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Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

Lee and Grant were career polar opposites: Lee graduated from West Point with high honors in 1829 and in his long, distinguished record personified the ideals of the Corps of Cadets and the army; Grant excelled only in horsemanship and washed out of the army amid charges of alcoholism. Lee became known as the greatest general of the American military; Grant won his war of attrition with an endless supply of raw cannon fodder provided by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

“Impelled by the relentless policy of total subjugation of the secessionist States, [Grant’s] movements took the form of four major attacks that gradually gathered headway along the front of Federal deployment from the Mississippi River to Chesapeake Bay. Poorly coordinated in their incipiency and pressed without guidance of objectives stating in military terms the long range plans of political policy . . . while slowly strangling the economic life of the South in the tightening grip of the blockade . . .

The Federal striking force aggregated in round numbers 300,000 effectives. The Confederates mustered some 145,000 troops for defense of threatened areas. The aggregate strength of the United States armies as estimated on the basis of returns during April 1864 . . . was 745,000. A similar computation gives a Confederate total of 303,367.

[Meade’s army] (a total of 120,000) were to advance under personal direction of the supreme commander [Grant] . . . and destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (63,000) . . . [and] the Army of the James [33,000 under Butler] occupying the Confederate capital, if possible, or containing enemy troops that might otherwise move toward Lee.

Commanding a field force of 23,000 in the Shenandoah Valley, Major-General Franz Sigel was to act as a sort of flank guard on the right of the [Meade’s army] by advancing toward the Confederate rail center at Lynchburg. [The center] column under Sherman (100,000) would push from Chattanooga down the mountain corridor, destroying Joseph E. Johnston’s army (64,000) and breaking up the enemy’s war resources in Georgia.

On the right, [Gen. Nathaniel P.] Banks would disengage his column operating on the Red River, for assembly at New Orleans [and] deliver the rear attack through Mobile so insistently urged by Grant during the past year.

Grant was deprived of the dislocating effects of a rear attack through Mobile by Banks’ mismanagement of the Red River campaign, and was denied the assistance that should have been given by the supporting movements of Butler and Sigel, both of whom bungled their assignments within two weeks after his own crossing of the Rapidan [River].

Grant then had no other alternative but to hammer Lee on the anvil of Richmond while Sherman’s devouring host swept through the heartland of the South.”

(The Wilderness Campaign, The Meeting of Grant and Lee, Edward Steere, Stackpole Books, excerpts, pp. 14-18)

Those Responsible for Secession

It is said that the shooting conflict between North and South had begun in Kansas in the mid-1850s, and the movement of John Brown’s violent revolution eastward had dark consequences.  He and others provoked many Southern States into secession from a political union that no longer benefited them — but war to keep those States in that union was commenced by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Responsible For Secession

“[John] Brown talked freely, too freely for the benefit of his friends and supporters, who were quickly identified when his papers were found. They were to set the South aflame when they were made public, for they showed clearly that Brown had not been alone in what might otherwise have seemed like a mad scheme to incite slave insurrection single-handed. Noted Northern men had supplied him with money and moral support. Many of them had only a vague idea of what he intended to do, for he was very secretive about his plans.

Southerners learned only that such men as George L. Stearns, Samuel Gridley Howe, Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, F.S. Sanborn (all from Massachusetts), and Gerrit Smith of New York had actively given aid to a man who had invaded Virginia with fire and sword; then they read in the newspapers that Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson (also from Massachusetts) were openly praising Brown. The prairie fire which had been lighted was to scorch an entire nation, destroying, maiming and killing in the North and South alike.”

