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The Greatest Slave Carriers of America

New England rum and Yankee notions were exchanged for African slaves as Boston and Newport rivaled each other for slave trade prominence in the early 1700s. Annually, about 1800 hogsheads of rum were traded to African tribes for their slaves, and this left little for consumption in the colony.

From this profitable trade in human merchandise, “an opulent and aristocratic society” developed in Newport; Col. Thomas Hazard of Narragansett and Mr. Downs of Bristol “were names that loomed large in the commercial and social registers of that day. Their fortunes were accumulated from the slave trade.”

It is worth noting that had there been no transatlantic slave trade carried on by the British and New Englanders, the American South would have had no peculiar institution.

Greatest Slave Carriers of America

“The growth of Negro slavery in New England was slow during the seventeenth century. In 1680, there were only 20 slaves in Connecticut, two of whom had been christened. In 1676, Massachusetts had 200 slaves . . . in 1700 Governor Dudley placed the number at 550, four hundred of whom were in Boston.

In 1730, New Hampshire boasted of but thirty slaves. The Eighteenth Century, however, saw the rise of the New England colonies as the greatest slave-carriers of America. Quick to see the unprofitableness of the Negro slaves as a laborer in such an environment, when the price of a slave was greater than the labor returned, the ingenious Yankee soon found a market in the West Indies for slaves, exchanged for rum, sugar and molasses on the Guinea Coast.

Massachusetts early assumed a commanding position in this trade. The ports of Boston and Salem prospered especially. Their merchants carried on a “brisk trade to Guinea” for many years, marketing most of their slaves in the West Indies.

Peter Faneuil, whose “whole lineage in held in peculiar honor” in Boston, was typical of the many comfortable fortunes amassed from the profits of this traffic. The name Jolley Bachelor, which was carried by one of his ships engaged in the slave trade, typifies the spirit of the time in regard to this profitable business.

As opulence increased, the number of slaves grew proportionately. In 1735, there were 2,600 Negroes in Massachusetts; in 1764 the number had increased to 5,779. In 1742, Boston alone had 1,514 slaves and free Negroes, the number having almost quadrupled in about forty years.

[In 1696] the brigantine Sunflower arrived at Newport with forty-five slaves. Most of them were sold there at thirty to thirty-five pounds a head; the rest were taken to Boston for disposal.

Subsequently, however, the slave trade of Rhode Island outstripped that of Massachusetts. Governor Wood, early in the Eighteenth Century, reported that the colony had one hundred and twenty vessels employed in the trade. Newport rivaled Boston as New England’s premier seaport. It had twenty or thirty stills going full blast to supply rum for the African trade.”

(Slave-Holding in New England and Its Awakening, Lorenzo J. Greene; Journal of Negro History, Vol. XIII, Number 4, October 1928, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 495-497)

The American Right of Revolution

The northeastern United States of the late 1820s were sufficiently prosperous to have a large group of “substantial citizens” . . . manufacturers and journalists interested in the cause of domestic industry, and their purpose was to influence the passage of a new tariff act.” For the most part these men were industrialists and focused on increased profits, not national stability.

The South was in economic distress at the time and the new, higher tariff “seemed to end once and for all any prospect of relief, and many [Southerners] were ready for outright rebellion, even as New England had been in 1814.”

For South Carolina to nullify a federal law it viewed as obnoxious and injurious to its citizens, was a full expression of the Tenth Amendment — inserted into the Constitution for an obvious purpose. The next logical step of an injured State would be peacefully withdrawing from a political union which no longer fulfilled the purposes for which it was formed. And if withdrawal was met with violence, revolution was next.

The American Right of Revolution

“Controversial as Nullification was in the absence of original records before 1828-1833, Americans still continued to believe in federalism and States’ rights. In the words of Alexander Johnston, “Almost every State in the Union in turn declared its own sovereignty and denounced as almost treasonable similar declarations by other States.”

Herman V. Ames in fact compiled a “collection of documents on the relation of the States to the Federal Government” in 1911. They were “selected especially,” he observed, “with a view to illustrate the development of the “compact theory” of the Constitution and the doctrine of “State Rights,’ State opposition to the Federal Judiciary, and the different phases of the slavery controversy, culminating in the secession movement.”

