Browsing "Lincoln’s Patriots"

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

The antebellum abolitionists saw in majority rule the basis of power – that “might makes right” and through their higher law fiction new laws could be manufactured that would impose punishment on those they disliked. It should be noted that the author below mentions “the free States” as many historians do, but should rightly be identified as “former slave States.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

“The abolitionist, sharing the transcendentalist’s refusal to accept the dictum vox populi vox dei, had to carry that refusal one step further: public opinion at any given time before the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth could never be the voice of God, and if it were, the reformer would lose his vocation. The voice of the reforming minority was the voice of God.

But the majority was also teachable; the reformer was God’s instrument to teach the nation the truth and the vanguard in its march to a better social order. [T]he abolitionist would insist that truth is not ascertained by public opinion polls, and he would point out that the majority in the 1830s and 1840s would vote against abolition of slavery, against prohibition (a few abolitionists would too), for capital punishment, and for Jim Crow laws in the free States.

The laws, customs, even the Constitution, reflecting the general will in the unregenerate state, could not be the authority on which the reformer based his claim to the role of teacher. His authority to a higher law as embodied in the Bible and conveniently set forth, in part, in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The corrupt majority prevailed not because it was right, but because it could enforce its will. “Might makes right” was in the abolitionist’s view logically deducible from the principle of majority rule.

It follows that the reforming minority, while necessary, must always be unpopular. As Wendell Phillips put it, when explaining why even abolitionists who employed conciliatory and moderate language “found every man’s hand against them”: “our unpopularity is no fault of ours, but flows necessarily and unavoidably from our position.” [Those abolitionists who carried this logic to its conclusion would suggest . . . that public acceptance would be a sign that their duty was to move on to a new unpopular position.]

Their refusal to water down their “visionary” slogan was, in their eyes, eminently practical, much more so than the course of the antislavery senators and congressmen who often wrote letters to abolitionist leaders justifying their adaptation of antislavery demands to what was attainable.

The abolitionist, while criticizing such compromises, would insist that his own intransigence made favorable compromises possible. He might have stated his position thus: If politics is the art of the possible, agitation is the art of the desirable. For one thing, [this] can be useful to the political bargainer; the more extreme demand of the agitator makes the politician’s demand seem acceptable and perhaps desirable in the sense that the adversary may prefer to give up half a loaf rather than the whole.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 25-28)

"Oh Momma, I Am So Hungry"

Sherman saw the Southern people themselves as a legitimate target of his army. He rationalized in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, that “When one nation is at war with another, all the people of the one are enemies of the other [and] the rules are plain and easy of understanding. The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all in the South are enemies of all in the North.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“Oh Momma, I Am So Hungry . . . “

“Some time after her trip to Jonesboro [Georgia, Mary A.H. Gay] wrote, late in 1864:

“We had spent the preceding day in picking out grains of corn from cracks and crevices in bureau drawers, and other improvised troughs for Federal horses, as well as in gathering up what was scattered on the ground. In this way by diligent and persevering work, about a half bushel was obtained from the now deserted camping ground of Garrard’s cavalry, and this corn was thoroughly washed and dried, and carried by me and Telitha to a poor little mill (which had escaped conflagration, because too humble to attract attention), and ground into coarse meal.”

Returning from the mill one day, Miss Gay saw her mother running to meet her to tell her that Mrs. Benedict, one of her neighbors, and the latter’s little children were in an actual state of starvation. Mrs. Benedict’s husband was in the Confederate Army and she and her children had been supported by refugees driven from their own section by the further invasion of the Federal Armies. Miss Gay at once cooked what little food she had and prepared to divide it with the starving family.

“On the doorsteps,” she wrote, “sat the young mother, beautiful in desolation, with a baby in her arms, and on either side of her a little one, piteously crying for something to eat. “Oh mamma, I want something to eat so bad. Oh mamma, I am so hungry – give me something to eat.” Thus the children were begging for what the mother had not to give. She could only give them soothing words.”

