Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Reasons for the Solid South

Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, former colonel, wartime governor and later United States Senator, explained to his Senate colleagues in 1879 by what manner the Southern States became solidly Democratic after the war.  Vance,  a prewar Unionist, was astonished at the temper of the Republican party victors and that they would subvert all law and civil governments in the South for the purpose of party supremacy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Reasons for the Solid South

“Mr. President, who made the South solid?

The answer is as plain and unmistakable as it is possible to make anything to the human intellect: the Republican party is responsible for this thing. At the beginning of the late war almost the entire Whig party of the South, with a large and influential portion of the Democratic, were in favor of the Union and deprecated with their whole souls the attempt at its destruction, but through love of their native States and sympathy with their kindred and neighbors they were drawn into the support of the war.

Their wisdom in opposing it was justified by the ruinous results; their patriotism and courage were highly appreciated, and when peace came this class were in high favor at the South, while the secessionists as the original advocates of a disastrous policy were down in public estimation.

If you gentlemen of the North had then come forward with liberal terms and taken these men by the hand, you could have established a party in the South that would have perpetuated your power in this Government for a generation, provided you had listened to the views of those men, and respected their policy on questions touching their section.

But you pursued the very opposite course, a course which compelled almost every decent, intelligent man of Anglo-Saxon prejudices and traditions to take a firm and determined stand against you; a course which consolidated all shades of political opinion into one resolute mass to defend what they conceived to be their ancient forms of government, laws, liberties and civilization itself. By confiscation and the destruction of war, you had already stripped us of property to the extent of at least $3,000,000,000 and left our land desolate, rent and torn, our homes consumed with fire, and our pleasant places a wasted wilderness.

Peace then came – no, not peace, but the end of war came – no, not the end of war, but the end of legitimate, civilized war, and for three years you dallied with us. One day we were treated as though we were in the Union, and as though we had legitimate State governments in operation; another day we were treated as though we were out of the Union, and our State governments were rebellious usurpations. It was a regular game of “Now you see it and now you don’t.” We were in the Union for all purposes of oppression; we were out of it for all purposes of protection.

Finally, seeing that we still remained Democratic, the Union was dissolved by act of Congress and we were formally legislated outside in order that you might bring us into the Union again in such a way as to guarantee us a Republican form of government – that is, that we should vote the Republican ticket; and you cited Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution as your authority to do this.

You deposed our State governments and ejected from office every official, from Governor to township constable, and remitted us to a State of chaos in which the only light of human authority for the regulation of human affairs and the control of human passions was that which gleamed from the polished point of the soldier’s bayonet.

You disenfranchised at least ten per cent of our citizens, embracing the wisest, best and most experienced. You enfranchised our slaves, the lowest and most ignorant; and you placed over them as leaders a class of men who have attained the highest positions of infamy known to modern ages.

In order to preserve the semblance of consent, conventions were called to form new [State] constitutions, the delegates to which were chosen by this new and unheard of constituency, The military counted the votes, often at the headquarters in distant States, the general in command determining the election and qualifications of the delegates.

Perhaps the annals of the [Anglo-Saxon] race from which we spring, with all its various branches spread throughout the world, cannot furnish such a parody upon the principles of free government based upon the consent of the governed.

[So constituted], the new governments went to work, and in the short space of four years they plundered those eleven Southern States to the extent of $262,000,000; that is to say, they took all that we had that was amenable to larceny, and they would have taken more, doubtless, but for the same reason that the weather could not get any colder in Minnesota, as described by a returned emigrant from that State.

And now recalling these facts and a hundred more which I cannot now name, can any candid man wonder that we became solid? Can he wonder that old Whigs and Democrats, Union men and secessionists, should unite in a desperate effort to throw off the dominion of a party which had inflicted these things upon them? And your military interference, your abuse, and your denunciations continue unto this day.

The Negro alone is your friend and very few whites . . . [though] One by one the Northern adventurers who led them have packed their carpet-bags and silently stolen back to the slums of Northern society whence they originated, and the lonely Republican makes his solitary lair in some custom-house or post-office or revenue headquarters. The broad, free, bright world outside of these retreats in all the South is Democratic, thanks to you, the Republican party of the North.”

(Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Printing and Publishing House, 1897, pp. 226-229)

 

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

After a Northerner complained that unexemplary statesmen represented the American South after the war and into the twentieth century, a Southerner reminded him that the Yankees had killed off the South’s finest leaders during the war and the unexemplary were all that remained. H.L. Mencken was no admirer of the South, but knew that two American countries would have been preferable to one held together by force.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

“No American historian, so far as I know, has ever tried to work out the probable consequences if Grant instead of Lee had been on the hot spot at Appomattox. How long would the victorious Confederacy have endured?

Could it have surmounted the difficulties inherent in the doctrine of States’ Rights, so often inconvenient and even paralyzing to it during the war? Could it have remedied its plain economic deficiencies, and become a self-sustaining nation?

How would it have protected itself against such war heroes as Beauregard and Longstreet, Joe Wheeler and Nathan D. Forrest? And what would have been its relations to the United States, socially, economically, spiritually and politically?

I am inclined, on all these counts, to be optimistic. The chief evils in the Federal victory lay in the fact, from which we still suffer abominably, that it was a victory of what we now call Babbitts’ over what used to be called gentlemen. I am not arguing here, of course, that the whole Confederate army was composed of gentlemen; on the contrary, it was chiefly made up, like the Federal army, of innocent and unwashed peasants, and not a few of them got into its corps of officers.

But the impulse behind it, as everyone knows, was essentially aristocratic, and that aristocratic impulse would have fashioned the Confederacy if the fortunes of war had run the other way. Whatever the defects of the new commonwealth below the Potomac, it would have at least been a commonwealth founded upon a concept of human inequality, and with a superior minority at the helm. It might not have produced any more Washington’s, Madison’s, Jefferson’s, Calhoun’s and Randolph’s of Roanoke, but it would certainly not have yielded itself to the Heflin’s, Caraways, Bilbo’s and Tillman’s.

The rise of such bounders was a natural and inevitable consequence of the military disaster. That disaster left the Southern gentry deflated and almost helpless. Thousands of the best young men among them had been killed, and thousands of those who survived came North. They commonly did well in the North, and were good citizens.

My own native town of Baltimore was greatly enriched by their immigration, both culturally and materially; if it is less corrupt today than most other large American cities, then the credit belongs largely to Virginians, many of whom arrived with no baggage save good manners and empty bellies. Back home they were sorely missed.

First the carpetbaggers ravaged the land, and then it fell into the hands of the native white trash, already so poor that war and Reconstruction could not make them any poorer. When things began to improve they seized whatever was siezable, and their heirs and assigns, now poor no longer, hold it to this day. A raw plutocracy owns and operates the New South, with no challenge save from a proletariat, white and black, that is still three-fourths peasant, and hence too stupid to be dangerous. The aristocracy is almost extinct, at least as a force in government. It may survive in backwaters and on puerile levels, but of the men who run the South today, and represent it at Washington, not 5%, by any Southern standard, are gentlemen.

If the war had gone with the Confederates no such vermin would be in the saddle, nor would there be any sign below the Potomac of their chief contributions to American Kultur—Ku Kluxry, political ecclesiasticism, nigger-baiting, and the more homicidal variety of wowserism.

Such things might have arisen in America, but they would not have arisen in the South. The old aristocracy, however degenerate it might have become, would have at least retained sufficient decency to see to that. New Orleans, today, would still be a highly charming and civilized (if perhaps somewhat zymotic) city, with a touch of Paris and another of Port Said. Charleston, which even now sprouts lady authors, would also sprout political philosophers.

The University of Virginia would be what Jefferson intended it to be, and no shouting Methodist would haunt its campus. Richmond would be, not the dull suburb of nothing that it is now, but a beautiful and consoling second-rate capital, comparable to Budapest, Brussels, Stockholm or The Hague. And all of us, with the Middle West pumping its revolting silo juices into the East and West alike, would be making frequent leaps over the Potomac, to drink the sound red wine there and breathe the free air.