That we believe otherwise today, in Nullification’s unconstitutionality and [John C.] Calhoun’s and the South’s apostasy from the beliefs of the founders and framers, is explained by another and longer era of historical amnesia by which original intentions as described herein in length were not so much forgotten as between 1789 and 1819, but purposely misinterpreted both to nullify the Nullifiers of South Carolina and to establish a mythical history for a new nation in the making that was the central development of the years after the War of 1812 and until the Civil War.

While this more liberal-democratic-egalitarian-nationalist America was yet inchoate as the confused politics of the 1820s and 1830s inform us, it was there nonetheless in Jacksonian Democracy and nationalism and radical abolitionism which were, it is forgotten, minority movements. The union of the States persisted with the 18th century Whig-republican ideology still extant as the core set of beliefs within the misnamed Democratic party that was really republican with a small “r.”

The liberal-in-a-neo-Hamiltonian sense-Whigs of the 19th century co-existed long enough to make party politics interesting and popular and the preserve the old union of the States. If not republicans, most Americans before the Civil War remained at least federalists. Nullification may have come and gone, but the “right of revolution” continued to be accepted as an original intention and the ultimate means to preserve liberty.”

(Nullification, A Constitutional History, 1776-1833, Volume II: James Madison and the Constitutionality of Nullification, 1787-1828, W. Kirk Wood, University Press of America, 2009, excerpts pg. 105)

Florida’s Postwar Politics

During Reconstruction-era Florida, political boss Leonard G. Dennis became one of that State’s wealthiest men by selling political endorsements to the highest bidders and then taking a part of the monthly salary of each. To secure the cooperation of his appointees, he kept signed letters of resignation from each political applicant before being granted the office.

Dennis was a Massachusetts-born soldier who settled postwar in Alachua County, Florida where he became politically active, largely through his control over the freedmen, and known as the “Little Giant.” In 1876, he helped throw the presidential election to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, known afterward as “His Fraudulency.”

Florida’s Postwar Politics

“The last Statewide Republican victory of the Reconstruction era occurred in 1873 when the legislature elected [New Jersey-native] Dr. Simon B. Conover, a Tallahassee carpetbagger, to the United States Senate. In 1875 the legislature elected the first Democrat to the Senate since the Republicans had come to power. Mainly self-educated, Charles W. Jones was an Irish-born ex-carpenter from Pensacola . . . [and] elected by only one vote, Republican control of the legislature was broken.

While internal corruption and the hatred of white Southerners played important roles in its downfall, the Republican party throughout Reconstruction lacked strength because it lacked leadership. With the exception of scalawag Ossian Hart and blacks Jonathan Gibbs and Josiah T. Walls, it depended on Northern carpetbaggers with only a superficial knowledge of the State and the needs of the freedmen.

Political rewards for Negroes other than minor offices were rare despite the fact that almost the entire party voting strength was Negro. Walls came to Florida from Virginia shortly after the war and engaged in cabbage growing in Alachua County. Prospering while most of his white neighbors were poverty-stricken, Walls reached the economic status of planter.

Entering politics Walls soon became joint leader of the Alachua County Republican machine, sharing this position with Leonard G. Dennis . . . a corrupt, self-seeking demagogue, forever willing to sacrifice the Negro on the altar of opportunism.”

(Florida Politics in the Gilded Age, 1877-1893, Edward C. Williamson, University of Florida, 1976, excerpts pp. 9-10)

Quaker Masters and their Property

The slave trade of New England increased as its maritime fleet competed with the mother country for the West Indian trade. By 1750, Providence, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of the transatlantic slave trade, and populated the West Indies and the American South with slaves purchased from African tribes in exchange for Yankee notions and rum.

Southern colonies tried to restrict the slave imports, and “Resolutions were passed in various Virginia counties against the African trade on the ground that it prevented manufacturers and other useful migrants from settling in the colony and instead increased the colony’s unfavorable balance of trade.”

Additional resistance to stopping the slave trade came from the British Crown, which overrode the Virginia and North Carolina colonial assembly’s.

Quaker Masters and their Property

“At all times the respectable complained that the wages of labor were too high. “Tis the poor that make the rich,” one writer frankly admitted in John Peter Zenger’s New-York Weekly Journal. [John] Logan complained to [William] Penn in 1705 that Pennsylvania was in depression because England with its cheap labor could undersell Pennsylvania in the provision trade in the West Indies. If only more people could be brought in to “lower the prices of labor,” the colony would prosper.

