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Oct 12, 2018 - American Military Genius, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Southern Heroism, Uncategorized    Comments Off on Grant Versus Lee at the Wilderness

Grant Versus Lee at the Wilderness

Popular histories of Gettysburg proclaim that Lee suffered a great defeat at the hands of Meade and that the Confederacy’s strength was on the wane; however, Colonel Thomas L. Livermore of the US Army wrote: “After Gettysburg, the Confederacy had the same capacity for recruiting armies and supplying them as before, and the morale of the Army of Northern Virginia was just as good.  In the autumn of 1863, Lee crossed the Rapidan to attack Meade, and in December he came out of his entrenchments along Mine Run to attack, but failed to come to blows because Lee had retreated across the Rapidan in the night.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Grant Versus Lee at the Wilderness

“In referring to the opening of the campaign in May 1864, Colonel Tyler, of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts, wrote: “The Army of the Potomac had never won a decisive victory on Southern soil . . . The Army of Northern Virginia . . . against great odds had achieved victory after victory, and hardly tasted defeat.”

In May 1864 came General Grant with the prestige of his success in the southwest, and with the vast resources of the North and West at his call, confident that his 118,649 “present for duty equipped,” could defeat Lee’s 61,953.

But Grant was meeting Lee – “the greatest of all the great Captains that the English speaking people have brought forth,” whose name, says General Sir Frederic Maurice, must be added to the select group of the world’s greatest commanders named by Napoleon – Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick the Great.

[Northern] General [Morris] Schaff says . . . [in] the two days of deadly [at the Wilderness] encounter every man who could bear a musket had been put in; Hancock and Warren repulsed; Sedgewick routed, and now on the defensive behind breastworks; the cavalry drawn back; the [supply] trains seeking safety beyond the Rapidan.

Colonel T.L. Livermore estimates that the numbers engaged were: Federals, 101,895; and Confederates, 61,025. The total Federal losses in the Wilderness battles were 17,666. The Confederate losses were reported in only 70 out of 183 regiments; Livermore says, “it is not extravagant to estimate the Confederate losses at a total of 7,750.”

(A Colonel at Gettysburg: Life and Character of Colonel Joseph N. Brown, Varina D. Brown; The State Company, 1931, excerpts pp. 237; 244-245)

 

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

Early is his career, Sherman displayed a careless attitude toward his own casualties, either learned from Grant or his own habits rubbing off on the latter and explaining Grant’s later massed assaults in Virginia and tremendous losses of men. Even bounty-enriched foreign “volunteers” balked at Grant’s orders to advance, believing it futile stepping over the maimed and dead of previous assaults and only to be killed themselves – and lose the balance of their enlistment bounty money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on their late comrades, while in their midst Sherman and a Confederate officer, Captain S.H. Lockett, had come out to gather information . . . [and the latter noted that to] all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death. In reality, [Sherman’s] days and nights were full of resentment against the [Lincoln] Administration for what he believed was its indifference towards boys’ lives.

When reinforcements had been sent to the front during the last winter, the regiments had averaged 900 men, now they had been reduced by disease and bullets – principally the former – to around 300 per regiment, and were thinner than veteran organizations that had seen eighteen months more of service.

Sherman knew that if the War Department had used most of these recruits as replacements in older regiments, many youths now dead would be alive. Politics, however, demanded that volunteers be gathered in new regiments so that officers could be appointed by State governors, or elected by the men. Jobs must be made for deserving patriots. Sherman refused to admit that Lincoln was forced to employ many political devices to keep the war spirit alive in faint-hearted sections of the North.

When newspapers announced the passage of a new Conscription Law . . . [which sent the majority to new regiments, Sherman thought this] proved Lincoln unintelligent, and he sent Grant a plea to start work against so reckless a scheme . . . [to wife Ellen he] railed against the scheme:

“If the worst enemy of the United States were to devise a plan to break down our army, a better one cannot be attempted . . . It may be that the whole war will be turned over to the Negroes, and I begin to believe that they will do as well as Lincoln and his advisors.”

(Sherman: Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-286)

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley was sent to Canada to reinforce the existing military force after the US Navy seizure of the British mail packet Trent in November, 1861. War was expected to commence and Wolseley, who distinguished himself later in his career in the Second Ashanti War and in an effort to rescue General Charles Gordon, led 10,000 seasoned British troops in Canada. Wolseley was well-aware of the immigrant source of Lincoln’s army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Wolseley was aware of the source of many of Lincoln’s soldiers, combed from Ireland and Germany to fight against Americans. As he called for British intervention, he also knew that his country was responsible for populating the US with Africans, over whom the war was allegedly fought by the North.

