Browsing "Southern Culture Laid Bare"

The South's Invincible Bravery

The South believed the invader of their land inferior and recalled that Hannibal had destroyed more than ninety percent of a vastly superior Roman army; Frederick the Great defeated an army twice the size of his in 1757; and Zachary Taylor defeated 15,000 Mexicans at Buena Vista in 1847 with 5,000 troops. Historian Bell Wiley noted: “Indeed, it is doubtful that any people ever went to war with greater enthusiasm than did Confederates in 1861.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South’s Invincible Bravery

“General Robert E. Lee had decided to disregard the advice of a division commander [to] assault the strong Federal position [at Malvern Hill]. For the task he selected country boys and men from the Deep South . . . together with regiments from North Carolina and Virginia. These were proud soldiers, even a bit cocky now because for nearly a week they had been pushing Yankees back . . . [the enemy general] thought they came on with “a reckless disregard for life . . . with a determination to capture our army, or destroy it.”

At Sharpsburg a Federal remembered that the advance of his unit was stopped by a “long and steady line of rebel gray . . . sweeping down through the woods.”

Another Northerner recounted the “invincible bravery” of the attacking Confederates and how his regiment “opened a withering, literally withering, fire on the rebels . . . but they still advanced. A color-bearer came forward within fifteen yards of our line, and with the utmost desperation waved a rebel flag in front of him.

Our men fairly roared, “Shoot the man with the flag! And he went down in a twinkling and the flag was not raised in sight again. Several charges at Sharpsburg cost the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment sixty-two percent of its 325 men. One company lost all but five of its 30 men; two-thirds of the men and all of the officers in another company were killed or wounded.

The South lost 175,000 soldiers in the first twenty-seven months of combat. This number was more than the entire Confederate military service in the summer of 1861 and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg, three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost sixty-five percent of its men and seventy percent of its field officers in a single charge.

A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”

(Attack and Die, Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage, Grady McWhiney and Perry Jamieson, University of Alabama Press, 1982, pp. 3-5)

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home

The year 1862 ended with great loss on both sides; the carnage at Fredericksburg should have convinced a sane Northern leader that the human cost of his war upon the South was not worth the ever-increasing casualty lists. By mid-year Lincoln was told that enlistments had virtually ceased and that only forced conscription could fill his armies fighting against poorly-armed and supplied Southern men who were fighting for their homes and political independence. In the fighting [below] at Seven Days’, twenty-five Athens, Georgia men were killed at the Seven Days’ battle.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home

“General Robert E. Lee, now in command of the entire force defending Richmond, set June 26 [1862] as the day for a great attack to drive the enemy from the area. Suddenly, in mid-afternoon there came the crashing sounds of war. Many thousands of Confederate soldiers crossed the Chickahominy [river], advancing eastward toward the village of Mechanicsville, driving the enemy steadily before them.

It was after four o’clock in the afternoon before Captain Samuel Lumpkin led the Johnson Guards across the Chickahominy . . . [and] Scarcely had they crossed before a group of civilian horsemen appeared . . . it was President [Jefferson] Davis, trying as ever to get nearer the center of action.

Lumpkin’s men hurried toward Mechanicsville with their regiment . . . exposed on open ground to the raking fire from the heights beyond. Some found cover, others could only protect themselves by lying down prone. There was no chance for a direct assault on the Federal lines, and the Southern commanders could only hope to flank the Union left. The Forty-fourth Georgia, that included the Johnson Guards, was given the task . . . in the face of the concentrated fire of Federal muskets that poured bullets into them from the easiest point-blank range.

The Georgia lines were shattered, and the attack utterly crushed. Of the five hundred men of the Forty-fourth Regiment that entered the battle, less than fifty escaped unharmed; nine-tenths of the command were shot or captured. Of the three hundred Georgians that lay dead in the tangled swamp of Beaver Dam Creek, eleven were country boys from the Watkinsville area, shot dead on their first day of battle, hundreds of miles from home.

On the following days the Confederate command, rallying all along the line, regained the initiative it had lost at Beaver Dam Creek. At Gaines’ Mill, Savage Station, and Frayser’s Farm, in one bitter battle after another, the enemy was gradually pushed back from the gates of Richmond.

