Browsing "Southern Statesmen"
May 14, 2021 - Southern Patriots, Southern Statesmen, The War at Sea    Comments Off on A Madcap Scheme at Sea

A Madcap Scheme at Sea

Major Caleb Huse, a native of Massachusetts married to a lady born in New York, and friend of Stephen R. Mallory, was sent to England by President Jefferson Davis to be chief purchasing agent for the Confederate army. Captain James Bulloch credited Huse’s weapon and munitions acquisition efforts with enabling the South to check McClellan’s advance on Richmond in 1862. He named a swift, British-built blockade runner, “Harriet Pinckney” to honor his wife. Captain Robert B. Pegram (below) commanded the CSS Nashville which had just docked at Southampton, England. William Lowndes Yancey headed the South’s diplomatic mission to England and France early in the war.

A Madcap Scheme at Sea

“My object in calling on Captain Pegram was not one of courtesy alone. A most outrageous proposal had been made to me, involving the capture of a British ship bound from Hamburg to New York, loaded with a hundred thousand Austrian rifles [for the US government]. The proposal, in brief, was:

That I should deposit 10,000 [pounds] in the Bank of England subject to the draft of one of two persons. In the event of success of the scheme, one was to draw out the money; in the case of failure, the other.

The plan was to capture a British ship, then loaded with arms at Hamburg for New York. It had been proposed to me that with a tug, having a gun on board, I should intercept the ship, fire [the] gun, and demand her surrender. The captain would have orders to comply with my demand, and I was to direct him to sail for Charleston.

The scheme was not impossible for anyone holding a privateer’s commission, and I applied to Mr. Yancey for a letter of marque. On hearing my story, Mr. Yancey said he had such commissions, but that they were contrary to the spirit of the age, and he had determined not to give any of them out. However, in this instance, he would issue one if I wanted it.

I believe my land-service commission would protect me, but I asked for the letter- of-marque as an additional safeguard. Captain Pegram, after considering the matter in conference with his executive, Lieutenant Fauntleroy (formerly of the US Navy), determined not to make the attempt, and the matter was dropped. Perhaps it is well that . . . Captain Pegram declined to act; for I had the money ready to deposit, and what seems now to me a madcap scheme might have been attempted.”

(The Supplies for the Confederate Army, Caleb Huse, Ninety-Nine Cent Publishing, original published 1904, pp. 35-36)

Helot Rhett Butlers

It is said that one of the most distinguishing achievements of the American Confederacy was the ingenuity of Southern authorities and businessmen meeting the challenge of a naval blockade of its coasts. They answered the challenge with swift, light draft blockade runners fueled with quick-burning Welsh coal while utilizing two Southern-friendly islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas, for supply transshipments.

Gen. U.S. Grant, III, stated in 1961 that “if the Cambridge Modern History is correct in its allegation that between October 26, 1864 and January 1865 it was still possible for 8,632,000 lbs. of meat, 1,507,000 lbs. of lead, 1,933,000 lbs. of saltpeter, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 316,000 blankets, half a million pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles and 43 cannons to run the blockade into the port of Wilmington alone, while cotton sufficient to pay for these purchases was exported, it is evident that the blockade runners made an important contribution to the Confederacy’s ability to carry on.” (New York History Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 1, January 1961, pp. 49-50).

Helot Rhett Butlers

“There were, of course, precedents for blockade evasion in the history of warfare. One striking parallel to the Southern problem occurred in 425 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had succeeded in trapping a portion of the Spartan land forces on the island of Sphacteria, off the coast of Pylos, and thus, by maintaining a blockade, learned what the federal navy and government would in time come to understand: a blockade immobilized, perhaps, some of the enemy’s forces, restricted his strategy, and imposed attrition, but it did not of itself bring him to capitulation.

Thucydides records that much time was consumed in the blockade of the island because the Spartans had not stood idly by while the cream of their land forces was being starved to death.

“The fact was,” he wrote, “that the Lacedaemonians had made the advertisement for volunteers to carry into the island ground corn, wine, cheese, and any other food useful in a siege; high prices being offered, and freedom promised to any of the Helots who should succeed in doing so . . . In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to throw in provisions, the other to prevent their introduction.”

