Browsing "Bringing on the War"

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

In his “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina,” Christopher Memminger, revisited the original American concept of self-government and restated that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”  It should be noted that though reference is made below to “anti-slavery” feeling in the North, Republican Party doctrine held that African slavery must be kept within the borders of the South, not that the slaves must be freed. Republicans were a white supremacy party and the territories were for white settlers alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

“Dr. J.H. Thornwell . . . [stated] immediately after secession [that] . . . ”The real cause of the intense excitement of the South, is not in vain dreams of national glory in a separate confederacy . . .; it is in the profound conviction that the Constitution . . . has been virtually repealed [by the North]; that the new [Lincoln] Government has assumed a new and dangerous attitude . . .”

In South Carolina [this] idea was repeatedly expressed in the secession period. For example, [Robert Barnwell] Rhett in a speech of November 20 said: We are two peoples, essentially different in all that makes a people.” [D.F.] Jamison in his opening speech to the [secession] convention said there was “no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and South.”

The “Declaration of Immediate Causes,” after defending the right of secession under the compact theory of the Union, justified the exercise of that right almost entirely on the point that Northern States had infringed and abrogated that compact by refusal to abide by their constitutional obligations . . . When [the Northern sectional] President should gain control of the government, constitutional guarantees would no longer exist, equal rights would have been lost, the power of self-government and self-protection would have disappeared, and the government would have become the enemy. Moreover, all hope of remedy was rendered in vain by the fact that the North had “invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief.”

Rhett . . . held that the one great evil from which all others had flowed was the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States.

The tariff, unequal distributions of appropriations, and attacks on slavery, were only manifestations of a broken faith and a constitution destroyed through construction for Northern aggrandizement at the expense of a weaker South.

The sections had grown apart; all identity of feeling, interest, and institutions were gone; they were divided between slaveholding and non-slaveholding, between agricultural and manufacturing and commercial States; their institutions and industrial pursuits had made them totally different peoples. The South was unsafe under a government controlled by a sectional anti-slavery party . . .”

Many South Carolinians, in the military service of the United States when war came, proved themselves Unionists by refusing to resign to enter the service of the State. Feeling against such men was violent. The [Charleston] Mercury thought that such refusal constituted “hideous moral delinquency, ingratitude, dishonor and treachery.”

The well-nigh complete unity after secession is no more striking than the universal belief that the cause was just . . . [and belief] that the future of republican government was involved in the struggle . . . Secession was endorsed by the synod of the Presbyterian church and by the annual conference of the Methodists. One need not question the sincerity of the legislature for appointing on the eve of secession a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, 1860-1865, Charles Edward Cauthen, UNC Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 72-78)

 

Let the South Withdraw

New York Governor Horatio Seymour noted that “very few [Northern] merchants had been backward about importing [slaves] and selling them South” — and that “Slavery, in fact, was upheld by the great business firm of “Weaver, Wearer and Planter” — only one of the three partners of which resided in the South — but for the looms of New England and Old England [slavery] could not live a day.”  Seymour was also aware that passage of the Crittenden compromise would have forestalled the secession movement in the South, but the Republican party was determined to defeat it. Historian James Ford Rhodes later wrote that ‘it seems to me likewise clear that, of all the influences tending to this result [the compromise defeat], the influence of Lincoln was the most potent.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Let the South Withdraw

“It was [Seymour’s] belief, he declared, that if people asked themselves why the United States had split asunder in civil war, they had only to read Washington’s Farewell Address for their answer and find out how completely they had neglected the warning of their first President.

Men who were loyal to nothing less than the whole Union both North and South would have to fight the spirit of both North and South alike, for people who made their prejudices and passions “higher” laws than the laws of the land were by no means confined to the eleven States which had arrogated to themselves the dangerous right to secede.

A majority of the American people, he reminded his hearers, had not preferred Lincoln for President, and a large part of the voters had deplored his election as a calamity, but Lincoln had been chosen constitutionally and deserved a “just and generous support” – as long as he kept himself within the limits of that very Constitution by which he was entitled to his office.

