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Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

The New York City draft riot of mid-1863 was the desperate result of dwindling Northern enlistments after a bloody 1862, little Northern military success to show for its invasion of the South, and Lincoln’s conversion of the war to one of emancipation, which few in the North were willing to die for. With Lincoln’s conscription implemented, Northern governors feared losing the next election and began raising monies to fund exemptions for their constituents as well as bounty money to attract the poor, released prisoners and foreigners into the army of emancipation.

Further, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew sent his State agents into the occupied South to acquire black “recruits” who would count against his State’s troop quota established by Lincoln.

In New York’s Oswego County, “the Republican Times advocated the recruitment of Negroes to fill the ranks and delay the draft” (Oswego County’s Response to the Civil War, New York History, Jan. 1961, pg. 79). Oswego County later sent a delegation to occupied Newport News, “for the purpose of procuring substitutes among the freedmen,” and expecting they could be hired cheaply.

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

“July 21. Tuesday [1863].

The N.Y. Herald of 16th had been received, & its accounts quoted by today’s papers. The riot had continued through third day, (Wednesday, 15th,) without abatement. Several severe conflicts had taken place between the military & “the people” . . . “Negroes greatly persecuted, & 3 hung.” A great flight of Negroes from the city — & also many of the superior inhabitants . . . “The (City) Council has appropriated $2,500,000 for conscripts.”

This last incident is the most important of all. The city government has by this action completely submitted to the mob, & agreed to pay, out of the property of those citizens who possess property, for the exemption from military service of all conscripts of the city who have no property. This is a far more signal victory to the rioters than was the suspension of the draft.

It [the draft] may now be safely resumed & carried out, without annoyance to the conscripts, as the payment for their exemption is fixed in advance & at the expense of other people . . . The procedure is equivalent to offering a reward of $300 (the price for exemption) to every rioter who would have been liable to conscription.

This is enough to induce like riots in every other Yankee town. And before the operation of this additional incentive, like riots, or disturbances, but less violent & destructive than in New York, had broken out in sundry other places – at Brooklyn, Troy, Newark, Yorkville, Harlem, Jamaica, Westchester, & elsewhere.

July 25. Saturday [1863].

The [New York City] draft is not to be renewed for a week . . . waiting until a full force of 35,000 men shall be arrayed in the city to restrain the populace, & enforce the execution of the draft. Then, I think, there will be more serious & bloody work than before . . . the army, with artillery and grape-shot in every street, may restrain important outbreaks in the city . . .

The like policy of buying exemptions of the poor, is under discussion in the public councils of Philadelphia, & $2,000,000 is the appropriation proposed. It will operate like the policy of the sinking western Roman empire in buying the mercy & the retreat of the invading hosts of barbarians, when threatening to enter to sack and burn the city of Rome.

In the meantime, [editor Horace] Greeley, through the [New York] “Tribune,” (the organ of the thorough abolitionists,) is calling upon the federal power to carry out the draft, & to crush all opposition by overwhelming military force.”

(The Diary of Edmund Ruffin, Volume III, A Dream Shattered: June 1863-June 1865, William K. Scarborough, editor, 1989, LSU Press, excerpts pp. 74-75; 83)

Empty Professions of Good Will

Col. William B. Saunders was a postwar North Carolina editor who witnessed the devastation of war and “set to work to protect the victims from the vultures.” He worked to counter the Republican party’s “secret Union League by means of which the scum of the receding armies had banded together the credulous blacks in sworn hostility to their former friends . . . The Radical [Republican] party [began the secret order] for selfish purposes such as the intimidation of the old electorate – what was left of it . . .”

Empty Professions of Good Will

“He was fond of illustrating the meaninglessness of all the “logomachy,” as the country people call it, and the gush about reconciliation, the blue and the gray, etc., by reciting an incident that occurred at Charleston, South Carolina, when the crack Boston [theatrical] company visited that city not long after the war.

