Browsing "No Compromise"

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

The war of 1861-1865 seemed a violent replay of the 1800 election between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson – and settling the question of whether New England or Virginia would dominate and guide the country. Author Russell Kirk observed in 1953 that “The influence of the Virginia mind upon American politics expired in the Civil War,” and that it would take 100 years for the ideas of a limited central government and free market ideas to begin a recovery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

“Beginning with the modern civil-rights movement in the late 1950s, it became popular and “politically correct” to proclaim that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of abolishing slavery and therefore was a just and great war. This gave the civil-rights movement much of its momentum, but it also served to injure race relations severely, and further, to mask the immense and disastrous costs of the Civil War, which included the deaths of 620,000 soldiers.

The destruction of the South and its Jeffersonian ideals of a free market, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and a limited central government were replaced by the ideals of Hamilton, thereby completely transforming the American government created by its founders.

The Civil War was, in effect, a new constitutional convention held on the battlefield, and the original document was drastically amended by force in order to have a strong centralized federal government, which was closely allied with industry in the North.

Foreign policy would now become heavily influenced by the economic interests of big business rather than by any concern for the freedom of the individual. Domestic policies of regulation, subsidy and tariff would now benefit big business at the expense of small business and the general population.

Beginning with the end of the Civil War, the American mind and policy would become molded into the image of Hamilton rather than Jefferson.”

(The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, editor, 1999, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 27-28)

Military Mission Against South Carolina

The North’s war against the South could be said to have truly begun in 1854 Kansas, or Harper’s Ferry in 1859, or when the James Buchanan-ordered “Star of the West” left its dock at New York Harbor. This passenger ship had 200 officers and men concealed below decks along with munition of war, and escorted by the warship USS Brooklyn.  This episode brings up the question of treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution: “. . . shall consist only in levying war against Them.” Buchanan was levying war against one of “Them,” a State. Lincoln would do the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Military Mission Against South Carolina

“When historians talk of the “first shot” of the Civil War it is a matter of disagreement. The men on the spot in Charleston Harbor Jan. 9, 1861, thought they knew when the first shot came. It was fired when a Citadel cadet at a battery half-concealed in the sand hills of Morris Island sent a ball whistling across the bow of a steamer named “Star of the West.”

The “Star of the West” wore a huge US ensign on her foretruck when he steamed up the Main Ship Channel . . . Her ‘tween decks were crowded with US soldiers. Otherwise, she was out of character as a ship employed on a vital military mission.

The “Star of the West” was a passenger liner, diverted from her run between New York and New Orleans for this business of bringing reinforcements to Maj. Robert Anderson in Fort Sumter.

That is why Gen. Winfield Scott, the aging general-in-chief at Washington had picked her for this task. Gen. Scott had an idea the “Star of the West” could do what a warship could not do – steam into Charleston Harbor without arousing the suspicions of South Carolinians.

Army headquarters had ordered strict security thrown about the “Star’s” mission, but somebody had leaked the news. The politicians had it first, and then the newspapers. Long before the “Star of the West” arrived off Charleston Bar, it was gossip on the streets of Charleston that the Yankees had decided to send reinforcements to Fort Sumter.

The newly-erected battery which Citadel cadets had just built near the northern end [of Morris Island] was alerted. [At first light] the “Star” steamed boldly across the bar, flushing the South Carolina guardship “Gen. Clinch” before her [which signaled] the alarm with flares and rockets.

With daylight coming on, Lt. Charles J. Woods, commander of the troops aboard the [Star”], took pains to make the ship look like a peaceful merchantman. A swish and a splash announced the arrival of a shot across the bow . . . [shortly afterward a] shot struck the side of the “Star” below the feet of the leadsman. To reach Sumter, the “Star” would have to pass within a thousand yards of [the Fort Moultrie gunners].

A gun was fired from Moultrie. Lt. Woods looked at Sumter hoping for a sign of recognition or assistance . . . but no gunfire came from Sumter’s walls. Another shot from Moultrie. Another.

Woods decided not to take the chance. [The Star’s] Capt. McGowan, shaken by the encounter with the battery in the dunes, ordered the wheel to put over [and steam northward].”

