Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

Lincoln's Army of Roughs and Jailbirds

The Hampton area of Virginia was evacuated by Gen. John B. Magruder’s forces in early August 1861; the region had become unstable after the enemy seized property and slaves, and by late July the Hampton-Fortress Monroe area had nearly 1000 blacks seized during enemy raids on upriver plantations. The intention was identical to Lord Dunmore’s in 1775 – deny Virginia its agricultural workers and arm them against their former owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Army of Roughs and Jailbirds

“On Monday, May 27 [1861] . . . soon after breakfast, several boats were seen loaded with [Yankee] troops going up the river and being so near the land, it was apparent they intended to land at the wharves. One can imagine the great excitement created by the sight of the troops. War seemed to have come in the midst of perfect peace.

Very soon after, a squad of marines came to the house and advised father to go and ask protection of the commanding officer, who turned out to be General [Northcott] Phelps. They said many of the soldiers were the rough and jailbirds of Boston and would steal and destroy everything unless it was guarded.

General Phelps was the colonel of the 1st Vermont (Regiment) but on account of his West Point training had been made brigadier-general . . . There were three regiments landed: the 7th New York, all Germans, were stationed next to our house, all on our land; the 1st Vermont, and the Massachusetts, next to Captain Wilbern’s.

In order to conciliate the guard, we furnished them with food, but they were very suspicious, and I usually had to eat some of it to show that it was not poisoned.

Tuesday afternoon I went over to the [enemy] camp . . . and witnessed something of what war was. It seemed that the colonel of the Massachusetts Regiment was very mad because Phelps had been promoted over him and for this reason perhaps had given passes to a great many of his men to go out of the lines . . . At any rate, a large number had gone out of camp and plundered the whole neighborhood.

They seemed to have stripped the farms and houses of everything conceivable. I learned afterwards that the thieves, finding that they would be arrested, had left most of the plunder in the thickets outside the pickets, all of which was brought into camp, in the night.

As only two of the Vermonters were arrested, and very few of the Germans, the Massachusetts Regiment became very indignant and made many threats. I now saw what a soldier would do if unrestrained and in what he conceived an enemy’s country . . . there was fear of mutiny, for we were informed by our guard that the Vermont Regiment was expecting an attack, and if we heard any firing we would know it was between them and the Massachusetts Regiment.

The Negroes had not tried to protect anything from the pillaging of the soldiers . . . What furniture or other things they wanted had been carried away by them. A small safe that father had used in his store in Hampton . . . had been taken out in the yard and broken open. The valuables were all stolen and books and papers scattered about the yard.”

(When the Yankees Came, Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, George Benjamin West, Park Rouse, Jr., editor, The Dietz Press, 1977, excerpts, pp. 47-50)

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

Ample evidence suggests that exterminating Southerners and repopulating their lands with New Englanders was desired by abolitionist radicals like Eli Thayer and Parson Brownlow. The latter wanted Negro troops under Ben Butler to drive Southern men, women and children into the Gulf of Mexico to clear the way for those loyal to Lincoln’s government to settle on confiscated Southern lands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

“For many [Southern] manufacturers, the personal and financial losses of the Civil War were truly overwhelming. At Roswell, Georgia, [Northern-born] Barrington King found upon his return from refugeeing farther South, away from Sherman’s destructive swath across that State, that “going towards the creek to see the destruction of our fine mills, all destroyed, the loss of two sons, another wounded, & one with a broken wrist, all caused by the late unnatural war, made me sad indeed.”

Duncan Murchison, the former proprietor of the Little River factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina, lamented, “the fortunes of war have snatched away nearly the whole of my property – my cotton factory, store house, ware-houses, turpentine distillery, with all the stock on hand, were burned by Genl Sherman’s army, and my grain, provisions and stock taken by the two contending armies.”

With six bullet wounds himself, William H. Young of Columbus’s [Georgia] burned Eagle factory also “suffered much and heavily in the recent war by the loss of children and property.”

Ralph Brinkley, who fled the Memphis Wolfe Creek mill upon the entrance of federal troops into Tennessee, wrote the president that he “suffered heavily by the war, and by the loss of two lovely children” and was weighted down with grief and affliction.” The psychological and economic trauma was made more acute by the uncertain political atmosphere in the North.

Eli Thayer, once a confidant of John Brown, wrote [President Andrew] Johnson that Confederate lands should quickly be confiscated and immigrants settled on them. The president at times seemed to endorse treason trials and massive confiscations.

Following the complete occupation of the former Confederacy in the summer of 1865, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch approved extensive seizures of property that fell under the terms of [the Northern confiscation acts since 1861]. Secretary McCulloch, responsive to Andrew Johnson’s insistence that treason be made odious, ruled that State and locally-owned properties in the South were also alienated and liable for confiscation by virtue of their use in the rebellion.

In North Georgia, [Barrington] King observed, as did others across the South, that many freedmen were “leaving their masters’ plantations, crops ruined, no one to do the work – all flooding to the cities and towns, expecting to be supported by Govt.” Although accommodating to free labor, he believed that “without some law compelling the Negroes to work for wages, there will be trouble in another year, as the poor creatures expose themselves, become sickly & fast dying off.”

Then high mortality rate for freed people in the summer of 1865 convinced King and many managers that blacks could not survive without supervision.”