In the Boston company was an officer who had been a college mate at Harvard of an officer in the Charleston [Republican] Blues. After all the speech-making was through and when these two chums had retired to the Charlestonian’s residence, to smoke a farewell cigar, the Boston man asked his Charleston friend to tell him in very truth if the fire-eating South Carolinians were in earnest in all their professions of good will.

“Hush,” the Charlestonian cautioned him. “We are just as much in earnest as you Boston Yankees are.”

(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Press, 1927, excerpts pg. 129)

Fears of Negro Immigration

The suppressed fear in the North was that blacks would flock to their cities and work for lower wages than white laborers. This would have pleased Northern capital’s understanding of free labor as workers were paid wages, but were responsible for themselves, for food, housing and medical care, when not in the factory. Northern capitalists were assured by abolitionists that the new black farmers would have much disposable income with which to purchase products from Northern manufacturers. It should be kept in mind that after their plantation homes and crops were burned by Northern troops, the black family had no alternative but to follow the invader for scraps of food and menial work. Also, as black men were taken into the US Colored Troops organization, they served under white officers, while Southern units were integrated.

Fears of Negro Immigration

“History will record,” William Bickham wrote from the Peninsula, “the only friends of the Union found by this army in Eastern Virginia [were] Negro slaves.” So eager were the fugitives to do their bit, according to a New York Post correspondent in Louisiana, that when a thousand of them were asked, at one camp, if they would work their old plantations for pay, the show of hands was unanimous.

A good number of conservative orators were frightening laboring audiences [in the North] with the warning that the Negroes were all too willing to work. If set free, the argument ran, they would drift northward and crowd white men out of jobs.

An army correspondent of the Chicago Tribune stepped into the breach with the answer to that . . . [and] assured his readers that the Negroes “did not wish to remove to the cold frigid North. This climate is more genial, and here is their home. Only give them a fair remuneration for their labor, and strike off their shackles, and the good people of Illinois need not trouble themselves at the prospect of Negro immigration.

As a matter of fact, many [Northern] officers and men were genuinely opposed to releasing “contrabands” from camp on practical as well as political or sentimental grounds. Three war correspondents, sweating through the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in mid-1862, had domestic arrangements typical of many members of the expedition.

They shared the services of Bob and Johnny, two black youths who blacked boots, pressed clothes, cooked, ran errands and more or less gentled their employers’ condition for monthly wages totaling six and twelve dollars.

Charles Coffin and Albert Richardson [of the Boston Journal], at the same locale, made joint use of a tent an “African factotum” who awoke them . . . each morning with a call of “Breakfast ready.” Newspapermen at Ben Butler’s headquarters [were under] the care of a black chef.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 242-244)

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

Lincoln set out to cultivate the German vote while campaigning for the first Republican candidate John C. Fremont in 1856, using the popular expression “God Bless the Dutch” (Deutsche) at rallies. In this, Lincoln had to distance himself from the Republican party’s absorption of nativist “Know-Nothing” party members who distrusted foreigners. To further his own presidential ambitions in 1860, he purchased a German language newspaper in Springfield, Illinois – the result was that German Protestants and refugee 1848 revolutionists helped assure him of the presidential nomination.

Lincoln repaid his important German supporters with patronage positions: Carl Schurz became the United States Minister to Spain; Herman Kreismann to the Berlin legation; Georg Wiss, Consul to Rotterdam; George Schneider, Consul to Denmark; Theodore Canisius, Consul at Vienna; Johann Hatterscheidt, Consul to Moscow; Charles Bernays, Consul at Zurich; Heinrich Boernstein, Consul at Bremen. Other German-born naturalized American citizens receiving European consulates included August Wolff, August Alers, and Francis Klauser. To former Prussian military officers went regiments, brigades and preferential promotions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

“The proportion of foreigners grew from 13 percent to 19 percent. For all these newcomers to Illinois, the Homestead [Act] was the promise of an easy settlement in the West. Among them, foreigners, especially the Germans, constituted a particularly active and militant group in favor of the Homestead. It was, in fact, in response to the Germans of Cincinnati in 1861 that Lincoln would make his first declaration on the subject.

