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Jul 5, 2020 - Carnage, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Sherman's Legacy, Targeting Civilians, Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Now I Am Become Death”

“Now I Am Become Death”

Only hours after the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, US naval commanders in the Pacific were ordered to “execute unrestricted air and submarine warfare against the Japanese.” This, ironically, is the very policy which brought the US into the First World War, though it would not be until September 1943 that US submarines in wolf packs would decimate Japan’s shipping. Also, Claire Chennault of “Flying Tigers” fame was urging the firebombing of Japan’s cities well before Pearl Harbor. General Curtis LeMay, architect of the firebombing of Japanese cities, commented after Hiroshima that he thought the nuclear bomb unnecessary as nothing of military value remained to be bombed. It was purely of terror value.

“Now I am Become Death”

“Americans had entered the war violently opposed to the bombing of civilians, and during the campaign in Europe had generally opposed British terror bombing in favor of the costly but less indiscriminate technique of daylight “precision” air raids.  [With the order of 7 December], this changed in principle almost immediately in the Pacific.

Even a month prior to Pearl Harbor, George Marshall had instructed aides to develop contingency plans for “general incendiary attacks to burn up the wood and paper structures of the densely populated Japanese cities.”  

Three years later, with the arrival of the very long-range B-29 heavy bomber, the M-47 and M-69 napalm bombs, and General Curtis LeMay to command the Twentieth Air Force, these plans came to fruition.

On the night of 9 March 1945, 334 B-29s armed only with incendiaries would attack Tokyo at low levels, and in the ensuing fires 267,000 buildings would burn and over eighty-three thousand people would die. Japanese air defense against such night attacks was almost nonexistent, nor would it improve. By June, over 40 percent of Japan’s six most industrial cities had been gutted and millions dehoused.  Yet the Americans had a better way.

It is clear that the primary motive for the program was fear that Nazi Germany would develop nuclear weapons first. However, Ronald Powaski points out that, as early as November 1944, American officials were aware that Germany had no viable nuclear program, and the surrender in May 1945 made this a certainty. Despite this, work on the Manhattan Project not only continued but accelerated.

No one considered the Japanese a threat to develop a bomb. Rather, the bomb was being built to be used. On 1 June President Truman accepted recommendations that it be dropped on Japan as soon as possible – “without specific warning,” he recalled in his memoirs. “When you deal with a beast,” Truman wrote several days after, “you have to treat him like a beast.”

Less than a month earlier, the bomb’s chief designer, J. Robert Oppenheimer, as he watched its first test, remembered some lines from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds; waiting the hour that ripens to their doom.”

(Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons and Aggression, Robert L. O’Connell, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpt pp. 293-295)

Apr 10, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on

The fate of slain King Phillip’s wife and son after his defeat by New England settlers was to finish their days — “sold into slavery, West Indian slavery! An Indian princess and her child, sold from the cool breezes of Mount Hope, from the wild freedom of a New England forest, to gasp under the lash, beneath the blazing sun of the tropics!” The effect of King Phillip’s War upon the indigenous population of New England was to reduce it by nearly 80 percent — by death and starvation. The few who survived were enslaved.

New England’s History of Slavery

“[The] first code of laws in Massachusetts established slavery . . . and at the very birth of the foreign commerce of New England the African slave trade became a regular business. The ships which took cargoes of slaves and fish to Madeira and the Canaries were accustomed to touch on the coast of Guinea to trade for negroes, who were carried generally to Barbadoes or the other English islands in the West Indies, the demand for them at home being small.

In the case referred to, instead of buying negroes in the regular course of traffic, which, under the fundamental law of Massachusetts already quoted, would have been perfectly legal, the crew of a Boston ship joined with some London vessels on the coast, and, on the pretense of some quarrel with the natives, landed a “murderer” – the expressive name of a small piece of cannon – attacking a negro village on Sunday, killed many of the inhabitants, and made a few prisoners, two of whom fell to the share of the Boston ship.

The colonists of Massachusetts assumed to themselves “a right to treat the Indians on the footing of Canaanites or Amalekites,” and practically regarded them from the first as forlorn and wretched heathen, possessing few rights which were entitled to respect.”

(Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, George Henry Moore, D. Appleton & Company, 1866, excerpts pp. 28-30; 43)

Apr 10, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Free Trade, Irritated, Revengeful South

The Free Trade, Irritated, Revengeful South

Thaddeus Stevens in the early postwar hesitated at giving the vote to freedmen, but quickly saw the danger of that they may vote along with those they lived beside and trusted for so many years.  He also feared a backlash from his Pennsylvania constituents who already denied the vote to free blacks. Blacks could not vote there nor in New York and all of the former slave-trading New England States except Connecticut. By 1867 Stevens wisely recognized the political expediency of the controlled freedmen vote.