Penn’s view of indentured servants as property was still retained. The influential Quaker preacher, Thomas Story, exclaimed in 1741 that bought servants are as much “the property of their masters, as their lands, goods, money or clothing.” Without them the masters “could not cultivate their lands or maintain their families.” Therefore the governor is “infringing the just liberty and property of the people” in allowing the servants to enlist in the war emergency.

The assembly and council added that this “unconstitutional” practice injures the masters whose servants have not enlisted, for they “must humor them in everything lest they enlist.” Thus they grow “idle, neglectful, insolent and mutinous.”

The enlightened [Thomas] Mayhew of Massachusetts envied Pennsylvania her mass of German indentured servants. These, he declared in an election sermon in 1754, made Pennsylvania as rich and populous in a few years as the greatest and most opulent of colonies.

Even Washington, endeavoring to people his frontier lands for his own gain and his country’s protection in the cheapest, most effectual manner, thought strongly for a time of obtaining a “parcel of these people.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Volume I, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 117-119)

America’s Poor Country Cousin

Many saw Franklin Roosevelt as “one of the most eloquent exponents of States’ rights” while governor of New York and considered a safe alternative to nationalist Republicans who precipitated the Depression. But it was ironic that so many conservative Southern legislators dedicated to preserving their region’s way of life helped Roosevelt enact the greatest reform legislation in the country’s history. This would occur despite the sniping of Huey Long and the dependable opposition from conservatives Carter Glass and Harry Byrd of Virginia, and Josiah Bailey of North Carolina.

America’s Poor Country Cousin

“[Many] traditional Southerners who accepted the New Deal, [did so] possibly because of party loyalties and partly because of economic benefits going to their areas, and some modern young Southerners, like Maury Maverick and Lyndon B. Johnson, both of Texas, who were ready with fire and enthusiasm to espouse the New Deal causes.

Roosevelt knew precisely how to ingratiate himself with these leaders; he did it by providing patronage to their areas and bestowing honors upon them as frequently as possible. Even an old recalcitrant like Glass, full of venom against the New Deal, was mollified considerably by Roosevelt’s assiduous courtship in the form of jollying notes and flattering attention in public.

During those first years, most Southerners – like all Americans – were deeply concerned with how the New Deal was affecting them, and it was this that shaped their attitudes toward Roosevelt. From the outset most of the economic leaders of the South were not pleased.

In many ways they had capitalized upon the separate and unequal role of the South in the national economy. Most of the old disorders against which Southern leaders had so long complained were still plaguing the South: it was discriminated against in freight rates; it lacked a fair share of capital and industry; and it was predominantly agrarian.

Northern corporations drained profits out of the South, and in times of economic distress they sometimes closed their Southern factories first. The Southern economy in both its private and public sectors was the poor country cousin.

Unfortunately, the “country cousin” had tried to support himself by working for lower wages. Both agriculture and industry in the South maintained their existence only through providing the most meager return to farmers and workers. Southern States lured Northern industry to their areas not only by the promise of low wages but also by tax concessions which precipitated an undue share of the cost of government onto people who were already underpaid.

[As a result of  FDR’s National Recovery Act which raised wages,] new machinery was installed [in mills] which required twenty fewer employees to operate . . . employers fired workers of marginal usefulness, required the same work output in a shorter number of hours, and engaged in subterfuges (such as kickbacks from salary checks) in order to keep their labor costs from soaring.”

(The Conservative South, Frank Freidel; The South and the Sectional Image: The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 104-110)

Sins & Profits of Pilgrims & Puritans

New England settlers, like those in Virginia, were part of a joint stock company organization. Those at Plymouth in 1620 were the first enduring compact settlement, and comprised of John Robinson’s Separatist church of Leyden, Holland. “They complained that economic necessity forced them to be hard not only on their servants, but also on their children, who in Holland fell easy victim to the licentious example of the Dutch youth and to the temptation of the city.”

These settlers eventually found that rum made from West Indian molasses could be traded to the Indians for furs, and later traded to African chieftains in exchange for their slaves.

Sins & Profits of Pilgrims & Puritans

“To extend the fur trade monopoly, a patent was obtained from the New England Council for Kennebec, in what is now Maine. This monopoly was so zealously guarded that bloodshed resulted. Their Puritan brethren in Massachusetts complained, “They have brought us all, and the gospel under common reproach, of cutting one another’s throats for beaver.”

