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The Civil War’s Basic Cause: Sectionalism

In this late 1940 address to the Southern Historical Association, historian Frank L. Owsley (1890-1956) spoke of the sectional cause of the Civil War and the North’s reluctance to allow the South to seek political independence.  Prof. Owsley was born in Alabama, taught at Vanderbilt University and was a member of the Southern Agrarians.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Civil War’s Basic Cause: Sectionalism

“Before attempting to say what were the causes of the American Civil War, first let me say what were not the causes of the war.

Perhaps the most beautiful, the most poetic, the most eloquent statement of what the Civil War was not fought for is the Gettysburg Address. That address will live as long as Americans retain their love for free government and personal liberty; and yet in reassessing the causes of the Civil War, the address whose essence is was that the war was being fought so “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth” is irrelevant.

Indeed, this masterpiece of eloquence has little if any value as a statement of the basic principles underlying the war.

The Civil War was not a struggle on the part of the South to destroy free government and personal liberty, nor on the part of the North to preserve them. Looked at from the present perspective of the worldwide attempt of the totalitarians to erase free governments and nations living under such governments from the face of the earth, the timeworn stereotype that the South was attempting the destruction of free government and the North was fighting to preserve it seems unrealistic and downright silly.

If the destruction of democratic government by the South and its preservation by the North were not the causes of the Civil War, what then were the causes? The surface answer to this question is that in 1861, the Southern people desired and attempted to establish their independence and thereby to disrupt the old Union; and that the North took up arms to prevent the South from establishing this independence and to preserve the Union.

This [Southern] state of mind may be summed up thus: by the Spring of 1861, the Southern people felt it both abhorrent and dangerous to continue to live under the same government with the people of the North. So profound was this feeling among the bulk of the Southern population that they were prepared to fight a long and devastating war to accomplish a separation.

On the other hand, the North was willing to fight a war to retain their reluctant fellow citizens under the same government with themselves.

The cause of that state of mind which we may well call war psychosis lay in the sectional character of the United States. In other words, the Civil War had one basic cause: sectionalism.

Our national state was built, not upon the foundations of a homogenous land and people, but upon geographic sections inhabited severally by provincial, self-conscious, self-righteous, aggressive and ambitious populations of varying origins and diverse social and economic systems; and the passage of time and the cumulative effects of history have accentuated these sectional patterns.”

(The Fundamental Cause of the Civil War, Frank L. Owsley, excerpt, Address to Southern Historical Association, November 8, 1940)

 

 

New Yorker’s Resist Conscription

The resistance to Lincoln’s conscription law became violent on July 13, 1863 as mobs fought New York City police and soldiers in the streets. With that State having predominantly Democratic voters, Lincoln seemed to levy a higher draft quota there and poor Irish immigrants would bear the brunt of forced military service — and feared freed blacks flooding North and taking all laboring jobs held by Irish. The author below relates that “Negroes had been hunted down all day, as though they were so many wild beasts, and one, after dark, was caught, and after being severely beaten and hanged to a tree, left suspended there until [police took] the body down. Many [blacks] had sought refuge in police stations and elsewhere, and all were filled with terror.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New Yorker’s Resist Conscription

“The ostensible cause of the riots of 1863 was hostility to the draft, because it was a tyrannical, despotic and unjust measure – an act which has distinguished tyrants the world over, and should never be tolerated by a free people. Open hostility to oppression was more than once hinted in a portion of the press – as not only a right, but a duty.

Even the London Times said: “It would have been strange, indeed, if the American people had submitted to a measure which is a distinctive mark of the most despotic governments of the Continent.”

It might as well be said, that because settling national difficulties by an appeal to arms has always been a distinctive feature of despotic governments, therefore the American people should refuse to sustain the government by declaring or prosecuting any war; or that because it has always been a distinctive feature of despotic governments to have naval and military schools, to train men to the art of war, therefore the American people should not submit to either.

