Financial Panics and Copperhead Uprisings

Not surprising was the resistance of the Northern war munitions industry to peace initiatives; after defeat in 1856 the new Republican party saw future victory in wooing northeastern industrialists through protective tariffs and corporate welfare schemes, and protecting their interests at the expense of the agricultural South.  From March to early June, 1864, Capt. Thomas Hines devoted his time in Canada to rounding up Southern prisoners of war who escaped across the border to freedom. From June on, Hines and the Confederate Commissioners planned bold moves to open a northern front against the enemy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Financial Panics and Copperhead Uprisings

“While Hines rounded up the escaped prisoners of war to form his tiny “squadron,” as he would call it in later years, [Confederate Commissioner in Canada Jacob] Thompson set out for Niagara Falls to contact “potent men of the North” to learn how they felt about peace.

Leading Copperheads like Fernando Wood, ex-mayor of New York City, and ex-governor Washington Hunt of New York, met with him at the Clifton House [hotel]. New York and the East were not ready for peace or an uprising, they told Thompson. War [munitions] manufacturers there were too powerful and were on the alert to “neutralize” any peace efforts.

Thompson next turned to Secretary [Judah] Benjamin’s favorite project: trying to create a financial panic in the North by buying up gold and smuggling it out of the country in order to weaken the gold security for the Union dollar. A Nashville banker named [John] Porterfield, who was living in exile in Montreal, was selected by Thompson as the proper man to set this in motion.

Porterfield was furnished with fifty thousand dollars. He went to New York, opened an office under a fictitious name and began to purchase gold, which he exported to England and sold for sterling bills of exchange. Then he converted the sterling bills into dollars which he used to buy more gold.

The transaction was a costly one, showing a loss due to the cost of operations, trans-shipment, etc. Porterfield continued until his losses were twenty thousand dollars . . . [but by] this time he had exported five million dollars in gold, “and had induced many others to ship much more [gold].” His buying up gold and sending it out of the country began “showing a marked effect,” as Thompson said in his official report to Richmond, when the Federals cracked down.

A former partner of Porterfield’s was arrested by General Ben Butler for exporting gold, and thrown into Lafayette Prison in New York Harbor. Porterfield fled back to Canada . . . [but] still retained the twenty-five thousand dollars remaining to continue the exporting of gold through “fronts” in New York.

By the first week of June, 1864, Hines was in touch with his Copperhead friends in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and in communication with [Clement] Vallandigham, who was now [exiled] in Windsor [Ontario]. A meeting was set for the 14th to plan the Copperhead uprising and the release of the Rebel prisoners in Camps Douglas, Morton, Chase and Rock Island.

Hines and Thompson met with Vallandigham on the 14th . . . [at] St. Catherines, Canada . . . [and the latter] detailed for Hines the strength of the Copperheads. Membership totaled about 300,000. Illinois had furnished 80,000, Indiana, 50,000, Ohio, 40,000 and Kentucky and New York States, the rest. A “feeling of fatigue” was sweeping through the North, Vallandigham told them, following Lincoln’s call for 500,000 more men . . . [and] he added: “If provocation and opportunity arise, gentlemen, there will be a general uprising.”

(Confederate Agent, A Discovery in History, James D. Horan, Crown Publishers, 1954, pp. 88-90)

Fighting to Avoid Union Chains

Many in England saw the War Between the States as a bid for freedom against Northern oppression and comparisons were drawn with earlier independence movements in Greece, Poland and Italy. It was also asserted that the independence of the South would benefit blacks with eventual emancipation, “and outdo the hypocritical North by introducing full integration.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fighting to Avoid Union Chains

“Intervention had in both regions [of Manchester and Liverpool] only the most cursory appeal [but only] . . . Liverpool tended to hanker after not only intervention but more active participation in the Southern fight for freedom, and the city found its own ways of bypassing official sanctions for such support.

The constant breaking of the blockade and the provisioning of warships for the Confederacy were so effective as tools of war that the United States felt justified in suing Britain for heavy compensation.

The failure of the Union and Emancipation Society [in England] is demonstrated by the prevalence elsewhere of the belief that the South was fighting for a freedom which would ultimately encompass Negroes while the North wanted to clap that freedom into Union chains.