Lincoln entrusted to Gustave Koerner, the direction of efforts extended toward the Germans. Koerner, a lawyer from Belleville, put him in touch with [Theodore] Canisius, editor in chief of the Frei Presse of Alton, and, on May 30, 1860, Lincoln confided to the latter the management of the Illinois Staats Anzeiger, which he had recently acquired. An important role went to Friedrich Hecker, hero of [the] 1848 [German socialist revolution], who . . . established himself as the principal organizer among Germans . . .

In the person of Koerner, Lincoln brought into his campaign a moderate anti-slavery man who had broken with [Stephen] Douglas in 1854, two years after being elected lieutenant governor of Illinois.

By 1860 Lincoln enjoyed several advantages with German voters. He was known as the main adversary to nativism within the Illinois Republican party. The Caucus of German delegates at the [Republican’s 1860] Chicago Convention brought together . . . Caspar Butz, former Forty-eighter and representative in the Illinois house . . . Keorner; Hecker; George Schnieder, the founder of the Illinois Staats Zeitung and a collaborator of Lincoln since 1856 . . . and Joseph Weydemeyer, a former Prussian artillery officer, friend of [Karl] Marx, editor of the Voice of the People [Stimme des Volkes] in Chicago in 1860, genera of a Missouri regiment, and principal correspondent of Marx and Engels on military questions in the Civil War.”

(Lincoln, Land and Labor, 1809-1860, Olivier Fraysse, University of Illinois Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 138-141)

Other Voices of the North

Charles H. Lamphier, editor of the Illinois State Register in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, referred to the president as “the ineffable despot, who, by some inscrutable dispensation of Providence presides over the destinies of this vast republic.” Lincoln’s reelection victory led Lamphier to write that “this result is the heaviest calamity that ever befell this nation . . . the farewell to civil liberty, to a republican form of government . . . his election has filled our hearts with gloom.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Other Voices of the North

“On the Fourth of July, when Lee’s army was dragging itself from the [Gettysburg] battlefield, the North was electrified by news that Vicksburg had fallen. But the national holiday also heard voices in the North declaring the people had lost their liberties. Franklin Pierce, former President of the United States, spoke to 25,000 at Concord, N.H., denouncing the war as “sectional and parricidal.”

“Even here in the loyal States,” he said, “the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on a desecrated Constitution.”

New York’s Governor [Horatio] Seymour – who deplored the election of Lincoln as a “great calamity,” made formal protests against “arbitrary arrests,” and vetoed a bill to permit soldiers in the field to vote on grounds it was unconstitutional – spoke before a large audience at the Academy of Music in New York City.

He asserted that not only was there a “bloody civil war” in progress but that a “second revolution” was threatening in the North because of the hostility between the two political parties. Then he said, “Remember that the bloody, and treasonable, and revolutionary doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government.”

Benjamin Wood, Democratic Congressman and editor of the New York Daily News, published an editorial attack on President Lincoln, charging that he was trying to preach “passive submission,” through the columns of [John W.] Forney’s Chronicle at Washington. The editorial spoke of the Chronicle as “the salaried organ of the bloodstained criminals at Washington.”

[Many German language] newspapers deserted Lincoln . . . [such as] the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger of Springfield, a newspaper once secretly owned by him. In announcing its break with Lincoln, the newspaper said:

“Reviewing the history of the last four years, nothing is left to us but to cut loose decidedly and forever from Lincoln and his policy, and to protest against his reelection under all circumstances and at any price. No reasons of expediency can influence us ever to ever accept Lincoln as our President again . . .”

