What the American South Fought to Defend

What the American South Fought to Defend

(Excerpted from Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative)

The Governor of New York, [Franklin Roosevelt], in 1930 pointed out that the Constitution does not empower the Congress to deal with “a great number . . . of vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and a dozen other important features.” And he added that “Washington must not be encouraged to interfere” in these areas.

Franklin Roosevelt’s rapid conversion from Constitutionalism to the doctrine of unlimited [national] government, is an oft-told story. But I am here concerned not so much by the abandonment of States’ Rights by the national Democratic party – an event that occurred some years ago when that party was captured by the Socialist ideologues in and about the labor movement – as by the unmistakable tendency of the Republican party to adopt the same course. The result is that today neither of our two parties maintains a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of our republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by big government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism.

The Republican party, to be sure, gives lip-service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers’; the administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-state conference on the problem. But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican party, like the Democratic party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily.

There is a reason for the Constitution’s reservation of States’ Rights. Not only does it prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. The people of my own State – and I am confident that I speak for the majority of them – have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes “free.”

The Constitution . . . draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government.”

(The Conscience of a Conservative. Barry Goldwater. Victor Publishing Company, 1960, excerpts, pp. 24-29)

Feb 25, 2024 - Northern Culture Laid Bare, Prisons for Americans, Race and the North, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

‘Dr. Christian was colonel of the 51st Virginia Infantry who was captured after the battle at Gettysburg while Lee’s army was crossing “Falling Waters.” He was sent to Johnson’s Island where the officers [captured at] Port Hudson were also imprisoned. Said the Doctor:

“My recollection is that there were thirteen negroes who spent the dreadful winter of 1863-64 with us at Johnson’s Island, and not one of them deserted or accepted freedom, though it was urged upon them time and again.

You recall that Port Hudson was compelled to surrender after Vicksburg had fallen. The officers were notified they would not be paroled as those at Vicksburg had been but told they could retain their personal property. Some of the officers claimed their negro servants as personal property and took them along to prison with them.

Arriving at Johnson’s Island the federal authorities assured the negroes they were as free as their masters had been, and were not prisoners of war; that they would give them no rations and no rights as prisoners of war if they went in the prison, but they all elected to go in and declared to the Yankees they would stick to their young masters to the end of time, if they starved to death by doing so. Those officers, of course, shared their rations and everything else with their servants.

‘George’ was the negro of an Alabama colonel also a prisoner. George was frequently summoned by the prison’s commanding officer and told he was a free man and had but to say the word and he would be taken out of prison to work for $2 a day and furnished good clothes to wear plus live anywhere he wanted. He was also told he was a fool as his master would never be exchanged or let out of prison, and if he stayed with the Rebel officer he as well would starve in prison.

After George returned to the cell and related this, I asked what he said in reply to the Yankee officer. He told him: ‘Sir, what you want me to do is to desert. I ain’t no deserter, and down South, sir, where we live, deserters always disgrace their families. I’ve got a family down home, sir, and if I do what you tell me, I will be a deserter and disgrace my family, and I am never going to do that.’

‘What did the commanding officer say?’ I asked. ‘Get out of here you d—- fool nigger and rot in prison.’ And now master, here I am, and I am going to stay here as long as you stay, if I starve and rot.’

(The Negroes as Slaves, Capt. James Dinkins. Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXV, 1907, pp. 62-64)

Feb 25, 2024 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Accuracy, Race and the North, Race and the South    Comments Off on A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

The letter below describes a newlywed Northern woman’s experience in North Carolina and interaction with the colored people on her husband’s plantation. In a subsequent letter home, a few weeks later she wrote that ‘The Negroes are not overtasked on this plantation’ and that ‘one house girl at the North will accomplish more than two here.’ Also observed was an overseer summarily discharged for striking a colored worker; the servants ‘have plots of lands they cultivate and own what they grow from them.’

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

Clifton Grove, North Carolina, October 10, 1853

My Dear Parents:

I arrived safely at my new home on Friday last, but have had no time to write until now . . . You may imagine I have seen many strange things. As for my opinions, in so short a time, it would not be fair to give them.

I have seen no unkind treatment of servants. Indeed, I think they are treated with more familiarity than many Northern servants. They are in the parlor, in your room, and all over. The first of the nights we spent in the Slave Holding States, we slept in a room without a lock. Twice before we were up a waiting girl came into the room, and while I was dressing, in she came to look at me. She seemed perfectly at home, took up the locket with your miniatures in it and wanted to know if it was a watch. I showed it to her. “Well,” she said, “I should think your mother and father are mighty old folks.”