The Free Trade, Irritated, Revengeful South

“Unless the rebel States, before admission, should be made republican in spirit, and placed under the guardianship of loyal men, all our blood and treasure will have been spent in vain. Having these States . . . entirely within the power of Congress, it is our duty to take care that no injustice will remain in their organic laws.  Holding them “like clay in the hands of the potter,” we must see that no vessel is made for destruction. Having no governments, they must have enabling acts.

There is more reason why colored voters should be admitted in the rebel States than in the Territories. In the States they form the great mass of loyal men. Possibly with their aid loyal governments may be established in most of those States.  Without it all are sure to be ruled by traitors; and loyal men, black and white, will be oppressed, exiled or murdered.

There are several good reasons for passage of this bill. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my argument to Negro suffrage in the rebel States. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites? In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded States.  The white Union men are in a great minority in each of those States.

With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that in each of said States, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the States, and protect themselves.  Now they are victims of daily murder. They must suffer persecution or be exiled . . .

If impartial suffrage is excluded in the rebel States, then every one of them is sure to send a solid rebel representative delegation to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral votes. They, with their kindred Copperheads in the North, would always elect the President and control Congress. While slavery sat upon her defiant throne, and insulted and intimidated the trembling North, the South frequently divided on questions of policy between Whigs and Democrats, and gave victory alternately to the sections. Now, you must divide them between loyalists, without regard to color, and disloyalists, or you will be the perpetual vassals of the free-trade, irritated, revengeful South . . . I am for Negro suffrage in every rebel State.”

(“Ascendancy of the Union Party”; Reconstruction: 1865-1867, Richard N. Current, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965, excerpts pp. 58-59)

Apr 10, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on No Complete Restoration

No Complete Restoration

“Supported by the Grant administration and fortified by military power, the Radical Republican State machines plunged the Southern commonwealths into an abyss of misgovernment.” So writes author James G. Randall in his 1937 classic “The Civil War and Reconstruction.”  Massive debts were foisted upon the Southern States through fraudulent bonds, excessive government salaries and Northern speculators, along with Radical governors terrorizing those citizens who protested. From this abyss arose the Ku Klux Klan.

No Complete Restoration

“To use a modern phrase, government under Radical Republican rule in the South had become a kind of “racket.” A parasitic organization had been grafted to the government itself, so that the agencies of rule and authority were manipulated for private and partisan ends.

Often in the reconstructed States government bore a bogus quality: that which called itself government was an artificial fabrication. Where the chance of plunder was so alluring it was no wonder that rival factions would clash for control of the spoils, nor that outraged citizens, seeking to recover the government for the people, should resort to irregular and abnormal methods. At times, this clash of factions created the demoralizing spectacle of dual or rival governments.

Such, in brief, was the nature of carpetbag rule in the South. The concept which the Radicals sought to disseminate was that the problems of restoration had all been neatly solved, the country saved, and the South “reconstructed” by 1868.

That dignified publication known as the American Annual Cyclopedia began its preface for the year 1868 with the following amazing statement: “This volume of the Annual Cyclopedia . . . presents the complete restoration, as members of the Union, of all the Southern States except three [Virginia, Mississippi, Texas], and the final disappearance of all difficulties between citizens of those States and the Federal Government.”

The fact of the matter was that this “complete restoration” was merely the beginning of the corrupt and abusive era of carpetbag rule by the forcible imposition of Radical governments upon an unwilling and protesting people.  Before this imposition took place the Southern States already had satisfactory governments.

Though the Radicals used Negro voting and officeholding for their own ends, Republican governments in the South were not Negro governments. Even where Negroes served, the governments were under white [Radical] control.

That the first phase of the Negro’s experience of freedom after centuries of slavery should occur under the degrading conditions of these carpetbag years was not the fault of the Negro himself, but of the whites who exploited him.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, DC Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 852-854)

Apr 9, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Taking Refuge in the Clouds

Taking Refuge in the Clouds

Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, fearing election loss by supporting Lincoln’s incessant calls for more troops, pushed strongly for equal pay for Southern black men captured in the Sea Islands and credited to his State quota.  Though the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth were official Massachusetts regiments, the men were not from Massachusetts.  The Second Massachusetts Cavalry were bounty-paid men from California.