(Lincoln and the Press, Robert S. Harper, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1951, excerpts pp. 271-272; 304)

Fake News from Crusading Correspondents

Criticizing Northern writers who claimed to report objectively on conditions in the South, novelist William Faulkner wrote in March 1956 that “The rest of the United States knows next to nothing about the South. The present idea and picture which they hold of a people decadent and even obsolete through inbreeding and illiteracy . . . The rest of the United States assumes that this condition . . . is so simple and so uncomplex that it can be changed tomorrow by the simple will of the national majority backed by legal edict.”

The book excerpted below was dedicated by the author to David Lawrence, well-respected and truthful editor of the US News and World Report in the 1950s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News from Crusading Corrrespondents

“[Most] of the writers who have poured into the South in race-baiting assignments had neither admitted nor allowed for their prejudices. They have listened, with varying degrees of politeness, to the explanations and protestations of their white Southern informants, and have discounted what they heard. A considerable number . . . “have left a bad taste, sometimes repaying with ill-humored misrepresentations the courtesy of their Southern hosts.

The Northern correspondents who “invaded” the South to make first-hand reports on the segregation situation made the local newspaper their first call, there to “pick the brains” of fellow-journalists who had been living there for years. Almost invariably – until Southern patience began to wear thin under the constant friction of misrepresentation, omission and distortion of the reports which appeared as a result of such interviews – the Northerners were accorded every courtesy . . .

If the crusading correspondent ran out of reportorial adjectives with which to color his dispatches, he could always turn to the stock cast of characters which fill the “literary” works of those apostate Southerners who have found profit in despoiling their own heritage.

But one Southerner who made his mark without wallowing too much in such garbage is Robert C. Ruark, a North Carolinian who paid his respects in January 1957 to the “realistic” writers who achieved notoriety through serving up an adulterated potion of “po white trash.” Ruark wrote:

“One of these days . . . I am going to write a book about the South which is not littered with clay-eaters, lint-headed mill hands, idiots, itinerant preachers, juvenile delinquents, morons, slatterns, cripples, freaks and other characters who don’t wash, live off sardines and soft drinks, hang around bus stations, and breed merrily within the family . . .

. . . It is possible to grow up in the South without a full chorus of nymphomaniacs, drunkards, Negro-lynchers, randy preachers, camp meetings, hookworm, albinos, dirty hermits, old mad women, and idiot relatives to form your early impressions. But the literary output of the last 25 years wouldn’t have it so . . .”

(The Case for the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair Company, 1969, excerpts pp. 69-70; 72-73)

German Patriots of the South

In late antebellum years German immigrants were found in Virginia, North Carolina, New Orleans, and Texas. The German-language New Orleans Zeitung wrote that the war was “indeed of conquest and subjugation,” and called Lincoln the “personification of despotism.” Wilmington’s “German Volunteers,” which became Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment, was led by Captain Christian Cornehlson. All but 30 of the 102 men in the company were natives of Germany; 26 of the 30 were born in North Carolina of German parentage.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

German Patriots of the South

“The Germans felt it wrong that the North, after selling its slaves to the South, should attempt to force the slaveholders to free their slaves without compensation. Furthermore on the question of commercial independence many of the Germans shared the free-trade principles of their Anglo-Saxon Southern neighbors.

They resented the high tariff, firmly believing that Northern manufacturers under its protection extorted tribute from every inhabitant of the South on almost every article he purchased, and demanded that the wrong should be corrected.

Like other residents of the South, they could not escape the fear, aroused by the John Brown raid, of possible Negro insurrections. It must not be forgotten that, while opposed to slavery, they, like [Robert E.] Lee, preferred to see it abolished in a lawful, peaceable manner.

Where the Germans took up arms voluntarily, they did do for the perpetuation of liberty, as they saw it through the lens of Confederate constitutionalism, not for the striking of the chains from the Negro, but for the casting off of political and economic shackles from the limbs of the whites.

