Browsing "Lincoln’s Patriots"

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

Former Vice President John C. Breckinridge sat in the US Senate as a representative of Kentucky in July 1861. He denounced Lincoln’s concentration of power in Washington as an act “which, in every age of the world, has been the very definition of despotism.” He also saw the Republican party using the war to change the very character of our government, and the reduction of the resisting State’s into territories governed by Lincoln’s appointees.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

“On September 18 [1861], the Kentucky legislature formally ended neutrality and took the side of the Union. The arrests began the same night, and among the first to be taken was former Governor [Charles] Morehead of Louisville. At the same time, the pro-Southern Louisville Courier was suppressed. That same day several men throughout the nation advised Washington authorities that Breckinridge should be arrested.

The Republican Cassius Clay, who believed that “John C. Breckinridge . . . was never at heart a Secessionist.” Even a bearded little Union general, U.S. Grant, sympathized with the senator in some degree. “He was among the last to go over to the South,” Grant would say, “and was rather dragged into the position.”

He had fought for compromise and failed; he had sought peace and moderation and found only bitterness; and had proclaimed his devotion to the Union to the best of his ability . . . He was an innocent man, but he would be taken, denied his rights, and like Morehead, spirited away to a prison deep in the North to sit for months without hope.

On October 8, 1861, from Bowling Green, he issued his last address as a statesman, and his first as a Confederate. He returned the trust given him to represent Kentucky in the Senate, he said. He could no longer keep it. He had tried to stand for the State’s wishes in Washington, he had opposed Lincoln’s war policy at every step, even to refusing Kentucky’s men and money . . . ”I resign,” he said, “because there is no place left where a Southern Senator may sit in council with the Senators of the North. In truth, there is no longer a Senate of the United States within the meaning and spirit of the Constitution.”

The Union no longer existed, he continued, Lincoln had assumed dictatorial powers. The rights of person and property were being flagrantly violated every day. Unlawful arrests were the rule. The subjugation and conquest of the South were the rallying cries in the Federal Congress.

As for Kentucky, her rights of neutrality had been violated repeatedly, arms secretly supplied to Federal sympathizers, troops unlawfully raised within her borders, the legislature intimidated and packed with the minions of Washington, freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, restricted, and hundreds forced to flee their homes for safety. He explained his own flight to avoid arrest, saying he would have welcomed it if he had any assurance that it would have been followed by a trial of judge and jury, but he knew that would not be.

Would Kentucky stand by while all of this went on? Would she consent to the usurpations of Lincoln and his hirelings; would she suffer her children to be imprisoned and exiled by the “German mercenaries” that the Union was enlisting to fights its war? Never, he said.

Whatever might be the future relations of the two nations, the old Union could never again be reunited as it once was. He wanted peace between the them lest one conquer the other and the result be military despotism. To defend his own birthright and that of his fellow Kentuckians who had been denied the protection due them, and were forced to choose between arrest, exile, or resistance, he now exchanged the “with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” As one of those forced to make that choice, he said, “I intend to resist.”

(Breckinridge, Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis, LSU Press, 1974, pp. 287- 290)

Americans Overwhelmed by Grant's Mercenaries

Americans Overwhelmed by Grant’s Mercenaries

[A Northerner from Wisconsin asks a Southerner:] “Did you ever read of Appomattox?”

He received the reply: “O, Yes! We’ve read of Appomattox, where a few hungry and ragged thousands surrendered to a man with a million of men under his command . . . the whole wide-world remembers that it required five of your federals to whip one of our Confederates . . . Will you fight for Grant if he should slap a golden crown on his cranium?” (quoted in Daily Constitution, Atlanta, Feb. 1, 1880).

(The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South, Broadus Mitchell, Johns Hopkins Press, 1921, pp. 84)

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

South Carolina’s first reconstruction governor was former Northern General Robert K. Scott, who accomplished a tripling of the State debt through corruption and fraudulent bonds; his legislature voted itself a full-time saloon and restaurant at taxpayer expense. Scott’s successor, former Northern army officer Daniel H. Chamberlain was determined “to make his elected position pay,” though feeble attempts were made toward reform and Republican patronage which enraged black Republicans expecting favors for votes delivered.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

“There is ample evidence of both black domination and the exercise of controls over black leadership by the white [Republican] leadership. South Carolina was unique among the reconstructed States in that blacks constituted about 60 percent of the population. This population advantage was converted into a substantial numerical advantage in the legislature, where Negroes held a two-to-one majority in the lower house and a clear majority on joint ballot of House and Senate throughout the nine-year period of Reconstruction.

