Mar 24, 2018 - American Military Genius, Foreign Viewpoints, Newspapers, Propaganda    Comments Off on Stonewall and the British Reporter

Stonewall and the British Reporter

The fledgling Northern press tagged themselves as the “Bohemian Brigade,” which fit their tattered existence and life “on the periphery of a society which scarcely understood their function.” The so-called reporters were suspected as spies, and their penchant for either reporting, or fabricating, what they saw or heard, caused consternation in Lincoln’s regime. The South had few real newspapers, as paper to print them on was scarce.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Stonewall and the British Reporter

“A more baffling problem of [press] coverage arose when Stonewall Jackson staged his Shenandoah campaign . . .  routing [Gen. Nathaniel] Banks at Front Royal and Winchester, threatening Washington, and making good his escape while Union armies converged on him from three directions.

When Jackson struck . . . G.W. Clarke, a Britisher representing the [New York] Herald, was “musing over the dullness of the war” in the hotel at Front Royal. [Northern] Colonel John R. Kenly, commanding a detachment of nine hundred men there, dispatched Clarke to cut the rope ferry across the Shenandoah [River]. Clarke won a citation in Kenly’s report, but he was captured [by Jackson’s forces] in the brisk skirmish that followed. He was introduced to the Confederate commander.

“Jackson reached his hand and caught mine, remarking he was glad to see anyone connected with the American Thunderer. “I am very glad to see you under the circumstances, General,” I said, “and I hope you will be good enough to pass me out of your lines as soon as possible.”

At this the General’s face changed slightly. He remarked that he had not time to attend to that just then, and rode off.

Clarke wrote to the General as a British subject to demand his release. At Winchester, Jackson granted him an interview.

“This time [Jackson] wore a blue military overcoat. “General, I suppose you will restore me my horse and clothes?”

“Oh,” replied he, “it was taken in the camp and must be considered contraband of war.”

“But . . . I stand as a neutral, and you know it to be the law of nations that a neutral flag covers neutral goods.”

“Yes,” said the rebel chieftain; “but the Southern Confederacy is not recognized by neutral nations, and, consequently cannot by bound by neutral laws.”

Clarke was released two weeks later at New Market – minus his goods. The other correspondents, for all their efforts to report Jackson’s whirlwind campaign, might just as well have been captured too.

Charles Henry Webb of the [New York] Times [was] . . . among the first to comprehend the genius of Thomas J. Jackson. “We may run the mountain fox to death yet . . . The correspondents of some papers claim it as a victory [over Jackson] . . . is it always necessary to pander to the [public] appetite that demands victory in all cases, an assurance that the enemy lost at least one more than we? One thing is certain, Jackson is equally eminent as a strategist and tactician. He handles his army like a whip . . . This retreat of his, if retreat it can be called, has been conducted with marvelous skill. He has not much mercy on his men, but he gets extraordinary marches out of them on very short commons.”

(Bohemian Brigade, Civil War Newsmen in Action; Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts, pp. 119-122)

Mar 19, 2018 - America Transformed, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise    Comments Off on The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

At the battle of First Manassas, a young Major Bryan Grimes served on the field and staff of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment under the command of Colonel George B. Anderson. Though Grimes did not participate in the battle, his view of how to treat the enemy was clear: “If my wishes could be consulted and followed I should say, raise the black flag and give no quarter to invading foes.” Witnessing the death and destruction caused by the enemy invasion of a formerly peaceful landscape hardened him to the grim task ahead.

Bernhard Thuersam,


The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

“The month near the front impressed the major and altered his views on several matters. “Fighting from my opinion, is the least of the soldier’s exposures,” he observed. “The danger of battle is nothing in comparison to the risks from exposure to which he is subjected in camp life.”

His proximity to the July 21st action allowed him to absorb firsthand the grim reality and harsh aftermath of the Manassas battle: “The stench now arising from the putrefaction of the dead is intolerable,” described the North Carolinian in a letter home.

“A [handkerchief] full of whiskey and an extra bottle to keep it full is the only means by which you can visit the severely contested spots on the battleground.”

Taking an interest in where his fellow Tarheels had fought during the engagement, Grimes sought out the spot where Col. Charles Fisher and the Sixth North Carolina was engaged. Fisher was killed during the action and the unit had suffered heavily.