(In Sherman’s Path, The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, pp. 307-308)

No Sanity in Reconstruction

Raised in poverty in Reconstruction North Carolina, Thomas Dixon became a State legislator before he was old enough to vote, practiced law, was a noted minister, and author of “The Clansman” at age thirty-eight. He was determined to one day write the story of Reconstruction to let the truth be known.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Sanity in Reconstruction

“[Many] corrupt [Northern] leaders sought means to give vent to hatreds that had been aroused by the war. William G. Brownlow, better known as “Parson Brownlow,” a preacher who became Governor of Tennessee during the Reconstruction era, had declared in a speech to a convention in New York in 1862:

“If I had the power, I would arm every wolf, panther, catamount and bear in the mountains of America, every crocodile in the swamps of Florida, every Negro in the South, every fiend in hell, clothe them all in the uniforms of the Federal army and turn them loose on the rebels of the South and exterminate every man, woman and child south of the Mason Dixon line. I would like to see especially the Negro troops, marching under Ben Butler, crowd the last rebel into the Gulf of Mexico and drown them as the Devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.”

Such fanaticism from influential leaders was not conducive to soothing the wounds of the war. In Dixon’s native State of North Carolina, as a result of proceedings brought by Dixon’s uncle, Colonel [Lee Roy] McAfee, William W. Holden became the first governor to be impeached in an American commonwealth when his corrupt practices could no longer be borne by the people.

Many sane, responsible men, such as Dixon’s father and Colonel McAfee, took part in the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to bring some sort of order out of the tragedy of Reconstruction. These men did not tolerate injustice, and when they saw that the Klan had served its purpose, they immediately wanted to disband it.

In later years, Dixon wondered how any person could have lived through Reconstruction and still have retained his sanity. Lawlessness was, for a period of many months, the rule rather than the exception.

One of the brightest periods in Thomas’s childhood began on the day a young Negro boy, bloody, unconscious and almost dead, was brought to the home of the Dixon’s. The boy’s father, in a drunken fit, had tried to kill him with an axe. [The Dixon’s legally adopted him] and from that day forward young Dixon and little Dick were inseparable companions.”

(Fire from the Flint, The Amazing Careers of Thomas Dixon, Raymond Allen Cook, John F. Blair, Publisher, 1968, pp. 13-14)

Northernizing the South

Arguably the first shots of the War Between the States were fired by Reverend Beecher’s guns in mid-1850s Kansas; John Brown’s armed attack on Virginia in 1859 was a logical result of abolitionist fanaticism. Unwilling to work toward a practical and peaceful solution to the riddle of African slavery in the United States, they plunged the country into revolution and war costing nearly a million lives.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northernizing the South

“By the fall of 1856, some members of the Massachusetts aid committee, concluding that private support for the Kansas free-State settlers was not sufficient to protect them from proslavery advocates there, were urging northern State governments to intervene in the territory. [Amos Lawrence] consulted with some of his conservative friends about the idea and was told the State of Massachusetts had no constitutional authority to act in Kansas affairs.

Lawrence admitted that such an action could then only be justified upon “higher law” ground. The concept of higher law was one abolitionists were fond of invoking, and Lawrence confessed that it was a concept “which I never believed tenable, except for extreme cases, which come up once in a lifetime.”

[Lawrence] told Samuel Gridley Howe that he deemed the denial of honest elections in Kansas to be “a sufficient cause for revolution.” Lawrence hoped to avoid civil war in the territory, but if it came to that, he predicted, “it will be a contest between liberty and slavery, and it cannot last long for the slaves will not wait for its termination.” Instead, they would revolt and the uprising would spread into neighboring Missouri, toppling slavery there.

