Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

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)

 

A Minority Party Blunders into War

William H. Seward lost the Republican presidential nomination to a political novice from Illinois, and was quietly licking his wounds while that novice was ignoring the secession crisis in Springfield. As Seward was the creation and protégé of New York newspaperman Thurlow Weed, he might have exerted party leadership to bring on a constitutional convention of the States to properly settle the issues. Weed was no friend of secession, but saw signs that the conservative South was open to negotiation – as the Crittenden Compromise offered. Seward deferred to Lincoln, and Lincoln stumbled into war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Minority Party Blunders into War

“Aside from misconceiving the importance of the secession movement, the Republicans were also placed at a great disadvantage by their lack of experience as a majority party and their lack of a leader to chart their course for them. The crisis overtook them before they could remedy these defects.

It demanded that they produce a formula to save the Union, and made this demand at a time when they had never even borne the responsibility of appointing a postmaster. They were yet a minority party, not destined to assume office for three months to come.

They had never been anything other than a minority party, skilled in opposition tactics, steeped in opposition psychology, unused to responsibility, unaccustomed to the formulation of policy. Unprepared as they were to cope with a crisis, they clung to their nominal position as a minority group and shrank from taking affirmative action. The future belonged to them; they alone could pledge it; and consequently they alone could wield the initiative.

This handicap might have been overcome by clear-cut and decisive leadership. But in the moment when an unexpected crisis and unfamiliar responsibility fell simultaneously upon Republican congressmen, they found themselves with no unquestioned leader. Abraham Lincoln was, of course, the elected chief, but he had been silent for more than half a year.

Mr. Lincoln was, in the eyes of many simply an ex-congressman from Illinois, now President-elect . . . Certainly they gave no sincere allegiance to the unknown quantity from Springfield, and if anyone held the position of leadership it was Lincoln’s rival, William H. Seward. Seward had been the leader of the Republican party, and especially of the Republicans in Congress, for nearly six years . . . and probably the most intelligent member on the Republican side of the Senate.

The moral grandeur of “lost causes” held little appeal for him. Consequently, he became a superb politician, a master of artifice, equivocation, and silence. With Lincoln silent in Springfield, the public gaze turned upon Seward, the leader in Congress, and, as rumor had it, the next Secretary of State.

Had Seward been prepared to act vigorously at this juncture, he might have exerted an enormous influence. But he was, himself, inhibited at this critical moment by his reticence in assuming leadership so soon after his defeat for the [presidential] nomination, by his underestimate of the crisis, and by his anxiety not to take any step that would impair his prospective influence with the new administration.

Amid this welter of confusion [in Republican ranks], Congress at last convened [in] joint session [to hear President James Buchanan] set forth his belief that the States cannot legally secede, but that the Federal government could not legally restrain them; in it he recommended that Congress call a constitutional convention . . .”

(Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis, David M. Potter, Yale University Press, 1942, excerpts pp. 80-82)

 

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)

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)

New England Sets the Example for the South

Lord Acton writes that “secession is not a theory of the Constitution, but a remedy against a vicious theory of the Constitution” — the right of a minority to withdraw from a political agreement which they no longer wish to be part of, and to escape the tyranny of the majority. Even a nationalist like Hamilton saw the balance necessary between national and State governments, and that both will be prevented from trespassing on each one’s constitutional limitations. The States would be further protected by the strictly delegated, and few, powers of the general government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

As a consequence of troubles between Napoleon’s Berlin decree and the British response, President Jefferson determined to lay an embargo on all American vessels – with a subsequent Bill passed December 22, 1807.

“The embargo was a heavy blow to the ship-owning States of New England . . . the others were less affected by it. “The natural situation of this country,” says Hamilton, is to divide it interests into . . . navigating and non-navigating States. This difference in situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce.”

Accordingly the law was received in those States with a storm of indignation. Quincy, of Massachusetts, declared in the House: “It would be as unreasonable to undertake to stop the rivers from running into the sea, as to keep the people of New England from the ocean . . .”

The doctrine of State-rights, or nullification, which afterwards became so prominent in the hands of the Southern party, was distinctly enunciated on behalf of the North on this occasion.

Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, summoned the legislature to meet, and in his opening address to them he took the ground that, in great emergencies, when the national legislature had been led to overstep its constitutional power, it became the right and the duty of the State legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the general government.”

They went farther and prepared to secede from the Union, and thus gave the example which has been followed, on exactly analogous grounds, by the opposite party.