Although the bodies had been removed, “at least fifty horses in an area the diameter of which is perhaps forty yards,” were rotting under the hot July sun. In addition to the flotsam of battle, burial sites littered the devastated landscape. “Near a church I saw eight freshly dug holes and one of the wounded (still at the church used as a hospital) informed me that he counted seventy dead bodies thrown into one of the pits.”

Clearly the aftermath of the fighting at Manassas had deeply affected the young officer. “If only you could visit our hospitals you would feel in all its horror the bitter cost of war. And if one drop of milk of human kindness toward them weren’t permitted to exhibit itself, you couldn’t be a true Southern man at heart.”

(Lee’s Last Major General: Bryan Grimes of North Carolina, T. Harrell Allen, 1999, Savas Publishing Company, excerpts pp. 31-34)

Rethinking Loyalty

Northern prisoners, especially conscripted recent immigrants, had time to reconsider where their loyalties lay while awaiting exchange. William Irwin of Maine and 1700 others decided to enlist in the Eighth Confederate Battalion (formerly the Second Foreign Battalion) while imprisoned at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina. After the prison was overrun by Northern forces in April 1865, Irwin saw it wise to reestablish his spoken loyalty to Lincoln’s government.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Rethinking Loyalty

“As early as 1862 Union prisoners were joining the Confederate forces. This process continued with varying intensity throughout the war but saw its greatest results toward the end.

On 21 August 1864 the adjutant and inspector general issued General Order 65, which spelled out a new policy of encouraging enemy prisoners, particularly aliens, and most particularly Irish Catholics, to enlist with Confederate forces. In late 1864 Colonel Zebulon York established a camp about three miles west of the prison at Salisbury to which prisoners enlisting were taken to be trained and organized into Confederate units.

After the war the U.S. government compiled a list of prisoners who had sworn allegiance to the Confederacy based on the records of Salisbury prison . . . [and] the list contains some two thousand names. Most of the men were of Irish extraction.

Of 2,072 names on the list believed to be unique, nearly half (48 percent) were from units recruited in New York. The next largest was from Pennsylvania (15 percent), followed by Massachusetts (9 percent), the border States (6 percent), New Hampshire (4 percent), the regular army (4 percent), with the remaining 13 percent coming from twelve other States, including the District of Columbia.

[Colonel York’s] “Galvanized Yankees,” as they were called, gave a good account of themselves in defending the Yadkin /river bridge against General George Stoneman’s cavalry in April 1865. In summary, it would appear that the Confederate handling of prisoners of war deprived the Union of several thousand soldiers and made a modest addition to Confederate manpower.

There is no way of knowing how many Union prisoners agreed to serve as Confederate agents on their return north [when officially exchanged], but undoubtedly some did. In addition to direct recruitment, the Confederacy also exploited the exchanges to plant its own agents under assumed identities.”

(Come Retribution, the Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln, William A. Tidwell, University of Mississippi Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 121-124)

Liberal Roars of Prejudice and Bigotry

In 1960, liberal Minnesota Senator Hubert H. Humphrey ran for the Democratic presidential nomination against John F. Kennedy, citing the latter’s Catholicism as an issue – and his campaign was known to have mailed anti-Catholic literature to Humphrey supporters. Though defeated two to one by Kennedy in the West Virginia primary and eventually dropping out of the race, Humphrey reappeared as Lyndon Johnson’s running mate in 1964. The resurgent Klan of 1915 was nationalistic, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and marched throughout the country under its flag of choice, the Stars and Stripes.  It should be noted that West Virginia was considered a “Northern” State during the 1861-65 conflict, and ruled by Lincoln’s proconsuls.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Liberal Roars of Prejudice and Bigotry 

“[Kennedy] assured his audience he “was not the Catholic candidate for President. Do not expect me to explain or defend every act or statement of every Pope or priest . . . if there is bigotry in this country, then so be it . . .”

The [Hubert] Humphrey forces were also not above using the religious issue [against Kennedy]. Reporter Joseph Alsop was more explicit. After sampling voter sentiment, the liberal columnist reported that:

“Sen. Humphrey owes to prejudice well over half his support in the four places polled . . . if Sen. Humphrey wins the West Virginia primary, as he may well do, he will owe his victory to the Ku Klux Klan-minded voters. He will also win with powerful help from an admitted ex-Kluxer, Sen. Robert C. Byrd.”

