Birth of Washington Irving
Union Forces Capture Richmond

Happy Birthday Washington Irving 

U.S. #859 – Irving was honored in the 1940 Famous Americans Series.

Author Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783, in New York City.

The youngest of 11 children, Irving was named after Revolutionary War hero George Washington. He even attended Washington’s presidential inauguration in 1789. Irving received a private education as a child and soon found he had talent for writing. He eventually began writing essays for the Morning Chronicle under the pen name Jonathan Oldstyle. After a two-year tour of Europe, Irving attended law school.

Though he passed the bar exam, Irving decided his passion was writing. He joined with a friend and his oldest brother to publish Salamagundi, a periodical filled with humorous essays. Around the same time, he also wrote the satirical History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, which earned him his first taste of fame.

Next, Irving took a job as editor of Analectic Magazine before serving in the War of 1812. When the war was over, Irving traveled to England to help his brothers with the struggling family business. After the business failed, Irving began work on a collection of essays that would make him famous – The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Published in installments between 1819 and 1820, the book included some of his most well known stories, including “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” He immediately became a celebrity in both America and England, making him one of the first authors to gain an international reputation, and to make writing a full-time profession.

U.S. #1548 – Irving based his “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” on a German folktale and people he knew from Tarrytown, New York.

After releasing two more books, Bracebridge Hall (1822), and Tales of a Traveller (1824), Irving was invited to visit Spain their US minister. He spent two years composing the historical work, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828). He followed that up with Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada (1829) and began work on Tales of the Alhambra (1832).

From 1829 to 1832 Irving served as secretary to the US Legation in London, a diplomatic representative similar to an ambassador. Serving as aide-de-camp, he helped negotiate a trade agreement between the US and the British West Indies.

After 17 years away, Irving returned to America in 1832. He toured Indian Territory with the US Commissioner on Indian Affairs, which served as the basis for A Tour of the Prairies (1835). After writing two more books about western America, Irving was appointed Minister to Spain in 1842. He’d hoped to have time to write, but the country was in a state of political upheaval that kept him busy. He also negotiated trade issues with Cuba.

Returning to America in 1846, Irving spent his final years hosting leading writers, artists, and politicians, and writing historical works, most notably his five-volume Life of George Washington (1855-59).   He passed away on November 28, 1859.

Also on This Day in History… April 3, 1865
Union Forces Capture Confederate Capitol 

U.S. #4910 – The siege of Petersburg lasted for nearly 10 months.

Following their victory at Petersburg, Union forces captured Richmond, Virginia.

Just 20 miles to the south of Richmond, Petersburg was the transportation hub that supplied the city of Richmond and Robert E. Lee’s army. Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on the city and ordered its first assault on June 15, 1864. Major General William “Baldy” Smith quickly defeated the small Confederate force but stopped his advance because of darkness, missing the opportunity to capture Petersburg that night.

Over the next few days, both sides received reinforcements and Grant realized he could not penetrate the Confederate fortifications, so he turned his attention to the rail lines that led into the city. Though their first attempt failed, by August the Union troops successfully took control of the rail line, forcing the Confederates to unload supplies farther south, and then transport them by wagon.

The siege continued through the fall and into the next year. Both sides attempted to gain the upper hand, but overall the situation remained at a stalemate. Battles took place in the area surrounding Petersburg and to the north near Richmond.

CSA #6 – Davis went on the run following the fall of the Confederacy. He was captured on May 10.

By the spring of 1865, Lee’s forces were weakened by sickness, lack of supplies, and desertions. Sensing the South’s weakness, Grant began attacking the Rebels. The Union was now in control of the Southside Railroad, Lee’s best line of retreat. On April 2, he advised President Jefferson Davis to prepare to evacuate the capital, which he did later that day. The next day, April 3, 1865, Union forces entered and assumed control of the Southern capitol of Richmond.

Shortly before, President Lincoln had been invited by General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to visit his headquarters at City Point. Lincoln greatly enjoyed his trip, finding it a nice break from the stresses in Washington. With his troops now in control of Richmond, he decided to make an impromptu visit.

U.S. #222 – was part of the last series printed by the American Bank Note Company for 50 years.

Lincoln arrived quietly in Richmond on April 4th. Not long after, he was recognized by a group of African-American workmen who bowed before him. Lincoln told them, “kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.” Lincoln went on to tour the Confederate White House and sit at Jefferson Davis’ desk. He then walked to the Virginia statehouse and looked in on the Confederate Congress’ chambers. Later, Lincoln visited Libby Prison, where thousands of Union soldiers had been held during the war.

Five days later, the war would come to an end 90 miles away at Appomattox Courthouse.

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  1. As a collector of Hawaiian Royalty stamps, I’ve found that the used stamps are much more valuable. In my opinion these cancels tell an even bigger story than the stamps themselves.
    After all, what good is some old unused stamp? The cancels show a human actually used the stamp for some purpose. ..thanks Mystic- great job!

  2. Just a quick note. When will we be told about the Confederates’ victories in their own right, or weren’t there any? g

    1. Why would the United States Postal Service issue stamps to commemorate a defeat by the United States? Do you have such examples?

  3. I do love reading the Day in History you provide. Though I prefer reading one days info at a time.

    Thanks, Skye

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