During this same period they held the office of secretary of state (from 1868 t0 1877), lieutenant-governor and adjutant-general (after 1870), secretary of treasury, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate (after 1872).

On the other hand, Negroes never held the governorship, the office of US senator, any of the eight circuit judgeships, the offices of comptroller general, attorney general, superintendent of education, or more than one of the three positions on the State supreme court.

Furthermore, there were recorded instances of black officeholders serving as mere pawns of shrewder white [Republican] colleagues. The northern-born county treasurer of Colleton County boasted to Governor [Robert K.] Scott that he “could control every colored man’s vote in St. Paul’s Parish and St. Bartholomew Parish.” The Negro treasurer of Orangeburg County found himself in jail charged with malfeasance in office, while the white mentor who had gotten him the appointment and directed his peculations went free.

On another occasion it was alleged that the white [Republican] political boss of Colleton County engineered the removal from the county auditor’s position of a well-educated Negro political enemy, replacing him with another Negro who was illiterate. The latter was expected to be auditor in name only, while another white crony performed the duties of office.

[The] reactions of historians to [traditional images of racial relationships often betray] more emotion than analysis . . . [WEB] DuBois, for example, accepted the idea of the essential powerlessness of blacks in South Carolina’s Reconstruction government in order to minimize the culpability of blacks for the corruption of that government, even though [this actually] contradicts his thesis of black labor’s control of the government.

However, the key advantage of the white Republicans probably lay in their presumed or real contacts in the North which enabled them to promise and sometimes deliver funds, patronage or protection. White Northerners often passed themselves off as representing the “powers at Washington” in order to secure the political obedience of the Negroes, according to [carpetbagger] ex-Governor [Daniel H.] Chamberlain.

Just after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, a committee of South Carolina’s Negro political leaders made a secret trip to Washington to confer with Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner about the formation of a political organization.

But many white Republicans continued to advocate efforts to attract native whites into the Republican party and the appointment of northern whites to sensitive positions. This policy reflected their lack of confidence in black officeholders . . . “There is not enough virtue and intelligence among the Blacks to conduct the government in such a way as will promote peace and prosperity” [wrote one Republican].

In other instances, white Republican officeholders urged the governor to replace with whites those black colleagues whom they considered “un-businesslike” or incompetent.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, (excerpts) pp. 96-104)

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

Deadly hatred toward white Southerners was instilled in black troops by their new Northern friends, and the same would continue in the postwar as victorious Republicans needed the freedmen’s political dominance in the South to remain in power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

“As a general rule, the treatment by the white soldiers was not so bad, and it would have been much better, no doubt, had it not been for the cruel policy of the United States Government, and the stringent orders to have that policy carried out.

The colored troops were very harsh in their treatment of us, and they we no doubt urged to do this by their officers, who were certainly the meanest set of white men that could be found anywhere. The Negroes never let an opportunity pass to show their animosity and hatred towards us, and the man who shot a Rebel was regarded as a good soldier. They carried their authority to the extreme, and would shoot upon the slightest provocation.

If a prisoner happened to violate even one of the simplest regulations, he was sure to be shot at, and should he be so unfortunate as to turn over in his sleep, groan, or make any noise, which some were apt to do while sleeping, the tent in which he lay would be fired into.

For instance, one night in Company G, Fourth division, some one happened to groan in his sleep. The Negro patrol was near, heard it, and fired into the tent, killing two and wounding several others. These were killed while sleeping and were unconscious of having committed any offence whatever.

None of these patrols were punished, but were praised for vigilance. Scores of incidents, similar in character and result, might be given . . . Suffice it to say that a man’s life was in more danger than upon a picket line, for he was completely at the mercy of the cruel and malignant Negro soldiery.

Shooting into the tents of prisoners became so common that the officers of the white regiments protested at last against their [the colored troops] being allowed in camp, and accordingly they were withdrawn at night, and white patrols substituted.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Prison Experience (Point Lookout), James T. Wells, Volume VII, pp. 397-398)

Fighting to Avoid Union Chains

Many in England saw the War Between the States as a bid for freedom against Northern oppression and comparisons were drawn with earlier independence movements in Greece, Poland and Italy. It was also asserted that the independence of the South would benefit blacks with eventual emancipation, “and outdo the hypocritical North by introducing full integration.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fighting to Avoid Union Chains

“Intervention had in both regions [of Manchester and Liverpool] only the most cursory appeal [but only] . . . Liverpool tended to hanker after not only intervention but more active participation in the Southern fight for freedom, and the city found its own ways of bypassing official sanctions for such support.

