Browsing "Northern Pensions"

Blue Not Marching with the Gray

Formed in 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was allegedly the creation of a Dr. B.F. Stephenson who “undoubtedly envisioned his new veterans’ group as a tool to further the political ambitions of two Illinois Republicans, General John A. Logan and Governor Richard Oglesby.” They considered the GAR as a postwar voting machine to be lubricated with generous army pensions, political appointments and favors, to help ensure political control of the South after the war. Southerners despised the GAR as much as the infamous Union League, and Gen. Nathan B. Forrest told a Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper correspondent that the Ku Klux Klan had developed in Tennessee as a “protection against Loyal [Union] Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Blue Not Marching with the Gray

“To the close of the century Grand Army men, spurred to continued hostility by their [anti-South] textbook campaign, gave little evidence of friendliness for the South. The veterans’ press stimulated this enmity by angrily publicizing every aggressive rationalization of the Lost Cause, and other journals sometimes joined the attack.

On one occasion the Chicago Tribune, irritated because military institute cadets had paraded in Atlanta behind a Confederate flag, remarked that the city needed “the Grand Army to go there and show it the only flag behind which the cadets ever should march.”

These sentiments were reflected at GAR gatherings; former President [Rutherford B.] Hayes recorded with regret a disposition at the 1891 encampment “to scold the South – to discuss irritating topics in an ill-tempered way.” This was the encampment that objected to the federal purchase of Chickamauga battlefield and condemned the growing Southern penchant for erecting “Rebel” monuments. The National Tribune supported these objections with the complaint that the [Chicago monument to Confederate dead] would confuse the rising generation as to “plain matters of right and wrong.”

The Southern press replied to these attacks with charges that the Grand Army’s emphasis upon “patriotism” was merely a cloak for mercenary motives. The Memphis Commercial Appeal declared: . . . “the organization as a whole is one of the worst and most harmful that has ever existed in this country . . . [the GAR has prostituted] the noblest of emotions . . . to the basest ends. It has made a merchandise of patriotism and a commodity of valor . . .”

A plan formulated early in 1896 to hold a “blue and gray” parade in New York City as a July 4 demonstration of national unity clearly indicated the Grand Army’s attitude toward its former enemies. The New York press urged the project as a friendly gesture not only to the city’s ten thousand Confederate-veteran inhabitants but also to its Southern customers.

[When GAR commander in chief, Ivan N. Walker was asked for his endorsement of the parade, he] consented to permit the [GAR] members’ participation provided no Confederate flag appeared. [When Walker was informed] that the former Confederates would march in their gray uniforms . . . [he] declared the Confederate uniform as objectionable as the flag and announced, “We cannot, as an organization, join in any public demonstration and march with those who fought against the Union clad in a uniform which was shot to death by the Grand Army of the Republic, thirty years ago.”

(Veterans in Politics, the Story of the G.A.R.; Mary R. Dearing, LSU Press, 1952, excerpts, pp. 448-450)

Speaking the Language of Monuments

Historians record Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) leader General John Logan of Illinois as a creative political opportunist: a prewar Stephen Douglas Democrat who favored conciliatory measures toward the South to prevent war — but correctly sensing Radical Republican power he allied with them to keep his political star ascendant. Feeling slighted as West Point-educated commanders refused him promotions he developed an aversion to that institution; in the postwar he was known for his “bloody-shirt” oratory and catering to the pension desires of GAR veterans, serving as their commander for three terms. Logan’s postwar writings underscore the Republican Party ideology of containing slaves, and later freedmen, in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Speaking the Language of Monuments

“In short, the Grand Army [of the Republic] memory of the war represented the persistence into peacetime of the millennial, republican vision prevalent in the North before 1860 . . . [and this] older ideology of republicanism lived blissfully on in the campfires of the GAR until at least 1900.

In that view, the virtuous nation, saved until [Fort] Sumter from the ordinary travails of history, had come through the war purified of the blot of slavery and ready to lead the rest of the world into the sunshine of universal democracy. Despite the painfully obvious failure of Gilded Age America to live up to that vision, the Grand Army of the Republic (the name of the order itself is highly significant) strained to see the nation in those terms.

The past was the past, With the Republic secure, the saviors could return to lives as simple citizens. “There is not in human history, a case cited except ours, in which a million soldiers were, in a day, removed from belligerent to peaceful life,” Logan told the 1869 national encampment. “Probably, there is no government on earth, except our own, that would have dared try the experiment. I am confident there is no other in which such trial would be safe.”