“The first British officer to visit the Confederacy had at one time expected to be fighting against the North. Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley, a veteran of several of Queen Victoria’s wars, was part of a British force ordered to Canada in 1861 as a show of strength after the US Navy stopped the British mail packet Trent and seized two Confederate agents who were on board.

The threat of war receded . . . [and taking] two months leave, he travelled . . . to New York City in September 1862 . . . and crossed the Potomac [as] General Robert E. Lee’s army was withdrawing from Maryland at the conclusion of the [Sharpsburg] campaign.

Even as he entered Virginia, Wolseley was favorably disposed toward the Confederacy, ostensibly out of concern for civil liberties in the wartime North. He described residents of Maryland as “stricken . . . with terror” by arrests ordered from Washington [and declined] to describe his route through Maryland, lest he endanger those with whom he had stayed.

Travelling by train from Fredericksburg to Richmond, [the] wounded from Lee’s Maryland invasion . . . impressed even Wolseley, the professional soldier:

“Men with legs and arms amputated, and whose pale, haggard faces assumed an expression of anguish even at the slightest jolting of the railway carriages, lay stretched across the seats – some accompanied . . . by wives or sisters, whose careworn features told a tale of sleepless nights passed in painful uncertainty regarding the fate of those they loved.”

In early October, Wolseley set out for Lee’s headquarters . . . his driver was a convalescent soldier who was still in considerable discomfort. “He said his furlough was up, and he would rather die than overstay it . . . when spoken to about the war, every man in the South, were prepared to die, he said, but never to reunite with the d—d Yankees.”

The British officer was impressed [with Lee]: “He is slightly reserved; but he is a person that, whenever seen, whether in a castle or a hovel, alone or in a crowd, must at once attract attention as being a splendid specimen of an English gentleman.”

Everywhere he was impressed with the tough, dedicate Confederate soldiers. Could such men be defeated, he would ask, “by mobs of Irish and German mercenaries, hired at $15 a month to fight in a cause they know little and care less about?”

[Returning] to Britain, he wrote an article for Blackwood’s Magazine [in which] he urged the British Parliament to intervene on behalf of the South, saying that the time had come “for putting an end to the most inhuman struggle that ever disgraced a great nation.”

(British Observers in Wartime Dixie, John M. Taylor; Military History Quarterly, Winter 2002, excerpts pp. 68-69)

 

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

The Twenty-first Regiment of New York Volunteers was initially enlisted for a three-month tour of duty after Fort Sumter. On August 20, 1861, as the unit neared the end of their sworn term, it was reported that “attempted revolt” in the ranks arose as Lincoln requisitioned the short-term volunteers for his lengthy war. Generous enlistment bounties, furloughs, new immigrants impressed and captured Southern black men counted toward State quotas would solve the issue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

“On June 5th [1861], the Elmira correspondent of the [New York World] writes as follows: “The Cayuga, Buffalo and Hillhouse regiments are the only ones that have received their arms, and indeed, the only ones that are uniformed. The Buffalo men were uniformed by their fellow citizens, and present a fine appearance.”

In Mr. Faxon’s correspondence with the [Buffalo] Courier, we find the following:

“Yesterday and today were given almost entirely to the preventive service. Small-pox having been announced as one of the warlike weapons in use by our rebellious friend in Virginia, to scatter among our troops as a soldier would throw hand grenades, our Surgeon . . . [introduced] into the entire human economy of the regiment a little vaccine matter.

The Rev. Mr. Robie had become at once a general favorite. He has donned the theological uniform . . . and looks as though he was ready, at a moment’s notice, to engage the rebels of the South or the foe of all mankind.

Says a member of the regiment in a letter to the Buffalo Courier: “I consider it the duty of someone to tender our grateful acknowledgments to the ladies . . . Ladies of Buffalo, we will bear you in everlasting remembrance, and try to do our duty as soldiers, — to the killing of Jeff. Davis, if possible.”

[July 8th]: Last Thursday being the eighty-fifth anniversary of American Freedom, was fitly celebrated with us by a review of the troops in Washington and vicinity.

[Near Falls Church, Virginia], We learned this morning [29 September] that a scouting party returning from the front last night were fired upon by a California regiment, and several men killed, the result of carelessness in not having the countersign. Some of the men have been foraging among the deserted rebel mansions in the neighborhood. The house of Major Nutt, which its gallant owner hastily evacuated the day of our advance, stands, or did stand, about a mile north of the hill.

