Browsing "Aftermath: Racial Conundrums"

The North Must Fall Under the Same Rule

Once the American States in the South were subdued and martial law instituted, the occupation forces wreaked havoc among the slowly-adjusting population, both white and black. At an 1866 Fourth of July observance in Atlanta, a resident wrote that “the occasion was observed only by the black population. They had a grand procession [though] a lot of drunken Yankee soldiers . . . attacked them, and there was a general row. No one was killed, but more than twenty shots were fired, and many were injured. There is a bitter feeling between the Negroes and the Yankees . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North Must Fall Under the Same Rule

“On April 30, 1865, news was received in Georgia through a dispatch from General (Joseph E.] Johnston to Governor [Joseph] Brown that hostilities against the United States had ceased. From Savannah and Macon as centers, military occupation was extended over the whole State during April, May and June.

Frequent broils occurred between soldiers and citizens, between Negroes and white soldiers and citizens and between white people and [US] colored troops. Garrisons where colored troops were established were centers for disturbance. And Negro soldiers everywhere, had a bad influence on the freedmen of the neighborhood, encouraging them in idleness and arousing in them a feeling of distrust or hostility to their white employers.

Discontent among the Federal soldiers themselves did not make matters more comfortable. White volunteers were restive, thought they ought to be immediately mustered out, and regular soldiers did not get along with colored troops.

General [Ulysses S.] Grant, after his tour of inspection in the South, reported to President [Andrew] Johnson, December 18, 1865, that the presence of black troops, lately slaves, demoralized labor by their advice and by furnishing resorts for freedmen for miles around, whereas white troops generally excited no opposition. Negro troops had to be kept in large enough numbers for their own defense.

Conditions were represented thus by a distinguished Georgian [N.G. Foster] in a letter to General Sherman on May 10:

“ . . . Almost daily our houses are entered and pilfered, and we meet at every turn the air or derision and defiance. Many of the farms were left overcrowded with helpless women and children, with a few old men. Now the [US] commander’s cavalry squads, stationed at various points in the country, permit the Negroes to take the plough stock from the farmer and swarm into their camps, and lounge about, abandoning all labor – Surely, whatever may be the final destiny of this people, they ought to be required to make a support – And the Negro girls for miles and miles are gathered to the [Federal] camps and debauched.

It is surely is not the wish of those persons who aim at an equality of colors to begin the experiment with a whole race of whores . . .

I have not conversed with a [Southern] soldier who had returned, that does not express a prefect willingness to abide the issue. They say they made the fight and were overpowered, and they submit. Nothing will again disturb the people but a sense of injustice . . . [but] No people who descended from Revolutionary fathers can be kept tamely in a state of subjugation. And if it becomes necessary to establish a military despotism [in the] South, any man with half an idea must see that the North must eventually fall under the same rule.”

(Reconstruction in Georgia, Economic, Social, Political, 1865-1872, C. Mildred Thompson, Columbia University, 1915, excerpts, pp. 132; 136-139)

Ensuring Northern Political Hegemony

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued his North Carolina Proclamation which made no provision for the extension of the vote to freedmen, and only those who voted before May 20, 1861 and who had taken the amnesty oath to the US government could take part in the constitutional convention. This enraged Radical Republicans and their supporters who saw permanent political hegemony over the South through black voters herded to the polls with Republican ballots in hand. Political opportunists rather than statesmen reigned in the North – led by Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner –all who had little if any understanding of the intent of the Framers and their Constitution, or the proper orbits of States and the federal agent of strictly limited powers they had created in 1789.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ensuring Northern Political Hegemony

“At the time when the North Carolina Proclamation was issued, only six States in the North and West had granted suffrage to Negroes. Even in New York colored voters were required to own $250 worth of property as a condition of being permitted to register [to vote]. Lincoln had recognized provisional governments in Arkansas and Louisiana from which Negroes had been excluded as voters.

Logically, therefore, Johnson’s position [of following Lincoln’s example] was sound, and in conformity with the principle of States’ Rights in which he so ardently believed. His great mistake was in omitting to take into consideration the temper of the people of the North, who feared with some reason that the Southern States would return to Congress the same type of men they had elected before the War.