John Quincy Adams declared in Congress that there was a determination to secede. “He urged that a continuance of the embargo much longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported by the legislature, and probably by the judiciary of the State . . . Their object was, and had been for years, a dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a separate confederation.”

Twenty years later, when Adams was President, the truth of this statement was impugned. At that time the tables had been turned, and the South was denying the right of Congress to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the North Eastern States, whilst these were vigorously and profitably supporting the Federal authorities.

It was important that they should not be convicted out of their own mouths, and that the doctrine they were opposing should not be shown to have been inaugurated by themselves.

(The Civil War in America: Its Place in History; Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume I, Essays in the History of Liberty, J. Rufus Fears, editor, Liberty Fund, 1985, excerpts pp. 231-234)

 

Neutralizing Maryland

After the armed resistance by Marylanders against Northern troops passing through their State in April 1861, the “Northern press howled for revenge on Baltimore and for the subjugation of Maryland.” Business in that city was at a standstill and the Potomac was patrolled by an armed flotilla aimed at cutting off Maryland from Virginia and the Southern Confederacy. On May 2, the New York Times suggested employing the same “experiment so successfully tried in Maryland” on Virginia. Secession, wrote the newspaper, was simply the result of a mob, and the “army . . . should immediately advance South to act as a local police. The mob at Richmond would prove to be as cowardly and contemptible as at Baltimore.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Neutralizing Maryland

“While other States of the South seceded peacefully and of their own free will, Maryland could not. In the final analysis, Maryland was forced to stay in the Union.

The end of the secession movement in Maryland, at least the de jure end, came on November 6, 1861, with the Union Party’s overwhelming victory in the State legislative contests and the election of their candidate, Augustus W. Bradford, as governor.

The election destroyed secessionist hopes of taking Maryland into the Confederacy, and many Marylanders who sympathized with the South fled across the Potomac to join fellow citizens who had already been recruited to Confederate arms by a station set up in Baltimore.

Following the election, federal authorities with State cooperation “promptly suppressed all signs of secession sympathy of an active nature . . . Maryland became in fact as well as in name a loyal State.”

Bradford, until 1861 a relatively little known politician, was an unconditional Unionist and therefore received the support of the Lincoln administration, as did his Union Party. Indeed, he scored an impressive victory – the margins of which were so skewed that many question their authenticity. Bradford won with 57,000 votes to his opponent’s 26,000, and his party won sixty-eight seats in the House of Delegates to only six for the opposition. Secessionists and others opposed to Lincoln naturally cried foul.

The Baltimore South gave its “Union friends . . . great credit for the moderation exercised as there was no earthly reason, beyond the expense of ticket printing, why the majority (in Baltimore) should have been 40,000 instead of 14,000.” The journal had been “reliably informed that the Federal troops from every section of the country kindly aided their Union friends here, and deposited their ballots in as many wards and precincts as suited their convenience.”

This wry report from a secessionist newspaper should be read for what it is, but [one writer] makes the compelling point that, “The size of the majority made no difference for the Lincoln administration could have made it what it chose by applying the test oath more strictly, and by arresting the State Rights men.”

Bradford did appear to be elected by fraudulent means, and some question, given the results, why an election was held at all. It was held, of course, because the Lincoln administration badly wanted the country, and the European governments closely watching developments across the Atlantic, to believe that, constitutionally speaking, things were still working normally and that most Americans supported the Administration.

Once Lincoln and the War Department determined that Maryland had to be neutralized, they were forced to implement drastic policies.”

(A Southern Star for Maryland, Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Lawrence M. Denton, Publishing Concepts, excerpts pp. 116-119)

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

As Lincoln never accepted the independence of those States which had withdrawn to form a more perfect union, his actions can be judged in a light illuminated by the United States Constitution and the strictly enumerated powers delegated to his branch. The crime of treason is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of that document: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against Them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Note the emphasis on “Them,” individually. By commencing hostilities against South Carolina and other States, he violated Section III, Article 3.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

“By his selective use of the American past, his devotion of the nation to an abstract proposition, and his expansive vision of America’s role in the world, Lincoln undermined the old federated republic. He rewrote the history of the founding, and then waged total war to see his version of the past vindicated by success.

