Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Sherman viewed Southerners as he later viewed American Indians, to be exterminated or banished to reservations as punishment for having resisted government power. They were subjects and merely temporary occupants of land belonging to his government whom they served. The revealing excerpts below are taken from “Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama,” published in 1872.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Headquarters, Department of Tennessee, Vicksburg, January 1, 1863.

[To] Major R. M. Sawyer, AAG Army of Tennessee, Huntsville:

“Dear Sawyer — In my former letter I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known, or suspected to be, hostile or “secesh.”  The war which prevails in our land is essentially a war of races. The Southern people entered into a clear compact of government, but still maintained a species of separate interests, history and prejudices. These latter became stronger and stronger, till they have led to war, which has developed the fruits of the bitterest kind.

We of the North are, beyond all question, right in our lawful cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices that form part of their nature, and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slower process of natural change.

Now, the question arises, should we treat as absolute enemies all in the South who differ with us in opinions or prejudices . . . [and] kill or banish them? Or should we give them time to think and gradually change their conduct so as to conform to the new order of things which is slowly and gradually creeping into their country?

When men take arms to resist our rightful authority, we are compelled to use force because all reason and argument ceases when arms are resorted to.

If the people, or any of them, keep up a correspondence with parties in hostility, they are spies, and can be punished with death or minor punishment. These are well established principles of war, and the people of the South having appealed to war, are barred from appealing to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war and must abide its rules and laws.

The United States, as a belligerent party claiming right in the soil as the ultimate sovereign, have a right to change the population, and it may be and it, both politic and best, that we should do so in certain districts. When the inhabitants persist too long in hostility, it may be both politic and right that we should banish them and appropriate their lands to a more loyal and useful population.

No man would deny that the United States would be benefited by dispossessing a single prejudiced, hard-headed and disloyal planter and substitute in his place a dozen or more patient, industrious, good families, even if they be of foreign birth.

It is all idle nonsense for these Southern planters to say that they made the South, that they own it, and that they can do as they please — even to break up our government, and to shut up the natural avenues of trade, intercourse and commerce.

We know, and they know if they are intelligent beings, that, as compared with the whole world they are but as five millions are to one thousand millions — that they did not create the land — that their only title to its use and enjoyment is the deed of the United States, and if they appeal to war they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.

For my part, I believe that this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we are all as a people responsible, viz:  That any and every people has a right to self-government . . . In this belief, while I assert for our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of . . . State Rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and other such trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.

I would advise the commanding officers at Huntsville and such other towns as are occupied by our troops, to assemble the inhabitants and explain to them these plain, self-evident propositions, and tell them that it is for them now to say whether they and their children shall inherit their share.

The Government of the United States has in North-Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war — to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact. If they want eternal warfare, well and good; we will accept the issue and dispossess them, and put our friends in possession. Many, many people, with less pertinacity than the South, have been wiped out of national existence.

To those who submit to the rightful law and authority, all gentleness and forbearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of heaven were allowed a continuance of existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment.”

W.T. Sherman, Major General Commanding

(Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama, William Garrett, Plantation Printing Company’s Press, 1872, pp. 486-488)

 

Wilmot the Hatchet Man

As the North had done earlier, the American South could have dealt with African slavery – a relic of the British colonial labor system and perpetuated by Northern slave traders – in its own time and its own way. Regretfully, no peaceful or practical solutions to the riddle of slavery were forthcoming from the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wilmot the Hatchet Man

“At the time of the Missouri Compromise, anti-slavery Thomas Jefferson, old and dying in his debt-ridden hilltop mansion, had warned the Southerners in Washington that they were making a mistake. Jefferson said that if the South allowed a precedent which admitted the restriction of slavery anywhere, a principle would have been established and the north would use it in gradual encroachments for the restriction of slavery everywhere.

Only sixteen years later, his prophesy came true over the admission of Texas and with the rise of an anti-slavery bloc in Washington.

The Westerners thought [President James] Polk had been less aggressively interested in their expansions, in Oregon and California, than in the Southerners’ movements in the Southwest. The Westerners held a long resentment anyway, because the Southerners chronically opposed internal improvements at government expense for the Midwest and free lands to the immigrants. To retaliate, the Westerners made a new issue over slavery in order to create trouble for Southern projects.

As their hatchet man the Westerners selected David Wilmot, and you will look in vain for national monuments to this political hack from Pennsylvania. Yet, with one unexplainable gesture, he contributed more to the sectional war than any dedicated patriot. As Wilmot had been an administration wheel horse, his independent act is obscure as to motive, except that he was aware of carrying out the Westerners spitefulness.

