Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace recalled: “My father used to tell me that poverty and illiteracy in the South resulted from the way in which we were treated after the war when they burned the schools down, burned the railroads, just desecrated the South. We are just now overcoming the effects of that tyranny and of the iniquitous Thaddeus Stevens [the Radical Republican leader in Congress], who wanted nothing but vengeance.” Wallace felt himself as one of the South’s “rural proletariat,” and committed himself to “rid the region of what he considered a Northern-imposed inferiority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

“Most Southerners of the [postwar] – and their progeny, including George Wallace – viewed the period of military occupation as cruelly harsh . . . [but] for Southerners, “the unforgiveable reality was not that military rule was unbearably strict or unreasonably long but that it had been imposed at all; what mattered was that the bayonets had glittered among a people who had complied, whatever their reluctance and misgivings, with the Lincoln program for Reconstruction, only to find that the rules had changed as the political winds shifted.

Military rule (but not military occupation) ended in most States in 1868. By then, however, the federal Reconstruction Acts had placed the South’s political structure firmly under the control of [Republican] Radicals who, in practice if not in law, hand-picked governors, legislators, judges, tax collectors, and postmasters.

Many of the jobs were lucrative political plums that lent themselves to graft and payoffs. Legislators were bribed to sell railroad holdings to speculators for next to nothing. An Alabama editor of the time complained that “inside the State capitol and outside of it, bribes were offered and accepted at noonday and without hesitation or shame,” which helped “to drive capital from the State, paralyze industry, demoralize labor, and force the [best] citizens to flee Alabama as a pestilence, seeking relief and repose in the wilds of the distant West.”

Bribes and frauds notwithstanding, Reconstructions greatest dollar cost to the South came from enormous (and frequently wasteful) legislative spending on new programs fostered by the novel and, for the time, somewhat extraordinary notion that social responsibility was a function of the government.

These programs involved not only the establishment of free public school systems for white and black children but also the construction of insane asylums, hospitals, roads, and bridges. Despite extravagances and often misused funds, America’s first integrated governments – [Southern] legislatures comprising blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags – were experimenting with social programs that State governments in the North had never before financed.

But these largely noble experiments were undertaken at the expense – financially and psychologically – of Southern white landowners, who saw the American republic’s traditional rights and values being overturned by what seemed to them a motley collection of blacks, Northern usurpers and Southern traitors.

In formal as in common speech . . . “the United States are” became “the United States is.” But to Southerners, the end of the war – the War Between the States, as most Southerners would refer to it for at least the next 125 years – meant encroaching federalism and government involvement in theretofore private sectors.

Thenceforth, at least well into the heyday of George Wallace, Alabamians would distrust and often detest the federal government, or at best, view it with deep misgivings.

In Barbour County, the defeated whites told their children and grandchildren horror stories of Reconstruction that would burn into their memories: black constables “paraded the streets,” administering “powers of sovereignty” over whites; federal troops carried off or killed farm animals, burned cotton, and plundered stores and homes; once-wealthy families were reduced to penury; local leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges; most whites were prohibited from voting in local and State elections while blacks, induced by threats, money or liquor, were permitted to vote two or three times each for candidates sympathetic to the Radicals.”

(George Wallace, American Populist, Stephan Lesher, Addison-Wesley, 1994, pp. 10-12)

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

A youth of fifteen when Fort Sumter fell, Walter Clark rose to the rank of major in the 35th North Carolina Regiment by the end of the war. Like most Southern men at the end of the war, he went back to his farm to eke out a living amongst the devastation. He found that an undependable labor supply would not bode well for the economic future of the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

“[At the close of the war] . . . the former slaves were thoroughly confused. These Negroes were being deceived by the report that Lincoln had promised to give each family a mule and forty acres of land and that they as free citizens would not have to work for anyone. Thus demoralized and imbued with false hopes, they staged the first great “sit down strike.” In an effort to secure dependable labor for the plantation, Clark visited Raleigh, Baltimore and even New York, but with little success.