Lincoln was generally seen as a sad instance of a man whose native honesty had disintegrated into the hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation. He totally lacked charisma in Lancashire eyes. Defeat [of the South] was acknowledged as imminent but it was seen as the defeat of a noble and worthy cause . . . [and many saw] a sad destruction of freedom by the arrogant use of force.

Agents were sent to Lancashire by the Federal government and private Northern companies to popularize the idea of emigration and help fill the acute labor shortage. Enthusiasm for the idea of a new life in a civilized land . . . was marred by the widespread and sometimes justified fear that jobs and fares were bait for luring men into the depleted ranks of the Union army.”

(Support for Secession, Lancashire and the American Civil War, Mary Ellison, University of Chicago Press, 1972, pp. 191-193)

American Patriots Against Overwhelming Odds

The last land battle of the war in North Carolina exhibited the great heroism and fortitude of the Southern patriot; most North Carolina soldiers were with Lee in Virginia and suffered knowing that large numbers of enemy troops had overrun their State and their families left to the mercy of Sherman’s vandals. General Joe Johnston’s force numbered only some 20,000 men – many the remnants of garrison troops and the wrecked Army of Tennessee.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

American Patriots Against Overwhelming Odds

“General Joseph E. Johnston attacked General Sherman at the hamlet of Bentonville [North Carolina] on the 19th of March [1865] inflicting a signal repulse. Brigade after brigade of the Federals were crushed, and but for a gallant charge of the Federals under [General B.D.] Fearing the center would have been entirely destroyed.

After this defeat Sherman was unwilling to suffer another so he waited for General Schofield to join him, and this combined force consisted of over [88,000] men. The Confederate [Corps] of General D. H. Hill numbered 2,687 men.

In regards to the Confederate soldiers of 1861-1865 Judge de Roulhac Hamilton wrote:

“How splendid they were in their modest, patient, earnest, love of country! How strong they were in their young manhood, and pure they were in their faith, and constant they were in their principles. How they bore suffering and hardship, and how their lives were ready at the call of duty!

Suffering they bore, duty they performed, and death they faced and met, all for the love of the dear old homeland; and all this for the glory and honor of North Carolina. As they were faithful unto thee, guard thou their names and fame, grand old mother of us all. If thy sons in the coming times shall learn the lesson of the heroism their lives inspired and their deeds declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain.”

(Land of the Golden River, Lewis Philip Hall, Hall Enterprises, 1980, pp. 101-102)

America's Inescapable Tragedy

The American South did not invent African slavery. It did inherit a British colonial labor system which populated both North and South with African labor; New England’s slave trading and cotton mills helped greatly in perpetuating that labor system as well as Manhattan bankers who extended credit to planters for expansion westward. The great tragedy is that the South was not left to solve the riddle itself, and Northern abolitionists never offered a practical and peaceful solution to what they expressed so much concern over.

Berhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

America’s Inescapable Tragedy

“There has been a tendency, stubbornly persistent even in our time, to mistake the planter aristocracy for the entire South. It is therefore important to point out that if one could identify an average Southerner of the eighteen-fifties, statistics would demand that he be, at least by plurality of numbers, a non-slaveholding white farmer who cultivated a few acres with the help of his wife and children. A small nucleus, about 4 percent of all slaveholders, held on hundred or more slaves. Yet it was the large slaveholder, fictionalized by partisan pens, that has constituted popular portraits of the South.

Moreover, a sense of history was conspicuously lacking in antebellum Northern views of the South. It is not inappropriate here to recall that the beginnings of slavery coincide with the first English settlements in America. During the seventeenth century slave-traders of many nations joined in establishing in America, North and South, an institution which was not to become “peculiar” in anyone’s eye’s for nearly two centuries.