(Steamer Fails to Aid Sumter, Arthur M. Wilcox, The Civil War at Charleston, A.W. Wilcox & Warren Ripley, 1966, excerpts pp. 10-11)

Havoc in 1864 New York City

In mid-July of 1864, opposition to Lincoln’s oppressive regime made him see his reelection as improbable, despite offering prestigious governmental posts to newspaper opponents. Even Thurlow Week, recognized as a great political seer in New York, told Lincoln in early August 1864 “that his reelection was an impossibility.” Though Lincoln’s faction-ridden party was collapsing in the face of McClellan’s candidacy and wide support, the War Department’s manipulation of the soldier vote, and monitored election polls, resulted in Lincoln’s victory.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Havoc in 1864 New York City

“Francis P. Blair, Lincoln’s friend, support and father of Montgomery Blair, the postmaster general, went to New York City in the hope of waylaying [General George B.] McClellan’s [presidential] candidacy. [Publisher] James Gordon Bennett . . . advised Blair, “Tell him [Lincoln] to restore McClellan to the army and he will carry the election by default.”

The month of August 1864 was so depressing for the Republicans that the Democrats had good reason to dream of glory. [Former New York City Mayor] Fernando Wood . . . had said “that the national [Democratic Party] was unqualifiedly opposed to the further prosecution of the war of emancipation and extermination now being waged against the seceded States, and will continue to demand negotiation, reconciliation and peace.”

The more moderate August Belmont sounded no less harsh when he addressed the Chicago convention. “Four years of misrule,” he said, “by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party have brought our country to the very verge of ruin.” Four more years of Lincoln would bring “utter disintegration of our whole political and social system amidst bloodshed and anarchy.”

Also in August the Confederates dealt a demoralizing blow to New York City. The Confederate steamer Tallahassee audaciously captured two Sandy Hook pilot boats off New York Harbor, bringing the war close to home. The rebel ship laid in wait for outbound vessels and in less than two weeks, according to official records, destroyed or damaged more than thirty ships. Some estimates ran as high as fifty-four ships destroyed, and insurance men shivered over the consequences.

John Taylor Wood, grandson of President Zachary Taylor and captain of the Tallahassee . . . longed to create havoc in New York. He knew which ships were in port from newspapers he had taken from captured ships, and he hoped to set fire to the ships in the harbor, blast the navy yard in Brooklyn, and then escape into Long Island Sound.

During these unpleasant days, [Lincoln] called for five hundred thousand more men for the army. [This] prompted John Mullaly to publish an article called “The Coming Draft” in his paper . . . which resulted in his arrest for counseling Governor Seymour and others to resist the draft. [Mullaly] . . . continued to express his belief that the South had the right to select its own government and that the North “in the endeavor to force her into a compulsory Union is violating the principle of universal suffrage, which we claim to be the foundation of our democratic system. By this right we shall continue to stand, for it is a right older and more valuable than the Union itself.”

(The Civil War and New York City, Ernest A. McKay, Syracuse University Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 269-270; 272-273)

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

Ben McCulloch (1811-1862) of Tennessee was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a Texas Ranger, major-general in the Texas Militia, a major in the US Army during the Mexican War, a US marshal, and lastly a brigadier-general in the Confederate States Army. He was killed in action by an Illinois sniper at the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. McCulloch’s prewar visit to New England in mid-1856 allowed him to view that region’s notable historic and transatlantic slave trade sites. His younger brother Henry served in both Houses of the Texas Legislature and was also a Confederate brigadier; their father Alexander was a Yale graduate, ancestor of George Washington, and veteran of the Creek War of 1813.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

“Increasingly contemptuous of the North and its institutions, and set in his belief that an abolitionist conspiracy was in place not only to end slavery but to destroy the South’s political liberties, Ben recommended to Henry, then a member of the Texas legislature, that he introduce a joint resolution appointing commissioners to negotiate with the owners of Mount Vernon for its purchase by the State of Texas. “It would be a proud day for our State when it was proclaimed that she owned the Tomb of Washington. Besides,” he wrote, we may want a campaign ground near the city in the event of the election of a Black Republican candidate.”

During the final weeks of June 1856, with [Franklin] Pierce’s term of office drawing to a close and the great regional controversy over the expansion and perpetuation of slavery reaching a crisis, McCulloch took his first trip into New England. After spending no longer in Boston than required to visit “the monument on Breed’s Hill, Faneuil Hall, the Commons, etc.,” Ben reported to Henry that “the whole population looked as though they were just returning from a funeral. Too puritanical in appearance to be good neighbors or patriotic citizens.”