These were not the words of realists trying to come to grips with a bloody and divisive war, nor those of militarists with a present-day political agenda. The members of the Grand Army had no such words in their vocabulary. Instead, the spoke the language of monuments.

[Logan announced] that “that the late war between the American States was the legitimate climax of several cooperating forces.” The North American continent, he wrote, was reserved for European civilization through “a marvelous ordering of events.” The Revolution, though it “arrested the attention of the world,” was actually the product of trends dating back “forty centuries.”

The Civil War, by removing the blot of slavery, had rendered the Declaration of Independence “the Magna Carta of all mankind, destined to last while the human race endures.” The main threat to [Logan’s] yeoman’s paradise was “class distinction,” both in the slaveholding South and at “aristocratic” West Point . . . [and] argued that the Southern slave system had been the legitimate child of monarchy.” Once cured, the country presumably could return to its pristine state, provided that “class distinction” did not come back to ravage it.” To avoid that fate, Logan wrote, the “restrictive, inadequate, and wholly un-American” military academies need to be overhauled in the interests of democracy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 192-198)

 

Monuments to Timeless Virtue and Infamy

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) formed after the war and quickly became a powerful organization whose political might led historians to see it as a pension lobby or “bloody-shirt” Republican club. The membership sustained the postwar Republican Party and Glided Age political corruption that followed the war, and no Northern politician’s campaign was complete unless he received the blessing of the GAR. The organization maintained the view that they saved the Union and that the South was guilty of treason, though the Constitution clearly states in Article III, Section 1: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only of levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” “Them” means the States comprising the United States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Monuments to Timeless Virtue and Infamy

“A . . . theme that emerged from GAR memorializations of the 1880s was that the war had broad meaning, not to say a moral, that transcended individual combat experiences. With occasional exceptions . . . the authors of the personal war experiences left the moral unstated. But in campfire speeches and war lectures, the repeated lesson was one of national salvation: the war had maintained the Union.

Prewar social and economic differences between the sections, issues of free labor and political power in the West, and especially the questions of blacks and slavery received scant mention in celebrations of the war’s outcome. Instead, the grand achievement of the Northern armies had been to rescue the indivisible nation as it had existed before . . . The war was a mission accomplished; the nation, something maintained intact rather than something greatly changed. It was a rhetoric pf preservation.

Both Civil War armies invoked republican traditions; both pointed to the same Revolutionary symbols. The other great influence on popular historical thinking during the antebellum years was evangelicalism . . . in the North, evangelical crusades against sin, culminating in the antislavery movement, drew on images of battles and the Apocalypse.

Yankee reformers pictured it as the crossroads of history. Armageddon, a climatic struggle from which the nation would emerge redeemed. Hymns urged patriots to march; ministers spoke of millennial change. No longer was the Republic seen as an entity formed at the beginning; it needed to be actively saved, not passively preserved. History was to be shaped, not studied, for examples of virtue.

At the same time, the overwhelming importance of the Republic’s preservation required permanent and public commemoration. Veterans proclaimed the message of national preservation in Congress, where on pension questions they drew pointed inferences regarding the duty of the nation to its saviors. And in city after city, new monuments refuted in stone any notion of the Civil War’s “pastness.”

As long as ex-Confederates did not question the moral lesson of the war, they were treated cordially – in fact, they were sometimes contrasted favorably with “loyal” noncombatants. Especially after 1880, [GAR] posts and encampments occasionally socialized with veterans from the other side.

[In 1894], white Northerners and white Southerners were engaged in a veritable love feast of reconciliation, complete with Blue-Grey reunions, Lost Cause nostalgia, and Confederate war monuments (including the first to be permitted at Gettysburg).

When it came to drumming the lessons of the war into the next generation, however, the ex-Confederates were doomed forever to play the heavy, always on the side of error, always vanquished by the hosts of the righteous. In the words of GAR commander William Warner, “we were eternally right and . . . they were eternally wrong.”

The line dividing cordiality from hostility ran between those actions (such as lecture invitations) that implied only sociability between former foes and those (such as the erection of Confederate monuments and waving the Confederate flag) that seemed to be aimed at subverting the message of national salvation.

Union veterans commonly expressed the division by saying that while the former rebels might be fine fellows, their principles were, and always would be, wrong. In 1874 [a Massachusetts veteran] . . . objected to the decoration of Confederate graves on Memorial Day by saying “he had nothing but the kindest feelings toward those who fought against us . . . but . . . let it be understood that we distinguish between loyalty and disloyalty; the latter is the treason against which we fought, and the former we pay respect and tribute to.”