Thucydides reasoned well in considering the material inducement offered the Helots to undertake running the blockade. Those men of the Confederacy who were interested in bringing in supplies from abroad, and who were not involved in the trade officially, had rich material benefits in mind.”

(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, Texas A&M Press, 1994, excerpt pg. 85)

The High Functionary’s War

President Jefferson Davis’ message to the Third Session of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States at Richmond, Virginia, July 20, 1861 (excerpts):

“Commencing in March last, with an affectation of ignoring the secession of the seven States which first organized this Government; persisting in April in the idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus; continuing in successive months the false representation that these States intended offensive war, in spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary . . . the President of the United States and his advisors have succeeded in deceiving the people of those States into the belief that the purpose of [the Confederate] Government was not peace at home, but conquest abroad; not the defense of its own liberties, but the subversion of those of the people of the United States.”

Under cover of [an] unfounded pretense that the Confederate States are the assailants, that high functionary, after expressing his concern that some foreign nations “had so shaped their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable,” abandons all further disguise, and proposes “to make this conflict a short and decisive one,” by placing at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. The Congress, concurring in the doubt thus intimated as to the sufficiency of the force demanded, has increased it to a half a million of men.

These enormous preparations in men and money, for the conduct of a war on a scale more gigantic than any which the world has ever witnessed, is a distinct avowal, in the eyes of civilized man, that the United States are engaged in a conflict with a great and powerful nation; they are at last compelled to abandon the pretense of being engaged in dispersing rioters and suppressing insurrections . . . and are driven to the acknowledgement that the ancient Union has been dissolved.

In 1781 Great Britain, when invading her revolted colonies, took possession of the very district of country near Fortress Monroe, now occupied by troops of the United States. The houses then inhabited by the people, after being respected and protected by avowed invaders, are now pillaged and destroyed by men who pretend that the victims are their fellow-citizens.

Mankind will shudder to hear the tales of outrage committed on defenseless females by soldiers of the United States now invading our homes; yet these outrages are prompted by inflamed passions and the madness of intoxication. But who shall depict the horror with which they will regard the cool and deliberate malignity which, under pretext of suppressing an insurrection, said by themselves to be upheld by a minority only of our people, makes special war on the sick, including the women and the children, by carefully devised measures to prevent their obtaining the medicines necessary for their cure.

The sacred claims of humanity, respected even during the fury of actual battle, by careful diversion of attack from the hospitals containing wounded enemies, are outraged in cold blood by a government and people that pretend to desire a continuance of fraternal connections . . . The humanity of our [Southern] people would shrink instinctively from the bare idea of waging a like war upon the sick, the women, and the children of the enemy.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Volume I, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 118-120)

May 3, 2021 - Lincoln's Hessians, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Colonel John Taylor Wood’s Escape

Colonel John Taylor Wood’s Escape

The following account is related by Capt. William H. Parker, CSN, who had charge of the Confederate treasury in gold, silver and bullion, estimated at about $500,000, as it was transported southward in 1865. The term “Dutchman” was derived from “Deutsch,” or German, which was the language and nativity of many of the North’s soldiers – estimated at 25% by 1864. Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge and Treasury Secretary Judah. P. Benjamin were the only Confederate cabinet members not captured.

Colonel John Taylor Wood’s Escape

“I only intend to tell of the escape of my old friend and comrade, John Taylor Wood, as I had it from his lips only a few months ago in Richmond.

The party [of President Jefferson Davis] was captured just before daybreak on the 9th of May [1865]. Wood was placed [under guard] of a Dutchman, who spoke no English. While the rest of the federal troops were busy in securing their prisoners and plundering the camp, Wood held a $20 gold piece (the universal interpreter) to his guard and signified his desire to escape.

The Dutchman held up two fingers and nodded. Wood gave him $40 in gold, and stole off to a field, where he laid down among some brushwood. The federals, (under a Colonel Pritchett, I think), having finished their preparations, marched off without missing Colonel Wood.