Just before we arrived home, one old Negro caught a glimpse of us and came tearing out of the pine woods to touch his hat to us. All along the road we met them and their salutation of “Howdy (meaning How do you) Massa Ben,” and they seemed so glad to see him that I felt assured that they were well treated.

At dinner we had everything very nice. It is customary when the waiting girl is not passing things at table, to keep a large broom of peacock feathers in motion over our heads to keep off flies, etc. I feel confused. Everything is so different here that I do not know which way to stir for fear of making a blunder. I have determined to keep still for a while, at any rate.

Yesterday I went to Church in a very handsome carriage, servants before and behind. I began to realize yesterday how much I had lost in the way of religious privileges. On arriving I found a rough framed building in the midst of woods with a large congregation, white and black. Things that Northerners consider essential are of no importance here. I have seen enough to convince me that the ill-treatment of the Slaves is exaggerated at the North, but I have not seen enough to make me like the institution.

I am quite the talk of the day, not only in the whole County but on the plantation. Yesterday I was out in the yard and an old Negro woman came up to me, “Howdy Miss Sara, are you the lady who won my young Master? Well, I raised him.” Between you and me, my husband is better off than I ever dreamed of. He owns 2000 acres of land in this vicinity, but you must bear in mind that land here is not as valuable as with you.  Love to all. Ever your Sara.

PS: I wish you could see the cotton fields. The Bolls are just opening. I cannot compare their appearance to anything but fields of white roses. As to the cotton picking, I should think it a very light and pleasant work.

(J.C. Bonner (ed.), “Plantation Experiences of a New York Woman,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXIII, pp. 389-400, 532-533)

The Sack of Williamsburg

The Sack of Williamsburg

“Our [25th Pennsylvania Regiment] picket line extended from the York to the James Rivers, about four miles; and with gunboats on either flank was a strong one.

One of the pickets posted at Williamsburg was at the old brick house once occupied by Governor Page of Virginia. It was built of brick imported from England. The library in the mansion was a room about eighteen by twenty feet, and the walls had been covered with books from floor to ceiling; but now the shelving had been torn down and the floor was piled with books in wretched disorder – trampled upon – most pitiful to see. In the attic of this old house the boys found trunks and boxes of papers of a century past – documents, letters, etc.

Among the latter were those bearing the signatures of such men as Jefferson, Madison, Richard Henry Lee; and one more signed by Washington.”

(25th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Samuel H. Putnam. Putnam, Davis and Company, Publishers. 1886, pp. 249-250)

Jan 3, 2024 - Historical Accuracy, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Lee’s Invasion of Pennsylvania

Lee’s Invasion of Pennsylvania

Lee’s Invasion of Pennsylvania

While northern accounts of the battle at Gettysburg in early July 1863 claim it as a victory and “high water mark” of the American Confederate States, the actual result told a different tale. It is important to note that the enemy was far too exhausted to leave their trenches and fortifications to pursue Lee’s movement away from Gettysburg.

“Lee’s purpose to move northward into Maryland and Pennsylvania in late June 1863 was calculated to free Virginia, at least for a time at least, from the presence of a destructive enemy, to transfer the theater of war to Northern soil, and, by selecting a favorable time and place in which to receive the attack which his adversary would be compelled to make on him, to take reasonable chances of defeating him in a pitched battle. Lee knew full well that to obtain such an advantage on enemy soil would place him in position to attain far more valuable results than could be hoped for from like advantage in Virginia. But even if he were unable to attain a decided advantage over the enemy in Pennsylvania, it was thought that the movement north would at least disturb any enemy plans for a summer campaign of destruction in Virginia.”

It is additionally recorded that Lee’s operations to Gettysburg and back resulted in the expulsion of the enemy from the important Shenandoah Valley, the capture of four thousand Northern soldiers with a corresponding number of small arms, twenty-eight pieces of superior artillery, about three hundred much-needed wagons and as many horses, together with a considerable quantity of ordnance, commissary and quartermaster’s stores. (General Lee’s Report of the Pennsylvania Campaign). An important but little-noted aspect of the Gettysburg aftermath is the New York City riot of July 11th. The 37th Massachusetts and 5th Wisconsin regiments at Gettysburg were rushed to New York to battle angry citizens, mostly immigrants and members of the lower class who viewed conscription as slavery, while the wealthy could buy a substitute for $300. The clash took the lives of up to 120 residents.

