Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

“When the Yankees Come”

The excerpts below were taken from “When the Yankees Come,” an edited narrative of slave experiences during Sherman’s invasion of South Carolina in early 1865 by Paul C. Graham. The sources employed were The Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States – collected by the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA in the 1930s.

When the Yankees Come

“Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak about the Yankees plundering through the country plenty times. Hear about the Yankees going all about stealing white people silver. Say, everywhere they went and found white folks silver, they would just clean the place up.” Josephine Bacchus, Marion County, SC. Age 75-80.

“When the Yankees come they seem to have special vengeance for my white folks. They took everything they could carry off and burnt everything they couldn’t carry.” Charley Barber, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 81.

“The Yankees come and burn the gin-house and barns. Open the smokehouse, take the meat, give the slaves some, shoot the chickens, and as the mistress and girls beg so hard, left without burning the dwelling house.” Millie Barber, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 82.

“I was fifteen when the Yankees come thru. They took everything, horses, mules, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, and chickens. Hogs? Yes sir, they kill hogs and take what parts they want and leave other parts bleeding on the yard. When they left, old master have to go up into Union County for rations.” Anderson Bates, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 87.

“The Yankees kill all the hog. Kill all the cow. Kill all the fowl. Left you nothing to eat. If the colored folk had any chicken, they just had to take that and try to raise them something to eat.” Solbert Butler, Scotia, Hampton County, SC. Age 82.

“The Yankees come. First thing they look for was money. They put a pistol right in my forehead and say: “I got to have your money, where is it?” There was a gal, Caroline, who had some money; they took it away from her. They took the geese, the chickens and all that was worth taking off the place, stripped it. Took all the meat out of the smoke-house, corn out of the crib, cattle out the pasture, burnt the gin-house and cotton. When the left, they shot some cows and hogs and left them lying right there.” Lewis Evans, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 96.

“The Yankees marched through our place, stole cattle, and meat. We went behind them and picked up lots that they dropped when they left.” Rev. Thomas Harpe, Newberry, Newberry County, SC. Age 84.

“Sherman set fire everywhere he went – didn’t do much fighting, just wanted to destroy as he went.” Amos Gadsen, Charleston, Charleston County, SC. Age 88.

(When the Yankees Come, Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman’s Invasion: Voices from the Dust, Volume I, Paul C. Graham, editor, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 2-3; 8; 18; 27)

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

The Ladies Association of Wake County, North Carolina was formed as the Northern commander in occupied Raleigh ordered Southern dead removed from their graves or he would have them dug up and the remains thrown into a nearby roadway. Gen. Lawrence ‘O’B. Branch’s wife, during the early occupation of Raleigh, overheard that all Southern officers above the rank of captain were to be hung, which included her husband.

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

“The following extracts were made from a paper by Mrs. M.L. Shipp, in the woman’s edition of the [Raleigh] News and Observer, May 20, 1895, in regard to the most prominent association of the State: “The Ladies Memorial Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of the Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there.

It was but a short while after the federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested he Confederate dead, and ordered that they be moved at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made President . . . A resting place [at Oakwood] was selected for the reinterment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there was scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures . . .

Many Confederate dead from the country were moved this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory . . . it was reported that contraband articles such as Confederate flags, a strand of Gen. Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general . . . [the constant fear was] the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran, May 1898, excerpts pg. 227)

Undisciplined Troops

The 4th US Colored Infantry was recruited in Baltimore with enrollment agents scouring the city, though “many of the city’s residents . . . reluctant to enlist – perhaps [because] so many had been dragooned into service by [General Robert] Schenck.” The latter impressed local slaves and free blacks into service at will to defend the city from liberation.

Many of the black recruits were forcibly removed from area farms and plantations, and in late July 1863 authority was granted to remove the inmates of a slave prison in the city for use as soldiers.

Any “able-bodied black male of military age owned “by an avowed Confederate or Rebel sympathizer” was subject to impressment. Lincoln’s proconsul in Maryland was “Governor” Augustus W. Bradford, a slave owner and committed Unionist who was allowed to keep his slaves.

These black recruits received no bounty as white troops had, and only white officers were allowed to command black units.  Lincoln added black men to his conscription net, and poor black men could not afford the $300 substitute fee to avoid service.  

