United States and American History: 1865 & the Civil War

About the history of the United States in 1865, the Civil War comes to an end, Lee surrenders, the first potato chip and Mark Twain writes his Jumping Frog story.


--The potato chip was introduced to the U.S. by a Negro chef.

--The U.S. Post Office guaranteed free mail delivery to all cities with a minimum population of 50,000.

--William Sheppard produced soap in liquid form. He added 100 lbs. of ammonia to one lb. of regular soap, and thinned the mixture with water until it had the consistency of molasses.

--The Union Stockyards opened in Chicago. Within 10 years, the city became the world's leading meat-packing center.

Apr. A newspaper-publishing breakthrough. William Bullock produced the revolutionary printing press which utilized a continuous roll of newsprint rather than precut sheets. His automatically-fed press printed on both sides of the paper and cut the printed sheets at the proper interval. The initial model was capable of putting out 15,000 sheets per hour.

Apr. 9 General Lee surrendered to General Grant during a cordial meeting and ceremony at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. With this act there was no longer any doubt that the balance of power had shifted from the Southern plantation owners to the Northern industrialists. However, within a few years they would join forces against their common enemies, the workers and small farmers.

Nov. 18 Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" appeared in the very last issue of Henry Clapp's The Saturday Press. Hitherto unknown, Twain became an instant success. He had left San Francisco for the gold-mining country to avoid the San Francisco police--they were unhappy with his biting one-word epithets which ranged from "lazy" to "brutal." In the camps, he ran across a humorous incident and recorded it in his notebook:

Coleman with his jumping frog--bet stranger $50--stranger had no frog, and C. got him one--in the meantime stranger filled C's frog full of shot and he couldn't jump. The stranger's frog won.

Twain told the tale to Artemus Ward, who suggested that Twain put it down on paper and send it to Ward's publisher. Although the publisher needed extra material to fill out a thin book, he rejected the story. As an afterthought, it was sent on to editor Clapp, who accepted the piece as a funeral present for his dying literary journal, a gift which launched Twain's literary career.

Dec. 24 A new social organization appeared in Giles County, Tenn. Its name was carefully derived: "Kyklos," from the Greek word for circle, and "Klan," to reflect the Scotch-Irish nature of the community. Later, the members simplified this name to one which was an attention-getter: Ku Klux Klan. The KKK's notoriety as a white supremacy group did not come about until after the Negro was granted the right to vote. The 1st Grand Wizard: Gen. Nathan Forrest. Included in the Klan's Constitution were declarations that it was to be guided by the ideals of chivalry, mercy, humanity, and patriotism.

Dec. 26 James Nason, of Franklin, Mass., came out with a new device for brewing coffee: the percolator.

Nov. 10 Capt. Henry Wirz, notorious commandant of the Andersonville, Ga., prisoner-of-war camp--and the only officer from this camp to be tried--was hanged for war crimes. His trial, held in Washington from August 23 to November 4, produced 2,000 pages of testimony, with the Government presenting only a part of its evidence.

Wirz was accused of establishing imaginary "dead lines"--often known only to the guards--and ordering prisoners found within them to be shot on sight (300 deaths), of sending vicious bloodhounds after escaped prisoners (50 deaths), of experimenting with deadly vaccine injections (200 deaths, 100 cases of paralysis). Because of an intensely aroused public, Wirz was brought North in disguise and under heavy guard.

In 1905, a sympathetic Southern group placed a monument to honor his memory in a deliberately chosen location: overlooking the 12,884 graves marking the former stockade.

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