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Lincoln’s New America

Lincoln’s New America

“The Civil War ennobled no one, except perhaps its central figure, but it brought enormous and probably inevitable changes in the north. Those States actually gained wealth, population and power between 1861 and 1865, during the concurrent destruction of the American Confederacy. War manufactures exploded industrial production, made agriculture prosper, and a flood of immigration from Europe more than replaced the blood and bone buried in the South.

Until 1861, the full effect of the Industrial Revolution had been held in check by the powerful agronomists from Virginia to Texas. With this check removed, the industrial States consolidated their gains swiftly.

While the war itself was moving political power irresistibly toward the federal capital in Washington, money power was centralized in New York through the wartime Currency Acts. And an enormous centralization, through economic expansion, was going on [with] Businesses and enterprises formed that soon transcended the States themselves.

The removal of real power to a national capital was the first necessity for an expanded transportation and industrial complex that lay across many States. The concentration of fiscal power in New York broke the monetary freedom of State legislatures. As business enterprise became more and more national and spread on rails, old boundaries were, and had to be, meaningless. All this would, in quick time, forge a new society.

The old American of a huge farming, small holder class with a tiny mercantile and professional elite was not gone; vast islands of it remained. But it was submerged in flooding money and roaring steam.

If the men and interests behind the rise of the new industrial America did not realize fully where they were going, they understood their basic imperatives well enough. They needed certain things from government: high tariffs on industrial products; business subsidies and the diversion of public finances to railroads; centralized money control; continued massive immigration to curb native workers and create a labor pool; and a hard money policy, without which a solid financial-industrial complex was difficult to build.

The political instrument of this new force was the new Republican party . . . [where] refugees from Whiggery found a home. As virtually all foreign observers have seen, the erection of the immense American politico-industrial-financial machine in 1861 was not pure destiny; it took a certain kind of genius.

[But] the new wealth was more monstrously maldistributed than it had ever been. Millions of northern workers were little better off, in grimy tenements and working long, tedious days, than Texas slaves; many, in fact, were cared for worse. Native-born workers, who had enjoyed decades of scarcity and demand, begged for a limit to flooding immigration as they were drowned.  In the 19th century they were hardly sustained by the 20th century illusion that they rose on each succeeding wave.”

(Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. T.R. Fehrenbach. Collier Books, pp. 403-405)

Conquest, Not Union

On April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis on the Mississippi River, was surrounded by some 1,500 troops under Gen’s. Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Chalmers. After sending an ultimatum to surrender or suffer “no quarter” and the enemy rejecting capitulation, Forrest’s men attacked and caused most of the enemy’s 600 soldiers to flee into the river. As northern colored troops were half of the fort’s garrison, they suffered great loss along with their white counterparts, and the usual cries of “massacre” were heard from northern reporters anxious to sell newspapers to a gullible public. The Radical Republicans were also quick to establish a congressional committee to investigate Fort Pillow for political purposes.

This pattern was repeated late in the war as the northern public was fed atrocity stories of Georgia’s Andersonville prison stockade. Missing from the stories were the pleas of President Davis and other Southern leaders for prisoner exchanges, including safe passage for medical supplies and food to sustain the inmates. These were all refused by Grant, with Lincoln’s approval.

Conquest, Not Union

“What exactly did the [Committee on the Conduct of the War] uncover and how objective was its investigation? Critics have assumed that the committee deliberately exaggerated Southern atrocities to smear Forrest’s reputation, inflame public sentiments, and serve its own narrow partisan agenda.

The committee’s most thorough historian, T. Harry Williams, for instance, argues that Benjamin Wade used this investigation, as well as previous atrocity reports, as a means to create a consensus for an even more radical reconstruction. By deliberately exaggerating Rebel brutalities, he would cause the public to support a reconstruction policy that would treat the South as a conquered territory.