After they were out of sight, Wood arose and found a broken-down horse, which had been left behind. He also found an old bridle, and mounting the nag, he started for Florida. I have forgotten his adventures, but somewhere on the route he fell in with Mr. [Judah] Benjamin, Secretary of State, and General [John C.] Breckinridge, Secretary of War. Benjamin and Wood owed their escape to Wood, for Wood was an old naval officer and a thorough seaman.

On the coast of Florida, they bought a rowboat and in company of a few others they rowed down the coast, intending to either cross to Cuba or the Bahamas.

Proceeding on her way to the southward, the party next fell in with a sailboat, in which there were three sailors, deserters from United States vessels at Key West, trying to make their way to Savannah. Wood and party took their boat, as she was a seaworthy craft, put the sailors on the rowboat, and gave them sailing directions for Savannah.

Wood then took the helm and steered for Cuba . . . [and] After suffering much from hunger and thirst they arrived at Matanzas (I think) and were kindly cared for by the Spanish authorities, from whom they received most respectful attention as soon as they made themselves known.”

(The Gold and Silver in the Confederate States Treasury, William H. Parker; Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXI, R.A. Brock, editor, 1893, excerpts pp. 312-313)

Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

Admiral Raphael Semmes (1809- 1877) was a Naval Academy graduate, prewar lawyer and remarkable naval strategist who quite-nearly destroyed the US merchant marine with his devastating commerce raiding tactics. A frequent critic of the New England mind and character, he saw the Yankee as “ambitious, restless, scheming, energetic, and has no inconvenient moral nature to restrain him from the pursuit of his interests, be the path ever so crooked. In the development of material wealth he is unsurpassed.” Below, he describes President Jefferson Davis’ path after departing Richmond in 1865.

Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

“[President Davis] moved soon to Charlotte, in North Carolina, and in a few weeks afterward he fell into the hands of the enemy. The reader knows the rest of his history; how the enemy gloated over his captivity; how he was reviled, and insulted, by the coarse and brutal men into whose power he had fallen; how lies were invented as to the circumstances of his capture, to please and amuse the Northern multitudes, eager for his blood; and finally, how he was degraded by imprisonment, and the manacles of a felon!

His captors and he were of different races – of different blood. They had nothing in common. He was the “Cavalier,” endowed by nature with the instincts and refinement of the gentleman. They were of the race of Roundheads, to whom all such instincts and refinements were offensive.  God has created men in different moulds, as he has created the animals. It was as natural that the Yankees should hate Jefferson Davis, as that the cat should arch its back, and roughen its fur, upon the approach of the dog.

I have said that the American war had its origins in money, and that it was carried on throughout, “for a consideration.” It ended in the same way.

The “long-haired barbarian” – see Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” – who laid his huge paw on Jefferson Davis, to make him a prisoner, was paid in money for the gallant deed.  A President of the United States had degraded his high office, by falsely charging Mr. Davis with being an accomplice in the murder of President Lincoln, and offered a reward for his apprehension; thus gratifying his malignant nature, by holding him up to the world as a common felon.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, LSU Press, 1996 (Original 1868) excerpt pp. 817-818)

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

Britain, France and Abolition

After the loss of her American colonies and intense colonial economic competition with France, the British government became abolition-minded not out of pity for those they had purchased from African tribes to labor in America and the West Indies, but to destroy the successful French colony of San Domingo – as well as the American South’s labor system from which Yankee shipping interests were earning vast fortunes.

This was not lost on John C. Calhoun, who in mid-August 1844 wrote American Minister to France William R. King that “It is too late in the day to contend that humanity or philanthropy is the great object of the policy of England in attempting to abolish slavery on this continent. [In abolishing slavery in her colonies], She acted on the principle that tropical products can be produced cheaper by free African labor and East India labor, than by slave labor.”

Calhoun contended that England “calculated to combine philanthropy with profit and power, as is not unusual with fanaticism,” with the experiment turning out to be a costly one. And in order to regain her superiority, England must destroy her economic competition through emancipation.

