On this day in 1864 … what didn’t happen? Ulysses S. Grant, after stalemating for weeks around Cold Harbor, finally managed to swing his army around Robert E. Lee‘s flank and down to Petersburg — where on this day, the ten-month campaign that included digging trenches and blowing up mines finally began.
Same day, the U.S. Quartermaster General officially designed the area around the former Lee mansion Arlington House as a military cemetery. This didn’t sit well with Mrs. General Lee, who once had flirted with abolitionism but by war’s end railed against the “theft, murder & arson” of Yankee troops. (In 1882, the Supreme Court partially agreed with her, ruling that Arlington had been seized improperly.)
And finally, on this same day in 1864 Abe Lincoln ordered the arrest of one of West Virginia‘s Founding Fathers on suspicion of treason. The story of Senator John S. Carlile complicates what you’ve always heard about West Virginia — that it broke off from Virginia over a disagreement about slavery. And yet Carlile, who shepherded the statehood bill through Congress, voted against it because it called for the gradual emancipation of slaves. He opposed allowing the Union army to free or arm slaves, voted against the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and refused to be present during the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment.
Not quite an abolitionist, in other words. But perhaps not a traitor, either.
IMAGE: Arlington National Cemetery with a view of Arlington House (Donten Photography)