There is little doubt that the issue of reconstruction was on the minds of committee members and other Republicans during the Fort Pillow investigation. George Julian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, was already busy sponsoring legislation to confiscate the large holdings of Rebel planters and redistribute them to veterans of the Union armies, both white and black.

In remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after Fort Pillow, Julian castigated the Confederates as “devils” and argued that the [alleged] massacre provided additional reasons to support the program of confiscating [Southern property].

Even before the war, there were many in the North who viewed the South as backward and in need of radical reordering along the outline of Northern free labor institutions. The war accelerated such beliefs. “The war is quickly drawing to an end,” the Continental Monthly predicted in the summer of 1862, “but a greater and nobler task lies before the soldiers and free men of America – the extending of civilization into the South.”

In formulating its Fort Pillow findings, the committee reflected Northern opinion as much as it sought to shape it.”

(“These Devils Are Not Fit to Live on God’s Earth”: War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865”. Bruce Tap. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, John Hubbell, ed. Kent State University Press, June 1996, Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 121-122)

The War Against the States

“[The] fact remains that that the Civil War was a political and constitutional watershed in United States history. Although the Civil War draft was primarily an inducement to volunteering [with ample financial incentives], the arbitrary arrests [of civilians] and first use of [a clearly unconstitutional] national conscription established important precedents. Economically, power shifted toward the industrialized North.  Moreover, at war’s end the very concept of State sovereignty established by the Founders had little meaning.

As Professor William B. Hesseltine said many years later, it was a “war against the States, both North and South. Within half a century after Appomattox, the federal government began to regulate certain businesses and introduced a graduated income tax. These innovations would have been inconceivable prior to 1860.” Larry Gara, Wilmington College.

(Review of “The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front,” J. Matthew Gallman (Dee Publishing, 1994. Published in Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, Vol. 42, No. 3. September 1996).

Aggressive Abroad, Despotic at Home

On December 15, 1866, Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote Britain’s Lord Acton that he believed the victorious North’s consolidation of all the American States into “one vast republic . . . will be the certain precursor to ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.” Lee. Like many others, saw the authority reserved to the States and the people, now destroyed by the war, had been “the only safeguard to the continuance of free government.”

Below, author Gore Vidal wrote in 2002 of the national security state’s creation by Harry Truman, though it was certainly put into motion first by Lincoln, reinforced by Woodrow Wilson and perfected by Roosevelt the Second. Unfortunately, Vidal’s research does not reveal the military-industrial, security state apparatus created by Lincoln.

Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home

“Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, and a handful of congressional leaders.

Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg told Truman he could have his militarized economy only if he first “scared the hell out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged.

The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congresses and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media.

Now with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally whenever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues. We complain of terrorism, yet our empire is now the greatest terrorist of all. We bomb, invade, subvert other states.

We have allowed our institutions to be taken over in the name of a globalized American empire that is totally alien in concept to anything our Founders had in mind.”

(Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to be So Hated. Gore Vidal. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002, pp. 158-159)

American Civilians Suffer Total War

What is termed “total war” can be said to begin with the birth of the modern state, in which war became an instrument of national policy. Though the north’s “Lieber Code” of early 1863 clearly protected civilians from the barbarous acts of invading northern armies, senior officers such as Sherman had evolved their own personal philosophy of war clearly at variance with official pronouncements. Despite the “Code”, Sherman’s brutal conduct found no opposition from Lincoln or Grant.

Americans Civilians Suffer Total War

“The march of the Federals into our State,” says a writer in the Columbia [South Carolina] Phoenix, “was characterized by such scenes of license, plunder and conflagration as showed that the threats of the northern press, and that of their soldiery, were not to be regarded as mere brutum fulmen.

Daily, long trains of fugitives lined the roads, with wives and children, and horses and stock and cattle, seeking refuge from their pursuers. Long lines of wagons covered the highways. Half-naked people cowered from the winter under bush-tents in the thickets, under the eaves of houses, under the railroad sheds and in old cars left along the route. All these repeated the same story of suffering, violence, poverty and nakedness. Habitation after habitation, village after village – one sending up its signal flames to the other, presaging for it the same fate – lighted the winter and midnight sky with crimson horrors.

