This Week in History

Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation: September 22, 1862

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. Read the post to which this is a continuation.

“God bless you and all with you,” wrote Lincoln to McClellan after the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam). “Destroy the rebel army if possible.” But September passed, and McClellan still did not pursue Lee. On October 1, Lincoln ordered McClellan to pursue Lee. McClellan obeyed — but only after another 18-day delay.

“The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

Though not a decisive victory, the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) was still a victory for the North; McClellan had held the field while Lee retreated. It was for just such a victory that Lincoln had been waiting — “God,” he said, “had decided in favor of the slaves.” On September 22 he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation:

On the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free. (more…)

This Week in History

Napoleon III’s Waterloo — Sedan: September 2, 1870

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here. Read the post for which this story is a continuation.

Emperor Napoleon III

Napoleon III had been assured that the French army was well prepared for war, but this was untrue. The French army was in a deplorable condition, and the attempts to mobilize it were filled with mishaps. The men, moreover, were badly equipped and poorly trained. They were in no condition to meet what had become the most disciplined army in Europe, under the best military commander of the day— General Moltke.

The French placed 200,000 men at the city and fortress of Metz in Lorraine and another 100,000 at Strasbourg, in Alsace. From these two cities (called the gateways to Germany), the French thought they would invade Germany. The Prussians for their part had three armies (together numbering 424,000 men), with which they planned to force their way through the “gateways” of Metz and Strasbourg into France.

The Prussian strategy had been so well planned that the German armies moved with the precision of a machine. By mid August, the Prussians forced the French general, Marshal Patrice de Mac-Mahon, to abandon Strasbourg and withdraw from most of Alsace. On August 18, another Prussian army defeated Marshal Achille François Bazaine at Gravelotte in Lorraine and forced him to take refuge in the fortified town of Metz. Though the French fought bravely through several bloody battles, their lack of preparation brought them defeat after defeat at the hands of the Prussians. (more…)

This Week in History

Birth of a Wayward Cardinal:

September 9, 1585

The following comes from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For more information on this and our other texts, please click here.

Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu, by Philippe de Champagne

As long as the Huguenots held political and military power in France, they remained a real threat to the peace and unity of the kingdom. No one, king or Catholic nobleman, had found a solution to the Huguenot problem. In 1624, however, the king appointed Cardinal Richelieu to be prime minister. It was the able and energetic Richelieu who finally ended the religious wars in France and set the stage for the establishment of a strong French kingdom, united under its sovereign.

Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu was born September 9, 1585, the third son of a minor nobleman. When Armand was only five, his father died, leaving his estates nearly bankrupt. Through Armand-Jean’s mother’s influence, in 1605 King Henry IV named the young Richelieu bishop of Luçon, a diocese near La Rochelle that was controlled by the Richelieu family. Richelieu was both pious and ambitious. Intent on making his diocese both holy and orderly, he was the first bishop in France to implement the reforms of Trent. But Richelieu was ruthless and single-minded in the pursuit of his policies, and he believed intensely not only in God, but France.