Browsing "Reconstruction"

The Wrath of the North

Jefferson Davis heard of Lincoln’s death upon his arrival in Charlotte, and in a dispatch from General John C. Breckinridge. The President was heard to say: “Oh, the pity of it” and passed it to a gentleman with the remark, “Here are sad tidings.” The Northern press reported that Davis cheered when heard of Lincoln’s assassination; the Radicals of the North were now satisfied that the man they hated was finally out of the way.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Wrath of the North

[After the assassination of Lincoln] Indignation and memorial meetings simply flayed the South alive. At one New York Custom House, when the grieving, exasperated people did not know whether to weep or to curse the more, or to end it by simply hanging us all, Mr. [Lucius E.] Chittenden [of Vermont] rose and said: “Peace, be still!” And declared the death of Lincoln providential, God removing the man of mercy that due punishment might be meted out to the rebels.

Before the pacific orator finished, people were yelling: “Hang Lee! and “The Rebels deserve damnation!” Pulpits fulminated. Easter sermons demanded the halter, exile, confiscation of property, for “rebels and traitors . . .”

The new President, Andrew Johnson, was breathing out threatening and slaughter before Lincoln’s death. Thousands had heard him shout from the southern portico of the Patent Office, “Jeff Davis ought to be hung twenty times as high as Haman!”

In Nicolay and Hay’s Life of Lincoln . . . “Among the Radicals in Congress . . . though they were shocked at his murder, they did not, among themselves, conceal their gratification that he was no longer in the way. In a political caucus held a few hours after the President’s death, “the thought was universal,” to quote the language of one of their most representative members, “that the accession of Johnson to the Presidency would prove a godsend to the country.” The only people who could profit by Lincoln’s death were in the Radical wing of the Republican party. These extremists thought Johnson their man. Senator [Benjamin] Wade [said:] “By the gods, it will be no trouble now running the Government!”

“Treason,” said the new President, “is the highest crime in the calendar, and the full penalty for its commission should be visited upon the leaders of the Rebellion. Treason should be made odious.”

It is told as true as true “inside history” that the arrest and execution of Lee had been determined upon [thought General [E.O] Ord stated that] “Should I arrest [Lee and his staff] under the [parole] circumstances, I think the rebellion here would be reopened.”

Governors, generals and statesmen were arrested in all directions. No exception was made for Alexander H. Stephens, the invalid, the peace-maker, the gentlest Roman of them all. After Lincoln’s death, leniency to “rebels” was accounted worse that a weakness. The heavy hand was applauded. It was the fashion to say hard things of us. It was accounted as piety and patriotism to condemn “traitors and rebels.” Cartoonists, poets and orators, were in clover; here was a subject on which they could “let themselves out.”

(“Dixie After the War, An Exposition of Social Conditions Existing in the South, During the Twelve Years Succeeding the Fall of Richmond,” Myrta Lockette Avary, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 89-97)

Halleck, Agent of Revolution

Gen. Henry W. Halleck, one of the most vilified of all generals of that era, was described by a reporter as a “cold, calculating owl,” brooding “in the shadows,” and “distilling evil upon every noble character.” He married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and ironically held the same nationalist and centralizing views of his wife’s grandfather. Halleck predicted before 1861 that the North “will become ultra-antislavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile to that of a civil war.” He saw Lincoln adopt the same policy as the British in the Revolution and War of 1812: emancipating slaves by edict to incite the horrors of race war in the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Halleck, Agent of Revolution

“During the excitement following Lincoln’s death [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton virtually took over the government. Among other high-handed acts, he did what the martyred President never desired – the Secretary ordered Halleck out of Washington. [Working to] ingratiate himself with his superiors, Halleck, in Richmond, did everything he could to gain Stanton’s approval.

[Told by Richmond bankers of] wild rumors about “Jeff. Davis and his partisans” fleeing with a large amount of [gold] specie” . . . Halleck . . . ordered Sheridan to Sherman’s headquarters , in Greensboro, North Carolina, telling him to look for Davis and his “wagons” of gold on the way. [On] April 23 [1865], Halleck wired Sheridan: “Pay no attention to the Sherman-Johnston truce. It has been disapproved by the President. Try to cut off Jeff. Davis’ specie.”

