Browsing "Lincoln Revealed"

Lee’s Only Chance

Though Lincoln doubted that he would be reelected in 1864, and was heard to state that he hoped another Republican would replace him as he feared being imprisoned by a Democrat for his numerous unconstitutional acts, his Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana said “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.” By that time there were far too many whose careers and wealth depended upon the powerful centralized government Lincoln had created, and which the Radical Republicans wanted to rule.

The starving, ragged soldiers of Lee and Johnston were the last remaining barriers to full Radical control of the destiny of the “nation conceived in liberty” declared at Gettysburg in November 1863.  

Lee’s Only Chance

“In Lee’s ranks there was less fear of Grant than of that grim enemy, hunger. George Cary Eggleston [A Rebel’s Recollections] reports the rigid economies in food which his men practiced; then he adds:

“Hunger to starving men is wholly unrelated to the desire for food as that is commonly understood and felt. It is a great agony of the whole body and the soul as well. It is unimaginable, all-pervading pain inflicted when the strength to endure pain is utterly gone. It is a great despairing cry of a wasting body – a cry of flesh and blood, marrow, nerves, bones, and faculties for strength with which to exist and to endure existence. It is a horror which, once suffered, leaves an impression that is never erased from memory, and to this day the old agony of that campaign comes back upon me at the mere thought of any living creature’s lacking the food it desires, even though its hunger be only the ordinary craving and the denial be necessary for the creature’s health.”

In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union losses were 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. Grant, however, could find new recruits; he was amply reinforced; and he had no embarrassment from the lack of food or equipment. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.

Confederate losses in the Wilderness campaign were proportionally heavier than those of Grant, behind whom stood the North with its numbers, wealth, organization, and equipment.  Lee’s chance of conquering the Northern armies had gone.  His only chance was in the doubtful hope that a stout and desperate defense, if continued long enough, would wear down the Northern will to fight, produce Lincoln’s defeat in the election of 1864, and by the sheer force of war weariness bring peace on terms acceptable to the South.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 544-547)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

The battle at Fredericksburg began at first light, December 13, 1862, and soon became a slaughter of Northern soldiers urged on against a near-impregnable barrier of musket and cannon-fire.  New York Times reporter William Swinton’s post-battle dispatch to the Times noted: “[The Federal soldiers] were literally mowed down. The bursting shells make great gaps in their ranks . . . flesh and blood could not endure it. They fell back shattered and broken, amid shouts and yells from the enemy.”  By nightfall, more than twelve thousand Union soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing.

This severe defeat of Northern forces at the end of a year that witnessed astronomical casualties on both sides, leaves us to question Lincoln’s motives for continuing his war.  After shelling and starving the women, children and old men of Vicksburg into submission, and the wounded, dead and maimed at Gettysburg, Lincoln unleashed Sherman, Sheridan and Grant upon Americans in the South in absolute total war – war against military and civilians.

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

“It was the first of six assaults, each more futile than the last. Federal artillery assayed a covering barrage; the euphemism “friendly fire” had not yet been invented, but according to [Cincinnati Commercial reporter Murat] Halstead, “at least half of the shells” fell into the Federal ranks, “killing more of our men than the enemy.”

A large number of Federal troops – wound or otherwise – were trapped on the battlefield. [London Times correspondent Francis] Lawley presented the view from the rebel lines:

“Such a scene . . . would baffle any mortal pen to describe. In addition to the agonized cries for water, and the groans of tortured and dying men, may be heard voices, constantly growing fainter and fainter, shouting out names and numbers of their regiments in hope that some of their comrades may be within hearing . . . Their bodies, which lie in dense masses, as thick as autumn leaves, within 40 yards of the muzzles of the Confederate guns, are best evidence of their bravery as well as to the desperate plight of their bitterly deceived commanders.”

Lawley, noting the large number of European mercenaries in the Federal army, offered a particular ethnocentric comment:

“It is not likely that the full details of this battle will be generally known in the North for weeks and weeks; but if, after the failure of this last and feeblest of all the Federal attempts to reach Richmond . . . the Irish and Germans are again tempted to embark on so hopeless a venture, then it is the conclusion irresistible that, in addition to all the shackles of despotism which they are alleged to have left behind them in Europe, they have left also that most valuable attribute of humanity, which is called common sense.”