No generation was alone responsible for the enslavement of men; but no generation could escape the mounting social tensions and moral complexities that accompanied its growth. By the time prevailing ideologies of the world had become expressly opposed to slavery, most Southerners had come to consider it indispensible to either their economic or their social well-being. To understand the tragedy of the South is to realize that it is inescapably America’s tragedy.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831 to 1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. viii-ix)

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

The study of the postwar Republican party often reveals a political organization seeking power at any cost, and an abolitionist movement that was simply an expedient for the destruction of the American South politically and economically. The transcendentalists and Unitarian radicals drifted off after the war without a cause to embrace; the Republicans had their desired political hegemony which would only be interrupted by Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

“By 1867, [Wendell] Phillips and “a little band of abolitionists he represented, like Robespierre and the Jacobins, believed that their will was the General Will” and looked for the federal government to establish and maintain an equal political and social position for the Negro in the South, by as much force as proved necessary. They were groping for something like the modern welfare state – foreshadowed as it was by pragmatic programs of the time like the Freedmen’s Bureau – but their intense hatred of the white South prevented a rational approach.

As a result, “Radical Reconstruction,” as it finally emerged from the Congressional cauldron, was a set of half-measures. Not faced was the problem of how a despised, impoverished, and largely illiterate minority was to maintain its rights in the face of a determined majority in full possession of economic and social power. The fiasco of Radical Reconstruction had begun.

Republican opportunism was important [in this fiasco]. There was the desire to get the Southern States readmitted to the Union under Republican control in time to deliver critical votes in 1868 and thereafter.

While idealists like Carl Schurz, Charles Sumner, Charles Francis Adams, and Horace Greeley were deserting the Republican party and the Reconstruction program to set up the abortive Liberal Republican movement of 1872, that cause of the Southern Negro was taken up and further discredited by political opportunists of the regular party organization.

The issues of the war were kept alive in the seventies and eighties as a Republican campaign technique – a way of recalling the “disloyalty” of the Democrats by “waving the bloody shirt.” In the character of Senator Dilworthy in The Gilded Age, Mark Twain has provided an unforgettable portrait of the Republican politician making unscrupulous use of the “Negro question” for his own ends.

The Reconstruction era was a perplexing time for intellectuals who had been antislavery militants before and during the war. Unable to support the sordid Grant administration and filled with doubts about the form that Radical Reconstruction was taking in the South, they had little to offer in the way of insight or inspiration.

William Dean Howells, who had once been a fervent abolitionist, intimated as editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1869 that he was tired of the Negro question. Howell’s diminishing interest in the Negro, which reflected the disenchantment of the New England literary community in general, was further manifested in subsequent issues of the Atlantic.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, excerpts, pp. 191-196)

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

Northerners thought that emancipation and arming the blacks would create “a more terrible [and] effective weapon against the Southerners,” alluding to the result of a Santo Domingo-style race war in the South. In reality, black men were enticed off plantations to deny the agricultural South its laborers, who were then recruited into regiments to serve as lowly paid laborers and servants.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

“The man chosen to fill the office [military governor at Hilton Head] was Rufus B. Saxton, a newly-breveted brigadier general. A native of Deerfield, Maine, a graduate of West Point and a career officer in the army, Saxton came to Hilton Head with the assault force as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps. His father had been an enthusiastic abolitionist, yet Saxton took his assignment with reluctance and out of loyalty rather than out of sympathy for the Negro.

In the summer of 1862, Laura Towne, one of the Northern teachers on St. Helena, was pleased to find him “truly anti-slavery.” Major General David M. Hunter [at that time served on Hilton Head as], commanding general of the Department of the South.

Hunter, acting on his own authority . . . forced the issue by beginning the recruitment of a regiment of Negro soldiers. [He] was able to muster 150 Negroes into the service as the First South Carolina Volunteers. Thereafter, however, recruiting proceeded slowly. Most of the volunteers probably were refugees from the mainland without employment [and] those who remained on the plantations and were engaged in planting their crops were far from enthusiastic.

On St. Helena, it was reported that only one man volunteered, and the missionaries generally agreed that the Negroes were afraid of “being made to fight.” On St. Helena, Laura Towne observed that the plantation hands generally regarded the maneuver as “a trap to get the able-bodied and send them to Cuba to sell . . .”  Miss Towne asserted that “nearly all are eager to go there again and serve in the forts,” but they did not want to fight.

Whereas many Negroes volunteered “willingly” in the first few days of Saxton’s recruiting campaign, some offered themselves with “dismal forlornness,” and others not at all.

