Browsing "Lincoln’s Blood Lust"

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

Bombarding Americans for Amusement

North Carolina’s coast Fort Hatteras was an early and easy target of the Northern navy, and which capitulated after furious bombardment on 29 August 1861. Two of the enemy warships carried 44 guns each, while Fort Hatteras mounted only ten small-caliber cannon. Though the attack was badly-managed and accomplished little, it was successful and the US Navy Department “dared not criticize [the expedition’s commander] in the face of both public praise for him and the Navy.” The troops invading North /Carolina were from New Yorkers, many of them recent immigrants unfamiliar with the American system of government.

An irony of this affair is an American warship named after Jefferson’s home firing salvos at a fort which defends a State declaring its independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bombarding Americans for Amusement

“With ill-conceived boats badly managed, the landing through the surf was a matter of no little difficulty and danger. And what with bad appliances, and still worse management, but about 280 men were landed, including 50 Marines . . . 60 Regulars of the [2nd] artillery, the balance being composed of a miserable, thieving set of rascals, terming themselves “Coast Guard” or Naval Brigade,” without officers or organization of any kind and a promiscuous crowd of about 150 of Max Weber’s regiment of Germans who were but little better than their confreres, the “Brigands.”

These men landed and, scattered about the beach, were useless for any practical purpose and in the event of our bombardment proving unsuccessful, they were merely a present to the enemy of so much bone and sinew, arms and accoutrements.

The Monticello by this time had crawled out of her hot berth, like a wounded bird; one boat dangling at the davit, her topsail yard shivered and the sail hanging in tatters, and numerous holes in her sides testified to the nature of the amusement she had indulged in.

Soon the roar of guns, the rushing of shell, proclaimed the recommencement of the fun. The Minnesota and Susquehanna joined company and for one hour we kept up a continued and unremitting fire with, I am ashamed to say, no effect whatever except making a great noise and smoke.

Night was coming on . . . we all retired leaving things just as they were . . . On shore was a small party of our troops, such as they were [and including] a mob of thieving wretches without leader or commander, calling themselves “Naval Brigadiers,” and a miscellaneous lot of Dutchmen under the command of Col. Weber, in all about 250 souls.

No attempt was made either to relieve or reinforce them, but they were left to the chance of the enemy letting them alone through the night, and the weather coming calm, than which nothing was more unlikely.”

(Early Blockade and the Capture of the Hatteras Forts; John D. Hays & John S. Barnes, editors, The New York Historical Society Quarterly, Volume XLVI, Number 1, January 1962, excerpts pp. 80-82)

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

The Republican defeat of the Crittenden Compromise and subsequent thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which Lincoln endorsed, opened the path to war prosecuted by the North. Lincoln let it be known to Republicans that no compromise or peaceful settlement of issues dividing the country would be tolerated before his inauguration, as he put his party above the safety and continuance of the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

“From Buffalo, on January 18, 1861, [Horatio Seymour] wrote Senator [John J.] Crittenden of Kentucky in support of his scheme of compromise. It was in his opinion that this “great measure of reconciliation” struck “the popular heart.” James Ford Rhodes fortified one’s belief in the good judgment of Seymour when he studied the defeat of Senator Crittenden’s proposals. In view of the appalling consequences the responsibility of both Lincoln and [William] Seward for that defeat is heavy, if not dark – in spite of all that historians of the inevitable have written of “this best of all possible worlds.”

The committee to which Crittenden’s bill for compromise was referred consisted of thirteen men. Crittenden himself was the most prominent of the three representatives from the Border States. Of three Northern Democrats, [Stephen] Douglas of Illinois, was the leader; of five Republicans, Seward was the moving spirit. Only two men sat from the Cotton States, [Jefferson] Davis and [Robert] Toombs. Commenting on the fateful vote of the committee, Rhodes observed:

“No fact is more clear than that the Republicans in December [1860] defeated the Crittenden compromise; a few historic probabilities have better evidence to support them than the one which asserts that the adoption of this measure would have prevented the secession of the cotton States, other than South Carolina, and the beginning of the civil war in 1861 . . . It is unquestionable, as I have previously shown, that in December the Republicans defeated the Crittenden proposition; and it seems to me likewise clear that, of all the influences tending to this result, the influence of Lincoln was the most potent.”