Taking Refuge in the Clouds

“A much sorer spot . . . was the matter of pay. Negroes in the army received $10 a month, of which $3 was paid in clothing; white soldiers received $13 plus clothing – a difference of $6 a month.  The pay of the Negro was based on a decision of the solicitor of the War Department, William Whiting, who on June 4, 1863, ruled that Negro soldiers were to be paid under the provisions of the Militia Act of July 17, 1862, which stipulated that persons of African descent could be used for military service . . . this Act did not have in mind Negroes actually bearing arms, and it referred only to those Negroes who had recently been freed from bondage. Nonetheless, until Congress acted, Negro soldiers were to be paid, said Whiting, as military laborers.

[Massachusetts Governor] John Andrew was greatly troubled over the solicitor’s ruling since he had promised the men of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth equality in every respect with the other State regiments.  He urged the President to get an opinion from the attorney general, and Lincoln did so. Supporting Andrew, Bates reply stated that the $10 a month pay was meant for those Negroes who had been slaves.

Lincoln did nothing – [the 1862] elections were approaching. [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton moved slowly too, doubtless because he feared that equal pay might interfere with the recruitment of white soldiers. When asked by John Mercer Langston what was the duty of colored men in view of the lower wage, Stanton took refuge in the clouds:

“The duty of the colored man is to defend his country, whenever wherever, and in whatever form, is the same as that of white men. It does not depend on, nor is it affected by, what the country pays. The true way to secure her rewards and win her confidence is not to stipulate for them, but to deserve them”

Disappointed over his failure at Washington, Andrew returned to the State house . . . In quick response Massachusetts lawmakers passed an act on November 16 to make up the deficiencies in the monthly pay of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth.   

A week later the governor received an answer from the Fifty-fourth declining to accept any money from Massachusetts. [The] men of the Fifty-fourth wanted it known that had enlisted as other soldiers from the State, and that they would rather continue to serve without pay until their enlistments ran out, rather than accept from the national government less than the amount paid other soldiers.”

(The Negro in the Civil War, Benjamin Quarles, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 200-201)

Apr 5, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Underground Railroad to the South

Underground Railroad to the South

The following escapees from the North’s Fort Delaware, one of them being a Philadelphian who returned to that city, found willing “conductors” to aid their break for freedom and make good a return to their lines.

Underground Railroad to the South

“The Richmond Dispatch, August 28, 1863:

Yesterday afternoon five Confederate prisoners . . . arrived here from Fort Delaware, having escaped therefrom on the night of the 12th inst.  The narrative of their escape is interesting.

Having formed the plan of escape, they improvised life preservers by tying four canteens, well corked, around the body of each man, and on the night of the 12th inst., preceded to leave the island. Three of them swam four miles and landed about two miles below Delaware City; the other two being swept down the river, floated down sixteen miles and landed on Christine Creek.

The three who landed at Delaware City laid in a cornfield all night, and next evening about dark made their way south, after first having made their condition known to a farmer, who gave them a good supper. They traveled at night twelve miles through Kent County, Maryland, where the citizens gave them new clothes and money. After this their detection was less probable, as they had been wearing their uniforms the two days previous. They took the cars on the Philadelphia and Baltimore railroad at Townsend, and rode to Dover, the capital of Delaware.

Sitting near them were a Yankee colonel and captain, and the provost guard passed them frequently. They were not discovered, though to escape detection seemed impossible.  In [a] canoe they went [with five others who had escaped from Fort Delaware] to Tangier, Chesapeake, landed in Northumberland County below Point Lookout, a point at which the Yankees were building a fort for the confinement of prisoners.

They met with great kindness from the citizens of Heathville, who contributed a hundred and twenty dollars to aid them on their route. They soon met with our pickets, and came to this city on the York River Railroad.  These escaped prisoners expressed in the liveliest terms their gratitude to the people of Maryland and Delaware who did everything they could to aid them.

There was no difficulty experienced in either State in finding generous people of Southern sympathies, who put themselves to trouble to help them on their journey.”

(Georgia Remembers Gettysburg: A Collection of First-Hand Accounts Written by Georgia Soldiers, J. Keith Jones, Ten Roads Publishing, 2013, excerpt, pp. 19-20)

Apr 4, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

William Woods Holden might be said to have been the governor of postwar “Vichy” North Carolina, installed by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. Most contemporaries of Holden characterized him as “a bitter, unscrupulous and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambition.”

