Browsing "Foreign Viewpoints"

Few Patriots Found in New York City

Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed brokered a deal with local politicians to solve Lincoln’s problem of obtaining soldiers after the draft riots of July 1863. Locating substitute recruits for drafted city residents, he would use the city treasury to pay whatever signing bonus the competitive market required and tap a special $2 million substitute fund financed by Wall Street bonds. Should a resident get caught in Lincoln’s draft net, he could either use the fund to buy his way out, or join the army and keep the money. With this scheme, Lincoln used Tammany Hall to run his draft in New York, though Tweed’s recruitment drive eventually attracted scandal with abusive bounty brokers, unqualified soldiers (from local prisons or immigrants literally straight from Europe) and middlemen who made fortunes from graft.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Few Patriots Found in New York City

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

A Negro orphanage on Fifth Avenue was burned to the ground. Looters had a field day, among them screeching women who opposed conscription. Troops were rushed from Gettysburg [immediately after the battle]; cadets from West Point came to aid the police; the entire naval force in the region was called upon to quell the disturbance. Finally, in desperation, the military raked the streets with cannon fire. But what really stopped the rioting was a posted notice: “the draft has been suspended in New York City and Brooklyn.”

The newspapers carried the word in huge print. Order was finally restored. According to the Tribune of July 25, some 350 people had been killed; but other estimates went much higher. Casualties, including the injured, amounted to 1,000 and private property damage was estimated at $1,500,000. Republican newspapers claimed the outbreak had been sparked by Confederate agents. But Democratic party feeling and a sincere desire for peace were mingled with race prejudice and resentment against what the anti-Lincoln papers called the “incompetence” of the Administration.

Men resented fighting against their convictions and were indignant at “governmental “frauds and profiteering.” Apparently, from the magnitude of the outbreak, the London Times had not been far wrong in predicting that if the South won in Pennsylvania, Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee would

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

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

During New York’s bloody pandemonium, [British Colonel Arthur] Freemantle had been surprised to hear everyone talking of the “total demoralization of the Rebels.” To him it sounded absurd, since only a few days previously he had left Lee’s army “as full of fight as ever,” much stronger and more efficient from every military point of view than when it had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland the previous September. In the Colonel’s opinion, Lee’s army had “not lost any of its prestige at the battle of Gettysburg, in which it had most gallantly stormed strong entrenchments defended by the whole Army of the Potomac.”

Freemantle took ship for England and completed his book of observations at sea. “The mass of respectable Northerners,” he wrote, “though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition and conquest . . . The more I think of all I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk—“How can you subjugate such a people as this?”

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

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

Lincoln's Scarce But Well-Compensated Patriots

Lincoln’s Scarce But Well-Compensated Patriots

Russian Minister to Washington Baron de Stoeckl supported his government’s intrigues with Lincoln’s regime but privately believed a negotiated settlement between North and South and Confederate independence was preferable to the bloodbath instigated by Lincoln and the Radicals.  It is said that he had easy access to Secretary of State William Seward’s office — the latter was obviously courting Russian favor and an alliance against England and France, both of which came close to recognizing the Southern Confederacy.

With his unique position to view internal American affairs, “Stoeckl persisted in his belief that the North could never subjugate the South. The Union, he felt, could not endure . . . he was sure it was divided forever. “It is difficult to witness events without being convinced that a return to the old system is impossible.” His communiques during the war are well-preserved and one excellent source is “Lincoln and the Russians” written by Albert A. Woldman in 1952.

When Washington was again in danger of attack in mid-1862, Stoeckl wrote that “General Halleck has been ordered to Washington to take charge of military operations.” He wrote that Lincoln was experiencing great difficulty in replenishing the depleted military ranks and “the government has been compelled to offer a premium of $25 a man.” Later he reported that premiums up to $50 have been offered, yet there are few volunteers. Two weeks later, Lincoln issued another call for volunteers, with premiums up to $300.

