Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

Had England gone to war against the United States in late 1861 over the seizure of two Confederate States diplomats from the RMS Trent, Lincoln’s ports would have been blockaded by the Royal Navy, and Northern shipping destroyed on the high seas in concert with Confederate privateers. Also contemplated was invasion of the undefended American northwest, as well as Canada West — today’s Ontario – thus creating a Northern war front.  Added to this was Maximillian’s French army in Mexico, which may have marched northward to help American’s achieve independence a second time.

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

“The prime minister, Viscount Palmerston, was seventy-seven years old in 1861. Born in 1784, just after the American Revolution, he was twenty-eight when Britain went to war again with the United States in 1812. Palmerston had served as foreign secretary in three British governments for a total of about fifteen years.

His involvement with several major US-British disputes had left him with the view that the Americans were pushy, ill-mannered, unyielding in their demands that their rights be respected, and totally lacking in awe of the imperial power of Britain. His continuing fears that the United States would eventually invade and annex Canada ultimately prevented him from supporting a more aggressive British policy toward the American Civil War.

One of Palmerston’s biographers, Jasper Ridley, wrote that “he believed that the British constitution and social system . . . was the best in the world . . . He was a liberal abroad because he wished to see this system replace the absolute monarchies of the Continent.”  But when he looked toward America, Palmerston was no liberal. He was hostile to the idea of a government elected by all of the citizens and, as Ridley noted, was very dubious about militant democracy in America:

“Palmerston had played a very active role in the suppression of the international slave trade . . .  But though Palmerston was delighted when slaves in the intercepted slave ships were liberated by officers and gentlemen of the Royal Navy, he was not pleased at the prospect of the slaves on cotton plantations in the Confederate States being freed by large armies . . . commanded by cigar-chomping generals in ill-fitting uniforms.  And he was as conscious as [John] Bright and the [British] Radicals that the Union armies were the most powerful force of militant democracy since the French revolutionary armies of 1793.”

Oxford professor H.C. Allen wrote that Palmerston “privately . . . hoped for success of the Confederacy because it would weaken a potential rival of Britain’s – and a democratic one . . .”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 32-33)

Goths and Vandals in Florida

Captain J.J. Dickison, renowned for his fearless role in leading Florida’s “Cow Cavalry” during the war, is said to have always carried three revolvers – two in holsters and one on his saber belt. On more than one occasion after emptying his pistols and dashing up to an enemy cavalryman who was ordered to surrender, but refused to do, he would strike an unerring blow with his trusty saber.

Goths and Vandals in Florida

“Gainesville, Fla., August 19, 1864

The enemy’s cavalry [from Ohio and Massachusetts], reported to be four hundred strong, reached this place on the 17th, at four o’clock, a.m., with the view to sacking and burning the town. Upon their arrival, we had but one company of militia and a few citizens, who had assembled suddenly upon the emergency, under command of Judge Thomas F. King, to repel them.

Finding that they were unable, in consequence of the largely superior force, to successfully resist them, they retired . . . anxiously hoping for the arrival of our cavalry.

The enemy, or, at least a majority of them, were stationed at the railroad and depot, while the remaining began an indiscriminate robbery and plunder of the citizens of the town. Just in the midst of their thieving operations, and conduct such as would have been a disgrace even to the names and character of the Goths and Vandals, Captain [J.J.] Dickison . . . with his noble command, dashed in the town from nearly every direction.

When nearly opposite the residence of Colonel Dozier, Captain Dickison directed Lt. Bruton of the artillery, to open upon the enemy with the two pieces under his command. A portion of our cavalry then charged upon the enemy, and opened such a terrific fire upon them that they scampered through the town in every direction like a flock without a shepherd.

The fighting between our troops and the enemy then became indiscriminate and general. The Yankees tried to secret themselves in and under the houses in town, while many of them sought to remain near the ladies for protection, knowing full well our gallant men would not aim their trusty rifles at them thus situated.  Finding that they were completely hemmed in . . . a large number surrendered.

A number of the enemy, after being routed . . . started pell-mell on the road leading to Newnansville, where they were met by a detachment of militia cavalry, commanded by Captain Williams, who captured twenty-four of them.”