What would it profit the North to conquer the South if it destroyed the compact of government in the process? Alexander Stephens, though he disapproved of secession, had followed his Georgia out of the Union; Seymour, though he disapproved of abolition and did not vote for Lincoln, stayed in the Union with New York.

Yet the war was a fact, and because the decision of it would depend on might, the men of the North would be most unwise to call the victory they fought for “right.” “We are to triumph,” Seymour warned his hearers, “only by virtue of superior numbers, of greater resources, and a juster cause.” The arrangement of his words is significant.

Slavery, he insisted, was not the cause of the Civil War, for slavery had always existed in the land; it was present when the Union was formed, and the people had prospered before it became a matter of dispute. Causes and subjects were frequently distinct: the main cause of the war was the agitation and arguments over slavery. [Seymour stated] “If it is true that slavery must be abolished to save this Union then the people of the South should be allowed to withdraw themselves from that government which cannot give them the protection guaranteed by its terms.” [It was Seymour’s belief that] To grant immediate freedom to four million uneducated Africans would disorganize, even if it did not destroy, the Southern States.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 238-239)

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)

 

 

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

Ambrose Bierce defined “Conservative” in his Devil’s Dictionary as “A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others . . .” Italian’s of the medieval period gave the title of “conservator” to guardians of the law; English justices of the peace originally “were styled custodus pacis – conservators of the peace.” In the modern sense, the word implies the principles of thought and action which opposed the radicalism and political innovation of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

“[A Tory] party in the old English sense scarcely existed in [British] America. Political debates usually occurred between two factions of Whigs, both attached to the Whig idea of liberty, but differing as to means and the relationship with the Crown. The triumph of the Patriots in the Revolution expelled from the Thirteen Colonies what little Toryism existed there, and along with it many of the moderate Whigs.

For all that, recent scholarship inclines toward the view that the American Revolution was no revolution truly, but simply a War of Independence – a revolution (in Burke’s phrase concerning the Glorious Revolution of 1688) “not made, but prevented.”

The intellectual leaders of the Americans during the troubled period of Confederation, were men, most of them, of a conservative tendency – John Adams, Gouveneur Morris, John Jay, Hamilton. Even Jefferson . . . was no frantic innovator.

Most other Southern leaders, such as Pinckney or Mason, differed more about means than about the ends of society: their view of the state was conservative – viewed that is, from a twentieth century vantage point. Even some eminent radicals of the time, notably Patrick Henry, grew steadily more conservative as responsibility settled upon them.

And the Federalist Papers, written to obtain acceptance of the Constitution, reflect the conservative concepts of moderation, balance, order and prudence – together with those conservative guarantees of prescriptive usage, arrangement of political checks, restrictions upon power, protection of private property, and restraints upon popular [democratic] impulses.

During the early years of the United States, the chief political contests many be regarded as long, acrimonious debate between two powerful conservative interests – the mercantile interests of the North, the agricultural interests of the South – confused by lesser issues and personalities.

The catastrophe of the Civil War dealt a grim blow to reflective conservatism, North or South. In the Gilded Age, little political principle of any kind could be distinguished. As the United States grew into the greatest power in the world . . . conservative concepts were discussed again . . . [though the] Great Depression and ascendancy of Franklin Roosevelt seemed to quash this renewal of conservative thought.

Until the first administration of Franklin Roosevelt, the term “liberal” had not been popular among American politicians; but Rooseveltian liberalism swept everything before it during the 1930s and 1940s. Not until the 1950s did there appear, or reappear, a strong body of conservative thought, expressed in books and periodical literature, to challenge the dominant liberalism . . .

