President Avoids Injury in an Ordnance Experiment

November 15, 1862

As he often did, President Lincoln visits the Navy Yard – today accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and the yard’s commandant, John Dahgren. The president takes a personal interest in new military equipment and expects to witness the successful test of the new Hyde rocket.  According to Robert V. Bruce, “Hyde’s rocket carried a war head with an adjustable time fuse, instead of the fixed and inaccessible fuse of the Hale rocket; and its tangential vents were at the center of gravity, rather than the head.”

Lincoln chronicler David von Drehle wrote: “What the presidential party expected to see and hear was a whoosh, a red glare, a burst in the air, and a rain of shrapnel on the gray surface of the Anacostia River.  What they actually saw, after the fuse was set and everyone took a step back from the tue, was ‘a blast and puff of fire’ as the rocket detonated without launching.”  The president and the two cabinet members were lucky to escape unscathed.

Responding to pressure from a New York group that met with him a few days earlier, President Lincoln ordered better observance of the Sabbath: “The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service.  The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the scared rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will, demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.

The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled, by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High.  ‘At this time of public distress’–adopting the words of Washington in 1776–‘men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.’  The first General Order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence, indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended: “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.’

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Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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