Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

Keeping the Loyal States in Harness

In mid-1864 General Ulysses S. Grant was greatly concerned about massive draft resistance and the need to send troops northward despite outnumbering General Robert E. Lee at least four to one in Virginia. President Davis in April 1864 sent three commissioners and agents to Canada for the purpose of opening a northern front on the border after freeing Southern prisoners – in hopes of a negotiated peace and independence for the South. It is reported that Lincoln feared losing reelection to a Democrat, and spending the rest of his life in prison for repeated violations of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Keeping the Loyal States in Harness

“The slow and bloody progress through Virginia to the James [River], the failure of the first assaults on Lee’s lines around Petersburg, the appearance of [General Jubal] Early before the gates of [Washington, DC], produced a greater sense of disillusionment and of disappointment than had followed Burnside’s [1862] repulse at Fredericksburg or Hooker’s [1863] failure at Chancellorsville. The New York World, which had been exceptionally friendly to the commander in chief, asked on July 11:

“Who shall revive the withered hopes that bloomed on the opening of Grant’s campaign?”

And nine days before Congress had invited the President to appoint a day for national prayer and humiliation. Horace Greeley attempted to open negotiations for peace by meeting Confederate commissioners at Niagara [Falls], and in the middle of July two other semi-official seekers of peace, James F. Jacques and J.R. Gilmore, had gone to Richmond, only to be told by the Southern President:

“If your papers tell the truth, it is your capital that is in danger, not ours . . . in a military view I should certainly say our position is better than yours.”

Greeley, despite the failure of his journey to Niagara, resumed his efforts to end the war, and on August 9, wrote to the President:

“Nine-tenths of the Whole American people, North and South, are anxious for peace – peace on almost any terms – and utterly sick of human slaughter and devastation. I beg you, implore you, to inaugurate or invite proposals for peace forthwith. And, in case peace cannot now be made, consent to an armistice of one year, each party to retain unmolested all it now holds, but the rebel ports to be opened.”

Not only was there this pressure from outside; there was discord within. [Secretary Salmon P.] Chase had resigned, a presidential election was drawing near, and there were outspoken predictions of a Republican defeat. The North was feeling as it had never felt before the strain of prolonged conflict . . . the rumblings of opposition to the draft, which had just become law, were growing daily louder [and] surely Lincoln would have been justified in [opening negotiations] in August, 1864. But what happened?

Early in August the grumblings against the draft had alarmed [General Henry] Halleck, and on the eleventh of that month he told Grant: “Pretty strong evidence is accumulating . . . to make forcible resistance to the draft in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and perhaps some of the other States. The draft must be enforced for otherwise the army cannot be kept up. But to enforce it, it may require the withdrawal of a considerable number of troops from the field . . . ”

Four days later, on the evening of August 15, Grant answered . . . ”If there is any danger of an uprising in the North to resist the draft . . . our loyal governors ought to organize the militia at once to resist it. If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness, it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal from the James River would mean the defeat of Sherman.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Capt. S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935 pp. 66-67)

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As described below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)

Lincoln Turns the Trick

Lincoln purposely withheld news of military disasters so as not to discourage enlistments. To satisfy the endless levies for troops, Secretary of State William Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries, Lincoln allowed Northern governors to count captured slaves against State quotas, and generous enlistment bounties put many men in blue who would not otherwise fight.  After McClellan’s defeat at Gaines’s Mill, the Comte de Paris related that “Far from letting the [Northern] people know what was taking place around Richmond, the Secretary of War [Seward] . . . gave out that the Army of the Potomac had undertaken a strategic movement which would result in the capture of Richmond.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Turns the Trick

“The defeat of General [George] McClellan’s right wing at Gaines’s Mill [June 1862] was a shock to President Lincoln and his cabinet, who were daily anticipating the capture of the Confederate capital. It was hard for them to realize that the expensively equipped Grand Army, on which their hopes and expectations of swiftly ending the war were fixed, had turned its back on Richmond.

President Lincoln, on further weighing McClellan’s despondent telegram, felt assured that the Peninsula campaign was about to end in failure and that a new levy of troops would be necessary.