[An] American conservative, at least as the term is employed popularly, is a person who believes strongly that the old pattern of American society ought not to be much altered. Typically, such a person holds by the Constitution, maintaining that it should be strictly interpreted; he endeavors to oppose the drift toward political centralization; he dislikes organizations on a grand scale, in government, in business and industry, in organized labor; he is a defender of private property; he resents the heavy increase of taxation and many of the “transfer payments” of the welfare state; he is unalterably opposed to the Communist ideology . . . and sighs, or perhaps shouts O tempora! O mores! at the decay of private and public morality.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk: Selected Essays; George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

Santa Anna Popular Up North

The Mexican War saw the sectional divide widen further as abolitionists and their allies in the North asserted that this was “simply a Southern plot to bring more slave States into the Union.” As New England sided with the enemy during the War of 1812 by selling them supplies and threatened to secede and form a separate republic, they would side with the enemy in 1846. The contingent of Americans fighting with the Mexicans noted below were the “San Patricios,” Irish Catholic immigrants in the US Army who refused to fight against Mexican Catholics. Those captured were executed for treason.  Ohio Senator “Black Tom” Corwin denounced the war in Congress and was summarily hung in effigy near Buena Vista by Ohio troops. They first dressed his likeness in a Mexican uniform.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Santa Anna Popular Up North

“Daniel Webster flung his oratory into caustic criticism of the war and he was abetted by fanatics like [Charles] Sumner. Soon, drinking of this heady fire water, Northern newspapers were fulminating against [President James] Polk and the continuance of the war. This was one of the few wars waged by the United States in which the enemy was popular.

Black Tom Corwin said that American soldiers in Mexico should be welcomed by “hospitable graves,” and a whole nightmare school of literature sprang up. Some papers called for European intervention. One said editorially: “If there is in the United States a heart worthy of American liberty, its impulse is to join the Mexicans.” Another said: “It would be a sad and woeful joy, but a joy nevertheless, to hear that the hordes of Scott and Taylor were every man of them swept into the next world.”

Santa Anna, the rascally Mexican commander, became a hero in Boston and New York, and there was even a contingent of Americans who fought with the Mexican army.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpt, pp. 28-29)

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

The ratification of the Constitution was a difficult and contentious process, and those in the American South saw it primarily to the benefit of the North. Rawlins Lowndes declared in South Carolina’s 1788 convention that he was satisfied with the Articles of Confederation, and assailed the Constitution because it would lead to monarchy, and that Northern majorities in Congress would cause injury to South Carolina’s interests.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

“It is a little strange, but the textbooks in general American history and political science used in American colleges and universities do not say that ratification of the Constitution was opposed in the South on sectional as well as other grounds. This even though the historians of Virginia have pointed out time and time again that fears for Southern interests played a most important role in the convention of 1788 of that State.

Perhaps the narrators of the nation’s history, being often Northerners, are not acquainted with the chronicles of the Old Dominion. Perhaps they are not so familiar even with their Jefferson as they would have us believe, for Jefferson declared that the struggle over ratification was sharper in the South than elsewhere – because of the fact that Southerners believed the Constitution did not offer sufficient protection against Northern domination.

Perhaps they have relied too much upon the Federalist Papers, which refer only briefly, although pointedly, to Southern sectionalism, saying that failure to put the Constitution into effect would probably lead to the formation of a Southern confederacy.

George Mason, sending to Northern Anti-federalists arguments against the Constitution, carefully omitted his Southern dissatisfactions, which would hardly have given strength to the enemies above the Mason-Dixon line. In Virginia he was ardent, and in Virginia the great decision regarding the Constitution was made. The issue was long doubtful in the Old Dominion; and had Virginia said nay, North Carolina would have persisted in her negative vote.

It is hardly necessary to say that an American union without the two States could hardly have been formed, could hardly have endured.”

(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 99-100)

“What Should the South Do?”

The following December 1859 editorial of the Wilmington (North Carolina) Daily Herald asks its readers “What Shall the South Do” after the Harper’s Ferry attack by John Brown, later found to be armed and financed by wealthy abolitionists.  The open warfare between North and South in Kansas had moved eastward, and the South questioned why their Northern brethren were unable to contain murderous zealots of their section. The Daily Herald was edited and published by Alfred Moore Waddell, descendant of US Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore and Revolutionary General Hugh Waddell. A staunch Unionist editor, Waddell followed his State into the Confederacy and served as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Third North Carolina Cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

What Should the South Do?”