The Treasury Department had issued special permits and only those possessing them were entitled to buy or sell in the South. “It is now perfectly evident that these [treasury] agents are resolved that no one shall buy or sell even the necessities of life except through themselves or their favorites,” Halleck fumed. “I know of no better system for robbing the people and driving them to utter desperation.” Old Brains’ greatest objection was that if the system continued “the military must feed the people or permit them to starve.”

Still Halleck could not resist the temptation to use his power occasionally. On April 28 he issued a series of General Orders, one of which proclaimed: “No marriage license will be issued until the parties desiring to be married take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and no one can marry them unless he has.”

To insure that Virginians received proper indoctrination, Halleck closed all churches in which the clergyman refused to read the prescribed prayer for the President – they would be opened by “any other clergyman of the same denomination will read such service.”

While attempting to bring Southern churches under Northern control, Halleck also did his bit in the attempt to prove that secession had been a conspiracy on the part of a few high-placed Confederates He seized former Cabinet member Robert M.T. Hunter’s papers and forwarded them to Stanton with the notation that they included “inclosures of a suspicious character.”

[Halleck] was anxious to use the Civil War to build up the regular army (as opposed to an armed mob composed of State militia troops) serving under nationally-trained professionals. From the day they mustered in until the day they mustered out, Halleck tried to make the Federal troops feel the hand of the national army. Conscription, which increased the power of the nation and its army as opposed to the States and their militia forces, received active support from Halleck.

He was convinced that opposition [to conscription] came not from idealists but from traitors [and] had no qualms about the means used to enforce national conscription: “Loyal men at home must act at home,” he felt. “They must put down the slightest attempt at disorder.”

Halleck saw to it that conscription was merely the beginning of the contacts with the federal government and its army that the American citizen soldier experienced. Once the men were in the service, Halleck and his staff, rather than the State governments, supplied their needs. The operating procedure was brutally simple and efficient; and it was part of a general trend toward centralization in all areas of American life. The total result was revolution.

And it was a nation, not a Union, that the troops had saved. Politically, economically, socially, and militarily, the Civil War had created a new nation upon the wreck of the old Union. Halleck, who realized that the powerful army he wanted needed a powerful nation to support it, was an important agent in the revolution.

He used troops to quell draft riots, break strikes that threatened the national effort, ensure Republican victories at the polls and suppress traitorous politicians. He rejected the democratic ideal that opposition is not only loyal but necessary. He constantly condemned those who opposed, not just Lincoln’s administration, but the whole fabric of centralization; he believed that only centralization could lead to victory.

During the political campaign of 1864, Halleck supported Lincoln as the lesser of evils [though] would have preferred Lincoln to act with Bismarckian ruthlessness . . . Old Brains realized that America’s entrance into the modern world [of centralization] might be slightly hindered, or slightly helped, by individuals, but that by 1864 it could no longer be halted. Politically, socially, and militarily, centralization had become institutionalized; Halleck had done his share in making that possible.”

Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1962, (pp. 199-200; 202-203; 208-211)

The Myth of the Saved Union

Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward admitted that Southerners were free to leave the Union, abandon their land and live elsewhere. Many Northerners wanted to drive the Southern people out and repopulate the section with New England-style government, customs and schools.

The following is excerpted from a speech and letter of Massachusetts Congressman George B. Loring, delivered April 26, 1865. Loring was a prewar abolitionist and reformer who realized that if the freedmen were not brought into the Republican party through the infamous Union League, New England’s political domination was in peril. While feigning justice toward the black race, those like Loring clamped chains upon the South. Ironically, Loring seems unaware that it was Massachusetts threatening secession several times in the early 1800s, though he condemns the South for following his State’s example.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Myth of the Saved Union 

“I know I used a strong expression when I said we must beware of clemency [toward the defeated South and] accord strict justice to those who have taken up arms against our government? Shall we restore them to the fullness of their former rights? Never.

They have taken their chances, and now let them abide by the result. (Great applause). They have declared that they were independent, now let them remain independent. (Applause). The world is wide, and all lands, and all oceans, and the islands of the sea are open to receive them. (Applause – amen). Some of them have taken care to provide the necessary comforts for their journey. (Laughter).