(Robert E. Lee, The Man and Soldier, Philip Van Doren Stern, Bonanza Books, 1963, page 114)

The Party of Slave Insurrections

That John Brown was encouraged, armed and financed by wealthy Northern supporters, and the torrent of Northern sympathy that followed his hanging, convinced Southerners that there was no peaceful future with neighbors who would unleash race war upon them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Party of Slave Insurrections

“Then John Brown, after raising a considerable sum of money in Boston and elsewhere and obtaining a supply of arms, on Sunday, October 16, 1859, started on his mission. With a force of seventeen whites and five negroes, he captured the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, expecting the slaves to rise and begin the massacre of the white slaveholders. The military was able to prevent that, and Brown was tried and executed. Then, throughout the North, John Brown was said to have gone straight to heaven – a saint!

In the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas, pursuant to the Constitution, introduced a bill to punish those people who seek to incite slave insurrections. “Abraham Lincoln, in his speech at New York City, declared it was a seditious speech” – “his press and party hooted at it.” “It received their jeers and jibes.” (See page 663, Stephen’s Pictorial History).

Then came the election of President. The party of negro insurrections swept the Northern States. The people of the South had realized the possible results. With the people and the State governments of the North making a saint of a man who had planned and started to murder the slaveholders – the whites of the South – and the Northern States all going in favor of that party which protected those engaged in such plans, naturally there were in every Southern State those who thought it best to guard against such massacres by separating from those States where John Brown was deified.

When the news came that Lincoln was elected, the South Carolina Legislature, being in session, called a State Convention. When the Convention met, it withdrew from the Union. In its declaration it said: “Those States have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until now it has secured to its aid the power of the common government.”

[In late August 1862] . . . Lincoln thought that by threatening to free the negroes at the South he might help his prospects in the war. There were those [in Chicago] who deemed it a barbarity to start an insurrection of the negroes. The French paper at New York said: “Does the Government at Washington mean to say that, on January 1, it will call for a servile war to aid in the conquest of the South? And after the negroes have killed all the whites, the negroes themselves must be drowned in their own blood.”

Charles Sumner in his speech at Faneuil Hall said of Southern slaveholders: “When they rose against a paternal government, they set an example of insurrection. They cannot complain if their slaves, with better reason, follow it.” And so the North was for the insurrection! It was feared that the Government would not seek to prevent John Brown insurrections, and the better to guard against them, the cotton States withdrew from the Union.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Captain S.A. Ashes, Raleigh, NC, 1935, pp. 46-47)

Those Who Would Dissolve the Union

Abolitionist agitation over the presence of African slavery in the South created the crisis of the Union, and clearly the South only wanted the provisions of the United States Constitution enforced. It should be added that not once was a practical and reasonable scheme of compensated emancipation advanced by abolition societies — only war and destruction satisfied their moral indignation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Who Would Dissolve the Union

“Mr. Randolph thought and expressed the opinion to Mr. [James] Buchanan, that the Anti-Slavery agitation in the North was the only thing that had prevented the passage of a law in the Southern States for gradual emancipation [of slaves].

When the agitation was fairly inaugurated the legitimate uses of the Post-office Department were perverted from their end by packing the mails full of incendiary documents urging our slaves to servile insurrections. General [Andrew] Jackson, on December 2, 1835, recommended that a penalty should be attached to the dissemination of these documents. A bill to restrict the circulation of incendiary matter was introduced and defeated June 8th, by 19 to 25 votes. Not a single New England senator voted for General Jackson’s measure.

From the [Northern] State legislatures, the press, the county meetings, the pulpit, the different societies, no matter what their object, the lecturers, and above all the abolitionists, came this downpour of petitions . . . and those who stood behind this mass of misinterpretation and invective presented it with insulting epithets and groundless accusations.

The petitions prayed for the dissolution of the Union, reviled it as a compact with hell, and left nothing unsaid which could insult a patriotic, law-abiding, humane gentleman from the South.

Daily the Southern men were called on to suspend the legislation of Congress needful to carry on the business of the country, in order to hear themselves insulted by petitions reviling them and their institutions.  The legislatures of several [Northern] States prohibited the rendition of fugitive slaves, and the master who demanded his [reciprocal] rights in these States risked his life doing so.