“It became apparent to all observers,” the Cincinnati editor wrote, that the fortunes of the day on our side were desperate. It was manifestly absolutely impossible for our columns of unsupported infantry to carry the terrible heights.”

(Blue and Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War, Brayton Harris, Brassey’s, 2000, excerpts pp. 224-225; 228)

“Whose Hand Shall Write It, Whose Tongue Shall Utter It?”

Senator Benjamin H. Hill of Georgia, one of the last to accept the secession of his State in 1861, proved himself to be the last to give up the hope of establishing that secession. After Lincoln’s election in November 1860, Hill pleaded that the Union not be abandoned to its enemies by withdrawing. He asked: “Is this Union good? If so, why should we surrender its blessings because Massachusetts violates the laws of that Union? Drive Massachusetts to the duties of the Constitution or from its benefits . . . Let us defend the Union from its enemies – not abandon it to them.”

On March 11, 1865, he delivered what has been designated “the last speech made by any Southern man in behalf of the Confederacy.”

“Whose Hand Shall Write it, Whose Tongue Shall Utter it?”

“[As Hill considered Lincoln’s terms at the Hampton Roads Conference,] he summarized his conclusions on this score: I have shown you that [Lincoln] requires us:

To accept a new Constitution and new laws made by our enemies, and we must accept this new Constitution and these new laws without reservation or qualification as to the consequences that may follow.  I need scarcely add that in order to carry out this policy it will become necessary to obliterate all State lines, and have all the States of the Confederacy reduced to one vast territory. For this vast territory there will be but one law-making power, the Federal Congress . . .

As an inducement and the only inducement offered, to accept these terms Mr. Lincoln offers us a liberal exercise of the pardoning power. And doubtless those at the North who support him, will consider this indeed a liberal offer, since they claim the right to exterminate us for the sins already committed.” Such terms, Hill declares, are manifestly impossible. Defiance to such an insolent enemy is the only answer that a proud people can make.”

Moreover, Hill maintains, a peace on such a basis as Lincoln offers, would avail the Southern people nothing. The old Constitution, which many of them loved and would gladly embrace again, is gone beyond recovery; and by the very terms proposed, Southern property is confiscated. Why accept such a peace while hope and resistance remains?

But “darkest thought of all,” in such a peace, that blackest of all libels must be written over the graves of dead comrades: “Traitors lie here.” Whose hand shall write it and not grow paralyzed? Whose tongue shall utter it and not grow speechless? . . . Enough, enough! cries Hill. “Away with the thought of peace on such terms. “Tis the wildest dream that restless ambition, or selfish avarice or slinking cowardice could conjure . . .”

(Benjamin H. Hill: Secession and Reconstruction, Haywood J. Pearce, Jr., Negro University Press, 1928, excerpt pp. 108-110)

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

Almost immediately after war commenced the New England Emigrant Aid Company envisioned the national benefits of “transplanting friends of the Union” in conquered States and flooding them with “Energetic, loyal, liberty-loving colonists.” The promoters avowed that their goal was “to aid in the political, industrial and social regeneration of the South.” In the case of Florida, the emigrants would settle the rich soil, open resorts for invalids, and build permanent homes for “those whose delicate constitutions cannot endure the severe weather of the North.”

In early 1864, Salmon Chase’s presidential ambitions were assisted by increased military invasions of Florida to occupy more land area and establish a new State government dominated by his political appointees. They were then expected to declare Florida’s 3 electoral votes for him come November.

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

“Almost from the beginning of the fratricidal conflict of 1861-1865 far-seeing politicians and interested economic groups from the North began an economic invasion of the South. First, a Confiscation Act made all property used in support of the rebellion subject to seizure by the federal government. Later in 1861, despite Abraham Lincoln’s questioning of its constitutionality, Congress passed a second Confiscation Act which made the property of all Confederate officials subject to immediate confiscation by Union officials.

The authors of the Act, by a provision that gave people supporting the Confederacy sixty days to drop their support or have their property become liable to federal confiscation, struck below the upper stratum of the Southern official family and at the roots of Southern life.

