” {Ibid} The governor, Mr. Felton named the twentieth as a day of festivities and a day of Thanksgiving.”

On April 12, 1865, the President shared a dream he had with his Cabinet. In the dream he (Mr. Lincoln), heard muffled crying and going down to the East Room in the dream, saw a casket with a body in it. He asked one of the guards who was in the casket and the guard told him that the President had been murdered and he was in the casket. When his wife Mary Todd Lincoln cried out that that was too horrible to think about, Lincoln put on his game face and said, “Mary, it is only a dream.”

On April 13th., the paper said that there was some question on the statehood of Louisiana and a caution “to the colored man” to wait for his right to vote. Lincoln, at this time, was more interested in putting the Union back together than he was getting the vote for the “colored man.”

In his Second Inaugural Address, which was considered his best speech after the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had admonished the crowd with the observation that slavery might be around until 1900. This flew in the face of the 13th. Amendment, which still had to be passed.

On April 14th. 1865, Lincoln would be shot in the back of the head by a man who remains a mystery to this day. Did John Wilkes Booth act alone, and if so, how did he know that the only bridge that was open on that night was the 14th. Avenue bridge? How did he know that that was the only bridge that he could take to fashion an escape. Many Unionists and Americans believed that he was part of a conspiracy. Lincoln would die on the 15th. of April, 1865. After his death, Edwin Stanton, whose behavior in his office would become exceedingly strange, was the one to offer the first words of a strange goodbye. Secretary Welles, who had noticed that the body was laid out diagonally because it was too big for the bed, said,
“On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred colored people mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss.” {“Growth of the American Republic; Morison and Commager; 1962}

There is no page of the Courier for the 13th., 14th., and 15th. Those pages did exist when as a student in high school, I looked up on the original books of newspapers dated April 15, 1865. It seems in the processes of saving valuable literature, the pieces were missing. There is no explanation on the microfilm for their absence.

Nothing remains of the 17th. either. On the 18th., the newspaper read, “We regret that we are unable to announce the apprehension of the murderer of Mr. Lincoln. Although several persons suspected of having knowledge of it are under arrest are under arrest in Washington.” {Winik} The newspaper goes on to say that a hole was cut in the wood box so Mr. Lincoln’s body could be seen.” “The seats and chairs were also arranged to the best advantage for the assassin.” In other words, John Wilkes Booth’s way was made easier by someone intent on killing the President on that day.

Governor Andrew, who had been governor throughout most of the Civil War, gave an address, the newspaper read. “Abrham Lincoln, President of the United States, is no more…in happy recognition of the triumphant victories just received of the rebel armies of Virginia.” “The memory of the generation to which we belong. The great man, the good President, the fortunate head of the Union, had died.” On April 19th. the newspaper read, “Yesterday the public were admitted to the White House to look upon the remains of President Lincoln for the last time.” {Courier, Pg. 2}

Sarratt was arrested and admitted to being the author of the letter called “Sam” found in the Wilkes Booth box.

They formed a prayer for President Andrew Johnson. “With malice towards one…” was defined as malice “It could not desroy the government or overturn the State, but it could assassinate the individual.” {ibid. Pg.2}

The other news of the day was that the Nashua Telegraph was being put up for sale. Life would go on. Secretary Seward, who had been stabbed, was sitting up for fifteen minutes and having some soup.

April 19th., which was supposed to be the day that the Ladd and Whitney Monument was dedicated, was just another day of mourning for the dead President. It is a good place to stop. The churches of the city, which I wrote about earlier, each remembered the President in their own way. I will list those services in the next installment.

Lowell Happenings in April, 1865 (part 2)

The Confederate Army was far from finished at the beginning of the month of April, 1865. In fact, it was said that they had “some of the finest fighting men in all the history of warfare.” Lee was encircling Richmond and St. Petersburg and met with the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, to exact a pledge, on April 1, 1865, to allow his forces to join with General Johnson in the hills of South Carolina and carry out a war that would today be called a “guerilla war.” He knew his men were too tired, unfed, and without supplies to make it from day to day. A guerilla war seemed the way to progress, if indeed they could. Jefferson Davis was for the plan, but wanted to protect Richmond from the million men that U.S. Grant had at his disposal.

Lee still had four armies in the field. The end of the war struck President Abraham Lincoln as being a long way off. The fall of Richmond saw the torching of part of the city, not by the invaders, but by the citizens. Abraham Lincoln was anxious to get to Richmond as soon as he could and he took a boat to its shore. Jefferson Davis had left for Petersburg. The southern equivalent of the White House was still in good condition and could be used for meetings, and the like, if President Lincoln wanted to do so.