And what a contrast we have before us – your eulogized and sainted President, known through all the world as the friend of freedom and a free government, who has written his name among the stars – and his opponent, [Jefferson Davis] flying in the darkness before an indignant people, branded and despised, bearing his ill-gotten treasure if possible to that safety which a foreign land alone can give him, an outlaw and fugitive. What a contrast – the one a martyr in heaven – the other a felon sunk to the lowest pit of infamy on earth.

I insist upon it that it is impossible to treat with traitors who have taken up arms against this government, for the express purpose of blasting it and all the hopes of freedom with it. We cannot restore our government in this way. I feel it to be impossible, and would never agree to the restoration of the old State organizations among the revolted States, or to any State government s manufactured for the occasion.

So I say of all the States which have destroyed their “practical relations” to the general government by rebellion. When all the citizens of a State reach that point at which they are ready to return, upon the basis of government which the war has made for us all, let them return. But not until this is accomplished – not until the institutions of these States conform to the highest civilization of the land – would I place them on equality with the loyal States.

Until this is done how can members of Congress be returned, whose principles shall render them fit to sit by the side of men from Massachusetts? (Great applause. Hurrah).

No oath of allegiance can purify them [prominent Confederate leaders who had once held high elective or appointive federal offices]. Our country – the civilized world, does not want their counsels. Their return would be an eternal disgrace to us.

Now, what is there on the other side? It is simply this. I would hold all the revolted States by the power of the Federal authority, — that power which we have strengthened and confirmed by this war. The first gun fired at Sumter . . . dispelled forever all the fallacies and sophistries accumulated for years under the names of State Rights and State Sovereignty.

I do not mean any invasion of the legitimate rights of a State, — but of that superlative folly which has been represented by the flag of South Carolina and the sacred soil of Virginia.

The Federal authority has now become powerful, and is the supreme power in the land. When the revolted States are ready to recognize that authority, when they are ready to bear their proportion of the national debt, when they are ready to make common cause with the loyal North in their systems of education and laws and religion, when their citizens are ready to sacrifice their lives in support of the Union as the North has done for the last four years, then and not till then would I allow them to return.

It has been said that the great contest has been between Massachusetts and South Carolina. BE it so. And as Massachusetts has carried the day, I would have South Carolina submit wisely and gracefully to the consequences of the defeat. (Applause and hurrahs.)

Let us see then, if we cannot adopt some system by which our schools, and all our institutions be planted and nurtured upon their soil. I think we can. I think the American people are equal to this issue, and that they will never be satisfied until the Federal arm is stretched over the revolted States, holding them firmly in obedience, in its powerful grasp, until they shall have learned the lesson of freedom, which the North has furnished them.

And during this period of pupilage [of the South] let us exercise such military sway as will secure the great objects of the war.

(Dr. George B. Loring, Speech and Letter, The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1861-1870, Harold Hyman, editor, Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, pp. 234-237)

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

A twenty-two year old Virginian in 1861, George Benjamin West wrote his memoirs of the war thirty years after the war. He noted during his State’s early occupation by the enemy the prevalence of German rather than American soldiers in blue – and the same in 1865 as he rode through occupied Richmond. His observations reveal two distinct cultures in the United States of 1860.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

“Our servants stayed with us several weeks [after the capitulation]. I intended to get a parole, but father insisted that I could go about much freer and would not be subjected to so many interruptions by the guards around Old Point if I took the oath.

I went up to take the oath, and General Joseph R. Anderson, CSA, of the Tredegar Iron Works, a splendid looking man and soldier, was ahead of me, and I heard the questions asked him, and saw the manner of the (Federal) lieutenant, who felt his importance, and I became so indignant with the lieutenant and sorry for the general that when my time came I did not feel the humiliation and shame I expected.

Look around at the sight now. No people ever recuperated in such a short time. This whole section soon became a garden spot, and though most of the people had to lose even their land for security debts (often for the hire of slaves before the war), yet though not accustomed and often not really able to work, they made the best of the situation and determined if possible to start in life again and show the Yankees that they could live without their aid, and even without slaves or property.