[If troops] enough can be raised on a reasonable bounty, it is more expedient to do so; but the moment the bounty becomes so exorbitant as to tempt the cupidity of those in whom neither patriotism nor sense of duty have any power, volunteering becomes an evil. We found it so in our recent war.

The bounty was a little fortune to a certain class, the benefit of which they had no idea of losing by being shot, and hence they deserted or shammed sickness, so that scarce half the men ever got to the front, while those who did being influenced by no higher motive than cupidity, became worthless soldiers.

If a well-known name, [or] that of a man of wealth, was among the number [conscripted], it only increased the exasperation, for the law exempted every one drawn who would pay three hundred dollars towards a substitute. This was taking practically the whole number of soldiers called for out of the laboring classes.

A great proportion of these being Irish, it naturally became an Irish question, and eventually an Irish riot. It was in their eyes the game of hated England over again – oppression of Irishmen.”

(The Great Riots of New York, 1712 to 1873; Joel Tyler Headley, editor, Dover Publications, 1971, excerpts, pp. 137; 139; 149. Original published by E.B. Treat in 1873)

Ohio Bounties Stimulate Enlistments

There was only one “flush of patriotic enthusiasm” in the North after the war began, and Gen. Halleck advised Lincoln in early 1862 that enlistments had virtually ceased and few new volunteers were to be had. A new system of procuring troops was needed, and conscription was contemplated. States, cities and counties feared losing local men to the threatened draft, and therefore raised exorbitant amounts to buy substitutes and anyone who would take the money to fill Lincoln’s troop quotas. As the war wore on, higher bounties had to be offered to attract men.

Ohio’s Governor William Dennison reminded his constituents in mid-May 1861 that the federal government “offers a bounty of one hundred dollars to all who may enlist, payable at the close of service, or to the soldier’s family, if he should not survive.” Dennison was a Whig and Republican like Lincoln, with the latter rewarding him with the cabinet post of Postmaster General.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ohio Bounties Stimulate Enlistments

“An act of May 1, 1861, exempted from execution the property of any soldier in the militia of Ohio mustered into the service of the United States during the time he was in service, and fro two months thereafter. In February, 1862, the general assembly sought to protect citizen-soldiers charged with criminal offenses by providing that judges should postpone their trials until they were discharged. Still later, in March 1864, certain relief was given to debtors in the armed services who might have judgement rendered against them without defense . . .

After the first flush of patriotic enthusiasm had passed, one of the strong inducements to enlistment was a financial one – a bounty, and, at a later date, the advance of the first month’s pay. During the Civil War, bounties came from three sources – the federal government, local government units, and private subscription. (In Ohio there was no bounty offered directly from State funds.)

Indeed, as the provost marshal wrote, the federal bounty paled into “comparative insignificance” when compared to “the exorbitant bounties paid in advance by local authorities.” These, he believed, were the most mischievous in encouraging desertion, bounty-jumping and other evils connected with the system.

So great was the stigma of the draft that local authorities were highly competitive in the amounts offered to volunteers. Furthermore, they paid all the sum in advance. The primary objective of these payments, as [Provost Marshal] General [James B.] Fry put it, came to be “to obtain men to fill quotas.”

Localities began by offering moderate bounties. In 1862 the average local bounty in Ohio was estimated at $25; in 1863 in advanced to $100; in 1864 it bounded to $400; and in 1865 the average bounty was $500, although in some localities it was as high as $800.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners levied a tax of two mills in 1863 to take care of local bounty payments. The next year (1864), however, the city of Cincinnati began to borrow in order to offer city bounty payments, and during the year 1,811 volunteers were paid bounties of $100 each.

After the war the adjutant general of Ohio estimated that $54,457,575 had been paid in local bounties throughout the State, of which amount cities and counties paid about $14,000,000 and private subscribers, $40,457,575.”