Then, in the summer of 1862, Congress passed the Direct Tax Set which, once Union troops occupied rebel territory, made Southern homes, lands, farms and plantations subject to sale or seizure by the federal government if the owners failed to pay the assessed taxes.

The avowed objectives of the laws were to “relieve” rebels of their war-producing materiel and to finance the [cost of the] war; but under them Northerners could transfer Southern wealth to themselves at the same time they emasculated the South politically.

Among the most frank in expressing their desire to exploit the South and guide Southern political development were the directors of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This company had already experimented with sending emigrants to Kansas in an effort to flood that blood-stained territory with abolitionist settlers. Now with the war hardly more than a year old, the directors saw the South as a land of opportunity for Northerners and Northern ideals.

To them, the war presented an opportune time for settling in the South Northern workmen in numbers large enough to “support presses, schools, and churches true to their own principles and to the interests of freedom.” Land for the emigrants would be no problem since the government was sure to acquire considerable quantities through confiscation and defaulted direct taxes.

The implications of these plans were great. Should they succeed, Southerners would lose both their wealth, and their voice in the national political arena.”

(Northern Plans for the Economic Invasion of Florida, 1862-1865, Robert L. Clarke, Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume XXVIII, No. 4, April 1950, excerpt pp. 262-263)

Placing Party Above Peace

President James Buchanan well understood the limits of his authority and knew Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution – that waging war against any of the States united, and adhering to their enemies –constituted treason. As a former diplomat, he further saw the solution to the crisis in a Constitutional Convention of the States to properly settle differences between them. The Republican party, a purely sectional party which in no way represented Americans in the South, was now in power and sought to destroy Southern political and economic power by any means, including war.

Placing Party Above Peace

“On January 8, Buchanan sent to Congress a special message concerning relations with South Carolina. “The prospect of a bloodless settlement fades away,” he warned . . . “my province is to execute, not to make, the laws.” “We are in the midst of a great revolution . . . the Union must and shall be preserved by all constitutional means.”

Buchanan appealed again for the question to be “transferred from political assemblies to the ballot box” where the people would soon achieve a solution. “But in Heavens name, let the trial be made before we plunge into armed conflict upon the mere assumption that there is no other alternative.” From the beginning, concluded the president, no act of his should commence it, “nor even  . . . furnish an excuse for it by any act of this government.”

The inactivity of Congress convinced Buchanan that although the Republicans agreed with his policy and had nothing different to propose, they nonetheless did not wish a solution of the crisis during a Democratic Administration. He presumed that they would proceed with the same program once they came to power and thus take credit for a triumphant result, which, if Buchanan had achieved it, would annihilate their party. Lincoln’s repudiation of the use of armed force indicated that the new Administration would not pursue a course of coercion.

When on January 16 the Senate was asked to consider the least controversial point in the Crittenden plan, whether to initiate a constitutional convention, every Republican voted against letting the question even come to the floor.

Baron Stoeckl, Russian Minister in Washington, commented that the great Congressional leaders of the past had been replaced “by men undistinguished either by ability or reputation. Totally lacking in patriotism, they have but one purpose: the increase of the anti-slavery agitation . . . they preach war against the South and demand the extirpation of slavery by fire and iron.”

(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpt pp. 391-392)

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

It is estimated that the Civil War cost $8 billion, which, including destruction of property, derangement of the power of labor, pension system and other economic losses, is increased to $30 billion. To this total is added the human cost of 620,000 battlefield deaths – the war killed one out of every four Southern white males between 20 and 40 — and at least 50,000 civilians dead from indiscriminate Northern bombardment of cities, and starvation.

In the immediate postwar and its two million men in blue mustered out, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) became a rich political endorsement as Northern politicians lined up to offer higher pensions in return for votes.  

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

“War always intrenches privilege in the councils of the nation. The power of the financier is increased. He is called in to rule. Otherwise the state would not go on. Such was our own experience as a result of the Civil War.

