Nevada Becomes a State as Civil War Continues
Toward the end of the fourth year of the long and bitter American Civil War, Nevada became a state, gaining admission into the Union as the 36th state on Oct. 31, 1864. The two events are inextricably linked, as the motto on Nevada’s state flag, “Battle Born,” forever commemorates.
The need for more war resources, and the uncertain prospects of Abraham Lincoln’s re-election, combined to expedite Nevada’s acceptance as a state. In fact, Nevada was not actually eligible for statehood in 1864. One of the first requirements before a territory could petition for statehood was a population of 60,000—Nevada had less than 40,000, the smallest territorial population ever recognized as a state. However, Lincoln’s political advisers thought the addition of another Northern state would boost the Union’s morale and add support for the president’s re-election bid.
On October 31, just eight days before the election on Nov. 7, 1864, Lincoln was poised to officially recognize the state of Nevada. There was one technicality remaining that the president could not ignore, however: the requirement that the proposed state’s constitution be submitted to the president. There was no guarantee that the copy being sent by train would arrive in time to allow Nevada’s residents to vote in the presidential election. To remedy this, the entire state constitution was sent to Lincoln by telegraph, the largest and most expensive transmission in the history of the telegraph.
With the document in hand on October 31, Lincoln issued his proclamation and Nevada became a state, joining the Union cause against the Confederacy. Nevada’s total contribution to the war effort was 1,200 troops and $400 million in silver extracted from the Comstock Lode.
To announce Nevada’s statehood, the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York) ran this short notice on Oct. 31, 1864:
The New State of Nevada.--The President has issued his Proclamation declaring the new State of Nevada “admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.” Thus are the arms of the Republic being extended westward, year by year.
The Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio) went further, printing the entire presidential proclamation on Oct. 31, 1864:
A Proclamation by the President
Nevada Admitted as a State
Whereas, The Congress of the United States passed an act which was approved on the 21st day of March last, entitled “An act to enable the people of Nevada to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such State into the Union on an equal footing with the original States”;
Whereas, The said Constitution and State Government have been formed pursuant to conditions prescribed by the 5th section of the act of Congress aforesaid and the certificate required by the said act, and also a copy of the Constitution and ordinances have been submitted to the President of the United States;
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in accordance with the duty imposed upon me by the act of Congress aforesaid, do hereby declare and proclaim that the said State of Nevada is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 31st day of October, in the year of our Lord 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the 89th.
(Signed) Abraham Lincoln
For more information, visit the official Nevada website.
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