In this state of excitement the Thirty-First Congress met, to deliberate on the needs of the country; but instead, one party fulminated curses and abuse, and the other, under a sense of insult, repelled it with indignation; indeed, the Southern leaders came at last to the conclusion that no people on earth were so alien to them at heart as those who wielded unlawful weapons against them, under the same flag and the same Constitution.

The country was full of English emissaries sent out be the committees of Exeter Hall, who, knowing nothing of either the free men of the South or their slaves, were hired to break up the public peace and amity by those who forgot that their miners and their ten-year old white slaves, harnessed to the coal carts in the depths of the earth, had not excited their attention or appealed so earnestly to their sympathies as did the comfortable Negroes of the South, whose children at that age were as free as air.”

(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina Davis, Volume I, N&A Publishing, 1990, pp. 419-422)

 

 

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

The emancipation issue promoted by Lincoln’s Republican Party caused a predictable rupture within its ranks, and revealed the true extent of party concern for the African race. The Massachusetts governor mentioned below wanted no black men in his “strange land and climate,” but accepted them as military substitutes for the white men of his State. The great fear persisted in the North that freed black men would migrate there in search if work and compete with white men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

“The threat of a black “invasion” (or “Africanization”) of the North was a dominant theme in anti-emancipationist rhetoric. Politicians and editors predicted that three hundred thousand freedmen would “invade” Ohio alone, competing with white labor, filling up the poor houses and jails, and generally degrading society. In a June 1862 referendum, by a majority of more than two to one, Illinois voters endorsed a clause in a proposed State constitution that would exclude blacks from moving into the State.

This issue cut across party lines. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a former Democrat, now a Unionist, explained “there is a very great aversion in the West – I know it is so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the Negroes.”

One Unionist editor told [Secretary of the Treasury] Salmon P. Chase that the best strategy was to declare that blacks “don’t want to come north and we don’t want them unless their coming will promote the conclusion of the war . . .” Chase himself, while a fervent advocate of emancipation, shared the common assumption that blacks were inherently unsuited to the colder northern climate.

“Let, therefore, the South be open to Negro emigration by emancipation along the Gulf,” he suggested, “and it is easy to see that the blacks of the North will slide southward, and leave no question to quarrel about as far as they are concerned.”

Chase was not the only radical in the Republican party who worried about the political consequences of the “Africanization” issue in the run-up to the fall 1862 elections. Even Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, whose antislavery credentials had been amply demonstrated three years earlier when he had given tacit support of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, became embroiled in the issue.

In September 1862, Major General John A. Dix wrote to the governors of three New England States asking them to accept into their States a group of two thousand ex-slaves who had sought refuge with the Union army. Governor Andrew responded with a strongly argued letter, soon leaked to the public, in which he explained that Massachusetts was, for blacks, “a strange land and climate” in which the newcomers would “be incapable of self-help – a course certain to demoralize them and endanger others.’ Such an event would be a handle to all traitors and to all persons evilly disposed.”

With timing that was appalling for the [Lincoln] administration, the black migration issue became a crisis in Illinois at about the same time the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The army had been sending refugee slaves to the military headquarters at Cairo – the southernmost town in Illinois. Secretary of War Stanton issued an order allowing these freedmen to be dispersed throughout the State.

This appeared to violate the State’s “Negro Exclusion” law and which was certainly anathema to mainstream public opinion. One Republican wrote to Governor Richard Yates that “the scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if it can be avoided. The view . . . here is that if the country should become full of them they may never be removed and with the confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 54-56)

The Cause of America’s New Version

The seemingly settled question today is that the American South withdrew from the Union because of a desire to perpetuate African slavery, and that no other issues of that period in our history ought to be considered. And beyond this settled question, Southerners who attempt any favorable motives to their ancestors are “merely repeating Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil intent of their ancestors. The author below recommends investigating any mythology created by the winning side.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

“Set aside that the question of causation in history is a complex one, to say the least. Still it is true that historians of other generations, of vastly greater breadth of learning than most of today’s, ascribed other “causes” to t most critical event in American history: clash of economic interests and cultures, blundering politicians, irresponsible agitators. There is a bit of sleight-of-hand along with today’s false assumptions.

