Oct 27, 2014 - Foreign Viewpoints    No Comments

Southern Hopes of Foreign Recognition

Historian Emory Thomas wrote that Confederates believed themselves “heirs of the American Revolutionary tradition of 1776,” underscored by their President being inaugurated on Washington’s birthday and stating that “We hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers.” President Jefferson Davis told his countrymen, “you assumed to yourselves the right, as your fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865


Southern Nationhood and Foreign Recognition

“[General Robert E. Lee] and Davis had decided to take the offensive in the east. As he had done the previous fall, Lee drove his army west of his enemy, crossed the Potomac upstream, and sent widely dispersed columns into Maryland. This time the Confederates continued up into Pennsylvania and posed a distinct threat to Washington and Baltimore.

The invasion would not draw off troops from Vicksburg, but should Vicksburg fall, its loss would be small indeed compared to a major victory before Washington. Lee had no illusions about besieging the enemy capital immediately. He and Davis hoped to draw Hooker into another Chancellorsville; this time the ultimate prize would be Washington instead of Richmond, and this time perhaps the Southerners could achieve a battle of annihilation and at the same time a diplomatic coup.

Once in Pennsylvania, Lee expanded his thinking about the campaign and urged that Davis collect all available troops from the Carolinas, place Beauregard in command, and order an assault on Washington from the South. The idea might have had a decisive effect upon what began as a limited offensive, but Davis believed it too complicated and too risky.

Emperor Napoleon III . . . [in the late spring of 1863] came as close as he ever would [to recognizing the Confederacy]. While Napoleon was fretting anew about his nation’s need for cotton, . . . and digesting reports of the Southern victory at Chancellorsville, in England John A. Roebuck announced his intention to place before Parliament a resolution supporting immediate Anglo-French recognition of the Confederacy.

The Palmerston government let it be known that it opposed the project and justified the opposition on the ground that Napoleon had lost all enthusiasm for recognition. Such was not the case, though, though, and on June 18 the Emperor told Confederate diplomat John Slidell that he would “make a direct proposition to England for joint recognition.” Thus Roebuck confidently prepared to introduce his resolution on June 30, and Europe became an active front, along with Pennsylvania and Vicksburg in the Confederate war.

During June of 1863 the tide of Confederate independence and nationhood probably reached its flood. [At] the time Southerners had a right to be optimistic, or at least hopeful, that their revolution would prevail, or at least endure. In the minds of its citizens the Confederacy was more a nation in June of 1863 than ever before or after.

Two years of war had transformed Southern political and economic institutions and the Southern people. War and Confederate nationalism also conditioned Southerners creative energies in music, art, literature and learning. The black experience during wartime underwent subtle but profound metamorphosis, and slavery in the Confederate South was an unsettled institution. The end product of these Confederate alterations of antebellum norms was a distinctive national life behind the battle lines.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 219-221)

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

Though Gen. Robert E. Lee trusted Joseph E. Johnston in command in North Carolina, his continued retreat in front of Sherman greatly alarmed Lee, who wrote “Should you be forced back in this direction [Richmond] both armies would certainly starve. You must judge what the probabilities will be of arresting Sherman by battle. A bold and unexpected attack might relieve us.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865


Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

“Sherman came on irresistibly – like Lord Cornwallis – North Carolinians were reminded. The feeling of dread, of terror, may have been comparable to the folk tales of their grandparents, but not the speed, the destructive power, the calamitous results. Compared to Sherman’s, Cornwallis’s invasion during the Revolution was child’s play.

Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, fell on February 17; Charleston, the following morning; Wilmington, on the twenty-second. Richmond had looked to Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard to coordinate defensive efforts and obstruct Sherman’s advance . . . [though he resorted] to heady 1861 rhetoric; concentrate 35,000 Confederates at Salisbury, North Carolina and fight Sherman there, “crush him, then to concentrate all forces against Grant, and then to march on Washington to dictate a peace.”

[Once Robert E. Lee was appointed] commander-in-chief of all Confederate armies . . . Lee turned to President Jefferson Davis and asked that Joseph E. Johnston be retrieved from oblivion. With greatest reluctance, Davis acquiesced [though concerned that the] General will not risk a battle unless he has all the chances in his favor.” Lee wired Johnston on February 22. “Concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.”

The controversial Johnston had worked a miracle before – when he gathered fragments of two defeated Confederate armies at Dalton, Georgia, in early 1864, and fashioned them into an effective fighting force that proceeded to frustrate Sherman’s heavier numbers and resources for three months.

Sherman’s strategy by the last week of February 1865 was becoming clear to the Confederates. He would continue to push through the Carolinas, up into Virginia, and there unite with Grant against Lee. Lee doubted that Sherman would move northwest via Charlotte . . . rather, Lee expected him to turn toward Goldsboro and the coast – to snap the vital [Wilmington &] Weldon railroad and unite with Schofield.

On February 24, Johnston went to Charlotte, assumed command from Beauregard, and immediately held a review. [The troops cheered the General] and this feeling of confidence in Johnston and enthusiasm over his return to command swept through the ranks and the officer’s corps of the Army of Tennessee. They loved the man. He could redeem them. They knew it.

Once [Johnston combined his disparate forces into one, he] would possess a sizable fore, admittedly less than half of Sherman’s numbers but sufficient to cause mischief, perhaps even to wound his adversary seriously. If Sherman’s army could be caught divided and fought in fractions, certainly before he united with [his other wing], there might be hope of checking, perhaps defeating, part of his force – an isolated column perhaps. Once this had been accomplished, other positive opportunities would present themselves.”

(Bentonville, The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston, Nathaniel C. Hughes, Jr., UNC Press, 1996, pp. 21-24)