“The mystery of the West Virginia primary,” Alsop wrote later, “is the role of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Here is a hot, crucial Democratic contest, in which naked religious prejudice is the demonstrated source of at least half the voter support for Sen. Humphrey, the liberal enemy of prejudice in all forms.”

In an intensive statewide survey, Alsop reported, the Wall Street Journal’s Alan L. Otten found that “at least seven out of ten” prospective Humphrey voters were animated by prejudice. The New York Times William H. Lawrence wrote: “There are few voters intending to vote for him who identify themselves as “for” Humphrey. Most simply say they are “anti-Kennedy,” primarily on religious grounds.”

In similar circumstances, said Alsop, if Kennedy’s opponent were Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, “the acknowledged voices of American liberalism would be making the National Welkin ring with their roars of indignation. Actually, the Liberals have held off, because Sen. Humphrey is one of their own.”

(Hubert, an Unauthorized Biography of the Vice-President, Allan H. Ryskind, Arlington House, 1968, excerpts pp. 249-250)

A Great Intellectual Silence

The message sent to us today when reading the biography and accomplishments of Jefferson Davis of Mississippi include the following: West Point graduate, married to Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of General and President Zachary Taylor, colonel of Mississippi Volunteers in the Mexican War, served in both the United States House and Senate, Secretary of War, pleaded for peace between North and South in 1860-61 as a Unionist, and served as president of the Confederate States of America, 1861-65. Few Americans exhibited as distinguished a career as Davis.

Bernhard Thuersam,


A Great Intellectual Silence

“So the anti-Confederate backlash has come to Dallas . . . but, then, maybe not. Maybe that isn’t fundamentally what happened when the Dallas school board, in June [1999], voted to rename mostly black and Hispanic Jefferson Davis Elementary School for Barbara Jordan, the late Houston congresswoman.

Here, likely, is what happened: Within the community at large, a failure of nerve occurred, a moral power outage, leaving residents plunged in darkness. The same failure of nerve afflicted New Orleans over a year ago, when the name of infamous slaveowner George Washington was removed from an elementary school, to be replaced with – I don’t recall and don’t care to; Sojourner Truth or some like luminary.

You could say, and I wouldn’t argue the point, that on both occasions the antebellum South received deliberate kicks in the groin, and that this form of reprisal was unfortunate and unjust. Davis, Washington: prisoners in a kangaroo court, due to peripheral association with the peculiar institution of slavery. Malarkey!

Also, you can bet your bottom dollar this species of malarkey is sure to spread, two large Southern cities having capitulated so cravenly.

Now, to begin with, we’re talking here about education. Well, about public schools at least. You might expect, in the context of a controversy over the naming of a school, some attention to historical accuracy. Ah, no.

“The name sends a very bad message,” says Se-Gwyn Tyler, who represents the city council district in which ex-Jefferson Davis Elementary is located. Well, ma’am, do you really know that?

Ever read a biography of Davis? Know where he lived, what posts he held before the war? How historians evaluate him? If this is the standard of knowledge regnant at the decision-making level in Dallas, how can one be sure the Davis critics are right that Barbara Jordan is the ideal role model?

Are we to sit quietly while a dead man is vilified and misrepresented? While history itself is distorted? We’re not to utter a peep or reproach? Not so much as a civil objection? That would seem the case.

The major fault in the Davis matter, it seems to me, doesn’t attach to those who sought a name change. The major fault attaches to those who sat through the name-change procedure with eyes and mouths resolutely closed, believing apparently that expiation was a larger public good than truth. Failure of nerve indeed! Cowardice on the half-shell. Hush, we mustn’t offend.

Well, actually, it’s all right to offend those who retain some reverence for the dead; we just mustn’t offend members of cultures and subgroups arguing for affirmation.

A great intellectual silence descends over modern society. We can’t talk about everything; we certainly can’t talk in a spirit of honesty. And we know it. This is what rankles: We know we can’t, and we pass it off as of no great or immediate consequence. Failure of nerve.”