“Mr. Lincoln told me himself one day that in case of necessity he could count upon two or three million men. Experience has demonstrated that such estimates are inaccurate . . . at the outset the armed services absorbed the adventurous types, the poor, the unemployed laborers and the foreigners who filled the large cities. Not many of these classes remain. The new recruits must come from the farmers, businessmen and, in general, the prosperous classes who are opposed to the war.”

He added that “those who volunteered at the outset never dreamed of the dangers and privations which awaited them. It was generally believed that the mere presence of the Northern army would coerce the South into rejoining the Union. The ever-increasing number of mangled, sick, crippled or maimed soldiers who have returned to their homes has opened the eyes of the Northerners to the horrors of war.

Men no longer volunteer for military service. Bonuses of $250 to $300 are being offered to volunteers without spurring enlistments. As a result, the government was forced to resort to conscription . . . But it is doubtful if the government will succeed in recruiting the number Lincoln has fixed in his call.”

When the House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the President to arm 150,000 Negroes, Stoeckl reported that “the Democratic Party regarded this measure as humiliating for the nation” since it was an admission that “an army of a million men cannot win without the help of some 100,000 Negroes.” Stoeckl continues, “Mr. [Thaddeus] Stevens, the author of this measure, said that the federal army . . . scarcely numbered 500,000 men under arms; that half these troops were scheduled to return home soon since their term of service expired next May; that volunteers are no longer enlisting; and that conscription was so unpopular that the government hesitated to invoke it again.”

“At the beginning of the war men came forward in large numbers. It is difficult to procure volunteers even by offering them bounties of $700 to $800. This state of affairs is not surprising. All the adventurous spirits that there were — all the unemployed in the great cities — immigrants brought here from Europe by poverty, have been absorbed by the army. Only force will be able to drag (the prosperous classes) away from their homes, and it is doubtful they will submit willingly to it.”

His perspective on Radical Republican leaders was revealing: Stoeckl wrote that “Peace, no matter what the terms, is the only means of resolving this situation. But the leaders in charge of affairs do not want it.  Thier slogan is all-out war.  Any compromise would endanger their political existence. They are politicians of low-caliber — men without conscience, ready to do anything for money . . . They constitute the swarm of speculators, suppliers of material, war profiteers through whose hands pass a large portion of the millions of dollars spent daily by the federal government.  Aside from these and some fanatics, practically everybody else desires the cessation of hostilities.”

Baron de Stoeckl held a low opinion of Lincoln’s commanding general, Ulysses Grant.  Grant earned the nickname “butcher” as a general who could count on limitless recruits to hurl against the enemy.  Stoeckl wrote Russian Prince Gortchakov in late May 1864 that “General Grant has so far given no proof of being a great strategist. It appears that he undertakes no maneuvers, and that he simply drives his masses of men against the fortified positions of Lee trying to crush him by sheer superiority of numbers.”

Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

The visiting Frenchman, Ernst D. de Hauranne, travelled only in the North for his eight months in America and was a strong supporter of the Northern invasion of the American South. Ironically, when confronted by a Radical lieutenant enraged at Americans resisting subjugation, the Frenchman could reel off the specifics of Lincoln’s destruction of liberty, and compared the despotic Northern government to the worst aspects of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

“Here I found my first expert on American politics, Lieutenant C. He is not only a Republican, he is a Radical, and we have already crossed swords several times. Like all Americans, he pushes adulation of his country well beyond the limits of politeness and acceptability. Democracy is his oracle, his god, and he will never agree that it may not be the same thing as liberty.

If I reply that even the will of the people should have its limits, and that if it exercises in America the absolute reign that he talks about, it is more likely to pave the way to tyranny than to preserve liberty, he answers brusquely that I am French, that I don’t understand anything about freedom and that I have no right to judge his country. “Europeans,” he told me, “are born slaves. They always have been and they always will be. Only America knows what freedom is.”

“Oh,” I replied, “get off your high horse. There are many darks spots on your wonderful picture of American freedom.” Thereupon I ticked off for him the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of the freedom of the press, the transfer of jurisdiction over many cases from civil to military courts, secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonments and all the other abuses of power that are the sad accompaniments of the Civil War. I asked him if that was what he called freedom.