Not a little of the animosity of the Pilgrim fathers and other Puritan settlers toward Thomas Morton, a nearby English trading gentleman lawyer, was aroused by his interference with their profits from the fur trade. “Morton,” wrote [Governor William] Bradford, “has committed many sins. He is licentious and atheistical. He offers a haven to runaway servants, and supplies the Indians with guns.”

All sorts of punishments were visited on this “unscrupulous competitor,” from burning down his settlement to banishment to England. Morton quite gaily explained in his New England Canaan that, while he gave the Indians guns to obtain furs, the Pilgrims gave them more potent rum.

“Commerce has opened new lands for the preaching of the gospel,” promoters wrote. But the godly who live in wealth and prosperity must head the settlements, for a great work requires the best instruments, not a multitude of rude and misgoverned persons, the very scum of the land.

In England there is little hope for the godly. The fountains of learning and religion – the universities – are corrupted by “licentious government of these seminaries where men strain at gnats and swallow camels, use all severity for maintenance of caps” and other ceremonials, but tolerate “ruffian-like fashions and disorder in manners.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 29-34)

Emancipator and Confederate Naval Officer

The Wilmington Journal editorialized on 25 September 1863 that: “It is a curious fact, for those who maintain the civil war in America is founded upon the slave question, that [John Newland Maffitt] should be the very man who has distinguished himself actively against the slave trade.”

Maffitt, born of Irish parents at sea on the Atlantic on 22 February 1819, was said to be “born to command a ship.” He was “cultivated and gentlemanly,” blessed with a magnetic personality, and his seagoing exploits during the war are legendary.

The slave ship Echo noted below was originally built and registered in Baltimore in 1845 as the Putnam, for the New York City merchants Everett and Brown. The latter sold the ship in 1857 to “New York slave traders.”

New York City at the time “proved to be an ideal port for launching illegal slave voyages at this time: it boasted an abundance of available vessels and seafarers, it was overseen by overstretched and often corrupt port officials, and it even offered a legitimate trade in West African palm oil that could serve as a legitimate cover for illegal human trafficking.”

The newly purchased Putnam was sent on its first slaving voyage in 1857, the first of fifteen to leave New York City docks in that year alone.

Emancipator and Confederate Naval Officer

“Maffitt had captured a beautiful clipper named Echo, originally from Baltimore. It had a crew of eighteen, several of whom were Americans. It carried – stowed in a false lower deck only forty-four inches high – some three hundred African slaves. They were separated by sex and almost entirely naked. Maffitt ordered [two officers with a prize crew] to sail the Echo to Charleston to be turned over to the US marshal for disposition in court.

From orders dated 11 June 1859, he learned his new command was to be the USS Crusader [to be used] again cruising for slavers. (His earlier capture of the Echo had touched off great interest in the enterprise and led to a series of captures by other US naval vessels).

[On May 23rd, 1860] off the northern coast of Cuba [Maffitt stopped and boarded a suspicious square-rigger flying a French flag]. At this moment, hundreds of blacks broke open the hatches and, with a great shout, swarmed on board. When they saw the American flag over the Crusader, they became frantic with joy. The men danced, shouted, and climbed into the rigging. The women’s behavior was quite different. Totally nude, and some with babies in their arms, they withdrew to sit upon the deck, silent tears of appreciation in their eyes.

The crew of the slaver . . . stated their ship had no name, but it subsequently was found to be the bark Bogota out of New York. The cargo master spoke English and “might be taken for a Yankee galvanized into a Frenchman or Spaniard, as circumstances might dictate.”

Maffitt escorted the Bogota to Key West. The blacks, between four and five hundred of them, had been on passage in the Bogota for forty-five days from Ouida, a slave trading base in the People’s Republic of Benin (Kingdom of Dahomey). They, like many others, had been prisoners of war sold by the king.

At Key West, the blacks joined others who had been recaptured by the navy. Buildings had been erected to house them at Whitehead Point. At the time, there were some fourteen hundred Africans in the complex awaiting government disposition.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt, Royce Shingleton, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, excerpts pp. 26-30)

Apr 25, 2019 - America Transformed, Economics, Lincoln Revealed, Lincoln's Patriots, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Republican Party, Sharp Yankees    Comments Off on White House Insider Information

White House Insider Information

William O. Stoddard of upstate New York was one of three personal secretaries utilized by Lincoln, joined by John Hay and John Nicolay. Stoddard had an adventurist personality and became one of the office-seeking multitude looking for appointment in Lincoln’s new Republican administration.