(Relief for Soldiers’ Families in Ohio During the Civil War, Joseph E. Holliday; Ohio History, July 1962, Volume 71, Number 2, James H. Rodabaugh, editor, excerpts, pp. 98-100)

Lincoln’s Inflationary Finances

It did not take long after Fort Sumter for Northern war expenditures to reach staggering proportions. James Randall in his “Civil War and Reconstruction” (1937, DC Heath) wrote: “With the treasury nearly empty, financial markets shaken, foreign bankers unsympathetic, taxation inadequate, and loans unmarketable except at a discount, the door of escape by way of paper money seemed most tempting.” Lincoln resorted to the printing press to create money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Inflationary Finances

“The classic study of Union inflation was Wesley Clair Mitchell century-old “History of the Greenbacks.” Initially the war was to be financed with the use of government bonds, tax revenues would be used to pay the normal expenditures of government, and the gold standard would be retained. However, this system quickly collapsed in late 1861 and the first of three legal tender acts was passed in February 1862 with a total of $450 million in greenbacks authorized for issue.

When an economy has two types of money, such as gold and paper, and they are both defined in the same units, such as dollars, Gresham’s Law states that bad money will drive good money out of circulation. And in accordance with Gresham’s Law, greenback dollars quickly displaced gold dollars as the circulating medium of exchange.

The value of greenbacks quickly depreciated in terms of gold and fell to a low point of only 35 cents worth of gold on July 11, 1864. Amazingly, the Union currency had depreciated as much in three short years as the dollar has in the thirty years since the United States went off the gold standard. The prices of goods appreciated in terms of greenbacks from an index value of 100 in 1860 to a maximum of 216.8 in 1865.

Citizens tended to blame higher prices on business, speculators, and foreigners. Some government officials believed that speculators in the gold market were somehow causing the value of greenbacks to fall, but the real culprit for inflation was the government itself.

In addition to an ever-increasing supply of greenbacks, Mitchell showed that the value of greenbacks in terms of gold would change on the basis of expectations that in turn were based on peoples’ estimated probability that the greenbacks would be redeemed for gold after the war. Battlefield losses were associated with declines in value while victories meant higher values for the greenback.

Higher prices also meant that the Union government would have to issue more greenbacks in order to purchase war supplies and pay its soldiers [and pay enlistment bounties]. Because the Union government would eventually have to pay its war debts and redeem the greenbacks in gold, Mitchell . . . calculated that greenbacks had increased the real cost of the war to the government itself by $528 million. Of course, the politicians who borrowed and spent the money during the war were not necessarily the same ones who had to pay off the debt and redeem the greenbacks after the war.

Mitchell also found that the switch from gold to paper . . . [created] an illusory increase in property values, an increase in extravagance and the purchase of luxury goods, a crippling of economic efficiency, and a decrease in real wages for farmers, laborers, professionals, teachers and soldiers. As expected, the Union’s inflationary finances created an illusion of general prosperity that greatly upset the ability of entrepreneurs, workers, consumers, and bureaucrats to make accurate economic calculations.”

(Tariffs, Blockades and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War; Mark Thornton and Robert Ekelund, Jr., Scholarly Resources Books, excerpts, pp. 68-69)

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

After Sharpsburg in mid-1862, and especially Fredericksburg in late December 1862, the tremendous casualties all but stopped volunteering in the North and Lincoln considered conscription – in reality a whip to encourage enlistments. Northern governors feared electoral defeat at the hands of their constituents, which Lincoln solved by allowing paid substitutes, generous enlistment bounties and captured Southern blacks to meet State quotas.

Horatio Seymour, himself elected governor of New York during the tidal wave of Democratic Party victories in the fall of 1862, rightly felt that a majority of Northerners did not support Lincoln in his prosecution of the war. To combat Northern Democrats who questioned his war, Lincoln, his Republican governors and political generals tarred them with treasonous activities and threats of imprisonment.  Northern newspapermen who editorialized against the war found the latter a reality.

In an early October 1864 speech in Philadelphia, Seymour told his audience that the Northern armies crushing the South would imperil their own liberties, stating that “only then would the deluded people of the North see the full extent of Lincoln’s dictatorial administration – the price of the South’s conquest would be a government by bayonets.

