Betraying the American Republic

William E. Borah was a turn-of-the-century Idaho lawyer and Republican who compared McKinley’s annexation of the Philippines to Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase – he did not overestimate the imperialist appetite of the American people. An ardent supporter of Roosevelt the First in 1902, he lost his appetite for imperialism when a Democrat occupied the White House.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Betraying the American Republic

“[Woodrow Wilson] thought America, both for humanity’s sake and because its own interests were linked with Europe’s, could not stand idly by while Europe moved headlong down the path of destruction. Wilson thought in terms of an international organization with broad authority to draw upon military might to compel obedience and defend the territorial integrity of every member state.

[Senator] Borah argued that Wilson’s proposal to commit American armed forces to the protection of every little country would plunge this nation into the storm center of European politics.

Wilson outlined his plan for the League [of Nations] in his “peace without victory” speech before Congress on January 22, 1917. Though it was approved by the Allies and even by Austrian and German liberals, Henry Cabot Lodge . . . warned that such an organization might compel America to accept Oriental immigration and plunge us into another war.

After hearing the President’s speech, Borah [stated that] “internationalism absolutely destroys the national spirit and patriotic fervor,” [and] it would mean the subordination of the Constitution to a pact with foreign powers. It would mean the betrayal of the American Republic. He thanks God that the United States had such a rocklike national spirit and that its people would never submit questions affecting the country’s honor to arbitration.

[Borah said] “The President is in favor of a League of Nations. If the Savior of mankind would revisit the earth and declare for a League . . . I would be opposed to it . . . “ [He told] packed galleries [in Congress] the League was not only a departure from Washington’s policies but a negation of the Monroe Doctrine as well [and that] every League member would be obligated to preserve the territorial integrity of the British colonies.

{Borah] posed the question, “How are the armies of the League to be raised?” The answer, “ by conscription in peace time,” . . . Such a plan would require the largest navy in the world, at the expense of the American taxpayer, and would inevitably lead to war.

Borah denounced Wilson’s “league of diplomats” with its executive council in which Asiatic and European members could outvote Americans on purely American issues. He assailed his own party for its pusillanimous attitude on the League: “I am getting tired of this creeping, crawling, smelling attitude of the Republican party upon an issue which involves the independence of this Republic . . . The white-livered cowards who are standing around while the diplomats of Europe are undermining our whole system . . .”

(Borah, Marian C. McKenna, University of Michigan Pres, 1961, pp. 151-155)

Rebel Yelling Solid South Democrats

Bernard M. Baruch, born in Camden, South Carolina in 1870, grew up shooting muzzle loaders and picking cotton. His father Simon was born in East Prussia in 1840 and came to Camden in 1855 – later to attend South Carolina Medical College at Charleston and the Medical College of Virginia. Surgeon Baruch served in the Third South Carolina Battalion from Second Manassas through Gettysburg, and the Thirteenth Mississippi in July 1864 through the end of the war. In the postwar Dr. Baruch was known to emit loud rebel yells when “Dixie” was played or if a theatrical performance he was attending was deserving of such.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Rebel Yelling Solid South Democrats

“[Bernard] Baruch was not a Democrat on specific issues. On the contrary, he had made a fortune at least once because the Republican view on the tariff had prevailed. [But] He was a Democrat and would contribute generously to a Democratic Party campaign regardless of what he thought the issues or, for that matter, about the candidates. And he would vote the Democratic ticket – straight.

The party regularity dated back to his childhood. He had been raised on Confederate war stories and his whole family was devoted to the Confederate cause. Years after the Baruch [family] had moved to New York [his father] Dr. Baruch embarrassed [mother Miss Belle] frightfully by giving the rebel yell in the crowded Metropolitan Opera House.

But it was not the war or even his mother’s story of how her home had been burnt by Sherman’s men so much as it was Reconstruction that turned Baruch and thousands of other Southerners into such fervid partisan Democrats that the “solid South” has been at once a conundrum and problem to most residents of other parts of the country since. {Reconstruction] . . . with all its terrible connotations, bred hatred for the Republican party.

The terrors of Reconstruction lasted from shortly after the close of the war until 1877, when Baruch was seven years old. In that year Federal troops were withdrawn from the South. Then came the struggle to turn the rascals out, now that they were no longer protected by Federal bayonets – followed by the long uphill battle to work order out of the chaos they had left. Not much of this progress was made by the time the Baruch family moved to New York.

In those first eleven years of his life Baruch heard constantly of Republican misrule of his town and county and State, misrule seemingly directed and certainly protected by soldiers sent by a Republican administration in Washington. The stories told of how the Republican carpetbaggers looted the State and local treasuries, of how they prevented Confederate veterans from voting, while the Negroes, directed by Republicans from the North and local scalawags who had turned Republican for the easy graft involved, elected officials whose only thought was to line their pockets.