White House Insider Information

“Stoddard was high-spirited . . . “And almost every man who can discover means for doing so is gambling in stocks and gold.” This game is fascinating, he says, because of “the sudden and unaccountable jumps and falls of what are called its prices, meaning the price of greenbacks. They are rather the pulsations of the public hope and fear concerning the national credit.”

To put the case as simply as possible, the new greenbacks the government issued in 1862 were not backed by gold, but they were placed on par value with bonds that were. The Union had not coin enough to pay its bills . . . It was patriotic to hold greenbacks, but even the truest patriot had himself and his family to feed. So rumors of distant battle, another Union defeat or embarrassment, would set many citizens scrambling for gold and speculators selling paper money short – or buying it in the belief a Union victory would send it soaring again.

The speculation that year was running insanely wild in New York and other financial centers, and I formed the idea that it was almost true patriotism to be what is called a “bear” in gold. I therefore went in, a little at first and then deeper . . . I had not the least idea that there was anything wrong in it for a fellow in my position . . .”

Stoddard had noted, as he did every day, the price of gold, selling at $132 per ounce, and it would go even higher if [General Ambrose] Burnside failed in Virginia. He had his eye on the stock exchange, especially the gold and currency markets, where he hoped to make his fortune.

Rumors of Lee’s rapid advance [into Pennsylvania] spread panic in the mid-Atlantic cities from Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The price of gold had been rising as the result of Union defeats; now the fear of a Confederate invasion spread to the financial markets as well. The price of gold was soaring, and Stoddard – the shrewd gambler – was “shorting” the metal and piling up greenbacks . . . [and] had made a killing in the gold market.  

“Does the President take any interest in Wall Street gambling operations?” Stoddard asked rhetorically in his memoirs. “Of course he does, for the currency is the life of his policies.”

Over dinner one evening, they were discussing precious metals. “What is the price of gold this morning? Is it up or down? Lincoln asked his secretary. “Up Mr. Lincoln. The street is wild.”

“Well now,” the president replied, “they don’t know everything. If I were a bear on Wall Street, and if I were short of gold, I’d keep short. It’s a good time to sell.”

New York financier Clinton Rice testified that he made Stoddard’s acquaintance in 1862, when he told Rice “he enjoyed superior facilities for obtaining in advance all information of a political, official and diplomatic character likely to affect gold, stocks and other commodities. I entered into an arrangement with him [Stoddard] to furnish me telegraphic cipher dispatches.” Rice would use the information to invest in stocks or gold, and divide profits with Stoddard “share and share alike.”

As soon as there was “any important action of the Cabinet, or on receipt by the President or heads of departments of any important military or naval . . . operation” or diplomatic development, the secretary would wire Rice at once in cipher and the financier would place his bets. [Stoddard referred] to the “hollow” Union victory at Bristoe Station three weeks earlier, and how much the press had exaggerated the importance of the event. “I think I could run a gold line here better than anywhere else . . .”

(Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries, Daniel Mark Epstein, HarperCollins, 2009, excerpts pp. 100; 133; 135; 152; 172-173)

A Party of Disunion and Thievery

Fielding their very first presidential candidate in 1856, the new Republican party was responsible for breaking up the 1789 federation of States only four years later – it was indeed the party of disunion. With conservative Southerners gone from Congress in 1861, the Republicans began dismantling the Founders’ republic and ushered in America’s “Gilded Age” and pursuit of empire. This new America would be “despotic at home and aggressive abroad” as Robert E. Lee famously remarked to Lord Acton shortly after the war ended.

A Party of Disunion and Thievery

“In the Plundering Generation, Ludwell H. Johnson summarized the real reasons for Lincoln’s violent opposition to the South’s independence: “Manufacturers feared the loss of American markets to a flood of cheap British goods pouring through a free-trade Confederacy; Northern shippers feared the loss of their monopoly of the coasting trade and their share of the transatlantic carrying trade; merchants feared the loss of the profits they garnered as middlemen between the South and Europe; creditors feared the loss of Southern debts; the Old Northwest feared the loss or curtailment of the Mississippi trade; the Republicans feared the disintegration of their party should it let the South go and bring upon the North all the consequences just mentioned.”