“The chief actor in the affair at Harper’s Ferry has expiated his crime upon the gallows. Old Brown has been hanged. What will be the result of this enforcement of the law? Will the effect be salutary upon the minds of the Northern people? Have we any reason to suppose that it will cause them, for one moment only, to pause and reflect upon the course they have persistently followed towards the South and her institutions?

It is useless to disguise the fact, that the entire North and Northwest are hopelessly abolitionized. We want no better evidence than that presented to us by their course in this Harper’s affair. With the exception of a few papers (among them we are proud to notice that sterling Whig journal, the New York Express), that have had the manliness to denounce the act as it deserved, the great majority have either sympathized with the offenders, or maintained an ominous silence.

Let us look calmly at the case: A sovereign State [Virginia], in the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, has been invaded by an armed force, not foreign mercenaries, but citizens of the same Confederacy, and her people shot down in the public highways. The question is a natural one — Why is this thing done? Why is murder and rapine committed? — And who are the perpetrators? — The answer is found in the fact, that the State whose territory has thus been invaded, is a Southern State in which the institution of slavery exists according to the law and the gospel; and the actors in the terrible drama were but carrying out the precepts and teachings of our Northern brethren.

The “irrepressible conflict” between the North and the South then, has already commenced; to this complexion it must come at last. It is useless to talk of the conservatism of the North. Where has there been any evidence of it? Meetings upon meetings have been held for the purpose of expressing sympathy for murderers and traitors; but none, no, not one solitary expression of horror, or disapprobation even, for the crime committed, have we yet seen from any State North of Mason & Dixon’s line.

And yet they claim to be our brethren, speak the same language, worship the same God. We yield to none in our veneration for the Union, but it is not the Union, now, as our Fathers bequeathed it to us. Then, the pulse that throbbed upon the snow-capped mountains of New Hampshire, vibrated along the Gulf and the marshes of the Mississippi; then, there was unison of feeling, brotherly kindness and affection, and the North and the South, in friendly rivalry, strove together how they could best promote the general welfare.

Now, all is changed. Do you ask why? Watch the proceedings of Congress, read the publications that are scattered by the North broadcast over the country, listen to the sentiments expressed at nearly all their public gatherings. The stereotyped cry, that these things are the work of fanatics only, will no longer answer; but if it be so, then fanaticism rules the entire North; for what has been the result of the elections held during the past summer?

Ask Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, — ask Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even the great State of New York; — all, all, have given in their adhesion to the “higher law” principle, and the mandate for “irrepressible conflict.” Do these things indicate affection, brotherly kindness, Union? There can be no union without affection, — there can be no Union unless this aggressive policy of the North is stopped.

We confess that we look forward with gloomy apprehension towards the future. If Congress fails to apply the remedy, then it behooves the South to act together as one man — ship our produce direct to Europe, — import our own goods, — let the hum of the spinning-wheel be heard in our homes, as in the days of the Revolution, — manufacture our own articles of necessity or luxury, and be dependent upon the North for — nothing.

If such a course does not produce a different state of affairs, then set us down as no prophet; if such a course does not cause the Conservatives of the North to give some tangible evidence of their existence, then we must of necessity conclude, that that principle has no lodgment in their midst.”

(“What Shall the South Do?”- editorial, Wilmington Daily Herald, 5 December 1859)

 

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

Writer Timothy Flint travelled the Mississippi Valley in the early 1800’s and his recollections were published in 1826. After witnessing firsthand the conditions on plantations, Flint cautioned patience and gradualism to erase the stain of slavery in the United States as the fanatic abolitionists would be incautious and rash in their bloody resolution to the question. This underscores the unfortunate fact that abolitionists advanced no practical and peaceful solutions to the matter of slavery in the United States. Only war to the knife.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

“[Prior to Northern slavery agitation], The Southern people were beginning to esteem and regard the northern character. The term “yankee” began to be a term rather of respect than reproach.

It is easy to see how soon this will all be reversed, if we incautiously and rashly intermeddle in this matter. Let us hear for a moment, the Southern planter speak for himself, for I remark that if you introduce the subject with any delicacy, I have never yet heard one, who does not admit that slavery is an evil and an injustice, and who does not at least affect to deplore the evil.

