Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Can Anyone Float Me $899,980 ’til Tuesday?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 21, 2012

Looking for a unique and memorable gift for that Civil War buff who’s always so difficult to buy for? Look no further:

A document signed by President Abraham Lincoln ordering Union blockades of Confederate ports, marking the official start of the Civil War, is for sale.
The Raab Collection in Philadelphia said Tuesday it is selling the document, which it calls one of the most important in American history. The asking price is $900,000.
Lincoln’s proclamation is dated April 19, 1861 – a week after the first shots of the conflict were fired at South Carolina’s Fort Sumter. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the U.S. Supreme Court in an opinion ascribed Lincoln’s April 19 blockade order as the official beginning of the war. . . .
The document, which has been owned by a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous, was exhibited recently at museums including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield, Ill.
The single-page manuscript authorizes Lincoln’s secretary of state to “affix the Seal of the United States to a Proclamation setting on foot a Blockade of the ports of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.” The seal was affixed to the blockade proclamation announced that day, effectively declaring war on the Confederacy.

Image: Associated Press

4 Responses

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  1. Mac Whatley said, on November 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

    How is this document in private hands?
    At what point was it removed from the administration’s papers in the National Archives?
    The North Carolina copy of the Bill of Rights (stolen from the state capital in 1865 by an occupying Yankee soldier) was returned to the state in 2005 by a federal judge after an FBI sting [];so why wouldn’t that same doctrine apply here?

    • Andy Hall said, on November 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

      That’s a good question. The story notes that it has been displayed recently in several high-profile exhibitions at well-known institutions, so I presume that its provenance is established and legit.

      That said, I’d far rather it go into NARA or a major private institution’s collection now, than into Lord-knows-whose-hands who happens to have a lot of cash, possibly never to be seen again. Having lots of money is not the same thing as having lots of brains.

  2. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on November 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    It’s interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court called this action the official beginning of the war, even though it happened a week after the attack on Fort Sumter. Am I wrong, or does that not make sense? Or was the court ruling that the blockade constituted the North’s official entry into the war?

    • Andy Hall said, on November 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      I haven’t read the ruling, but I would guess the latter. As an analogy, think of the United States’ entry into WWII — Congress declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, but in every practical sense it began on December 7.

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