A party of [General Ludwig] Blenker’s [German regiment], probably carrying out the precepts of old world warfare, have completely demolished it, together with that portion of the contents which they did not choose to carry away. The remains of a fine piano and other heavy furniture litter the grounds; the garden and outbuildings are sacked and destroyed, and the [livestock] appropriated by the ravagers.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York Volunteers, J. Harrison Mills, Twenty-first Regiment Veteran Association, 1887, excerpts pp. 50-52; 121)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

Awful Sacrifices and Doomed Assaults

Northern General George Meade knew the futility of massed charges of men against a strongly entrenched opponent, the latter was his position at Gettysburg versus Lee. Though Meade was characterized as “failed, maladroit and weak-willed,” his subordinates praised their superior’s courage in ordering withdrawals in the face of strong Southern positions. They were painfully aware that “Meade had only snap his fingers” and there would have been “ten thousand wretched, mangled creatures” lying on the valley slopes. By the end of 1863, “courage” to some had become the will to renounce the charge; Lincoln and the Radicals desired relentless assaults and mass-carnage.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Awful Sacrifices and Doomed Assaults

“Even before the assault at Cold Harbor, [Northern] soldiers entering their fourth year of war understood perfectly what the result would be. They knew that the Confederates had had thirty-six hours in which to prepare their positions and that by that stage of the war any attack under such circumstances was doomed.

Charles Wainwright thought it absurd that Grant should simply repeat here the order “which has been given at all such times on this campaign, viz: “to attack along the whole line.”

On the eve of battle, Union soldiers who had glimpsed some part of the Southern defenses or heard them described by the “news-gatherers” were, Wilkinson reported, depressed: “Some of the men were sad, some indifferent; some so tired of the strain on their nerves that they wished they were dead and their troubles over . . . and though they had resolved to do their best, there was no eagerness for the fray, and the impression among the intelligent soldiers was that the task cut out for them was more than men could accomplish.”

Indeed, numbers of soldiers wrote their names on small pieces of paper and pinned them to their coats, in a hope, signaling hopelessness, that their bodies would not go unidentified.

On June 15, 1864, when Grant’s army finally reached the James [River] at a cost of 60,000 casualties, a number equivalent to the size of Lee’s army at the outset of the campaign, the Union regular Augustus Meyers felt the “gloomy and depressing effect” of such “awful sacrifices without any advantages.”

When the Twenty-seventh Maine’s tour of duty was about to expire just prior to the battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln authorized the award of the Medal of Honor to each soldier who would reenlist. Three hundred agreed to remain on duty as “emergency troops,” but medals were issued in error to all 864 members of the regiment. The Twenty-seventh Maine had seen no battle before Gettysburg; its remnant played no role at Gettysburg.

Similarly, so many brevet (i.e., honorary) promotions were awarded, Augustus Meyers complained, that they “seemed to lose dignity” and became objects of ridicule. His friends in the ranks began to refer to mules as “brevet horses” and to camp followers as “brevet soldiers.” Such awards, moreover, seemed seldom to recognize battlefield bravery.

On November 28, Meade probed Lee’s position [at Mine Run] and prepared for a large-scale assault. Meanwhile, Federal rank and file had an opportunity to judge for themselves the strength of the defense. “All felt it would be madness to assault,” Robert Carter of the Twenty-second Massachusetts said. “I felt death in my very bones all day.” George Bicknell of the Fifth Maine wrote that there was not “a man in our command who did not realize his position. Not one who . . . did not see the letters [of] death before his vision . . . [N]ever before nor since had such a universal fate seemed to hang over a command.

[Meade] canceled the assault and on December 1 ordered his army back across the Rapidan, a retreat into winter quarters.”

(Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, Gerald F. Linderman, The Free Press, 1987, excerpts, pp. 161; 163-164)

American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

Profiteering in Arkansas

With Lincoln’s approval, former Illinois Congressman William Kellogg advanced a cotton-trading scheme at Northern occupied Helena, Arkansas, which would reap millions for himself and provide slave-produced cotton for hungry Northern mills. Though Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase opposed the idea, Kellogg was later appointed chief justice of the Nebraska Territory in early 1865 for his patriotic efforts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Profiteering in Arkansas

“Upon occupying Helena, Arkansas, in mid-July 1862, Union General Samuel Curtis complained that his camp was “infested with Jews, secessionists and spies.” By issuing orders that restricted trade to a few people he could control under military law as sutlers, Curtis adopted a policy that made him vulnerable to charges of improper monopolization.

Shortly, a steady stream of rumored abuses percolated up to Chicago and the department headquarters for Curtis’s army at St. Louis. Illinois Senator Orville Browning’s diary records Chicago rumors that Curtis deposited $150,000 with a Chicago financier less than three months after occupying Helena. By October 1862, [an] officer said, Curtis had already seized several million dollars worth of [cotton] and “converted it to his own use.”

Later, Curtis wrote Lincoln directly to explain that the complaints originated out of envy from unsavory characters who were unworthy of trade privileges. Nonetheless, within a few months, the general was transferred to St. Louis to become the new department commander, and rumors of his possible fraud trailed along.