But in the course of subjugating the “insurrectionary” and “revolutionary” combination in the South, and in creating a unitary nation, he also compromised the integrity of the Presidency as a Constitutional office, first by invading the powers of the other two branches and then by assuming further powers nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

He may have claimed that in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis necessity knew no law, but the Constitution in fact recognized the possibility of emergencies and delegated necessary and appropriate powers to the President and Congress. As historian Clinton Rossiter wrote: “The Constitution looks to the maintenance of the pattern of regular government in even the most stringent of crises.” But Lincoln acted alone.

From the fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, to the convening of a special session of Congress in July of 1861, President Lincoln ruled by decree, and on his own initiative and authority he commenced hostilities against the Confederacy. For 11 weeks that spring and early summer, Lincoln exercised dictatorial powers, combining them within his person the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the national government in Washington.

In his inaugural speech in March he had announced that the union had the right and the will to preserve itself. He promised to secure federal property in the seceded States, to collect all duties and to deliver the mails – all steps short of invasion but intended nonetheless to subjugate the South.

He assumed so-called “war-powers” – a familiar feature of the modern Presidency, but them a novelty – and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. The oft-raised concern that Lincoln could not have proceeded otherwise and still have preserved the Union should not obscure the problem of the means he resorted to.

The Constitutionality of his acts cannot be, as one historian claimed, “a rather minor issue,” for at stake was the integrity of free institutions.”

(The Costs of War, America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 138-139)

Military Mission Against South Carolina

The North’s war against the South could be said to have truly begun in 1854 Kansas, or Harper’s Ferry in 1859, or when the James Buchanan-ordered “Star of the West” left its dock at New York Harbor. This passenger ship had 200 officers and men concealed below decks along with munition of war, and escorted by the warship USS Brooklyn.  This episode brings up the question of treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution: “. . . shall consist only in levying war against Them.” Buchanan was levying war against one of “Them,” a State. Lincoln would do the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Military Mission Against South Carolina

“When historians talk of the “first shot” of the Civil War it is a matter of disagreement. The men on the spot in Charleston Harbor Jan. 9, 1861, thought they knew when the first shot came. It was fired when a Citadel cadet at a battery half-concealed in the sand hills of Morris Island sent a ball whistling across the bow of a steamer named “Star of the West.”

The “Star of the West” wore a huge US ensign on her foretruck when he steamed up the Main Ship Channel . . . Her ‘tween decks were crowded with US soldiers. Otherwise, she was out of character as a ship employed on a vital military mission.

The “Star of the West” was a passenger liner, diverted from her run between New York and New Orleans for this business of bringing reinforcements to Maj. Robert Anderson in Fort Sumter.

That is why Gen. Winfield Scott, the aging general-in-chief at Washington had picked her for this task. Gen. Scott had an idea the “Star of the West” could do what a warship could not do – steam into Charleston Harbor without arousing the suspicions of South Carolinians.

Army headquarters had ordered strict security thrown about the “Star’s” mission, but somebody had leaked the news. The politicians had it first, and then the newspapers. Long before the “Star of the West” arrived off Charleston Bar, it was gossip on the streets of Charleston that the Yankees had decided to send reinforcements to Fort Sumter.

The newly-erected battery which Citadel cadets had just built near the northern end [of Morris Island] was alerted. [At first light] the “Star” steamed boldly across the bar, flushing the South Carolina guardship “Gen. Clinch” before her [which signaled] the alarm with flares and rockets.

With daylight coming on, Lt. Charles J. Woods, commander of the troops aboard the [Star”], took pains to make the ship look like a peaceful merchantman. A swish and a splash announced the arrival of a shot across the bow . . . [shortly afterward a] shot struck the side of the “Star” below the feet of the leadsman. To reach Sumter, the “Star” would have to pass within a thousand yards of [the Fort Moultrie gunners].

A gun was fired from Moultrie. Lt. Woods looked at Sumter hoping for a sign of recognition or assistance . . . but no gunfire came from Sumter’s walls. Another shot from Moultrie. Another.

Woods decided not to take the chance. [The Star’s] Capt. McGowan, shaken by the encounter with the battery in the dunes, ordered the wheel to put over [and steam northward].”

