Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

Northern General Peter Osterhaus was born in Prussia, educated at the Berlin Military Academy and served as a Prussian officer, but later found himself on the losing side of the socialist revolutions of 1848. He then immigrated to the US and settled in Missouri where he raised a regiment of bounty-enriched German immigrants in June of 1861 to join Lincoln’s army — described by historian Ella Lonn (Foreigners in the Union Army, 1951) thusly: “The speech of almost every European nation might have been heard in the camps of the Army of the Potomac.” Osterhaus accompanied Sherman on his destructive path through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

“Landed neighbors just across the river from the Davises on the Louisiana side included John Perkins, a member of Congress . . . and Mrs. Sarah Dorsey of Elkton Plantation, who also owned Beauvoir [in Mississippi] and befriended Jefferson Davis in his declining years. Adjoining the farms of these friends stood the old Bowie home, where Jim Bowie of Alamo fame and his brother Resin lived as boys.

The big mansion at “Hurricane” is beyond the memory of living persons. On June 2, 1862, Union soldiers advancing toward Vicksburg landed on Davis Bend at night and burned “Hurricane” to the ground.

[Older brother] Joseph E. Davis complained that General Peter J. Osterhaus ordered the burning and gave the family only thirty minutes’ notice to vacate the house. The red glare from the rocketing flames at the western end of the bend could be seen in Vicksburg, eighteen direct miles away.

The soldiers piled library books on the lawn and lit bonfires. They dumped sets of china and crystal on the grass and gleefully shattered them with muskets. Paintings cherished by the Davises were gathered and slashed with bayonets.

[Brother Joseph E. Davis on] March 1, 1866, wrote to President Andrew Johnson from Vicksburg, Mississippi, making application for the restoration of his property” “I took no part in the war. I did not bear arms. I was not a member of the legislature nor of the convention nor attended any meetings. I contributed nothing, subscribed nothing, [and] made no investments in Confederate bonds or securities.

Under the assurances that those would not be molested who [remained] quietly at home, I remained at my place until almost all of my property was carried off, my cotton burned and an order was received from Gen’l Osterhaus to burn my house, giving me and my family half an hour to get out . . .”

(Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis, Frank Edgar Everett, Jr., University of Mississippi, 1971, excerpts pp. 18-19)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

Postwar Despair and Flight

It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Southerners emigrated to Brazil after 1865 to avoid the oppressive Northern domination of their homeland. They carried their antebellum cultural traditions with them, and notably, an anthropological study of the effects of television on Brazilians (Prime time Society, Kottak, 1990), found that the American “Confederados” tradition of literacy and reading created a hostility toward television.” Another reference (Diplomatic Relations Between the US and Brazil, Hill, 1932), raised the question as to why these Southerners moved “to a nation that had large numbers of black freedmen of full citizenship if one of their reasons for flight was repugnance at abolition in the South.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Despair and Flight

“Returning soldiers and war refugees expected to find their houses burned, family and friends missing, property stolen or confiscated, and plantations destroyed. One Southerner expressed his reservations about going back in this way: “It will be a sad homecoming, without a home to go to. The family circle is broken by the death of our boys, and many dear old friends will be missing. Then we are uncertain as to whether we shall be able to save enough from the wreck of our fortune to enable us to live in a very modest way.”

Describing South Carolina, J.S. Pike wrote:

“The banks were ruined. The railroads were destroyed. Their few manufacturies were desolated. Their vessels had been swept from the seas and rivers. The livestock was consumed. Notes, bonds, mortgages, all the money in circulation, debts, became alike worthless. The community were without clothes and without food . . . vast estates had crumbled like paper in a fire. While the shape was not wholly destroyed, the substance had turned to ashes. Never was there greater nakedness and desolation in a civilized community.”

Given the situation in the South at the end of the war, it is not surprising that many desired to leave and go elsewhere. The largest number relocated within the United States . . . But as many at 10,000 went into exile in foreign lands – most often to Latin America.

They despaired of the South’s ability to control its own destiny; they feared imprisonment and reprisals; and they hated the Yankees.

Premonitions of reconstruction horrors were common. Northern merchants and speculators moved into the Southern States after the war, taking away economic opportunities from Southerners.

“[On one postwar voyage to Brazil, our] . . . Captain was an Americanized Spaniard. We learned afterward that he had been bribed by the Yankees to wreck the vessel somewhere on the coast, and that is why he never sailed out to sea. Soon after the storm began, he tied up the helm and retired to his cabin leaving the whole crowd to the mercy of the waves and storm.”

(The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil, Cyrus B. & James M. Dawsey, editors, University of Alabama Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 13-14; 29)

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

As General Samuel G. French suggests below, presidential expedients not found in the United States Constitution were invented for initiating war against the South, and for the prosecution of that war. French believed that the New England-armed men in Kansas were responsible for firing the first shot of the war; others have postulated that the war began when the Star of the West left its New York moorings in early January 1861, carrying armed men below decks to South Carolina – when Fort Sumter’s guns were turned against the Americans it was built to protect.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

“Sherman — the fell destroyer — had burned the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and the ruins reminded me of Pompeii. In walking one of the streets I passed a canvas shanty, from which I was hailed by an Israelite with “Good morning General; come in.” He had been in the army and knew me; he had some goods and groceries for sale. When I was leaving, he asked: “General, cant I do something for you? Here are fifty dollars, just take them; maybe you can pay me back sometime.”

