Browsing "Southern Culture Laid Bare"
Oct 13, 2018 - Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Achieving the Supposed Impossible

Achieving the Supposed Impossible

The “Bloody Angle” at the battle of Spottsylvania on May 12, 1864 was a severe test of Lee’s men against the overwhelming forces of Grant – the latter mounting successive attacks in his war of attrition against Lee’s army. In two weeks of fighting since the start of the Wilderness battles, Grant had already lost 32,000 men to battle as well as 20,000 who reached the end of their enlistments. But more foreign and bounty-enriched recruits would replenish his ranks; despite the continuing heroism of his troops, Lee’s losses were near impossible to repair.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Achieving the Supposed Impossible

“In his extended and penetrating study “Grant’s Campaign of 1864-1865,” (page 285), Major [Charles F.] Atkinson [of the British Army] says truly of the angle:

“The battle is indescribable except by catalog of those deeds of individual heroism that happened to be noted and to be remembered in quieter hours . . . The problem is how to account for Lee’s success and Meade’s failure.” He ascribes it, of course, to “the success of Lee’s men in keeping the battle within the breastworks and to the actual combat of the fight. Lee’s exact knowledge of the tensile strength of his material enabled him to use them to the best possible advantage in succession.”

Comparing their successive hand-to-hand contests with the battles in Greek and Roman warfare, he discusses the psychology of their endurance, the hero’s instinct to fight it out, and the will to win.

He concludes: “All this however does not account for the devotion of the actual combatants. The conditions at the point of contact were certainly such as no man could have endured for long.” He did not know that the South Carolina brigade fought continuously at the point of contact for eighteen hours – achieving the supposed impossible.

Generals Grant, Meade and Wright endeavored all day to reenter the Salient at that “vulnerable” west angle. By defeating them there, Harris’ Mississippi and McGowan’s South Carolina brigades defeated their purpose for the whole battle.

With Lee’s infantry and artillery manning it, the new line was practically impregnable to the Federals. General Barlow, whose division a week later, again led in assault, wrote “On th 18th [of May] we assaulted their second line without success.” This was at 4AM and was a carefully planned combined assault by Hancock’s Second Corps, strengthened by eight thousand fresh troops from Washington.

Wright, Burnside and Warren were to cooperate, but did not attack because the heavy artillery and musketry fire soon drove back Hancok’s troops. “Thus ended the last concerted effort to break up the Confederate lines of defense at Spottsylvania.”

The soldiers who, by their long death struggle made the building of Lee’s new line of breastworks possible, were the South Carolinians who “held the key to the Confederate arch” through the great day of battle – or who died there. There they left their dead and the many wounded unto death. They had not failed. The sacrifice of the heroes in the Bloody Angle line was necessary to save the lives of many others.

General Lee telegraphed to Richmond that after the losses at daybreak “thanks to a merciful Providence our subsequent casualties were not large” – that is, in the army as a whole. At the Bloody Angle, the Mississippi and South Carolina brigades each lost about half their numbers. [The losses elsewhere] would have been great if the soldiers holding the apex-line at the Angle had given way before the new intrenchments were ready.

Upon one brigade depended the fate of the army more than is usual even in battle. They died there that they might save their army. Facing almost certain death, it seemed, for eighteen hours, they and their brigade kept the vastly greater numbers of the enemy who were assaulting them from breaking through to the heart of Lee’s army . . . By their suffering and death many thousands of their comrades were saved.”

(A Colonel at Spottsylvania: The Life and Character of Colonel Joseph Newton Brown, The Battle at Spottsylvania, May 12, 1864, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, excerpts pp. 300-302)

Oct 1, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

The Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 petitioned the King to curtail his importation of slaves to the colony, arguing that slavery “greatly retards the Settlement of the Colonies.” With no other means of dependable labor for their plantations, Virginia slaveholders like Robert Carter rewarded those who worked on Sunday when needed, provided them measured independence, and allowed them to build their own quarters and supervise his plantation enterprises. The reward for faithful service was often emancipation by deed and will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

“On September 5, 1791, Robert Carter III of Nomony Hall, one of Virginia’s wealthiest slaveholders, delivered to the Northumberland District Court a document he called a “Deed of Gift.” It was a dry document . . . [which] signaled Carter’s intent to free his slaves, more than four hundred fifty in number, more American slaves than any American slaveholder had ever freed, more American slaves than any American slaveholder would ever free.

Carter lived next to the Washington’s and the Lee’s on the Northern Neck of Virginia, he was friend and peer to Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and other members of the Revolutionary elite.