“It is freedom if we have willed it. Mr. Seward boasts that he needs only ring his little bell to have absolutely anyone put in prison. That is true, but behind him are the American people who direct him. Let him strike down the rebels and traitors . . . We want martial law, do you understand? We want it, and that’s why we are still free.

“[I replied] Revolutionary power is a seed of dictatorship. Watch out that the seed doesn’t take root. You refuse to see the danger; the freedom of your neighbor means little to you! This is the way to lose your own freedom and to rush headlong into despotism one of these days. [Let’s] get to the bottom of it. I know your theories. We practiced them under the [French revolutionary] National Convention. You think you’ve discovered a new idea, but all you do is recite the sophistries of the Committee of Public Safety.”

Are these not strange opinions in the mouth of an American, notions that would fit better with the outlook of a European Jacobin or a Massachusetts Whig? We think the Americans are madly in love with their individual freedom, yet there is a school of thought which springs up to repudiate it in the name of public safety, which views freedom as submission to the multitude. Love of freedom, like all human passions, falls asleep when it is not contested.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume I, pp. 67-70)

 

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

French priests increased their efforts to penetrate Korea in the 1830s and were executed for violating Korean law, and Koreans learned that foreign fleets would be sent to enforce the work of the Vatican. More Catholics were executed, and when the French threatened to mount a punitive expedition, Koreans found it incomprehensible: “they told the French that they would understand perfectly the execution of their own nationals in France, should they try to disseminate Korean views there.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

“The United States also tried its hand at opening up Korea in 1866, when the merchant schooner General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward P’yongyang. A heavily armed ship with a mixed crew of Americans, British and Chinese, it received the message that it was not just Christianity that contravened Korean law but also foreign commerce.

Undaunted, the General Sherman forged ahead. Shortly a hostile crowd gathered on the shore, into which the frightened sailors unloaded their muskets. After that volley the provincial governor, a much respected and temperate official named Pak Kyu-su (who later negotiated the first treaty with Japan), ordered the General Sherman destroyed. The tide obliging receded, grounding the vessel. The Koreans killed all its crew in battle and burned the ship – unwittingly taking revenge for an Atlanta that could not.

It was a dastardly act, the authorities in Washington declared; what an outrageous affront to a peaceable bunch of people who just happened to be sailing a man-o-war up the river to P’yongyang! None other than Secretary of State William Seward, architect of westward expansion, proposed a joint expedition with the French to punish the Koreans . . . But it did not happen until 1871. By then the US government had decided to open Korea’s ports by force . . .

In this famed “Little War with the Heathen,” as the New York Herald called it, the American Asiatic Squadron . . . steamed through the straits near [Kangwha], where it took fire from newly cast Korean cannons. Marines hit the beaches at Kangwha and sought to capture several Korean forts. In the end about 650 Koreans [who battled ferociously] died [but after] some desultory and fruitless negotiations, the Americans withdrew.

The “Little War with the Heathen” was little noted nor long remembered in the United States, but [there exists] the stone monument that marks the spot where the General Sherman burned. It is not far from Kim Il Sung’s birthplace . . . and Koreans of that era thought that their staunch moral virtue had sent the foreigners packing, even if their weapons were technologically backward.”

(Korea’s Place in the Sun, A Modern History, Bruce Cummings, W.W. Norton Company, 1997, pg. 96-97)

The Chinese Slaves of Peru

Nearly forgotten and overlooked in history is the fate of Chinese slaves in Cuba, and Peru. English Captain F. Trench Townsend reported: “Though the fate of the poor African slave in Cuba is horrible, that of the unfortunate Asiatic . . . struck me as more pitiful.”  It was in this era that New England-captained slave ships were being caught off Cuba in 1859 by future Confederate naval officer Capt. John Newland Maffitt.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Chinese Slaves in Peru

“No words can describe the lot of the Chinese in Peru. The system commenced in 1849, between which year and 1869, it appears that ninety-thousand Chinese have perished in Peru. What are the causes which have produced this fearful mortality?

The truest causes may probably be found in an important paper submitted by Mr. Murrow, to a meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, in the latter year [1869].