The leaders of the [New England Emigrant Aid] company made every effort to divorce themselve’s from the abolitionist camp. Rather than emphasize the evils of slavery for the slave, most of the men active in the [company] stressed the threat of slavery to northern values and institutions . . . New Englanders believed that the very future of republican government was at stake in Kansas and, furthermore, the nation.

Thus for them, Kansas became battleground between New England and Southern ways of life.   Eli Thayer, who founded the company, shared in this New England sense of mission. He hoped to keep the Emigrant Aid Company alive and to use it to promote free-labor colonies north and south of Kansas. By 1858, he was even proposing to “New Englandize” Central America . . . “we [will] send steam engines sir, which are the greatest apostles of liberty that this country has ever seen.”

[At] . . . the company’s annual meeting in 1856 he raised the possibility of colonizing Virginia . . . and in 1857 settled some northerners in western Virginia, near the Ohio River. By such means, Thayer proposed to “Northernize the South.”   [Lawrence]. . . preferred to secure the western territories for freedom and let the superiority of the northern economic system eventually transform the South. Until then, the Southerners should be left alone to bear responsibility for owning slaves; “it is not for us who imported their ancestors to complain.”

(Cotton and Capital, Boston Businessmen and Anti-Slavery Reform, Richard H. Abbott, UMass Press, 1991, pp. 42-47)

 

Vichy Louisiana

The express purpose of the Northern invasion and occupation of Louisiana in 1862 was to forcibly hold the State in the Northern union, and through the imposition of a military-directed civil government. Despite the State already having a freely-elected legislature and governor, the Northern Congress proclaimed them criminals and supervised the establishment of a new administration under military control.  The Michael Hahn mentioned below was a German immigrant to New York and then Texas, and a prewar import to Louisiana.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Vichy Louisiana

“Louisiana’s situation was particularly bad because from the time that General Benjamin F. Butler and his troops came to New Orleans on May 1, 1862, south Louisiana was lost to the Confederacy. The loss of control of the Mississippi River isolated most of Louisiana and Texas. And while the war was going on in other places the Federal government was already experimenting with the “redemption” of Louisianians.

By January, 1864, Federal forces occupying Louisiana were intent upon effecting a civil government through which they could enact laws and render conditions amicable to their interests. On January 11, General N.P. Banks issued a proclamation ordering an election of State officials in federally-occupied Louisiana. By “federally-occupied,” he acknowledged the division within the State.

In the meantime, Governor Moore delivered his farewell address, and on January 25 Henry Watkins Allen was inaugurated . . . governor of Louisiana. On March 4, Michael Hahn was inaugurated governor of Federal Louisiana . . . [and] the reality of two State administrations was a source of despair [for Louisianians].

The Union army captured Fort DeRussey and the interior of Alexandria and Natchitoches in March of 1864. A convention was held in New Orleans of April 6 to draft a constitution for federally-occupied Louisiana . . . [and on] July 23, 1864, a Republican convention revised the constitution and abolished slavery. On October 12, a resolution of [the US] Congress ordered the attorney general to institute criminal proceedings against all members of the 1860 Louisiana legislature who had voted for the Convention of Secession.

On June 2, 1865, Governor Allen delivered a farewell proclamation to the people of Louisiana and went into exile in Mexico . . . “

(Louisiana Legacy, A History of the State National Guard, Evans C. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, pp. 83-85)

 

Working the Freedmen to Death

Contrary to the myth that slaves were liberated rather than taken away from plantations to deny the South farm workers, Northern army officers in blue impressed them for hard labor and rarely if ever paid them. A middle-Tennessean put it this way, the “Negroes will run to [the Yankees] from good homes of kind masters & bear more oppression than they ever knew before, get no pay & yet love the Yankee for his meanness.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Working the Freedmen to Death

“Blacks were especially mistreated during the first eighteen months of Union rule [in occupied Tennessee], when Confederate forces threatened the city [of Nashville] most seriously and before [Andrew] Johnson’s policy toward slavery in Tennessee had been clarified. The most pressing need of the occupation forces was the construction of defensive works around the perimeter of the city, and enterprise which required large amounts of labor. Under the guise of military necessity, [Northern] army officials often ruthlessly impressed blacks to work on the fortifications.

