Archive from January, 2021

Military Government Perfected

“Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. In ’76 the Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each instance the act was one on revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but a semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing which binds one country or one state to another but interest.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made an impression upon Robert E. Lee. He understood the significance. Lincoln intended to win the war and to preserve the Union regardless of consequences.  When he was inaugurated he had affirmed that he had neither the power nor the disposition to interfere with slavery. He had now reversed himself. But thereby his military government was made perfect.

This view Lee expressed to [President Jefferson] Davis. “The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamation of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of [the Northern] people, unless dead to the feelings of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.”

Yet while Lee was penning this letter to Davis he was signing and delivering a deed of manumission to the three hundred Custis slaves [he had inherited through marriage]. This act antedated Lincoln’s proclamation by three days; Lincoln’s proclamation became operative January 1, 1863, Lee’s manumission papers had been in effect since December 29 previous.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 96; 208-209)

Jan 17, 2021 - American Military Genius, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise, Pleading for Peace, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

The Wilderness battle was fought July 1-3, 1864: 104,000 Union troops versus 61,000 Southern. Once again the carnage was appalling and once again Lincoln had the opportunity to end the struggle against the South’s independence as the British did some eighty years earlier with the colonies. Several peace conferences committed to saving the lives of soldiers and civilians alike would end in failure as Lincoln stood firm in his conviction to rule all the American States, and nearly half in subjugation.

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Before the close of the day Grant’s army was on the south side [of the Rapidan], four thousand wagons filled with forage and ammunition, beef-cattle, cavalry, artillery and infantry. This feat was so pleasing that Grant regarded it as a great success and “undoubtedly a surprise to Lee.” The ensuing night the Union army entrenched and camped in the Wilderness, that tangled forest in which Hooker had come to grief.

Now that Grant was busy with his operations, Lee had not been idle. He had observed the movements of the enemy from every angle and had made a report to his government. Yet the crushing numbers of the enemy gave him concern. He made no excuses, raised no questions and expressed no doubts, but he must have more troops.

By April 30 the federal plans had been foreseen by Lee, precisely as they had been worked out by General Grant, and he had prepared his line of defense. In the Wilderness, he would attack Grant’s army on its left flank and throw it back on the Rapidan. He would make a strategic offensive and concentrate his forces and shut Grant up in that dense jungle.

Of this strategy of Lee’s it must be said it was one of his boldest and most skillful. His proposed plan, experts declare, broke all modern precedent – it was to be a duel in the dark. Such an engagement had not been fought since Hermann destroyed the Roman legions in the forest of Teutoburg.

But Lee was not bound by rule. He practiced his own theory of the art of war and, in the coming campaign, was to furnish such an example of the use of natural features to neutralize a superior force as will always be a model. Grant’s telegraph lines were to be rendered useless, his artillery rendered useless, his artillery wholly ruled out, the guns, three hundred of them, to stand silent. Cavalry was to be still more useless.

Five times the federal charge was made and five times it failed. [The last days’ assault] lasted but sixty minutes, yet it was one of the most disastrous Union defeats of the war. Six thousand Union soldiers were killed or wounded in an hour, and Cold Harbor passed into history with Fredericksburg. The fatality among the Union officers was astounding; they literally went forward and led their men into battle and death.  The loss to Lee’s army was slight.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Co., 1934, excerpts pp. 291-292; 306-307)

Lee Assesses His Adversaries

Robert E. Lee did not always refer to his blue-coated adversaries as “those people,” often storming at them as “vandals and violators of all rules of war; in such moments his neck would turn red and chin and head flare upward, like a spirited horse. Plenty of instances are recorded of Lee’s loss of temper . . .” Had Lee accepted Winfield Scott’s offer of command of the invading armies, it seems certain that he would have quickly gone over to the other side after realizing the true intent of his commander-in-chief.  The birthdate of Robert E. Lee is observed on January 19 — a legal holiday in North Carolina and other States.

Lee Assesses His Adversaries

“When his son, “Rooney” Lee, a federal prisoner, was moved to a new place of safety, Lee remarked that “any place would be better than Fort Monroe with [General Benjamin] Butler in command,” and his antipathy to [General John] Pope inspired several bitter comments.

That his nephew, Louis Marshall, who fought on the Union side, was part of Pope’s entourage was particularly offensive. “When you write Rob tell him to catch Pope for me, and also bring in his cousin Louis Marshall who, I am told, is on his staff. I could forgive the latter’s fighting against us, but not his joining Pope.”