Lincoln waged war on the South, however, to achieve more than preservation of the status quo. War was the means to establish the North’s hegemony over the political and economic life of the United States. War offered Lincoln, his party, and Northern special interests a continental empire to exploit. And they did so with ruthless abandon. In the North, Lincoln’s Congress imposed excise taxes on virtually all items; raised the protective tariff to the highest level in the country’s history (under the Morrill Act of 1861); issued paper currency (Legal Tender Act of 1862); awarded Northern railroad companies government loans and extensive land grants (Pacific Railway Act of 1862); unilaterally repealed Indian land claims; promoted settlement of western lands by Northerners (Homestead Act of 1862); effectively “nationalized” the country’s financial institutions (National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864); and furnished Northern business with cheap labor (Contract Labor Law of 1864).

In the South, Congress authorized the theft of tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, worth of Southern property (Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862, Direct Tax Act of 1862, and Captured and Abandoned Property Act of 1863). The cotton, alone, that the North stole has been conservatively valued at $100 million.

This legalized robbery was in addition to the plundering by Lincoln’s Army. In December 1864, Sherman wrote: “I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia . . . at $100,000,000; at least $20,000,000 which has inured to our advantage, and the remainder is simple waste and destruction.”

With Lincoln came the wholesale corruption of the political system. In 1864, Edward Bates, Lincoln’s attorney general, lamented that “the demoralizing effect of this civil war is plainly visible in every department of life. The abuse of official powers and thirst for dishonest gain are now so common as they cease to shock.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pp. 44-45; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

The Famed Army of Northern Virginia

Captain John De Forest of the Twelfth Connecticut regiment was a veteran of Louisiana’s military occupation when it was hurried to Washington to defend it from General Jubal Early’s march up the Shenandoah. In his letters home De Forest wrote that army regulations did not provide Northern officers with rations or credit for obtaining them, thus he often went hungry when short of money. “In addition, he remarked bitterly to his brother in a letter, “many of the commissaries are scamps, who charge us a profit over and above the government price for the article. I have known the same article to vary in price the same day . . . I cannot help suspecting that some of the generals share with the commissaries in this kind of plunder.”

The Famed Veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia

“Halltown, Virginia, August 8, 1864:

A column of cavalry four or five miles long is in sight coming up the Potomac Valley. Possibly they have been hunting Mosby’s guerillas, who are said to be troubling our communications with Washington. Early with his main force is at Winchester seven miles southerly from us.

The Sixth Corps, one of the best in the Army of the Potomac, is lying near us. They seem to be badly demoralized by the severe service and the disastrous battles of the campaign in Virginia. Their guns are dirty; their camps are disorderly clutters of shelter tents; worst of all, the men are disrespectful to their officers. I heard a private say to a lieutenant: “I’ll slap your face if you say that again.”

“Looking for guns [Captain]?” Drawled a sergeant. “Well, if you find a clean gun in this camp, you claim it.” We hain’t had one in our brigade since Cold Harbor.” Their talk about the war and our immediate military future had a tone of depression which astonished me.

“But don’t you believe in Grant at all?” I finally asked.

“Yes, we believe in Grant,” replied the colonel. “But we believe a great deal more in Lee and in that Army of Northern Virginia.”

Near Charles Town, Virginia, August 21, 1864:

Thus far General Sheridan is cautious about fighting, perhaps because of instructions from high political authority. With the elections at hand, including the presidential, it would not do to have this army beaten and the North invaded. So, whenever Early is reinforced, Sheridan retreats to a strong position and waits to be attacked. It is to the enemy’s interest just now to take the offensive, but we doubt if Early has men enough to risk it.

Three points I noted with regard to our opponents, the famed veterans of “the Army of Northern Virginia.” They aimed better than our men; they covered themselves (in case of need) more carefully and effectively; they could move in a swarm, without much care for alignment and touch of elbows. In short, they fought more like redskins, or like hunters, than we. The result was that they lost fewer men, though they were inferior in numbers, and perhaps not half our number.”

(A Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, John William De Forest, Archon Books, 1970 (original 1946), excerpts pp. 165-166; 190)

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