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General Scott’s Fearful Foreboding

General Winfield Scott’s (1786-1866) view of peacefully allowing the American South pursue independence aligns with that of Thomas Jefferson’s regarding State sovereignty and newer States formed out of Louisiana.

In a letter to John C. Breckinridge in August 1803, Jefferson wrote: “[We] see their happiness in the union, and we wish it. Events may prove otherwise . . . God bless [both old and new States], and keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.”

Scott’s war cost estimates below were very low. The direct financial cost of the war’s operation was about $8 billion, which, eventually increased to $30 billion factoring in the destruction of property, derangement of the labor power, the Northern pension system and other economic losses. In human cost: one soldier, North and South, died for every six slaves freed and for every ten white Southerners saved for Lincoln’s union.

In addition, “The money spent to field the two armies would have purchased the liberty of the four million slaves five times over. (Tombee, Portrait of a Cotton Planter, Theodore Rosengarten, Morrow & Company, 1986, page 212.)

General Scott’s Fearful Forebodings

“[Scott’s] opinion on the 3rd of March [1861 was sent by letter] to Secretary [William] Seward. In this he exclaims: “Conquer the seceded [cotton] States by invading armies. No doubt this might be done in two or three years by a young and able general – a Wolfe, a Dessaix, a Hoche, with three hundred thousand disciplined men, estimating a third for garrisons, the loss of yet a greater number by skirmishes, sieges, battles and Southern fevers.

The destruction of life and property on the other side would be frightful, however perfect the moral disciple of the invaders. The conquest completed, at that enormous waste of human life to the North and the Northwest, with at least $250,000,000 added thereto, and cui bono [who benefits]?

Fifteen devastated provinces! [Not] to be brought into harmony with their conquerors, but to be held for generations by heavy garrisons, at an expense quadruple the net duties or taxes it would be possible to extort from them, followed by a protector or emperor.” In view of these fearful forebodings, we are not surprised that he should have despaired of the Union, and been willing to say to the cotton States, “Wayward sisters, depart in peace.”

Nor that he should have fallen back on his opinion in the “Views” (29 October 1860), that “a smaller evil [than such a civil war] would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new Confederacies.” [Scott] advises Mr. Lincoln’s administration “to throw off the old [sectional Republican party] and assume a new designation – the Union party; adopt the conciliatory measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden, or the Peace Convention, and my life upon it, we shall have no new cases of secession, but, on the contrary, an early return of many if not all of the States which have already broken off from the Union.”

(Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of Rebellion, James Buchanan, D. Appleton and Company, 1866, excerpts pp. 172-173)

Apr 8, 2019 - Carnage, Costs of War, Memorials to the Past, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Absolute Edge of No Return

The Absolute Edge of No Return

Though referred to as a defeat below, the end of the third day at Gettysburg left 3155 Northern men and 3903 Southern men dead – the latter higher due to massed assaults. On the fourth day, the Northern commander remained behind his entrenchments, made no effort to attack, and ordered only his cavalry out to ascertain his adversary’s movements.

During his foray into Pennsylvania, Lee had drawn Northern troops away from Richmond, sent fear into the North with his invasion, resupplied his troops in a fertile region, and allowed the Shenandoah a peaceful respite.

The Absolute Edge of No Return

“Toward the end of his long life, the Confederate General James Longstreet is supposed to have visited the town of Oxford, Mississippi, where his sister lived and where his uncle, the Judge Longstreet of the “Georgia Scenes,” had once resided. It was after Longstreet’s extended dispute with other former Confederate leaders over the responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg, and so when a small boy came up to the old man and asked him: “General, what happened to you at Gettysburg?” Longstreet almost suffered a stroke then and there. The name of the small boy, the story goes, was William Faulkner.

The episode almost certainly never took place. Longstreet’s biographer places it in 1898, when Faulkner was one year old, and not even William Faulkner would have displayed such precocity as that. It probably happened in Chicago, not Oxford, and if anyone asked such a question of Longstreet, it was Faulkner’s longtime friend, Phil Stone. The anecdote recalls a passage from Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust.” Lawyer Gavin Stevens is talking to his young nephew, Chick Mallison:

“It’s all now you see. Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that afternoon in July, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out, and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably, and his sword in the other looking up the hill looking for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance . . . And that moment doesn’t even need a fourteen year-old boy to think — This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble . . . This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world’s roaring rim.”