Such men, and their allies, the Northern and Western Democrats, might form a coalition strong enough to undo what the War had accomplished [for the Republican Party]. The enfranchisement of the Negro, for which they showed little enthusiasm at first, might at least change the balance of power in the South, and enable good Union men to be returned to Congress.

The Constitution of the United States had made no provision for secession . . . Johnson . . . had come to the conclusion that the Union had never been dissolved [and that secession] had been unconstitutional and ineffective. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania had repeatedly urged that the South be treated as a conquered nation. Charles Sumner [thought] the seceded States had “committed suicide” and no longer existed as legally organized governments. He had declared that it would be contrary to the Constitution to readmit these States on their prewar basis.

The right of the Negro to suffrage had in his opinion been won in the War, and to exclude them as voters in the South would be a betrayal of their cause and of the principles for which the war had been fought.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During the Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts, pp. 45-47)

Saving the South for Southerners

The States’ Rights Democratic Party of the mid-1940s had no stronger advocate than Charleston News & Courier editor William Watts Ball.  Also known as the “Dixiecrats,” its platform in 1948 called for strict interpretation of the Constitution, opposed the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments, and condemned “the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Saving the South for Southerners

“A full year before the end of Roosevelt’s third term, Ball was again active in attempts to organize a Southern Democratic party. It was the spring of 1944, however, before the movement was underway in earnest. Through public contributions (Ball gave one hundred dollars) the anti-Roosevelt faction hoped to finance an advertising campaign in newspapers and on radio. The independent white Democrats would not present candidates in the primaries, but offer only a ticket of presidential electors pledged not to vote for Roosevelt.

They might back a favorite son for president, or they might better co-operate with the similarly-minded in other States in support of someone like Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia . . . in May anti-Roosevelt Democrats had held their first meeting in Columbia, with nineteen counties represented, and made plans for a State convention. The Southern Democratic Party had been reborn.

[Ball’s] News and Courier continued to urge the election of independent Democratic electors. If eleven to sixteen Southern States withheld their electoral votes, they could assure respect for their political policies.

But in spite of the untiring efforts of The News and Courier, aided principally by the Greenwood Index-Journal, the anti-Roosevelt movement did not develop. Very few people made financial contributions; the Southern Democratic Party could not wage an effective campaign. Once again South Carolina gave solid support to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.  All the State schools except the Citadel, he charged, were part of the State political machine . . .”

But at that moment, the “second Reconstruction” was already underway . . . [and] emerging forces combined to force open the entire [racial] issue. The Negro migration northward had begun in earnest with World War I. By 1940, a small Negro professional and white-collar class resided in a number of northern cities and it used its growing political power to win greater equality of treatment there.

Because New Deal programs were designed to advance employment security, including that of Negroes, most northern Negroes abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party. In cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the Democratic political machine depended heavily upon the Negro vote.

But already an earnest and vital independent political movement was underway [in 1948], in protest against the civil rights program of the Truman administration and the attitudes of the liberal court. Of 531 electoral votes, 140 were in the South; yet the North, East and West treated the South as a slave province. Other papers joined Ball in the demand for action; the [Columbia] State, like the News and Courier, called for a Southern third party.

On January 19th, in the State Democratic Party’s biennial convention, Governor Strom Thurmond was nominated for the office of president of the United States. The State’s national convention votes were to be withheld from Harry S. Truman. If Truman were nominated, South Carolina would not support the national party in the electoral college.

The State had not spoken so sharply since 1860; it would bolt rather than accept Truman. At the same time Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi issued the call to revolt at the western end of the Deep South. The Southern governors’ conference . . . named its own political action committee, headed by Thurmond, which was to go to Washington . . . to demand concessions . . . from President Truman.

About two weeks later a delegation of governors met with Howard McGrath, National Chairman of the Democratic Party. When McGrath gave a flat “No” to their request that Truman’s anti-discrimination proposals be withdrawn, the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas called on Democrats to join a revolt against Truman. The South, they announced, was not “in the bag” anymore.

If the South united behind Thurmond, Truman would lose all its electoral votes and the election might be thrown to the House of Representatives, where with the votes of the South and the West, a man such as Thurmond would have a real chance. Whatever the outcome, the national parties would learn a lesson they would not soon forget — the “Solid South” would no longer be a dependable political factor.