No monuments honor him, nor the Deed of Gift. No published map exists that can direct you to the patchwork ruins of his house and plantation; no stone wall tells exactly where his body lies. Sweep through the great bestselling histories of the Revolution and the founders, and you will rarely find even a footnote mentioning Robert Carter.

Eugene D. Genovese, in his classic “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” refers to Carter three times, once as an example of a slaveholder who consulted his slaves on the performance of their overseers, once as an example of a slaveholder who allowed his slaves to practice medicine, and once as a slaveholder who believed that slavery was unprofitable.

In the summer of 1791 . . . as Robert Carter composed the Deed of Gift, the private emancipation of slaves in the State of Virginia had been lawful for almost a decade. Such emancipations were difficult financial propositions, but certainly feasible: before Robert Carter freed his slaves, small slaveholders across Virginia had liberated almost ten thousand of their black servants, and entire States with significant slave populations, such as New Jersey, were learning how to finance emancipations on a public scale.

Similarly, like many slaveholders before him, Carter provided financial support and sponsorship that eased the transition to freedom, provided for disabled and indigent freed slaves, and laid the groundwork for an interracial republic, challenging in numerous small instances the notion that young America would fall apart if blacks and whites were free at the same time.”

(The First Emancipator: Slavery, Religion and the Quiet Revolution of Robert Carter, Andrew Levy, Random House, 2005. Excerpts pp. xi-xviii)

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley was sent to Canada to reinforce the existing military force after the US Navy seizure of the British mail packet Trent in November, 1861. War was expected to commence and Wolseley, who distinguished himself later in his career in the Second Ashanti War and in an effort to rescue General Charles Gordon, led 10,000 seasoned British troops in Canada. Wolseley was well-aware of the immigrant source of Lincoln’s army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Wolseley was aware of the source of many of Lincoln’s soldiers, combed from Ireland and Germany to fight against Americans. As he called for British intervention, he also knew that his country was responsible for populating the US with Africans, over whom the war was allegedly fought by the North.

“The first British officer to visit the Confederacy had at one time expected to be fighting against the North. Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley, a veteran of several of Queen Victoria’s wars, was part of a British force ordered to Canada in 1861 as a show of strength after the US Navy stopped the British mail packet Trent and seized two Confederate agents who were on board.

The threat of war receded . . . [and taking] two months leave, he travelled . . . to New York City in September 1862 . . . and crossed the Potomac [as] General Robert E. Lee’s army was withdrawing from Maryland at the conclusion of the [Sharpsburg] campaign.

Even as he entered Virginia, Wolseley was favorably disposed toward the Confederacy, ostensibly out of concern for civil liberties in the wartime North. He described residents of Maryland as “stricken . . . with terror” by arrests ordered from Washington [and declined] to describe his route through Maryland, lest he endanger those with whom he had stayed.

Travelling by train from Fredericksburg to Richmond, [the] wounded from Lee’s Maryland invasion . . . impressed even Wolseley, the professional soldier:

“Men with legs and arms amputated, and whose pale, haggard faces assumed an expression of anguish even at the slightest jolting of the railway carriages, lay stretched across the seats – some accompanied . . . by wives or sisters, whose careworn features told a tale of sleepless nights passed in painful uncertainty regarding the fate of those they loved.”

In early October, Wolseley set out for Lee’s headquarters . . . his driver was a convalescent soldier who was still in considerable discomfort. “He said his furlough was up, and he would rather die than overstay it . . . when spoken to about the war, every man in the South, were prepared to die, he said, but never to reunite with the d—d Yankees.”

The British officer was impressed [with Lee]: “He is slightly reserved; but he is a person that, whenever seen, whether in a castle or a hovel, alone or in a crowd, must at once attract attention as being a splendid specimen of an English gentleman.”

Everywhere he was impressed with the tough, dedicate Confederate soldiers. Could such men be defeated, he would ask, “by mobs of Irish and German mercenaries, hired at $15 a month to fight in a cause they know little and care less about?”

[Returning] to Britain, he wrote an article for Blackwood’s Magazine [in which] he urged the British Parliament to intervene on behalf of the South, saying that the time had come “for putting an end to the most inhuman struggle that ever disgraced a great nation.”