I thought the angel of mercy was smiling down on us . . . I thanked him kindly, and the day came when I had the pleasure of repaying the debt. The servants I had in Columbus had been nominally “confiscated” and set free; so they came to me, almost daily, begging me to take them back to the plantation in Mississippi. As I was not able to do this, I applied to some “bureau,” that had charge of the “refugees,” for transportation of these Negroes, and to my surprise it was granted. As soon as possible they were put on the cars and started for the plantation.

When we reached home we found most of the old servants there awaiting our arrival. To feed and clothe about a hundred of these people, and to plant a crop of cotton in the spring, clothing, provisions, mules, wagons, implements, harness, etc., had to be procured. To obtain funds to purchase the articles enumerated — to commence again — I went to Philadelphia and New York (by special permission of the government) in November.

. . . War is the most uncertain of all undertakings of a nation, and, like the tempest, cannot be controlled, and seldom or never ends as predicted. The North proclaimed that this “little rebellion” would end in sixty days!

It lasted four years, and ended as no one had foreseen. It had to suppress rebellions caused by people who entertained Southern opinions in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati and other cities; muzzle the press, prohibit free speech, banish prominent individuals, arrest men without warrant, and imprison them without charges made known to them; and violated nearly every resolution and pledge made in the beginning relating to the South; they cast aside constitutional law, and substituted martial law, under which the South became a scene of desolation and starvation.

My own opinion is that the first gun was fired, at the instigation of a number of prominent men North, by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and for which he was apotheosized and numbered among the saints.

Mr. Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. Our case is new. We must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save the country.”

These words indicate that the powers of the Constitution were inadequate to the conduct of the war, and henceforth the war must be conducted as occasion deemed expedient. In other words, the executive must be declared greater than the power that made it, or the creature greater than the Creator, and with dictatorial methods the war was conducted. Avaunt, Constitution, avaunt! We are fighting for the Union, for dominion over the Southern territory again, and so the Constitution was folded up, etc.”

(Two Wars, Samuel G. French, Confederate Veteran Press, 1901, excerpts, pp. 320-327)

 

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

One of the outcomes of the devastation and destruction was a need for Southern men to find employment and rebuild their impoverished section, and this most often meant working under the direction of the conqueror. Though Lee refused “to accept a sinecure from a Northern business concern,” many former Confederate officers became the agents or attorneys of the invading capitalists and “took action that had all the earmarks of scalawagism”, in the words of the author below.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

“One of the prices the South pays for its progressive industrialization is increasing servitude to Northern capital. New York has grown into the most autocratic city-state of modern times, with the Southern province of the United States as one of its important colonies.

The great financial houses of that and kindred cities control most of the region’s strategic industries, having sent out a second and third generation of carpetbaggers to found factories or to purchase those already existing. The Southern industries owned and controlled by outsiders include the region’s railroads, its coal fields, its iron reserves, its electric power, and its gas, Sulphur, and oil sources.

The existence of Northern patent monopolies and the absence of local machine manufacturing permit outside direction even of industries locally owned. The South manufactures its own cast-iron pipes, steel rails and bridges, and oils, but not its hardware, locomotives, automobiles, clocks, radios, dynamos, drugs, and many other finished products requiring the highest skill to produce and bringing in the highest profits.

Retail profits are siphoned out of the section by Northern-owned chain stores. The Southern businessman usually is a mere factor or agent of Northern principals, who control both production and distribution. His function is to sell [Northern articles] endeared to the Southern public through advertising. Some of these articles are as worthless as the wooden nutmegs the Yankee peddler is said to have imposed upon the public in ante-bellum times.

In 1937, economist David Coyle estimated that the South was paying out a billion dollars annually in excess of its income. It balanced its credit by selling property to investors from other sections of the country, by borrowing, by going bankrupt, and by destroying forests and lands to secure immediate incomes.

The possibility of the South revolting against its debtor status, in the manner of the Revolutionary planters against their British creditors, is ruled out by the outcome of the Civil War. That Southern leaders are able to reconcile the sons and grandsons of those who followed Robert E. Lee and William Jennings Bryan to the economic domination of the North caused Benjamin Kendrick to cry out bitterly in 1942:

“We are confronted by a paradox more amazing and ironical than any ever conjured by the imagination of Gilbert and Sullivan. The people of the South, who all their lives have suffered deprivation, want, and humiliation from an outside finance imperialism, followed with hardly a murmur of protest, leaders who, if indirectly, were nonetheless agents and attorneys of the imperialists.” What was true in 1942 is truer thirty years later.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpt pp. 55-57)

The British Version of Sherman

With respect to the initiation of modern total war against a civilian population, the author below argues that after a century or two of civilized warfare between European combatants, “total war did in fact appear, beginning with the American Civil War, and has been the form of war in the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s general, Sherman, seems to have absorbed Allan Ramsey’s view of war against civilians, and was driven by his belief that Americans in the South could in no manner oppose the will of his government — to do so meant fire and sword used to bring them to subjection – after which his fury would cease. Sherman continued his total war against the Plains Indians; a young Spanish officer named Valeriano Weyler visited the North during the War, observed Sherman’s art of warfare, and used this to devastating effect against Cuban civilians in the mid-1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The British Version of Sherman

“Although [David] Hume presented the specter of total war against the civilian population as a reduction to absurdity of British policy on both moral and practical grounds, his good friend Allan Ramsey embraced it as the only way to win the war. But what is most important about Ramsey’s proposal in the moral justification he offered for it.