“In the electoral college,” Ball advised, “lies the only chance to save the South for Southerners.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 201-233)

 

Representing the Powers at Washington in South Carolina

South Carolina’s first reconstruction governor was former Northern General Robert K. Scott, a Pennsylvania native who accomplished a tripling of the State debt through corruption and fraudulent bonds; his legislature voted itself a full-time saloon and restaurant at taxpayer expense. Scott’s successor, former Northern army officer Daniel H. Chamberlain was determined “to make his elected position pay,” though feeble attempts were made toward reform and Republican patronage which enraged black Republicans expecting favors for votes delivered.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Representing the Powers at Washington in South Carolina

“There is ample evidence of both black domination and the exercise of controls over black leadership by the white [Republican] leadership. South Carolina was unique among the reconstructed States in that blacks constituted about 60 percent of the population. This population advantage was converted into a substantial numerical advantage in the legislature, where Negroes held a two-to-one majority in the lower house and a clear majority on joint ballot of House and Senate throughout the nine-year period of Reconstruction.

During this same period [black South Carolinians] held the office of secretary of state (from 1868 to 1877), lieutenant-governor and adjutant-general (after 1870), secretary of treasury, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate (after 1872).

On the other hand, Negroes never held the governorship, the office of US senator, any of the eight circuit judgeships, the offices of comptroller general, attorney general, superintendent of education, or more than one of the three positions on the State supreme court.

Furthermore, there were recorded instances of black officeholders serving as mere pawns of shrewder white [Republican] colleagues. The northern-born county treasurer of Colleton County boasted to Governor Scott that he “could control every colored man’s vote in St. Paul’s Parish and St. Bartholomew Parish.” The Negro treasurer of Orangeburg County found himself in jail charged with malfeasance in office, while the white mentor who had gotten him the appointment and directed his peculations went free.

On another occasion it was alleged that the white [Republican] political boss of Colleton County engineered the removal from the county auditor’s position of a well-educated Negro political enemy, replacing him with another Negro who was illiterate. The latter was expected to be auditor in name only, while another white crony performed the duties of office.

[The] reactions of historians to [traditional images of racial relationships often betray] more emotion than analysis [and] . . . [WEB] DuBois, for example, accepted the idea of the essential powerlessness of blacks in South Carolina’s Reconstruction government in order to minimize the culpability of blacks for the corruption of that government, even though [this actually] contradicts his thesis of black labor’s control of the government.

However, the key advantage of the white Republicans probably lay in their presumed or real contacts in the North which enabled them to promise and sometimes deliver funds, patronage or protection. White Northerners often passed themselves off as representing the “powers at Washington” in order to secure the political obedience of the Negroes, according to [carpetbagger] ex-Governor [Daniel H.] Chamberlain.

Just after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, a committee of South Carolina’s Negro political leaders made a secret trip to Washington to confer with Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner about the formation of a political organization.

But many white Republicans continued to advocate efforts to attract native whites into the Republican party and the appointment of northern whites to sensitive positions. This policy reflected their lack of confidence in black officeholders . . . “There is not enough virtue and intelligence among the Blacks to conduct the government in such a way as will promote peace and prosperity” [wrote one Republican].

In other instances, white Republican officeholders urged the governor to replace with whites those black colleagues whom they considered “un-businesslike” or incompetent.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, excerpts, pp. 96-104)

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Francis Perkins, belief that more Southerners wearing shoes would spark a consumer tsunami, is on par with New England’s early wartime belief that much good would come from giving former slaves land to cultivate on occupied Hilton Head and the Sea Islands. The logic was that the new-found wealth of the freedmen would be spent on Yankee notions and manufactured goods, and Northern industry would benefit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

“Some years ago Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins raised the temperature of many Southerners to fever height by suggesting that if the people of that section could be persuaded to wear shoes a veritable “social revolution” would result. The mass-production system of the United States, the secretary told a welfare council in May, 1933, depends upon purchasing power, the proper development of which would lead to prosperity beyond anything we “have ever dared to dream of.”