I think the South believed that the North opposed slavery not so much because of their [abolitionists’] love for humanity as they pretended but because they were envious of the prosperity of the South and hated the aristocracy because they knew they were superior, and felt that their own mean pecuniary dealings and money-making propensity was condemned.

The South did not try to make money because money was the means by which they could elevate themselves, because they looked more to a man’s character and behavior than to his bank account.

The North had to work harder and live more economically to get along, and probably on this account they would take advantages and do little mean tricks which were looked upon by us as wanting in honor and honesty, and gentlemanly instincts.

The better classes of the North never visited the South, nor were the Southern people anxious to mingle with them at the North, so we grew wider apart every year. They hating and envying us more and more, and we looked down upon them.”

(When the Yankees Came, Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, George Benjamin West, Park Rouse, Jr., editor, The Dietz Press, 1977, pp. 97-98)

Freedmen Intoxicated with the Idea of Power

Not content with devastating the American South and destroying its political power, the vindictive Radicals in Washington considered the conquered States as mere territories to be ruled by Northern proconsuls. To establish a veneer of democracy, blacks were herded to the polls by the notorious Union League to elect Northern men; the freedmen were instructed to burn the barns and homes of white citizens to keep them from the polls.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Freedmen Intoxicated With the Idea of Power

“It was to The Shrubs, the home of his former classmate, Judge Thomas M. Dawkins of Union [county], that Governor McGrath moved the State Capitol with the officials and archives just before General Sherman reached Columbia. There daily reports were received of the burning of Columbia, the position of Sherman’s and Cheatham’s armies, and finally the surrender of Lee and the flight of Jefferson Davis through Union.

In her diary Mrs. Dawkins wrote: “Young people were hopeful to the last so when soldiers were with us, music, dancing, charades, etc., made many enjoyable evenings never to be forgotten. There was a bon ami, a comradeship born of the situation very fascinating and rare.”

After surrender Mrs. Dawkins wrote, “We had 11 servants in the yard, and many of them were there. I said “I have told you, you are free and of course can leave at any time but would rather you wait and let us settle you comfortably.”

My seamstress Milly was Abraham Dogan’s wife, the carriage driver. He became a member of the Legislature. It was with difficulty we could get them to move out of the yard.

Finally in January 1866 Judge Dawkins hired for them a house and settled them with pig provisions, but poor ignorant creatures, they were intoxicated with the idea of power, and always fond of idleness began to steal and destroy property. Scarcely a night without burning. There was no redress, no law, and the Ku Klux Klan was formed to frighten the Negroes, so sensational superstition — all done to this point – masks, coffins, etc. This was done as patiently as possible for 10 years from 1866 to 1876. Then our hero, General Hampton came forward to help us.”

Thus Mrs. Dawkins, born in England, an imported schoolteacher from the North, married to a member of the aristocracy in Union [county], spoke to future generations through her diary of the tensions and problems of a tragic episode in American history.”

(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1965, page 107)

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

Ample evidence suggests that exterminating Southerners and repopulating their lands with New Englanders was desired by abolitionist radicals like Eli Thayer and Parson Brownlow. The latter wanted Negro troops under Ben Butler to drive Southern men, women and children into the Gulf of Mexico to clear the way for those loyal to Lincoln’s government to settle on confiscated Southern lands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

“For many [Southern] manufacturers, the personal and financial losses of the Civil War were truly overwhelming. At Roswell, Georgia, [Northern-born] Barrington King found upon his return from refugeeing farther South, away from Sherman’s destructive swath across that State, that “going towards the creek to see the destruction of our fine mills, all destroyed, the loss of two sons, another wounded, & one with a broken wrist, all caused by the late unnatural war, made me sad indeed.”

Duncan Murchison, the former proprietor of the Little River factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina, lamented, “the fortunes of war have snatched away nearly the whole of my property – my cotton factory, store house, ware-houses, turpentine distillery, with all the stock on hand, were burned by Genl Sherman’s army, and my grain, provisions and stock taken by the two contending armies.”

With six bullet wounds himself, William H. Young of Columbus’s [Georgia] burned Eagle factory also “suffered much and heavily in the recent war by the loss of children and property.”

