Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

Merchant of Terror

To his brother John Sherman on October 1, 1862, General W.T. Sherman wrote:

“I rather think you now agree with me that this is no common war — that it was not going to end in a few months or a few years. For after eighteen months the enemy is actually united, armed and determined, with powerful forces well-handled, disciplined and commanded on the Potomac, the Ohio, the Missouri. I knew, and know yet, that the Northern people have to unlearn all their experiences of the past thirty years and be born again before they will see the truth.”

Property destruction was not the complete answer. Sherman was convinced of this, since the “guerilla” attacks continued even after the example offered in the fate meted out to Randolph. There was something lacking – an element to complete the new concept of war – if the part played by the people of the South was to be eliminated.  With acceptance of the fact that destruction of property was not the final answer, Sherman’s mind leaped the gap and seized on the solution – terrorism. 

He would so thoroughly inject the shock of fear into the South that it would lead to its complete demoralization. Such demoralization would work like a slow poison, resulting in the paralysis of the Confederate armies through wholesale desertions of men returned home to assure the safety of their families. More important, dread would so sicken the people of the South that they would clamor for cessation, and to obtain relief they would exert every pressure on their government to end the war.

Here then, in Memphis, was the mold made. The months ahead would see it filled in: it would harden into the completed philosophy of total war, employing a program of devastation and waste, the turning loose on the countryside of a horde of pillagers and looters who would do their work systematically and well.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt pp. 65-66)

Lee’s Only Chance

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

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

Lee’s Only Chance

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

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

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

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

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

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

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

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

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

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

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

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

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

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

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

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

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

It is said that Grant at Appomattox offered rations and transportation home to Lee’s surrendered Americans, or to exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many might have gladly avoided living under Northern rule, “but in distant homes were old men, helpless women and children, whose cry for help it was not hard to hear.” With all the destruction around them and carpetbaggers flowing Southward, “no one dreamed of what has followed.”

On the Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

“[The enemy] were proud of their success, were more willing to give than our men, in the soreness of defeat, and not a man of that grand army of a hundred and fifty thousand men but could, and, I believe, would testify, that on purely personal grounds, the few worn out, half-starved men that gathered around General Lee and his falling flag held the prouder position of the two. Had politicians left things alone, such feelings would have resulted in a very different condition of things.

“We stacked eight thousand stands of arms, all told: artillery, cavalry, infantry, stragglers, wagon rats and all the rest, from twelve to fifteen thousand men.

The United States troops, by their own estimate, were one hundred fifty thousand men, with a railroad connecting their rear with Washington, New York, Germany, France, Belgium, Africa – all the world, and the rest of mankind,” as General [Richard] Taylor comprehensively remarked, for their recruiting stations were all over the world, and the crusade against the South, under pressure of the “almighty dollar,” was as absolute and varied in its nationality as was that of “Peter the Hermit,” under pressure of religious zeal upon Jerusalem.

Those of us who took serious consideration of the state of affairs, felt that with our defeat we had absolutely lost our country – the one we held under the Constitution – as though we had been conquered and made a colony of by France or Russia. So far, it was all according to the order of things, and we stood on the bare hills, men without a country.”

(Dickison and His Men, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing, 1890, excerpt pp. 241-243)

The Triumph of Industry Over Idleness

Though Lincoln had been dead for a week, numerous Northern abolition and Republican party personages assembled in Charleston “for Lincoln’s elaborately planned ceremonial of retribution.” General Milton Littlefield spoke in Savannah a few days later, after remarks by his commander, General Quincy Gillmore. Both had been instrumental in conscripting black men from overrun plantations and using them for destructive raids in Georgia and South Carolina – and assisting Salmon P. Chase in his presidential ambitions and conquering Florida for its electoral votes. Littlefield is best known for his role in raising black troops and pocketing most of each recruits bonus money for enlistment, as well as his postwar railroad bond frauds in North Carolina and Florida.    

The Triumph of Industry over Idleness

 “[Judge William D.] Kelley, then and long after a Congressman from Philadelphia, was probably more symbolic of the past and future than the others present. A founder of the Republican party, abolitionist advocate for the use of Negro troops, he was to become famous in history as “Pig Iron” Kelley because of his equally earnest advocacy of high tariffs on iron and steel, which the Republican party had won along with the war.

“For both the whites and blacks it was a highly emotional occasion: “from the hysterical contraband to the dispassionate judge there was no reserve or restraint in the general flow of tears.”

Littlefield spoke and tied his fellow Yankees to New England] where that “Christian band of patriots,” the Pilgrims, had planted their feet and the tree of liberty on the rocky shore. Such Yankees, he said, sought liberty, not gold. “In crossing the old Atlantic,” he told the Southerners who had gathered in subserviency, “they were led by no such allurements as guided DeSoto and his followers.” It had been 350 years since the Spaniard had visited Savannah greedy for any treasure. Little gold was apparent there in 1865.