If the wages of the millworkers of the South could be raised to such a level that they could afford shoes, a great demand for footwear would result. Indeed, said the secretary, when it is realized that “the whole South is an untapped market for shoes” it becomes clear that great “social benefits” and “social good” would inevitably come from the development of our “mass-production system” to meet this latent consuming power.

Southern editors and speakers indignantly denied the canard that Southerners bought no shoes and retorted that such comments were only what might have been expected from a woman, especially one who knew nothing about the South.

It was even suggested that should all the inhabitants of the South suddenly wake to wearing shoes the resultant wear and tear on streets, sidewalks, and hotel carpets might cause grave financial loss to the area.

That was in 1933 . . . [and it was maintained that] Markets can only exist where there is demand; demand comes close upon the heels of knowledge. Knowledge, or education in the ways of the West, has therefore been considered essential if “backward” peoples are to be induced to purchase western goods. [Henry M.] Stanley, the African explorer, in an address before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, published in 1884 [asserted] that if Christian missionaries should clothe naked Negroes of the Congo, even in one dress for use on the Sabbath, “320,000,000 yards of Manchester cotton cloth” would be required . . . Should they become sufficiently educated in the European moral code to feel the necessity for a change of clothing every day, cloth to the value of [26 million pounds] a year would be necessary.

When the natives have been educated they would abandon their idleness and sloth, [John Williams, missionary to Tahiti said in 1817], and become industrious workers. Then, he asserted, they will apply to our merchants for goods . . . “

[When FDR called for a New Deal in the South] He certainly must have been aware of the implications of the thesis that the poorly housed, undernourished, and ill-clad Southerner must be given greatly increased purchasing power to enable him to better his economic condition, thus strengthening the demand for manufacture products and consequently improving the economy of the nation as a whole.

It is also certain that the concern which Secretary Perkins felt for the shoeless Southerner was not without precedent. When the armies of Grant and Sherman liberated the Southern Negro, the economic implications were not lost on the people of the victorious section. Following in the wake of the Union armies a host of teachers and missionaries flocked to the South, determined to Christianize and educate the freed Negro . . . with a decidedly abolitionist tinge, to be sure.

[These] people, their robes of self-righteousness wrapped firmly around them . . . carried with them the New England school, complete with curriculum, texts and method, but they also took with them the attitudes and beliefs of the social reformer and, specifically, the militant abolitionist. Politically, the teachers and missionaries became the tools of the [Republican] Radicals in their program of reconstruction . . .

Sensing in the alphabet and the book the key to the white man’s position of dominance, the open-sesame which would unlock the magic door of equality and wealth, the Negro, like the Polynesian, flocked to the church and the school. As one observer wrote, the “spelling book and primer” seemed to them Alladin’s [sic] lamp, which will command over all the riches and glory of the world. In brief, they believed that education was “the white man’s fetish,” which would guarantee wealth, power, and social position.

Some of the teachers [and missionaries] understood the inevitable result of the extension of freedom, Christianity, and education to the Negro – the development of a vast new market for northern goods, which would result in great profits to northern mills.”

(Northern Interest in the Shoeless Southerner, Henry L. Swint; Journal of Southern History, Volume XVI, Number 4, November 1950, excerpts, pp. 457-462)

Postwar South Ruled by Genial, Patronizing Viceroys

Lincoln’s war not only destroyed the Southern economy and impoverished the region, but also became a vehicle for New England’s commercial colonization of the South. This status persisted through FDR’s first term as he recognized the South as America’s number one economic problem and used Democrat Party patronage and power to keep the region in bondage. The North continued tales of “Southern outrages” from Reconstruction days, and Presidential candidate George Wallace noted in 1968 that Northern editors would always refer to racial incidents in the South as “race riots,” while the same in the North were labeled “civil disturbances.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar South Ruled by Genial, Patronizing Viceroys

“The manufacturers and distributors of the North and various adjunct agencies are bleeding the South white. The same may be said of a very large part of Southern industries, owned, as has been observed, in the North and operated by local overseers.

To a great extent the region is controlled by the absentee owners through their overseers and retainer agents. These agents are the symbols of success in the South and the paragons of social life. Their mansions stand on a thousand hills. It is good to wine and dine with these genial, if patronizing, viceroys. The absentee overlords retain the best legal talent to help them with their battles in the courts and the legislatures. Other types of influential persons, good public relations men and lobbyists, are also retained. Some of their retainers are always member of the legislatures. By selling some stock locally they raise up other friends and defenders.

