Lincoln’s Civil War Blockade Orders Gifted to Presidential Museum by Illinois Governor

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In Springfield, Illinois, a vitally significant document has found its way back to the historical annals of the United States, particularly poignant for its ties to the crucial moments that initiated the military saga of the U.S. Civil War. These pages, which detail Abraham Lincoln’s order to blockade southern ports, have been generously donated to Illinois’ collection of the 16th president’s esteemed documents thanks to the philanthropic efforts of the state’s governor, J.B. Pritzker, and his wife, the first lady M.K. Pritzker.

The document, bearing Lincoln’s signature, was initiated on April 19, 1861. Merely a week had elapsed since the forces pushing for secession had initiated hostilities by firing on Fort Sumter at the entryway to Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. As history stands witness, this incendiary action was the fuse that lit the explosive beginnings of the civil war.

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Previously a part of an anonymous collector’s treasure trove, the document was put under the hammer at an auction. Governor Pritzker and his wife, having successfully acquired this historical jewel, will be visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in Springfield, Illinois. This historical repository will now proudly house the artifact for the broader public to view and appreciate.

The Democratic governor, a noted multibillionaire, considers the document, and the museum that houses it, a monument to the robust nature of our enduring nation. Despite the fractures and challenges laid bare over the turbulent course of 150 years, our nation continues its tenacious journey forward.

M.K. Pritzker appraises the document as a testament to Lincoln’s relentless pursuit of justice. She emphatically encourages every citizen to visit the museum, explore the intricacies of Illinois’ history and contemplate how inextricably it is woven into the broader tapestry of our national narrative.

The curtain remains drawn on the purchase price of the document, leaving speculation rife. However, pronounced online murmurings hint that the document was sold for a princely sum of $471,000 in July 2023 by Heritage Auctions.

The document in question brings to light the urgent directives of President Lincoln that enlisted the naval prowess of the Union to immobilize shipping across ports in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. This strategy served as the eastern vanguard of General Winfield Scott’s grand plan to corner the Confederacy. The western tier involved dispatching Union troops down the Mississippi River to bisect the secessionist stronghold. Critics harped on the relatively less ambitious strategy, annotating it as the “Anaconda Plan,” which over time, painted a vivid albeit grim portrait of a serpent slowly suffocating its adversary.

As the tendrils of secession further unraveled the nation, Virginia broke off from the Union on April 17. And it bore witness to a similar decision by North Carolina come May 20. However, the Union’s steadfast resolve led to the inclusion of these states in the blockade orders.

Christina Shutt, the executive director of the presidential library and museum, recounts that Lincoln’s decisive military reaction to the early violence of the Civil War signaled the resolve of a nation unwilling to see itself torn apart. She emphasizes that the document symbolizes Lincoln’s proclamation that the preservation of the country was a fight worth engaging in.

With careful tact, Lincoln navigated the complexities and consequences of his actions. To wage a war within one’s own country was a grim proposition to stomach. Yet, even more concerning was the potential international legitimacy declaring war might confer upon the Confederacy. Lincoln perceived the blockade as an indispensable step in quelling a domestic rebellion.

Planning to herald the arrival of this artifact, the museum’s light and climate-controlled Treasures Gallery will put Lincoln’s blockade proclamation on display, with the exhibition commencing from Wednesday. History buffs and the public are welcome to witness this cornerstone of American history, as it will remain on display until February 2025.