For [General Joseph] Hooker, Lee’s contempt was more good-natured; he commonly referred to him as “Mr. F.J. Hooker,” thus making his own use of Hooker’s nickname, “Fighting Joe”; while for Burnside Lee had a real affection, as had most people, friend or foe. “We always understood each other so well,” he commented, on Burnside’s supersession, “I fear [Lincoln] may contrive to make these changes [in command] till they find someone whom I don’t understand.”

The most unfortunate victim of this strain in Lee was General David Hunter, the head of a federal force in the Shenandoah in 1864. After the war, Hunter wrote Lee, asking his professional opinion of his strategy in that campaign. In particular “when he [Hunter] found it necessary to retreat from before Lynchburg, did he not adopt the most feasible line of retreat?”

“Lee replied with a cutting solemnity that would have done honor to Dean Swift: “I would say that I am not advised as to the motives which induced you to adopt the line of retreat which you took, and am not, perhaps, competent to judge of the question, but I certainly expected you to retreat by way of the Shenandoah Valley and was gratified at the time that you preferred the route through the mountains to the Ohio – leaving the valley open for General [Jubal] Early’s advance into Maryland.”

(The Lees of Virginia, Burton J. Hendrick, Little, Brown and Company, 1935, pp. 415-416)

Jan 10, 2021 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Sovereign and Independent Nation

A Sovereign and Independent Nation

A Sovereign and Independent Nation

Florida, a territory acquired by the United States through an 1819 Treaty with Spain, began its move toward Statehood in the late 1830’s. The preamble to its 1838 Constitution agreed with the United States Congress of Florida being a free and independent State, and qualified to voluntarily become a State within the 1789 Constitution’s confederation of States. Florida’s legislature ratified the document and joined that confederation on March 3, 1845.

On January 10, 1861, the State of Florida withdrew from that confederation which it determined to be a threat to the peace and prosperity of the State. As the new Southern confederation of States did not yet exist, the legislature in Tallahassee declared Florida to be “a sovereign and independent and nation.”

In part, the withdrawal from the 1789 confederation is as follows:

“We, the people of the State of Florida in convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish and declare that the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing government of the said States; and that all political connection between her and the government of said States ought to be and the same is hereby totally annulled, and the said Union of States dissolved, and the State of Florida hereby declared a sovereign and independent nation . . .”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William W. Watson, Columbia University, 1913, pg. 64)

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

President James Buchanan’s last annual message of December 3, 1860, placed the blame for the country’s sectional divide squarely upon the Republican party and its adherents. Below, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot and Union cited and commented upon the message in its December 6, 1860 issue.

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

“At no previous period of our national history has the message of the President of the United States been looked for with more solicitude than was the last annual message of Mr. Buchanan; for it was felt that upon his recommendation might depend the future of the country, and that the issues of peace or civil war were, to a great extent, in his hands.

If any man in the country has the right to speak with authority to the South it is JAMES BUCHANAN, as President of the United States and head of the Democratic party; for in his official capacity he has ever been faithful to all his constitutional obligations, and as a party leader has endeavored to bring about those just concessions which, had they been granted, would have saved the country from the perils that now environ it.

The President traces our present difficulties to their true source when he attributes them to the persistent agitation of years against the system of Negro slavery as it exists in the Southern States, and to the alarming sense of insecurity growing out of that agitation . . . growing and extending, until it culminated in the formation of a sectional Northern party, thoroughly imbued and entirely controlled by hostility to the institutions of the Southern States.

It is true that the platforms and creeds of the Republican party profess loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution, and disclaim any intention of interfering with the domestic institutions of the Southern States. But professions weigh nothing when contrasted with facts.

Since the organization of the Republican party the Abolitionists have ceased to exist in this latitude as a separate party, because they merged themselves in the Republicans, deeming that the best means of promoting their ultimate objects.

Every form and degree of Abolitionism has flourished and developed under the fostering care of this Republican party, which, when confronted with the fruits of its own teaching, meekly points to its platform, and says, “we mean no harm to the Southern States.”—Turning from fair words to foul deeds, the Southern people find that the consequences of Republicanism are—the encouragement of Abolitionism, which does not hesitate to avow hostility to slavery wherever it exists; the enactment of unconstitutional laws by Republican Legislatures to nullify the fugitive slave law; the circulation of incendiary publications throughout the South, calculated, if not designed, to encourage servile insurrections, and endanger the lives of the Southern people; the promotion of John Brown raids, and the subjection of the Southern States and people to a position of inferiority.

These are unmistakably indicated as the consequences of the existence of the Republican party, which, however moderate its professions, cannot escape direct responsibility for what it promotes or encourages, and is naturally judged by the Southern people from its fruits, and not from its platforms.