“This principle [of liberty] is what had given New England her fame, the Yankee a name,” he went on in cool instruction, “and this is what the people of the South contended so strongly against, Free Labor.  We have fought for this, and will fight for it still. We know that the Yankee side of the question is Industry and the opposite is Idleness; the contest is over at last, and the question has been decided on the side of self-government and universal liberty.

The people of South Carolina, Georgia and all the Southern States, can have peace if they wish, by simply complying with the laws and showing themselves unconditionally loyal. The United States Government can afford to be generous; she will be so when those in rebellion repent of the errors of their ways, become good peaceable citizens, and prove it by their actions.

If instead, of standing upon a sentiment, mourning for lost aristocracy, you will go at once, like a good businessman, to restore harmony among your people among your people, industry in all classes, there will be no questions of your rights and wrongs. Should you want help to put yourselves in order, we will send down some of our Yankees in blue, to put you in running shape.  

If you cannot do this, do not be at all disappointed if you should find, one of these fine mornings, some of these Yankees filling your places. You have now but a short time to consider. The world moves, and so does the Yankee nation.”

(The Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1958, excerpt pp. 117-119)

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

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

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

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarous Pillaging

In early February, 1865, Captain J.J. Dickison’s 145 Florida cavalrymen struck 400 black and white federal raiders at Station Number Four – forcing them to retreat toward Cedar Keys after a sharp three-hour engagement.  The next month a thousand-man Northern invasion force arrived at St. Marks, forcing Floridians to hastily organize a defense force of student cadets from the State Seminary, old men and a few companies of regular troops.  The ensuing battle at Natural Bridge, a Southern victory, was practically the closing conflict of the war in Florida. Capt. Dickison was known as Florida’s “Swamp Fox,” earning his name for swift and unexpected strikes against the enemy, as did Francis Marion of earlier fame. 

Barbarous Pillaging

“Forts Barrancas and Pickens were the only points in Florida west of the St. Johns which were held permanently [by Northern forces] after 1862.  Six miles from Barrancas is Pensacola. The town then was under federal guns. A force varying from 1,800 to 3,000 men was in garrison at Barrancas [and] the commandant was Brigadier-General Alexander Asboth, a native Hungarian who had served under Kossuth in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

With him were several Slav and Magyar comrades in arms – younger men than he – who held commissions in the federal army. Three of them were popularly reputed to be the nephews of Louis Kossuth. A portion of Asboth’s force was black, recruited partly from Negroes in the vicinity.

When not engaged in the barbarous practice of pillaging, Asboth was an urbane, pleasant fellow with a great love for flowers and a keen interest in dogs and fine horses. He and his fellow Hungarians were hated, dreaded and condemned by the country people of that section [for being “furreners”, Yankees”.  Certainly Barrancas proved a thorn in the side of West Florida. From it, as from Jacksonville, raiders went forth to lay waste the exhausted country.

[From July 21-25 1864], General Asboth advances from Barrancas at the head of 1,100 men – blacks and whites. [His] ultimate goal is Baldwin County, Alabama, where spies report opportunity to profitably raid, burn and cut-off the small detachments of Confederate troops guarding the country. After a show of resistance . . . [Asboth] retires to Barrancas.

[From July 20-29], An expedition of 400 men from the 2nd US Colored Infantry and 2nd [US] Florida Cavalry [lands at St. Andrews bay], march forty-four miles into the interior, burn two bridges, one large grist mill, eighty bales of cotton, and a quantity of stores, and gathering up 115 Negroes and a few horses, they return to the coast.  They encounter no armed opposition.

[Sept. 23], they surprise the village of Eucheanna, plundering homes, gathering up horses and mules, and making prisoners of fifteen private citizens. From Euchaeana, the raiding column heads for Jackson County. Preparations are made at Marianna for resistance . . . Old men and boys are armed with what weapons they can secure – shot-guns and squirrel rifles. There about 300 old men and boys await the arrival of the federal column.

The raiders . . . sweep aside the barricade with artillery and follow this with a determined charge of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. The Confederate force breaks up . . . Some take refuge in the Episcopal church . . . and continue the fight from its windows. A torch is thrown against the church . . . It takes fire. As its occupants rush from the burning building they are shot down and fall amid the gravestones of the churchyard. Some of the boys are burned to death in the church.

Marianna is plundered. That night the federal column quits Marianna on its return march to Pensacola. The prisoners and moveable booty are carried along.