(Dickison and His Men: Reminiscences of the War in Florida, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing Co., 1890, excerpts pp. 100-102)

As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

Northern General John Pope was a veteran of Missouri fighting and as commander of Lincoln’s army in Virginia in mid-1862, with Lincoln’s approval, issued orders for his men to confiscate from Virginia citizens “whatever food, forage, animals and other supplies they might require; to exile behind federal lines all male citizens who refuse to swear allegiance to the United States; to execute all persons who fire upon federal troops; to destroy the property of all such persons; to force local residents to repair any railroads, wagon roads, or telegraphs destroyed in their neighborhoods; and to deny guards for the homes of citizens who seek protection.” These were orders unprecedented in warfare, and directed against Americans.

As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

“January 6, 1862: “Today Governor Letcher issued a proclamation designed to stir the passions of Virginians. The murderous and barbaric actions of the United States government during nine months of war have more than justified Virginia’s decision to secede, avers its chief executive.

Abraham Lincoln’s government, by its “unnatural” and “wicked” behavior, has “violated” and “annulled” the old compact between the States. More than that, Lincoln’s personal conduct has served to remind Southerners of another tyrannical and oppressive monarch who sought to enslave a free people some four score years ago. In another summer, in another century, that free and irrepressible people had risen up, joined together, cast off self-doubt, shoved aside its sunshine patriots, defied the penalty for failure, and declared its independence.

That, “our first revolution,” proclaims Letcher, can only serve to inspire Virginians and all Southerners in the unfinished task ahead. “We must be content with nothing less than the unqualified recognition of the independence of the Southern Confederacy and its nationality,” he continues; “and to this end we must meet the issue . . . with spirit, energy and determination.”

[In July, 1862, Culpepper, Virginia] has reacted as best it can. Some citizens take to the woods to plague detachments of federal troops as guerillas. Staccato exchanges of pistol and rifle fire vibrate across the country for the first time in the war. “The horrid Yankees have arrived,” reports one young lady. “There is skirmishing every day about the Rapidan River.”

The county makes so bold because they have heard rumors that Stonewall Jackson is rushing to the rescue. [No] one doubts that Stonewall will press on to liberate Culpepper [and that] includes the Union troops. It is as Pope has feared. Whatever confidence his address [to his troops] may have momentarily inspired is being corroded by the sniping and dreaded name of Jackson.”

(Seasons of War: The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, excerpt, pp. 87-88; 117-119)

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

The path of Sherman’s army across Georgia was strewn with “outrages and barbarities of the most repulsive nature” wrote Southern newspapers, with the Macon Telegraph claiming that “Southern women had been overpowered by the “lustful appetites of the hell-hounds.” The “cesspools of Northern infamy and corruption” had been dredged, it said, “in order to collect the infamous spawn of perdition sent out to despoil our country.” Sherman, by the acts of hiss men, had earned “the fame of the ravisher, the incendiary and the thief.” His men did not draw a color line as black “comfort women” followed his army.

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

“[Sherman’s] army continued to support its burden of Negro followers . . . despite Sherman’s admonitions. Altogether, about twenty-five thousand – four Negroes for every ten soldiers – tagged along, but about three fourths of them became disillusioned by their new “freedom” and, after a few days of starting out, began the weary trek back to their home places. When Sherman and his men came within sight of the coast, the horde had dwindled to sixty-eight hundred.

[They] were fascinated by the guns and volunteered to “tote” them for the men. In camp they looked after the pots and pans and helped out with the cooking. At night they entertained their “liberators” with their plaintive plantation melodies. And the good-looking women peddled sex.

Sherman naturally was reluctant to take on these added appetites to be satisfied. And he had a strong personal dislike for colored people. (Damn the n****r! he once exploded.)

A large number of Negroes lost their lives in a few minutes of horror and hysteria at Ebeneezer Creek. Upon approaching the creek, General Jeff Davis of the XIV Corps . . . ordered the [bridge] pontoons taken up, leaving the Negroes on the west bank. In desperation, the Negroes attempted a mass crossing. Even the few who could swim had great trouble making it . . . many were drowned.

