Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

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

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

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

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

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 The government’s official policy that the Southern States had not withdrawn from the Union, meant that the Confederate armies were mere rebellious mobs and were therefore not protected by established rules of civilized warfare.

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

In God's Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

The State of Delaware was a slaveholding State in early 1861 and Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs of Georgia expected that State to adhere to the South in its new experiment in government. Congressmen James A. Bayard and William G. Whiteley were two Delawareans who advocated peace between the sections and sympathy for Southerners seeking a more perfect union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

In Gods Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

“Congressman Whiteley [of Wilmington, Delaware] served on the Committee of Thirty-Three and signed a minority report of that Committee. The minority report was signed by five congressmen, all from either Southern or border States. Whiteley and these congressmen advocated peaceful secession. They believed that:

“. . . the doctrine of the indissolubility of the general government has no foundation in the public law of the world . . . ”

Also, . . .”that no power has been conferred upon the general government, by the Constitution . . . to keep a State in the Union.” They became specific when they stated that: “You cannot coerce fifteen sovereign States . . . That a separation, which has become inevitable, shall be bloodless.”

Whiteley signed a statement advocating the secession of all slaveholding States, including Delaware. Specifically, it proposed that there should be no war, but peaceful separation. Succinctly, they stated their position:

“Whether any State has or has not the right to seceded under the Constitution, it is a matter of fact that four States have already seceded; and that in a few short months — perhaps weeks — all of the other slaveholding States will have in like manner seceded, with the purpose of maintaining their new position, by force of arms, if no adjustment is made of the differences between them and the non-slaveholding States.”

After the firing on Fort Sumter, William G. Whiteley held to his previous position. On June 27 at a mass meeting in Dover he stated:

“In God’s name, let them go unmolested . . . Would Delaware give money or men to hold States as conquered provinces? . . . Could the South be subjected? Never!”

(The Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States, William C. Wright, Associated University Presses, 1973, pp. 86-87)

Impending War Against the American South

Frederick Douglas was an admitted confidant of the murderous John Brown, and escaped into Canada after Brown’s 1859 raid to avoid prosecution for his part as an accessory to violent insurrection against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Douglas followed the path of other abolitionists by fomenting hatred and murder, rather than peaceful and practical efforts to solve the riddle of African slavery established by the British colonial system and perpetuated by New England slavers, cotton mills and Manhattan bankers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Impending War Against the American South

“In a letter to the American Slaves from those who have fled from American slavery, “ [Frederick] Douglas asserted, “When the insurrection of the Southern slaves shall take place, as take place it will, unless speedily prevented by voluntary emancipation, the great mass of the colored men of the North, however much to the grief of us, will be found by your side, with deep-stored and long-accumulated revenge in their hearts, and with death-dealing weapons in their hands . . . We tell you these things not to encourage, or justify your resort to physical force; but simply, that you may know, be it your joy or sorrow know it, what your Northern brethren are, in these important respects.”

The vast majority of black New Yorkers supported John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. In New York, leading black abolitionists such as Douglas, Garnet and McCune Smith had been informed of Brown’s plan. After the raid, black abolitionists published some of the most thoughtful justifications of the right to rebellion against Southern slaveholders.

Douglas argued eloquently, “They have by the single act of slave-holding, voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of justice and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with thieves and pirates — the common enemies of God and mankind.”

(Slavery in New York, Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 258-259)

 

Northerners Illustrate Little Regard for the Union

Northern anti-slavery agitators fomented discord and disunion long before 1861 and did their utmost to cause the South to seek a more perfect union. And that South rightly asked why the North agreed to the Compromise of 1850 when it had no intentions of abiding by it. If the abolition of slavery was indeed their crusade, why did abolitionists not encourage the example of the British with compensated emancipation, thus averting war and wanton destruction?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northerners Illustrate Little Regard for the Union

“In the North, sincere if fanatical abolitionists and opportunists alike used the slavery issue for political advancement. In the South, the voices . . . grew more passionate in their crusades for independence. Northern agitators gave them the ammunition.

When the Southern States had adopted the Compromise of 1850, the Georgia legislature summarized the attitude of them all. Serving notice that the preservation of the Union depended on the Northern States’ faithfully abiding by the terms of the Compromise, the Georgia delegates stressed its particular application to the federal laws regarding fugitive slaves.

This was a very real issue to the planters, and nothing so impressed the individual Southerner with Northern hostility as the protection given runaways in the North and the actual attacks on federal officials trying to enforce the laws on stolen property. On this last point, the Georgians stated, “It is the deliberate opinion of this convention that upon the faithful execution of the fugitive-slave bill depends the preservation of our much-loved Union.”

Yet in the North, many people continued to repudiate and defy the fugitive slave laws, which constituted about the only thing the South got out of the Compromise. To the Southerners trying to promote secession, this breach of faith served to illustrate the little regard in which the North held Union.

