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Grover Finds a Substitute

Grover Cleveland at age twenty-five had been elected to Buffalo’s Second Ward; at twenty-seven he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County (Buffalo) and prepped for a long career in New York machine politics. As Lincoln targeted Democrats in New York with his conscription act of March 1, 1863, Cleveland was swept up in it — but already had a substitute to serve in his stead.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Grover Finds a Substitute

“[Said an editorial in the Buffalo Courier]: “Mr. Cleveland is one of the most promising young members of the bar, is a thoroughly read lawyer, and possesses talent of a high order.”

[Cleveland’s job of district attorney] paid half what he earned in private practice . . . should Grover be conscripted was an unthinkable prospect and unanswerable question – until Abraham Lincoln took up a pen to sign into law the Conscription Act of March 3, 1863.

Its provisions allowed draft eligible men to buy their way out of serving by paying $300 for “commutation,” or by furnishing a substitute. When the conscription procedure began with the drawings of names in May, Grover’s was chosen on the first day.

But he was ready: He had found a substitute in the person of a Great Lakes seaman named George Brinske, also known as Benninsky. Had Grover wished, as assistant district attorney he could have found an almost limitless roster of substitutes among discharged convicts or friendless men accused of a crime who would have gladly chosen army life over imprisonment.

Satisfied with the financial arrangement offered him ($150), Benninsky was sworn into the army at Fort Porter on July 6, 1863. Serving with the Seventy-sixth New York Regiment on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, he injured his back (not in combat) and served as an orderly in a military hospital in Washington, DC, for the remainder of the war.

When another local election loomed in 1865, [Grover] offered himself to Buffalo voters as the Democratic candidate for Erie County district attorney. His declaration has promptly hailed by the [Buffalo] Courier . . . “he is a young man . . . who, by his unaided exertions, has gained a high position at the bar, and whose character is above reproach.”

(An Honest President: the Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland, H. Paul Jeffers, HarperCollins, 2000, excerpts pp. 28- 31)

Boston and Newport Slave Merchants

By the year 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade as it surpassed Liverpool — while also angering British shipbuilders as their workmen left for New England and better pay. Boston’s Peter Fanueil made his wealth through slaving, and the famous Redwood Library in Newport was built with land and money from Abraham Redwood, who grew rich in the slave trade. The Brown family of Newport, Nicholas, John, Joseph and Moses, who established Brown University, made their fortune in the slave trade.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Boston and Newport Slave Merchants

“British commercial relations with the northern colonies, though important, were less close than with the South and the West Indies. New England had no staple exports to England at all comparable with West Indian sugar or Virginia tobacco. Her fish and lumber were marketed largely elsewhere, chiefly in the West Indies but also in other colonies, in the Azores, and in southern Europe.

From the American point of view the British government ought to have encouraged the trade with the foreign West Indies instead of trying to check it with the Molasses Act. The English authorities were, however, less impressed by [New England arguments] than by the smuggled European goods which came in through this “back door.”

Before, as well as after, the passage of the Molasses Act, sugar and molasses from the foreign West Indies continued to supply the distilleries of New England, whence rum was sent out for use in the Indian trade and in the purchase of African slaves. In this latter trade, Boston and especially Newport merchants competed with those of the mother country.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Newport became the chief base in North America for the African slave trade. The round of this trade began with the rum manufactured from West Indies molasses. What followed may be illustrated from the correspondence of some of these Newport merchants.

In 1755, for instance, the firm of Wilkinson and Ayrault sent Captain David Lindsay to the African coast, where he was to exchange his cargo for gold and slaves. With his human freight he was to sail to Barbados or St. Christopher, where the slaves were to be sold, provided he could get an average price of twenty-seven pounds for them all, “great and small.” The captain did this business on commission, getting among other things five slaves for his own share.

The profits of this trade, legal and illegal, were building up at Boston, Newport, Salem, and elsewhere a rich merchant class of decidedly cosmopolitan interests.

“[The] Narragansett planters” of Rhode Island had also a reputation for generous living.  Indentured servants came in from England and Ireland . . . Prosperous families, especially in the larger towns, often had one or more Negro slaves and there was no general feeling against the practice, though a few protests were heard. Rhode Island had the largest proportion of Negroes and the Narragansett planters used slave labor more than any other part of New England.

Generally speaking, the small farmers of New England could not use Negro slaves to much purpose.”

(The Foundations of American Nationality, Evarts Boutell Greene, American Book Company, 1922, excerpts pp. 246-247; 262-263; 266)

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)

Sedition and Secession in New England

The first secession sentiment displayed in the US came from New England, a region which saw, in the early 1800s, a growing faith in monarchical Great Britain as “Federalist distrust of the youthful and growing American people increased.” In early 1811 when the bill to admit Louisiana was considered, the New England Federalists “violently resisted it.”

Josiah Quincy declared that “if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare for a separation – amicably if they can, violently if they must. The first public love of my heart in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sedition and Secession in New England

“As soon as Congress convened in November, 1808, New England opened the attack on [President Thomas] Jefferson’s retaliatory measures [in the Embargo against the British]. Senator James Hillhouse of Connecticut offered a resolution for the repeal of the obnoxious statutes. “Great Britain was not to be threatened into compliance by a rod of coercion,” he said.

[Timothy] Pickering made a speech that might have well been delivered in Parliament [Four years earlier, Pickering had plotted the secession of New England and enlisted the support of the British Minister to accompany it].

Before [Chief Justice John] Marshall had written [his friend Pickering], the Legislature of Massachusetts formally declared that the continuance of the Embargo would “endanger . . . the union of these States.” Talk of secession was steadily growing in New England. The National Government feared open rebellion.