(Four Years with General Lee. Walter H. Taylor. Indiana University Press, 1962. page 91)

 

Jan 1, 2024 - America Transformed, Historical Accuracy, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Brave American Soldiers at Petersburg, Summer 1864

Brave American Soldiers at Petersburg, Summer 1864

The brave American soldiers who suffered or fell defending their families, homes and State’s from enemy invasion 1861-1865 were immortalized in the many monuments and remembrances scattered across the South. In particular, North Carolina soldier Gabriel J. Boney later erected a memorial in Wilmington, North Carolina to the sacrifices of his comrades, many of them “living skeletons” who fought with General Lee against tremendous odds. Americans should be proud of their sacrifice.

Brave American Soldiers at Petersburg, Summer 1864

“At the beginning of the enemy siege of Petersburg, Virginia on June 20th, the report of Gen. James G. Martin’s Brigade occupying Colquitt’s Salient showed 2200 men for duty. In September when they were relieved, the total force was 700, nothing but the living skeletons of Lee’s army.

Occupying the sharp salient, the work was enfiladed on both flanks by direct enemy fire and their mortar shells came down incessantly from above. Every man was detailed every night to either guard duty or to labor with pick and spade, repairing the works enemy artillery knocked down during the day.

There was no shelter that summer from sun nor rain. No food could be cooked there, but our scanty provisions were brought in bags on the shoulders of men from the cook yard some miles distant. The rations to feed each man for three days consisted of one pound of pork and three pounds of meal – and no coffee, no sugar, no vegetables, no grog, no tobacco – nothing but the bread and meat.

No wonder that the list of officers was reduced to three captains and a few lieutenants with but one staff officer for this brigade of 700 skeletons. But every feeble body contained an unbroken spirit and after the Fall months came those who had not fallen into their graves or been disabled, returned to their colors and saw them wave them in victory in their last fight at Bentonville.”

(Lt. Wilson G. Lamb. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War of 1861-1865. Volume II, pg. 1-13. Walter Clark, editor. E.M. Uzzell, Printer and Binder, 1901)

Nov 27, 2023 - Indians and the West, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Thathlo Harjo – National Native American Heritage Month

Thathlo Harjo – National Native American Heritage Month

Born in Florida in 1791, Harjo belonged to the Echoille band of Seminoles (Harjo means “so brave you are crazy”). He fought in two Seminole Wars in Florida before his family was relocated to Indian Territory in 1842. In 1861, Harjo joined the 1st Regiment, Seminole Mounted Volunteers and saw action at Round Mountain, Middle Boggy and Second Cabin Creek.  After the war, he settled in what is now Seminole County, Oklahoma, raised a family and passed away in 1904 at the age of 113.

(Information courtesy: Ron Mitchell via the Forgotten Oklahoma group on Facebook)

Thahlo Harjo – 1st Regiment, Seminole Mounted Volunteers, CSA

“Interestingly the name “Seminole” itself translates into “seceder” or “runaway” from the Creek nation, which occurred under Chief Secoffee. The Seminole tribe initially acquired its African slaves as gift from the British after 1763 or were purchased by them in imitation of the Europeans and held them in “a type of democratic vassalage” to the tribe. Though not considered the equals of the Seminole and living in separate settlements, black runaways were taught to hunt, fish and fight against white settlers living on Seminole land. After the tribe’s defeat in 1839, many of these “black Seminoles” accompanied the tribe to resettlement in the West.

Only twenty-two years later, resettled Seminoles fought bravely against northern soldiers in the three Seminole Mounted Volunteer regiments of the Trans-Mississippi Department, led by Major John Jumper, whose native name was “Hemha Micco.”

Seminoles also fought alongside the victorious Florida and Georgia forces at the Ocean Pond (Olustee) battle on February 20, 1864. One northern soldier wrote a New York friend just after the engagement:

“The most desperate enemy that we have to contend with here is the Florida Indians in roving bands of bushwhackers [who] occasionally steal upon our picket lines under cover of night . . . Many redskins are sharpshooters. During the recent [Ocean Pond] battle they took themselves to the tree-tops and picked off many of the officers of the colored troops.”    

(Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here. Bernhard Thuersam. Shotwell Publishing, 2022. pg. 143)

Nov 20, 2023 - Costs of War, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on “You Can Tell His Folks I Buried Him Best I Could”

“You Can Tell His Folks I Buried Him Best I Could”

The Hibriten Guards of Caldwell County

“Company F of the 26th North Carolina Regiment achieved a terrible fame at the Gettysburg battle in early July 1863.  During the fight at McPherson’s Farm on the first day every member of the company was shot down: thirty-three men were killed or mortally wounded, and fifty-eight suffered wounds and recovered. That “unparalleled loss” is the only instance of an entire company being wiped out in one battle during the war. A handful of Company F were perhaps stragglers and absent; at least one participated in the Pettigrew-Pickett Charge of July 3rd, Pvt. Thomas W. Setser who suffered a severe wound.

Despite their virtual annihilation at Gettysburg, the “Hibriten Guards” rebuilt their strength in the months following the Pennsylvania campaign. Some of the wounded returned to duty; some recruits arrived. At the Battle of Bristoe Station in mid-October 1864, the company then comprised of 36 men, participated in the disastrous charge of two Tarheel brigades against a well-fortified enemy position.  The result was another near-obliteration of the company with five men killed or mortally-wounded, ten wounded and seventeen captured.

Pvt. Thomas Setser, who had recovered from his earlier wound, wrote a relative: “It was a pretty hard little fight while it lasted . . . John Tuttle was killed by a bayonet as he charged over the enemy breastworks . . . you can tell his folks I buried him best I could and cut his name on a piece of plank and put it on his grave.”

Setser, one of two surviving enlisted men of Company F later wrote: “When I look around and see none of our boys and think what has become of them I cannot help but cry, and it looks like our time will come next.”

(State Troops and Volunteers: A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers. Vol. One. Greg Mast. Raleigh Department of Cultural Resources, Archives and History. 1995. Page 100.)

Looking Back at Wilmington’s “1898”

Largely, if not totally ignored in today’s discussion regarding November 1898’s unfortunate “newspaper editorial confrontation turned-violent” is the lack of perspective regarding the long lead-up to it. The local government, media and university are all complicit in beating the drums of racial animosity which will lead to less racial harmony, not more. The most detailed and informed book regarding this sad event is not a book, but a hard-to-find 800-page doctoral dissertation found at the end. Unfortunately, there are only several poorly researched and outright fictional books which do nothing to enlighten the reader.

Looking Back at Wilmington’s “1898”

First, it is probable that had the war of 1861-1865 not occurred and the South was left on its own to solve the riddle of racial coexistence, no November 1898 violence would have occurred. This racial conundrum was imposed on the American South by African tribes enslaving their own people and selling them to English, and later New England traders. After the Civil War the Republican party, anxious to maintain political hegemony over the country, enfranchised black men. These, along with Union veterans bought with pension money, kept Republicans in power.

The Democratic party finally rid North Carolina of Republican/Carpetbag rule by 1872, but Wilmington remained a holdout of Republican power due to its majority black population. The Democratic party dominated State politics through the early 1890s.

After the Republican-Populist victory in State politics in 1896, the Republicans began a program common to political parties – they dismantle and rearrange legislation the opposition party had erected to establish their own barriers to their opponents ever returning to power. This political strategy continues today.

In the run-up to the 1896 elections, Populists realized their plight as described by Hal W. Ayer, chair of the New Hanover County Populist party: “If the Democrats won, they would continue to ignore the farmers; if Republicans won, independently of Populists, they would be forced by the large black constituency which constitutes the great body of the party into some of the [Reconstruction] recklessness of 1868; and this is something to be feared as much as Democratic rule.”

These Populists, many of them farmers who believe the Democrats should have been more politically-attentive to them in the past, and “who distrusted the large black element of the Republican party,” decided to cooperate with the Republicans in order to “defeat the arrogant and hypocritical Democrats, and at the same time secure by such cooperation a balance of power in the State Legislature that would effectually check any wild or reckless plan that might be advocated by the Republican party.” As with many partnerships, the Republicans would forget their Populist associates once in power.

Both the Wilmington Messenger and Wilmington Morning Star newspapers wrote of the specter of corrupt Reconstruction politics returning to bedevil white residents. The black-owned Wilmington Sentinel endorsed Daniel Russell for governor – who was nominally a Republican and ignored by party leadership – to ensure black unity within Republican ranks. To the dismay of white Democratic voters, Russell, who promised patronage positions to those lieutenants delivering the vote, was elected thanks to strong turnout in sixteen black-dominated counties, with 87 percent of eligible blacks voting. It is noteworthy that 20 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots for the Democratic candidate, and 8 percent voted for the Populist candidate.