In 1891, [GAR CIC] John Palmer allowed that the Confederates had been gallant and said the GAR was willing to accept them as fellows “on the broad grounds of American citizenship and unconditional loyalty.” But he went on to denounce several GAR men who had marched in Atlanta parade that included the Confederate flag. In New York a GAR member was dishonorably discharged for toasting Jefferson Davis at a Southern banquet.

In general, Grand Army posts objected most strenuously to those behaviors or symbols that implied honor to the Confederate cause – a flag, a monument, a toast to a president, flowers on a grave. Nor was it with the proper exegesis of battles, for those conflicts were by definition one-time only events. The worry was not so much about the lauding of individual Confederates (unless they were symbolic individuals such as Davis), for they would die eventually.

Instead, GAR posts worried about transmitting the moral of the war to the next generation intact. If monuments were to call forth “public valor and virtue in all coming time,” the lessons of war could not be subject to historical change. And if the virtue of the Union was to be timeless, so must be the infamy of the Confederacy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 181; 186-188-190-192)

Southern Indemnity to the North

A question seldom raised about the War Between the States and Southern defeat is the amount of economic indemnity paid to the North, economic reparations if you will, and forcing the defeated to pay the victor the costs of defeating them, as in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian and World Wars.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Indemnity to the North

“In the wake of wartime devastation, moreover, Southern taxpayers had to help pay the interest and principal on the $2.5 billion federal debt taken on by the North to beat the South, although nearly all of the bond payments went to Northerners.   Taxpayers below the Mason-Dixon Line also had to help support the huge cost of pensions to federal veterans and their widows and dependents, though no such pensions were paid to Confederate veterans.

Such disbursements, obviously, were spent in the North. In these various ways . . . Southerners paid approximately $1.2 billion to the rest of the Union over a period of a half century — more than the indemnity Prussia levied on France after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.”

(A History of the American Economic System, Robert R. Russel, New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964), pp. 273-274

Tariffs and War Pensions of the North

Author Walter Webb asserted that “The North reduced to the vanishing point the economic power of the South . . . the armies had taken much, but their damage was small in comparison with that which the politicians wrought later.” The only thing the North failed to do after the war is destroy the spiritual power and pride of the South, even after marital law, enfranchising their former slaves into rulers, and revolutionizing the Southern social structure. As Webb further relates, “This is the supreme act of degradation, one that has no parallel in world history. This was the Second American Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Tariffs & War Pensions of the North

“The North did not stop with settling old sectional disputes in its favor. Since 1861 it has, through control of the government, legislated for itself subsidies, pensions, privileges, and bonuses which would, if totaled, make the government expenditures of recent years seem less appalling. The most lucrative bounty that the North has conferred upon itself, largely at the expense of the other two sections, is the high protective tariff. It is true that the protective tariff was not a new problem, but one that has been long disputed in Congress.

When the tariff bill of 1828 was under consideration, a Massachusetts manufacturer, Abbott Lawrence, wrote Daniel Webster sagely about the amendments. Lawrence thought the bill improved as to woolens and some thought the bill now good enough.

“I must say,” wrote Webster’s political and economic advisor, “I think it would do much good, and that New England would reap great harvest by having the bill adopted as it now is . . . This bill if adopted as amended will keep the South and the West in debt to New England the next hundred years.”

Since the Civil War the tariff wall has been built higher and higher, not so much for a nation as around and for the benefit of a section. For seventy-five years, and more, the tariff [cornucopias] hung over the North, showering it with thousands of blessings and billions of dollars, bringing it without doubt the greatest gift that any modern government ever bestowed on one group of people at the expense of other groups.

Abbott Lawrence was right. His hundred years has passed, and almost a decade to boot, and the South and West are still in debt to the North, more deeply than they were in 1828. Less remunerative, but no less partial to the North and equally prejudicial to the South and the West, were the federal Civil War pensions.

The pension system was put into effect in 1862, about the time the first bandages were removed. After hostilities ceased pensions grew in number and in amount and in a manner most gratifying to recipients and incidental beneficiaries. No need to dwell on the frauds, lying, broomstick wives, attorneys, and perjurers.

The Grand Army of the Republic was powerful at the polls, where it won a far larger percentage of victories than it won against the armies of Lee. No politician dared deny the soldier who had saved the Union a lifelong government subsidy which was paid impartially to the pauper and the millionaire.

By 1875, the government was giving Northern soldiers $29,000,000 annually. This had jumped to $60 million in 1879, to $89 million in 1889, to $159 million in 1893, and to $180 million in 1912. The peak was not reached until 1923, when the veterans received the sum of $238,924,872.

(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1937, pp. 19-20)