“These victories will only establish military governments at the South, to be upheld at the expense of Northern lives and treasure. They will bring no real peace if they only introduce a system of wild theories, which will waste as war wastes; theories which will bring us to bankruptcy and ruin. The [Lincoln] administration cannot give us union or peace after victories.”

Calling attention to the fact that Senator Charles Sumner would “reduce the Southern States to the condition of colonies” – whereas the President planned to receive them back into the Union whenever one-tenth of the population should declare itself loyal – Seymour foresaw the stubborn conflict which followed the murder of one President and provoked a brazen plan to remove another.

Pointing to the words and acts of members of Congress like Thaddeus Stevens, he declared that “neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Cabinet” now had “control over National affairs.” They were powerless to induce Congress to undo all it had done; the President’s hands were now manacled.”

If the voters returned the Republicans to power, they would learn two bitter lessons: first, that it “is dangerous for a government to have more power than it can exercise wisely and well,” and second, that they could not “trample upon the rights of the people of another state without trampling on [their] own as well.”

Seymour was the Democratic candidate for president in 1868, opposing Grant.  The latter won a close victory by a majority of 300,000 votes out of 5,700,000 cast; historians credit Republican regimes in the South with disenfranchising whites while delivering the 500,000 freedmen votes which lifted Grant to victory.

(See: Horatio Seymour of New York, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 374-375)

Aug 28, 2016 - America Transformed, Bounties for Patriots, Conscription, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Northern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

By mid-1862, General Henry Halleck informed Lincoln that volunteering had all but ceased, and other means of filling the ranks had to be found. Lincoln then used the threat of conscription as a whip to stimulate enlistment, with Northern towns, cities, counties and State’s raising immense amounts to purchase substitutes for their drafted men. Also, State agents were sent to the occupied South to scour the area for potential recruits, especially slaves, who would count against a Northern State’s quota of troops.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

“Complaints having come across the ocean that Northern recruiting agents were in Europe plying their trade, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution on the 24th of June 1864, requesting President Lincoln to inform that body “if any authority has been given any one, either in this country or elsewhere, to obtain recruits in Ireland or Canada,” &.

On July 13, 1864, Gov. [John] Andrew, of Massachusetts, informed Secretary Stanton that citizens of Massachusetts were recruiting a large number of aliens. On July 14, 1864, the US Congress passed an act authorizing the Governor of each State in the Union to send recruiting agents into any Confederate States, except Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana; and declaring any volunteers these agents might enlist should be “credited to the State, and to the respective subdivisions thereof which might procure the enlistment.”

Thereupon agents were sent from all the New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois . . . into all the accessible parts of the Confederacy. New Hampshire’s agents, for an example, to receive $20 for each one-year man enlisted, $25 for each two-years’ enlistment, and $40 for each three years’ man; and these recruits to receive, respectively, $100, $200, and $300, a proviso being added to her law that the Governor might, if he found it advisable, pay a bounty of $500 for each three-years’ man enlisted in “the insurgent States.”

But, the “commercial spirit” not having yet taken possession of the South, Secretary Stanton said this in a report to President Lincoln, March 1, 1865: “The results of the recruitments under the act of July 4, 1864, for recruiting in the rebel States, were reported as unfavorable.”

On August 28, 1864, Prov. Mar.-Gen. Fry telegraphed to his assistant in Boston: “Hon. J.D. Baldwin writes me from Worcester that towns in his district enlist their own citizens, provide bounties for them, and send them to camp or rendezvous to be mustered in and credited. That after reaching rendezvous they are beset by recruiting agents for other places, especially Boston. These agents, offering higher local bounties, succeed in getting the men credited to other towns, etc.”

“[A] Colonel of one of the negro regiments at Natchez “stated that in consequence of the presence of recruiting agents from Northern States offering large bounties for recruits his men were deserting, procuring citizens’ clothing, and secreting themselves until an opportunity offered of escaping from the place for purpose of enlisting. The same state of things,” he continued, “exists in the other colored regiments . . . ”

On January 19, 1865, the Actg. Asst. Prov. Mar.-Gen., Concord, N.H., wrote to Prov. Mar. Gen. Fry, Washington, saying among other things: “I would respectfully call your attention to the fact that burglars, house-burners, and thieves, felons of all classes and kinds, are daily taken from jails and prisons with the consent of the judges, both high and low, and enlisted under false names and false pretenses in the service of the U.S.”