(British Observers in Wartime Dixie, John M. Taylor; Military History Quarterly, Winter 2002, excerpts pp. 68-69)

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

In President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address he pointed out that “sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is an abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government remained.” He added simply, “The agent through which they communicated changed.” Thus there was no “destruction of the Union” as was charged by the North, but merely a reduction in the number of constituent States forming the union of 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.org

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

“On February 15, 1861, before the arrival of Mr. Davis at Montgomery to take the oath of office, the Congress passed a resolution providing “that a commission of three persons be appointed by the President-elect as early as may be convenient after his inauguration and sent to the government of the United States, for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations between that government and the Confederate States of America, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two governments, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Truly, as Mr. [Alexander] Stephens, of Georgia, one of the delegates to this Montgomery Congress, says . . . “[the Confederate Congress] were no such men as revolutions or civil commotions usually bring to the surface . . . Their object was not to tear down, so much as it was to build up with the greater security and permanency.” And we may add that they meant to build up, if so permitted, peaceably.

In this spirit of amity and justice, the first act of the Louisiana State convention, after passing the ordinance of secession [from union with the United States], was to adopt, unanimously, a resolution recognizing the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River (which flows down from Northern States of the great inland basin and empties into the sea within the confines of Louisiana), and further recognizing the right of egress at that river’s mouth and looking to the guaranteeing of these rights.

President Davis’ inaugural address, delivered February 18, 1861, breathe the same spirit of friendship toward our brothers of the North. He said in part:

“Our present political situation . . . illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 24-25)

 

George Davis’s Last Public Address

Renowned Wilmington, North Carolina attorney and statesman George Davis served as the last attorney general of the Confederate States of America, 1864-1865. He was selected as a North Carolina delegate to the Washington Peace Conference of February 1861, and was elected to the North Carolina Senate before becoming Attorney General. His eminent bronze statue stands in downtown Wilmington, erected and dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911.  Davis was said to have little toleration for new ideas and did not believe in popular education – it was a heresy with him. He was a Cavalier, not a Puritan, and stated that “this thing you boys are advocating, called progress, and the introduction of new notions is wrong. It is but synonym for graft and rascality.” Read more about Davis at www.cfhi.net.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

George Davis’ Last Public Address

George Davis’s last public address was a memorial of his former chief, President Jefferson Davis, in December 1889, on which occasion he spoke without notes in Wilmington’s famous Thalian Hall Opera House. Already in feeble health, George Davis spoke of his fallen President being a “high-souled, true-hearted Christian gentleman, and if our poor humanity has any higher form than that, I know not what it is.”  Davis ended his last oration with:

“My public life was long since over; my ambition went down with the banner of the South, and, like it, never rose again. I have had abundant time in all these quiet years, and it has been my favorite occupation to review the occurences of that time, and recall over the history of that tremendous struggle; to remember with love and admiration the great men who bore their parts in its events. 

I have often thought what was it that the Southern people had to be most proud of in all the proud things of their record?  Not the achievement of our arms!  No man is more proud of them than I, no man rejoices more in Manassas, Chancellorsville and in Richmond; but all the nations have had their victories.

There is something, I think, better than that, and it was this, that through all the bitterness of that time, and throughout all the heat of that fierce contest, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee never spoke a word, never wrote a line that the whole neutral world did not accept as the very indisputable truth.

Aye, truth was the guiding star of both of them, and that is the grand thing to remember; upon that my memory rests more proudly than upon anything else. It is a monument better than marble, more durable than brass. Teach it to your children, that they may be proud to remember Jefferson Davis.”

 

Aug 10, 2018 - American Military Genius, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The True Test of Civilization

The True Test of Civilization

The True Test of Civilization

“Outwardly, Jackson was not a stone wall, for it was not in his nature to be stationary and defensive but vigorously active. He was like an avalanche coming from an unexpected quarter, like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. And yet he was in character and will more like a stone wall than any man I have known.

On the field his judgment seemed instinctive. No one of his staff ever knew him to change his mind in battle. There was a short, quick utterance, like the flash of the will from an inspired intelligence, and the command was imperative and final.

He was remarkable for as a commander for the care of his troops and had daily knowledge of the work of all the staff departments – supply, medical, ordnance. His ten minutes rest in the hour was like the law of Medes and Persians, and some of his generals were in frequent trouble for their neglect of it.

Of such things he was careful, until the hour of action arrived, and then, no matter how many were left behind, he must reach the point of attack with as large a force as possible. He must push the battle to the bitter end and never pause until he had reaped the fruits of victory. Over and over again he rode among his advancing troops, with his hand uplifted, crying, “Forward men, forward; press forward!”