Specifically (in 1846), to an appropriations bill for the purchase of territory from Mexico, the former wheel horse attached a “proviso” which forbade slavery in any of the new territory to be obtained from Mexico . . . in the Senate only the aroused Southerners narrowly prevented its becoming law.

This Wilmot Proviso alarmed and enraged Southerners of all persuasions. It showed the most Union-loving Nationalists that they were in a fight against containment. The Southern States were to be restricted to their present territory while the North gained new States which would give it majority power.”

(The Land They Fought For, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday & Company, 1955, pp. 31-32)

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

Imprisoned Southern officers were transported to Morris Island near Fort Sumter as used as a human shield in front of Northern batteries indiscriminately shelling Charleston in mid-1864. Those who did not perish from the ordeal would later suffer serious intestinal disorders or early death from their near starvation by the enemy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

“After weary months in Washington, during which time I was shown many kindnesses and attentions from Southern sympathizers, I was carried to Fort Delaware prison. After a lapse of some time I was drawn in with the lot of six hundred officers to be carried to “Morris Island,” to be placed under the fire of our own guns at Charleston. We were crowded in the dark hole of the vessel, only equal to the “Black Hole of Calcutta,” and packed on shelves like goods in a store, without any light or air, except that driven down a shaft by wind-sails.

On our arrival we were put in a “stockade pen,” between “Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg,” and guarded by a Negro regiment. For forty-five days we sat upon the sands and witnessed the burning fuses from bombs, larger than nail-kegs continuously fired night and day by our men at the forts. If they overshot the one or undershot the other they’d hit us. But that God marks the sparrow’s fall, protected us.

On the eve of our leaving for “Hilton Head,” the Negroes on guard fired into some of us. I saw three fall either killed or wounded; they were hurriedly moved out. I never learned their fate.

Three of our number got the cabin maid to steal life preservers from the cabins and quietly slid over-board where sharks were as thick as minnows. Two were exhausted from thirst and lack of food and were captured on PinckneyIsland; the third reached Charleston.

They gave us absolutely nothing at all to eat for forty-five days but a little rotten corn meal filled with black bugs, without salt or anyway to cook it. Our comrades were dying by squads daily, the dead house was filled all the time with the corpses. Scores of cats would enter through holes and prey upon the dead.”

Lt. Col. C.B. Christian, Walker’s Ford, Amherst County, Virginia

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXVII, R.A. Brock, editor, 1909, pp. 241-242)

Witness to Sorrow

Though opposed to his State’s secession, South Carolinian William J. Grayson saw the true face of the Northern-dominated union as Lincoln’s army murdered and plundered his neighbors. In like manner, North Carolina Unionist Edward Stanly, Lincoln’s proconsul in occupied New Bern, lost faith in the conquerors as he witnessed Northern troopships returning north laden with stolen furniture, artwork and jewelry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witness to Sorrow

“For this calamity, this crime of War between North and South, Northern people are chiefly chargeable. The cupidity and intermeddling spirit of New England were the main causes of dissention. Her greedy tariff exaction, her perpetual irritating interference with Negro slavery in the Southern States, her avaricious monopolists & political priests sowed the seed of which we are reaping the natural harvest.

If ever a people destroyed their own prosperity it is the people of New England. They are accustomed to call the brain of New England the brain of the Union — it is the brain of a lunatic who cuts his own throat. No chain of cause and effect in all history is more clearly traceable than the destruction of the Federal Union by Northern folly and madness.

If they succeed in the war they will be the rulers over insurgent provinces ready at the first opportunity to renew the contest. The restoration of the union is an impossibility. There must succeed to it another government with standing armies, enormous taxes and despotic power beneath whose influence Northern liberty will wither and perish. In the early part of November [1861] the Northern government began a series of predatory expeditions on the Southern coast. The first under Sherman and Dupont disembarked at Port Royal. They presented to the world a striking evidence of the ease with which men strain at gnats and swallow camels.

They were prosecuting as felons in New York the captured privateersmen of the South, and were seizing all the cotton and other property of widows, children and noncombatants on the islands of South Carolina, contrary to every usage of civilized war.

The robbery has been approved and applauded throughout the Northern States. They talk with exultation of cultivating the plantations of Port Royal on Federal account as a sort of financial appendage to the Washington government. The rights of the owners are disregarded.

