Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

The Republican party platform of 1860 was skillfully drawn to win support from East and West conservatives and radicals. It advanced a protective tariff for Northern industries, internal improvement subsidies, and the right of each State to control its own domestic institutions.

The Republicans were not anti-slavery, but opposed to its extension into the territories which they wanted preserved for their immigrant supporters.

What are referred to as “free States” of that period were actually “formerly free States,” as all the original States all inherited the British colonial slave-labor system. It follows that the Southern States of 1860 were all free States with a different labor system than the North.

It is important to point out that Lincoln carried no Southern States, and won election by plurality with only 39% of the vote. His party’s purely sectional character was what George Washington warned of in his farewell address.

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

“Following the news of Lincoln’s election, South Carolina seceded from the Union in December of 1860. Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the poor white who would succeed Lincoln as President, denounced this act. “Whoever fires on our flag and attacks our forts I pronounce a traitor and he should meet a traitor’s doom.”

Davis retaliated by calling Johnson a “degenerate son of the South unworthy to sit in the Senate.” The die was cast: Davis argued before the Senate the Constitution right of secession.

Lincoln took the news of South Carolina’s secession calmly, but sent word to [Secretary of State William] Seward not to agree to the Crittenden Compromise, which would have preserved the Union without resort to war.

Commenting on Lincoln’s attitude, William E. Dodd wrote in his “Jefferson Davis”: “The popularity of the greatest war President has made students of the subject overlook his responsibility for this momentous decision.”

(The Iron Will of Jefferson Davis, Cass Canfield, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978, excerpts pp. 42-43)

“When the Yankees Come”

The excerpts below were taken from “When the Yankees Come,” an edited narrative of slave experiences during Sherman’s invasion of South Carolina in early 1865 by Paul C. Graham. The sources employed were The Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States – collected by the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA in the 1930s.

When the Yankees Come

“Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak about the Yankees plundering through the country plenty times. Hear about the Yankees going all about stealing white people silver. Say, everywhere they went and found white folks silver, they would just clean the place up.” Josephine Bacchus, Marion County, SC. Age 75-80.

“When the Yankees come they seem to have special vengeance for my white folks. They took everything they could carry off and burnt everything they couldn’t carry.” Charley Barber, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 81.

“The Yankees come and burn the gin-house and barns. Open the smokehouse, take the meat, give the slaves some, shoot the chickens, and as the mistress and girls beg so hard, left without burning the dwelling house.” Millie Barber, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 82.

“I was fifteen when the Yankees come thru. They took everything, horses, mules, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, and chickens. Hogs? Yes sir, they kill hogs and take what parts they want and leave other parts bleeding on the yard. When they left, old master have to go up into Union County for rations.” Anderson Bates, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 87.

“The Yankees kill all the hog. Kill all the cow. Kill all the fowl. Left you nothing to eat. If the colored folk had any chicken, they just had to take that and try to raise them something to eat.” Solbert Butler, Scotia, Hampton County, SC. Age 82.

“The Yankees come. First thing they look for was money. They put a pistol right in my forehead and say: “I got to have your money, where is it?” There was a gal, Caroline, who had some money; they took it away from her. They took the geese, the chickens and all that was worth taking off the place, stripped it. Took all the meat out of the smoke-house, corn out of the crib, cattle out the pasture, burnt the gin-house and cotton. When the left, they shot some cows and hogs and left them lying right there.” Lewis Evans, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 96.

“The Yankees marched through our place, stole cattle, and meat. We went behind them and picked up lots that they dropped when they left.” Rev. Thomas Harpe, Newberry, Newberry County, SC. Age 84.

“Sherman set fire everywhere he went – didn’t do much fighting, just wanted to destroy as he went.” Amos Gadsen, Charleston, Charleston County, SC. Age 88.

(When the Yankees Come, Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman’s Invasion: Voices from the Dust, Volume I, Paul C. Graham, editor, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 2-3; 8; 18; 27)

The Same Principles as the Revolution

Author John Vinson (below) asserts that “The motive for secession was not defending slavery, but defense against an aggressor trampling on States’ rights and local rule – the same principles for which the American Revolution was fought. The South fought not to keep slavery, but for the right to deal with the institution in its own way and time.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in July 1775 that “In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.”

Some eighty-seven years later, Jefferson Davis no doubt pondered Jefferson’s letter to John Randolph in August 1775: “I hope the returning wisdom of Great Britain will, ere long, put an end to this unnatural contest.”

Same Principles as the Revolution

“One more point to be made on freedom is to refute, briefly, the charge of professional South-haters that the Old South did not stand for freedom, but slavery. They allege that it was the cause for which the Confederacy went to war.

A few reflections on the past show this to be nonsense. Slavery came about during British rule. Southern colonists admittedly purchased slaves, but shipping and selling them were British and Yankee shippers.

New England grew rich from slave commerce. Africans who enslaved and sold their fellow Africans supplied cargoes for slave shippers. Following the American Revolution, sentiment against slavery grew in the South. Jefferson spoke out against it. By 1830, a majority of anti-slavery societies were in the South. Shortly thereafter, Virginia came within a few votes of abolishing slavery.