[When] the Christian Commission asked Sherman to allow its agents – distributing literature and conducting religious services – to carry on their work among the troops, he shot back, “Certainly not . . . Crackers and oats are more necessary for the army than any moral and religious agency, and every regiment has its chaplain.”

(Those 163 Days: A Southern Account of Sherman’s March from Atlanta to Raleigh, John M. Gibson, Bramhall House, 1961, excerpts pp. 73-75)

 

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

The author below writes of the “well-dressed malingerer, the best educated, the most cunning, the most creative of the [Vietnam] generation, they live with their little secret: their citizenship came of age on a note of avoidance . . . which in turn bred a profound cynicism toward their responsibilities in a free society.”

This may be compared to the “well-dressed malingerers” of Northern society in the early 1860s who remained home, a few after tasting 90 days service, and realizing the resolve of their opponent seeking independence; then they avoided the draft with substitutes and paying for exemptions from physicians seeking extra income. They dug deep into their pockets as well for town, county, State and federal bounty money to pay the poor and recently-released criminals to take their place. They then applauded Lincoln for seizing dispossessed black Southern farmhands, and taught them to loot and burn Southern farms and towns, for “the Union.”

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

“General Sherman had done the dirty work for the Union. To him had fallen the duty to break the spirit of the rebellion, to punish the rebels, whatever their sex or station. His unsparing, relentless hand had given the Union victory.

The dirty work of the Vietnam War was consigned to a small percentage of the Vietnam generation; the poor, the uneducated, and the youth who fought who were wounded, who died. Most of those who went to Vietnam, the studies show, saw moderate to heavy combat. It is only the glories of modern medical science and the speed of the helicopter that prevented the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington from being etched in much smaller print.

If the cruel charge of substitution is valid against any group, it is valid for the sixteen million who avoided Vietnam illegally. By their avoidance, the country had, de facto, reverted to the practice of the Civil War, where a man could buy a substitute. Had it not been for this overall turpitude, a Lt. William Calley could never have been an officer in the US Army.

Sherman’s dirty work ended in victory, and the victory swept away in the North any preoccupation with the manner of victory. Victory sealed over for the Union veteran his memory of theft or wanton destruction in Dixie.

In Vietnam, defeat and atrocity are fused. The wanton violence of Sherman’s bummer and Westmoreland’s grunt differs as looting differs from stealing, but neither time nor morals are static. The patterns of behavior in both armies were encouraged by the official policy and extended the rules of permissible conduct in the same degree.

The burning of Columbia and the slaughter at My Lai were exceptional only in their dimensions. The formal order for civilized behavior contrasted with the informal message toward atrocity in precisely the same way.”

(Sherman’s March and Vietnam, James Reston, Jr., MacMillan Publishing Company, 1984, excerpt pp. 167-168; 170)

Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

His Holiness and the Civil War

Dudley Mann was appointed as one of three Special Commissioners to Europe in 1861, to represent the interests of the Confederate States of America. He met with Pope Pius IX in mid-November 1863 to explain the actions of the Confederate States in seeking independence. When the wisdom of gradual emancipation was suggested, Mann properly advised the Pontiff that the States themselves were the ones to decide this, not the Confederate government. He could have further explained that this is precisely how African slavery had been abolished in the Northern States by the action of individual States, not the federal government. In March 1865, with the agreement of the States, the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of 300,000 emancipated black men.

His Holiness and the Civil War

“His Holiness now stated, to use his own language, that Lincoln and Company had endeavored to create an impression abroad that they were fighting for the abolition of slavery, and that it might perhaps be judicious in us to consent to gradual emancipation. I replied that the subject of slavery was one over which the Government of the Confederate States, like that of the old United States, had no control whatever; that all ameliorations with regard to the institution must proceed from the States themselves, which were as sovereigns in their character in this regard as were France, Austria, or any other Continental power . . .