An investigating Treasury agent concluded that Helena’s trade “diverted soldiers to become agents and brokers of cotton buying [and had] thrown thousands of dollars into the hands of our enemies.” Corruption flourished at Helena, where the army had little to do during twelve months of idle occupation before invading central Arkansas in late summer of 1863.

Federal soldiers even purchased cotton from slaves with counterfeit Confederate money.

Lincoln’s military governor of Arkansas complained late in 1862 that the idle troops at Helena were principally engaged in profiting from cotton trade. They raided neighboring plantations to confiscate whatever cotton they could get. As an afterthought, they would often destroy the plantation homestead.

Helena’s steady occupation led to deplorable sanitary conditions, particularly among the freed slaves . . . [and] disease, malnutrition, and lack of clothes and shelter took a toll on the blacks who sought refuge in the town.

Before the end of 1862, the inland navy began to get involved. [Admiral David Dixon Porter’s] crews became covetous of cotton as a prize of war . . . [and] 50 percent of a captured cargo was subject to a reward for the crew of the ship making the capture. By the end of the war, Porter had become so aggressive at stealing cotton . . . [he was dubbed] “Thief of the Mississippi.”

His sailors would seize bales and stencil “C.S.A” on them, thereby falsely representing the cotton as property of the Confederate government and therefore subject to prize law.”

(Trading With the Enemy: The Covert Economy During the American Civil War, Philip Leigh, Westholme Publishing, 2014, excerpts pp. 65-66)

Bounties Fill Lincoln’s Armies with Patriots

In mid-1862 volunteering in the North had all but stopped after the carnage and high casualty numbers to date, though Lincoln desperately needed more troops to continue his war. He threatened conscription as a whip to encourage governors to fill the “troop quotas” he demanded, and the governors rightly feared retaliation from their constituents who had little interest in the war. Bounties were used to buy the services of paupers, indigents, immigrants and recently-released criminals to fill the ranks and keep Northern working men at home. Massachusetts Governor John Andrew found a workable solution in sending State agents to the occupied South to enlist captured black men who would be counted toward his State quota – and approved by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bounties Fill Lincoln’s Armies with Patriots

“After the first flush of patriotism had passed, one of the strong inducements to enlistment was a financial one – a bounty, and, at a later date, the advance of the first month’s pay. During the Civil War, bounties came from three sources – the federal government, local governmental units, and private subscription. (In Ohio there was no bounty offered directly from State funds.)

The federal government, at the beginning of hostilities, offered a bounty of $100, payable upon honorable discharge . . . [but] by action of Congress in July 1862, one-fourth of this sum was to be paid upon muster and the balance at the expiration of the term of enlistment.

By later acts of Congress the bounty was increased to as much as $400 in some cases, payable in installments at certain periods during the soldier’s service as well as upon his being mustered in and mustered out. By 1863, the volunteer could expect $75 from the federal government at the time he was mustered in, $13 of the amount being his first month’s pay.

To the federal bounty there came to be added bounties provided by local governmental units and private subscription. Indeed, as [Provost Marshal General James Fry] wrote, the federal bounty paled into “comparative insignificance” when compared with the “exorbitant bounties paid in advance by local authorities.”

These, he believed, were the most mischievous in encouraging desertion, bounty-jumping, and other evils connected with the system. So great was the stigma of the draft that local authorities were highly competitive in the amounts offered to volunteers. Furthermore, they paid all the sum in advance. The primary objective of these payments, as General Fry put it, came to be “to obtain men to fill quotas.”

Localities began by offering moderate bounties. In 1862 the average local bounty was estimated at $25; in 1863 it advanced to $100; in 1864 it bounded to $400; and in 1865 the average bounty was $500, although in some localities it was as high as $800. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners levied a tax of two mills in 1863 to take care of local bounty payments. On a tax duplicate of $128,432,065 this levy yielded about $256,864. The next year the city of Cincinnati began to borrow in order to offer city bounty payments, and during that year 1,811 volunteers were paid bounties of $100 each.

After the war the adjutant-general of Ohio estimated that $54,457,575. Had been paid in local bounties throughout the State, of which amount cities and counties had paid about $14,000,000 and private subscribers, $40,457,575.

The private subscriptions represented ward or township bounties, offered to encourage volunteering to avoid the draft in a city ward or township. [Political] Ward military committees were very active in securing private contributions for this purpose, as well as in securing volunteers.”

(Relief for Soldiers’ Families, Joseph E. Holliday; Ohio History, Vol. 71, Number 2, July 1962, James H. Rodabaugh, editor, excerpts pp. 98-100)

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

An 1845 congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, to be naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. This immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system. There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union. What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings. Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

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