(Regionalism and the Southern Literary Renascence, Louis D. Rubin, Jr.; The South and the Sectional Image: The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 146-147)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)

A Party Quite Revolutionary

The Republican Party, even after subjugating Americans in the South in 1865 and holding the North under virtual martial law during the war, “maintained its power by force and fraud, known as Reconstruction.”

The author below asserts that it “would have been far better to allow the American Union to dissolve at the will of the people” . . . as there was “nothing whatever in the legacy of the founders or in the theory of self-government to prevent this, or that argues against it.”

A Party Quite Revolutionary

“Though it is not widely known, the Confederacy had commissioners in Washington ready to make honorable arrangements – to pay for the federal property in the South, assume their share of the national debt, and negotiate all other questions. Lincoln would not deal with these delegates directly. Instead, he deceived them into thinking that Fort Sumter would not be reinforced – thus precipitating reaction when reinforcement was attempted. Even so, the bombardment of Fort Sumter was largely symbolic. There were no casualties, and, remember, almost all other forts in the South had already peacefully been handed over.

Sumter itself did not necessarily justify all-out civil war; it was simply the occasion Lincoln was waiting for. Even after the War progressed it would have been possible, with a Northern government on traditional principles, to have made peace short of the destruction that ensued.

Or it would have been possible, as millions of Northerners wanted, to have sustained a war for the Union, a gentlemen’s disagreement over the matter of secession that was far less destructive and revolutionary than the War turned out to be. Many Northerners favored this and supported the War reluctantly and only on such grounds – a suppressed part of American history. A great deal of death and destruction, as well as the maiming of the Constitution, might have been avoided by this approach.

This did not happen. Why?

Because, in fact, for Lincoln and his followers it was the revolution that was the point. Throughout the War and Reconstruction, the Republican Party behaved as a revolutionary party – though sometimes using conservative rhetoric – a Jacobin party, bent on ruling no matter what, on maintaining its power at any cost. At times they even hampered the Northern war effort for party advantage. It is very hard to doubt this for anyone who has closely studied the behavior of the Republicans during this period rather than simply picking out a few of Lincoln’s prettier speeches to quote.

Lord Acton, the great English historian of liberty, wrote: “The calamity . . . was brought on . . . by the rise of the republican party – a party in its aims and principles quite revolutionary.” And when it was all over, Acton remarked that Appomattox had been a greater setback for the cause of constitutional liberty than Waterloo had been a victory. James McPherson, the leading contemporary historian of the Civil War, though he approves rather than deplores the revolution that was carried out, agrees that it was a revolution.”

(Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 138-139)

Grant Impressed with Free Institutions

Lincoln’s reelection was won by those around him, and with Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana testifying that “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.” After 1862, it was common for Federal troops to patrol polling places, inspect the ballots of voters, arrest Democratic candidates for office on treason charges, seized groups of opposition voters just before elections, as well as furlough soldiers at election time to encourage Republican victory. At election time, Republican newspaper headlines trumpeted that “tens of thousands of national soldiers . . . were deliberately shot to death, as at Fort Pillow, or frozen to death at Belle Isle, or starved to death at Andersonville, or sickened to death by swamp malaria in South Carolina.” All did service for Lincoln’s reelection.

Historian William Hesseltine wrote: “Although the election of 1864 gave no decision on the methods of reconstruction, it proved again Lincoln’s power to control elections. The system of arbitrary arrests, military control of the polling places, and soldier voting, first applied to the Border States and then extended into the North, had saved the Republican party in 1862 and 1863. The election of 1864 saw a new extension of the system and demonstrated its continuing value in winning elections.” (Lincoln’s Plan of Reconstruction, pg. 124)

Grant Impressed with Free Institutions

“Lincoln’s friends saw danger in every quarter. No doubt a large minority of the North was tired of war; no doubt many who had a sentimental regard for the Union thought that the emancipation of the slaves had been wrongly given prominence. Every discontented officer – every disgruntled politician – every merchant whose business was bad – every civilian who dreaded the draft – the ambitious leader like [Salmon P.] Chase – the party boss – the army of unappeased office-seekers – the jealous – the vindictive – all these, and everyone else with a greed or grievance, would unite to defeat Lincoln. Thus at least, it appeared to his foreboding lieutenants.