On December 2nd 1865 he wrote [to the Raleigh Sentinel]:

“The picture of abandoned farms, stagnated business, a dejected people and open lawlessness is fearful to contemplate. We must rid ourselves of the dead body of slavery, and with it dispose of the perplexing problems of Negro suffrage and Negro equality forever. We have fertile lands, navigable rivers, inexhaustible mines, and a brave and generous people. We need labor to develop these resources and improve our advantages. To do this, however, the labor must be dependable. The conduct of the newly emancipated freedmen is a problem yet to be solved by the future. The prosperity of a great State should not depend upon a contingency.”

Clark pointed out that if the resolution for the abolition of slavery introduced in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures in 1831 and 1832 had not been defeated by the menacing tide of [abolitionist] fanaticism, our own interests would have long since led us to abolish a system which is “at variance with the spirit of our institutions and the genius of the age and has been fraught with the most baneful effects.”

He strongly urged the importation of free white labor and advocated the industrial development of the State, saying: “The broad fertile fields, unexplored mines, unimproved waterpower and dwarf cities of North Carolina are imperiously calling for the influx of population.”

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp.37-39)

 

The Union League of the Republican Party

In the midst of the mostly inflammatory influence of the Republican’s Union League upon the freedmen, the Ku Klux Klan emerged in the immediate postwar. To underscore the Union League’s destructiveness, an 1870 Congressional Committee report provided this indictment of Republican rule over the conquered South: “[The] hatred of the white race was instilled [by the League] into the minds of these ignorant people by every art and vile that bad men could devise; when the Negroes were formed into military organizations and the white people of these States were denied the use of arms; when arson, rape, robbery and murder were things of daily occurrence, . . . and that what little they had saved from the ravages of war was being confiscated by taxation . . . many of them took the law into their own hands and did deeds of violence which we neither justify or excuse. But all history shows that bad government will make bad citizens.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Union League of the Republican Party

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race. That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . the members were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Carpetbagger John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

 

Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina survived the war but found itself in desperate condition when Northern carpetbaggers and local scalawags assumed control of State government in 1868. Historian Hugh Talmage Lefler wrote: “Lack of public confidence, financial support, and students closed the University in 1870. A student expressed it graphically when he wrote of a classroom blackboard: “Today this University busted and went to hell.” The University was reopened in 1875 after North Carolinians regained political control of their State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill

“Of the seventy-eight new Trustees of the University, only four had been members of the former Board, and they were men who had seldom attended meetings of the Trustees and really cared very little about the fate of the University. At the meeting of the new Board in Raleigh, in June 1868, several names were brought forward for the presidency.

After several days of travail the Board brought forth Mr. Solomon Pool, a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina . . . To be sure, he had no “established reputation” for scholarship, though he was a man of some ability. Immediately after the close of “The War” in 1866, Mr. Pool had resigned his position as Tutor in the University to take a job as a Deputy Appraiser in the Revenue Service of the hated Reconstruction Government, allying himself with the Republican party.

The word “opportunist” had not been invented, but “traitor,” “renegade,” and “apostate” were freely hurled at his complacent head. Mr. Joseph [Engelhard], editor of the Wilmington Journal, said in one issue of his paper that the University was “infested with pismires” (termites?) and the very next week he wrote that it was “presided over by nincompoops.”

The Board of Trustees had its own troubles in forming a new faculty. Mr. S.[S]. Ashley, a Massachusetts Yankee, who was Superintendent of Public Education, placed a relative, James A. Martling, in the “Chair of Belles Lettres,” whatever that means. The Martling family occupied the house recently made vacant by my grandfather’s death, and June Spencer and I, living next door, watched with scornful eyes the daughters of the family . . . with their village beaux on the piazza or strolling in the moonlight, but there was no communication between us.

George Dickson, Professor of Agriculture, was a Friend from Philadelphia who came South as a missionary to the Negroes. He brought Bibles, Testaments, and hymn books from the good Quakers of his city, a fine and generous gesture – if only the recipients had been able to read. Friend Dickson went to England to inquire into some new ideas in agriculture for the benefit of the South. He never came back.