Two-thirds of each House . . . recommended to the States a compromise thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, as follows: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” Conservative Republicans voted with the Democrats to carry this measure of which Lincoln approved in his inaugural address.

“As bearing on the question on whom rests the blame for the Civil War,” observes Rhodes, this proposed thirteenth amendment and its fate is of the “highest importance.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 223-224)

Mar 19, 2018 - America Transformed, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise    Comments Off on The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

At the battle of First Manassas, a young Major Bryan Grimes served on the field and staff of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment under the command of Colonel George B. Anderson. Though Grimes did not participate in the battle, his view of how to treat the enemy was clear: “If my wishes could be consulted and followed I should say, raise the black flag and give no quarter to invading foes.” Witnessing the death and destruction caused by the enemy invasion of a formerly peaceful landscape hardened him to the grim task ahead.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

“The month near the front impressed the major and altered his views on several matters. “Fighting from my opinion, is the least of the soldier’s exposures,” he observed. “The danger of battle is nothing in comparison to the risks from exposure to which he is subjected in camp life.”

His proximity to the July 21st action allowed him to absorb firsthand the grim reality and harsh aftermath of the Manassas battle: “The stench now arising from the putrefaction of the dead is intolerable,” described the North Carolinian in a letter home.

“A [handkerchief] full of whiskey and an extra bottle to keep it full is the only means by which you can visit the severely contested spots on the battleground.”

Taking an interest in where his fellow Tarheels had fought during the engagement, Grimes sought out the spot where Col. Charles Fisher and the Sixth North Carolina was engaged. Fisher was killed during the action and the unit had suffered heavily.

Although the bodies had been removed, “at least fifty horses in an area the diameter of which is perhaps forty yards,” were rotting under the hot July sun. In addition to the flotsam of battle, burial sites littered the devastated landscape. “Near a church I saw eight freshly dug holes and one of the wounded (still at the church used as a hospital) informed me that he counted seventy dead bodies thrown into one of the pits.”

Clearly the aftermath of the fighting at Manassas had deeply affected the young officer. “If only you could visit our hospitals you would feel in all its horror the bitter cost of war. And if one drop of milk of human kindness toward them weren’t permitted to exhibit itself, you couldn’t be a true Southern man at heart.”

(Lee’s Last Major General: Bryan Grimes of North Carolina, T. Harrell Allen, 1999, Savas Publishing Company, excerpts pp. 31-34)

Lincoln and Peace in 1864

As the year 1864 wore on, and despite increased Southern territory being overrun by Northern armies, the Northern people were war-weary and appalled at Lincoln and Grant’s mounting casualty numbers. Lincoln’s re-election platform called for the unconditional surrender of the South, and an unpopular constitutional amendment to abolish slavery – referred to as Lincoln’s “rescript” of war aims. Lincoln’s narrow election victory was attributed not only to mass army furloughs of men sent home to police the polls, but also that Assistant Secretary of War “Charles A. Dana testifies that the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.” Clement C. Clay, Jr., below, was one of three Confederate Commissioners sent to Canada in April 1864 to find a means to spark a Northern front, draw enemy troops from the South, and nurture the growing peace movement in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln and Peace in 1864

Saint Catherine’s, Canada West, September 12, 1864.

To: Hon. J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, Richmond Virginia, C.S.A.

“Sir – I addressed you on the 11th August last in explanation of the circumstance inducing, attending and following the correspondence of Mr. [James P.] Holcombe and myself with Hon. Horace Greeley. Subsequent events have confirmed my opinion that we lost nothing and gained much by that correspondence. It has, at least, formed an issue between Lincoln and the South, in which all her people should join with all their might and means.

All of the many intelligent men from the United States with whom I have conversed, agreed in declaring that it had given a stronger impetus to the peace party of the North than all other causes combined, and had greatly reduced the strength of the war party.