Holden also became head of the infamous Union League in North Carolina, allying himself with notorious carpetbagger Milton Littlefield, a former Union general, and scalawag George Swepson. Their railroad bond frauds which impoverished an already bankrupt State are breathtaking. Holden regularly pardoned criminal members of the League and warned opponents of his personal army of eighty thousand men to enforce his dictates.  Author J. DeR. Hamilton wrote that “It became increasingly difficult and dangerous to arrest a member of the League, and once arrested, to hold him.”

Holden’s election as governor in 1868 was achieved by a solid bloc of freedmen, carpetbag and scalawag votes; many white voters had been disenfranchised or roughly intimidated to discourage voting.  Some eight years ago, the North Carolina Senate pardoned Holden for crimes against his native State.

North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

 “Immediately after the March convention Holden and his allies went to work to organize the Republican party on the local level. Holden himself spoke at Republican organizational meetings in Wake County [Raleigh], and he was joined by representatives of all three elements in the new party – carpetbaggers, blacks and scalawags.

The local Republican rallies were frequently large, especially in predominantly black counties in the East. In the overwhelmingly white western counties the meetings were fairly small and attended mainly by whites.

Simultaneously with the regular organization of the party, secretive, oath-bound Union Leagues sprang up like mushrooms where the black population was relatively large. The main purpose of these legendary Republican auxiliaries was the formation of the blacks into an unintimidated phalanx of voters that would support the Republican party during Reconstruction.

The Union League, or Loyal League of America, appeared in the State in 1866, but it had made little progress until after the passage of the reconstruction acts in March, 1867.  Holden himself had served as president of the League’s Grand Council for North Carolina and, with his customary energy and forcefulness, provided the leadership for the thorough organization of the League in the State.  [He] demanded that the officers submit reports on membership to him, insist on voter registration of all their members, and “guard well the passwords and signs of the order.” Probably in no other State were the Republicans as successful in providing central direction for the Union Leagues as in North Carolina.”

(William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics, William C. Harris, LSU Press, 1987, excerpts pg. 223)

Apr 3, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Struggle for Domination

The Struggle for Domination

The victorious Republicans quickly realized in that their wartime political hegemony would disappear with Southern States again being equal partners in the Union. Hence, their disenfranchising of white voters and the enfranchisement of black freedmen – which ensured Grant’s election in 1868 with barely a 300,000 vote margin over Democrat Horatio Seymour. Carl Schurz (below) was a German revolutionary who found like minds in the North’s Republican party, helped swing German voters to Lincoln in 1860 and was rewarded with a generalship of German troops.

The Struggle for Domination

“The war was hardly over before the victors found out that it was easy to sit in Washington and proclaim peace by presidential decree or legislative enactment, but very difficult to establish peace in a country so recently torn apart by civil conflict. Despite the fact that General Grant thought that the South would accept the verdict of the battlefield, there were others who believed that the South was irreconcilable.

Carl Schurz returned from a tour of the region with the verdict that the South had submitted only because it saw no alternative.  He was alarmed at having found “no expression of hearty attachment to the great republic.” To his horror, treason was not odious in the South. Each section was thoroughly convinced that the other was wicked and, under the circumstances, not to be trusted to do the right thing.  

The Republicans, having the upper hand even in the early years of Reconstruction, were determined to strengthen their position and perpetuate their power. They had an effective propaganda for their purposes. They could remind the country that it was the South which had fought treasonably to destroy the Union; and that the Republican party had saved the nation from complete ruin at the hands of the Democrats, North and South.

The vulnerable position of the Democrats was summed up by Schurz: “There is no heavier burden for a political party to bear, than to have appeared unpatriotic in war.”

Many Republicans, whatever their altruistic motives, were moved to adopt the cause of the Negro almost solely by considerations of political expediency and strategy. It would have been unnatural for them not to have strengthened their party by enfranchising the Negroes and enlisting them as loyal voters.  It would have been equally unnatural for the Democrats, especially the Southern wing, to have abided this clever political maneuver.”  

(From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, Franklin/Moss, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988, excerpts pp. 224-225)

Apr 1, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Aiding Virginia’s Cause

Aiding Virginia’s Cause

Author Benjamin Quarles writes of free black Joseph T. Wilson who enlisted in a New York regiment early in the war with two Spaniards. After being sworn in and sent to a nearby island for service, a Negro cook recognized Wilson “and greeted him effusively. Before the recruit could “give the cook a hint,” a summons came. The officer of the day, to whom the incident was reported, sent for the cook. Within a few hours [Wilson] was escorted to the launch by a guard of honor, landed in New York, and honorably discharged.”