To the people of St. Helena parish and the adjoining country the disaster was incalculable. They lost everything; houses, plantations, Negroes, furniture, clothing. They became fugitives. Northern men engaged formerly in surveying the coast served as guides for the marauding parties. With their wives and children they had spent months in the families of the planters, had eaten dinners and drank wine, and now they acted as pioneers of plunder to the scenes of the feast.

They were better able to discover the stores of old Madeira from having frequently joined the owners in drinking it. Their first question asked of the servants on entering a house from which their cannon had driven the owner was — “where is the wine kept?”

There was something indescribably mean in the conduct of these parties but very characteristic of the people whose officers they were. They are a thrifty race, not scrupulous about the means if their end be attained. Our worthy friends of Massachusetts treat us (as) they did the Indians, witches, Quakers, Baptists and other heretics of earlier times. There are many pious Christians but not a voice is heard in favor of peace. So far as we can judge from their acquiescence in Sewardism, they have fallen into the strange delusion that Christian Charity is consistent with rape, rapine and murder.

They pray and preach not for peace, but for the more earnest prosecution of a bloody war and the enactment of general confiscation acts. They [Northerners] exulted . . . a manifest judgment of Providence on the home of rebels and traitors. They believed that Heaven had put the torch to Southern homesteads to avenge the abolition party and support the cause.”

(Witness to Sorrow, the Antebellum Autobiography of William J. Grayson. University of South Carolina Press, 1990, pp 185-201)

Heathen Vandals Sack St. Paul’s Church

The army of the Confederacy had many German soldiers serving in its ranks, and in particular, Captain Christian Cornehlson’s German Volunteers of Wilmington, North Carolina. This unit, eventually comprising 102 officers and men, were all German-born except for 30. The non-German-born 30 included men of German parentage from other European countries. The wives of these soldiers served with Mrs. Derosset’s Soldiers’ Aid Society, making uniforms, powder bags and bandages – and attending the wounded.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heathen Vandals Sack St. Paul’s Church

“During the decade 1840 to 1850 quite a large number of German settlers came to Wilmington, N.C., and within the next few years the German population of the city had become sufficiently numerous that they were able to organize themselves into a military company under the name of “The German Volunteers.” Fifty-seven officers and men comprised the company.

During the War Between the States these German volunteers, who in the good old days before the war reflected so much credit upon themselves and upon our city, were among the first to volunteer for the defense of the State, and, and Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment, they “bore a record of which one might be proud.”

The Lutheran Synod of North Carolina, learning of the presence of a considerable population of German people in Wilmington, decided that Wilmington might be a fruitful field for missionary activity. With enough Germans to organize a military company of their own, there should be enough Lutherans among them to organize a church.

[The] organization of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilmington, N.C., was effected on Monday, May 31, 1858 [and] Rev. John H. Mengert [of Evansville, Indiana] accepted the call to the field in Wilmington, moving with his family on December 23, 1858.

[The intense sectionalism of 1860 erupted into war] and the effect of this great cataclysm upon the young congregation was most distressing and almost disastrous. When at last the war neared its close and the victorious forces from the North occupied Wilmington, St. Paul’s church edifice was used for military purposes, even the troops’ horses being stabled therein.

Great damage was done to the building and grounds; joists, pews and reading desk were used as fuel in the soldiers’ camp fires, while the beautiful steeple, blackened by smoke, then resembled a huge chimney. With little regard for the sacred character of the building, the soldiers disfigured the inside walls with all sorts of inscriptions.”

(History of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilmington, North Carolina, 1858-1958, Jackson & Bell Company, 1958, pp. 5-6, 12-13)

Witnessing the Bombardment of Fort Sumter

Like many North Carolinians, Alfred Moore Waddell, editor of the Wilmington Daily Herald, was pro-Union before open hostilities commenced in 1861. He supported John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for the presidential ticket in 1860, but patriotically supported North Carolina’s defense and self-determination after secession on May 20th. The following is drawn from www.cfhi.net, “Alfred Moore Waddell, Enlightened Wilmingtonian.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witnessing the Bombardment of Fort Sumter

“On the evening of April 10, 1861, the telegraph operator at the Wilmington office confidentially communicated to me at the [Wilmington Daily] Herald office a telegram that had just passed through from General Beauregard to Jefferson Davis at Richmond, saying that he would open fire on Fort Sumter at 4 a.m., if Major Anderson refused to surrender.