Money was extorted from the helpless local whites, and more was obtained by the sale of bonds, some of which were later repudiated, to innocent investors, not only in the north, but abroad! All this left the South not only in unspeakable poverty and want, but under a mountain of debt [and impairing the future credit worthiness of the South]. This last phase was impressed on Baruch in his financial dealings on Wall Street.

March 4, 1913, was a great day for the Democrats. The troops marched into Washington from far and near, but particularly from the South, for the inauguration of their second president since “the War.” Baruch trooped with them. Bands in the inauguration parade played “Dixie” and “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “My Maryland.” Southerners cheered the West Point cadets not only because they marched so true, but because they wore the Confederate gray.

The crowds nearly went crazy over the gray-clad Fifth Maryland Infantry, the Richmond Light Blues and dozens of other historic Southern military organizations. The Taft inauguration, 4 years before, had been held in a blizzard. Now the sun was shining. The South was in the saddle. Woodrow Wilson had been born in Virginia!

(Bernard Baruch, Park Bench Statesman, Carter Field, McGraw Hill, 1944, excerpts, pp. 89-98)

 

Blaine Keeps Waving the Bloody Shirt

On January 10, 1876 in the United States Senate, Georgia Senator Benjamin H. Hill replied to bloody-shirt waving James Blaine’s contention that Northern soldiers were tortured in Southern prisons.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Blaine Keeps Waving the Bloody Shirt

“In 1876, eleven years after the South surrendered, Mr. James G. Blaine of Maine, stood up in Congress and poured out “a lot of hate-born lies as malignant as human tongue ever uttered or human brain ever concocted:”

“Mr. [Jefferson] Davis,” cried Mr. Blaine, “was the author, knowingly, deliberately, guiltily, and willfully, of the gigantic murders and crimes at Andersonville. And I here before God, measuring my words, knowing their full intent and import, declare that neither the deeds of the Duke of Alva in the Low Country, nor the massacre of St. Bartholomew, nor the thumb screws, and the other engines of torture of the Inquisition, begin to compare in atrocity with the hideous crimes of Andersonville.”

Mr. Hill’s reply: “If nine percent of the [Northern] men in Southern prisons were starved to death by Mr. Jefferson Davis, who tortured to death the twelve percent of the Southern men in Northern prisons?” (See Secretary Stanton’s statistics).

(Truths of History, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Southern Lion Books, 1998, pp. 100)

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

Free black persons in the antebellum North lived under what could be termed “Jim Crow” laws, with New York machine politician Martin Van Buren leading the way to disenfranchise free blacks by creating discriminatory property holding requirements for their race. Van Buren was the son of Abraham Van Buren of Kinderhook—tavern keeper, Revolutionary War veteran, and New York slaveholder.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

“But some Southern blacks also realized the limits of freedom and equality in New York City. James P. Thomas, an enslaved black barber in Nashville, was more independent than most . . . [operating] his own business [and] returning a set portion of his earnings to his owner. When a white patron in Tennessee offered a generous payment if Thomas would accompany him and his family on a Northern sojourn in the 1840’s, Thomas agreed, hoping to save sufficient funds to secure freedom for himself and for several other family members.

In his post-Reconstruction autobiography, Thomas conveys a sharp sense of the awkward position in which black Southerners found themselves in free New York. He wrote of New York with a mixture of admiration for the vitality of city life and an unexpected sense of anger over the status and treatment of black Northerners. In particular, Thomas was enraged at being ousted from a theater, remembering, “I felt as though I would like to meet another man who would have the affrontry to advise me to run away to live in New York.”

The State’s 1821 constitutional convention — which enfranchised all New York’s adult white men while simultaneously maintaining the property requirements for African American men — racialized New York politics. The new political landscape, which would soon lead to the ascendancy and then dominance of the Democratic party in New York and nationally, rested upon the bedrock of racial exclusion.

Convention delegates, led by future president of the United States Martin Van Buren, justified the removal of property qualifications for most of New York’s property-less men by enacting a $250 property-holding requirement that applied exclusively to New York’s African American men. Van Buren, in particular, argued that “democracy” only made sense with racial exclusion. Thus the coming of mass democracy in New York . . . coincided with the designation of African Americans as a politically subordinate caste.”

(Slavery In New York, Ira Berlin & Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 274-275)

 

 

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

As the Southern States departed the old union to form a more perfect one, they took with them the old Constitution of the Founders—leaving the North to its own peculiar political revolution. As Prince Napoleon observed in 1861, the North behaved as a European monarchy would, calling its unhappy subjects “rebels,” and brutally suppressing Americans seeking liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the men of the Republican party—the party that led Lincoln to the presidency—because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end. The Confederates are to be treated as rebels—as if they were the subjects of a monarchy instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.