Mr. Murrow states that the rate of mortality on the passage from China to Peru in immigrant ships has certainly been twenty-five per cent. The principal mortality takes place after arrival in Peru. The coolies in guano work are goaded to their labour under the lash.

The taskmasters are tall, African Negroes, “who are armed with a lash of four plaits of cow-hide, five feet in length, and an inch and a half thick, tapering to a point.”

This weapon is little used during the early part of the day, but about four o’clock in the afternoon it is put into constant requisition, for the purpose of compelling the coolies, who, from weakness or other cause, fall short in the completion of their allotted task.

“The slightest resistance is punished by a flogging, little short of murder, the first six or twelve cuts stifling the agonizing cries of which ring through the fleet. There is no tying-up, the nearest Chinaman being compelled, by a cut of the lash, to lay hold of an arm or leg, and stretch the miserable sufferer on his stomach on the guano.

The mere weight alone of the lash makes the bodies shake, blackening their flesh at every blow, besides cutting into it like a sabre, and when a convulsive movement takes place a subordinate places his boots on the shoulders to keep the quivering body down.”

On this subject, in commenting on the able speech of Sir Charles Wingfield, in the House of Commons in 1873, the [London] Times says:

“In Peru the fate of the imported coolies is even more abominable. They are sent to work in the guano pits on the islands which produce that unsavory wealth; they are beaten and chained and passed by bargain and sale from master to master . . . There is a military force to guard them, and to crush any violence to which despair may drive even the most timid of men. Hope of escape, save by death, there is none; and hence suicide is a common practice, regularly estimated in the probable cost of the labour supply . . . “

To recruit free men in China, imprison them in barracoons, guard them with soldiers, induce them to sign contracts, convey them to Peru and on arrival compel them by force to labour in the guano pits, is that which it might have been supposed no man could have been found to defend . . . [but] shows that a man may be blinded with guano [profits] as effectually as with gold.

A new Treaty has just been negotiated between the Empress of China and Peru, providing for the continuance or renewal of Chinese coolie traffic. The British envoy at [Peking] has had a hand in the negotiation . . . [but] it is deeply regretted that if called in at all, he did not enter his emphatic protest against the whole affair.”

(The Lost Continent; or, Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, 1875. Joseph Cooper, Longmans, Green & Company, 1875, excerpts, pp. 43-47)

Forrest Captures a Future General

While Nathan Bedford Forrest captured a future American commander in Cuba, Sherman was accompanied by a young Spanish officer who would also serve in Cuba. Military attaché and observer Valeriano Weyler admired Sherman and as a Spanish general 30 years later in Cuba, he adopted scorched-earth tactics to starve rebellious Cubans and established concentration camps for women and children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Forrest Captures a Future General

“The two other regiments which [Nathan Bedford] Forrest had on the field – Biffle’s Ninth Tennessee and Cox’s Tenth – he had sent on a wide swing to the right. Coming in from that flank, they cut across the turnpike in [Northern Colonel John] Coburn’s rear, deployed, dismounted . . . and drove home the charge which . . . ”decided the fate of the day.”

When the charging line was within twenty feet of the Union troops, Forrest reported, they “threw down their arms and surrendered.”

Among the losses of the day was the death of Captain Montgomery Little . . . [a] planter and Memphis businessman of middle age . . . a Union man in sentiment before the outbreak of the war.

The bag of Union prisoners at Thompson’s Station numbered 1,221, including seventy-eight officers, among them Colonel Coburn himself and Major William R. Shafter, the same who thirty-five years later was to command the American forces before Santiago de Cuba.”

(First With the Most, Forrest, Robert Selph Henry, Mallard Press, 1991, pp. 130-131)

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

Few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833 and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag . . . that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Filling Lincoln's Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

Canada was a source of many recruits for Lincoln’s army and his military agents used devious means with which to obtain enlistments. Illegally accepting a US Army commission and emoluments, British Col. (and Canadian Parliament member) Arthur Rankin tried to raise a regiment of Canadians by advertising for “farm laborers and stablemen” to go to Detroit with him. A violation of the Neutrality Act, he was arrested and dismissed from service.  Author Adam Mayer’s book “Dixie and the Dominion is highly recommended for further reading.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Filling Lincoln’s Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

“John Allison was a slightly built, blond-haired boy of 15, whose only mistake was to talk to a stranger. One evening in July 1864, as Allison walked home for supper in the Canadian border town of Niagara Falls, a man stopped him and asked for directions. A shadow flitted across his face, a pungent odor filled his nostrils, and, as he would later tell his rescuer, “I became insensible.”

