Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Americans Treated as Enemies

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Americans Treated as Enemies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

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

Bernhard Thuersam,www.circa1865.org

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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)

 

Expecting Unending Federal Interference

In no way was the North a monolithic unit against the American South during the War, and many the Northern Democratic party criticized Lincoln’s policy’s though at the risk of imprisonment. Though the abolition of slavery was a noble effort, they saw free government as more precious.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Expecting Unending Federal Interference

“[“Samuel “Sunset”] . . . Cox concluded once again that the purpose of the war was being perverted; the Union soldiers had been deceived, for “they never went into a crusade for abolition.” He pronounced [The Freedman’s Bureau] bill “sweeping and revolutionary” in its effect since “it begins a policy for this Federal Government of limited and express powers, so latitudinarian that the whole system is changed” into a centralized, unitary government, operating “by edict and bayonet, by sham election and juggling proclamation.” [He said] The way to peace was to “restore the Union through compromise” not by “military governors for rebellious provinces.”

As reports reached Washington that Southerners were freeing their slaves for use in the army, it was clear that the end of slavery would not be a bar to negotiations for a restored Union. So on January 21, 1865, as Cox recorded later, “I fully intended . . . to cast my vote for the amendment.” He had explained his position at length several weeks earlier.

Conceding the power to amend the Constitution to abolish slavery . . . Cox preferred to leave the question “to the States individually.” He had urged a policy of non-intervention by the government in the slave question ever since “I first came to this Congress.” Slavery “is to me the most repugnant of all human institutions,” but the principle of “self-government” by the States over their own affairs “was even more precious than the end of human bondage,” for, if the federal government could intervene in this matter, then federal interference could be expected in all domestic matters.

Most important of all, however, was the Union. If peace with Union could be achieved “by the abolition of slavery, I would vote for it.” But if abolition “is an obstacle in the way of restoring the Union,” as Cox felt it was at the moment . . . then he would vote against it.”

(“Sunset” Cox, Irrepressible Democrat, David Lindsey, Wayne State University Press, 1959, pp. 91-94)

 

An Exemplar for Generations to Come

General Jubal Early notes in his “Narrative of the War Between the States”: “On the 24th of May [1861], the day after the election in Virginia ratifying the ordinance of secession, the Federal troops . . . crossed over from Washington into Virginia, the bands playing and the soldiers singing “John Brown’s soul goes marching on”; and John Brown’s mission was, subsequently, but too well carried out in Virginia and all the Southern States under the inspiration of that anthem.” Slavery may have cause secession, but secession was the cause of invasion and war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Exemplar for Generations to Come

“[It] was believed by many persons that a large party at the North would oppose the prosecution of a war of invasion. It will be remembered by those at all conversant with the history of events at that time, how strong had been the party opposed to secession in the Convention then in session at Richmond (at least two-thirds of its members having been elected as Union men), and what strenuous efforts towards peace and compromise had been made by the Border States Commissioners.

The call upon Virginia, by President Lincoln, for her quota of troops to aid in subjugating the South, had settled the question, however, in the Convention; and in a few hours after Governor Letcher’s reply to that call, Virginia had virtually cast her lot with the Gulf States, although two weeks elapsed before she became a member of the Confederacy.

I had visited, some months previous to the secession of the State, many of the little villages in New England, where I saw that the population were in terrible earnest. “Wide awake,” and other secret societies were organized; and inflammatory harangues aroused the populace. The favorite theme of the orators was the “martyrdom” of John Brown; the piratical and murderous raid of that fanatic into the State of Virginia being exalted into a praiseworthy act of heroism.

When I returned to Virginia and contrasted the apparent apathy and want of preparation there with the state of affairs at the North, I trembled for the result. But when the State severed her relations with the Union, the Governor acted with great vigor and ability, and the most was made of the limited resources at his command. Volunteers responded with alacrity to the call to defend the State from invasion; and none responded more readily, or served more bravely, than those who had opposed secession in the Convention.

It seems invidious to cite particular examples; but the “noblest Trojan of them all” will point a moral, and serve as an exemplar for generations to come. Wise in council, eloquent in debate, bravest and coolest among the brave in battle, and faithful to his convictions in adversity, he still lives to denounce falsehood and wrong. Truly the old hero, in all he says and does, “gives the world assurance of a man.” I allude to General J[ubal] A. Early.”

(The Narrative of a Blockade Runner, John Wilkinson, (reprint) Valde Books, 1876/2009 pp. 4-5)

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)