(Roll, Jordan, Roll; Letter from Texas, William Murchison, Chronicles, October 1999, excerpts pg. 37)

The Impassable Breach in 1850

The idea of States withdrawing from the Union was not new in 1860, the first being New England’s desire for independence once the Louisiana Purchase was contemplated, and afterward during the War of 1812, and as other territories were added. It is said that John C. Calhoun learned his concept of secession from the New Englanders. In 1850, as described below, the withdrawal of the South from the Union was well along and only a matter of time.

Bernhard Thuersam,


The Impassable Breach in 1850

“[Silver Bluff], 17 March 1850

“The Session of Congress has been stormy and thus far nothing has been done but to debate Slavery and the Union. The South has threatened dissolution through many Representatives, in doing which [Robert] Toombs of [Georgia] and [Thomas] Clingman of [North Carolina], both Whigs, have taken the lead. [South Carolina] rather silent.

In the Senate [Jeremiah] Clemens of [Alabama], [Solomon] Downs of [Louisiana], [Henry] Foote and [Jefferson] Davis of [Mississippi have been the most violent. Many calculations have been paraded showing the advantage of disunion to the South. On the other hand threats of coercion have been made freely by minor men. There have been some terrible scenes in the House.

The North has given up the Wilmot proviso for the present, on the avowed ground that that Slavery is naturally excluded from the newly acquired Territories. The main question is on the admission of California as a State – the adventurers there having without any of the usual forms, made a Constitution, excluding Slavery, and asked for admission into the Union.

[Henry] Clay has brought in a long string of what he calls compromise resolutions, which surrender everything in issue to the North. He has denounced the South bitterly and prophesied, if not threatened, Civil war and coercion.

The South contends that the admission of California [as a free State] destroys her equality in the Senate – already merely nominal there, for Delaware belongs to the North. That deprived of equality there [in the number of slave vs. free States] and already in a vast minority in the House and Electoral College, she will be undone.

Mr. [John C.] Calhoun has made an admirable speech, showing that the equilibrium between the North and South is utterly annihilated, and must be restored or we must separate. As such a restoration is well known to be an impossibility – his proposition is plainly – Disunion.

Webster followed with a most eloquent speech, denouncing the free-soil and anti-fugitive [slave] movements, but denouncing slavery and yielding nothing. At this moment, however, my impression is that they will enter into another fatal truce and stave off the difficulty for the present.

I have had drawn up for a month . . . many resolutions which I had intended to proposed there, if I could get backing. They are short and to the effect that Conventions should be immediately called in the Slave States to send Delegates to a General Congress, empowered to dissolve the Union, form a new Constitution, and organize a new Government, and in the meantime appoint a Provisional Government until the Constitution could go into operation.”

(Secret and Sacred, the Diaries of James Henry Hammond, a Southern Slaveholder; Carol Bleser, editor, Oxford University Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 197-198)

Imagine a Different Result at Gettysburg


It is early July, 1863 and Lee’s barefoot and ragged Army of Northern Virginia has moved northward into Pennsylvania to acquire needed supplies, food and fodder, plus allow the countryside of Virginia time to heal from two years of unrelenting warfare upon her soil. With Lee is “Stonewall” Jackson, who earlier enveloped the enemy flank at Chancellorsville and drove them in disarray and confusion from the field.

Lee meets the newest savior of the North, Gen. George Meade, at Gettysburg.  While Lee feints with a massed frontal attack, Jackson has penetrated the enemy left flank with full force after which Meade’s invincible army flees in headlong retreat, and then total surrender. The entire North is now seized with mortal fear of invasion, defeat and occupation by Southern armies.

At the same time in the Western Theater, Vicksburg has held valiantly against enemy assault despite its civilian population reduced to eating rats and dogs for survival. General Joseph E. Johnston successfully repulsed costly enemy assaults while Southern cavalry harassed and destroyed Northern supply lines to the South.

Poised to move northward at President Jefferson Davis’s command, Johnston eyes the railroad junction of Chicago after liberating Tennessee and Kentucky from enemy rule, releasing Confederate prisoners, and enlisting many of the Midwest Copperhead faction into his growing force. In the East, Lee threatens the northern capital of Washington and will move toward New York City next.

Lee dispatches Jackson with 35,000 men to capture Harrisburg while he encircles and captures Washington; General JEB Stuart’s cavalry has destroyed enemy communications and supply trains, and Lee intends to split their army in classic Napoleonic style — defeating them in detail.