“No language can describe, not can any catalogue furnish, an adequate detail of the widespread destruction of homes and property. Granaries were emptied, and where the grain was not carried off, it was strewn to waste under the feet of the [Yankee] cavalry, or consigned to the fire which consumed the dwelling. The negroes were robbed equally with the whites of food and clothing. The roads were covered with butchered cattle, hogs, mules, and the costliest furniture. Valuable cabinets, rich pianos, were not only hewn to pieces, but bottles of ink, turpentine, oil, whatever could efface or destroy, were employed to defile and ruin. Horses were ridden into the houses.

“The beautiful homesteads of the parish country . . . were ruined; ancient dwellings of black cypress, one hundred years old, which had been reared by the fathers of the Republic – men whose names were famous in Revolutionary history – were given to the torch as recklessly as were the rude hovels; choice pictures and works of art from Europe, select and numerous libraries, were all destroyed.

The inhabitants, black no less than white, were left to starve, compelled to feed only upon the garbage to be found in the abandoned camps of the northern soldiers. The corn scraped up from the spots where the horses fed has been the only means of life left to thousands but lately in affluence.”

(The Desolate South, 1865-1866. John T. Trowbridge; Gordon Carroll, ed. Little, Brown and Company, 1956, pp. 294-296)

The Sack of Williamsburg

The Sack of Williamsburg

“Our [25th Pennsylvania Regiment] picket line extended from the York to the James Rivers, about four miles; and with gunboats on either flank was a strong one.

One of the pickets posted at Williamsburg was at the old brick house once occupied by Governor Page of Virginia. It was built of brick imported from England. The library in the mansion was a room about eighteen by twenty feet, and the walls had been covered with books from floor to ceiling; but now the shelving had been torn down and the floor was piled with books in wretched disorder – trampled upon – most pitiful to see. In the attic of this old house the boys found trunks and boxes of papers of a century past – documents, letters, etc.

Among the latter were those bearing the signatures of such men as Jefferson, Madison, Richard Henry Lee; and one more signed by Washington.”

(25th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Samuel H. Putnam. Putnam, Davis and Company, Publishers. 1886, pp. 249-250)

Nov 20, 2023 - Costs of War, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on “You Can Tell His Folks I Buried Him Best I Could”

“You Can Tell His Folks I Buried Him Best I Could”

The Hibriten Guards of Caldwell County

“Company F of the 26th North Carolina Regiment achieved a terrible fame at the Gettysburg battle in early July 1863.  During the fight at McPherson’s Farm on the first day every member of the company was shot down: thirty-three men were killed or mortally wounded, and fifty-eight suffered wounds and recovered. That “unparalleled loss” is the only instance of an entire company being wiped out in one battle during the war. A handful of Company F were perhaps stragglers and absent; at least one participated in the Pettigrew-Pickett Charge of July 3rd, Pvt. Thomas W. Setser who suffered a severe wound.

Despite their virtual annihilation at Gettysburg, the “Hibriten Guards” rebuilt their strength in the months following the Pennsylvania campaign. Some of the wounded returned to duty; some recruits arrived. At the Battle of Bristoe Station in mid-October 1864, the company then comprised of 36 men, participated in the disastrous charge of two Tarheel brigades against a well-fortified enemy position.  The result was another near-obliteration of the company with five men killed or mortally-wounded, ten wounded and seventeen captured.

Pvt. Thomas Setser, who had recovered from his earlier wound, wrote a relative: “It was a pretty hard little fight while it lasted . . . John Tuttle was killed by a bayonet as he charged over the enemy breastworks . . . you can tell his folks I buried him best I could and cut his name on a piece of plank and put it on his grave.”