In Lowell, April 1, 1865, General Benjamin Butler of Lowell told the press that he did not want to leave New Orleans because “It is altogether the greatest southern city I have ever visited. The New York Tribune is quoted in the Lowell “Courier” as saying that President Lincoln (should) issue a proclamation assuring the rebels that they can have quiet submission by obeying the laws.” The law stated that a southern citizen could take an oath of allegiance to the United States and keep his property and farm. Many southerners took the oath.

In the meantime, the cash-strapped Union was floating bonds to fund the war. On April 4, 1865, in Lowell, the “Courier” reported that over 100,000 watches (yes, timepieces) …(were) to be sold at one dollar each without regard to value.” This generous offer was being made by Geo. Demerit and Co. of 303 Broadway Street in New York, NY. Its pertinence is that the “Courier” still ran advertisements on its front page and war news elsewhere in the newspaper. It is an aside.

On Page 2 of the same day it was observed that “We fought not to enslave people but to liberate them from bondage, to place them on an equal footing with ourselves.” {Courier, April 4, Page 2} Elsewhere in the article on the war they listed the demise of “General Potter, who is reported mortally wounded.” Some news was fit to print.

It was also reported that we took 4,000 prisoners and 20 artillery pieces from Confederate General James Longstreet. Longstreet had played a pivotal role in the Battle of Gettysburg. Heading on to April 5, 1865, General Banks created a “Board of Education for freedmen.” Education of slaves had heretofore been forbidden by the Southerners. {Courier, April 5, 1865, Page 2}

On Page 1, “Sasta’s Pulmonic Balsam” for all diseases of the throat, lungs, and chest, was offered for sale.

On April 6, 1865, in Richmond, Mr. Winthrop was quoted as saying, “God bless President Lincoln. I believe that Presidents Washington and Lincoln would rank as the greates men of the country.” Quite a statement for a Richmond resident and Southerner.

Things were not going well for the Confederate Army. They were supposed to intercept a train full of food, but all it had on it were clothes for the men, and gunpowder. They used these items as best they could, but the southern retreat was rife with the dead bodies of soldiers who had starved to death. Lee decided to stop eating so he would suffer like his men. {The Wartime Papers of R.E. Lee; Bramwall House}

Things would get worse for Lee. On Friday, April 7, 1865, “The news of the death of his son, W.H.F. Lee, in the battles, has been received.” {Courier} Lee found himself surrounded by Grant’s armies, and was forced to exact some sort of possible surrender to General Grant. On April 9, 1865, Lee met with his generals and made a decision that was the rejoining of the states in the North and South. His generals wanted to continue guerilla warfare, but Lee, being a statesman as well as a military leader, pursued a two day effort to come to grips with how he would surrender to Grant. Guerilla warfare would have greatly exacerbated the bloodshed and the need to keep Northern troops in the field. Surrender, which must have been difficult for Lee, was what he saw as his only option.

At this moment in history, Lowell had 36,785 men, women, and children living in the confines of the city. Over 500 men had died from Lowell and are listed in the Memorial Library. A great many men died in the war from the city, One person who died in the second day at Gettysburg is buried in the Lowell Cemetery not far from U.S. Senator Paul E. Tsongas. Another, who died early in the fighting was a victim of disease at Anderson State Prison, He is buried in approximately the same area of the cemetery. But the two best known were Ladd and Whitney who were supposed to be honored on April 19, 1865 in land near the Smith Baker Center, which was then the Universalist Church in downtown Lowell. Because of Abraham Lincoln’s death, their dedication occured on Bunker Hill Day, instead.

But, I digress. According to Lowells newspapers, on April 8, 1865, the paper said that “…among those rights we can never rcogize (is) the right of secession.” One day before the surrender of the Army of Virginia by Robert E. Lee, “Another Washington dispatch says Sherman’s column is again in motion and it is beieved Johnston will not attempt to hold Raleigh, but retreat ito the interior.” {The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee} Again, the paper was beset with the news of many miraculous medicines for virtually every sort of ailment.

On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Men on both sides threw aside their weapons and celebrated with one another. {April, 1865, Winik} Lowell’s celebration included many church services which will be outlined in our April 10, 1865 missive. The celebrations were incredible and deserve to be listed, by church. I will do that in the next installment.