Washington is soon overwhelmed and occupied – Stuart has captured and imprisoned numerous Northern leaders to include Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, William Seward, Benjamin Wade, Simon Cameron, Salmon Chase, Stanton, Halleck and Lincoln. Lee himself had to intervene lest his soldiers summarily hang Lincoln and his conspirators for the crime of igniting the conflict and warring upon Southern civilians.

Fear of the scaffold has sent the radical abolitionists fleeing to Europe for asylum.

With the Northern government imprisoned, President Davis has commanded the armies in blue to immediately lay down their weapons, return to their homes to lead peaceful lives, and take an ironclad oath to never again take up arms against the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate Congress creates several military districts overseen by Southern general officers, who preside over State governments writing new constitutions. These will prohibit anyone who had taken up arms against the Confederate States of America, or was an officer in the United States Army 1861-1865, or was a member of the Republican Party, from voting and holding political office.

The Confederate Congress has determined that it will consider the former United States as a conquered territory, with former individual Northern States, which had committed suicide, admitted to the Confederate States of America at the pleasure of Congress.

Congress directs that each Northern State which contributed troops to the Lincoln regime are required to pay financial reparations to those Southern States suffering depredations and destruction by those troops.

Further, all former officers of the Northern military who engaged in terror and atrocities against civilians during the war will be tried for war crimes along with Lincoln. Lincoln and his conspirators will be tried for treason as they waged war against the States, in violation of Article 3, Section 3, of the United States Constitution.

To set a proper example to follow, the Confederate Congress requires all Northern mill and factory owners to provide adequate food, medical and old age care for their employees, who previously were turned out to starve when unable to work. They and other Northern industries are directed to hire black freedmen who emigrate northward in search of employment, which will spur emancipation in the South.

And finally, Southern authors will write the history of the war against the South, and the causes of it.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Radical Errors of the Public Mind

On the subject of naturalization of citizens, Congress derives its limited authority through Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution: “To establish [a] uniform rule of Naturalization . . .” and there was no intention to create a separate citizenry “of the United States.” The individual States determine who will become a citizen, and who is entitled to vote. Alexander H. Stephens expounds on this below.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Radical Errors of the Public Mind

“P.M. – The article on naturalization in the cyclopedia attracted my attention. It is strange what errors have crept into vogue and pass without scrutiny or question; especially on naturalization and its sequence, citizenship of the United States. The subject is treated as if Congress were empowered by the Constitution to confer upon aliens citizenship of the United States distinct from citizenship of particular States and Territories.

The truth is, Congress has no power to naturalize or to confer citizenship of the United States. Its only power is to establish a uniform rule to be pursued by the respective States and Territories on admitting aliens to their own citizenship.

Before the Constitution was adopted, each State possessed the right as an Independent Sovereign Power to admit to citizenship whom she pleased, and on such terms as she pleased.

All that the States did on this point in accepting the Constitution, was to delegate to Congress the power to establish a uniform rule so that an alien might not be permitted to become a citizen of one State on different terms from what might be required in another; especially, as in one part of the Constitution it is stipulated that the citizens of each shall be entitled in all the rest to the rights and privileges of their citizens.

But no clause of the Constitution provides for or contemplates citizenship of the United States as distinct from citizenship of some particular State or Territory. When any person is a citizen of any one of the States united, he thereby, and thereby only, becomes and can be considered a citizen of the United States.

Errors in the public mind on this question are radical and fundamental, and have the same source as many others equally striking.”

(Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, His Diary, Myrta Lockett Avary, LSU Press, 1998 (original 1910), excerpts pp. 312-313)


“Let the Histories Revere the Truth”

Both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy were determined to present their view of the conflict to their children and not stand idle while Northern textbooks taught their children a different tale.  Gen. Samuel G. French, a Southern general born in New Jersey, directed Southern women to teach the young about their fathers’ patriotism, or Northerners will convince them their fathers were traitors.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Report of the History Committee [United Sons of Confederate Veterans]:

“Is there any real need of undertaking such work as has been delegated to this committee? We answer that a deplorable condition, and not a theory, confronts us. We know that tens of thousands of boys and girls are growing up into manhood and womanhood throughout the South, with improper ideas concerning the struggle between the States, and with distorted conceptions concerning the causes that led up to that tremendous conflict; that this state of affairs ought to be remedied, and will be if our Confederation does its duty.