In 1833, the British Empire peacefully ended slavery. Certainly this could have happened in America. But it was not to be. Self-righteous fanatics in the North, the abolitionists, called the South wicked and demanded immediate emancipation, regardless of the consequences. As time went on some even encouraged slave revolt and a massacre of Southern whites.

Stunned and put on the defensive, the South dug in its heels, and the movement toward peaceful abolition stopped. No less a Unionist than Daniel Webster conceded that the South might have ended slavery had it not been for the abolitionists fanatic crusade.

In 1859, abolitionist John Brown was tried, convicted, and hanged after trying unsuccessfully to incite a slave revolt in Virginia. He had the backing of powerful Northern interests and a significant body of Northern opinion hailed him as a hero. The next year Abraham Lincoln, a president identified with the abolitionists, came to power in Washington.

At this point, many Southerners questioned allegiance to a Union that seemed indifferent to their rights and even safety. Initially the Upper South States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas refused to leave the Union.

The Lincoln government could have conciliated these States and perhaps defused the Southern independence movement. Instead, it provoked the Confederacy to fire on Fort Sumter, and then called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South. Rather than participate in the invasion of their sister States, the Upper South withdrew.”

(Southerner, Take Your Stand, John Vinson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 10-11)

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

The Ladies Association of Wake County, North Carolina was formed as the Northern commander in occupied Raleigh ordered Southern dead removed from their graves or he would have them dug up and the remains thrown into a nearby roadway. Gen. Lawrence ‘O’B. Branch’s wife, during the early occupation of Raleigh, overheard that all Southern officers above the rank of captain were to be hung, which included her husband.

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

“The following extracts were made from a paper by Mrs. M.L. Shipp, in the woman’s edition of the [Raleigh] News and Observer, May 20, 1895, in regard to the most prominent association of the State: “The Ladies Memorial Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of the Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there.

It was but a short while after the federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested he Confederate dead, and ordered that they be moved at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made President . . . A resting place [at Oakwood] was selected for the reinterment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there was scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures . . .

Many Confederate dead from the country were moved this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory . . . it was reported that contraband articles such as Confederate flags, a strand of Gen. Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general . . . [the constant fear was] the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran, May 1898, excerpts pg. 227)

An Essential Amendment

“General Leonidas Polk and his staff met with Union officers under a flag of truce in November 1861.

After disposing of matters of business, the men adjourned for a simple luncheon. A Union colonel raised his glass and proposed a toast, “To George Washington, the Father of His Country.”

To that toast General Polk quickly added: “And the First Rebel.” All officers drank to the amended toast.”

(An Essential Amendment, Southern Partisan, Volume XXIV, Number 2, pg. 11)

Undisciplined Troops

The 4th US Colored Infantry was recruited in Baltimore with enrollment agents scouring the city, though “many of the city’s residents . . . reluctant to enlist – perhaps [because] so many had been dragooned into service by [General Robert] Schenck.” The latter impressed local slaves and free blacks into service at will to defend the city from liberation.

Many of the black recruits were forcibly removed from area farms and plantations, and in late July 1863 authority was granted to remove the inmates of a slave prison in the city for use as soldiers.

Any “able-bodied black male of military age owned “by an avowed Confederate or Rebel sympathizer” was subject to impressment. Lincoln’s proconsul in Maryland was “Governor” Augustus W. Bradford, a slave owner and committed Unionist who was allowed to keep his slaves.

These black recruits received no bounty as white troops had, and only white officers were allowed to command black units.  Lincoln added black men to his conscription net, and poor black men could not afford the $300 substitute fee to avoid service.  

Undisciplined Troops

“[General Joseph E.] Johnston’s surrender immediately placed the Union forces in North Carolina on occupation duty. Now that hostilities were officially ended, it was feared the USCT might break free of wartime restraints to trespass, assault and loot. [Colonel Samuel] Duncan was enjoined to place a guard at virtually every house on his route [to Goldsboro . . . [indicating] the low opinion that their own commanders sometimes entertained of the discipline and deportment of the USCT.

By the end of 1865 – five months after the XXIV Corps had officially ceased to exist – only a handful of Caucasian regiments in the Army of the James remained in the field. These units would be mustered out the following January and February. Much of the army’s USCT strength, however, would be kept on active duty for almost another year.

The War Department knew that if it were to keep white volunteers in service well beyond their appointed term of “three years or the duration of the war,” it risked the wrath of voters and their political representatives.

Not surprisingly, the War Office preferred to alienate African American troops, few of whom could vote and even fewer who wielded political power. Moreover, many black soldiers – especially former slaves – had no homes to return to once they left the service. They would be unlikely to object to being kept on the army’s payroll indefinitely. The 4th USCI served out its two final months of garrison duty in relative tranquility [at Washington]. There the formal process of mustering out the regiment took place on the morning of May 4, 1866.”

(A Regiment of Slaves: The 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866, Edward G. Longacre, Stackpole Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 165; 170-171)

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor, and an 1845 graduate of Yale. In 1847 his father viewed the struggle over slavery had been “brought about by the intemperate zeal” of Northern fanatics, and told him that if the North ever exceeded its ”right and proper” constitutional power, “let the South act promptly, boldly and decisively with arms in their hand if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will no longer be worth preserving . . .”