Ralph Brinkley, who fled the Memphis Wolfe Creek mill upon the entrance of federal troops into Tennessee, wrote the president that he “suffered heavily by the war, and by the loss of two lovely children” and was weighted down with grief and affliction.” The psychological and economic trauma was made more acute by the uncertain political atmosphere in the North.

Eli Thayer, once a confidant of John Brown, wrote [President Andrew] Johnson that Confederate lands should quickly be confiscated and immigrants settled on them. The president at times seemed to endorse treason trials and massive confiscations.

Following the complete occupation of the former Confederacy in the summer of 1865, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch approved extensive seizures of property that fell under the terms of [the Northern confiscation acts since 1861]. Secretary McCulloch, responsive to Andrew Johnson’s insistence that treason be made odious, ruled that State and locally-owned properties in the South were also alienated and liable for confiscation by virtue of their use in the rebellion.

In North Georgia, [Barrington] King observed, as did others across the South, that many freedmen were “leaving their masters’ plantations, crops ruined, no one to do the work – all flooding to the cities and towns, expecting to be supported by Govt.” Although accommodating to free labor, he believed that “without some law compelling the Negroes to work for wages, there will be trouble in another year, as the poor creatures expose themselves, become sickly & fast dying off.”

Then high mortality rate for freed people in the summer of 1865 convinced King and many managers that blacks could not survive without supervision.”

(Confederate Industry, Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, Harold S. Wilson, University of Mississippi Press, 2002, excerpts, pp. 234-237; 252-253)

 

The South More Cheated Than Conquered

The enemies of the American South fought to preserve a fraternal Union which no longer existed, and forced that South under despotic Northern rule with bayonets. The North’s politicians claimed that the Southern States had not left the Union and only had to send its representatives back Washington — and all would be as before. The following is an excerpt from Senator B.H. Hill’s 18 February 1874 address to the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South More Cheated than Conquered

“[The] Northern States and people were not satisfied with [slavery abolished throughout the South]. The war being over, our arms surrendered, our government scattered, and our people helpless, they now determined not only to enlarge the issues made by the war and during the war, but they also determined to change those issues and make demands which had not before been made . . . they now made demands which they had, in every form, declared they could have no power or right to make without violating the Constitution they had sworn to support, and destroying the Union they had waged war itself to preserve.

Over and over during the war they proclaimed in every authoritative form to us and to foreign governments, that secession was a nullity, that our States were still in the Union; and that we had only to lay down our arms, and retain all our rights and powers as equal States in the Union.

We laid down our arms, and immediately they insisted our States had lost all their rights and powers in the Union, and while compelled to remain under the control if the Union, we could only do so with such rights and powers as they might accord, and on such terms and conditions they might impose.

Over and over again during the war they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that our people had taken up arms in defense of secession under misapprehension of their purposes toward us, and that we only had to lay down our arms and continue to enjoy, in the Union, every right and privilege as before the mistaken act of secession.

We laid down our arms and they declared we were all criminals and traitors, who had forfeited all rights and privilege, and were entitled to neither property, liberty or life, except through their clemency!

Over and over again during the wat they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that the seats of our members in Congress were vacant, and we had only to return and occupy them as it was both our right and duty to do.

Our people laid down their arms and sent on their members, and they were met with the startling proposition that we neither had the right to participate in the administration of the Union, nor even to make law or government for our own States!

Addressing this Society in Virginia, during the last summer, Mr. (Jefferson) Davis said: “We were more cheated than conquered into surrender.”

The Northern press denounced this as a slander, and some of our Southern press deprecated the expression as indiscreet! I aver tonight, what history will affirm, that the English language does not contain, and could not form a sentence of equal size which expressed more truth. We were cheated not only by our enemies; but the profuse proclamations of our enemies, before referred to, were taken up and repeated by malcontents in our midst – many of them too, who had done all in their power to hurry our people into secession.

Oh, my friends, we were fearfully, sadly, treacherously, altogether cheated into surrender! If the demands were made, after the war was over, had been frankly avowed while the war was in progress, there would have been no pretexts for our treacherous malcontents; there would have been no division or wearying among our people; there would have been no desertions from our armies, and there would have been no surrender of arms, nor loss of our cause. Never! Never!”