Small wonder, then, that the corporations have exercised a large influence over law-making in the Southern States. Too often they have been able to defeat measures objectionable to them especially tax measures – and to promote those favorable to them. Too often they have not been willing to pay their fair part of the cost of public services or a fair wage to their employees.

Such industries are of questionable value to a community. The South has advertised its cheap labor, and industrialists from the North have tried to keep it so. There are other differentials against the South, already noted, that have also been a factor in the lower wage scales of Southern industry.

The absentee masters of Southern industry and the chain store magnates are interested in profits and not in the welfare of the South. This is natural, but it illustrates a fundamental weakness in an industrial system based on outside capital. It would seem that those who gather their wealth from the South might reasonably be expected to give some of their educational benefactions to higher education in the South.

But their gifts have generally gone to northern institutions that are already rich compared with those in the South. Their contributions to cultural development, whether in the form of gifts or taxes, go largely to the North.

The North has not only held the South in colonial bondage, but it has been very critical of the South, even for conditions that inhere in such an economic status. It is doubtful if the British ever had a more superior and intolerant attitude toward the American colonists.

The “Southern outrages” complex, fomented by Radical politicians in the old Reconstruction days, has persisted. Incidents that have escaped editorial eyes if they happened in the North have been denounced as outrages if they occurred in the South. A public lynching in a well-known western State a few years ago did not evoke nearly as much condemnation as does the lynching of a Negro by a clandestine mob in the South.

The people of the North are not denounced as being crude and barbarous because of the persistent activities of murderous bands of racketeers in large northern cities.”

(One Hundred Years of Reconstruction, Albert B. Moore, 1943, Southern Historical Society Addresses; Journal of Southern History, 9, 1943, excerpts, pp. 159-164)

Southern Christianity and Slavery

That Lincoln and his abolitionist colleagues did not propose a peaceful and practical to the African slavery they seemed to object to, is a national tragedy. Had they followed compensated emancipation as the British had done earlier (the British were primarily responsible for populating their American colonies with Africans), or helped advance a reasonable solution to the need for large numbers of workers to support their agricultural economy, a million lives would have been spared as well as the death, destruction and tortured legacy of the war Lincoln was responsible for.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Christianity and Slavery

“ . . . Southern [slavery] reformers cast much blame on the Northern Abolitionist movement. They constantly complained that it was difficult to persuade planters that they should be teaching their slaves to read when the Abolitionists were sparing no effort in smuggling into the Southern States inflammatory literature which urged the slaves to rise up and slit their masters’ throats, among other things.

The palpable hostility and antagonism displayed by the Abolitionists toward the white South, their calls for a bloody slave rebellion, and their unrealistic demands for immediate and unconditional emancipation made slavery reform more difficult by producing resentment, fear, and a siege mentality among the whites.

[Many] Northerners (including Sen. Daniel Webster, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, and Princeton theologian Charles Hodge) condemned the Abolitionists for actually worsening the plight of the slaves and for creating hostility and distrust between the Northern and Southern people.

[It] is at least possible that an independent South might have enacted the reforms urged by her Christian leaders and thus avoided falling into a state of economic backwardness and dependency.  After all, Southerners consistently valued such non-monetary goods as country living, personal independence and liberty, and an harmonious and rich social life at least as much as mere wealth and material accumulation; and independence [from the North] might have created a more favorable environment for Christian reform of their labor system.

Southerners might have introduced a smaller and more humanely scaled industrialization to provide some measure of industrial self-sufficiency, and black Southerners might eventually have achieved legal equality and propertied independence.  In other words, an independent South could well have found an alternate – and perhaps more Christian – path to modernity.  Thanks to Mr. Lincoln, we shall never know.”