On [November 30, 1860 the editor of the Richmond Anzeiger] spoke out on the political crisis which he called “long anticipated” and declared that Lincoln’s election “on a platform which openly mocks Southern rights guaranteed by the Constitution must lead to a decision of the pending crisis.” He later pointed to various fugitive slave laws of the Northern States as proof it was the North which had produced the crisis by its disregard of the Federal laws.

He asserted that if the Northern States would repeal those obnoxious laws, the conservative elements of the South would seize the hand of friendship thus expended and would regard a secessionist as a high traitor to the common fatherland.”

(Foreigners in the Confederacy, Ella Lonn, UNC Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 41-44)

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

Early in the war, radical Republicans in Congress exerted great pressure upon Lincoln to wage total war against the South – these were the same ones who refused to enter into compromise with Southern congressmen to avoid war. Austin Blair of Michigan declared that “No property of a rebel ought to be free from confiscation . . . the Union forces should be hurled like a thunderbolt at the rebels: pay the soldiers from the rebel’s property, feed them from his granaries, mount them upon his horses.” The South was to be turned into a devastated wasteland, its people impoverished, and the new colony governed by military law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

By the beginning of 1862 the abolitionists had grown disgusted with Lincoln’s cautious Border State policy. Not all the developments of 1861 had been to their liking, and they began the new year with a new determination to destroy slavery, to rid the nation of the dangers of Southern domination, and to control the South.

“The thing we seek,” explained a Massachusetts colonel to Governor [John] Andrew, “is permanent dominion: & what instance is there of a permanent dominion without changing, revolutionizing, absorbing, the institutions, life and manners of the conquered peoples?”

And he added with scorn: “They think we mean to take their slaves. Bah! We must take their ports, their mines, their water power, the very soil they plow, and develop them by the hands of our artisan armies . . . We are to be a regenerating, colonizing power, or we are to be whipped. Schoolmasters with howitzers, must instruct our Southern brethren that they are a set of d—d fools in everything that relates to modern civilization.” The migration and settlement of Yankees on Southern soil, explained the colonel, must follow success in battle.

Thus the lure of loot infused a crusade whose banners bore the words of freedom. On the day after New Year’s, Horace Greeley [proclaimed in Washington that] the real object of the war must be slavery’s destruction. The audience, fully packed with an abolitionist claque, applauded loudly . . . and it gave vehement approval to the orator’s assertion that “rebels have no right to own anything.”

“The world moves and the Yankee is Yankeeized,” added the Chicago Tribune as it urged its readers to write their congressmen.

In Congress, where the radical Committee on the Conduct of the War was preparing to launch its career as director of the abolitionist crusade, men heard repeated talk about reducing the Southern States to territories, appointing Northern governors to rule over them, and maintaining an army of occupation to implement the eventual exploitation of the conquered land.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 199-233-234)

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

The “glittering prize” of political party victory was control of the distribution of political offices, and Lincoln astutely arranged the patronage to control his party as well as keep jealous competitors at bay. The Collectors of Customs posts were most important, and were decisive in Lincoln’s decision for war rather than lose his tariff money and appointing powers.  Count Gurowski, the Polish immigrant and political gadfly mentioned below, believed in the European tradition that “treason” was simple opposition to royalty. In the United States, however, Article III, Section 3, defines treason only as waging war against “them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

“The arduous task of cabinet-making was far from completed before Lincoln was beset with a swarm of office-seekers. Indeed, Washington was a veritable mecca for patronage mongers bent upon securing consulships, Indian agencies, postmaster-ships, or anything else in the gift of the appointing power [of the President].

Those who witnessed the rush of job hunters could not easily forget the spectacle. Wrote home a Michigan Congressman: “The City is overwhelmed with a crowd of rabid, persistent office-seekers – the like never was experienced before in the history of the Government.”

An Indiana member reminisced later: “I met at every turn a swarm of miscellaneous people, many of them looking as hungry and fierce as wolves, and ready to pounce upon members [of Congress] as they passed, begging for personal intercessions, letters of recommendations, etc. . . . the scuffle for place was unabated.”