He well understood that it was a volunteer and patriot soldiery with which he had to do, not with an army of regulars, disciplined and drilled and fought as a machine. Contented and happy in camp, in the field they asked only the will of their commander, and went into the fire of battle with a moral power that was irresistible.

It was not for the defense of slavery that these men left their homes and suffered privation and faced the peril of battle. Bred in whatever school of American politics, these men believed, to a man, in the integrity and sovereignty of the commonwealth, and, men like Robert E. Lee, they laid down everything and came to the borders to resist invasion at the call of the Mother. The troops that Stonewall Jackson led were like him, largely, in principle and in aim, and he rode among them as one of themselves – a war genius of their own breeding.

“The true test of civilization,” says Emerson, “is not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops; no, but the kind of men the country turns out.”

(Some Elements of Stonewall Jackson’s Character, James Power Smith; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XLIII, September 1920, Broadfoot Publishing (1991), excerpts pp. 61-62)

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

Well-aware of his meager claim to electoral victory with only 39% of the popular vote, Lincoln told Republican Congressman James Hale of Pennsylvania that supporting the compromise plan of Kentucky’s John J. Crittenden would mean the end of the Republican Party and of his new government. During several compromise efforts between December 1860 and March, 1861, Lincoln wrote important Republican leaders in Congress to oppose any settlement with the South, which of course ensured secession and his war upon the South. Again, it is clear that the cause of secession and war was the Republican Party, and Lincoln placing party survival over saving the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

“[Crittenden desperately] was trying to halt what he called the “madness” possessing the South and begged northerners in Congress to make the “cheap sacrifice” and “little concessions of opinions” that his pan required in order to save the country.

Crittenden directed his plea primarily to Republicans. They held the balance of power in Congress, and their reaction would decide the fate of the Crittenden program. Northern Democrats who had been traditionally more conciliatory toward the South . . . could be expected to give the program substantial support.

Some Republicans agreed with Crittenden that a few concessions to the South to preserve the union might be worthwhile, if the price was not too high. From the beginning, [Republican] antagonism doomed Crittenden’s high hopes [though] Unionists in both houses of Congress, however, fought for legislation that encompassed Crittenden’s plan.

In the lower house, on December 5 [1860], Alexander Boteler of Virginia successfully moved that a committee of one member from each State (the Committee of Thirty Three) be established to work out a plan to save the Union. Republicans cast every negative vote on the resolution, giving an early indication that they were opposed to compromise. Republicans blocked every other compromise measure suggested in the Committee of Thirteen.

Crittenden’s followers still refused to admit defeat. The Virginia legislature invited all the States to send representatives to a “Peace Conference” in Washington in February. Although none of the States that had already seceded sent delegates, twenty-one States did join the conference. Once again Republican leaders opposed compromise plans, claiming they did not want to cripple Lincoln’s freedom to deal with secession by committing him to a program before his inauguration.

An Indiana Republican delegate wrote to his governor from the conference: “We have thus done all in our power to procrastinate, and shall continue to do so, in order to remain in session until after [Lincoln’s inauguration on] the 4th of March.” The Senate voted on the original Crittenden plan and defeated it by a 20 to 19 vote. Not one Republican supported the plan.

The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.

All the pro-Southern aspects of the compromise disturbed the Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions. The Republican party’s strength was contained in its antislavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any expansion of slavery [into the territories].

Had Republicans abandoned their opposition to slave expansion in 1860, they would have committed political suicide. Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession.

Republican voters by the thousands cautioned their congressmen and leaders not to compromise with the South and agitated at home against conciliation, as when Pittsburgh Republicans broke up a unionist meeting by turning off the gas, smashing seats, and yelling “God d —-n John J. Crittenden and his compromise.”

(The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire: 1854-1861, Robert E. May, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 210-212; 214-217)

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

Providing for Self Defense

Following individual State efforts to defend themselves from invasion, the Confederacy’s Chief Ordnance Officer, Josiah Gorgas, succeeded greatly through shrewd judgments and able administration collecting the weapons of war for the South’s field armies. By 1864 he had produced vast quantities of war materiel for large armies with blockade-running importation, establishing industrial centers and armories, plus scavenging discarded weapons and materiel from the battlefields.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Providing for Self-Defense

“Acting far ahead of the rest in self-protection as it had in secession, South Carolina early had established a Board of Ordnance to take charge of the State’s needs in the matter of arms, and the people’s convention as well as the legislature showed immense interest in making appropriations for public defense. The chief ordnance officer, Colonel Edward Manigault, soon engaged in strenuous efforts to collect and prepare arms and ammunition for the State forces.