This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power, marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road — from which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn –filled with dangers, but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of the past — Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.

“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle, basis of our success and power — the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede, you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.

In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution, and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”

All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”

(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)

Bearing Their Afflictions with Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

The postwar South endured a swarm of curious Northerners: some journalists, many exploitive speculators, and often offensive bigots “who gave advice, condemned customs, asked obtrusive questions, and published tactless statements.” Despite New England’s large part in the African slave trade and perpetuation of slavery with its ravenous cotton mills, the North was determined that the South alone would be punished for the supposed sins of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Bearing Their Afflictions with Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

“The defeated Southerners were expected to make the sacrifices necessary for reforms favoring the Negro. They were willing to recognize the defeat of the Confederate armies, the freeing of the slaves, and the restoration of the Union. A considerable number with the fear of summary punishment before them were willing to repudiate the Confederacy with unseemly haste. A few – the first scalawags – were prepared to adopt the beliefs of the conquerors.

For the great majority, however, the tragic outcome of the war increased their hatred of Northerners, made Southern doctrines more precious, and invested the war leaders with an aura of heroism. Only the minimum demands of the victor were to be accepted. As soon as it became clear that the North would not be as vindictive as some imagined every reform suggested from the outside was contested bitterly.

Those among the conquerors who imagined that military defeat had reduced the white Southerners to impotence were to be unpleasantly surprised. Although defeated, these people were not without material resources. Despite threats of confiscation, the land remained mostly in their hands and agricultural possibilities partially compensated for decline in land values. All tools were not destroyed and many cities were unscathed or only partially wrecked.

The whites faced their difficulties with superb courage. “While clouds were dark and threatening,” wrote a Northern newspaper reporter, “I do not believe there was ever in the world’s history a people who bear their afflictions with more philosophy and Christian fortitude than these unfortunate people.” Women cheerfully returned to the kitchen and men turned to manual labor. A philosophy of hard work and close economy was preached, and every expedient which might lead out of the impasse of poverty and social stagnation was advanced.

The war had accustomed men to hardships, and the women had learned to manage plantations, maintain slave discipline, and endure privations. Certainly there was no ground for the belief, fostered by the romantics, that Southerners were a lazy and improvident lot who were helpless unless ministered to by faithful blacks. Actually, they were ready to assume duties previously exercised by Negroes, at the same time resisting Northern assaults on their inherited privileges.

They were backed in their policies by an assertive country folk who were accustomed to dwell on lands of their own, and who had a profound contempt for Northerners . . . had proved their stamina while serving in the Confederate army . . . [and] were ready to terrorize Yankees and Negroes alike if members of either group attempted to upset the traditional social order.”

(The South Old and New, A History, 1820-1947, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1947, pp. 171-172)

Bayonets Secure the Ballot Box

Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 “was closer than either the popular or electoral votes” indicated, and without the soldier vote in six crucial States, Lincoln would have lost to George B. McClellan. The slim margins of Republican victory in most States “were probably due largely to the presence of soldiers as guards and as voters at the polls,” and had Illinois, Indiana Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York’s votes gone to McClellan, “he would have had a majority in the electoral college despite Lincoln’s popular plurality.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Bayonets Secure the Ballot Box

“Throughout the summer [of 1864] the Union prospects were in a decline. Grant’s armies, despite repeated reinforcements, made no headway, and the casualty lists from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor mounted alarmingly. Sherman, maneuvering in the mountains of Georgia, seemed totally useless. July and August saw Republican hopes at rock bottom.

Early in July . . . The [Republican] Pennsylvania Governor [Curtin] was “down on things generally,” and on the War Department in particular. Already Curtin had told Lincoln that he would not consider himself responsible for raising troops or for carrying elections. Pennsylvania was 80,000 men behind [its quota] in troops and the Governor believed the draft would meet general opposition from Republicans as well as from Democrats.

At the same time [Massachusetts Governor] John Andrew was disgusted with the situation and was hoping to find some means of getting both Lincoln and [John] Fremont to withdraw in favor of a third [Republican] candidate. The consensus seemed to be that the war languished and Lincoln would not or could not bring peace. War-weariness and a desire for peace was everywhere.

[New York Times editor Henry J.] Raymond asked [Simon] Cameron’s advice . . . let Lincoln propose to Jeff Davis that both sides disband their armies and stop the war “on the basis of recognizing the supremacy of the constitution” and refer all disputed questions to a convention of all the States! Raymond went to Washington to lay the proposal before the President, but Lincoln did not accept it.