And the eccentric Count Adam Gurowski, viewing the scene, confided to his diary in this same month of March 1861 his impressions:

“What a run, a race for offices. This spectacle likewise new to me. The Cabinet Ministers, or, as they call them here, the Secretaries, have old party debts to pay, old sores to avenge or to heal, and all this by distributing offices, or by what they call it here, the patronage. They, the leaders, hope to create engines for their own political security, but no one seems to look over Mason and Dixon’s line to the terrible and with lightning-like velocity spreading fire of hellish treason.”

Politically and financially, the collectors of customs posts were among the most important at the disposal of the Administration. That at the metropolis of the Empire State was the most lucrative. “There is no situation in the U. States which enables the incumbent to exert such influence . . . as the Collectorship of New York,” one political observer had written in the 1840’s; to another this position was second only in influence to that of Postmaster-General.”

Under the caption “Fat Offices of New York,” Horace Greeley’s Tribune informed its readers in 1860 that ranking first in importance and revenue was the collectorship, with its fixed salary of $6,340, and some $20,000 more in the form of “pickings and fees.” Before Lincoln’s first administration had run its four years, the Surveyor of the Port estimated the number of employees in the New York Custom House at 1,200 and the assessment on their salaries for political party purposes at 2 percent.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 53-54; 59-60)

 

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

The prime object in establishing the Constitution in 1787 was to insure domestic tranquility, and even the New York Tribune itself editorialized in November and December 1860 that: “We hold with Jefferson to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become oppressive or injurious . . . we insist on letting them go in peace.” New York, in its ratification of the Constitution in 1787, expressly reserved the right to secede should it determine the need. The author below rightly sums up the Southern peace initiatives: “Well might the Southern leaders have adopted for their own the language of the Psalmist, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” It is then clear the immediate cause of the war was the Republican Party, and its refusal to pursue peaceful solutions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

“Nor did [President Jefferson Davis] content himself with mere words of peace. He acted promptly on the resolution from Congress and appointed three commissioners from our government to the government of the United States. “These commissioners,” says Mr. Stephens, “were clothed with plenary powers to open negotiations for the settlement of all matters of joint property, forts, arsenals, arms, or property of any kind within the limits of the Confederate States, and all joint liabilities with their former associates, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Let me ask, could anything have been fairer?

These commissioners promptly proceeded on their way. A few days after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln at Washington they formally notified his Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, that “the President, Congress and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution” of pending questions between the two governments.

Suffice it to say that it was through no fault of these commissioners, or of the people and government they represented, that their mission of peace and goodwill to their late allies of the North came to naught.

Yet another effort for peace was made from a Southern official quarter in those portentous, ominous months following the sectional victory at the polls in November 1860. The Border Southern States were yet within the old union, hoping against hope for continued union, peace and justice. Among these Border States was Virginia, the oldest, most powerful of them all. By unanimous vote of her Legislature all the States of the union were invited to send delegates to a conference, to devise a plan for preserving harmony and constitutional union.

This conference met in Washington, February 4, 1861, the very day on which the Congress of the seceded Cotton States assembled in Montgomery. The demands or suggestions of the South in this Peace Congress were only that constitutional obligations should be observed by all parties; nay, that certain concessions to the North would be agreed to, by means of constitutional amendment, if only the constitution, as thus amended, might be obeyed.

This did not suit commissioners from the Northern States, as was bluntly stated by one of them, then and there. Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, who was slated for a portfolio in Lincoln’s cabinet, and therefore spoke at least quasi ex cathedra. So the Peace Congress proved of no avail.

We find a similar situation in the Congress of the United States at its regular session that winter. Of the condition there Mr. Pollard says, in his book “The Lost Cause”: “It is remarkable that of all the compromises proposed in this Congress for preserving the peace of the country, none came from the Northern men; they came from the South and were defeated by the North.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 26-28)

 

 

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