We have asked each member of our committee to urge upon each Camp in his State the importance of gathering reliable data for the use of the future historian. This is a sacred duty to that we owe to the living and to the dead and to those who are yet unborn. If we wait until the last Confederate shall have gone to join the silent majority, many statements will be in dispute forever.

The establishment of truth is never wrong. When we realize, as all of us must, that from the gloom of overwhelming defeat at the hands of superior numbers a righteous cause arises and appeals to posterity to render a verdict in accordance with the truth, loyalty to the memories of our dead, patriotism, and self-respect all urge us to go forward in our work till we are amply repaid for all of our labors by a glorious consummation of our undertaking.

Your committee has made an earnest effort to ascertain what United States histories are used in the schools of this republic. We have, so far, not found a single Southern history north of the Ohio and Potomac Rivers. In the South, thousands of schools use Northern histories. We do not condemn any work solely on the ground that it is a Northern publication . . . What we desire placed in the hands of the millions of American youth is a work that metes out exact justice to both sections of our great country; a work that tells the truth, and nothing but the truth. That is all we should desire.

“Do our text-books impress the fact that slavery existed in many of the Northern States also in the early years of the century?, that it was New England votes, combined with those of the extreme South, that prolonged the slave trade twenty years, against the protest of the middle South? Do our school children realize that secession was boldly and widely advocated in New England in 1814? Do they think of the southern leaders as high-minded, noble, devout men, who fought with consummate bravery? Are we clearly taught than many of those leaders were in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery?

The resolution recently introduced into the meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic is altogether praiseworthy. It recommends that school histories use some designation like the “War Between the States,” instead of the “War of the Rebellion,” thus avoiding needless irritation of Southern feeling.”

Let the histories our children study revere the truth, and we shall be satisfied . . . [T]hat the South fought honestly and fearlessly, and that when its banner was furled upon its folds not a stain was there to mar its beauty.”

(Confederate Veteran Magazine, January 1900, pp. 19-20)

The Grant Era’s Comprehensive Rascality

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State in US Grant’s second term, was said to be “the representative of a sterner, simpler American age,” and one who “took a just pride in his old-fashioned conceptions of integrity and morals.” He was certainly appalled by the corruption and endless scandals that dogged Grant’s presidency, and most certainly contemplated in quiet moments just what the true outcome of the South’s defeat portended for the United States. Grant’s impeached secretary of war, William Belknap, accompanied Sherman in 1864-65 on the Georgia-Carolinas looting expedition.

Bernhard Thuersam,


The Grant Era’s Comprehensive Rascality

“The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.

President Grant is chargeable with a heavy responsibility for some scandals of the day; just how heavy [Secretary of States Hamilton] Fish soon saw, and subsequent pages based upon his diary and letters will show.

Honest as to money himself, [Grant] was the source of more dishonesty than any other American president. His responsiveness to such great moneyed interests as Jay Cooke represented was a national calamity. But when we look at the scandals, his responsibility was for the most part general, not specific; indirect, not direct. At some points he cannot be defended.

The role he played in crippling the Whiskey Ring prosecutions and the impeachment of [Grant’s Secretary of War, William] Belknap offers the darkest single page in the history of the Presidency. For this and for his arbitrary acts in the South, he was far more worthy of impeachment than Andrew Johnson. But with most scandals of the time he obviously had nothing to do. The Credit Mobilier affair can as little be laid at his door as the [Boss] Tweed Ring thefts.

The American people always derives much of its tone from its President. It is strenuous under a Theodore Roosevelt, idealistic under a Wilson, slothful under a Coolidge. Lowell was correct in these years in writing, “a strong nation begets strong citizens, and a weak one weak.”

Plainly, Grant’s administration was one in which almost anything might happen. More and more, it carried about it an atmosphere of stratagems and spoils. Uneasiness, in fact, henceforth haunted [Fish]. What if [Grant’s] backdoor clique really took control of the government? But Fish was of a religious temperament; and he may have heard of Bismarck’s statement that a special Providence existed for fools, drunkards and the United States.”

(Hamilton Fish, the Inner History of the Grant Administration, Allan Nevins, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 641-642; 666)