Thereupon I hurried to the old “Manchester Depot” opposite to the Market Street dock on the other side of the [Cape Fear] river, and caught the train for Charleston as it was passing out. I described the trip to a New York audience in 1878 in the following brief sentences:

“I shall never forget that, after a night of great anxiety, and when about twenty miles from the city, just as the first grey streaks began to lighten the eastern sky, and when the silent swamps were wakened only by the rumble of the train, there was distinctly heard a single dull, heavy report like a clap of distant thunder, and immediately following it at intervals of a minute or two, that peculiar measured throb of artillery which was then so new, but afterwards became so familiar to our ears.

The excitement on the train at once became intense, and the engineer, sympathizing with it, opened his valves, and giving free rein to the iron horse, rushed us with tremendous speed into the historic city.

Springing from the train and dashing through the silent streets we entered our hotel, ascended to the roof, and here I experienced sensations which never before or since have been mine. As I stepped into the cupola and looked out upon that splendid harbor, there in the center of its gateway to the sea, half wrapped in the morning mist, lay Sumter, and high above its parapets, fluttering in the morning breeze floated proudly and defiantly the stars and stripes.

In a moment afterwards just above it there was a sudden red flash, and a column of smoke, followed by an explosion, and opposite on James Island, a corresponding puff floated away on the breeze, and I realized with emotion indescribable that I was looking upon a civil war among my countrymen.”

(Some Memories of My Life, Alfred Moore Waddell, Edwards & Broughton Printing, 1908, pp. 53-54)

 

Woe to Me to Live Among Such People

Northerners who brought on the war assumed that the South, like the rest of the country, was their property, and had no right to withdraw from the political Union. Not risking their own lives, they put at risk the lives of many others and essentially raised a bounty-enriched army of foreign and domestic mercenaries, impressed blacks and well-paid substitutes. All this to subdue the South and make it a colonial dependency.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Woe to Me to Live Among Such People

“A Northern woman who was a native of Rhode Island, but who had lived all her married life in the South, returned after her widowhood to Providence to be among her people. The following letter was written by her to my mother [Mrs. Louis T. Wigfall]:

May 13, 1861.

“. . . We are always delighted to hear from you – and indeed your letters and Louis’s are the only comfort we have in this Yankee land surrounded by people who have no sympathy with us, and who only open their mouths to revile the South and utter blood-thirsty threats. This morning an amiable lady wished she had Jeff Davis in front of a big cannon. We now have sufficient proof of how much stronger hate is than love of country.

Where was the patriotism of Massachusetts when the country was at war with the English in 1812? I lived then at the South, and was ashamed of my countrymen who refused to assist in the war. Massachusetts, which was the leading State of New England, refused to let her militia leave the State and when the US troops were withdrawn, to fight in other places, applied to the Federal Government to know whether the expenses of their own militia, who were summoned to defend their own State, would be reimbursed by the Government.

When our capitol at Washington was burned with the President’s House and Treasury buildings, and other public buildings, why did they not go to meet the British? On the contrary, they rejoiced at the English victories, and put every obstacle in the way of the government.

Now they are subscribing millions, and urging every man to go and fight their own countrymen. It is not patriotism; it is hatred to the South and woe is me, that I must live here among such people. God grant you success, It is a righteous war and all the bloodshed will be on the souls of those who brought it on.

I think, however, that you at the South are wrong to undervalue the courage and resources of the Northern States. They are less disposed to fight, but they are not cowardly where their interests are concerned; and will fight for their money. Where their property is at stake they will not hesitate to risk their lives, and at present there is no lack of money.”

(A Southern Girl in ’61, The War-Time Memories of a Confederate Senator’s Daughter, Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1905, pp. 51-53)

 

State Sovereignty Paramount

Jefferson Davis and other West Point graduates of his time were taught from Rawle’s “View of the Constitution,” and understood that should a State subvert its republican form of government, “the national power of the Union could be called forth to subdue it. Yet it is not to be understood that its interposition would be justifiable if a State should determine to retire from the Union . . . The secession of a State . . . depends on the will of the people of such a State.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

State Sovereignty Paramount

“On my way home from Boston I stopped in New York once when the ex-President of our Confederacy and Mrs. Davis were there in the interest of his book, and I went to see them.

“Mr. Davis,” I said, “had I come from the South I should be laden with loving messages from your people. But even in abolition Boston you are held in high esteem as one sincere, honest and earnest.”

“Yes,” he said, “though we disagreed on many issues, I believe I held the respect of my fellow Senators from Massachusetts.”

“But you were not a secessionist in the beginning, Mr. Davis, were you?”

“No; neither in the beginning nor the ending,” he smiled.