Setser, one of two surviving enlisted men of Company F later wrote: “When I look around and see none of our boys and think what has become of them I cannot help but cry, and it looks like our time will come next.”

(State Troops and Volunteers: A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers. Vol. One. Greg Mast. Raleigh Department of Cultural Resources, Archives and History. 1995. Page 100.)

Lincoln Scolds the Chicago Delegation

In 1864 Lincoln was visited by a Chicago delegation led by Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill requesting relief from sending more troops from that city to the northern armies. Lincoln said in a tone of bitterness:

Gentlemen: After Boston, Chicago has been the chief instrument in bringing this war upon the country. The Northwest has opposed the South as New England has opposed the South. It is you who are largely responsible for making blood flow as it has. You called for war until we had it; you called for emancipation, and I have given it to you. Whatever you have asked, you have had. Now you come here begging to be let off. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

(Life of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II, Ida M. Tarbell. Doubleday & McClure Company, 1900. pg. 149).

Feb 12, 2023 - Costs of War, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Devotion to Their Homes and Country

Devotion to Their Homes and Country

“As they walked through Fort Gregg and the surrounding Petersburg trenches following the evacuation of Southern forces in early April 1865, advancing Northern troops could not fail to notice the young beardless faces or the grey hair of many fallen defenders.

Major Washington Roebling of Pennsylvania wrote:

“Old men with silver locks lay dead, side by side with mere boys of thirteen or fourteen. It almost makes one sorry to have to fight against a people who show such devotion for their homes and their country.”

(Civil War Times, Vol. XLIV, No. 6, January 2006)

Nov 10, 2022 - Costs of War    Comments Off on War and Change

War and Change

“Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it compromises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies, from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” James Madison, 1795.

War and Change

“The North’s defeat of the American South’s bid for independence decisively settled the question of whether or not the 1789 agreement between the States was dissoluble. By confirming the permanence and supremacy of federal power, the war had shifted the basis of national legitimacy at least partly back toward its Hamiltonian and Federalist roots.

The Civil War prefigured not only the massive firepower, extended fronts and complex logistics of World War One, but also the economic mobilization integral to that war. By penetrating the American economy in previously untried ways, Lincoln significantly altered the relationship between the economy and his government. Prior to 1861, the federal government had been a minor purchaser in the American economy; during the war it had become the largest single purchaser and a catalyst of rapid growth in key industries such as iron, textiles, shoes, and meat packing.

The war also spawned a revolution in taxation that permanently altered the structure of American federalism. Prior to war over 80 percent of federal revenue had come from customs duties, which of course could not sustain Lincoln’s war economy. In early August 1861 the first income tax appeared, soon followed by the Internal Revenue Act of 1862 which levied many taxes on stamps, luxuries, inheritance, and manufactured goods.

Beyond taxation the northern public experienced federal intrusion such as Lincoln’s arbitrary suspension of habeas corpus resulting in thousands of arrests without judicial process. Anyone could be arrested or detained simply for suspicion of “disloyal practice” with trial before military commissions. Lincoln’s imposition of national conscription, which even Horace Greeley decried as slavery, ignited the largest civil insurrection in American history. The riots and violence in northern cities had to be suppressed with military units pulled from the front lines.”

With the South’s independence crushed, the Radical Republicans began remaking the South in the image of the North as Congress imposed military rule on the South And mandated a rewriting of State constitutions on northern models. The Radicals main agents of change were the coercive arms of the Freedmen’s Bureau – to ensure freedmen did not align with their former owners – and the US Army. The seemingly peaceful Union League, a postwar political arm of the Republican party in the South, politicized the freedmen against their white neighbors, and in the process created the Ku Klux Klan.

In the early 1870s, two former Confederate generals testified before Congress that if the Union League were disbanded, the Klan would disappear.

(War and the Rise of the State, Bruce D. Porter. The Free Press, 1994. pp. 258-263)

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