Prior to 1861 a democratic spirit prevailed in the nation. Economy was the note in government expenditures. The Civil War ushered on a new era. The need for revenue brought about a merger of the protected interests of Pennsylvania and New England and the banking interests of Wall Street with the Treasury Department, a merger which has continued ever since.

Corruption born of army contracts and war profits penetrated into Congress and the various departments of the government. The public domain of the West was squandered in land grants to the Pacific Railroads with no concern for posterity. The richest resources of the nation were given away. For years after the war, privilege was ascendant and democracy reached to lowest ebb in our history.

Taxes were collected not for the needs of the government, but to maintain a protectionist policy. Revenues were squandered and pork-barrel methods prevailed. Pensions were recklessly granted to prevent a treasury surplus, while appropriations for rivers and harbors, for public buildings, and other purposed became the recognized practice of congressional procedure.

For fifty years the reactionary influences which gained a foothold during the Civil War maintained their control of the government. This was the most costly price of the Civil War, far more costly than the indebtedness incurred or the economic waste involved.”

(Why War? Frederic C. Howe, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918, excerpt pp. 313-314)

No Diversity in Illinois

The fall elections of 1862 witnessed severe setbacks for Lincoln’s party due to several factors. Resistance to arbitrary arrests, illegal suspension of habeas corpus and homeless slaves moving northward all accounted for Democratic victories at the polls. But the emancipation issue and its ramifications were paramount, with Senator John Sherman of Ohio contending that the “ill-timed [emancipation] proclamation contributed to the general result.” The Republican party was never “anti-slavery,” and knew victory at the Northern polls depended upon confining black people to the South.

No Diversity in Illinois

“Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton . . . committed a blunder that partly undermined Republican candidates in the Midwest. Throughout the summer [of 1862] Union troops operating in the Mississippi Valley channeled hundreds of Negro refugees and freedmen to the federal commander at Cairo, the southernmost town in Illinois.  On September 18, 1862, to alleviate this pressure, Stanton authorized the commanding general at Cairo to turn Negro women and children over to committees which would provide them with employment and support at the North.  

This order, which violated the Illinois Negro exclusion law, was greeted with dismay. [Midwestern] Democrats took full advantage of their political windfall. Abusing the black “locusts” from the South and describing them as “the first fruits of emancipation,” they portrayed the emancipation proclamation and the colonization of Illinois as parts of a Republican plot to Africanize the entire Middle West.

Frightened citizens held mass meetings denouncing Stanton’s action and the black inundation. Retreating pell-mell, the Republicans explained that the freedmen would only be in Illinois temporarily and that emancipation offered the best hope for getting the Negroes out of the State.  After the war was over, they would “skedaddle back to the sunny clime of Dixie.”

Leonard Switt, a personal friend of Lincoln and a Unionist candidate for Congress, hastened to say that he was and always had been opposed to the introduction of free Negroes into Illinois. A supporter of the Union party wrote Governor Richard Yates that the “scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if [it] can be avoided . . . and with confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of the blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

On October 13, 1862, Yates wired the President, telling him of the damage being done to their cause in Illinois. The next day David Davis, a close friend of Lincoln, advised the President that it was essential that no more Negroes be brought into the State while the elections were pending.” There is danger in the Election here,” he added, “growing out of the large number of Republican voters, who have gone to the war . . . and of the Negroes, coming into the State.”

But Stanton, presumably with Lincoln’s approval, had already acted on October 13 by forbidding further shipments of blacks out of Cairo. Republican journals now happily announced that the Democrats had been deprived of their sole issue.”

(Free, But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 60-61)

Locked in a Bloodbath

Lincoln’s stated goal in waging war against the South was to maintain the territorial union of States within the 1787 Constitution, which Southern States had withdrawn from. The South established its own union, sending commissioners to Washington to arrange a settlement of funds due that government and a treaty of peace between the two countries.  Lincoln’s refused to see the commissioners and secretly sent an armed expedition to reinforce Fort Sumter, by then a useless fortification as it was within South Carolina’s sovereign territory – and explicitly constructed with funds from all States for South Carolina’s protection.