[The Southern planter] says, that be the evil so great, and the thing ever so unjust, it has always existed among the Jews, in the families of the patriarchs, in the republics of Greece and Rome, and that the right of the master in his slave, is clearly recognized in St. Paul; that it has been transmitted down through successive ages, to the colonization of North America, and that it existed in Massachusetts as well as the other States.

“You,” they add, “had but a few. Your climate admitted the labour of the whites. You freed them because it is less expensive to till your lands with free hands, than with slaves. We have a scorching sun, and an enfeebling climate.  The African constitution can alone support labour under such circumstances.

We of course had many slaves. Our fathers felt the necessity, and yielding to the expediency of the case. They have entailed the enormous and growing evil upon us. Take them from us and you render the Southern country a desert. You destroy the great staples of the country, and what is worse, you find no way in which to dispose of the millions that you emancipate.”

If we [of the North] reply, that we cannot violate a principle, for the sake of expediency, they return upon us with the question, “What is to be done? The deplorable condition of the emancipated slaves in this country is sufficient proof, that we cannot emancipate them here.

Turn them all loose at once, and ignorant and reckless as they are of the use and value of freedom, they would devour and destroy the subsistence of years, in a day, and for want of other objects upon which to prey, would prey upon one another. It is a chronic moral evil, the growth of ages, and such diseases are always aggravated by violent and harsh remedies.  Leave us to ourselves, or point out the way in which we can gently heal this great malady, not at once, but in a regimen of years. The evil must come off as it came on, by slow and gradual method of cure.”

In this method of cure, substitutes would be gradually found for their labor. The best modes of instructing them in the value of freedom, and rendering them comfortable and happy in the enjoyment of it, would be gradually marled out. They should be taught to read, and imbued with the principles, and morals of the gospel.

Every affectionate appeal should be made to the humanity, and the better feelings of the masters. In the region where I live, the masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. In some plantations they have a jury of Negroes to try offences under the eye of the master, as judge, and it generally happens that he is obliged to mitigate the severity of their sentence.”

(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Timothy Flint; George Brooks, editor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968, pp. 246-249)

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

In his May 1, 1861 message to the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor John Ellis of referred to the “Northern Government” and that “they have drawn the sword against us and are now seeking our blood. They have promised to partition our property and the earnings of our people among the mercenary soldiers after our subjugation shall be effected. All fraternity of feeling is lost between us and them. We can no longer live with them. There must be a separation at once and forever.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

“Although North Carolina had soon after the adoption of the Federal constitution taken steps to prevent the importation of Negroes, not only from abroad but from any other State, yet in the progress of time the system of slavery became strongly engrafted on her social structure, and the agitation of slavery question excited her people greatly.

Periodically this agitation stirred the people and animated them to maintain with steadfastness the right to manage their own domestic, local concerns in their own way.

At length when it was declared that an “irrepressible conflict” had arisen, and that the “Union could not exist half slave and half free,” it came to be regarded that the limitations of the Federal constitution were no longer to be observed, and that the abolition party would seek to abolish slavery. This led South Carolina and other commonwealths to the South to withdraw from the Union.

The question of holding a convention for the purpose of withdrawing was submitted to the people of North Carolina in the spring of 1861, but so conservative were they and so attached to the Union, that they separated themselves from their Southern brethren and refused to call the convention. The difference between the votes was, however, small — only about 250 in the poll of the entire State.

Such was the situation, when in April 1861, Fort Sumter was bombarded and President Lincoln called on North Carolina to furnish her quota of troops to coerce the seceding States. These events changed the aspect of affairs in North Carolina instantaneously. All differences ceased.

Union men, who, like George E. Badger, did not hold to the right of secession, united now in the declaration that North Carolinians must [now] share in the fortunes of their Southern kindred. Then amid the excitement of that period came the rapid preparations for the inevitable conflict — the marshaling of troops, the formation of armies, the strenuous endeavors to equip and maintain our citizen [soldiers] and make defense of our unprotected coast.

