Browsing "Prisons for Americans"

Grant's Royal Robes

Imprisoned by scalawag Governor William Holden for alleged activities with North Carolina’s postwar Klan as it fought Holden’s Union League, Randolph A. Shotwell spent three hard years in an Albany, NY prison, which he termed the “Radical Bastille.” The prison staff was instructed to use any means to extract confessions of Klan outrages and lists of Klan members in North Carolina. Below, Shotwell criticizes the 1872 victory of Grant’s corrupt administration and the low quality of the Northern electorate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Grant’s Royal Robes

“Nov. 6th. All is over! The Great Farce, (the Presidential Election) closed yesterday, as had been foreseen for the past month, with a complete triumph for the Bully Butcher, and National Gift Taker. Grant walked the track. Telegraphic reports from all quarters leave it doubtful whether [Horace] Greeley will get a single vote. Even New York – the Democratic Old Guard – surrenders to the tune of 3500 majority for the “Coming Man.”

Twenty-five other States are in the same column – marching the Despot gaily to his throne! Selah! It is absolutely amazing, the apathy, the blindness, the infatuation of the people!

Is there no longer an patriotism, any conservatism in the land? What do we see this day? A nation yielding its elective franchise to elect a worse than Napoleonic despot! I say the nation yields its franchises because no one believes that Grant is the choice of the people, that he is worthy of the high Authority which is now his for another term and doubtless for life.

Bu corruption, and greed, and avarice, and fear, and Prejudice, and Misrepresentation, every malignant passion, every illegal and dishonorable means have been made to bring about the stupendous result. And now, what next?

Historians tell us that every Republic that has fallen, to shake the faith of man in his own capacity for government, has been, preceding its final fall, the scene of just such transactions as these; sectional prejudices, the majority trampling on the minority, the courts corrupted and used for political ends, open corruption in office, bribery of voters, use of the military to intimidate the opposition, great monopolies supporting the most promising candidates, and finally much unanimity in favor of some popular leader, who quietly took the crown and Royal Robes when a suitable opportunity occurred.

This is the political panorama now unfolding, slowly but surely, in our own country. The end we may almost see. And then bloodshed, insurrections, turbulence and anarchy! I do not predict that all of this is to occur in a year or two; it may be postponed for a score of years. But one thing is certain it will not be half so long, nor a third of it, if the Government continues to usurp power, and hold it, as it has done during the last decade.”

(The Diary, 1871-1873, The Papers of R. A. Shotwell, Volume III, Jos. D.R. Hamilton, editor, NC Historical Commission, 1936, pp. 276-277)

Francis Key Howard's American Bastille

Francis Key Howard (1826-1872) was the grandson of Francis Scott Key and revolutionary war Col. John Eager Howard; in 1861 he served  as editor of the Baltimore Exchange which criticized Abraham Lincoln’s unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. On Lincoln’s order, Howard’s newspaper was office was closed and he was made a political prisoner for fourteen months in Forts McHenry and Lafayette, and Warren. He later published “Fourteen Months in American Bastilles.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Francis Key Howard’s American Bastille

“On the morning of the 13th of September, 1861, at my residence, in the city of Baltimore, I was awakened about half-past twelve or one o’clock, by the ringing of the bell. When I opened it . . . two men entered . . . One of them informed me that he had an order for my arrest.

In answer to my demand that he should produce a warrant or order under which he was acting, he declined to do so, but said he had instructions from Mr. [William] Seward, the Secretary of State. [He] stated that he intended to execute his orders and that resistance would be idle, as he had with him a force sufficient to render it unavailing.

As he spoke, several men entered the house . . . The leader of the gang then began to search the apartment. Every drawer and box was thoroughly ransacked, and also were my portfolio and writing-desk, and every other place that could possibly be supposed to hold any papers. All my private memoranda, bills, note-books and letters were collected together, to be carried off. After the first two rooms had been thus searched, I was told that I could remain no longer, but must be prepared to go to Fort McHenry.

Two men, wearing the badges of the police force which the Government had organized, escorted me to the fort. I reached Fort McHenry about two o’clock in the morning. There I found several of my friends, and others were brought in a few minutes afterward . . . fifteen in all.  Among them were most of the members of the [Maryland] Legislature from Baltimore, Mr. Brown, the mayor of the city, and one of our Representatives in Congress, Mr. May.

The rooms were in the second story of the building, and opened upon a narrow balcony, which we were allowed to use; sentinels, however, being stationed on it. When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence.

On that day, forty-seven years before, my grandfather, Mr. [Francis Scott] Key, then a prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning, the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the “Star-spangled Banner.” As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”

(American Bastille, John A. Marshall, Thomas W. Hartley & Company. 1881, pp. 643-646)

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

Deadly hatred toward white Southerners was instilled in black troops by their new Northern friends, and the same would continue in the postwar as victorious Republicans needed the freedmen’s political dominance in the South to remain in power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

“As a general rule, the treatment by the white soldiers was not so bad, and it would have been much better, no doubt, had it not been for the cruel policy of the United States Government, and the stringent orders to have that policy carried out.