The constant breaking of the blockade and the provisioning of warships for the Confederacy were so effective as tools of war that the United States felt justified in suing Britain for heavy compensation.

The failure of the Union and Emancipation Society [in England] is demonstrated by the prevalence elsewhere of the belief that the South was fighting for a freedom which would ultimately encompass Negroes while the North wanted to clap that freedom into Union chains.

Lincoln was generally seen as a sad instance of a man whose native honesty had disintegrated into the hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation. He totally lacked charisma in Lancashire eyes. Defeat [of the South] was acknowledged as imminent but it was seen as the defeat of a noble and worthy cause . . . [and many saw] a sad destruction of freedom by the arrogant use of force.

Agents were sent to Lancashire by the Federal government and private Northern companies to popularize the idea of emigration and help fill the acute labor shortage. Enthusiasm for the idea of a new life in a civilized land . . . was marred by the widespread and sometimes justified fear that jobs and fares were bait for luring men into the depleted ranks of the Union army.”

(Support for Secession, Lancashire and the American Civil War, Mary Ellison, University of Chicago Press, 1972, pp. 191-193)

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

The study of the postwar Republican party often reveals a political organization seeking power at any cost, and an abolitionist movement that was simply an expedient for the destruction of the American South politically and economically. The transcendentalists and Unitarian radicals drifted off after the war without a cause to embrace; the Republicans had their desired political hegemony which would only be interrupted by Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

“By 1867, [Wendell] Phillips and “a little band of abolitionists he represented, like Robespierre and the Jacobins, believed that their will was the General Will” and looked for the federal government to establish and maintain an equal political and social position for the Negro in the South, by as much force as proved necessary. They were groping for something like the modern welfare state – foreshadowed as it was by pragmatic programs of the time like the Freedmen’s Bureau – but their intense hatred of the white South prevented a rational approach.

As a result, “Radical Reconstruction,” as it finally emerged from the Congressional cauldron, was a set of half-measures. Not faced was the problem of how a despised, impoverished, and largely illiterate minority was to maintain its rights in the face of a determined majority in full possession of economic and social power. The fiasco of Radical Reconstruction had begun.

Republican opportunism was important [in this fiasco]. There was the desire to get the Southern States readmitted to the Union under Republican control in time to deliver critical votes in 1868 and thereafter.

While idealists like Carl Schurz, Charles Sumner, Charles Francis Adams, and Horace Greeley were deserting the Republican party and the Reconstruction program to set up the abortive Liberal Republican movement of 1872, that cause of the Southern Negro was taken up and further discredited by political opportunists of the regular party organization.

The issues of the war were kept alive in the seventies and eighties as a Republican campaign technique – a way of recalling the “disloyalty” of the Democrats by “waving the bloody shirt.” In the character of Senator Dilworthy in The Gilded Age, Mark Twain has provided an unforgettable portrait of the Republican politician making unscrupulous use of the “Negro question” for his own ends.

The Reconstruction era was a perplexing time for intellectuals who had been antislavery militants before and during the war. Unable to support the sordid Grant administration and filled with doubts about the form that Radical Reconstruction was taking in the South, they had little to offer in the way of insight or inspiration.

William Dean Howells, who had once been a fervent abolitionist, intimated as editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1869 that he was tired of the Negro question. Howell’s diminishing interest in the Negro, which reflected the disenchantment of the New England literary community in general, was further manifested in subsequent issues of the Atlantic.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, excerpts, pp. 191-196)

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

Northerners thought that emancipation and arming the blacks would create “a more terrible [and] effective weapon against the Southerners,” alluding to the result of a Santo Domingo-style race war in the South. In reality, black men were enticed off plantations to deny the agricultural South its laborers, who were then recruited into regiments to serve as lowly paid laborers and servants.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

“The man chosen to fill the office [military governor at Hilton Head] was Rufus B. Saxton, a newly-breveted brigadier general. A native of Deerfield, Maine, a graduate of West Point and a career officer in the army, Saxton came to Hilton Head with the assault force as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps. His father had been an enthusiastic abolitionist, yet Saxton took his assignment with reluctance and out of loyalty rather than out of sympathy for the Negro.