Then Northern literature erupted into what amounted to an anti-Southern propaganda mill. In 1851 appeared Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that inflammable work of the imagination, to start the decade in a spirit of recriminations. With the pamphlets and literature which took up where Mrs. Stowe left off, newspapers joined in the denunciations of their fellow Americans. To support the fictional pictures of the benighted Southerners, the New York Tribune stated flatly that plantations were “little else than Negro harems,” and that, of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Tyler (who was still living) “hardly one has failed to leave his mulatto children.”

Even Virginia, which produced these Presidents, had been brought to ruin by “pride and folly and . . . [Negro] concubinage . . . ” while South Carolina, with its “chivalry-ridden inhabitants,” like the other States, “is a full thousand years behind the North in civilization.” Emerson and Longfellow, Lowell and Whittier, the new literary pillars of that civilization, conjured up pictures of the vileness of their Southern neighbors.”

(The Land They Fought For, The Story of the South as the Confederacy, 1832-1865, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday and Company, 1955, pp. 44-45)

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

One of the myths of the Northern invasion of the American South is that Sherman did not wreak the destruction on North Carolina as he and his vandals had in South Carolina. Homes in the Old North State were looted indiscriminately and livestock shot to deny noncombatants food for themselves and their children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

. . . [T]he Yankees came by the hundreds and destroyed everything that we possessed — every living thing. After they had taken everything out of the house—our clothes, shoes, hats, and even my children’s clothes — my husband was made to take off his boots which a yankee tried on. The shoes would not fit, so the soldier cut them to pieces. They even destroyed the medicine we had.

In the cellar, they took six barrels of lard, honey and preserves — and what they did not want, they let the Negroes come in and take. They took 16 horses, one mule, all of the oxen, every cow, every plough, even the hoes, and four vehicles. The soldiers filled them with meat and pulled them to camp which was not far from our home. They would kill the hogs in the fields, cut them in halves with the hair on. Not a turkey, duck or chicken was left.

My mother in law . . . was very old and frail and in bed. They went in her bedroom and cursed her. They took all our books and threw them in the woods. I had my silver and jewelry buried in the swamp for two months.

We went to Faison Depot and bought an old horse that we cleaned up, fed and dosed, but which died after a week’s care. Then the boys went again and bought an ox. They made something like a plough which they used to finish the crop with. Our knives were pieces of hoop iron sharpened, and our forks were made of cane — but it was enough for the little we had to eat.

All of which I have written was the last year and month of the sad, sad war (March and April, 1865). It is as fresh in my memory and all its horrors as if it were just a few weeks ago. It will never be erased from my memory as long as life shall last.

I do not and cannot with truth say I have forgotten or that I have forgiven them. They destroyed what they could of the new house and took every key and put them in the turpentine boxes. Such disappointment cannot be imagined. My children would cry for bread, but there was none. A yankee took a piece out of his bag and bit it, and said: “If you had behaved yourselves this would not have happened.”

(Sampson Independent, February 1960; The Heritage of Sampson County (NC), Volume I, Oscar Bizzell, editor, pp. 253-254)

Colfax's Myth of Saving the Union

Americans in the South had no reason for repentance after being crushed militarily, and in no way did the radical Republican party which destroyed the Founders’ union of 1787 recognize the principles of that Declaration which it did all in its power to subvert.  Had there been no Republican party, the Union would indeed have been saved, peaceful Christian charity and time would have ended slavery, equality under the law would have reigned as provided in the United States Constitution, and no Northern citizens and editors would have been imprisoned in American bastilles for opposing Republican Jacobin political hegemony.

Grant’s vice-president “Smiler” Colfax would be brought down by the Credit Mobilier scandals which bribed high government officials with cash and stocks; he was replaced as vice president in 1872 with another corrupt Republican, Henry Wilson.  Colfax went on to further infamy as a political boss whose expertise was rigging elections.  Below, he accepts the 1868 nomination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Colfax’s Myth of Saving the Union

Letter of acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination, National Union Republican party, 29 May, 1868:

“The debt of gratitude [my acceptance] acknowledges to the brave men who saved the Union from destruction, the frank approval of amnesty based on repentance and loyalty, the demand for the most thorough economy and honesty in government, the sympathy of the party of liberty with all throughout the world who long for the liberty we here enjoy, and the recognition of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, are worthy of the [Republican party] on whose banners they are to be written in the coming contest.

Its past record cannot be blotted out or forgotten. If there had been no Republican party, Slavery would to-day cast its baneful shadow over the Republic. If there had been no Republican party, the free press and free speech would be unknown from the Potomac to the Rio Grande as ten years ago. If the Republican party could have been stricken from existence when the banner of rebellion was unfurled, and when the response of “no coercion” was heard in the North, we would have no nation to-day.