[In Albany, New York, Whig presidential candidate Millard Fillmore] told the North that the South “would not permit a sectional president of the north to govern them.” McCulloch shared this opinion most earnestly, and he vowed to be “the first to volunteer my services as a soldier to prevent it, and would rather see the streets of this city knee deep in blood than to see a black republican take possession of that chair.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 140-141)

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

Though opposed to secession while president, though admitting the Constitution gave him no authority to wage war upon a State, James Buchanan nonetheless saw little reason for the needless slaughter of Americans on both sides. Though desiring a reunited country, he should have wondered by 1864 how the Southern people could reconcile the brutality, savagery and wanton destruction caused by the Northern invasion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

“But Buchanan, like many of the peace Democrats, disapproved of abolitionists and the policy of emancipation. (He later stated that he delayed becoming a member of the Presbyterian Church until after the war because of the anti-slavery stand of the Northern wing of that church).

The Emancipation Proclamation, he asserted in 1864, demonstrated that “the [Lincoln] administration, departing from the principle of conducting the war for the restoration of the Union as it was, and the Constitution as it is, had resolved to conduct it for the subjugation of the Southern States and the destruction of slavery.

Buchanan had taken a firm stand against the discussion of peace proposals with the Confederacy; as the years passed, however, without modifying his demand that the Union must be preserved, he expressed approval of negotiations with the South.

After the reelection of Lincoln in 1864, (Buchanan had supported McClellan), he urged conciliation based on ignoring the slavery issue. “Now”, he wrote in November 1864: “would be the time for conciliation on the part of Mr. Lincoln. A frank and manly offer to the Confederates that they might return to the Union just as they were before they left it, leaving the slavery issue to settle itself, might be accepted.”

Buchanan spent much of his time during the war in preparing a defense of his actions as President . . . He was unfailingly critical of secessionism . . . But the basic cause of the sectional struggle and war was in operation long before 1860, and Buchanan insisted that this basic cause was not the institution of slavery or any other difference between North and South, but the agitation over slavery.

[Buchanan] always placed primary blame [for war] upon the Northern abolitionists. The original cause of all the country’s troubles, he wrote, was to be found in:

“[The] long, active and persistent hostility of the Northern Abolitionists, both in and out of Congress, against Southern slavery, until the final triumph of their cause in the election of President Lincoln . . .”

If there had been no opposition to slavery, was the theme of Buchanan’s reasoning, there would have been no sectional conflict or war.”

(Americans Interpret their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, Collier-MacMillan Company, 1954, excerpts pp. 140-141)

Martial Law in Maryland

As Lincoln prepared his invasion of the South after Fort Sumter, he responded to public outcry in Maryland with illegally suspending the right of habeas corpus, increasingly severe repression, and monitoring elections. The author below writes that Lincoln’s “clumsy response is better explained by psychological impulse than by political imperative,” as he could not abide having dissident Maryland citizens waving Southern banners so close to his political seat.

Bernhard Thuersam  www.Circa1865.org

 

Martial Law in Maryland

“[General Winfield] Scott . . . [issued the order] for the arrest of Baltimore’s city marshal, George P. Kane, and the entire board of police commissioners – all of whom [were] implicated in the imagined [Maryland secession] plot.

So it was that at an early hour on June 27, 1861, a detachment of troops marched through Baltimore’s streets . . . [to] Marshal Kane’s home. Within the hour Kane arrived at Fort McHenry . . . When the sun rose over the Eastern Shore on July 1, all four commissioners lay in the dank dungeon of Fort McHenry . . . Soldiers by the hundreds strode Baltimore’s streets with their bayonets fixed that morning, and citizens who dared to express disagreement with their government felt the teeth of martial law.

The United States Congress convened three days after the arrest of the commissioners and questioned the seemingly highhanded action taken against public officials of a loyal State. Knowing that Lincoln had already ignored judicial demands in such matters, the police commissioners bypassed the legal system to petition their congressional representative for relief, and twenty days into its session the House of Representatives adopted resolution requesting [Lincoln] to provide grounds and evidence for the arrests.

Lincoln declined to cooperate. Citing what would become the favorite excuse of future administrations seeking to invoke a dubious prerogative, he informed the elected representatives of the people that it was “incompatible with the public interest at this time” to release that information.

Some of the commissioners remained in confinement for months, and Marshal Kane was not released until November of 1862, but for the rest of the war and thereafter, revealing the reason for their detention remained incompatible with the public interest.”

(Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, William Marvel, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, excerpts pp. 104-105)

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

Lammot Du Pont, member of the Du Pont powder business family and company agent (Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont was commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard), hurried to England in late 1861 with instructions from the United States government to purchase a year’s supply of saltpeter, or approximately three million pounds.