My guess is that the two Republics would be getting on pretty amicably. Perhaps they’d have come to terms as early as 1898, and fought the Spanish-American War together. In 1917 the confiding North might have gone out to save the world for democracy, but the South, vaccinated against both Wall Street and the Liberal whim-wham, would have kept aloof—and maybe rolled up a couple of billions of profit from the holy crusade. It would probably be far richer today, independent, than it is with the clutch of the Yankee mortgage-shark still on its collar.

It would be getting and using his money just the same, but his toll would be less. As things stand, he not only exploits the South economically; he also pollutes and debases it spiritually. It suffers damnably from low wages, but it suffers even more from the Chamber of Commerce metaphysic.

No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it. But they were in favor of it on sound economic grounds, and not on the brummagem moral grounds which persuaded the North. The difference here is immense. In human history a moral victory is always a disaster, for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished. The triumph of sin in 1865 would have stimulated and helped to civilize both sides.

Today the way out looks painful and hazardous. Civilization in the United States survives only in the big cities, and many of them—notably Boston and Philadelphia—seem to be sliding down to the cow country level. No doubt this standardization will go on until a few of the more resolute towns, headed by New York, take to open revolt, and try to break out of the Union. Already, indeed, it is talked of.

But it will be hard to accomplish, for the tradition that the Union is indissoluble is now firmly established. If it had been broken in 1865, life would be far pleasanter today for every American of any noticeable decency. There are, to be sure, advantages in Union for everyone, but it must be manifest that they are greatest for the worst kinds of people.

All the benefit that a New Yorker gets out of Kansas is no more than what he might get out of Saskatchewan, the Argentine pampas, or Siberia. But New York to a Kansan is not only a place where he may get drunk, look at dirty shows and buy bogus antiques; it is also a place where he may enforce his dunghill ideas upon his betters.”

(Published in The American Mercury, Sept., 1930, The Vintage Mencken, Gathered by Alistair Cooke, Vintage Books, 1955, pp.197-201)

 

Vandals Sack Jefferson Davis' Brierfield

The Mississippi plantations of Joseph and Jefferson Davis, Brierfield and Hurricane, were models of kind treatment to the Africans in their care. James H. Jones, the colored body-servant of Mr. Davis at the end of the war, requested the honor of driving “the remains of my old master to their last resting place” after Davis’ death in 1889.  He did not want to be “deprived of the last opportunity of showing my lasting appreciation for my best friend.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Vandals Sack Jefferson Davis’ Brierfield

“When Union forces reached Grand Gulf and Davis Bend, a raiding party burned Hurricane on June 24, 1862. Although the raiders also prowled through Brierfield, for some strange reason they refrained from applying the torch to the house.

Grant initiated his thrust for Vicksburg from Memphis early in 1863. Farragut cooperated in this maneuver by renewing his surge upriver from the south. I May 1863, Brierfield was revisited by Federal troops. James W. Garner has written that “when Farragut’s fleet steamed up the river in 1863, it stopped long enough to allow the marines to go ashore and destroy or carry away everything of value.”

On June 1, 1863, a Vicksburg newspaper reported that Yankees had rifled Brierfield, destroyed all farming implements, as well as household and kitchen furniture, and badly defaced the premises. Pictures were probably then taken of “the House Jeff Built.”

These events occurred during the prolonged siege when most Confederate soldiers in the area were bottled up in Vicksburg. After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the Union army took control of Brierfield and Hurricane . . . [consisting of] 1,000 acres, one mansion and ten quarters. It was reserved for the use of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands,” known as the “Freedmen’s Bureau.”

Margaret Mitchell Bigelow has commented that “one of the most interesting experiments was the one of Jefferson Davis’ plantation on Davis Bend. Here some seventy lessees, all Negroes, seemed to have been more successful than the Northern speculators.

The good showing of the Negroes at Davis Bend was due in part to the excellent training given by Joe and Jefferson Davis to their slaves before the war. This colony led by the [former slave Ben] Montgomery’s eventually became the all-Negro colony of Mound Bayou.”

Professor Bigelow also pointed out that in 1864 the “Jeff Davis Mansion” was headquarters for the Cincinnati Contraband Relief Commission of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. On the entire 10,000 acre Davis Bend Colony, the home Farm in Mississippi, there were 1,750 freedmen at one time; and the project cleared $160,000 in 1865. The Brierfield part of the colony produced 234 bales of cotton for a profit of $25,000.”