Even if slavery may have in some simplistic and abstract sense “caused” the secession of the first seven Southern States, it does not establish that it “caused” the war. The war was caused by the determination of Lincoln and his party to conquer the Southern States and destroy their legal governments.

Caused, one might say by Northern nationalism – nationalism being a combination of romantic identification with a centralized state and interest in a unitary economic market. The war, after all, consisted in the invasion and conquest of the South by the U.S. government. A very simple fact that most Americans, it would seem, are unable to process, along with the plain fact that Northern soldiers did not make war for the purpose of freeing black people.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860, while the South had remained attached to the original concept of the Union.

Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source of the perversion that led to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the North changed during the prewar period?”

(The Yankee Problem: An American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, pp. 52-53)

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

At least six efforts were made, most of Southern origin, to settle the political differences with the North peacefully. From the Crittenden Compromise of late 1860, the Washington Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, the Confederate commissioners being sent to Washington in March 1861, to the Hampton Roads Conference of February 1865, the South tried to avert war and end the needless bloodshed. It was clear that one side wanted peace, the other wanted war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

“Carl Schurz, a notorious agitator and disunionist from Wisconsin, telegraphed to the governor of that State: “Appoint commissioners to Washington conference – myself one – to strengthen our side. By “our side” he meant those who were opposed to any peace measures to save the country from war and preserve the Union.

The Republicans wanted to make as wide as possible the gulf between the North and the South. This peace Conference, therefore, was a failure, because the abolitionists were determined there should be no peace.

In the Senate, Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, made an urgent appeal to the Republicans “to assure the people of the South that you do intend to calmly consider all propositions which they may make, and to recognize their rights which the Union was established to secure.” But the Republican Senators remained mute.

Mr. Davis held that if the Crittenden Resolutions were adopted, the Southern States would recede their secession. He also said that the South had never asked nor desired that the Union founded by its forefathers should be torn asunder, but that the government as was organized should be administers in “purity and truth.” Senator Davis, with mildness and dignity of voice, also said, “There will be peace if you so will it; and you may bring disaster upon the whole country if you thus will have it. And if you will have it thus . . . we will vindicate and defend the rights we claim.”

As the year of 1860 was going out, all reasonable hope of reconciliation for the South departed. The Southern leaders then called a conference. What was to be done? All their proposals of compromise, looking for peace within the Union, had failed. It was evident that the Republican party in Congress was to wait until Mr. Lincoln came in on March 4th. But efforts for peace were not given up, even after the war began, but were earnestly continued in an effort to stay the tide of bloodshed.

(Efforts for Peace in the Sixties, essay by Mrs. John H. Anderson of Raleigh, Confederate Veteran Magazine, August 1931, page 299)

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

Lincoln’s followers emulated Virginia’s Royal Governor Dunmore’s rationale for emancipating slaves in 1775, that is, to fight against an independence movement by colonists and deprive them of agricultural labor. Northern radical Republicans such as Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, wanted to liberate slaves in Southern States where they could not reach them, but did not free the property of slave holders loyal to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

“When the Rebellion culminated in active hostilities, it was seen that thousands of slaves were used for military purposes by the rebel forces. To weaken the forces of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that such slaves should be free forever.

As the Union armies advanced into the rebel States, slaves, inspired by the hope of personal freedom, flocked to their encampments, claiming protection against rebel masters, and offering to work and fight for the flag whose stars for the first time gleamed upon their vision with the radiance of liberty.

To weaken the power of the insurgents, to strengthen the loyal forces, and assert the claims of humanity, the Thirty-seventh Congress enacted an article of war, dismissing from the service officers guilty of surrendering these fugitives [to rebel masters].

The hoe and spade of the rebel slave were hardly less potent for the Rebellion than the rifle and bayonet of the rebel soldier. Slaves sowed and reaped for the rebels, enabling the rebel leaders to fill the wasting ranks of their armies, and feed them.