Aiding Virginia’s Cause

“The North was yet a long way from inscribing upon its banners, “Freedom for the Slave,” and it did not propose to be stampeded in that direction by the abolitionists. Rights for Negroes must still be measured out in homeopathic doses and administered with a long spoon.  Border and Midwest States were ready to pounce on the government for anything that could be construed as pro-Negro.  “At Washington I found that the mere mention of a Negro made the President nervous, and frightened some others in his cabinet much more,” wrote a staunch friend of the Negro, the Unitarian clergyman, Moncure D. Conway of Cincinnati . . .

[Northern] State governors, their ears to the ground, did not dare act contrary to the assertions that this was a white man’s war, and that white volunteers would not shoulder arms with the Negro. “We don’t want to fight side by side with the n*****,” wrote nineteen-year-old Corporal Felix Brannigan of the Seventy-fourth New York Volunteers to his sister.

Not dissimilar from the patriotic response of the Northern Negro was that of the 182,000 free Negroes in the eleven States flying the Stars and Bars. Southern Negroes too came forward in a general eagerness to be of service. Many of the offers were without strings – their masters indicated a willingness to assist in whatever capacity assigned.

Many such responses came from Virginia’s nearly 6,000 free Negroes, The Old Dominion had scarcely voted to secede when seventy Lynchburg Negroes tendered their services. A week later a group from Richmond, having volunteered for “the work of defense, or any other capacity required,” were directed to report “to the Captain of the Woodis Riflemen.” In Amelia County, Chesterfield and Petersburg, free Negroes volunteered to do any work assigned to them.

One morning in April 1861 [Petersburg Negroes] gathered in the courthouse square, preparatory to leaving for Norfolk to work on the fortifications. They listened to white speakers including former mayor John Dodson who presented them with a Confederate flag, assuring them that when they returned they would “reap a rich reward of praise, and merit, from a thankful people.”

Charles Tinsley, a bricklayer and a “corner workman,” acted a spokesman for the Negroes. His remarks in acceptance of the flag were brief: “We are willing to aid Virginia’s cause to the utmost of our ability . . . There is not an unwilling heart among us, not a hand but will tell in the work before us; and we promise unhesitating obedience to all orders that may be given us.”

(The Negro in the Civil War, Benjamin Quarles, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 30; 35-36)

Mar 29, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

Wealthy Northern agitator Gerritt Smith collaborated with John Brown as did Frederick Douglass, who last met with Brown at Christmas, 1856 in Rochester, New York. As soon as news of Brown’s failed 1859 Harper’s Ferry uprising reached Douglass, he fled to Canada and was hidden by black families. Fearing extradition for treason and certain to be hung, he sailed for England to be welcomed by British abolitionists.   

Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

“With several other young Whigs, [Charles] Sumner bought a Boston newspaper to agitate against the [Mexican] war, charging that its promoters were slaveholders linked to the New England mill owners.

A wave of propaganda, in which attacks on the war were intermingled with attacks on the large mill owners of New England, washed across New England and the North. John Brown, for the first time, was situated in an urban setting where meetings, speeches, and agitators were present. For the first time Brown also began to meet free blacks — including two militants: Reverend J.W. Loguen of Syracuse and Reverend Highland Garnet of Troy. Brown probably listened to them preach violent rebellion.

With its propensity for creating paper heroes – men of words and writing and instant celebrities – propaganda was irresistible to Brown. Not a man to admire anyone’s success without trying to emulate that person, Brown sat down and wrote a crude, semiliterate satire called “Sambo’s Mistakes,” and sent it to the Ram’s Horn, a newspaper published by blacks in New York City.  Whether the editors ever knew it was contributed by a white man seems dubious. But it appeared in the Ram’s Horn, and there is something about it that still disturbs. The hatred it exuded – natural enough, under the circumstances of the day, in a black – was twisted in a white man.

Brown also began to talk about a “plan” for freeing the slaves. Word trickled through to the black community, through letters and conversations. In due course these interesting rumors reached Frederick Douglass.   

[Meeting with Brown and spending the night at his home, Douglass] was deeply shaken. He had been spouting the Garrison line of peaceful resistance: that was one of the reasons he was welcome on so many different platforms. Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and many ministers managed to make that line sound plausible, reasonable, and even hopeful.

In Salem, Ohio, he said openly, for the first time, that slavery “could only be destroyed by bloodshed.” Sojourner Truth interrupted him, and asked, “Frederick, is God dead?” “No,” he answered, “and because God is not dead slavery can only end in blood.

John Brown, a white man, had introduced a new note that encouraged violence by blacks against whites.”

(The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement, Otto Scott, Uncommon Books, 1979, excerpts pp. 161—164)