In the early morning hours of July 1, the war once again caught up with the Johnson Guards, when the weary survivors of Ripley’s Brigade were thrown into the attack against the hill. Before the day was over, the six other Clarke County companies were joined in the fight, all occupying the same battle line. The old Athens Guards [of Capt. Henry C. Billups] and [Capt. Isaac S. Vincent’s] Clarke [County] Rifles, now merely companies “K” and “L” in the regiment of [Ambrose] R. Wright’s Brigade, were on hand. So were Captain William S. Grady’s Highland Guards, of Robert Ransom’s Brigade, and the three Athens companies of Tom Cobb’s Legion, of his brother Howell’s Brigade.

At one time, all the Athens companies were on the move simultaneously in the Army’s desperate attempt to make headway up the murderous slope. But the onslaught was useless; the defensive positions were too strong, and he attackers were driven back with great loss. As night came on, the Federals still held the hill. When the artillery of both sides finally ceased firing at ten o’clock that night, only the agonized cries of the wounded and the dying could be heard from the hillside.

At daylight the following morning, Wright’s Brigade of Georgians was one of only two Confederate commands that had not been swept off the hill. As the men of the Athens Guard and Clarke Rifles looked up the slope, the only soldiers they could see were the writhing wounded and the shattered bodies of the dead. Eleven of their comrades had been killed.

Out of sight, behind the crest of the hill, a Federal force of cavalry and infantry waited for a time, but withdrew at the first fire of the Confederates. By ten o’clock in the morning, the last Union soldier had disappeared . . . The field belonged to the South at last, but the victory had not been won. The enemy had successfully got away.

Edgar Richardson, of [Capt. Marcellus Stanley’s] Troup Artillery, walked over the Malvern Hill battlefield, looked at the bulging eyes of the dead, and wrote his sister he never wanted “to behold such a sight again.” Tom Cobb wrote [wife] Marion: “It is very unpleasant to go to [the battlefields], not only on account of the stench, but also the flies which . . . over the whole earth and trees in a dense mass.

Thus ended the Seven Days. The enemy was gone, withdrawn to its James River base, and Richmond was saved.”

(These Men She Gave, Civil War Diary of Athens, Georgia, John F. Stegeman, UG Press, pp. 52-54)

 

Incomparable American Soldiers

After his twenty-thousand men were soundly whipped by eight-thousand Southern men under General A.P. Hill in mid-1864, at least one enemy general realized that only merciless attrition, starvation and destruction could force the Americans he fought to lower their arms.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Incomparable American Soldiers

“So much has been said about the morale of the Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg . . . and to say nothing about the splendid fighting of [General] A.P. Hill’s men and the cavalry at Ream’s Station in August 1864, and the almost daily fights that [Gen.] W.H.F. Lee’s cavalry had along the Boydton Plank Road and the Weldon Railroad at Ream’s Station, we swept Hancock’s celebrated 2nd Corps away from our front like the whirlwind.

Nothing stopped us and our force was far inferior [in number] to theirs . . . General A.P. Hill sent . . . for a mounted man who was familiar with the country, and he [Lt. Aldrich] was sent.

When he reported to General Hill, the General said: “Lieutenant, how many men have you with the cavalry?”

Lieutenant Aldrich told him that he had about two thousand and then asked: “General Hill, how many men have you?”

The response was: “About eight thousand, I think.”

Then the General said: “How many men do you think are in front of us Lieutenant?”

To which the Lieutenant replied: “All of Hancock’s troops, I should say about twenty thousand men.”

Lieutenant Aldrich then insinuated that the General was attempting a big job with the force he had.

General Hill then said: “Lieutenant, if we can’t whip them with this proportion we’d better stop the war right now.”

History shows well how he figured. General Hancock, when he returned from the hospital testified to the completeness of [his] defeat and told his Corps that the Confederate army could not be beaten, but must be worn out.”