Yet, while he wanted volunteers badly, he was, as he says in a carefully prepared letter to Secretary [William] Seward, fearful that “a general panic and stampede would follow” if he “publicly appealed to the country for this new force”; for the desperate strait of the Federal army on the Peninsula was being withheld from the people. How otherwise than by direct call, queries Bancroft [Life of Seward], “could a hundred thousand new soldiers be obtained?  Seward was a master of political strategy, and Lincoln was no novice. Here is the device: it was principally Seward’s.”

Seward, taking with him Lincoln’s letter just mentioned and an equally adroit letter to the governors of Northern States, hurried to New York and other cities for personal and telegraphic conferences with such governors and other men of influence as could meet them. During these conferences Seward so shaped matters that the responsibility for a new levy was seemingly shifted from the President and assumed by the governors of the several States.

To give the appearance of reality to the transaction he formulated a petition for the loyal governors to sign. The petition recites:

“The undersigned, governors of the states of the union, impressed with the belief that the citizens of the states which they respectfully represent are of one accord in the hearty desire that the recent successes of the Federal arms may be followed up . . . that you at once call on the several states for such equal numbers of me . . . as may in your judgment be necessary to garrison and hold all the numerous cities and military positions that have been captured by our armies and to speedily crush the rebellion.”

To this uniquely contrived petition, the President graciously replied: “Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you . . . I have decided to call into the service an additional force of three hundred thousand men.”

When the correspondence, “purporting to be the voluntary request of eighteen governors to the President,” was published on July 2, the people were still ignorant of McClellan’s discomfiture. When [the Northern public] learned that the army had been driven to Harrison’s Landing, the trick had been turned.  “The alarm and anger of the North,” adds Bancroft, “were great, but the prospects of having large reinforcements saved the administration from serious embarrassments.” Under this call 421,465 men were secured. To stimulate volunteering Secretary Stanton agreed, at Seward’s request, to go beyond his lawful authority and advance $25 out of the $100 bounty promised to each recruit.”

(The History of North Carolina in the War Between the States, Volume II, Bethel to Sharpsburg, Daniel Harvey Hill, Edwards & Broughton, 1926, pp. 128-130)

Harriet the Deliverer

Harriet Tubman was utilized by Northern forces on the South Carolina coast to help in carry away black laborers who were supporting the Southern war effort. With the plantations overrun and crops destroyed, the African workers had lost their homes and livelihood and left with the liberators who promised farms for all.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Harriet the Deliverer

“They came down every road, across every field, just as they had left their work and their cabins; women with children clinging around their necks . . . all making at full speed for “Lincoln’s gun-boats.”  Eight hundred poor wretches at one time crowded the banks, with their hands extended toward their deliverers, and they were taken off upon the gun-boats, and carried down to Beaufort [South Carolina].

“I nebber see such a sight,” said Harriet [Tubman]; “we laughed an’ laughed . . . One woman brought two pigs, a white an’ a black one; we took ’em all on board; named the white pig Beauregard, and de black pig Jeff Davis.

And so they came pouring down to the gun-boats. At length Colonel Montgomery shouted from the upper deck, above the clamor of appealing tones, “Moses, you’ll have to give ’em a song.” Then Harriet lifted up her voice and sang:

“Of all the whole creation in the East or in the West,

The glorious Yankee nation is the greatest and the best,

Come along! Come along! Don’t be alarmed,

Uncle Sam is rich enough to give you all a farm.”

(Harriet, the Moses of Her People, Sarah Bradford, Citadel Press, 1961, pp. 101-102)

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.

The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.

On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.

During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”

(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

The Union League was able to muster such a large membership as many Northern men remained home while immigrants, former slaves, draftees and substitutes were off fighting Americans in the South. The Union League became a powerful propaganda arm of the Republican Party and an effective instrument of political control in the postwar South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

“The first Union League was founded in Pekin, Illinois, by a Republican party activist, George F, Harlow. As war weariness deepened, and the restraint that had held back dissenters in the early months of the war fell away, loyal Republican became alarmed by the resurgence in support for the Democratic Party. To combat this, they formed a secret society “whereby true Union men could be known and depended on in an emergency.” By the end of 1864 the Leagues claimed more than a million members.