In the summer of 1862, Laura Towne, one of the Northern teachers on St. Helena, was pleased to find him “truly anti-slavery.” Major General David M. Hunter [at that time served on Hilton Head as], commanding general of the Department of the South.

Hunter, acting on his own authority . . . forced the issue by beginning the recruitment of a regiment of Negro soldiers. [He] was able to muster 150 Negroes into the service as the First South Carolina Volunteers. Thereafter, however, recruiting proceeded slowly. Most of the volunteers probably were refugees from the mainland without employment [and] those who remained on the plantations and were engaged in planting their crops were far from enthusiastic.

On St. Helena, it was reported that only one man volunteered, and the missionaries generally agreed that the Negroes were afraid of “being made to fight.” On St. Helena, Laura Towne observed that the plantation hands generally regarded the maneuver as “a trap to get the able-bodied and send them to Cuba to sell . . .”  Miss Towne asserted that “nearly all are eager to go there again and serve in the forts,” but they did not want to fight.

Whereas many Negroes volunteered “willingly” in the first few days of Saxton’s recruiting campaign, some offered themselves with “dismal forlornness,” and others not at all.

When two officers appeared at a church on St. Helena on October 23 [1862] to seek recruits, all able-bodied males declined to attend. On the following Sunday, Sergeant Prince Rivers, a Negro veteran of the Hunter Regiment, visiting the island on the same mission, suffered the same disappointment.”

(After Slavery, The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, pp. 13-17)

Americans Treated as Enemies

Enemy soldiers in the South sent revealing letters home which contained views shaped by official army policies, and censors allowed those which portrayed events in a government-approved light. The writer does note that Negro hands have left the farms, more the result of seizure than liberation; the desperate plea for more recruits reflects the lack of Northern enlistments after the carnage of mid-July 1862.  By this time Lincoln’s radicalized regime embarked on a total war strategy agaisnt Americans that would target civilians as well as armies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Americans Treated as Enemies

“Camp Rufus King, July 22, 1862. The following letter we cut from the [Buffalo, New York] Courier:

“The South is paying dearly for this unnatural war upon the country. Famine and pestilence must soon follow on its desolating track. Seed time and harvest have passed, and the planter finds his barns empty. The standing grain has rotted in the field for the want of hands to gather it in.

Oh ye who live in the quiet of your peaceful homes, with all the comforts of life within your reach, and know little of the horrors of war, strengthen our ranks if you would have us stand between you and an earnest, determined foe. Rely not with too much confidence on the ability of the army to beat back the hordes that are arrayed against us. Every able-bodied man in the South is in arms, and they are terribly in earnest.

Not so with us. Our policy, hitherto, has been to conciliate rather than destroy our foe, and as we advance, looking upon the inhabitants as friends and allies until they prove themselves to be enemies. We have been deluded into the belief that there is a strong Union sentiment in the revolted States. It may be so, but it is very slow in manifesting itself.

Few indeed, have the courage to come out boldly and sustain the Government, while the vast majority [does] not hesitate to proclaim their preference for the Southern Confederacy. The [Southern] masses are ignorant to a degree that is startling to a Northerner. It knows little that transpires in the world beyond its immediate circle. It believes implicitly all that is told by the leading spirits of the neighborhood.

The very dialect of the mass betrays its ignorance – differing in no respect from that used by the slaves. And yet these men are told that the Northern mechanic and laboring man ranks no higher in the scale of civilization than the Negro, and that it is the yoke of these Northern mechanics and laborers that they are fighting to throw off.

Our policy of conducting the war is to be changed. It is time. We are in the enemy’s country, and those who inhabit it should be treated as enemies until they yield prompt obedience to the Government.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York State Volunteers: Embracing a Full History of The Regiment, J. Harrison Mills, Regimental Veterans Association, Buffalo, 1887, pp. 201-202)

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

Postwar federal election supervision in the South purportedly ensured fair and impartial elections, but in reality only ensured Radical Republican political control. The slim margin of Grant’s 1868 victory was not to be repeated and Republicans took no chances in 1872. Below former North Carolina legislator and Confederate General Thomas Clingman noted their strategies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

“On 9 July 1872 twenty delegates from the Old North State assembled in Baltimore to attend the eleventh quadrennial Democratic convention. Clingman was selected to serve on the Committee on Resolutions. Shortly after the convention adjourned, Clingman dropped a bombshell on the North Carolina Republicans in the form of a letter ostensibly written by former Democratic congressman James B. Beck of Kentucky.