(Confederate Industry, Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, Harold S. Wilson, University of Mississippi Press, 2002, excerpts, pp. 234-237; 252-253)

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

Of German and English parentage, Lincoln’s chief of staff Henry W. Halleck married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and in early 1861 was worth $500,000 from a career in railroads and banking. He predicted that the North “will become ultra anti-slavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile war to that of a civil war.” While Halleck directed the propaganda war and often withheld casualty figures from the Northern press, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H. Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries to fight against Americans struggling for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

“Politically, Old Brains served Lincoln well. When the President decided to fire a general he had Halleck sign the order; thus the general’s supporters blamed Halleck for the dismissal. Lincoln liked to assume a pose of weakness and simplicity and to give the impression that others were controlling him. When friends enquired about a military move, Lincoln would say, “I wish not to control. That I now leave to General Halleck,” or “You must call on General Halleck, who commands.”

To Horatio G. Wright, commander of the [Northern] garrison at Louisville, Kentucky, Halleck clarified the issue: “The Government seems determined to apply the guillotine to all unsuccessful generals.” Ruefully he added: “It seems rather hard to do this where a general is not in fault, but perhaps with us now, as in the French revolution some harsh measures are required.” Halleck’s realization demonstrated his growing insight of the necessary interrelation of war and politics in a democracy.

[Halleck] struggled for efficiency against [an] entrenched and powerful enemy, the [Republican] politicians, who wanted to include the army in the spoils system.

Writing to a civilian who was active in army reforms, Francis Lieber, Halleck expressed a fear that the governors would build up a “northern States rights party that would eventually overpower all Federal authority.” He had cautioned Lincoln, but “no heed [was] given to the warning,” and now “approaching danger is already visible.”

Since the North was in legalistic confusion during the war, there were other areas where Halleck needed [Prussian liberal Francis Lieber]. The government’s official policy that the Southern States had not withdrawn from the Union, meant that the Confederate armies were mere rebellious mobs and were therefore not protected by established rules of civilized warfare.

But Union generals could not slaughter every captured Confederate, or their own men would receive similar treatment when they were seized. The Northern populace needed a heavy diet of propaganda to sustain their fighting spirit and the government had to cater to them. The Confederacy’s inadequate prison camps . . . were the soup de jour on the propagandists’ menu.

Halleck contributed his share of atrocity stories. In his annual report for 1863, he said that the North treated Rebel prisoners with “consideration and kindness,” while the Confederates stripped Union officers of blankets, shoes even in winter, confined them in “damp and loathsome prisons,” fed them on “damaged provisions, or actually starved [them] to death.”

Others were murdered “by their inhuman keepers,” and the “horrors of Belle Isle and Libby Prison exceed even those of “British [floating prison] Hulks” or the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Southerners [he claimed] applauded these “barbarous” acts as a “means of reducing the Yankee rank.” Laws of war justified retaliation and the “present case seems to call for the exercise of this extreme right,” he concluded.

[Halleck’s] General Orders No. 100 were entitled] “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” [and] Southerners denounced it for legalizing crime [committed by Northern forces]. [Lieber, like Clausewitz] believed that total war could not and should not be limited [and] said that restrictions on violence – such as General Orders 100 – were “hardly worth mentioning.”

(Halleck, Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1990 (original 1962), pp. 65; 88; 102; 104; 128-131)

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

As one of Lincoln’s cabinet members, Gen. Henry Halleck advised him in mid-1862 that enlistments had ceased and few new volunteers were to be had. A new system was devised to attract “patriots” and the large enlistment bounties paid by New York State alone accumulated a bounty-debt of $26 million, and the overall Northern debt from bounties was nearly $3.5 billion. In addition, Ireland, England and Europe were scoured for Lincoln’s patriots.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

“The Federal government encouraged [the Irish immigration] movement not only to relieve labor shortages but to replenish the ranks of the Union army, which by 1863 had been seriously depleted by casualties and desertions (It is important to note that General Halleck had admitted in 1862 that enlistments had ceased, and few new volunteers were to be had) . . . There is no doubt that the North relied heavily on immigrant soldiers. The best evidence of this lies in a study of the correspondence between [Secretary of State William] Seward and Federal representatives abroad. In May 1861, Henry S. Sanford, American Minister to Belgium, suggested to Seward that as the Lincoln administration apparently intended to rely primarily on volunteers for the army, it was not too early to look abroad for recruits . . . and the Confederates quickly took note of it [as] Dudley Mann, Southern Commissioner to Belgium, informed his government that Federal agents were busy in Ireland and Central Europe.

On August 22, 1862, Thomas A. Dudley, US Consul at Liverpool, informed Sanford that an agent, E. Bell, would guarantee fifty thousand Irish recruits — for a consideration — and urged Sanford to come to Liverpool to close the deal.

John Bigelow, American consul general at Paris advised Seward late in August 1862 to send all Federal consuls in Europe full particulars about bounties paid to volunteers . . . Mercenary soldiers were uppermost in Seward’s mind, for on September 19, 1862 he wrote Bigelow that “to some extent this civil war must be a trial between the two parties to exhaust each other. The immigration of a large mass from Europe would of itself decide it.” While it was an easy matter to entice Irishmen to the United States, it was equally easy to enlist them on arrival. Simply informing the penniless immigrants of the large bounties was often sufficient. Even more attractive were the large sums offered by speculators who secured substitutes for Northerners who wished to avoid the draft.

[Often] the immigration authorities simply detained unwilling prospective recruits for specious reasons until they were either destitute or desperately in debt to unscrupulous loan sharks. At this point the enlistment bounties became indispensable to the immigrant. Confederate counteractivity was intensified in July 1863 when Secretary of State Judah Benjamin dispatched Lt. J.L. Capston as a special agent to Ireland. A native of Ireland . . . Capston was to inform the Irish masses by every means he could “of the true purposes of those who seek to induce them to emigrate.”

(The Unequal Duel: Union Recruiting in Ireland, 1863-1864, Charles P. Cullop, Civil War History, June 1967, Volume 13, Number 2; pp. 101-107)

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

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