In May 1863, the [Philadelphia] Press urged that the north unite “by any means” and called on Unionists to “silence every tongue that does not speak with respect of the cause and the flag.” Union Leagues institutionalized the denial of legitimate partisanship by conflating opposition to the Union [Republican] Party with disloyalty to the United States. “Men of the Northwest! Are you ready for Civil War?” asked an editorial in the radical Chicago Tribune, “the danger is imminent; the enemy is at your door . . . a Union Club or league ought to be formed in every town and placed in communication with the State central committee.” They formed vigilante groups, which reported suspected disloyalists to the War Department and called for the suppression of opposition newspapers. Leagues also mobbed the offices of several small-town newspapers whose editors had expressed support for Democratic candidates or had attacked the [Lincoln] administration.

Unlike the mass-membership Union Leagues, the Union League of Philadelphia, the New York Union League Club, and the Boston Union League Club were founder with the appropriate accoutrements of a mid-Victorian gentlemen’s club: elegant headquarters with libraries, billiard rooms and butlers. Membership was by invitation only and determined by social status and “unqualified loyalty to the Government of the United States and unwavering support for the suppression of the rebellion.” The idea was to exclude anyone suspected of Southern sympathies from business or social relations with members.

“Sympathy with [armed rebellion] should in social and commercial life be met with the frown of the patriotic and true. Disloyalty must be made unprofitable.” [A founding member of the Philadelphia club] . . . the issue of the war was, after all, one that directly confronted the class interests of the city’s business elite. “We . . . live under the national law. If that is broken down, our interests, our property, and our lives may be lost in the disorder that will ensue . . . Nothing but ruin awaits all business interests of ours . . . if the doctrines of the Secession leaders are to prevail” Sustaining the federal government was essential . . . [and] Furthermore, as bankers and the monied elite of New York assumed an ever-greater responsibility for financing the war effort through buying government bonds, there was also a strong economic interest in the success of the Union war effort.

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 68-74)

Death’s Head at the Banquet

The 1876 United States Centennial observance brought forth embarrassing realities to Americans, both North and South. Southerners could hardly celebrate independence after being bludgeoned by war into second-class citizens under Reconstruction governments.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death’s Head at the Banquet

“The . . . celebration of the birth of the American nation — was held in Philadelphia in 1876. An occasion so completely engaging the attention of the country and participated in so widely drew forth much discussion in the South.

Some Southern leaders opposed their section taking part; they still felt that the country was not theirs and that it might be less than dignified in themselves, and lacking in respect for their heroic Revolutionary ancestors, to go to Philadelphia and be treated as less than equals in a union which those ancestors had done a major part to found.

Former [South Carolina] Governor Benjamin F. Perry saw in the Centennial an effective way to drive home to the country the similarity of principles of the rebellion that became the Revolution, and the rebellion that became the “Lost Cause.”

[He wrote:] “This Centennial celebration of the rebels of ’76 cannot fail to teach the Northern mind to look with more leniency on Confederate rebels who only attempted to do in the late civil war what the ancestors of the Northern people did do in the American revolution . . . It shows a want of sense as well as a want of principle, and a want of truth, to call the rebels of 1776 patriots and heroes, and the rebels of 1861, “traitors.”

Only one contingency would induce a Virginian not to take part. The Grand Army must not be represented: “It would be the death’s head on the board; the skeleton in the banquet hall.”

(The History of the South, Volume VIII, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947)

 

Occupied Richmond, July 4th 1865

Richmond citizens quietly observed Independence Day, 1865 with enemy troops occupying their city — celebrating their triumph in vanquishing the American defenders of that city.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Occupied Richmond, July 4th 1865

“The 4th of July may be said to have been celebrated in Richmond this year. Cannon were fired at morning, noon and night. A few Chinese crackers were fired off by vagabond boys, white and black, at the corners of the streets in the early morning and in the evening, their pyrotechnic resources, I take it, being too scanty not to make it advisable to husband them to closely.

In the morning, a flag was hoisted on the Spottswood Hotel, and a short speech made from the roof of the building by [occupation forces commander] General Osgood. Somewhat later in the day a small crowd, made up mainly of Negroes and Union soldiers, with a sprinkling of citizens and children, congregated in the Capital Square. A lady was introduced to the assembly and read the Declaration of Independence, but in so low a tone and amid such noise of talking and walking about as made it quite impossible for anyone to hear her. The conclusion of her reading was marked by music from a military band which was in attendance.