The President shows conclusively that secession is not a remedy conferred upon any State by the Constitution against the encroachments of the General Government, but that it would be a revolutionary step, only justifiable “as the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation has been exhausted.”

Notwithstanding that the message takes grounds against the constitutional right of any State to secede from the Union, the position is maintained that the Constitution has delegated to Congress no power to coerce a State into submission; and this doctrine is fortified with powerful arguments. We do not see how they can be controverted.

The proceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution—the very highest authority—show that “Mr. Edmund Randolph’s plan, which was the ground work of the Constitution, contained a clause to authorize the coercion of any delinquent State. But this clause was struck out at the suggestion of Madison, who showed that a State could be coerced only by military force; that the use of military force against a State as such would be in the nature of a declaration of war; and that a state of war might be regarded as operating the abrogation or dissolution of all pre-existing ties between the belligerent parties, and it would be of itself the dissolution of the Union.” Thus it appears that the idea of coercing disobedient States was proposed in the Constitutional Convention and rejected.

But the President advances one step further in the argument. Suppose a State can be coerced, how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we invite the people to elect Senators and Representatives after they are subdued and conquered? Or shall we hold them as subjects, and not as equals? How can we subdue the unconquerable will? And how can we practically annul the maxim that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Such a process would undermine the foundations of the government and destroy the principles upon which it is reared more certainly than to admit the want of coercive power in the general government.

The President concludes that portion of the message relating to our domestic troubles by suggesting that they may be settled by amending the Constitution, in the way provided by that instrument, so as to secure to the South the rights for which she contends.

Let the South pause before striking the last fatal blow at the Union, and await the time when a returning sense of justice shall induce the North to concede all her just demands . . . Let the North cease its unmanly aggressions—repeal its unconstitutional statutes—stop its reckless agitation against an institution for which it is not responsible and over which it has no control—overthrow any man or party that seeks to perpetuate strife—and the Union may yet be preserved, and even made stronger and more enduring by reason of the shock it has endured.

But without this spirit of concession and mutual forbearance, there is nothing to hope for in the immediate future but contention and disunion.”

(The President’s Message: Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Daily Patriot and Union, December 6, 1860)

 

Jan 2, 2021 - America Transformed, Antebellum Realities, Newspapers, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on An Unmitigated Curse

An Unmitigated Curse

An Unmitigated Curse

“Every day’s experience and observation more and more convinces us that that great institution, the magnetic telegraph, instead of being a blessing, is a curse to the country. No doubt, under the control of honest and conscientious men, and confined in its operations to the transmission of facts as they really exist, and events as they really and truthfully transpire, it would be productive of much good, and be an efficient medium of communication. But this is not the case, and hence the manifold and pestilent evils that have flowed from its invention and its general and universal use.

The telegraph is a money-making institution—the mercenary element is interwoven with every tissue and fiber of the vast web which it has woven and stretched over the country. Just as its agents and correspondents multiply words—whether those words be true or false—and send them over the wires for publication in sensation newspapers, under the headings of display type and half-column captions, just in that proportion are its revenues augmented and its thrift enhanced.

Does not everyone see at a glance how completely its interests are at variance with those of the public? And does not everyone see at a glance, likewise, the tremendous power it must wield, as long as implicit reliance is placed in the statements it furnishes as news?

We warn the people to beware of this new power in our midst, more potent than an “army with banners.” Its whole stock in trade consists in the perpetual excitement of the community—in a morbid appetite for startling news and a monomania for extravagant and almost incredible rumors; because this diseased condition of the public mind furnishes a market for the sale of improved “extras” and “sensation” newspapers—bringing grist to two mills—the telegraph and the printing office.

In fact, so far as its communications for the public eye are concerned, it is almost an unmitigated curse. No news which it sends over the wire is reliable, save what transpires in legislative bodies, and in the transactions of the money and other markets. One half of its “reports'”, and “rumors” are the pure inventions of the imagination, and “like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind,” save the painful memory of deceit and imposition.

As far as its transmission of intelligence, respecting men and measures, helps to form that public opinion, which is the basis of political action, the telegraph, as abused, is a positive nuisance. Unless it is shorn of its strength, by unbelief in all it says and does, it can bring upon us a war at pleasure; it can cry down the good and elevate the bad; it can achieve the success of any party; it can elect any man, almost, President of the United States; and it can render uncertain almost any investment of the capitalist, and play, as with a football, with the great interests of labor and industry.”

(The Telegraph and Its Abuses: Philadelphia Morning  Pennsylvanian, February 6, 1861)