He regained consciousness to find himself facing an involuntary three-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. The youth had fallen victim to “crimps,” agents who made a living providing recruits to the [Northern] armies and navies. Ella Lonn, who in the 1940s and 1950s published landmark works of foreigners in Confederate and Union military service, called the work of the crimps and their customers “the worst scandal of the war.”

Seven days after the kidnapping, Allison’s name appeared in the Buffalo, New York, newspaper as having been mustered into the U.S. Navy. The British consul in Buffalo, a Mr. Donohue, reported the incident to Lord Richard Lyons, British Ambassador to the United States, calling the case one of the most heartless outrages” of its kind that he had ever seen.

He eventually found the boy in Sandusky, Ohio, some 350 miles from home, swabbing the decks aboard the gunboat USS Michigan. Donohue secured Allison’s release, took custody of him, and saw that he was returned home.

“The question arises whether British youths of less than 16 are to be enticed from their homes and enlisted into the military service of the US by officers who must be well-aware of what they are doing,” Donohue wrote to Lyons after July 25, 1864. “How many of these are drugged and brought over to this side it may be impossible to say. But a regular system is now organized by which men are passed over the frontier and kept stupefied with liquor until they enlist. I have no doubt whatsoever.”

Allison was one of perhaps a thousand victims of a dangerous and illegal cross-border trade in recruits for the Union army and navy. At the time of hi kidnapping in mid-1864, the trade was reaching its peak. Organized teams of crimps were based in Detroit, and in Buffalo and other points in upper New York State. They worked the Canadian side of the border, snatching boys off streets and pulling drunks from local bars. By whatever means necessary – coercion, mugging, alcohol, or potent drugs – the crimps harvested their victims, then bundled them into carriages or waiting boats and moved them across the nearest border.”

The unlawful traffic in human beings kept US-Canadian relations tense . . . and a secret Canadian police force was formed to combat it.”

(Stolen Soldiers, Adam Mayers, Civil War Times Illustrated, May/June 1995, pp. 56-57)

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

The Northern war against the South was seen in Europe as a strange sequel for a country formed by secession from England, with the South taking the part of the American colonies seeking independence from the mother country. The British saw through the North’s moral outrage over the slavery they were mostly responsible for perpetuating with their cotton mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

“The popular verdict in England was that “the struggle between North and South was a contest for political power and ascendancy, and that in reference to slavery the North discarded or ignored all practical measures for emancipation, and confined their operations to oratory, preaching, sentimental poems, fiction and invective.”

The opinions of the responsible statesmen of Great Britain may be stated in the following extract from a speech delivered by Earl Russell at Newcastle on the 14th of October, 1861: –“We now see the two parties (in the United States) contending together, not upon the slavery question, though that I believe was probably the original cause of the quarrel, not contending with respect to free trade and [tariff] protection, but contending, as so many States in the Old World have contended, the one side for empire, and the other for independence.”

The official view expressed in the course of a speech by Earl Russell in the House of Lords, 9th of June 1864. He said : –“It is dreadful to think that hundreds of thousands of men are being slaughtered for the purpose of preventing the Southern States from acting on those very principles of independence which, in 1776, were asserted by the whole of America against this country.

Only a few years ago the Americans were in the habit of celebrating the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence, and some eminent friends of mine never failed to make eloquent and stirring orations on those occasions.

I wish, while they kept up a useless ceremony (for the present generation of Englishmen are not responsible for the War of Independence), they had inculcated on their own minds that they should not go to war with four millions, five millions, or six millions of their countrymen who want to put the principles of 1776 into operation as regards themselves.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 311-312, 313-314)