The first impressment took place in August 1862, when [General Don Carlos] Buell’s chief of staff directed the post commander “to call in regular form upon slave owners for hands to work, and put as many on the works as can be employed.” The call went out for one thousand slaves . . .”, while the length of service and the manner and terms of payment were to be determined at the pleasure of the government.

The second impressments in October 1862 was more general in nature. Nashville’s commanding officer ordered the city patrols to “impress into service every Negro you can find in the Streets of this City who cannot prove that he is owned by any person loyal to the government of the United States and residing in and about the City.”  Military patrols simply began arresting as many black men as they could.

A third major impressment took place in August and September of 1863 when Union authorities needed twenty-five hundred men to work on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad, which was being built under Johnson’s direction. By now the military had developed sophisticated impressment techniques.

For instance, patrols would wait until Sunday morning and then raid the crowded black churches. And the troopers did not hesitate to use violence and threats. During one church raid, they shot and killed a black man and threatened others with a similar fate if they tried to escape.

This inhumane treatment the forced laborers received from the army only compounded the brutality of their impressments. Between August 1862 and April 1863, the amount due blacks [and their owners] for work on the fortifications was $85,858.50, but of this sum only $13,648 was paid.

Furthermore, although the army employed fewer than three thousand black men during this time, between six and eight hundred of them died — an extraordinary mortality rate caused by inadequate shelter and insufficient diet provided by the army. The only kindness the army seems to have exhibited was to provide free coffins for those who died during their ordeal.”

(Treason Must Be Made Odious, Peter Maslowski, KTO Press, 1978,  pp. 99-101)

Expelling Unworthy Members of the House

The Democratic opposition during the war believed that “if the Republicans continued in power they would ultimately destroy every shred of democratic choice and free behavior in the name of their conception of the right.” Ohio political leader Clement Vallandigham said “nothing but convulsion can come of this despotism,” and if Lincoln were to be reelected, “our Republican government is gone, gone, gone, and ere it is again revived we must pass through anarchy in its worst form.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Expelling Unworthy Members of the House

“[Clement Vallandigham of Ohio received support] from leading Democrats of the North, not only in his own State but from such men as Governor Seymour and Samuel J. Tilden of New York. We have referred to the plank of the Democratic platform adopted in 1864, which declared the war a failure, and it must be added that the convention was run, and the platform written and adopted, and the nomination made practically at the order of Vallandigham and his sympathizers.

To these instances must be added sentiments such as were uttered by Alexander Long, the Representative of the Second District of Ohio, in the Thirty-eighth Congress, who boldly defended the cause of the Confederacy as follows:

“I now believe that there are but two alternatives, and they are either an acknowledgement of the independence of the South as an independent nation, or their complete subjugation and extermination as a people; and of these alternatives I prefer the former.”

A resolution was offered for the expulsion of Long, declaring that by his speech he had given “aid, countenance and encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility to the United States.” The debate upon the resolution was opened by Mr. [James] Garfield of Ohio, then sitting in the House . . . for his first term [and] fresh from the battlefield of Chickamauga . . .

In answering Mr. Garfield, Benjamin G. Harris, of Maryland, said: “The South asks you to leave them in peace, but now you say you will bring them into subjection. That is not done yet, and God Almighty grant it may never be!”

This was followed by the offering of a resolution for the expulsion of Mr. Harris [and he subsequently] was declared to be an unworthy member of the House by a vote of 93 to 18. Fernando Wood, George H. Pendleton, the candidate for Vice President on the Democratic ticket of 1864, and Samuel J. Randall, afterwards Democratic Speaker of the House, were among those who voted in the negative. A resolution was also adopted declaring Mr. Long an unworthy member of the House.