(Steamer Fails to Aid Sumter, Arthur M. Wilcox, The Civil War at Charleston, A.W. Wilcox & Warren Ripley, 1966, excerpts pp. 10-11)

Havoc in 1864 New York City

In mid-July of 1864, opposition to Lincoln’s oppressive regime made him see his reelection as improbable, despite offering prestigious governmental posts to newspaper opponents. Even Thurlow Week, recognized as a great political seer in New York, told Lincoln in early August 1864 “that his reelection was an impossibility.” Though Lincoln’s faction-ridden party was collapsing in the face of McClellan’s candidacy and wide support, the War Department’s manipulation of the soldier vote, and monitored election polls, resulted in Lincoln’s victory.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Havoc in 1864 New York City

“Francis P. Blair, Lincoln’s friend, support and father of Montgomery Blair, the postmaster general, went to New York City in the hope of waylaying [General George B.] McClellan’s [presidential] candidacy. [Publisher] James Gordon Bennett . . . advised Blair, “Tell him [Lincoln] to restore McClellan to the army and he will carry the election by default.”

The month of August 1864 was so depressing for the Republicans that the Democrats had good reason to dream of glory. [Former New York City Mayor] Fernando Wood . . . had said “that the national [Democratic Party] was unqualifiedly opposed to the further prosecution of the war of emancipation and extermination now being waged against the seceded States, and will continue to demand negotiation, reconciliation and peace.”

The more moderate August Belmont sounded no less harsh when he addressed the Chicago convention. “Four years of misrule,” he said, “by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party have brought our country to the very verge of ruin.” Four more years of Lincoln would bring “utter disintegration of our whole political and social system amidst bloodshed and anarchy.”

Also in August the Confederates dealt a demoralizing blow to New York City. The Confederate steamer Tallahassee audaciously captured two Sandy Hook pilot boats off New York Harbor, bringing the war close to home. The rebel ship laid in wait for outbound vessels and in less than two weeks, according to official records, destroyed or damaged more than thirty ships. Some estimates ran as high as fifty-four ships destroyed, and insurance men shivered over the consequences.

John Taylor Wood, grandson of President Zachary Taylor and captain of the Tallahassee . . . longed to create havoc in New York. He knew which ships were in port from newspapers he had taken from captured ships, and he hoped to set fire to the ships in the harbor, blast the navy yard in Brooklyn, and then escape into Long Island Sound.

During these unpleasant days, [Lincoln] called for five hundred thousand more men for the army. [This] prompted John Mullaly to publish an article called “The Coming Draft” in his paper . . . which resulted in his arrest for counseling Governor Seymour and others to resist the draft. [Mullaly] . . . continued to express his belief that the South had the right to select its own government and that the North “in the endeavor to force her into a compulsory Union is violating the principle of universal suffrage, which we claim to be the foundation of our democratic system. By this right we shall continue to stand, for it is a right older and more valuable than the Union itself.”

(The Civil War and New York City, Ernest A. McKay, Syracuse University Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 269-270; 272-273)

Jul 4, 2018 - Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on What if Lee Had Been in Command?

What if Lee Had Been in Command?

Brigadier-General David Twiggs, a 70-year-old native Georgian, assumed command of the Department of Texas from Colonel Robert E. Lee on 13 December 1860. The War of 1812 and Mexican War veteran naturally assumed that upon the withdrawal of Texas from the Union, he would relinquish control of the Alamo arsenal. Writing the War Department, he requested to be relieved of command in mid-January 1861, though orders were not issued till 28 January, and then sent by slow courier. While awaiting these orders, Twiggs was confronted on 16 February by Texas Col. Ben McCulloch leading upwards of 1000 militia men under the Lone Star flag, demanding the Alamo be surrendered to Texas forces, which was done peacefully.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

What if Lee Had Lee Been in Command?

“Had Robert E. Lee rather than David Twiggs been in command of the Department of Texas, the Civil War might very well have commenced in San Antonio on 16 February 1861 rather than two months later at Fort Sumter. Although fond of Texas and as unwilling as Twiggs to fire upon Americans, Lee’s first loyalties were to Virginia and to the United States Army.

Never a secessionist and still undecided about the rectitude of the Southern cause even after Virginia left the Union, Lee would almost surely have made at least a token resistance at San Antonio and perhaps, as some observers suggested at the time, would have tried to fight his way north of the Red River.

Blood would have been spilled on both sides, and the nation might well have been hurled into its fratricidal war before the secession of the Upper South and before the week-old Confederacy had established the means to fight.

How this might have affected the course of the war and subsequent American history is only the subject of speculation, but surely the restraint exercised by the armed me on both sides of the conflict at the Alamo is commendable and bought a precious little time for statesmen to attempt to avert the coming disaster.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 186-187)

 

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