I availed myself of [Lincoln’s emancipation] declaration to inform His Holiness that it was not the armies of Northern birth which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former, who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from Lincoln and Company to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high wages, but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy, that those poor unfortunates were tempted by the high bounties amounting to $500, $600 and $700 to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battlefield; that in consequence thereof an instance had occurred in which almost an entire brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd attempt to overpower the South.

His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his hands at the employment of such means against us and the cruelty attendant upon such unscrupulous operations.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt pg. 594)

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina

Col. Joseph Newton Brown led the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers in the Gregg-McGowan Brigade at Gettysburg, and later at Spotsylvania. At Gettysburg’s Seminary battle his regiment lost heavily from enemy artillery, losing over 200 in killed and wounded out of 475 carried into action.  After the war Col. Brown became Anderson, South Carolina’s first millionaire, who built an imposing home on three acres of land on North Main Street in 1890. It was demolished in August, 1953.

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina, Nov. 11, 1861

“Dear Mother, We marched from Pocotaligo yesterday and arrived at dark. This place is a junction of two roads which the enemy must pass in going to Charleston if they land anywhere east of the Salt River Ferry. We are ordered to retreat from this point in case of an attack by an overwhelming force. We passed [some] poor fellows yesterday evening . . . [who] barely escaped from being taken prisoners and had to leave all their baggage, tents and provisions and in fact brought nothing but their muskets with them.

But the worst remains to be told. The terror stricken inhabitants have left their homes and property in the possession of the enemy. We met them all the way and with tears in their eyes they encouraged us to strike for their homes and fireside. The ladies would talk to the meanest looking private and tell him the enemy was in his front and to meet them as became Carolinians.  The richest and finest dressed lady would ask the soldier if he was willing to fight for her.

You cannot imagine the dreadful state of things existing here. Plantations are deserted and Negroes by hundreds wandering through the country without a master or anyone to tell them what to do or where to go. The railroad trains are all crowded with women and children and the men have shouldered their guns, leaving all things else to take care of themselves.

Beaufort is deserted by the inhabitants and the enemy occupies it at his pleasure. The Negroes were left in the town and as soon as the whites had departed they broke open the stores and groceries and are now reveling in drunkenness and disorder. One man left his little children and went to hunt a place for their safety and on his return found a drunken Negro beating one of them nearly to death. The promise of freedom will ruin many a one which the master has depended on as faithful.

Direct [your letters] to Pocotaligo, Beaufort District, S.C. My love to all. Trusting that the God of Sumter and Manassas will be with South Carolina’s sons in the conflict before us, we will put our reliance in Him. I will write as often as circumstances will permit.

Your affectionate son, Joseph N. Brown

(A Colonel at Gettysburg and Spotsylvania, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, pp. 39-40)

Lincoln’s Reelection in 1864

In mid-1864 Lincoln’s prospects for defeating the South’s bid for independence were bleak, and cracks appeared in his shaky coalition dominated by Radicals.  It was at this time that Southern commissioners were in Canada planning a northern front with freed prisoners at Johnson’s Island and burning New York City in retaliation for Atlanta. Had this found success, and Generals Joe Johnston and Nathan Bedford Forrest been left to harass and defeat Sherman’s army before Atlanta, a negotiated peace and thousands of lives saved might have resulted.

But, as Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana wrote, “All the power and influence of the War Department . . . was employed to secure the re-election of Mr. Lincoln.” In his study of Lincoln as politician, author Don C. Seitz writes that “something like two hundred thousand soldiers were furloughed to go home and vote.”

Lincoln’s Reelection in 1864

“Apathy and disheartenment reached even into the upper circles of the [Republican] party and penetrated the White House. Henry J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times, heard only discouraging reports and learned only of a general conviction that a change was needed. The consensus seemed to be that the war languished and Lincoln would not or could not bring peace. War-weariness and a desire for peace was everywhere.

Something had to be done, Raymond told [Secretary of War Simon] Cameron, to attract public attention. “Great victories might do it – but we are not likely to get them.” Raymond asked Cameron’s advice on another step: let Lincoln propose to Jeff Davis that both sides disband their armies and stop the war “on the best basis of recognizing the supremacy of the constitution” and refer all disputed questions to a convention of the States!