During the first year of the Reconstruction Administration there were thirty-five students in attendance . . . just little bare-foot boys from the village and the adjoining country, with their home-made breeches held up by a string across one shoulder, and their dinner in a little tin bucket. Now and then a small black face appeared among them. None of them knew what it was all about. It was just a grand frolic for them to be “goin’ to college.”

Nor were the pupils altogether appreciative of their advantages. We find one A.J. Banks haled before the faculty for non-attendance upon his classes. His excuse was that he did not want to study Greek, nor did he want to stay in college with “them Yanks.”

The grim record shows that the Archives of the Literary Societies were broken into and their contents scattered. A box of Siamese curios presented to the University by the Reverend Daniel McGilvary, a Presbyterian missionary to Siam, was broken, and objects of rare beauty and great value stolen or destroyed. Scientific apparatus was smashed into bits, and great damage was done to the buildings and libraries of the University . . . owls and bats flew in the broken windows of the buildings, the campus was a jungle of weeds, cattle and hogs roamed the unlighted streets at night.

From a charming, dignified home of cultured people, who enjoyed a gracious society, Chapel Hill had become a desolate, silent wilderness. Even the strangers who composed the puppet faculty disliked each other, the village, the State, and the institution they were expected to serve.”

(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, pp. 45-49)

Northern Vandals Liberate Wilmington Furniture

Considered one of Wilmington, North Carolina’s antebellum architectural treasures, the Dr. John D. Bellamy mansion was seized by Northern General Joseph R. Hawley in February 1865 for use as his headquarters while occupying the city — ironically, Hawley was a native North Carolinian. Bellamy’s daughter Ellen was a young girl at the time and later recalled vivid memories of the enemy invasion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Vandals Liberate Wilmington Furniture

“The Federal troops captured Wilmington on February 21, 1865; they took possession of our home, which we had temporarily vacated, and it remained General Hawley Headquarters a long time, even after Lee’s surrender. It was very galling . . .”

[Mother] came up to own dear house, accompanied by a friendly neighbor . . . who was related to General Hawley, and had offered to introduce her. It was most humiliating, and trying, to be entertained by Mrs. Hawley, in her own parlor. Mrs. Hawley showed her raising by “hawking and spitting” in the fire, a most unlady-like act. During the call she offered Mother some figs (from Mother’s own tree) which Aunt Sarah had picked — our own old cook, who had been left there in charge of the premises.

My father made several trips to . . . Washington City before they would grant him his “Pardon.” For what? For being a Southern Gentlemen, a Rebel, and a large Slave Owner! The slaves he had inherited from his father, and which he considered a sacred trust. Being a physician, he guarded their health, kept a faithful overseer to look after them (his home being a regular drug store), and employed a Methodist minister, Rev. Mr. Turrentine, by the year, to look after their spiritual welfare.

Although the war was practically over seven months, we did not get possession of our home ‘till September. [T]he beautiful white marble mantles in the two parlors were so caked with tobacco spit and garbs of chewed tobacco, they were cleaned with great difficulty; indeed, the white marble hearths are still stained . . . No furniture had been left in the parlors . . . On leaving here, the Yankees gave [the] furniture to a servant . . .” In our sitting room, our large mahogany bookcase was left, as it was too bulky for them to carry off; but from its drawers numerous things were taken, among them an autograph album belonging to me brother Marsden.

A number of years later, when my brother John was in Washington as a member of Congress, this same Hawley, then a senator from Illinois, told him of the album “coming into his possession” when he occupied our house, and said he would restore it to him. However, he took care not to do it, although repeatedly reminded.”