Indeed, Judge [Jeremiah] Black [of Pennsylvania], stated to us that [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton admitted to him that it was a grave blunder, and would defeat Lincoln [in 1864] unless he could . . . [demonstrate his] willingness to accept other terms – in other words, to restore the Union as it was.

Judge Black wished to know if Mr. [Jacob] Thompson would go to Washington to discuss the terms of peace, and proceed thence to Richmond; saying that Stanton desired him to do so, and would send him safe conduct for that purpose. I doubt not that Judge Black came at the instance of Mr. Stanton.

You may have remarked that the New York Times maintains, as by authority, that the rescript declares one mode of making peace, but not the only one. The abler organs of the Administration seize this suggestion and hold it up in vindication of Lincoln from the charge that he is waging war to abolish slavery, and will not agree to peace until that end is achieved.

Mr. [William] Seward, too, in his late speech at Auburn [New York], intimates that slavery is no longer an issue of the war, and that it will not be interfered with after peace is declared. These and other facts indicate that Lincoln is dissatisfied with the issue he has made with the South and fears its decision.

I am told that [Lincoln’s] purpose is to try to show that the Confederate Government will not entertain a proposition for peace that does not embrace a distinct recognition of the Confederate States, thereby expecting to change the issue from war for abolition to war for the Union.

It is well enough to let the North and European nations believe that reconstruction is not impossible. It will inflame the spirit of peace in the North and will encourage the disposition of England and France to recognize and treat with us.

At all events, [Lincoln’s opponent, Democrat George McClellan] is committed by the platform to cease hostilities and to try negotiations. An armistice will inevitably result in peace – the war cannot be renewed if once stopped, even for a short time. The North is satisfied that war cannot restore the Union, and will destroy their own liberties and independence if prosecuted much longer.

The Republican papers now urge Lincoln to employ all of his navy, if necessary, to seal up the port of Wilmington, which they say will cut us off from all foreign supplies and soon exhaust our means for carrying on the war . . . I do not doubt, whether we could support an army for six months after the port of Wilmington was sealed.

[The North] will not consent to peace without reunion while they believe they can subjugate us. Lincoln will exert his utmost power to sustain Sherman and Grant in their present positions, in order to insure his reelection. He knows that a great disaster to either of them would defeat him.

I have the honor to be, &c., &c.,

C. C. Clay, Jr.”

(Correspondence, Confederate State Department; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Rev. J. W. Jones, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1990, excerpts pp. 338-340; 342)

The British Version of Sherman

With respect to the initiation of modern total war against a civilian population, the author below argues that after a century or two of civilized warfare between European combatants, “total war did in fact appear, beginning with the American Civil War, and has been the form of war in the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s general, Sherman, seems to have absorbed Allan Ramsey’s view of war against civilians, and was driven by his belief that Americans in the South could in no manner oppose the will of his government — to do so meant fire and sword used to bring them to subjection – after which his fury would cease. Sherman continued his total war against the Plains Indians; a young Spanish officer named Valeriano Weyler visited the North during the War, observed Sherman’s art of warfare, and used this to devastating effect against Cuban civilians in the mid-1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The British Version of Sherman

“Although [David] Hume presented the specter of total war against the civilian population as a reduction to absurdity of British policy on both moral and practical grounds, his good friend Allan Ramsey embraced it as the only way to win the war. But what is most important about Ramsey’s proposal in the moral justification he offered for it.

Allan Ramsey was a court [portrait] painter to George III . . . [and] also a political theorist of some merit and wrote a number of pamphlets on political topics . . . [arguing in 1778] that the war is being lost because the British have not followed a proper strategy. The war must be turned against the civilian population.

Ramsey proposes that a garrison be established in New York . . . to serve as a rendezvous point for all British operations. Ten thousand troops are then to embark on transports to any province that is vulnerable and important . . . [and] to carry away all “that may be useful to the public service” and then “burn and destroy the houses, magazines, and plantations . . . sparing the lives of all the persons who do not attempt by arms to prevent them.” The troops are then to embark for some other province “where the like may be repeated.”

Washington’s army could not match the mobility of the British navy, and one could expect the colonial army to melt away as men returned to their devastated provinces to assist their families. Should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.