It was during his third day at sea that the British mail packet “Trent” was stopped and searched by the USS San Jacinto as it sailed through the Bahama Channel. Southern envoys James M. Mason and John Slidell, on their way to England, were forcibly removed over the protests of the British officers, and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

“The magnitude of Du Pont’s purchases had not escaped official attention. On November 27 a certain J. MacKenzie wrote Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary . . . “It is more than a year’s supply for that Government even in time of War . . . and [looks] as if the Federal Government, having decided on a rupture with this country, was desirous of first laying in a supply of saltpeter.”

In a memorandum to the members of the cabinet on November 30, Prime Minister Lord Palmerston proposed that at that day’s session they consider the proposal of Lord Russell to ban the exportation of arms, gunpowder and saltpeter. This was his comment on Anglo-American relations:

“. . . Every day brings us fresh evidence of settled determination of the Washington government to heap indignities and affronts upon us, to drive us to the wall taking their chance as to such a course leading to a war . . . This being the state of things, it being at least possible, if not probable, that we may in a short period of time find ourselves in hostilities with the Northern States, [and] would it not be weakness & folly in the extreme to allow them in the interval to draw from our storehouses and manufacturers those means and implements of war which they are now scantily supplied with, and which when obtained by them, would probably be turned against ourselves.

If our men are shot down by rifles made by us, and with gunpowder supplied by us, should we not as a Government be laughed to scorn as unfit to conduct the affairs of the country.”

Even if no rupture took place, Palmerston pointed out, it was to the British interest to shorten the war by withholding vital supplies in order that shipments of Southern cotton and normal trade relations could be resumed as soon as possible.

A furor of anti-American sentiment swept the British press when news of the Trent episode reached England. Believing that the embargo would not soon be lifted, Du Pont prepared to return home for further instructions. English arsenals and shipyards, he noted, were working night and day; troops were being readied for Canada; and Lord Lyons, British Minister in Washington, had been instructed to close the embassy and return home if England’s demands . . . were not satisfied.

And if war came, France would be England’s ally, for Napoleon III was very hostile to the North. Russia was the only major power friendly to the United States, Du Pont believed.

If Mason and Slidell were not released and proper apologies not made to England, the Union would stand alone against two great powers of Europe, and the Confederacy would gain them as outright allies or as friendly neutrals. Such a powerful alignment of strength against the North could not be allowed to materialize.”

(“The Devil to Pay!”: Saltpeter and the Trent Affair, Harold Hancock & Norman Wilkinson, Civil War History, Volume X, No. 1, March 1964, University of Iowa, excerpts, pp. 22-27)

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

Northern General Peter Osterhaus was born in Prussia, educated at the Berlin Military Academy and served as a Prussian officer, but later found himself on the losing side of the socialist revolutions of 1848. He then immigrated to the US and settled in Missouri where he raised a regiment of bounty-enriched German immigrants in June of 1861 to join Lincoln’s army — described by historian Ella Lonn (Foreigners in the Union Army, 1951) thusly: “The speech of almost every European nation might have been heard in the camps of the Army of the Potomac.” Osterhaus accompanied Sherman on his destructive path through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

“Landed neighbors just across the river from the Davises on the Louisiana side included John Perkins, a member of Congress . . . and Mrs. Sarah Dorsey of Elkton Plantation, who also owned Beauvoir [in Mississippi] and befriended Jefferson Davis in his declining years. Adjoining the farms of these friends stood the old Bowie home, where Jim Bowie of Alamo fame and his brother Resin lived as boys.

The big mansion at “Hurricane” is beyond the memory of living persons. On June 2, 1862, Union soldiers advancing toward Vicksburg landed on Davis Bend at night and burned “Hurricane” to the ground.

[Older brother] Joseph E. Davis complained that General Peter J. Osterhaus ordered the burning and gave the family only thirty minutes’ notice to vacate the house. The red glare from the rocketing flames at the western end of the bend could be seen in Vicksburg, eighteen direct miles away.

The soldiers piled library books on the lawn and lit bonfires. They dumped sets of china and crystal on the grass and gleefully shattered them with muskets. Paintings cherished by the Davises were gathered and slashed with bayonets.

[Brother Joseph E. Davis on] March 1, 1866, wrote to President Andrew Johnson from Vicksburg, Mississippi, making application for the restoration of his property” “I took no part in the war. I did not bear arms. I was not a member of the legislature nor of the convention nor attended any meetings. I contributed nothing, subscribed nothing, [and] made no investments in Confederate bonds or securities.

Under the assurances that those would not be molested who [remained] quietly at home, I remained at my place until almost all of my property was carried off, my cotton burned and an order was received from Gen’l Osterhaus to burn my house, giving me and my family half an hour to get out . . .”

(Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis, Frank Edgar Everett, Jr., University of Mississippi, 1971, excerpts pp. 18-19)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

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