Even [Lincoln secretary John] Hay, who was no alarmist, felt little confidence. “There is a diseased restlessness about men in these times,” he wrote [John G.] Nicolay on August 25, 1864, “that unfits them for steady support of an administration. It seems as if there were appearing in the Republican Party the elements of disorganization that destroyed the Whigs. If the dumb cattle of the North are not worthy of another term of Lincoln, then let the will of God be done, and the murrain of McClellan fall on them.”

The October returns went far to relieve anxiety. The President, with Hay, heard the returns at the War Department. Early news from Indiana and Ohio was cheering, but that from Pennsylvania was “streaked with lean” . . . [though] The Ohio troops voted about ten to one for the Union . . .

At the Cabinet meeting on the 11th . . . “[he reminded the officers that it seemed last August] entirely probable that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”

Lincoln went on to say . . . that he had resolved, if McClellan were elected, to talk matters over with him.” On November 12, 1864, Hay, with a large party, went down to Grant’s headquarters at City Point. Grant was “deeply impressed with the vast importance and significance of the late [November 8th] Presidential election.” The orderliness of it “proves our worthiness of free institutions, and our capability of preserving them without running into anarchy and despotism.”

(Life and Letters of John Hay, Volume I, William Roscoe Thayer, 1908, Houghton Mifflin Company, excerpts pp. 212-214; 216-218)

A Party of Disunion and Thievery

Fielding their very first presidential candidate in 1856, the new Republican party was responsible for breaking up the 1789 federation of States only four years later – it was indeed the party of disunion. With conservative Southerners gone from Congress in 1861, the Republicans began dismantling the Founders’ republic and ushered in America’s “Gilded Age” and pursuit of empire. This new America would be “despotic at home and aggressive abroad” as Robert E. Lee famously remarked to Lord Acton shortly after the war ended.

A Party of Disunion and Thievery

“In the Plundering Generation, Ludwell H. Johnson summarized the real reasons for Lincoln’s violent opposition to the South’s independence: “Manufacturers feared the loss of American markets to a flood of cheap British goods pouring through a free-trade Confederacy; Northern shippers feared the loss of their monopoly of the coasting trade and their share of the transatlantic carrying trade; merchants feared the loss of the profits they garnered as middlemen between the South and Europe; creditors feared the loss of Southern debts; the Old Northwest feared the loss or curtailment of the Mississippi trade; the Republicans feared the disintegration of their party should it let the South go and bring upon the North all the consequences just mentioned.”

Lincoln waged war on the South, however, to achieve more than preservation of the status quo. War was the means to establish the North’s hegemony over the political and economic life of the United States. War offered Lincoln, his party, and Northern special interests a continental empire to exploit. And they did so with ruthless abandon. In the North, Lincoln’s Congress imposed excise taxes on virtually all items; raised the protective tariff to the highest level in the country’s history (under the Morrill Act of 1861); issued paper currency (Legal Tender Act of 1862); awarded Northern railroad companies government loans and extensive land grants (Pacific Railway Act of 1862); unilaterally repealed Indian land claims; promoted settlement of western lands by Northerners (Homestead Act of 1862); effectively “nationalized” the country’s financial institutions (National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864); and furnished Northern business with cheap labor (Contract Labor Law of 1864).

In the South, Congress authorized the theft of tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, worth of Southern property (Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862, Direct Tax Act of 1862, and Captured and Abandoned Property Act of 1863). The cotton, alone, that the North stole has been conservatively valued at $100 million.

This legalized robbery was in addition to the plundering by Lincoln’s Army. In December 1864, Sherman wrote: “I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia . . . at $100,000,000; at least $20,000,000 which has inured to our advantage, and the remainder is simple waste and destruction.”

With Lincoln came the wholesale corruption of the political system. In 1864, Edward Bates, Lincoln’s attorney general, lamented that “the demoralizing effect of this civil war is plainly visible in every department of life. The abuse of official powers and thirst for dishonest gain are now so common as they cease to shock.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pp. 44-45; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Carnage at New Market Heights

By mid-1862 enlistments had virtually ceased and Northern defeats aroused intense opposition to Lincoln’s war. The latter admitted that “We had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the war.” Reminded of Lord Dunmore’s freeing of slaves in 1775 who would fight against American independence, Lincoln issued his own proclamation in 1863 doing the same to raise troops to fight against American independence.

The Sixth US Colored Infantry was organized in Philadelphia, a city where black people could not ride on most streetcars. Though black recruits were usually denied bounties for enlisting, Pennsylvania was desperate for troops and offered a $10 bounty, and the city an additional $250 per recruit. It should be pointed out that only 43%of the Sixth were actually volunteers, while 31% were conscripted, and over 25% were substitutes for a $300 fee.