[The Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery] had been adopted in the Senate on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6. These six votes were cast by the two Democratic Senators from Kentucky, the two from Delaware, and by Mr. McDougall of California, and Mr. Hendricks of Indiana . . . Every Republican [in the House] without exception voted in the affirmative [119 to 56], together with sixteen Democrats.

Among the opposition we find the names of William S. Holman of Indiana, S.S. Cox, Alexander Long, whose treasonable words had been censured, and George H. Pendleton of Ohio, W.R. Morrison of Illinois, Samuel J. Randall of Pennsylvania, and others who afterwards became leaders of the Democratic party.”

(The Republican Party, A History of Its First Fifty Years, Francis Curtis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, pp. 464-467)

Captain Beall Executed by the Hypocritical Dix

Captain John Yates Beall, a Southern officer, was captured at the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in December of 1864 after attempts to capture the USS Michigan on Lake Erie, free Confederate prisoners held at Johnson’s Island, and rescue seven imprisoned Southern generals near Buffalo. For taking the brutal war to the Northern border of the United States in retaliation for Sherman’s and others crimes in his country, he was hung as a “guerilla” on February 24, 1865.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Captain Beall Executed by the Hypocritical Dix

“Mounting the platform, the prisoner takes his seat upon the chair immediately under the fatal rope. The adjutant of the post commences to read the charges, specifications and the orders of General Dix for his execution.

Beall, little dreaming of the test to which he is to be subjected, rises respectfully when the reading is commenced . . . When he hears himself designated as a citizen of the “insurgent State of Virginia” his smile grows intensely sad and significant; he sees now the men before him no longer as his own murderers only, but as the executioners of a sovereign State – his own beloved Virginia, and he smiles not in derision, but in protest and remonstrance.

Again when they denounce his heroic attempt to rescue from a vault the souls of three thousand fellow-soldiers, “piracy,” he smiles; but when the accuse him of an attempt as a “guerilla” to “destroy the lives and property of peaceable, and unoffending inhabitants of said State” (New York), he ceases to smile, and mournfully shakes his head in denial. But finally, when the adjutant reaches the concluding passages of the order of General Dix . . . Beall laughs outright . . .”

The reporters do not understand the joke; the truth is, Beall hears this homily upon the proprieties of war coming from a Federal officer; he hears it, whose home is in the valley of the Shenandoah! There rises up before him his own homestead, its desolated fields, its level forests, the ash heaps which now mark the positions of its once beautiful, and cottage-like out-houses; and the thousand other vestiges of rural beauty despoiled by the brutality of the Federal soldiers, in its unrestrained career of pillage, plunder, wholesale robbery, and wanton destruction.

He hears the protests of his helpless mother, and her appeals for protection heeded only by the God of the widow and fatherless. He remembers the deep burning insults which Federal officers have heaped, in their language, upon his own sisters. He hears in the hypocritical cant of General Dix that officer’s own self-condemnation; and knows that every breath which the commanding general draws is in default of the penalty which he attaches to the violation of the laws of civilized warfare.

He hears a sermon on the “rule which govern sovereign States in the conduct of hostilities with each other,” by the man who, through his unlicensed, ill-disciplined, unrestrained, and unpunished soldiery, laid in ashes William and Mary College, an institution whose associations were hallowed by the literary nurture of the fathers of the Republic, and whose vulnerable walls were whitened by the frosts of a century.

A general who, after an arduous campaign, succeeded in capturing a lunatic asylum, and who is said to have tendered to its patients the oath of loyalty to the United States, and who is known to have treated its refractory and unfortunate inmates with cruelty and inhumanity.

Turning upon the officer of the day, he speaks in a calm, firm voice. “I protest against the execution of this sentence. It is a murder! I die in the service and defense of my country!  Thus died in the thirty-first year of his age, on the scaffold, John Yates Beall.”