An irony within white Republican ranks was though they preached racial equality publicly, “they resented black officeholding and activity in Republican party affairs.” While earlier a superior court judge, Russell himself stated that “Negroes are natural-born thieves. They will steal six days in the week and go to church on Sunday to shout and pray it off.” However, by the mid-1890s white Republicans were a minority in their party and only constituted those hungry for political employment.

Prior to the elections of 1898, black newspaper editor Alex Manly penned an unfortunate editorial which insulted white women and predictably incurred the wrath of the area’s white menfolk. Many prominent men in Wilmington demanded that the city’s Republican mayor and aldermen close down the paper and force the editor to leave town. The Republicans did little or nothing which eventually led to a violent confrontation.

But lost in today’s rhetoric is the very basis of Manly’s editorial and what prompted it. Why is this ignored and not identified as the primary cause? Manly was commenting on an earlier speech of Rebecca Felton of Georgia, wife of a legislator, who addressed a group of Savannah women earlier and denounced the rape of white farm women by black men while their husbands were far off in the fields working. Mrs. Felton demanded that the Republican party, the political home of most black voters and which preached hatred toward Democrats, do something to end the heinous crimes of their constituents.

Manly’s later editorial claimed that the white women had somehow encouraged the advances of the black men attacking them in their homes. This predictably led an enraged group of white residents to march to Manly’s establishment to escort him to the rail station. Not finding Manly, on the march back to their homes these men were fired upon by black men concealed in houses being passed, and they returned fire. This entire episode was preventable.

The black New Hanover County Coroner, David Jacobs, summoned a Coroner’s Jury the following day to investigate the deaths of five black men from gunshot wounds. Three white men were wounded in the affair, one seriously. Though there are numerous unsubstantiated estimates of those killed or wounded, we have only the coroner’s investigation as an official source. On November 15th, black resident Thomas Lane was tried for firing a pistol into the group of men marching to Manly’s news office. Lane quickly ran out the back, but the return fire unfortunately caused the death of an occupant, Josh Halsey.

An important but marginalized voice in this 1898 affair is Collector of Customs John C. Dancy, a black Edgecombe County native appointed by Republican presidential patronage to his position, and the highest-paid person in North Carolina at the time. In this influential position he was considered the head of the Republican party and expected to foster and deliver the vote, and he surrounded himself with black employees at the Custom house who were expected to promote party interests. After the violence of November 1898, Dancy concluded that all blame be placed upon Manly’s editorial, which lit the flame.

A question to be put to rest is the often-heard claim that the conflict ended democratically elected government in Wilmington. The Republican-Populist legislature, once in power in 1895, altered municipal charters to benefit themselves. They amended Wilmington’s charter “so as to establish a partly elected and partly appointed Board of Aldermen.

The amended charter did not alter ward lines but allowed “qualified voters of each ward to elect one alderman and empowered the Governor to appoint one alderman from each of the five wards.” (McDuffie, pg. 460-461).  Under the guise of “preventing misrule by the propertyless and ignorant elements,” the Republicans strictly controlled Wilmington’s municipal government.

(Politics in Wilmington and New Hanover County, NC: 1865-1900. Jerome A. McDuffie, PhD dissertation, 1979, Kent State University, pp. 442-453; 738)

The Hardship of Wheatless Days

Mississippi Senator John Sharp Williams (1854-1932) was born in Tennessee but raised in Mississippi after being orphaned in the Civil War. After attending several fine universities in the US and Europe, he took his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1876. As a patriotic response to England launching its HMS Dreadnought in 1906, Senator Williams introduced a bill to change the name of an American battleship to the USS “Skeered O’ Nuthin’.

The Hardship of Wheatless Days

“In March 1918, the New York World, in an editorial article on the World War of the early twentieth century, took occasion to state:

“It will do the country no harm to note the reminder of Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi that its war sufferings in the matter of food have reached no very heroic stage as yet.”

Senator Williams was then quoted as saying:

“Men go out and exploit themselves about ‘wheatless days’ and the lack of food. The Southern Confederacy had no wheat for three years during the Civil War. I went from 1862 to Lee’s surrender without seeing anything made out of wheat except an occasional Christmas or birthday cake, and that was sweetened with molasses. What is the use of talking about hardships? We are having no hardships in this country. If you cannot stand hardships, then you are not worthy of your ancestors. Let us send men, munitions and food to France and quit our patrioteering camouflage.”

(The Women of the South in Wartime. Matthew Page Andrews, The Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pg. 30)

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