(The Battle of Five Forks, David Caldwell, Columbia, SC, Confederate Veteran Magazine, March 1914, page 117)

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

The Union of 1787 was simply the second experiment in self-government embarked upon by the founding generation, men who who feared the pitfalls of democracy and believed votes should only be cast by property-holders. The Articles of Confederation ably restrained the federal agent from mischief; the Union of 1787 authorized more federal authority though strictly enumerated. The third experiment in self-government and a more perfect union was the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

“If the plan now proposed should be adopted, nothing less than ruin to some Colonies will be the consequence of it. The idea of destroying all Provincial Distinctions and making everything of the most minute kind bend to what they call the good of the whole, is in other terms to say that these Colonies must be subject to the Government of the Eastern Provinces . . . I am resolved to vest the Congress with no more Power than that is absolutely necessary, and, to use a familiar expression to keep the Staff in our own Hands; for I am confident if surrendered into the Hands of others a most pernicious use will be made of it.”     Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, letter to John Jay, June 29, 1776

Here then at the very outset is sounded the key-note of what for a hundred and sixty years — has been the immutable political philosophy of the South. It is not of course to be assumed that Southern Statesmen alone in those early days of our national upbringing took their stand firmly against any and every encroachment of the central power upon the God-given rights of the States.

What had stirred these grave fears in the breast of Edward Rutledge was an exceptional rather than prevailing sentiment. Now and then, it is true, some speaker, chiefly in the North, less frequently of the South, would permit himself to be torn loose from his customary anchorage and let fall sentiments that seemed to point toward a shriveling of State and a fattening of central power; but Northern as well as Southern statesmen, then and long afterward were wont to cling to the doctrine of State sovereignty and independence as tenaciously as grim death in the fable clung to the deceased African.

As we listen to the chatter, the bickering, the declamation behind the Congressional curtain . . . one note rises above the din: every State, whether North or South, would beware the pitfalls and the snares that might light lurk in the path of a centralized government. They would approach such a government with extreme caution. The good of the whole was a noble sentiment — and there were no lips from which it did not fall — but would that whole be merely the sum of all its parts — or something more? It were well to make sure.

[In the Winter and Spring of 1777, Thomas Burke of North Carolina] sought to draw Congress back to solid ground [on the proposed Confederation] and to first principles. Burke made several speeches in the course of these discussions . . . and much of what he said and wrote is good gospel for the cause of State’s rights even to this day.

In a letter to Governor Caswell . . . Burke wrote: “The more experience I acquire, the stronger is my Conviction, that unlimited Power can not be safely Trusted to any man or set of men on Earth”; and he went on to speak at some length of “the Delusive Intoxication which Power naturally imposes on the human Mind . . . [and noted that] the same persons who on one day endeavor to carry through some Resolutions, whose Tendency is to increase the Power of Congress, are often on another day very strenuous advocates to restrain it.”

In conclusion he declares, “Power will sometime or another be abused unless men are well watched, and checked by something which they cannot remove when they please.”

“[In Burke’s summary of the Confederation debate in April 1777 we] have agreed to three articles,” he wrote, “one containing the name; the second a declaration of the sovereignty of the States, and an express provision that they be considered as retaining every power not expressly delegated; and the third an agreement mutually to assist each other against every enemy.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, NC Historical Review, October 1937, excerpts, pp. 349-354)

 

Betting on Dixie As Long as I Got a Dollar

Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903) was a Georgian, graduate of the State University and practiced law afterward. He mingled the occupations of the lawyer with the activities of the politician and of the farmer. Thus he had varied opportunities for careful and critical observation of Georgia life.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Betting on Dixie As Long As I’ve Got a Dollar

“Smith began his letters of mixed wisdom and humor, wit and sarcasm, scorn and defiance in 1861. The first publication of these in book form appeared in 1866 with the title, “Bill Arp, So-Called; A Side Show of the Southern Side of the War.” Its motto was “I’m a good Union man, so-called; but I’ll bet on Dixie as long as I’ve got a dollar.”

In the preface of his book, explaining his pen name “Bill Arp,” Smith said: “When I began writing under the signature of Bill Arp I was honestly idealizing the language and humor of an unlettered countryman who bears that name. His earnest, honest wit attracted my attention, and he declares to this day that I have faithfully expressed his sentiments.”

Smith’s first letter is addressed to Abraham Lincoln in April, 1861. In view of the latter’s proclamation calling for troops, “Bill Arp” thought “Abe Linkhorn” ought to be informed of how the Georgian regarded it. He intimated that things were getting too hot for him, and he would like “to slope out of it.”