On January 9, 1809, Jefferson signed the “Force Act,” . . . Collectors of customs were authorized to seize any vessel or wagon if they suspected the owner of an intention to evade the Embargo laws; ships could be laden only in the presence of National officials, and sailing delayed or prohibited arbitrarily.

Along the New England coasts popular wrath swept like a forest fire. Violent resolutions were passed. The Collector of Boston, Benjamin Lincoln, refused to obey the law and resigned. The Legislature of Massachusetts passed a bill denouncing the “Force Act” as unconstitutional, and declaring any officer entering a house in execution of it to be guilty of a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

The Governor of Connecticut declined the request of the Secretary of War to afford military aid and addressed the Legislature on a speech bristling with sedition. The Embargo must go, said the Federalists, or New England would appeal to arms. Riots broke out in many towns. Withdrawal from the Union was openly advocated.”

(Life of John Marshall, Albert J. Beveridge, Volume IV, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, excerpts pp. 13-17; 27)

The Problem of Sovereignty

Regarding the location of sovereignty in the American system of government, Jefferson Davis, in his postwar “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” stated: “If any lingering doubt could have existed as to the reservation of their entire sovereignty by the people of the respective States when they organized the federal Union, it would have been removed by the adoption of the tenth amendment to the Constitution, which was not only one of the amendments proposed by various States when ratifying that instrument, but the particular one in which they substantially agreed, and upon which they most urgently insisted.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Problem of Sovereignty

“The fundamental issue in the writing of the Articles of Confederation was the location of the ultimate political authority, the problem of sovereignty. Should it reside in Congress or the States?

Many conservatives in 1776-1777, as in 1787, believed that Congress should have a “superintending” power over both the States and their individual citizens. They had definite reasons for such a desire.

They feared mob action and democratic rule.

The radicals, on the other hand, were fighting centralization in their attack upon the British Empire and upon the colonial governing classes, whose interests were so closely interwoven with the imperial relationship. Furthermore, the interests of the radicals were essentially local.

To them union was merely a means to their end, the independence of the several States. Hence centralization was to be opposed. Finally, the democratic theory of the time was antagonistic to any government with pretensions toward widespread dominion. Theorists believed that democratic government was impossible except within very limited areas.

Thus the conflict between those who were essentially “nationalists” and those who were forerunners of the “States rights” school.

The real significance of this controversy was obscured during the nineteenth century by historians and politicians who sought to justify the demands of rising industrialism on the central government and the Northern attitude toward the South’s secession in 1860-61.

The Southern contention that the Union was a compact between sovereign States was opposed by the contention that the Union was older than the States. North historians insisted that the first Continental Congress was a sovereign body, and that it represented the people of the United States as a whole, not the people of the several States as represented in their State governments.

To prove their contentions the Northerners cited such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution of 1787 . . . [and italicizing] to place undue emphasis on the portions of the documents which seemed to prove their arguments.

This is essentially the technique of argument used by small boys and would be unworthy of consideration had it not been so effective in shaping certain ideas which have profoundly influenced the interpretation of American history.”

(The Articles of Confederation, an Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 161-163)

 

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)

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

War for Immense Profits

On April 9, 1863, the Greensboro (North Carolina) Patriot wrote that blockade-runners arrived at Wilmington and Charleston every week, “all doing thrifty business with their Yankee friends in Boston and New York through Nassau.” Gen. W.H.C. Whiting wrote President Davis late in the war from Fort Fisher that runners carrying Northern goods seemed to penetrate the enemy blockade easily.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

War for Immense Profits

“The amount of greed and corruption that attended the business of blockade-running was about what might have been anticipated, and involved not only Southerners and Britons, but some grasping Yankees. The contraband commerce had all the attractions of gambling for high stakes . . . the stocks of some blockade-running corporations, Southern or British, rose to mountain heights – even $6,000 a share!

More than half the ships and cargoes tried in the New York prize-court were British, but the British name too often concealed Northern interests. Some Yankees were as ready to evade trading-with-the-enemy laws as their fathers had been in 1812.

Northern goods, their labels altered to flaunt famous British names, passed through Boston or New York on long roundabout trips, Boston-Bermuda-Wilmington, or New York-Nassau-Mobile, and sometimes shipped with bold directness to Charleston or Matamoros.

At its height, the New York trade with Bermuda, Nassau and Havana was scandalously large. A “ring” of dealers, shippers and blockade-runners helped organize the traffic and made arrangements with the Custom House for shipments.

By the autumn of 1862 a brisk traffic, half-furtive, half open, sprung up, not only in occupied areas but where Union troops faced Confederate troops. Scores of [Northern] officers intent upon commercial deals, and a much greater number of merchants anxious to trade in cotton, tobacco and general merchandise flocked down, first to Memphis, then to Little Rock and Helena, and finally to Vicksburg.

Read Admiral [David] Porter said of the [United States] Treasury agents sent down by [Secretary Salmon] Chase to control the situation: “A greater pack of knaves never went unhung.” Yet his own gunboat crews were equally unscrupulous, one Senator later declaring that they had made a hundred millions during the war.

And David Perry of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, son of a mayor of Bloomington, Illinois, made a yet graver charge: “Many lives have been sacrificed during the past summer and fall,” he informed his father as the year 1862 ended, “that certain high officers might make their fortunes with cotton-trade, and many a poor darkey who had fled to us has been traded off, by officers holding high positions in the army and before the world, for cotton.

The truth is, when an impartial history of this war shall be written, it will expose a greater amount of fraud and corruption than the world has ever before seen. Even your Bloomington general, Hovey, traded Negroes for cotton and sacrificed many lives . . . for the sole purpose of making money.”

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 342-343; 353-354)

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)

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