But for the Republican party daring to risk the odium of tax and draft laws our flag could not be kept flying on the field until the long-hoped for victory came. Without the Republican party the Civil Rights bill – the guarantee of equality under the law to the humble and the defenceless, as well as to the strong – would not be to-day upon our national statute book.

With such inspiration from the past, the example of the founders of the Republic, who called the victorious General of the Republic to preside over the land his triumphs had saved from its enemies, I cannot doubt that our labors with be crowned with success.”

Very truly yours, Schuyler Colfax”

(The Republican Party, 1854-1904, Francis Curtis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, page 507)

The Northern Record Speaks a Lie

The victor of wars writes the history, inflates his lofty intentions and controls what is set in the record. William Joseph Peele was a simple North Carolinian who is credited with the creation of the Agricultural and Mechanic Arts schools in the State, and support for a State Historical Commission which would set the record straight.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Northern Record Speaks a Lie

“Mr. Peele could not get away from the idea that the cause of the Civil War was commercial jealousy. Henry Adams and Mill say that in ’61 the people of England entertained the same opinion. Peele did give credit to the North for so shifting the issue that it seemed to be a war for freedom.

“The agitation about the Negro, as a counter-irritant to distract attention from the injustice of Federal revenue laws, was [said Peele] more than a success; for the shallow politicians of both sections forgot the real issue; but the beneficiaries never lost sight of it. I will use a homely illustration:

A and B are doing business on the opposite sides of a street; B begins to undersell A; A becomes angry, but cannot afford to tell his customers the cause; he hears that B once cheated a Negro out of a mule; he makes that charge; they fight; the court record of the trial shows that the fight was about the Negro and the mule; but there is not a business man on the street who does not know that the record speaks a lie.”

(William Joseph Peele, by Robert W. Winston, Proceedings of the North Carolina Historical Commission, November, 1919, page 116)

New Weapons and the Unnecessary Carnage

The South should have fought a defensive war that would bleed the enemy in massed assaults, though time and the North’s increasingly large army of bounty-enriched foreigners, paid substitutes and freedmen meant eventual exhaustion. The question remains of why Lincoln continued the unnecessary slaughter rather than peacefully allow the South’s desire for political independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

New Weapons and the Unnecessary Carnage

“The engine of change was technological modification. An advance of weaponry overthrew the efficacy and then the moral meaning of the tactics soldiers wished to employ, robbing of significance the gestures they had been determined to make. Civil War muzzle-loaders . . . were no longer smoothbore but rifled [and charging] columns could be brought under fire much earlier, at a half-mile’s distance, and a much higher toll exacted. Even with the persistence of poor firing instruction and wretched firing discipline, rifling strengthened the hand of the defense decisively.

The futility of the frontal attack, with each regiment advancing on a two-company front, should have been apparent as early as [Sharpsburg] . . . in those ranks of dead ranged as neatly as if on parade. Three months later Burnside attacked Lee’s men on the heights of Fredericksburg at a cost of 12, 653 casualties against their opponents 5,309.

At Gettysburg it was Lee who sent . . . 15,000 in Pickett’s charge, perhaps half returned. At Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864 . . . Grant ordered frontal attacks that in less than sixty minutes cost the Army of the Potomac 7,000 killed and wounded against the Confederates’ 1,300 casualties. There the principal charges could be sustained only twelve to twenty minutes.

Ironically, Sherman’s first opponent, Joseph E. Johnston, was perhaps the only defensive adept in either army, and it was he who repulsed Sherman’s charges while yielding ground before Sherman’s otherwise masterly campaign of probing operations and flanking movements. But on July 17, 1864, Jefferson Davis relieved Johnston of his command and installed in his place, John Bell Hood, whose devotion to the attack was unsurpassed in either army. Sherman was pleased: “I inferred that the change of command means “fight.” This is just what he wanted. As [Jacob D.] Cox put it:

“We . . . regarded the removal of Johnston as equivalent to a victory for us. Three months of sharp work convinced us that a change from Johnston’s methods to those which Hood was likely to employ was . . . to have our enemy grasp the hot end of the poke . . . we were confident that . . . a succession of attacks would soon destroy the Confederate army.”

Sherman was willing to wait for those attacks. At Peachtree Creek Hood lost between 5,000 and 6,000 in killed, wounded and missing to Sherman’s 1,800; at Decatur, as many as 10,000, against Union losses of 3,700; at Ezra Church 5,000 against 600. Describing for Sherman that last combat, soldiers of the 15th Corps assured him it had been “the easiest thing in the world; that, in fact, it was a common slaughter of the enemy.” [Sherman] saw more clearly than others that the charge had become defeat.”

(Embattled Courage, the Experience of Combat in the Civil War, Gerald F. Linderman, Free Press, 1987, pp. 135-137)

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