(The South’s Burden, the Curse of Sectionalism, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Nash Brothers, 1906, pp. 116-118)

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

The Union League was able to muster such a large membership as many Northern men remained home while immigrants, former slaves, draftees and substitutes were off fighting Americans in the South. The Union League became a powerful propaganda arm of the Republican Party and an effective instrument of political control in the postwar South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

“The first Union League was founded in Pekin, Illinois, by a Republican party activist, George F, Harlow. As war weariness deepened, and the restraint that had held back dissenters in the early months of the war fell away, loyal Republican became alarmed by the resurgence in support for the Democratic Party. To combat this, they formed a secret society “whereby true Union men could be known and depended on in an emergency.” By the end of 1864 the Leagues claimed more than a million members.

In May 1863, the [Philadelphia] Press urged that the north unite “by any means” and called on Unionists to “silence every tongue that does not speak with respect of the cause and the flag.” Union Leagues institutionalized the denial of legitimate partisanship by conflating opposition to the Union [Republican] Party with disloyalty to the United States. “Men of the Northwest! Are you ready for Civil War?” asked an editorial in the radical Chicago Tribune, “the danger is imminent; the enemy is at your door . . . a Union Club or league ought to be formed in every town and placed in communication with the State central committee.” They formed vigilante groups, which reported suspected disloyalists to the War Department and called for the suppression of opposition newspapers. Leagues also mobbed the offices of several small-town newspapers whose editors had expressed support for Democratic candidates or had attacked the [Lincoln] administration.

Unlike the mass-membership Union Leagues, the Union League of Philadelphia, the New York Union League Club, and the Boston Union League Club were founder with the appropriate accoutrements of a mid-Victorian gentlemen’s club: elegant headquarters with libraries, billiard rooms and butlers. Membership was by invitation only and determined by social status and “unqualified loyalty to the Government of the United States and unwavering support for the suppression of the rebellion.” The idea was to exclude anyone suspected of Southern sympathies from business or social relations with members.

“Sympathy with [armed rebellion] should in social and commercial life be met with the frown of the patriotic and true. Disloyalty must be made unprofitable.” [A founding member of the Philadelphia club] . . . the issue of the war was, after all, one that directly confronted the class interests of the city’s business elite. “We . . . live under the national law. If that is broken down, our interests, our property, and our lives may be lost in the disorder that will ensue . . . Nothing but ruin awaits all business interests of ours . . . if the doctrines of the Secession leaders are to prevail” Sustaining the federal government was essential . . . [and] Furthermore, as bankers and the monied elite of New York assumed an ever-greater responsibility for financing the war effort through buying government bonds, there was also a strong economic interest in the success of the Union war effort.

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 68-74)

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes

In mid-1863, Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed found a way to settle the hated draft issue, give Lincoln his cannon fodder, and buy immigrant votes. Tweed brokered a deal with New York City politicians to find substitute recruits for drafted city residents, use the city treasury to pay whatever signing bonus the market would require, and tap a special $2 million “substitute” fund financed by bonds to be sold on Wall Street. If a New York City resident got caught in Lincoln’s draft, he could either use the fund to buy his way out, or join the army and keep the money. With this deal, Lincoln used Tammany Hall to run his draft in New York.

Author Kenneth Ackerman wrote in his biography of Boss Tweed: “His county recruitment drive for the army would attract scandal: abusive bounty brokers, unqualified soldiers — either prisoners from local jails or immigrants literally straight from New York harbor — and middlemen stealing fortunes in graft. But it hardly raised an eyebrow compared to the epidemic of war profiteering that had infected the country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes 

“For four days terror reigned [in New York City], marked by a series of grisly lynchings [of black residents]. A mob even swarmed onto a British ship in the harbor, and despite the Captain’s protests, cruelly beat up the foreign Negroes among the crew. The police were barely able to save the Tribune Building from total destruction. Men searched for the Tribune’s editor, singing, “We’ll hang Horace Greeley from a sour apple tree.”