Undisciplined Troops

“[General Joseph E.] Johnston’s surrender immediately placed the Union forces in North Carolina on occupation duty. Now that hostilities were officially ended, it was feared the USCT might break free of wartime restraints to trespass, assault and loot. [Colonel Samuel] Duncan was enjoined to place a guard at virtually every house on his route [to Goldsboro . . . [indicating] the low opinion that their own commanders sometimes entertained of the discipline and deportment of the USCT.

By the end of 1865 – five months after the XXIV Corps had officially ceased to exist – only a handful of Caucasian regiments in the Army of the James remained in the field. These units would be mustered out the following January and February. Much of the army’s USCT strength, however, would be kept on active duty for almost another year.

The War Department knew that if it were to keep white volunteers in service well beyond their appointed term of “three years or the duration of the war,” it risked the wrath of voters and their political representatives.

Not surprisingly, the War Office preferred to alienate African American troops, few of whom could vote and even fewer who wielded political power. Moreover, many black soldiers – especially former slaves – had no homes to return to once they left the service. They would be unlikely to object to being kept on the army’s payroll indefinitely. The 4th USCI served out its two final months of garrison duty in relative tranquility [at Washington]. There the formal process of mustering out the regiment took place on the morning of May 4, 1866.”

(A Regiment of Slaves: The 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866, Edward G. Longacre, Stackpole Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 165; 170-171)

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor, and an 1845 graduate of Yale. In 1847 his father viewed the struggle over slavery had been “brought about by the intemperate zeal” of Northern fanatics, and told him that if the North ever exceeded its ”right and proper” constitutional power, “let the South act promptly, boldly and decisively with arms in their hand if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will no longer be worth preserving . . .”

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

“[Taylor] personally refused to abandon the dream of [liberating] New Orleans. Even with little or no help from other quarters of the Confederacy, he would work constantly toward the day when he could gather enough strength to deliver the city into the hands of his fellow Louisianans.

With an attack on New Orleans now impossible, Taylor’s [desired] to press southeastward . . . to relieve nearby parishes of the oppressive federal presence. “We are prisoners in every sense of the term,” wrote a local militia commander . . . Were we to attempt exercising any military authority, we would be arrested and our families harassed. Where is our protection to come from?”

Taylor answered the plea by sending Major Edward Waller’s unit of mounted Texas riflemen . . . On September 4 [1862], a detachment of the Texans, along with the militia unit, struck the federal outpost at Des Allemands and forced its garrison back toward New Orleans.

Capturing enough Yankee rifles to replace many of their outdated flintlocks and shotguns, Waller’s men also recovered piles of booty the federals had stolen during a recent raid upon nearby plantations. “Books, pictures, household furniture, finger rings, breast pins, and other articles of feminine adornment and wear, attested [to] the catholic taste and temper of these patriots,” observed Taylor.

The enemy had in fact swept through Taylor’s home parish, St. Charles. His plantation, Fashion, left in the care of an overseer during his family absence, had suffered some of the worst desecration and looting. “It is one of the most splendid plantations that I ever saw,” wrote a Vermont private in a letter . . . “I wish you could have seen the soldiers plunder this plantation.” Not only did they confiscate all of the stock animals, but they also forced Taylor’s slaves to help them ransack the house and barns.

The spoils included “hundreds of bottles of wine, eggs, preserved figs and peaches, turkeys, chickens, and honey in any quantity . . . the camp is loaded down with plunder – all kinds of clothing, rings, watches, guns, pistols, swords, and some of General [Zachary] Taylor’s old hats, coats, belt-swords — and, in fact, every old relic he had worn is worn about the camp . . . nothing is respected.”

Robert Butler . . . [one of the Des Allemands militiamen described the aftermath of federal destruction]: “It was one continual scene of desolation and sadness – nearly every place on the route had been despoiled and plundered – even to the huts of the poorest creoles.”

When they reached Fashion . . . “it was a complete wreck, the furniture smashed, the walls torn down, pictures cut out of their frames, while . . . scattered over the floor, lay the correspondence and official documents of the old General while President of the U.S. – the barbarians had respected nothing but the portrait of General [Winfield] Scott upstairs.”

(Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie, T. Michael Parrish, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts pp. 252-255)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

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

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

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnage at New Market Heights

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

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

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

Carnage at New Market Heights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

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

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

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

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

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

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

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

“July 21. Tuesday [1863].

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

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

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

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

July 25. Saturday [1863].