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

“[Taylor] personally refused to abandon the dream of [liberating] New Orleans. Even with little or no help from other quarters of the Confederacy, he would work constantly toward the day when he could gather enough strength to deliver the city into the hands of his fellow Louisianans.

With an attack on New Orleans now impossible, Taylor’s [desired] to press southeastward . . . to relieve nearby parishes of the oppressive federal presence. “We are prisoners in every sense of the term,” wrote a local militia commander . . . Were we to attempt exercising any military authority, we would be arrested and our families harassed. Where is our protection to come from?”

Taylor answered the plea by sending Major Edward Waller’s unit of mounted Texas riflemen . . . On September 4 [1862], a detachment of the Texans, along with the militia unit, struck the federal outpost at Des Allemands and forced its garrison back toward New Orleans.

Capturing enough Yankee rifles to replace many of their outdated flintlocks and shotguns, Waller’s men also recovered piles of booty the federals had stolen during a recent raid upon nearby plantations. “Books, pictures, household furniture, finger rings, breast pins, and other articles of feminine adornment and wear, attested [to] the catholic taste and temper of these patriots,” observed Taylor.

The enemy had in fact swept through Taylor’s home parish, St. Charles. His plantation, Fashion, left in the care of an overseer during his family absence, had suffered some of the worst desecration and looting. “It is one of the most splendid plantations that I ever saw,” wrote a Vermont private in a letter . . . “I wish you could have seen the soldiers plunder this plantation.” Not only did they confiscate all of the stock animals, but they also forced Taylor’s slaves to help them ransack the house and barns.

The spoils included “hundreds of bottles of wine, eggs, preserved figs and peaches, turkeys, chickens, and honey in any quantity . . . the camp is loaded down with plunder – all kinds of clothing, rings, watches, guns, pistols, swords, and some of General [Zachary] Taylor’s old hats, coats, belt-swords — and, in fact, every old relic he had worn is worn about the camp . . . nothing is respected.”

Robert Butler . . . [one of the Des Allemands militiamen described the aftermath of federal destruction]: “It was one continual scene of desolation and sadness – nearly every place on the route had been despoiled and plundered – even to the huts of the poorest creoles.”

When they reached Fashion . . . “it was a complete wreck, the furniture smashed, the walls torn down, pictures cut out of their frames, while . . . scattered over the floor, lay the correspondence and official documents of the old General while President of the U.S. – the barbarians had respected nothing but the portrait of General [Winfield] Scott upstairs.”

(Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie, T. Michael Parrish, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts pp. 252-255)

Rough Language & Peace Democrats in Pennsylvania

General Clement A. Evans was born in Stewart County, Georgia in 1833, 100 years after the colony had been founded by Oglethorpe, and during the nullification crisis. He was wounded five times during the war and commanded Lee’s rearguard during the evacuation of Petersburg in April 1865. During Lee’s advance toward Gettysburg in mid-1863, he wrote of “coarse” Pennsylvania women “evidently accustomed to labor,” and that “people say that volunteering for Lincoln’s army is over with and that young men will hide from the draft.”

Rough Language & Peace Democrats in Pennsylvania

“June 24 [1863] Wednesday –

Marched from Waynesboro toward Chambersburg [Pennsylvania] passing through Quincy, Funkstown & other small villages. Encamped near Greenwood, on the Baltimore and Chambersburg turnpike. The class of Pennsylvanians met on this route do not impress one favorably. We find them generally living in pretty good style, but coarse, uneducated and apparently having little knowledge of the outside world. Some of them have never seen a cannon and expressed great anxiety to see the big guns.

The Southern troops were considerably surprised at the rough and profane language of the Pennsylvania belles. To us who never heard a rough word from the lips of a Southern lady, it sounds very strange to hear these Northern women curse – Considerable alarm is manifested at our approach. In some instance citizens leave their houses to our mercy, but I am glad to write that generally the orders have been observed.

The citizens supply our troops too liberally with the article of whiskey. Certainly they can ruin our army by the liberality of that sort unless the orders are enforced. In Quincy, the merchants were selling their goods to our soldiers, taking Confederate money freely.

The country we have passed through resembles the Valley of Virginia. But we have reached a much poorer region, settled by poorer people.

June 25. Thursday –

Went with the picket to their posts and took dinner with a Pennsylvania Dutch Lady. Talked to some of the peace Democrats. They appear to be very hostile to the Abolitionists & in favor of Peace. They hope for a restoration of the Union by a peace policy.

The soldiers are behaving well. These people who have been unaccustomed to an army think that the loss of a beehive or a dozen poultry quite a hardship. They ought to see the Virginia farms despoiled, houses burned, Negroes run off, women and children turned out of doors – then they would not complain.”

(Intrepid Warrior, Clement Anselm Evans: Confederate General from Georgia, Life, Letters and Diaries, Robert G. Stephens, editor, Morningside House, 1992, excerpts pp. 213-214; 218)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)

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