Ramsey recognized that “such a scheme . . .” would be rejected as barbarous by “the more human, and more respectable part of the community.” But to this he had an ingenious reply.

[As] the American people claim to be sovereign; thus the people themselves are in a state of war with the King’s forces. “[The] inhabitants of America . . . with the express purpose of making war upon England, have formed themselves into a Government . . . where every man may be said, in his own individual person, to have bid defiance to the King of Great Britain; so that he must thank his own folly and temerity, if, at any time, he should come off short from so unequal a contest.”

We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of peoples, and the enslavement of the vanquished.

Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible. Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy.

Happily the rules [of civilized warfare] were still in force for Lord North and George III, who did not follow Ramsay’s advice to wage total war against the colonists. The complete domination of reflection over moral sentiment, which is the mark of the barbarism of refinement, had not yet occurred.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 296-301)

Questions Solved Only by War

Sherman was unable to understand that the South was fighting a defensive war to maintain its independence, and had no desire to alter the governance of the Northern States. Sherman wrote the following in late 1863 to his superior, noting that he saw no need for civil compromises to soften the war against the women and children in his path, and that “the South has done her worst [in its struggle for independence], and now is the time for us to pile on blows thick and fast.” Sherman could not see the humanity suffering in his midst, only faceless enemies obstructing his employer’s will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Questions Only Solved by War

“For such a people, [Sherman wrote], “a civil government now . . . would be simply ridiculous.” The interests of the United States “demand the continuance of the simple military rule after all the organized armies of the South are dispersed, conquered and subjugated.” The only real issue, he wrote, was, “Can we whip the South?”

[Sherman continued] “Another great and important natural truth is still in contest, and can only be solved by war. Numerical majorities by vote have always been our great arbiter. The South, though numerically inferior, contend they can whip the Northern superiority of numbers, and therefore by natural law contend that they are not bound to submit.

This issue is the only real one . . . War alone can decide it.

I would banish all minor questions, assert the broad doctrine that a nation has the right, and also the physical power to penetrate every part of our national domain, and that we will do it – that we will do in our own time and in our own way . . . that we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land . . . that we will not cease till this end is attained . . . I would not coax them or even meet them halfway but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it . . .”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 307-308)

Gen. Hill Writes to Gen. Foster, 1863

Gen. Daniel H. Hill, in a letter to a Union general.

GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., March 24, 1863.

Maj. Gen. J.G. FOSTER, Federal Army.

SIR: Two communications have been referred to me as the successor of Gen. French. The prisoners from Swindell’s company and the Seventh North Carolina are true prisoners of war and if not paroled I will retaliate five-fold.

In regard to your first communication touching the burning of Plymouth you seem to have forgotten two things. You forget, sir, that you are a Yankee and that Plymouth is a Southern town.

It is no business of yours if we choose to burn one of our own towns. A meddling Yankee troubles himself about every body’s matters except his own and repents of everybody’s sins except his own. We are a different people. Should the Yankees burn a Union village in Connecticut or a cod-fish town in Massachusetts we would not meddle with them but rather bid them God-speed in their work of purifying the atmosphere.

Your second act of forgetfulness consists in your not remembering that you are the most atrocious house-burner as yet unsung in the wide universe.

Let me remind you of the fact that you have made two raids when you were weary of debauching in your Negro harem and when you knew that your forces outnumbered the Confederates five to one. Your whole line of march has been marked by burning churches, school-houses, private residences, barns, stables, gin-houses, Negro cabins, fences in the row, &c.

Your men have plundered the country of all that it contained and wantonly destroyed what they could not carry off.

Before you started on your freebooting expedition toward Tarborough you addressed your soldiers in the town of Washington and told them that you were going to take them to a rich country full of plunder. With such a hint to your thieves it is not wonderful that your raid was characterized by rapine, pillage, arson and murder.

Learning last December that there was but a single weak brigade on this line you tore yourself from the arms of sable beauty and moved out with 15,000 men on a grand marauding foray. You partially burned Kinston and entirely destroyed the village of White Hall.

