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Today in History - November 2

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln corresponded with her husband on November 2, 1862, advising him of popular sentiment against the cautious command of general of the Army of the Potomac George B. McClellan.

All the distinguished in the land… would almost worship you if you would put a fighting general in the place of McClellan.

Mary Todd Lincoln to Abraham Lincoln, November 2, 1862. Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division’s First 100 Years

McClellan defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, but he failed to take advantage of the victory by pursuing Robert E. Lee’s weakened army. Earlier that year, McClellan won a series of victories in the Peninsular Campaign, which brought Union troops within five miles of the Confederate capital, Richmond. However, the general’s hesitancy cost him the opportunity to take Richmond. On November 5, shortly after receiving Mrs. Lincoln’s letter, the president removed McClellan from his command.

Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, full-length portrait, standing, facing left, near table. Circa 1860-1865. Brady-Handy Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Abraham Lincoln’s law partner (and biographer) William Herndon, whose memories of the president’s young adulthood became an important source of information about Lincoln after his assassination, popularized the notion that the Lincoln’s marriage had been a failure. Lincoln’s heart, Herndon alleged, belonged to Ann Rutledge, whom young Lincoln had known in New Salem, Illinois. However, most historians now agree that Mary Todd was the love of Abraham Lincoln’s life and a source of strength and inspiration despite her occasionally erratic behavior during their years in the White House.

Antietam, Md. President Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan in the General’s Tent, Alexander Gardner, photographer, October 3, 1862. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division.

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North and South Dakota

On November 2, 1889, North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted to the Union as the 39th and 40th states, respectively. The first European to reach the region was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, a French-Canadian fur trader and explorer who, in 1738, led an expedition to what is present-day North Dakota. In 1742 and 1743, two of his sons, Louis-Joseph and François de La Vérendrye, returned to the territory and ultimately reached present-day Fort Pierre, in the center of South Dakota, where they buried a lead plate as a marker for their mission. At that time, at least eight Native American tribes populated the vicinity including the Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, Assiniboin, Crow, Cheyenne, Cree, and the Dakota (Santee Sioux).

Other than through fur trapping, exploration of the Dakotas by European Americans was practically nonexistent prior to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition wintered in present-day North Dakota.

A Map of Lewis and Clark’s Track…, Samuel Lewis, 1804-6. Map Collections

While the 1832 arrival of the steamboat and the 1862 Homestead Act increased migration slightly, tension between the settlers and the Sioux discouraged potential newcomers. In 1868, the United States recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for their exclusive use, by treaty. Nevertheless, with the 1874 discovery of gold, prospectors and the U.S. Army poured into the sacred Black Hills and onto the Sioux Reservation. In 1877, after armed resistance, the Sioux were forced to yield the Black Hills to the U.S. government.

Deadwood, South Dakota, 1900. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

By 1881, even chief Sitting Bull had surrendered to federal forces. Resolution of the Indian crisis and the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway combined to facilitate large-scale settlement of the area during the last decades of the 19th century. More than 100,000 people migrated to North Dakota between 1879 and 1886.

From 1868, when the size of the region was reduced to the present-day boundaries of North and South Dakota combined, until the late 1880s, controversy over the location of the capital divided citizens of the disparately populated Dakota Territory. Northerners moved the territorial capital from Yankton northwest to Bismarck in 1883. This prompted resentful southerners, pushing for separate statehood, to draft their own constitution that same year.

The Omnibus Bill, passed by Congress on February 22, 1889, divided the Dakota Territory before statehood was officially granted to North and South Dakota on November 2. South Dakota chose Pierre as the state capital upon ratification of its constitution in 1889.

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