(Confederate Operations in Canada and New York, John W. Headley, Neale Publishing Company, 1906, pp. 365-366)

Politicizing the Soldier Vote

At their 7 June 1864 meeting in Vichy Baltimore, the “National Union Party” re-nominated Lincoln for a second term in office. This party was in reality Lincoln’s party of Radical Republicans which began the war, and repackaged as an energized patriotic organization. The soldier volunteers referred to below were paid generous State and federal bounties in appreciation of their volunteerism.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Politicizing the Soldier Vote

“The Union Party appeal also helped to consolidate the support of soldiers for Abraham Lincoln. In November 1864, they gave him an estimated 78 percent of their ballots (as compared to 53 percent of the civilian vote) and, at least in New York and Connecticut, their support probably made the crucial difference that carried those States for the Union Party.

The demographic and ethnic profile of soldiers – especially the volunteers who made up the vast bulk of the Union army – made them more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. It is also undoubtedly the case that intimidation and interference of various kinds meant that a certain amount of bravery was required to cast a Democratic ballot in the army.

Among the most important reasons for the support Lincoln received from the army, though, was that fighting for the Union was a powerful experience that politicized many young men who had previously been unmoved by politics. Moreover, distanced from the pressures of their communities, soldiers were open to the influence, both direct and indirect, of their officers and comrades and, whatever their past political associations may have been, many were apt to see the northern party battle through the sobering lens of their enemies: if Confederates were praying for McClellan’s victory [in 1864], Lincoln must be sustained.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 156-157)

 

Lincoln's 1864 Reelection Assured

Commenting on the presidential election of 1864, Lincoln’s Assistant Secretary of War, Charles A. Dana, stated that the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection. Dana was in earlier days a Brook Farm socialist, and while employed by Horace Greeley’s prewar New York Tribune, contracted with Karl Marx to write a weekly column on his radical social views. It was Dana who ordered the imprisoned Jefferson Davis to be manacled in irons.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection Assured

“During the fall of 1864 it became evident that Pennsylvania was a “doubtful” State. Gen. McClellan, the candidate of the Democratic party, was not only popular there as a native Pennsylvanian, but, even among those loyal to the administration, he had a strong following and great sympathy, from the belief that he had been a much abused man.

Lincoln was advised by the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania that the prospect was very uncertain. It was felt that, on the result of the Keystone State, hinged the fate of the national election. A gentleman belonging to the Republican Committee then, as now, one of the leading politicians of the State, had a consultation with the President on the situation. He thus relates the interview:

“Mr. President,” I said, “the only sure way to organize victory in this contest, is to have some fifteen thousand, or more, Pennsylvania soldiers furloughed and sent home to vote. While their votes in the field would count man for man, their presence at the polls at home would exert an influence not easily to be estimated, by exciting enthusiasm and building up party moral[e]. I would advise you to send a private message to Gen. Grant, to be given in an unofficial way, asking for such issuance of furloughs to Pennsylvania soldiers in the field.”

Lincoln was silent for some moments and seemed to be pondering. Then he answered: “I have never had any intimation from Gen. Grant as to his feelings for me. I don’t know how far he would be disposed to be my friend in the matter, nor do I think it would be safe to trust him.”

The President’s interlocutor responded . . . ”Then, let it be done through Gen. [George] Meade, the direct commander of the Army of the Potomac – and Gen. [Philip] Sheridan, how about him?” At this question, Lincoln’s face grew sunny and bright. “I can trust Phil.” He said; “he’s all right!”

As a result of this conference, one of the assistant secretaries of war was sent to Petersburg with a strictly unofficial message to Gen. Meade, and another agent was deputed to visit Gen. Sheridan. Some 10,000 or more Pennsylvania soldiers went home to vote when the time came, and Pennsylvania was carried by a handsome majority for the [Lincoln] administration.”

(The South’s Burden, The Curse of Sectionalism, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Nash Brothers, 1906, pp. 131-132)