Few were residents of Pennsylvania and listed 23 States as their origin. In the forlorn attack described below, Company D of the Sixth lost eighty-seven percent of its men, the heaviest loss of any company in the Northern army.

Carnage at New Market Heights

“On the morning of September 29 [1864], the Sixth finished their march and formed a line of battle. It held the left of the line, the Fourth Regiment forming up just to their right . . . the first signs of sunrise began to appear. The men could make out the enemy picket line falling back toward their entrenchments as they advanced. The field initially stretched downward toward the enemy, but the Confederates were well-positioned in the heights beyond . . . from which riflemen could pour devastating fire on any attack.

[General Benjamin] Butler personally addressed his black troops before the attack. Pointing toward the enemy he exhorted: “Those works must be taken by the weight of your column; not a shot must be fired.” They were not to stop to fire . . . to prevent it from happening they were ordered before the charge to remove the percussion caps from the locks of their rifles.

As they started down the field First Lieutenant John Johnson began excitedly to swing his sword in circles over his head . . . a Rebel bullet tore through the wrist of his sword arm. The rest of the regiment pressed on as the Texas Brigade poured murderous fire on them.

Rebel fire was bringing down many officers. [Colonel Samuel A.] Duncan was wounded four times . . . The smoke had grown so thick that no one could see more than a few feet ahead. [Colonel John] Ames said: “We must have more help, boys, before we [advance]. Fall back.”

So many bullets had ripped through the [regimental] flags that they had both been turned into mere strips of cloth.

The men started back, flags still flying to rally them. Companies C and F lost all their officers by the end of the assault, leaving the black non-commissioned officers or the men themselves to direct their safe return to friendly ground. Some companies began to withdraw in good order, others began rushing back in a complete rout.

General John Gregg’s Texas Brigade counterattacked, swarming out of their rifle pits onto both flanks . . . Many of the black troops were killed, while other threw down their weapons and surrendered. An uncomplimentary Texan described the black troops as being “hurled upon us, driven on by white leaders at the point of the sword.”

He continues to describe the heavy fire into the advancing infantry until, as he says, “They reel and fall by the scores; now they waver and now they run, and they go to the rear as fast as their – legs can carry them & the artillery opened with terrible slaughter.”

A Union officer then shouted the order to charge, but only those Union troops directly in front of the First Texas Regiment obeyed. They rushed the breastworks and in some places crossed them, and plunged into the Texas troops. But after less than three minutes of struggle all these attackers were casualties, half shot or bayoneted, and half taken prisoner.

Sergeants [Alexander] Kelly and [Thomas] Hawkins bore the two flags safely back from the field of battle in spite of wounds. For the heroism that they displayed in this battle, these two . . . would earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

(Strike the Blow for Freedom: The 6th United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War, James M. Paradis, White Mane Books, 1998, excerpts pp. 70-72; 74-75)

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

In May, 1863 New York’s Democrat Governor Horatio Seymour pointed out to his constituents “that New York’s [troop] quota was too high and draft districts that were Democratic in their voting habits were called upon to furnish higher ratios of their population than Republican areas.”

It is worth noting that New York Democrats, in addition to opposing Lincoln’s war, opposed political and social equality of Negro citizens; the 1865 Republican State Convention dodged the issue and did so once again in 1866. The long-established “Jim Crow” limitations of Negro voting rights continued unabated in the Empire State.

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

“The political opposition contended, from the first, that the war was unnecessary because they felt that differences between North and South could be and should be compromised. To them there was no other goal superior to the preservation of the Union, and they saw the war primarily as a result of a Republican power drive wherein that party had refused to give up its advantages to save the nation.

[New Yorkers] voted Democrats into power along with Seymour in the election of 1862 after having voted Republicans into office in 1858 and 1860. This was a real blow to the Republican administration both in Albany and in Washington and possibly could be interpreted as a repudiation of the party’s policies and actions.

New Yorker’s enthusiasm for “Mr. Lincoln’s War,” it appeared was not running very high in 1862, and they expressed themselves at the polls.

General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula campaign in Virginia collapsed in July 1862 and started the disillusionment. This military failure of the North was quickly followed by General Robert E. Lee’s defeat of General John Pope at [Second] Manassas in August.