(Christianity and Slavery in the Old South, excerpt, H. Arthur Scott Trask, Chronicles Magazine, July 1999, page 33)

 

 

 

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

In the 1876 gubernatorial election in South Carolina, incumbent carpetbag Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain “bombarded the North with lurid accounts of the [Hamburg, SC riot] based on the excited claims of Negro participants” and that this act of “atrocity and barbarism” was designed to prevent Negroes from voting, though, as a matter of fact, the riot occurred five months before the election.” A Massachusetts native and carpetbagger of dubious reputation, Chamberlain left much evidence of a willingness for making his office pay.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

“In an Atlantic Monthly article published twenty-five years later, ex-Governor Chamberlain stated that] “If the [election] of 1876 had resulted in the success of the Republican party, that party could not, for want of material, even when aided by the Democratic minority, have given pure or competent administration. The vast preponderance of ignorance and incapacity in that [Republican] party, aside from downright dishonesty, made it impossible . . . the flood gates of misrule would have been reopened . . . The real truth is, hard as it may be to accept it, that the elements put in combination by the reconstruction scheme of [Radical Republicans Thaddeus] Stevens and [Oliver] Morton were irretrievably bad, and could never have resulted . . . in government fit to be endured.”

While federal troops were still holding the State House in Columbia, The Nation informed its readers, “Evidently there is nothing to be done but to let the sham give way to reality . . . to see without regret . . . the blacks deprived of a supremacy as corrupting to themselves as it was dangerous to society at large.”

As Congressman S.S. Cox of New York and Ohio remarked:

“Since the world began, no parallel can be found to the unblushing knavery which a complete history of carpet-bag government in these [Southern] States would exhibit. If the entire body of penitentiary convicts could be invested with supreme power in a State, they could not present a more revolting mockery of all that is honorable and respectful in the conduct of human affairs. The knaves and their sympathizers, North and South, complain that the taxpayers, the men of character and intelligence in South Carolina and other States, finally overthrew, by unfair and violent means, the reign of scoundrelism, enthroned by ignorance. If ever revolutionary methods were justifiable for the overthrow of tyranny and robbery, assuredly the carpet-bag domination in South Carolina called for it. Only scoundrels and hypocrites will pretend to deplore the results.”

(Wade Hampton and the Negro: The Road Not Taken; Hampton M. Jarrell, USC Press, 1949, excerpt, pp. 54-55)

The Unspoken Significance of Fort Fisher’s Fall in 1865

Fort Fisher, January 2017

This weekend the Fort Fisher historic site near Kure Beach, North Carolina observes the 152nd anniversary of the second Northern attack that succeeded in capturing the fort after a massive bombardment of 50,000 shells which killed or wounded 500 or so mostly-North Carolinians who fought valiantly from traverse to traverse before capitulating. Those taken prisoner by the enemy were shipped northward to frigid prisons in New Jersey and New York – the latter infamously referred to as a death camp.

Many people visiting Fort Fisher note that it can be an eerie experience – like walking the fields of Appomattox and sensing the death-knell of liberty and independence it is known for.

The State employees of the historic site will hold events of blue-clad troops splashing ashore to free North Carolinians from the yoke of independence and self-government, as well as waving the US flag from the top of captured cannon traverses. The red, white and blue flags of the North Carolinians will be minimized if shown at all. Rather than note that most of the defenders were North Carolina farmers from surrounding counties, the fort and media will refer to them as merely “Confederates.”

Often noted during these observances is the enemy soldier who fell out of ranks to visit his mother’s home — as his brother was fighting to defend his country in a grey uniform.  And few seem to comprehend that this wayward North Carolinian in blue is the very definition of treason, of aiding, abetting and going over to the enemy.

Also, what is usually not discussed at events like this are the sectional differences of that era and multitude of reasons why the South was invaded, and the important aftermath of that battle for the fort. What really happened in mid-January 152 years ago was the ending of an American struggle for freedom and independence, the consent of the governed to rule themselves, and the equivalent of Washington surrendering to British forces at Yorktown.

What happened after the fort fell is very important to remember, especially as one looks at the blue-clad reenactors splashing ashore waving their flag on what was then foreign soil to them. What was their true purpose?

After the fort was overwhelmed and silenced, the 10,000-man enemy army marched toward Wilmington in two columns and after some spirited skirmishes, captured the city, imposed martial law, seized private property, and forced citizens to swear allegiance to a foreign government in order to conduct their businesses.