“But to me the sovereignty of the State was paramount to the sovereignty of the Union. And I held my seat in the Senate until Mississippi seceded and called upon me to follow and defend her. Then I sorrowfully resigned the position in which my State had placed me and in which I could no longer represent her, and accepted the new work.

I was on my way to Montgomery when I received, much to my regret, the message that I had been elected provisional President of the Confederate States of America. I regretted it then and I have regretted it ever since.”

(Words From Jefferson Davis, Confederate Veteran, March 1913, page 108)

 

The South, Forever Tobacco Road

In the 1930’s, northeastern politicians and reformers once again were concerned about racial customs in the Southern States as both parties pursued the black vote in both sections of the country. FDR used government money and subsidies during the Depression to control Southern leaders, though his courting of labor unions, black communist activists and CPUSA votes would lead to the formation of the Dixiecrat party by 1948.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South, Forever Tobacco Road

“In the North a new school of historians had rewritten the history of the Nation and had presented the South in fair appraisal, and had also made realistic diagnosis and criticism of the northern post-Civil War administration. The South had also made extraordinary strides in nearly all phases of its culture and economy. It had built industry, developed great highways . . . and had, with the cooperation and support of the Northeast, strengthened its colleges and universities, and especially a number of important institutions.

[The] Southern States put their hands to the task [of overcoming the Depression], and through State planning boards, through various technical ways of cooperating with New Deal agencies,  through public works, work relief, agricultural adjustment, through educational cooperation . . . Then a strange thing happened.

And it happened twice, once due to the depression New Deal pressure and once due to the pressure of war, namely, a sudden revivification of the old sectional conflict and recrudescence of the terms “North” and “South.”

The revival of the term “The South,” in so far as the national administration was concerned . . . came about in two ways. One was typified by in the now noted slogan that the South was the Nation’s Economic Problem Number One. The South was Tobacco Road. It was again missionary territory. But whatever it was, it was “The South.”

In the second place, “The South” came to be synonymous with conservatism or reactionary policies due to the opposition of Southern senators and congresssmen, and of State governors and leaders to many of the New Deal policies. “What else could you expect, he is a Southerner?” came to be a common refrain. And then “The South,” with its usual sensitiveness and defense resentfulness revived with a vengeance the term “The North” which was again “trying to make the South over.”

And even more than the depression New Deal, the coming of the war . . . brought about an intensification of the North-South conflict, due, of course, to the South’s racial segregation, culture and laws. The Nation realized suddenly that its ideas of the American Dream guaranteed to all its citizens equal rights and opportunities, and that, while it had gone to war for global democracy, it had in its own two regions a negation of such democracy. And so there was the ever-recurring question, “what can be done about the South?”

And there were increasingly articulate individuals and agencies, private and public, setting themselves to the task of “making” the South change. The net result has been an unbelievable revival of the bitterness implied in the old “North” and “South,” what time the South resents what it calls northern interference and what time the North tries to coerce the South again.”

(In Search of the Regional Balance of America. Howard W. Odum, editor, UNC Press, 1945, pp. 18-19)

 

Federal Judges and Subjugated States

Virginia Governor J. Lindsay Almond was not surprised by the new moral code being forced by federal judges and did his best to confront it. His State had already witnessed the degradation of education caused by forced racial integration in the nearby District of Columbia, and wanted none of it for their children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Federal Judges and Subjugated States

“On January 19, 1959, came the legal rejection of massive resistance that Governor [J. Lindsay] Almond expected. Both the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and a three-judge federal district court ruled, in separate cases, that the anti-desegregation statues adopted in 1956 were illegal and invalid. When the beleaguered governor went on television two days later to announce his response to the court rulings, his tone was strident and his message was one of continued defiance. An impassioned Almond told Virginians:

“To those in high places or elsewhere who advocate integration for your children and send their own to private or public segregated schools, to those who defend or close their eyes to the livid stench of sadism, sex immorality and juvenile pregnancy infesting the mixed schools of the District of Columbia and elsewhere; to those who would overthrow the customs, morals and traditions of a way of life which has endured in honor and decency for centuries and embrace a new moral code prepared by nine men in Washington whose moral concepts they know nothing about . . . to all these and their confederates, comrades and allies, let me make it abundantly clear for the record now and hereafter, as governor of this State, I will not yield to that which I know to be wrong and will destroy every semblance of education for thousands of the children of Virginia.”

(The Dynamic Dominion, Realignment and the Rise of Virginia’s Republican Party Since 1945, Frank B. Atkinson, George Mason University Press, 1992, pp. 1104-105)

 

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