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, W.W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 307-312)

Filling the South’s Decimated Ranks

The enlistment or outright conscription of black troops by Northern commanders was applauded in the North as they were credited to the State which captured and claimed them. Additionally, the black recruits and their families could not vote so Northern politicians feared no election retribution from constituents who avoided military service.

On the other hand, the South considered black agricultural workers essential to the war effort as Southern armies needed the foodstuffs they produced. But as the Northern armies relentlessly grew from infusions of foreigners and black soldiers, however obtained, the South determined to enlist black men who would fight for their homes and freedom.   

Filling the South’s Decimated Ranks

“[Samuel Clayton of Georgia wrote in January 1865: “We should . . . promptly take hold of all the means God has placed within our reach to help us through this struggle – a bloody war for the right of self-government.  Some say Negroes will not fight. I say they will fight. The enemy fights us with Negroes, and will do very well to fight the Yankees.”

Judah Benjamin stated . . . “It appears to me enough to say that the Negroes will certainly be made to fight us if not armed for our defense . . . I further agree with you that if they are to fight for our freedom, they are entitled to their own.  Public opinion is fast ripening on the subject.”

[Jefferson] Davis in a letter to John Forsythe in February 1865: “It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are now reduced to choosing whether the Negroes shall fight for us or against us, and that all arguments as to the positive advantage or disadvantage of employing them are beside the question, which is simply one of relative advantage between having their fighting element in our ranks or in those of the enemy.”

The Confederate Congress authorized on March 3rd, 1865, the raising of 300,000 blacks as soldiers. On April the 28th, the major-general commanding in Florida directed ten prominent citizens of Florida each “to proceed at once to raise a company of Negroes to be mustered into the service of the Confederate States for the War.”  But Lee and Johnston had already surrendered. The dissolution of the Confederacy defeated this last desperate measure to recruit the decimated ranks of the Southern army.

The black recruit was sought in Florida assiduously for the Union army after the first year of the war. When the Federal forces quit [Jacksonville’s occupation] in the autumn [of 1862] they carried some Negroes away with them.  Invasion of East Florida by Negro troops under Colonel [T.W.] Higginson quickly followed. “The object of this expedition, “ reported General Saxton, Higginson’s chief, “was to occupy Jacksonville and make it the base of operations for arming the Negroes and securing in this way possession of the entire State of Florida” – in other words, inciting servile insurrection.

The Federal army failed to obtain many black recruits, but Higginson concluded that black troops “were the key to the successful prosecution of the war for the Union.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William Watson Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 227-228)

May 3, 2020 - American Military Genius, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Lincoln's Grand Army, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Becoming Machines Without Memory

Becoming Machines Without Memory

After his victory at Second Manassas, Gen. Robert E. Lee fought McClellan once again at Sharpsburg with Stonewall Jackson at his side, “which in some respects was the greatest feat of Southern arms. Again, Lee fought a perfect battle, and with 39,000 men defeated every attack of 87,000.”

One of Lee’s contemporaries later eulogized him: “Students looking for an example . . . will find in the life of Lee an inspiration to noble living and high endeavor such is nowhere else found . . . [He was] a man whose strength was the might of gentleness and self-command.”  

Becoming Machines Without Memory

“Lee’s great victory changed the whole character of the war. The finest army of the Union had been put hors de combat for several months, and the initiative was in the hands of the Confederates. But again, Davis’s caution had its influence upon the temerarious Lee. The President could not believe that McClellan was utterly disposed of, and a proposal from Jackson, made right after the Seven Days, went unnoticed: Jackson proposed to ignore McClellan and invade the North with 60,000 men.

By the middle of August, when it was certain that McClellan, now reduced to a mere corps commander, had withdrawn from the peninsula, this was done; but by that time a reorganized Army of the Potomac, under John Pope, who had captured Island Number Ten, was organized and in the way.

Lee now moved to “suppress Pope” before McClellan’s corps could reinforce him. Lee, still studying the character of his opponent – who this time was a rattle-brained braggart – contemptuously divided his army, sending Jackson with about 25,000 men to Pope’s rear at Manassas Junction.  Jackson cut Pope’s communications with Washington and burnt millions in supplies. Lee followed with the rest of his army at a distance of fifty miles. Jackson held Pope at bay, and even deluded him into thinking that he had gained an advantage; then Lee arrived.

Next day the united Confederate army crushed and routed Pope, 55,000 against 70,000, and threatened Washington. This great battle, Second Manassas, was a strategic and tactical masterpiece, perfect in every detail, Napoleonic in its conception and performance. From this time Lee’s prestige rose, never to sink again until Americans have succeeded in turning themselves into machines without memory.”

(Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall, A Biographical Narrative, Allen Tate, Minton, Balch & Company, 1929, excerpts pp. 142-143)

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