(Southern Secession and Northern Coercion, the Spitefulness of Reconstruction, Senator Benjamin H. Hill, Society for Biblical and Southern Studies, 2001 (original 1874), pp. 9-11)

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

Confiscating Symbols of American Liberty

The graves of Raleigh’s Southern dead were not safe from Sherman’s army of thieves in 1865; the Northern commander of that city was no better as he ordered the graves removed lest the remains be thrown into the street. Also, anyone possessing symbols of the late Confederate States risked confiscation and arrest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Confiscating the Symbols of American Liberty

“The Ladies Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there. It was but a short while after the Federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested the Confederate dead, and ordered that they be removed at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, [with] Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made president . . . A resting-place was selected for the re-interment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there were scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures; so it was a sacred trust, most religiously kept by the young men and women, to visit these graves almost daily to see that they were kept in order.

The association grew in numbers and the interest increased. Many Confederate dead from the country were moved to this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound.

After the death of Gen. Jackson the 10th of May was selected as Memorial Day, when the citizens were to repair to the cemetery to participate in the services there. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory, every legitimate means was resorted to by the association.

This was not done without risk, as it was reported that contraband articles were for sale, such as Confederate flags, a strand of General Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general: so there would be the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran Magazine, May 1898, page 227)

Holden's Evil Genius in North Carolina

After the military overthrow of North Carolina’s government in 1865, political opportunist William Woods Holden was appointed provisional governor by Andrew Johnson. An organizer of the Republican party in the State, he was elected governor in 1868 through election corruption and the disqualification of white voters. Holden biographer William C. Harris wrote: “Most contemporaries characterized Holden as a bitter, unscrupulous, and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambitions.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Holden’s Evil Genius in North Carolina

“Governor Holden in his inaugural address laid down the doctrine that no part in government should be played by those who had opposed reconstruction. He then advocated and threatened the use of force by the State administration. These two ideas, with his defense of the carpetbaggers, were prophetic of the character of his administration, for it was bitterly partisan throughout, force was employed to uphold it, and it was entirely controlled by carpetbaggers.

With the one exception of John Pool, who was, throughout his administration, his evil genius, no one had any such upon him as was exerted by the corrupt gang of aliens who infested the State and surrounded him. All played on his ambition, and there lay his most fatal weakness. Into their hands he committed his future, believing that high national honors were soon to be his, and the result was not only disastrous to himself, but well-nigh ruinous to the State.

The first matter to receive the attention of the governor was, as was to be expected, the filling of such offices as lay within his gift. [The] governor busied himself with the appointments, keeping clearly in mind their political value, and taking care that the Negroes obtained their full share of these cheap honors.

The office of magistrate in North Carolina had always been one of honor and importance. It now became a by-word and a reproach. Governor Holden’s appointments were notoriously poor and, in the main, the white men appointed were not much more fitted to discharge the duties of the office than were the Negroes. Hundreds of them could not read or write and prisoners often had to make out the papers to which the justice laboriously affixed his mark. Much of the later trouble in the administration of justice was due to these ignorant and often corrupt appointees of the governor.

The towns next won the governor’s attention and, without any authority, he commenced the appointment of mayors and commissioners of the various towns of the State. The municipal officers of Raleigh refused to yield to the new [city] administration which was headed by the governor’s brother-in-law. The governor then telegraphed to General Canby for a military force to seat his appointees. The next day he wired for the necessary force to oust the sheriff of New Hanover who had also declined to recognize an appointee of the governor. The sheriffs of Granville, Randolph, and other counties refused to and in every case military force was employed.

It was not a favorable outlook for North Carolina, though the real evils of Reconstruction were scarcely dreamed of. The leaders of [Holden’s Republican] party were holding back until the presidential election should be won, when they would be safe from unfriendly interference by the national government. To that time they looked forward with more eagerness than any slave had ever hoped for freedom and with more longing than any weary Hebrew had ever felt for the Promised Land.”

(Reconstruction in North Carolina, Joseph G. deR. Hamilton, 1914, excerpts, pp. 343-349)