Raymond went to Washington to lay the proposal before the President, but Lincoln did not accept it. Instead he wrote a memorandum sealed it, had the members of the cabinet witness the envelope, and put it in his desk. The memorandum read: “This morning as for some days past, it seems exceedingly possible that this administration will not be elected.  Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration as he will have secured his election on such grounds that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”

If Lincoln had in mind following Raymond’s plan, he was merely adopting [Horatio] Seymour’s proposals for a negotiated peace.  The prospect frightened [Massachusetts Governor] John Andrew and he dashed about furiously writing letters  . . . asking help [in saving] Lincoln from evil influences.

Sherman’s victory before Atlanta reinvigorated the Republican campaign. The President wrote to [General W.T.] Sherman to let Indiana’s soldiers, “or any part of them, go home at vote at the State election.” This was, Lincoln explained, in no sense an order. Sherman understood that it was a command. He sent soldiers home, and on election day in October the soldiers gathered at the Indiana polls. The Nineteenth Regiment of Vermont Volunteers voted in Indiana that day, but many a Democrat found his vote challenged. When the votes were counted, [Governor Oliver P.] Morton had been elected by a majority of 22,000.

On that same day the need for Lincoln’s aid was illustrated in Pennsylvania.  Under the law the Democratic minority had no rights, But Republican [Governor Andrew] Curtin, disgusted with the situation generally, determined to appoint some Democratic commissioners to collect the soldiers’ vote.  As the commissioners passed through Washington, however, the Democrats among them disappeared, under [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton’s orders, into the Old Capitol Prison.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Albert A. Knopf, 1955, pp. 377-379)

 

Lee Assesses His Adversaries

Robert E. Lee did not always refer to his blue-coated adversaries as “those people,” often storming at them as “vandals and violators of all rules of war; in such moments his neck would turn red and chin and head flare upward, like a spirited horse. Plenty of instances are recorded of Lee’s loss of temper . . .” Had Lee accepted Winfield Scott’s offer of command of the invading armies, it seems certain that he would have quickly gone over to the other side after realizing the true intent of his commander-in-chief.  The birthdate of Robert E. Lee is observed on January 19 — a legal holiday in North Carolina and other States.

Lee Assesses His Adversaries

“When his son, “Rooney” Lee, a federal prisoner, was moved to a new place of safety, Lee remarked that “any place would be better than Fort Monroe with [General Benjamin] Butler in command,” and his antipathy to [General John] Pope inspired several bitter comments.

That his nephew, Louis Marshall, who fought on the Union side, was part of Pope’s entourage was particularly offensive. “When you write Rob tell him to catch Pope for me, and also bring in his cousin Louis Marshall who, I am told, is on his staff. I could forgive the latter’s fighting against us, but not his joining Pope.”

For [General Joseph] Hooker, Lee’s contempt was more good-natured; he commonly referred to him as “Mr. F.J. Hooker,” thus making his own use of Hooker’s nickname, “Fighting Joe”; while for Burnside Lee had a real affection, as had most people, friend or foe. “We always understood each other so well,” he commented, on Burnside’s supersession, “I fear [Lincoln] may contrive to make these changes [in command] till they find someone whom I don’t understand.”

The most unfortunate victim of this strain in Lee was General David Hunter, the head of a federal force in the Shenandoah in 1864. After the war, Hunter wrote Lee, asking his professional opinion of his strategy in that campaign. In particular “when he [Hunter] found it necessary to retreat from before Lynchburg, did he not adopt the most feasible line of retreat?”

“Lee replied with a cutting solemnity that would have done honor to Dean Swift: “I would say that I am not advised as to the motives which induced you to adopt the line of retreat which you took, and am not, perhaps, competent to judge of the question, but I certainly expected you to retreat by way of the Shenandoah Valley and was gratified at the time that you preferred the route through the mountains to the Ohio – leaving the valley open for General [Jubal] Early’s advance into Maryland.”

(The Lees of Virginia, Burton J. Hendrick, Little, Brown and Company, 1935, pp. 415-416)

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