When two officers appeared at a church on St. Helena on October 23 [1862] to seek recruits, all able-bodied males declined to attend. On the following Sunday, Sergeant Prince Rivers, a Negro veteran of the Hunter Regiment, visiting the island on the same mission, suffered the same disappointment.”

(After Slavery, The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, pp. 13-17)

Americans Treated as Enemies

Enemy soldiers in the South sent revealing letters home which contained views shaped by official army policies, and censors allowed those which portrayed events in a government-approved light. The writer does note that Negro hands have left the farms, more the result of seizure than liberation; the desperate plea for more recruits reflects the lack of Northern enlistments after the carnage of mid-July 1862.  By this time Lincoln’s radicalized regime embarked on a total war strategy agaisnt Americans that would target civilians as well as armies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Americans Treated as Enemies

“Camp Rufus King, July 22, 1862. The following letter we cut from the [Buffalo, New York] Courier:

“The South is paying dearly for this unnatural war upon the country. Famine and pestilence must soon follow on its desolating track. Seed time and harvest have passed, and the planter finds his barns empty. The standing grain has rotted in the field for the want of hands to gather it in.

Oh ye who live in the quiet of your peaceful homes, with all the comforts of life within your reach, and know little of the horrors of war, strengthen our ranks if you would have us stand between you and an earnest, determined foe. Rely not with too much confidence on the ability of the army to beat back the hordes that are arrayed against us. Every able-bodied man in the South is in arms, and they are terribly in earnest.

Not so with us. Our policy, hitherto, has been to conciliate rather than destroy our foe, and as we advance, looking upon the inhabitants as friends and allies until they prove themselves to be enemies. We have been deluded into the belief that there is a strong Union sentiment in the revolted States. It may be so, but it is very slow in manifesting itself.

Few indeed, have the courage to come out boldly and sustain the Government, while the vast majority [does] not hesitate to proclaim their preference for the Southern Confederacy. The [Southern] masses are ignorant to a degree that is startling to a Northerner. It knows little that transpires in the world beyond its immediate circle. It believes implicitly all that is told by the leading spirits of the neighborhood.

The very dialect of the mass betrays its ignorance – differing in no respect from that used by the slaves. And yet these men are told that the Northern mechanic and laboring man ranks no higher in the scale of civilization than the Negro, and that it is the yoke of these Northern mechanics and laborers that they are fighting to throw off.

Our policy of conducting the war is to be changed. It is time. We are in the enemy’s country, and those who inhabit it should be treated as enemies until they yield prompt obedience to the Government.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York State Volunteers: Embracing a Full History of The Regiment, J. Harrison Mills, Regimental Veterans Association, Buffalo, 1887, pp. 201-202)

Changing Masters Rather Than Systems

Author Walter Prescott Webb saw in 1937 a world of people in chains, stating that: “Wherever I turn in the South and the West I find people busily engaged in paying tribute to someone in the North.” Henry Ford then ran a feudal chain that gave him a great private fortune, making him lord and master over millions of people across the country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Changing Masters Rather Than Systems

“History tells us that the position of the serf on the feudal manor was a humble one and that he had little to show for his labor. History adds with emphasis, however, that he enjoyed an unalienable security. He was attached to the land that nourished him and he could not be separated from it. His children inherited his security.

When we compare his lot with that of the clerks in a chain store (leaving aside what they have to show for their labor) we find that in point of security the serf had the better of it. Though the land was not his, he was the land’s, and from it he could make a livelihood. The chain or corporate employee does not own the store and is not owned by it. He can be kicked out at any time. He has no contract, either by law or by custom, and he enjoys no security.

With our theory of equality between a real and corporate person, the tie between them can be broken by either at will. What the law loses sight of is that the tie is as strong as the chains of necessity for one and as weak as a distant, impersonal will for the other.

The feudal world set great store by symbols, insignia and uniforms. Every man’s station was announced by what he wore. The jester had his cap and the fool had his bell. The knight was distinguished by his armor, the king by his crown. A member of the high orders of chivalry was known by the fraternity pin he wore.