(Brierfield: Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis, Frank E. Everett, Jr., University and College Press of Mississippi, 1971, pp. 77-78)

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

A very popular book in the North, Sherman’s (1875) Memoirs went far to further exacerbate sectional hatred as he condemned the South and “took an almost lustful pride in describing the tremendous power his hand had wielded in spreading terror and destruction.”

Bernhard Thuersam, wwwcirca1865.org

 

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

“If the [Southern] prisons constituted a Northern grievance the South likewise had its hurtful memories [of the war]. While Northerners blamed the evil genius of slavery for the war, Southerners [like Major T.G. Barker speaking in Charleston in 1870:] pointed the finger of responsibility to “those men who preached the irrepressible conflict to the Northern people” and “helped to bring on that unlawful and unholy invasion of the South.”

The South felt that it had been betrayed. [The Southern Review in 1867 said:] “Assuredly the subjected portions of this imperial republic (so called), with the bitter experience they have of outraged honour, justice, and humanity, on the part of those once their associates and friends, can never again by any possibility trust that vast engine of tyranny, a consolidated popular Union, nor derive from it one ray of hope for their own welfare, or for the happiness of mankind.”

It was to this “deep spirit of hate and oppression toward the Southern people,” and not to the necessities of war, that the South attributed the vast destruction of its property.

The ineradicable sense of injury felt by the South took concrete form in condemning the ravages committed by General Sherman’s army in Georgia and South Carolina. “No tongue will ever tell, no pen can record the horrors of that march,” wrote an intimate associate of General Joseph E. Johnston whose surrender to Sherman is sometimes pictured as a love feast.

“Ten generations of women will transmit, in whispers to their daughters, traditions of unspeakable things.” The hurt was accentuated by Northern pride in the achievement. The South resented the arrogant and jeering tone of the song, “Marching Through Georgia,” and bridled when Northern orators described Sherman’s army going through the conquered land “lie a plow of God.” Sherman personified all that the South had suffered.

The most contentious bone . . . was the destruction of Columbia. Sherman’s own defense was to blame General Wade Hampton . . . [and] the charge was made deliberately in Sherman’s official report. “I did it,” he later wrote, “to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was, in my opinion, a braggart, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”

[The South] cherished a hateful image of the martyred Lincoln . . . who carried out in action his prophesy of war and destruction. He and his Cabinet, wrote the Southern Review, had a “perfect comprehension of the passions, prejudices, susceptibilities, vices and virtues . . . of the people upon whom they had to practice. They knew every quiver of the popular pulse . . . They were masters of every artifice that could mystify and mislead, and of every trick that could excite hope, or confidence, or rage . . . They filled their armies, established their financial system, controlled the press, and silenced opposition, by the same ingenious and bold imposture.”

The South sneered at a North which observed the Fourth of July and “at the same time denounced as damnable heresy the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.” When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871 it was considered . . . [a] demonstration of Divine vengeance,” because it had been in Chicago that “the rowdy Lincoln, the prime agent of our woes, was nominated.” [After the death of] General Custer in the massacre of 1876, it was remembered in Virginia that the gallant martyr of the Little Big Horn was also the Custer who had executed seven captured Confederates of Mosby’s command without treating them as prisoners of war.”

(The Road to Reunion, Paul Buck, Little, Brown and Company, 1937, pp. 48-49; 52-55)

Better to Die in the Last Ditch

Of the war and its end in the submission and occupation of the American South, those enduring the degradation vowed that “These things will not stay forgotten . . . daughters and Veterans can not afford to be silent about the painful past. Let our descendants have a truthful account of that awful time as far as written words can give it.” The source below can be obtained from Orders@Xlibris.com.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Better to Die in the Last Ditch

“Twenty years after Appomattox in a survey to determine “how the war had most significantly changed” the lives of Confederate women, “all said that doing their own work or adjusting to hired Negro domestics was their major postwar problem.” Sallie Southall Cotton wrote to General William G. LeDue in 1909 about Reconstruction:

“Defeated, oppressed, humiliated, poverty-stricken, disenfranchised, taxed to pay the war debt, while too poor to support ourselves, deprived of opportunity politically, and handicapped by pride and the bitterness of rebellion against our condition, the South was a pitiable spectacle – and her rise from that condition to the splendid attainments of today is a crown of honor she deserves because she has won it by overcoming obstacles which at first seemed insurmountable.”