The elegant mansion of the planter and the hut of the poor farmer and fisherman were alike consumed by your brigands. How matchless is the impudence which in view of this wholesale arson can complain of the burning of Plymouth in the heat of action!

But there is another species of effrontery which New England itself cannot excel. When you return to your harem from one of these Union-restoring excursions you write to your Government the deliberate lie that you have discovered a large and increasing Union sentiment in this State.

No one knows better than yourself that there is not a respectable man in North Carolina in any condition of life who is not utterly and irrevocably opposed to union with your hated and hateful people.  A few wealthy men have meanly and falsely professed Union sentiments to save their property and a few ignorant fishermen have joined your ranks but to betray you when the opportunity offers. No one knows better than yourself that our people are true as steel and that our poorer classes have excelled the wealthy in their devotion to our cause.

You knowingly and willfully lie when you speak of a Union sentiment in this brave, noble and patriotic State. Wherever the trained and disciplined soldiers of North Carolina have met the Federal forces you have been scattered as leaves before the hurricane.

In conclusion let me inform you that I will receive no more white flags from you except the one which covers your surrender of the scene of your lust, your debauchery and your crimes. No one dislikes New England more cordially than I do, but there are thousands of honorable men even there who abhor your career fully as much as I do.

Sincerely and truly, your enemy,

D.H. HILL, Maj. Gen., C.S. Army

 

 

Seward’s Hot Potato

Samuel Cutler Ward (1814-1884), known as the “King of the Lobby” due to his exemplary success at high-level political persuasion, was the brother of abolitionist Julia Ward, and served as an intermediary between William Seward and Confederate leaders before the war. Ward told Seward in 1862 that the Confederate leaders would not rejoin the Union as he saw in the South “a malignant hatred of the North which rendered” the destruction of the South necessary. Ward understood that “within two years they would have formed entangling free trade and free navigation treaties with Europe and a military power hostile to us.” Seward may have believed that peace might prevail, but Lincoln and his party’s extremists led the way to war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Seward’s Hot Potato

“Seward, who was to be Secretary of State, it had become definite, was in a quandary. As he saw the situation, he faced two necessities: one was to guide the inexperienced Lincoln in shaping the policies of the Administration; and the other was to convince his former associates in the Senate, who now headed the insurrectionary Confederacy in Montgomery, that Washington would initiate no hostilities against them, but would follow a policy of conciliation and friendship.

Seward wanted Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, and the others to understand clearly that he would be the chief architect of Administration policy; and further, that they could rely on his assurance that this policy would be one of peace, not provocation. In this, of course, he spoke only for himself, but he was convinced that he would be able to shape Lincoln’s view of the situation; Lincoln, he reasoned, was unversed in statecraft, and would be grateful for expert leading by a thoroughly practiced Secretary of State.

Seward’s sincere conviction was that the problem of secession, like all other human disagreements, could be resolved by reasonable discussion among reasonable men. One wing of the Republican party was howling for the forcible suppression of “treason” in the South; this wing was led by Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and to them Seward’s conciliatory views were themselves barely removed from Treason, — if removed at all. For him to communicate directly with the men in Montgomery might be construed as “communicating with the enemy.”

If he were to communicate with them at all, he would have to work through an intermediary whom both he and Southern leaders could trust . . . [poet, politician and gourmet] Sam Ward.

When Lincoln slunk into Washington in a distressing pusillanimous manner (or so it seemed), supposedly to foil an assassination plot, Sam was disgusted.

Seward was juggling a hot potato tossed to him by three commissioners whom the Confederacy had sent to Washington to treat for the peaceable surrender of United States forts in Southern territory, principally Fort Sumter at Charleston, and Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida. The commissioners . . . were well-known to Sam . . . If [they] go back unacknowledged as [commissioners], President Davis cannot hold back the people from attacking the forts.

[Seward] kept stalling the Southern commissioners with excuses – pressure of patronage demands, the delays attendant [to] departmental routine, and such pretexts. He could not receive the commissioners without recognizing the government behind them; yet he did not wish to send them back to Montgomery in anger.”

(Sam Ward, “King of the Lobby,” Lately Thomas, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965, excerpts pp. 251-253)

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