A Negro orphanage on Fifth Avenue was burned to the ground. Looters had a field day, among them screeching women who opposed [military] conscription.

Troops were rushed from Gettysburg [immediately after the battle]; cadets from West Point came to aid the police; the entire naval force in the region was called upon to quell the disturbance. Finally, in desperation, the military raked the streets with cannon fire. But what really stopped the rioting was a posted notice: “the draft has been suspended in New York City and Brooklyn.”

The newspapers carried the word in huge print. Order was finally restored. According to the Tribune of July 25, some 350 people had been killed; but other estimates went much higher. Casualties, including the injured, amounted to 1,000 and private property damage was estimated at $1,500,000.

Republican newspapers claimed the outbreak had been sparked by Confederate agents. But Democratic Party feeling and a sincere desire for peace were mingled with race prejudice and resentment against what the anti-Lincoln papers called the “incompetence” of the Administration. Men resented fighting against their convictions and were indignant at “governmental “frauds and profiteering.”

Apparently, from the magnitude of the outbreak, the London Times had not been far wrong in predicting that if the South won in Pennsylvania, Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee would receive a rousing welcome along Broadway.

Soon after the tumult subsided, the Democratic City Council of New York voted that the exemption [from military service] money of four hundred dollars for impecunious draftees would be paid from the city treasury. To meet Governor Seymour’s charge that the conscription as practiced was “unequal, fraudulent and a disgrace,” President Lincoln reduced the New York quotas [for troops].

When the draft was resumed a month later, he took the precaution of sending 10,000 infantrymen and three artillery batteries from the Army of the Potomac to see that the business went off quietly.

During New York’s bloody pandemonium, [British Colonel Arthur] Freemantle had been surprised to hear everyone talking of the “total demoralization of the Rebels.” To him it sounded absurd, since only a few days previously he had left Lee’s army “as full of fight as ever,” much stronger and more efficient from every military point of view than when it had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland the previous September.

In the Colonel’s opinion, Lee’s army had “not lost any of its prestige at the battle of Gettysburg, in which it had most gallantly stormed strong entrenchments defended by the whole Army of the Potomac.”   Freemantle took ship for England and completed his book of observations at sea. “The mass of respectable Northerners,” he wrote, “though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition and conquest . . . The more I think of all I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk — “How can you subjugate such a people as this?”

[And] even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some Northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilized world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race.”

(Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1959, pp. 458-460)

 

 

Jun 16, 2016 - Bounties for Patriots, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Hessians, Lincoln's Patriots, Southern Heroism    Comments Off on Victims of the Confederate Fury

Victims of the Confederate Fury

Lincoln’s Grand Army of the Republic was superbly equipped, well-fed and well-paid, with most receiving bounties from the home towns, State’s and the federal government. They faced a varied collection of barefoot, undernourished American farmers armed mostly with captured muskets and equipment; or what slipped past the blockade. Even as late as March 1865 entire Northern regiments were being captured by Southern forces.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Victims of the Confederate Fury

“The Federal fatalities during the entire war were 359,528 men. Of this number, 110,070 were killed in battle or died of wounds; 249,458 died of disease or accident . . . Over 250,000 men were discharged for disabilities arising from wounds or disease rendering them unfit for service. Losses in the main battles of the Civil War ran high.

A comparison of the casualties at Gettysburg with those sustained in some of the European conflicts might prove illuminating. The Third Westphalia Regiment lost at Marc La Tour 49.4 per cent killed and wounded; the Garde-Schutze Regiment lost at Metz 46.1 per cent; the Light Brigade lost at Balaklava 36.7 per cent.

These battles probably recorded the greatest losses in single engagements up to the time of the Civil War; yet it has been asserted “without fear of contradiction” that in the Union army at least 63 regiments lost more than 50 per cent in killed and wounded in single engagements.