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

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

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

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

The Famed Army of Northern Virginia

Captain John De Forest of the Twelfth Connecticut regiment was a veteran of Louisiana’s military occupation when it was hurried to Washington to defend it from General Jubal Early’s march up the Shenandoah. In his letters home De Forest wrote that army regulations did not provide Northern officers with rations or credit for obtaining them, thus he often went hungry when short of money. “In addition, he remarked bitterly to his brother in a letter, “many of the commissaries are scamps, who charge us a profit over and above the government price for the article. I have known the same article to vary in price the same day . . . I cannot help suspecting that some of the generals share with the commissaries in this kind of plunder.”

The Famed Veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia

“Halltown, Virginia, August 8, 1864:

A column of cavalry four or five miles long is in sight coming up the Potomac Valley. Possibly they have been hunting Mosby’s guerillas, who are said to be troubling our communications with Washington. Early with his main force is at Winchester seven miles southerly from us.

The Sixth Corps, one of the best in the Army of the Potomac, is lying near us. They seem to be badly demoralized by the severe service and the disastrous battles of the campaign in Virginia. Their guns are dirty; their camps are disorderly clutters of shelter tents; worst of all, the men are disrespectful to their officers. I heard a private say to a lieutenant: “I’ll slap your face if you say that again.”

“Looking for guns [Captain]?” Drawled a sergeant. “Well, if you find a clean gun in this camp, you claim it.” We hain’t had one in our brigade since Cold Harbor.” Their talk about the war and our immediate military future had a tone of depression which astonished me.

“But don’t you believe in Grant at all?” I finally asked.

“Yes, we believe in Grant,” replied the colonel. “But we believe a great deal more in Lee and in that Army of Northern Virginia.”

Near Charles Town, Virginia, August 21, 1864:

Thus far General Sheridan is cautious about fighting, perhaps because of instructions from high political authority. With the elections at hand, including the presidential, it would not do to have this army beaten and the North invaded. So, whenever Early is reinforced, Sheridan retreats to a strong position and waits to be attacked. It is to the enemy’s interest just now to take the offensive, but we doubt if Early has men enough to risk it.

Three points I noted with regard to our opponents, the famed veterans of “the Army of Northern Virginia.” They aimed better than our men; they covered themselves (in case of need) more carefully and effectively; they could move in a swarm, without much care for alignment and touch of elbows. In short, they fought more like redskins, or like hunters, than we. The result was that they lost fewer men, though they were inferior in numbers, and perhaps not half our number.”

(A Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, John William De Forest, Archon Books, 1970 (original 1946), excerpts pp. 165-166; 190)

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

After Northern troops occupied northeastern North Carolina in mid-summer 1862, is was estimated that over 7500 “contrabands” were within their lines, and this would grow after 1863. According to author William C. Harriss (In the Country of the Enemy, pp. 12-13), “These refugees of slavery provided the troops with inexpensive delicacies, such as cakes and pies, labor, and services. Several hundred blacks were hired, if not conscripted, to build fortifications at New Bern and other coastal points. Though New England soldiers generally approved of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, many held anti-black sentiments. One Maine soldier . . . “could not bear” the sight of blacks. Such men did not hesitate to exploit black refugees, forcing them to work as servants for little compensation.”

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

“In issuing his Emancipation Proclamation as an incitement for race war, Lincoln was continuing his policy of violating both the Constitution and international law. Food and medicine had already been declared contraband. Later, Lincoln issued “Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field,” (General Orders, No. 100, 1863), authorizing starvation and bombardment of Southern women and children.

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was “a practical war measure,” its enforcement was determined by whether it advanced Lincoln’s war effort. As a consequence, when Lincoln’s Army arrived, “freed” Southern slaves often found themselves re-enslaved under the fiction of a one- year work contract. They could suffer a loss of pay or rations for acts of laziness, disobedience or insolence, and had to obtain a pass to leave the plantation.

Provost marshals ensured that they displayed “faithful service, respectful deportment, correct discipline and perfect subordination. Other “freed” slaves found themselves forced to build fortifications for Lincoln’s Army or were violently conscripted.

In a May 1862 report, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase was advised that: “The Negroes were sad . . . Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off to the woods for refuge . . . This mode of [enlistment by] violent seizure is repugnant.”

As late as February 7, 1865, Lincoln wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, operating in Kentucky: “Complaint is made to me that you are forcing Negroes into the military service, and even torturing them.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pg. 44 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

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