Speeches were then made by a surgeon and two chaplains, and after a benediction the company dispersed. No applause was elicited by any of the speakers. The soldiers evidently were in the character of onlookers; the Negroes were doubtful if they were expected to applaud or would be allowed to do so (they were carefully removed by the soldiers detailed as police from the crowded steps near the speakers’ stand); and as for the citizens — to ask any men, Unionist or secessionist, to hear such speeches and applaud them would be asking too much.

All places of business were closed throughout the day, but the city wore no holiday aspect. That part of the rebel population which appeared in the streets were seemingly indifferent spectators of what went on around them. The boys and the Negroes, and the Union soldiers in a graver way, alone seemed to enjoy the occasion.”

(The South As It Is, 1865-1866, John Richard Dennett, Viking Press, 1967, pp. 9-10)

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes

In mid-1863, Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed found a way to settle the hated draft issue, give Lincoln his cannon fodder, and buy immigrant votes. Tweed brokered a deal with New York City politicians to find substitute recruits for drafted city residents, use the city treasury to pay whatever signing bonus the market would require, and tap a special $2 million “substitute” fund financed by bonds to be sold on Wall Street. If a New York City resident got caught in Lincoln’s draft, he could either use the fund to buy his way out, or join the army and keep the money. With this deal, Lincoln used Tammany Hall to run his draft in New York.

Author Kenneth Ackerman wrote in his biography of Boss Tweed: “His county recruitment drive for the army would attract scandal: abusive bounty brokers, unqualified soldiers — either prisoners from local jails or immigrants literally straight from New York harbor — and middlemen stealing fortunes in graft. But it hardly raised an eyebrow compared to the epidemic of war profiteering that had infected the country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes 

“For four days terror reigned [in New York City], marked by a series of grisly lynchings [of black residents]. A mob even swarmed onto a British ship in the harbor, and despite the Captain’s protests, cruelly beat up the foreign Negroes among the crew. The police were barely able to save the Tribune Building from total destruction. Men searched for the Tribune’s editor, singing, “We’ll hang Horace Greeley from a sour apple tree.”

A Negro orphanage on Fifth Avenue was burned to the ground. Looters had a field day, among them screeching women who opposed [military] conscription.

Troops were rushed from Gettysburg [immediately after the battle]; cadets from West Point came to aid the police; the entire naval force in the region was called upon to quell the disturbance. Finally, in desperation, the military raked the streets with cannon fire. But what really stopped the rioting was a posted notice: “the draft has been suspended in New York City and Brooklyn.”

The newspapers carried the word in huge print. Order was finally restored. According to the Tribune of July 25, some 350 people had been killed; but other estimates went much higher. Casualties, including the injured, amounted to 1,000 and private property damage was estimated at $1,500,000.

Republican newspapers claimed the outbreak had been sparked by Confederate agents. But Democratic Party feeling and a sincere desire for peace were mingled with race prejudice and resentment against what the anti-Lincoln papers called the “incompetence” of the Administration. Men resented fighting against their convictions and were indignant at “governmental “frauds and profiteering.”

Apparently, from the magnitude of the outbreak, the London Times had not been far wrong in predicting that if the South won in Pennsylvania, Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee would receive a rousing welcome along Broadway.

Soon after the tumult subsided, the Democratic City Council of New York voted that the exemption [from military service] money of four hundred dollars for impecunious draftees would be paid from the city treasury. To meet Governor Seymour’s charge that the conscription as practiced was “unequal, fraudulent and a disgrace,” President Lincoln reduced the New York quotas [for troops].

When the draft was resumed a month later, he took the precaution of sending 10,000 infantrymen and three artillery batteries from the Army of the Potomac to see that the business went off quietly.

During New York’s bloody pandemonium, [British Colonel Arthur] Freemantle had been surprised to hear everyone talking of the “total demoralization of the Rebels.” To him it sounded absurd, since only a few days previously he had left Lee’s army “as full of fight as ever,” much stronger and more efficient from every military point of view than when it had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland the previous September.

In the Colonel’s opinion, Lee’s army had “not lost any of its prestige at the battle of Gettysburg, in which it had most gallantly stormed strong entrenchments defended by the whole Army of the Potomac.”   Freemantle took ship for England and completed his book of observations at sea. “The mass of respectable Northerners,” he wrote, “though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition and conquest . . . The more I think of all I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk — “How can you subjugate such a people as this?”

[And] even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some Northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilized world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race.”

(Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1959, pp. 458-460)

 

 

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