Meanwhile, Democratic electioneering and political carping in the fall of 1862 pointed to the failure of Lincoln’s administration to win the war and excoriated his effort to make emancipation a war aim . . . which did not sit well with a great number of New Yorkers.

As a result, when Lincoln sent out another call for troops after [Sharpsburg], local boards in New York counties refused to cooperate in drafting, under State law, about 60,000 militia men for nine months duty. So disastrous was the response that Republican Governor Morgan and the Republican Secretary of War arranged for suspension of the call.

New Yorkers, evidently, were not inspired in the face of impending defeat and a new humanitarian goal of emancipation to rise to either cause. Passively, they avoided service in the armed forces.

In December [1862], just before Christmas, General Burnside’s troops were decimated at Fredericksburg. The defeat produced a wail of despair in the North, and, as the new year of 1863 began, New Yorker’s antagonism to the war heightened.

In New York City a giant mid-May [1863] mass meeting of 30,000 people was promoted by [Mayor] Fernando Wood’s Peace Democrats and held at Union Square. The language of the speakers was incendiary . . . [one] reminded “the George III of the present day [Lincoln] that he too may have his Cromwell or his Brutus . . .”

(New York State in the Civil War, Robert J. Rayback, New York History, New York State Historical Association, Volume XLII, No. 1, January 1961, excerpts pp. 64-66)

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

The New York City draft riot of mid-1863 was the desperate result of dwindling Northern enlistments after a bloody 1862, little Northern military success to show for its invasion of the South, and Lincoln’s conversion of the war to one of emancipation, which few in the North were willing to die for. With Lincoln’s conscription implemented, Northern governors feared losing the next election and began raising monies to fund exemptions for their constituents as well as bounty money to attract the poor, released prisoners and foreigners into the army of emancipation.

Further, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew sent his State agents into the occupied South to acquire black “recruits” who would count against his State’s troop quota established by Lincoln.

In New York’s Oswego County, “the Republican Times advocated the recruitment of Negroes to fill the ranks and delay the draft” (Oswego County’s Response to the Civil War, New York History, Jan. 1961, pg. 79). Oswego County later sent a delegation to occupied Newport News, “for the purpose of procuring substitutes among the freedmen,” and expecting they could be hired cheaply.

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

“July 21. Tuesday [1863].

The N.Y. Herald of 16th had been received, & its accounts quoted by today’s papers. The riot had continued through third day, (Wednesday, 15th,) without abatement. Several severe conflicts had taken place between the military & “the people” . . . “Negroes greatly persecuted, & 3 hung.” A great flight of Negroes from the city — & also many of the superior inhabitants . . . “The (City) Council has appropriated $2,500,000 for conscripts.”

This last incident is the most important of all. The city government has by this action completely submitted to the mob, & agreed to pay, out of the property of those citizens who possess property, for the exemption from military service of all conscripts of the city who have no property. This is a far more signal victory to the rioters than was the suspension of the draft.

It [the draft] may now be safely resumed & carried out, without annoyance to the conscripts, as the payment for their exemption is fixed in advance & at the expense of other people . . . The procedure is equivalent to offering a reward of $300 (the price for exemption) to every rioter who would have been liable to conscription.

This is enough to induce like riots in every other Yankee town. And before the operation of this additional incentive, like riots, or disturbances, but less violent & destructive than in New York, had broken out in sundry other places – at Brooklyn, Troy, Newark, Yorkville, Harlem, Jamaica, Westchester, & elsewhere.

July 25. Saturday [1863].

The [New York City] draft is not to be renewed for a week . . . waiting until a full force of 35,000 men shall be arrayed in the city to restrain the populace, & enforce the execution of the draft. Then, I think, there will be more serious & bloody work than before . . . the army, with artillery and grape-shot in every street, may restrain important outbreaks in the city . . .

The like policy of buying exemptions of the poor, is under discussion in the public councils of Philadelphia, & $2,000,000 is the appropriation proposed. It will operate like the policy of the sinking western Roman empire in buying the mercy & the retreat of the invading hosts of barbarians, when threatening to enter to sack and burn the city of Rome.

In the meantime, [editor Horace] Greeley, through the [New York] “Tribune,” (the organ of the thorough abolitionists,) is calling upon the federal power to carry out the draft, & to crush all opposition by overwhelming military force.”

(The Diary of Edmund Ruffin, Volume III, A Dream Shattered: June 1863-June 1865, William K. Scarborough, editor, 1989, LSU Press, excerpts pp. 74-75; 83)

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