(Back With The Tide, Memoirs of Ellen D. Bellamy, Bellamy Mansion Museum 2002, pp. 5-8)

Vandals Pickax the Pews Again

Wilmington, North Carolina’s St. James Parish was violated and ransacked twice in eighty-five years by foreign invaders, first in 1780. In 1865, Rector Dr. Alfred A. Watson wrote Northern General Hawley, demanding his church back and citing it as an infringement on the great Constitutional principle of religious freedom. Dr. Watson refused Hawley’s order to offer prayers for Abraham Lincoln, stating that “Because to ask it of me is to ask me to mock my Maker. What is proposed is not to restrain the Church from uttering prayers hostile to the government, but to require the Church to offer prayers specifically in its favor.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Vandals Pickaxe the Pews Again

“After the capture of Wilmington this venerable church, established in 1738, was seized by order of General Hawley for a military hospital, and in giving an account of it the rector, Dr. Watson (afterward Bishop of the Diocese) reported to the Diocesan Convention of 1866 as follows:

“This was not the first calamity of the sort in the history of the Parish Church of St. James. In 1780, during the occupation of Wilmington by British troops the church was stripped of its pews and furniture, and converted, first into a hospital, then into a blockhouse, and finally into a riding school for Tarleton’s dragoons.

In 1865 the pews were once again torn out with pickaxes . . . There was sufficient room elsewhere, more suitable for hospital purposes. Other hospitals had to be emptied to supply even half the beds in the church which were indeed, never more than half filled.”

(Some Memories of My Life, Alfred Moore Waddell, Edwards & Broughton, pp. 58-59)

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation

Following the War Between the States, the freedmen were exploited by the infamous Union League to help ensure the election of Northern radical Republicans who exploited and bankrupted the exhausted South.  The emergence of the Ku Klan Klan was a predictable result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation  

“Reconstruction” is a curious name to apply to the period following the war. Indeed, the war had left widespread destruction, but the government in Washington had no policy of reconstruction.  The South was left to its own economic devices, which largely amounted to being exploited by Northern interests who took advantage of cheap land, cheap labor, and readily available natural resources. This exploitation and neglect created an economic morass, the results of which endure into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, governments based on the leadership of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, groups that represented a minority of the population, met widespread and violent opposition. This attempt to create a government based on racial equality was made even more ludicrous when many of [the] Northern States rejected the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, creating a situation where the States that said they had worked to free the slaves failed to grant equality to people of color.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, Michael R. Bradley, Pelican Publishing Company,

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

Thirty-three years after Appomattox the United States Congress, still dominated by Republicans, resolved that the oppressed and invaded Cuban people “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.” A further irony is that Captain-General Valeriano “Butcher” Weyler, who instituted the cruel “reconcentrado” policy in Cuba, was a young Spanish attache in Washington observing the War Between the States, and especially, Sherman’s brutal tactics to subjugate Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

“When the civil war in Cuba began in 1895 the old methods of resistance were adopted by the insurgents, and although 200,000 Spanish troops were sent to Cuba the revolt was not suppressed. Small bands struck at Spanish detachments, raided from the swamps the plantations of the cane growers, or levied contributions on property owners. They had the sympathy of the poorer men in general, from whom they received supplies or recruits.

To put down this form of resistance demanded more enterprising soldiers than Spain’s. General [Valeriano] Weyler, the Captain-General, undertook to overcome it with a decree of reconcentration. In 1896 he ordered all Cubans living outside of garrison towns to move within such towns or be treated as rebels. The inhabitants, forced to leave their homes, were huddled together in narrow spaces in towns and, provided with little food, many died from malnutrition.

[President William] McKinley, less inclined than [his predecessor Grover] Cleveland to oppose the public [sentiment], took a more earnest attitude with Spain. [On] June 27, 1897 he protested to Madrid against the harsh policy adopted by [General Weyler] and against reconcentration in particular.

Spain replied that the situation was not as bad as represented and that reconcentration was no worse than the devastation in the Civil War by [Northern Generals] Sheridan and Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley and by Sherman in Georgia.

[On] April 11 [1898] the President laid before Congress the whole Cuban question . . . Congress took a week to debate and on April 19 adopted resolutions declaring that the right of the people Cuba “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent” and empowering the President to use force to carry these resolutions into effect.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 71-72; 76)