Allan Ramsey was a court [portrait] painter to George III . . . [and] also a political theorist of some merit and wrote a number of pamphlets on political topics . . . [arguing in 1778] that the war is being lost because the British have not followed a proper strategy. The war must be turned against the civilian population.

Ramsey proposes that a garrison be established in New York . . . to serve as a rendezvous point for all British operations. Ten thousand troops are then to embark on transports to any province that is vulnerable and important . . . [and] to carry away all “that may be useful to the public service” and then “burn and destroy the houses, magazines, and plantations . . . sparing the lives of all the persons who do not attempt by arms to prevent them.” The troops are then to embark for some other province “where the like may be repeated.”

Washington’s army could not match the mobility of the British navy, and one could expect the colonial army to melt away as men returned to their devastated provinces to assist their families. Should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.

Ramsey recognized that “such a scheme . . .” would be rejected as barbarous by “the more human, and more respectable part of the community.” But to this he had an ingenious reply.

[As] the American people claim to be sovereign; thus the people themselves are in a state of war with the King’s forces. “[The] inhabitants of America . . . with the express purpose of making war upon England, have formed themselves into a Government . . . where every man may be said, in his own individual person, to have bid defiance to the King of Great Britain; so that he must thank his own folly and temerity, if, at any time, he should come off short from so unequal a contest.”

We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of peoples, and the enslavement of the vanquished.

Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible. Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy.

Happily the rules [of civilized warfare] were still in force for Lord North and George III, who did not follow Ramsay’s advice to wage total war against the colonists. The complete domination of reflection over moral sentiment, which is the mark of the barbarism of refinement, had not yet occurred.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 296-301)

Pillaging and Flattening American towns

Referring to his prewar employment and residence in Louisiana, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph called the destructive Sherman “Judas Iscariot, a betrayer, a creature of depravity, a demon of a thousand fiends.” As for Sherman’s misunderstanding of treason, it is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution as “levying War against them [the united States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Sherman, by order of his commander, Lincoln, waged war against the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Pillaging and Flattening American Towns

“Officially, Sherman’s orders to his officers were against capricious violence and destruction on his army’s sweep through South Carolina. But the true desires of their leader filtered back to Sherman’s men as they slogged through the swamps under the dripping moss of the live oaks in South Carolina Low Country. Sherman issued few, if any, restraining orders to the troops.

South Carolina is where treason began, and there, Sherman swore, was where it would end. And so, to Sherman’s implied commands, the troops responded with a greater vengeance than they had in Georgia.

Villages in Sherman’s path through the Low Country were virtually obliterated: Hardeeville, Purysburg, Robertville, Lawtonville, Allendale. At least one brigade – often two or more a day – marched through, pillaging and flattening the towns and the lands between mid-January and early February 1865.

The forces commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward S. Solomon of the 82nd Illinois Infantry of Operations seem to have been particularly effective in razing the hometowns of the Willingham and Lawton families.

In a postscript to a report that Colonel H. Case of the 129th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Corps, had made . . . reported that a forage party near Camden “has captured at last a portion of the assets of the Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of Camden and also a quantity of jewelry and silver plate” and that “the safes were delivered to the Provost Marshal of the Twentieth Corps.”

Shortly after Lee’s surrender, a correspondent of the New York Times wrote, “I hazard nothing in saying that three-fifths [in value] of the personal property we passed through were taken by Sherman’s Army.”

(Kith and Kin, a Portrait of a Southern Family, Carolyn L. Harrell, Mercer University Press, 1984, excerpts pp. 135-138)

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

Descending upon the prostrate South were the “Carpetbaggers” – Northern adventurers settling in the South and bent upon aiding the Republican Party through organizing the freedmen politically. Many were “astute demagogues who through vague speeches and tricks of mass organization won the confidence of the naïve Negro.” Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley described them as “stealing and plundering, many of them with both arms around Negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them.” The infamous Union League was the destructive instrument of the Republican Party which drove a political wedge between Southern blacks and whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.

The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the [radical] plans of Congress unfolded in 1867, its main purpose became the organization of Negro voters [as Republicans]. In every Southern community trusting Negroes were organized into secret lodges of the order which indulged in mummery and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.

Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued supremacy of the Republican party.

As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write . . . We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.”

During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.

One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other fields.

Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.

Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”

(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, excerpts, pp. 272-273)