Speaking of the boys about Rome, Georgia he says: “Most of them are so hot that they fairly siz when you pour water on them, and that’s the way they make up their military companies here now—when a man applies to join the volunteers they sprinkle him, and if he sizzes they take him, and if he dont they dont.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), George F. Mellen, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 85-86)

 

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

John Tyler joined his father, Governor John Tyler of Virginia, in entertaining Thomas Jefferson at the executive mansion in October 1809. His connection with the Founding generation gave him a clear and deep understanding of the strictly delegated constitutional limitations on the federal agent in Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

“Shortly after the election of 1832 [John] Tyler broke with the [Jackson] Administration. The occasion of the breach was the nullification crisis. But up to this time he was regarded as a Democrat in good if not regular standing. Jackson’s policy toward South Carolina was so objectionable to him that he aligned himself with the anti-Administration forces, and finally left the Democratic party. To support or even acquiesce in the President’s measures would be, as he considered, to sacrifice his State’ rights principles — a sacrifice which at no time during his entire career was he willing to make.

In writing to Governor John Floyd, of Virginia [January 16, 1833], he declared that “if South Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated government, and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of preserving a republic for any length of time with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President.”

(John Tyler, Champion of the Old South, American Political Biography Press, 2006 (original 1939), pp. 112-113)

The South Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee's Spirit

Major-General Robert F. Hoke of Lincolnton, North Carolina was said to be Lee’s personal choice for command of the Army of Northern Virginia should he be incapacitated. A brilliant division commander, Hoke was not a West Pointer and after the war declined any reminiscences of his participation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee’s Spirit

“I once saw General Hoke eating ham and eggs and buckwheat cakes in a hotel in Greensboro. A massive man with broad smooth brow and well-trimmed gray beard, he resembled the pictures of General Lee. Later in the day when I was introduced to him at a railway station, the talk fell on the war with Spain, which had just ended and he told me President McKinley had offered him by telegraph a brigadier’s commission in the army preparing to go to Cuba.

He thanked the President but declined. “I have seen enough of war in my time,” he said. He spoke as casually as if he had said,” “I had all the buckwheat cakes for breakfast I wanted.”

We were then only four miles from the spot where he as the commander of a division in [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s army had surrendered to Sherman. I tried to draw him out on the subject, but he was politely uninterested.

General Hoke engaged in mining and railroading after 1865. He resolutely refused to enter politics, unlike many of his brother officers who were only too ready to capitalize their war records. In this General Hoke revealed a kinship of the spirit of General Lee.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 36-37)

The Graves of American Heroes

The first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, General John B. Gordon of Georgia, tried repeatedly to retire from his high office “but his comrades would not consent.” Below, he spoke in 1890 of the necessity of maintaining unblemished the nobility, heroism, sacrifices, suffering and glorious memory of the American soldiers in grey.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Graves of American Heroes

“[The United Confederate Veterans] was created on high lines, and its first commander was the gallant soldier, General John B. Gordon, at the time governor of Georgia, and later was United States senator. General Gordon was continued as commander-in-chief until his death.

The note . . . struck in the constitution of the United Confederate Veterans were reechoed in the opening speech of the first commander-in-chief. General Gordon, addressing the Veterans and the public, said:

“Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years. You have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction, you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions. No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry considerations of partisan triumphs.

The honor of the American Government, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the Constitutional Union, the sanctions of law, and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldiers of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering or sacrifice are a people without history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idealize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country, and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood.

Whether the Southern people, under their changed conditions, may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee, it is certainly true that devotion to their glorious past is not only the surest guarantee of future progress and the holiest bond of unity, but is also the strongest claim they can present to the confidence and respect of the other sections of the Union.

It is political in no sense, except so far as the word “political” is a synonym for the word “patriotic.” [It will] cherish the past glories of the dead Confederacy and transmute them into living inspirations for future service to the living Republic; of truth, because it will seek to gather and preserve, as witness to history, the unimpeachable facts which shall doom falsehood to die that truth may live; of justice, because it will cultivate . . . that broader and higher and nobler sentiment which would write on the grave of every soldier who fell on our side, “Here lies an American hero, a martyr to the right as his conscience conceived it.”

(The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 5, Robert S. Lanier, editor, Blue & Grey Press, 1987, pp. 298-299)