The letter, which was addressed to Clingman, pointed out that the August State elections in North Carolina were widely regarded as a barometer for the presidential election in November. For that reason, the Grant administration had determined to use every corrupt means possible to carry the Old North State. Large sums had been raised for that purpose, including funds illegally drawn from the Justice Department.

Clingman played a leading role in the [post-election investigation] movement. In a letter published in the New York World and copied by numerous North Carolina newspapers, he presented a cogent summary of the Conservative argument.

The election, he said, had been managed “by an army of . . . [federal] revenue officers and deputy marshals,” who had been “liberally supplied” with money.” Those federal managers had practiced massive fraud, importing black voters from other States into the eastern counties and inducing native blacks to vote several times in different townships.

In the white-majority counties of the west, they had mobilized violators of the revenue laws and those under indictment for Klan activity with promises of immunity from prosecution “if they voted the Radical ticket.” Others, who refused to cooperate, had been arrested in order to prevent them from voting. [North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Augustus] Merrimon shared in the widespread belief that the Republicans had stolen the election.

In several eastern counties, the number of voters did exceed the number of adult males reported in the census. Moreover, a large number of indictments for Klan activity were in fact made just before the election, and many of them were dropped soon after the campaign had ended.”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pp. 207-209)

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

Grant won his 1868 presidential victory by a 307,000 vote margin enabled by the 500,000 enfranchised freedmen organized by Republican organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau, Union League and Loyal League, and using black militia to suppress white votes in the South. In North Carolina, former Northern general and notorious carpetbagger Milton S. Littlefield had been elected president of North Carolina’s Union League, making him “Chief of Black Republicanism” under scalawag Governor Holden and charged with delivering the State to Grant, which was done.

Bernhard Thuersam,www.circa1865.org

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

“Most Reconstruction legislators in South Carolina – white as well as black – were political novices when they first arrived in Columbia. Democrats who had held State office before and during the war shunned any association with the new regime and left the field largely to less-experienced men. The northern white Republicans were former army officers, teachers and missionaries.

In one sense or another they were men on the make and, as such, not likely to have left successful political offices in the North for an uncertain competition in the war-torn South. And of course the Negroes had had little opportunity to gain experience in partisan politics . . . in most northern States they had not been able to vote, much less run for political office.

The Freedmen’s Bureau . . . was simply another patronage job [for many Northerners] to which they were attracted for strictly pecuniary reasons. Not only were many of them not moved by abolitionist sentiments, but some were described as being “more pro-slavery than the rebels themselves. Doing justice seems to mean, to them, seeing that the blacks don’t break a contract and compelling them to submit cheerfully in the whites do,” complained one northern teacher.

[For most black Reconstruction] legislator’s military service had bestowed benefits other than the glory of battle and the red badge of courage. Sergeant Richard H. Humbert sought to apply his expertise for direct political advantage during the postwar years. After his election to the lower house in the summer of 1868, Humbert wrote to the newly-inaugurated Governor Robert K. Scott to inform him that he had organized two militia companies in Darlington County, and that he planned to form several others in preparation for the presidential elections that fall.

He saw his previous military experience as essential to this enterprise and requested [an officer’s] commission from the governor. Humbert did not mince words when he stated that “the organization of the militia will be of great benefit to the Republican Party in this district.”

When [slave] Prince Rivers [enlisted] in the [Northern] First South Carolina Volunteers [he] was made first sergeant of the regiment and taken to New York City by General David Hunter in an attempt to gain support for his policy of enlisting black troops.

There was considerable antiwar and antiblack feeling in New York City, which would be the scene of the bloody draft riots in [July] 1863. White New Yorkers were incensed at the sergeant’s chevrons on the arm of the tall, proud, “jet-black” ex-slave; as he walked down Broadway, they attacked him viciously. However, Rivers managed to hold off the mob until police arrived to escort him away.

Robert Smalls had a somewhat similar experience with northern racism when he took his ship to Philadelphia for repairs. He became involved in that city’s . . . segregated public accommodations when he refused to surrender his seat on the streetcar to a white rider and move to the platform reserved for blacks.”

(Black over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 72; 78-79)