No sooner had other Southern States accepted responsibility for their own defense than they, too, engaged in plans and efforts to provide means of protection. Tennessee, for example, put its limited powder-making facilities in Nashville to work, and Texas, never to be outdone, established the Texas State Military Board to handle its military affairs.

North Carolina also went into the matter of military preparation with accustomed verve. Soon the legislature began active subsidy of one war industry. The firm of Waterhouse and Bowes, located on a little creek near Raleigh, started powder manufacture, which would attract the favorable notice of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau. The Tar Heel State also developed a zealously guarded monopoly on Confederate supplies of milled cloth.

Prior to the organization of the Confederate government in Montgomery in February, 1861, certain seceding States had, on their own initiative, undertaken a rather nebulous form of military co-operation. South Carolina and Georgia, the latter State militantly led by vociferous Governor Joseph E. Brown, decided to aid Florida and Alabama as much as possible.

[The Confederate Adjutant General’s office officially] assigned Major Gorgas as Chief of Ordnance [on] April 8, 1861 . . . [and] authorized the President or Secretary of War to contract for the purchase and manufacture of heavy ordnance and small arms; for machinery to manufacture or alter small arms and ammunition, and to employ necessary agents and artisans to accomplish these objectives.

Not convinced that the South would be allowed to escape the drain of a long, desperate struggle . . . [President Jefferson Davis] early became an advocate of careful preparation. [He sent] Raphael Semmes . . . to undertake a purchasing mission to . . . Washington, New York, and various New England cities to buy munitions. He met with more success than probably either he or Davis had anticipated, and by the time he returned to the Confederacy had shipped or had arranged the shipment of a considerable quantity of supplies.”

(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, University of Texas Press, 1952, excerpts pp. 55-57; 58)

Jul 8, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Bringing on the War, Jeffersonian America, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Tutorial schooling by local pastors was the rule in the Virginia Piedmont of Meriwether Lewis’s youth. Parson William Douglas had taught three American Presidents in their childhood – Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. Lewis was tutored 1789-1790 by Parson Matthew Maury in a rude log building, Albemarle’s Classical School, on the lawn of Edgeworth Farm. Maury was the father of the renowned Matthew Fontaine Maury of naval and hydrographic fame.

Captain Meriwether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery were to depart on his epic journey West by the end of June, 1803, but it was July 4th when he actually left Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

“The expeditionaries carried tomahawks and scalping knives . . . the [.69 caliber] horse pistols were probably of the North and Cheney Model of 1799. Lewis was meticulous in his choice of rifles for the expedition . . . and [designed his own] “Harper’s Ferry Rifle” which resembled the Kentucky rifle but he had the easily damaged stocks reduced to half-length and the overall length of the .54 caliber piece was only 47 inches.

So efficient was Captain Lewis’s design that the rifles were used as models for the first “mass-produced” Army rifle in the United States. On May 25, 1803, the Secretary of War found the new rifle so functional that he ordered 4,000 of them manufactured for the troops.

Historians have wrangled for decades over just what was Jefferson’s intent in sending Lewis and Clark – exploration, commerce or conquest? It was clear enough to Lewis from his orders. While he awaited Clark’s decision [to join him] before contacting his second choice as a companion, Lieutenant Moses Hook, he read and reread the amended instructions drawn up and given him by the President.

“The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principal stream of it as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.”

Jefferson ordered Lewis to fix, by coordinates of longitude and latitude, all “remarkable” points on the Missouri, such as rapids, islands, and the mouths of tributaries, the variations of the compass, the exact location of the portage between the Mississippi and Pacific drainages. He urged Lewis to make his observations with great care and to record them, as well as all of his notes, in several copies for safety against loss.

The President ordered him to become acquainted with the Indian nations, to determine their numbers and the extent of their possessions. He wished to know their languages, traditions and occupations, including agriculture, fishing, hunting, war and the arts. He was interested in their relationship with other tribes, their food, clothing and tools, their diseases and remedies, their laws and customs and the articles of commerce they possessed or desired, all to encourage future trade and their ultimate civilization by the United States.

Jefferson insisted that Lewis’s entry into the Far West be a peaceful one. “In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly and conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies . . . [and convey] our wish to be neighborly, friendly and useful to them . . .”

(Meriwether Lewis, a Biography, Richard Dillon, Coward-McCann, Inc., 1965, excerpts pp. 14; 42-44; 50)

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