The colored troops were very harsh in their treatment of us, and they we no doubt urged to do this by their officers, who were certainly the meanest set of white men that could be found anywhere. The Negroes never let an opportunity pass to show their animosity and hatred towards us, and the man who shot a Rebel was regarded as a good soldier. They carried their authority to the extreme, and would shoot upon the slightest provocation.

If a prisoner happened to violate even one of the simplest regulations, he was sure to be shot at, and should he be so unfortunate as to turn over in his sleep, groan, or make any noise, which some were apt to do while sleeping, the tent in which he lay would be fired into.

For instance, one night in Company G, Fourth division, some one happened to groan in his sleep. The Negro patrol was near, heard it, and fired into the tent, killing two and wounding several others. These were killed while sleeping and were unconscious of having committed any offence whatever.

None of these patrols were punished, but were praised for vigilance. Scores of incidents, similar in character and result, might be given . . . Suffice it to say that a man’s life was in more danger than upon a picket line, for he was completely at the mercy of the cruel and malignant Negro soldiery.

Shooting into the tents of prisoners became so common that the officers of the white regiments protested at last against their [the colored troops] being allowed in camp, and accordingly they were withdrawn at night, and white patrols substituted.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Prison Experience (Point Lookout), James T. Wells, Volume VII, pp. 397-398)

Jun 13, 2015 - Prisons for Americans    No Comments

An Empire State Confederate at Fort Fisher

Serving with Orangeburg’s Edisto Rifles, Company G, 25th Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers of Hagood’s Brigade was one Ira Thomas Shoemaker. He was part of the Fort Fisher garrison during the attacks in late 1864 and early 1865, and captured after its fall. Sergeant Shoemaker was imprisoned in his hometown of Elmira, New York.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Empire State Confederate at Fort Fisher

“Our picket line one day while the brigade was on the Darbytown lines was attacked and driven in by the Yankees. The pickets in front of the Twenty-fifth Regiment were commanded by a lieutenant. General [Johnson] Hagood had a new detail made at once, with Sergeant Ira T. Shoemaker of the Edisto Rifles in command, who promptly drove the Yankees back, reestablished the line and held it till next morning when regularly relieved.

Sergeant Shoemaker was a New Yorker, from Herkimer County. He came down South several years before the war and was teaching in Orangeburg [South Carolina] when the State seceded, and did not hesitate as to what he should do, but promptly aligned himself with those who fought under the Starry Cross, and unswervingly held on to the bitter end.

Like Jim Bludsoe: “He seen his duty a dead sure thing, And went for it thar and then.”

He fulfilled the requirements of a model Confederate soldier. After the close of the war he represented Orangeburg County in the legislature several years before his death.

Sergeant Shoemaker’s home was in Elmira, where the prison was located, before he came South, and his parents and other members of his family were living there when he was a prisoner. They endeavored in every way to induce him to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, but this he positively refused to do, preferring to stand true to his convictions and “live and die in Dixie.”

(Sketch of the War Record of the Edisto Rifles, 1861-1865, William V. Izlar, The State Company, 1914, Pages 103, 109)

Prisons Holding Independence-Minded Americans

In April 1864 Gen. Grant, apparently with the approval of Lincoln, forbade Gen. Benjamin Butler “to deliver to the Rebels a single able-bodied man.”  Butler then wrote that “[the] facts abundantly show that the responsibility of refusing to exchange prisoners of war rests with the Government of the United States, and the people who have sustained that government; and every sigh of captivity, every groan of suffering, every heart broken by hope deferred among [the North’s] eighty thousand prisoners [in Southern prisons], will accuse them in the judgment of the just.”  Lincoln kept his own men starving in Southern prisons in order to deny the South any returned soldiers.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Prisons Holding Independence-Minded Americans

“For the common soldier in prison, survival was a daily struggle. James Huffman of the Tenth Virginia Infantry was one who lived to write his reminiscences of prison life:

“Elmira Camp was a very sickly place. The death rate was much higher than in the army during active hostilities. About half of us Virginians — and I think three-quarters of all the Southerners — died here in eight to ten months. A large number of North and South Carolinians had been captured at a Fort on the North Carolina coast — hale, hearty looking fellows except that they were yellow from lying in the trenches.

These men crowded us very much at first, but in two or three weeks they were nearly all gone to the hospitals, and most of them died. The well water looked pure and good but was deadly poison to our men, thousands taking chronic diarrhea from which they died. We had smallpox almost all the time. One doctor there said he killed more Rebs than any soldier at the front.”

(True Tales of the South at War, Clarence Poe, editor, UNC Press, 1961, pg. 147)

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