Britain, France and Abolition

“The slave-trade and slavery were the economic basis of the French Revolution. “Sad irony of human history,” comments Jaures, “The fortunes created at Bordeaux, at Nantes, by the slave trade, gave to the bourgeoisie that pride which needed liberty and contributed to human emancipation.”

Nantes was the center of the slave-trade. As early as 1666, 108 ships went to the coast of Guinea and took on board 37,430 slaves, a total value of more than 37 millions, giving the Nantes bourgeoisie 15 to 20 percent on their money. In 1700 Nantes was sending 50 ships a year to the West Indies with Irish salt beef, linen for the household and for clothing the slaves, and machinery for the sugar-mills.  Nearly all the industries which developed in France during the eighteenth century had their origin in goods or commodities destined either for the coast of Guinea or for America. The capital from the slave-trade fertilized them; though the bourgeoisie traded in other things than slaves, upon the success or failure of the traffic everything else depended.

The British bourgeois, the most successful of slave-traders, sold thousands of smuggled slaves every year to the French colonists and particularly to San Domingo. But even while they sold the slaves to San Domingo, the British were watching the progress of this colony with alarm and with envy. After the independence of America in 1783, this amazing French colony suddenly made such a leap as almost to double its [sugar] production between 1783 and 1789.

The British bourgeoisie investigated the new situation in the West Indies [and] prepared a bombshell for its rivals. Without slaves San Domingo was doomed. The British colonies had enough slaves for all the trade they were ever likely to do. With tears rolling down their cheeks for the poor suffering blacks, those British bourgeoisie who had no West Indian interests set up a great howl for the abolition of the slave trade.”

(The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, Vantage Books, 1963, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Mar 6, 2021 - Prescient Warnings, Southern Statesmen, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful woes of republican government.

But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.  Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.

Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their influence.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfectly good faith. Here let us stop.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent us from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations . . . that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, to guard against the postures of pretended patriotism . . .”

(The Speeches, Addresses and Messages of the Several Presidents of the United States, Robert DeSilver, editor, Thomas Town Printer, 1825, excerpts pp. 1110-112)

Feb 27, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Black Soldiers, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Jeffersonian America, Patriotism, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

Andrew Jackson thought of himself as not an innovator or man of ideas, but that he must revive and continue Jeffersonian principles in the federal government. He was a man hostile to the clamoring abolitionist radicals and in general to the various “isms” of the North, sure to cause strife where none should be. His conception of patriotism included a determination to uphold the national honor and interests, even at the risk of war.

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

“[The] Age of Jackson appears to have been characterized by a high degree of patriotism – the patriotism of a provincial people who were virtually untouched by the internationalism of our own day and who as a whole lived close to nature and therefore perhaps had a child’s love for the homeland.

The Italian Count Francesco Arese, who traveled in the United States in 1837-38, described this invigorating spirit of patriotism, which he witnessed during a Fourth-of-July celebration in Lexington, Virginia.

After the usual fireworks, marching of the militia, and playing by the band of “Hail, Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” the townspeople sat down to an elaborate banquet. “There were 160-odd people,” the Count relates in his journal, “and though Americans are accused of being not too sober, I am forced to say that not a soul got drunk. After the dinner, which didn’t last over ½ hour, several toasts were drunk. The first was to “the 4th of July, 1776,” the next to General George Washington, the third to General Lafayette; and many others followed.

Among the banqueters were two old veterans that had served under Washington, one of whom was a Negro who had gone everywhere with the brave general, and for that reason, a half-century later, he was allowed the honor once every year of sitting down to the table with white men!

There was nothing, absolutely nothing in this celebration that suggested in the remotest degree that trumped-up joy, that official gaiety they gratify us with in Europe, quite contrary to our desire. Here the joy, the enthusiasm were real, natural, heartfelt. Each individual was rightly proud to feel himself an American.

Each one believed himself to share the glory of Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and all the other illustrious men whom not only America but the whole world has the right to be proud of. Oh. God, when shall my own beautiful and wretched country be able to celebrate a day like that?”

(The Leaven of Democracy: The Growth of the Democratic Spirit in the Time of Jackson, Clement Eaton, editor, George Braziller Publishers, 1963, excerpt, pp. 10-11)

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

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