To weaken the military forces and power of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that all slaves of persons giving aid and comfort to the Rebellion, escaping from such persons, or deserted by them; all slaves of such persons, being within any place occupied by the forces of the United States, — shall be captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

The progress of the Rebellion demonstrated its power, and the needs of the imperiled nation. To strengthen the physical forces of the United States, the Thirty-seventh Congress authorized the president to receive into military service persons of African descent; and every such person mustered into the service, his mother, his wife and children, owing service or labor to any person who should give aid and comfort to the Rebellion, was made forever free.

The African slave trade had been carried on by slave pirates under the protection of the flag of the United States. To extirpate from the seas that inhuman traffic, and to vindicate the sullied honor of the nation . . . the administration entered early into treaty stipulations with the British Government . . .”

(Life and Public Services of Henry Wilson, Rev. Elias Nason and Thomas Russell, B.B. Russell, 1876, pp. 346-349)

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

The crisis of the Union in the 1850s was caused by an increasing willingness of radicalized Northerners to use force, especially fomenting slave insurrection in the South, to end the African slavery inherited from the British. Rather than seek a practical and peaceful means of ending the institution — from which their own section had profited greatly through the slave trade and cotton milling — abolitionists preached fire, sword and anarchy. On the latter, anarchist Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted “I own I have little esteem for governments.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

“Emerson welcomed the fact of anarchy as a confirmation of his belief that men could live without institutions. “I am glad,” he said, “to see that the terror at disunion and anarchy is disappearing.” John Brown’s raid raised even more extravagant hopes for the triumph of transcendental anarchism. “ . . . John Brown was an idealist. He believed in his ideas to that extent that he existed to put them all into action . . .” said Emerson at a John Brown meeting . . . The example of Brown was just what the country needed [and Henry David] Thoreau’s sentiments were almost identical.

Emersonian transcendentalism [had] . . . changed from a contemplative philosophy into an activist creed. The “American Scholar” was no longer a withdrawn and harmless figure, reading the eternal truths of “Nature.” He was John Brown, an idealist whose inner voice commanded him to shed blood. Emerson had always hoped that he would one day see “the transformation of genius into practical power.”

During the Kansas conflict, [William Lloyd] Garrison remained true to his [pacifist] principles by having no truck with those who were enlisting in the free-State forces or sending arms to help them. Yet a curious note crept into his 1856 criticisms of the Kansas effort. If someone had to be armed, he protested, it should be the slaves in the South rather than the northern whites in the territories. If the resort to force had to be made, he seemed to be saying, it should be on such a scale as to bring down the whole slaveholding structure.

Wendell Phillips compromised himself more directly by donating money to a Kansas rifle fund in 1855 [and the] nonviolent [abolitionist] ranks were thinning. By 1858, Garrison was bemoaning the fact that abolitionists were “growing more and more warlike, and more disposed to repudiate the principles of peace, more and more disposed to talk about “finding a joint in the neck of the tyrant, and breaking that neck, “cleaving tyrants down from the crown to the groin,” with a sword which is carnal, and so inflaming one another with the spirit of violence and for a bloody work.” He feared that this thirst for violence would destroy “the moral power” of the abolitionists.

At a meeting for the observance of Brown’s martyrdom, Garrison endorsed Brown in a way that seemed amazingly inconsistent: “As a peace man – an “ultra” peace man – I am prepared to say” “Success to every slave insurrection at the South.” God, it seems, had decided that slavery must come to a violent end. A slave rebellion was not something Garrison was advocating, it was simply “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.” The implication was that although John Brown had violated holy commandments, he was nevertheless an instrument of divine judgment – like fire or pestilence. No responsibility rested with the abolitionists; it was the slaveholders themselves who had invited the wrath of God by refusing to heed the moral appeals of thirty years of antislavery agitation.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 39-42)

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As described below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)