When the enemy departed Wilmington, they moved to join other enemy forces coming into North Carolina from South Carolina and from occupied New Bern. At Bentonville the combined enemy outnumbered Southern forces 4 to 1 — who fought them to a standstill – they then moved on to capture Raleigh, arrest and imprison the governor, and impose military rule on North Carolina. Think of the French capitulation to Germany in 1940.

After the surrender of Southern forces in May, 1865 at Bennett Place, the “reconstruction” of the South lasted until 1877 – some say it never ended — though without armies and without as much gunfire. North Carolina endured rule by a new State constitution imported by a military consul appointed from Washington, and corrupt local men who sought employment with the late enemy. The new imported constitution settled the secession issue for good by stating that North Carolina will never again seek independence or political freedom from the United States Government.

Understandably, July 4, 1865 in occupied Wilmington was a muted affair, celebrated only by locals collaborating with the enemy and newly-freed blacks who were unaware that they had only changed masters.  Blue-clad sentries still patrolled the streets to ensure the rebellion did not re-ignite; then came the vultures known as “carpetbaggers.”

Former Governor Zebulon Vance described the aftermath of war in North Carolina in 1890:

“The carnival of corruption and fraud, the trampling down of decency, the rioting in the overthrow of the traditions of a proud people, the chaos of hell on earth which took place beggars the descriptive powers of plain history . . . I believe a committee of Congress, who took some testimony on this subject, estimated in 1871 the amount of plunder which was extracted from the Southern people in about 5 short years — some $300 millions of dollars in the shape of increased debt alone, to say nothing of the indirect damage inflicted by the many ways of corruption and misrule which cannot be estimated in money.”

The fall of Fort Fisher and ultimate surrender at Bennett Place led to the carnival of corruption that Vance illuminated. We should remember what occurred at Fort Fisher in mid-January 1865 for what it was and what it led to — the ending of an American struggle for freedom and independence, the consent of the governed to rule themselves. This is the sad fact that we should observe, and be cognizant of when gazing at the great earthen fortress.

Bernhard Thuersam

 

 

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

At North Carolina’s 1867 State convention at Raleigh, Northerners were actively creating Republican Party organizations in every county, and all featured the revival of secret political societies like the Heroes of America and the infamous Union League. White Republicans were quick to realize that mobilizing the black vote was the key to dominating and controlling Southern politics. As Joseph G. de R. Hamilton wrote in “Reconstruction in North Carolina (1914, pg. 242), “In a spectacular way the colored delegates were given a prominent place in the convention. Most of the white speakers expressed delight at the advancement of the Negroes to the right of suffrage.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

“With the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment and the elimination of slavery, every African-American was counted as one person and not three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional representation.

If the white and black voters of the South united, the southern and Northern Democrats could possibly control both houses of Congress. The Republican Party went into panic mode – what was to be done?

The answer was simple: export racial hatred from the North to the South with a little twist. Instead of white people being taught to hate black people, as was so common in New England, Republicans would teach Southern black voters to fear and hate Southern white voters.

It should be pointed out that most Northern States at that time still prohibited African-Americans from voting. By mobilizing a large bloc of angry black voters and prohibiting large numbers of white Southern voters from exercising the right to vote, the Republican Party insured its rule in Washington.

The Republican Party’s fear of a racially untied South was made even more frightening when former Confederate leaders spoke out in favor of black/white unity. Just a few months after the close of the War, from New Orleans, General [PGT] Beauregard stated:

“The Negro is Southern born; with a little education and some property qualifications he can be made to take sufficient interest in the affairs and prosperity of the South to insure an intelligent vote.”

No one can question the Confederate General who is slandered the most as an evil racist is Nathan Bedford Forrest. In a speech to a group of black voters, Forrest reflected the goodwill that had existed before Republican Reconstruction, He states:

“We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters . . . I want you to do as I do – go to the polls and select the best men to vote for . . . although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment . . . do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend.”

The use of race-hatred became a very successful Republican tool to divide the South into warring parties. These warring parties, both black and white, failed to realize that in the process of enriching Republican industrialists, bankers and politicians, they were at the same time impoverishing themselves.”

(Punished with Poverty: The Suffering South, Prosperity to Poverty & the Continuing Struggle; James & Walter Kennedy, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 65-66)

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