Never was there a finer display of patriotic ardor; never did peaceable ploughboys more quickly assume the character of veteran soldiers. It was if a common inspiration possessed the souls of all the people and animated them to die, if need be, in defense of their traditional liberties.

During the four years of strife that followed, the people of North Carolina bore themselves with an unparalleled heroism. With a voting population of 112,000, North Carolina sent to the army 125,000 soldiers.

Strenuous efforts were made to provide food for the soldiers and the poor, and while salt works were erected along the sea coast, vast quantities of cards were imported for the women to use at home, and other supplies were brought through the blockade.

[Life then] was accompanied, however, by straits and hardships, suffering and mourning, the separation from husbands and fathers from their families and the pall of death that fell upon every household. What awful experiences were crowded into four years of heroic and grand sacrifice — how trying the vicissitudes, how calamitous the dire result!”

(Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the 19th Century, Volume II, Brant & Fuller, 1892, pp. 35-36)

 

“Mexico Will Poison Us”

The newly-acquired territories of the Mexican cession set the stage for conflict between Northern and Southern interests to dominate them. In the case of the South, they observed the steadily increasing numbers of Northern immigrants flowing westward which threatened the political balance and harmony with the industrializing North. The bloody victory over Mexico was crowned with the black clouds of future warfare, and a dark legacy which we still live with today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Mexico Will Poison Us”

“Santa Anna had worked a prodigy: he had succeeded in raising a large army from a nation that was half in revolt against him, he had armed and equipped it, and he had made it a fine fighting force. It was a good army, it fought with sustained fury, it came exceedingly close to winning the two-day battle, and it might well have won it if Santa Anna’s own courage had lasted long enough to send it into action on the third day [at Buena Vista].

On the morning of the third day, instead of attacking again, he was already in retreat. The retreat became a panic, the army melted away, and it was only by what amounted to another miracle that he raised an army to oppose Scott.

It turned out a victory after all, a victory won by [Zachary] Taylor’s subordinates and the courage of the private soldier. But it was Captain [Braxton] Bragg and the other officers of artillery ((T.W. Sherman, George Thomas, John Reynolds), it was Jefferson Davis and the First Mississippi Rifles, above all it was the anonymous platoons, who won the battle.

Taylor may have inspired his troops: he certainly did not direct them. The company officers and the private soldiers improvised a rule of thumb defense on the spot as it was needed. The army was shot to pieces in two days of murderous fighting that was frequently hand-to-hand, but it was full of fight – and it held the field. Thus ended the military career of Zachary Taylor. His former son-in-law [Colonel Jefferson Davis] had won the election for him.

It was a little after noon of the second day when a brigade of Mexican cavalry, grandly uniformed, charged the one remaining strong point that defended a flank and protected the road to Saltillo by which an American retreat would have to move.

The troops of that strong point had been driven back and the Mississippi Rifles were coming up in support. Their wounded [Colonel Davis] formed them as a retracted flank, joining an Indiana regiment at a sharp angle. When the Mexican cavalry got within rifle range, it halted. Mississippi and Indiana blew it to pieces and there was no further attack in that part of the field.

By September Jefferson Davis was a Senator of the United States. In 1853 he was Secretary of War. In 1861 he was a President exercising the function of a military genius.

Winfield Scott, however, made an army and conquered a nation. He had, of course, brilliant assistants. [Daniel] Twiggs was a first rate fighting man, and [William J.] Worth . . . was rather more than that. Moreover Scott had a handful of brilliant engineers – Robert E. Lee, who was effectively his chief of staff, [PGT] Beauregard, [George] Meade. Company and battalion officers whose names read like a list Civil War generals, North and South, fought in detail the campaign that Scott conceived and directed. The classic tactics of Robert E. Lee, the perfect battle of Chancellorsville, the converging attacks of Gettysburg, were all learned at the headquarters of Winfield Scott.

“The United States will conquer Mexico,” Ralph Waldo Emerson had said, “but it will be as a man swallows the arsenic which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.”

(The Year of Decision: 1846; Bernard Devoto, Little, Brown and Company, 1943, excerpts, pp. 486-488; 492)

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