Dr. Henry Bahnson, in his speech to Confederate veterans, had this to say about Confederate women:

“We can speak in unstilted praise of the best and greatest glory of the South – the women of the war. Their soft voices inspired us, their prayers followed us and shielded us from temptation and harm. We witnessed their Spartan courage and self-sacrifice in every stage of the war. We saw them send their husbands and their fathers, their brothers and their sons and their sweethearts, to the front, tempering their joy in the hour of triumph, cheering and comforting them in the days of despair and disaster.

Freely they gave of their abundance, and gladly endured privation and direct poverty that the men in the field might be clothed and fed. Their days of unaccustomed toil were saddened with anxious suspense, and the lonely, prayerful vigils of the night afforded no rest.

They nursed the sick and wounded; they soothed the dying; and in the last stages of the war when all was lost but honor, were made to marvel at their saintly spirit of martyrdom standing as it were almost neck deep in the desolation around tem, bravely facing their fate, while the light of heaven illuminated their divinely beautiful countenances.”

Catherine DeRosset Meares [of Wilmington] remarked: “The sense of captivity, of subjugation . . . [was] so galling that I cannot see how a manly spirit could submit to it . . . Oh, it is such degradation to see [our] young men yield voluntary submission to these rascally Yankees. Better to stand on the last plank and die in the last ditch.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States, Brenda Chambers McKean, Volume II, Xlibris, 2011, pp. 1082-1083)

Bearing Their Afflictions With Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

The postwar South endured a swarm of curious Northerners: some journalists, many exploitive speculators, and often offensive bigots “who gave advice, condemned customs, asked obtrusive questions, and published tactless statements.” Despite New England’s large part in the African slave trade and perpetuation of slavery with its ravenous cotton mills, the North was determined that the South alone would be punished for the supposed sins of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Bearing Their Afflictions with Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

“The defeated Southerners were expected to make the sacrifices necessary for reforms favoring the Negro. They were willing to recognize the defeat of the Confederate armies, the freeing of the slaves, and the restoration of the Union. A considerable number with the fear of summary punishment before them were willing to repudiate the Confederacy with unseemly haste. A few – the first scalawags – were prepared to adopt the beliefs of the conquerors.

For the great majority, however, the tragic outcome of the war increased their hatred of Northerners, made Southern doctrines more precious, and invested the war leaders with an aura of heroism. Only the minimum demands of the victor were to be accepted. As soon as it became clear that the North would not be as vindictive as some imagined every reform suggested from the outside was contested bitterly.

Those among the conquerors who imagined that military defeat had reduced the white Southerners to impotence were to be unpleasantly surprised. Although defeated, these people were not without material resources. Despite threats of confiscation, the land remained mostly in their hands and agricultural possibilities partially compensated for decline in land values. All tools were not destroyed and many cities were unscathed or only partially wrecked.

The whites faced their difficulties with superb courage. “While clouds were dark and threatening,” wrote a Northern newspaper reporter, “I do not believe there was ever in the world’s history a people who bear their afflictions with more philosophy and Christian fortitude than these unfortunate people.” Women cheerfully returned to the kitchen and men turned to manual labor. A philosophy of hard work and close economy was preached, and every expedient which might lead out of the impasse of poverty and social stagnation was advanced.

The war had accustomed men to hardships, and the women had learned to manage plantations, maintain slave discipline, and endure privations. Certainly there was no ground for the belief, fostered by the romantics, that Southerners were a lazy and improvident lot who were helpless unless ministered to by faithful blacks. Actually, they were ready to assume duties previously exercised by Negroes, at the same time resisting Northern assaults on their inherited privileges.

They were backed in their policies by an assertive country folk who were accustomed to dwell on lands of their own, and who had a profound contempt for Northerners . . . had proved their stamina while serving in the Confederate army . . . [and] were ready to terrorize Yankees and Negroes alike if members of either group attempted to upset the traditional social order.”

(The South Old and New, A History, 1820-1947, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1947, pp. 171-172)

 

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