Even if Lincoln reasoned that South Carolina could not withdraw from the 1787 union and it remained within, waging war against a State was treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Locked in a Bloodbath

“Soon after hostilities began, the Model 1861 Springfield rifle, capable of killing fire at a thousand yards, would become standard issue for Union infantry, while Confederate troops were being equipped with small arms equally as good. The result was mass slaughter.

In eight of the first twelve big battles, Confederates assumed the tactical offensive, and lost ninety-seven thousand men in doing so. Altogether, the South suffered 175,000 battle casualties in the first twenty-seven months of fighting, a figure somewhat higher than the entire Confederate military establishment in 1861.

[Grant accumulated] sixty-four thousand casualties during the three months of his sledgehammer Wilderness campaign and taking as the major sign of his victory, in late May 1864, the fact that a battle with Lee’s troops “outside of entrenchments cannot be had.”

Yet the Confederates would remain unbeaten inside their trenches for almost a year more. And, in fact, a better indication of the true tactical situation was the spectacle of Union troops pinning their names to their uniforms shortly before the notorious frontal assault on Confederate positions at Cold Harbor on 3 June so that their corpses might be better identified after the battle.

Unlike their officers, foot soldiers drew an altogether more practical, if less heroic, conclusion as to the tactical significance of new weaponry, and sought cover and defensible positions whenever possible. Thus, by mid-1863 both sides were becoming addicted to trenches . . .

As far as they went, field fortifications were an entirely correct solution to the revolution in small arms, the long-range rifle having roughly tripled the advantage of defense over offense by putting attacking troops under deadly fire almost from the moment they became visible.  Yet trenches also prefaced a very static and inconclusive sort of war, as the siege of Richmond-Petersburg indicated. Thus at some point it became necessary for troops to physically overcome opposing trenches.

Cavalry, on the other hand, was deeply and permanently undermined. The fate of the saber charge was epitomized by the deaths of one Major Keenan and his adjutant, who jointly led a column of the Eighth Pennsylvania Horse in a desperate advance against Stonewall Jackson’s victorious infantry at Chancellorsville. Not only did the charge fail miserably, but after the battle the bodies of Keenan and his adjutant were found to have thirteen and nine bullet wounds, respectively.”

 (Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons and Aggression, Robert L. O’Connell, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpts pp. 197-199)

Punished for Seeking Independence

North Carolina rejected the proposed Fourteenth Amendment by a forty-five to one vote in the Senate, and by ninety-three to ten in the House. Although the amendment failed the requisite number of State ratifications, it was hurriedly and unconstitutionally enacted by Radical Republicans to maintain national political hegemony.  

Punished for Seeking Independence

“The question has been asked, and will be asked again, by our children, why the Southern people did not accept the reconstruction measures and ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution? It is impossible, at this day, to comprehend the import of this [amendment’s] language, or its effect upon the people of the South.

It is interesting to read the words of Governor [Jonathan] Worth, in his message to the Legislature of North Carolina, in submitting to them the proposed amendment. After reviewing its provisions he says he was unable to believe that the deliberate judgement of the people of any State would approve the innovation to be wrought by the amendment, and as anxious as he was to see the Union restored, there was nothing in the amendment calculated to perpetuate that Union, but that its tendency was rather to perpetuate sectional alienation and estrangement.

The committee of the Legislature, to which the amendment was referred, recommending its rejection, said:

“What the people of North Carolina have done, they have done in obedience to her own behests. Must she now punish them for obeying her own commands? If penalties have been incurred, and punishments must be inflicted, is it magnanimous, is it reasonable, nay, is it honorable, to require us to become our own executioners? Must we, as a State, be regarded as unfit for fraternal association with our fellow citizens of other States until after we shall have sacrificed our manhood, and banished our honor?

Like a stricken mother, the State now stands leaning in silent grief over the bloody graves of her slain children. The momentoes of her former glory lie in ruins around her. The majesty of sorrow sits enthroned upon her brow. Proud of her sons who have died for her, she cherishes, in her heart of hearts, the loving children who were ready to die for her and she loves them with a warm affection.”

(George Davis Memorial Address, H.G. Conner, Unveiling of the George Davis Statue at Wilmington, NC, April 20, 1911, by the Cape Fear Chapter, UDC)

Pages:1234567...28»