As I look out upon the South and the West I not only see men everywhere in chains, but I see thousands wearing the insignia of their allegiance to their overlords. Boys clad in blue or brown and wearing caps with the symbols of the telegraph companies are hurrying along on bicycles. In oil stations young men in puttees and jackets exhibit the insignia of Standard Oil, Texaco, Humble, and Andy Mellon’s Gulf.

Tire punctures are recommended by men in long dusters which have Goodyear or Firestone woven in bright red letters across the back. Most of these are doubtless conscious that they are under unseen control; to a man, they must long for independence, for something they can call their own.

Some of them do not conceal their resentment. “These damn corporations dont give a man a chance,” says one. “I’m through with these oil companies,” said another. “I am doing my best to get a job with the International Business Machine Corporation.” Thus they exchange masters, but rarely systems.

(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, 1937, pp. 114-116)

"Feelings Understood Only by Southern Men"

Famed blockade-running Captain Mike Usina of Charleston stated that the South truly had no naval traditions prior to the war, “but the record of the Southern sailors during the war is second to none that the world has ever produced, and should the emergency arise again, the descendants of the same men will emulate the example set by their fathers.” His faithful leadsman was a slave named Irwin.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“Feelings Understood Only by Southern Men”

“My leadsman was a slave owned by myself. On the last trip of the Atalanta, while under fire, the ship going very fast toward shoal water, I thought possibly he might get rattled, and to test him I said: “Irwin, you cant get correct soundings, the ship is going too fast, I’ll slow her down for you.”

He answered, “This is no time to slow down sir, you let her go, I’ll give you the bottom”; and he did, he being a leadsman without peer. I have had him in the chains [lashed to the spar] for hours in cold winter weather, with the spray flying over him cold enough to freeze the marrow in his bones, the ship very often in very shoal water, frequently but a foot to spare under her, and sometimes not that.

Yet I never knew him to make a mistake or give an incorrect cast of the lead. He is the man whom, when pointing to the island of New Providence I said: “Every man on that island is as free as I am, so will you when we get there.”

He answered: “I did not want to come here to be free, I could have gone to the Yankees long ago if I had wished.” And afterwards when the war was over, I said to him: “I am going to England, perhaps never to see Savannah again, you had better go home.”

His answer was: “I cannot go without you”; and he did not. The feeling that existed between us can only be understood by a Southern man; by a Northern man, never.”

(Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, Broadfoot Publishing, 1916/1992, pg. 426)

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

Postwar federal election supervision in the South purportedly ensured fair and impartial elections, but in reality only ensured Radical Republican political control. The slim margin of Grant’s 1868 victory was not to be repeated and Republicans took no chances in 1872. Below former North Carolina legislator and Confederate General Thomas Clingman noted their strategies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

“On 9 July 1872 twenty delegates from the Old North State assembled in Baltimore to attend the eleventh quadrennial Democratic convention. Clingman was selected to serve on the Committee on Resolutions. Shortly after the convention adjourned, Clingman dropped a bombshell on the North Carolina Republicans in the form of a letter ostensibly written by former Democratic congressman James B. Beck of Kentucky.

The letter, which was addressed to Clingman, pointed out that the August State elections in North Carolina were widely regarded as a barometer for the presidential election in November. For that reason, the Grant administration had determined to use every corrupt means possible to carry the Old North State. Large sums had been raised for that purpose, including funds illegally drawn from the Justice Department.

Clingman played a leading role in the [post-election investigation] movement. In a letter published in the New York World and copied by numerous North Carolina newspapers, he presented a cogent summary of the Conservative argument.

The election, he said, had been managed “by an army of . . . [federal] revenue officers and deputy marshals,” who had been “liberally supplied” with money.” Those federal managers had practiced massive fraud, importing black voters from other States into the eastern counties and inducing native blacks to vote several times in different townships.

In the white-majority counties of the west, they had mobilized violators of the revenue laws and those under indictment for Klan activity with promises of immunity from prosecution “if they voted the Radical ticket.” Others, who refused to cooperate, had been arrested in order to prevent them from voting. [North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Augustus] Merrimon shared in the widespread belief that the Republicans had stolen the election.

In several eastern counties, the number of voters did exceed the number of adult males reported in the census. Moreover, a large number of indictments for Klan activity were in fact made just before the election, and many of them were dropped soon after the campaign had ended.”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pp. 207-209)