At least 23 regiments lost more than one half in killed and wounded in the three bloody days of Gettysburg. Native regiments made splendid records there — and paid for it, the Iron Brigade losing almost exactly 50 per cent of its number — but so did units of foreign-born, notably some Pennsylvania regiments.

The Fifth New York, Duryee’s Zouaves, in which there were many foreigners, lost in the Second Battle of Bull Run [Manassas] over 60 per cent in killed and wounded, with none missing; the regiments went into battle with 490 men, but in less than ten minutes nearly 150 lay dead or mortally wounded. Though almost annihilated, it retired slowly, carrying off with it the flags and some of the wounded.

The ultimate of sacrifice was probably sustained by the Irish Brigade when it was hurled by General Pope against Marye’s Heights in December 1862, in a useless massacre. It may be said that the Brigade virtually ceased to exist, with an average loss in casualties per regiment of almost 41 per cent. Seven thousand men in all were entered on the rolls of the Brigade; less than 1,000 returned to New York.”

(Foreigners in the Union Army and Navy, Ella Lonn, LSU Press, 1951, pp. 480-482)

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

The North’s war pensions were costly – from 1866 to 1917 the total disbursement for pensions was over $5 billion – though including the negligible amount for the Indian and Spanish Wars. It is said to be the “largest expenditure for pensions of any sort in the history of the world.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

“Disability pensions for [Northern] Civil War soldiers were authorized on a liberal scale by acts passed in Congress in 1862, 1864, 1865, 1872 and 1873. In 1872, [James A.] Garfield said in the House that the expenditure for pensions, then standing at $27,000,000, had reached its peak, would remain stationary for a few years and then decline.

His prediction might have proved correct but for the activities of the pension attorneys.

These men were numerous in Washington. They helped a soldier file his claim and received a fee fixed by the government. When the claim was good they rendered proper services. But as the good claims became fewer, some attorneys took up bad claims many of which were rejected by the Commissioner of Pensions.

Then grew up the habit of referring such claims, approved by a lenient committee, to Congress as private bills, where they usually passed without inquiry on the floor of either house. In carrying out this process the pension attorneys became a powerful and persistent lobby.

They went further than mere private bills and sought to get laws passed for more liberal pensions. To carry their schemes through they established newspapers and appealed to the soldier vote. They had a strong influence in the Grand Army of the Republic, composed of officers and soldiers of the Civil War.

Their first striking success was in 1879 when the Arrears-Pension Act was passed . . . [and] gave [a lump sum to] any pensioner the arrears from death or discharge to the time a pension was applied for. Under the stimulus of the attorneys the act was passed with the strong support of each party.

Under it the pension bill rose from $27,000,000 in 1878 to $56,000,000 in 1880; and the number of applicants increased from 44,587 to 141,466 in the same period. The pension attorneys were rewarded for their efforts by this vast increase in business, though the legal fee did not exceed $10 for each claim.

When [Democrat Grover] Cleveland was President he adopted the plan of examining carefully the private pension bills sent him for signature. Many of them he signed, and many he vetoed after satisfying himself they were unwarranted. Against him the pension attorneys opened their powerful batteries and reminded the public he was elected by the votes of former Confederate soldiers.

Cleveland did not modify his course and when the lobby got Congress to pass a bill in 1887 to allow pensions to all [Northern] soldiers dependent on their own labor and not able to earn a living he vetoed that bill also. For his entire pension policy he was severely arraigned in [the election of] 1888 and the assault was a strong factor in his defeat.

[Republican] President [Benjamin] Harrison took office pledged to a liberal pension policy. In his first annual message . . . Harrison urged the passage of a dependent pension law [and] Congress complied . . . In its second year of operation, when it was fully acting, the total expenditure for pensions had increased by $68,000,000 a year, and in the course of seventeen years by a total of $1,058,000,000. It was passed as a political measure, with an eye to the old soldier vote.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 18-21)

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