Sherman’s victory before Atlanta reinvigorated the Republican campaign. The President wrote to Sherman to let Indiana’s soldiers, “or any part of them, go home to vote at the State election.” This was, Lincoln explained, in no sense an order. Sherman understood that it was a command. He sent soldiers home, and on election day in October the soldiers gathered at the Indiana polls. The Nineteenth Regiment of Vermont Volunteers voted in Indiana that day, but many a Democrat found his vote challenged. When the votes were counted, [Republican Governor Oliver P.] Morton had been elected by a majority of 22,000.

On that same day the need for Lincoln’s aid was illustrated in Pennsylvania. There it was thought not necessary to send the soldiers home. [Governor] Curtin . . . determined to appoint some Democratic commissioners to collect the soldiers’ votes. As the commissioners passed through Washington, however, the Democrats among them disappeared, under [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton’s orders, into the Old Capitol Prison.

Lincoln conferred with Cameron and [Alexander] McClure and asked [Generals] Meade and Sherman to send 5,000 men to Pennsylvania for the November election. The generals sent 10,000, and Lincoln carried the State by nearly a 6,000 majority, while the soldiers in the field added 14,000 more.

[Illinois Governor Richard Yates] appealed to Lincoln to send troops to vote. It was essential to elect a [Republican] State Senate, three congressional districts depended on the soldiers, and even the Presidential and the State tickets were unsafe without the uniformed voters. Defeat [for the Republicans] in Illinois, added the Governor, would be worse than defeat in the field. Under such pleas the soldiers came, and Lincoln carried his home State by 189,496 to McClellan’s 158,730.

[Many] soldiers voted Democratic in their camps only to have their votes switched in the post offices. Without the soldiers New York would have remained in the Democratic column. Maryland’s vote was clearly the product of federal bayonets. Ohio was safe for Lincoln, and the election clerks at home merely guessed at the distribution of the army’s vote.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, pp. 376-382)

The Postwar Radical Inquisition

To destroy President Andrew Johnson’s postwar program, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction was established by Congress in early December 1865, chaired by the sinister and vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania who made no secret of his aim to firmly plant Republican political control in the South, which he considered conquered territory. General Robert E. Lee was interrogated for two hours by the Committee on 17 February 1866.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Postwar Radical Inquisition:

“[Radical Republican] Senator Jacob M. Howard [of Michigan] resumed his questions . . . “While you were in command at Richmond, did you know of the cruelties practiced toward the union prisoners at Libby Prison and Belle Isle?”

[Lee answered] “I never knew that any cruelty was practiced, and I have no reason to believe that it was practiced. I can believe, and have reasons to believe, that privations may have been experienced among the prisoners. I know that provisions and shelter could not be provided for them.”

[Howard] “Were you not aware that men were dying from cold and starvation?”

Aware? Was I aware? The questions must have bitten like strong acid. In those vivid and unspoken images that crowded through Lee’s mind that moment and on other days, what did he see, what did he feel? The historian cannot rightly draw upon reverie; but to think that the real marrow of the hearing got into the stenographer’s notes is to be more naïve than one might want to be.

When the opportunity arose, Lee said quietly, “I had no control over the prisoners, once they had been sent to Richmond. I never gave an order about it . . . No report was ever made to me about them. There was no call for any to be made to me. Prisoners suffered from the want of ability on the part of the Confederate States to supply their wants. As far as I could, I did everything in my power to relieve them, and urged the formation of a cartel.

Pushed further, Lee told of specific proposals made to Grant, and of the work of his Christian Committee. “Orders were that the whole field should be treated alike . . . We took in Federal wounded as well as ours on every field.”

Weeks later the Joint Report of the Committee would lash out at the South . . . “The Rebels heaped every imaginable insult and injury upon our nation . . . They fought for four years with the most determined and malignant spirit . . . and are today unrepentant and unpardoned.” [The editor of the Lexington, Virginia Gazette wrote that the] “devilish iniquity and malignant wickedness” of the Committee’s report he found “so monstrous that no Southern man can read it without invoking the righteous indignation of heaven.” How long was the South to suffer from such wretched injustice and perfidy?

Signs of rebellion began to crop up again. Confederate flags were peddled openly in a dozen cities and were called “sacred souvenirs” by Alabama Governor Parsons. “Stonewall Jackson” soup” and “Confederate hash” appeared on hotel menus. In Richmond, a magazine called The Land We Love began to glorify the “Lost Cause.”

Open conflicts between racial groups spread. Three days of rioting in Memphis, beginning on April 30, left forty-six Negroes dead and scores of homes, churches and schools burned. Summer riots in New Orleans saw sensational and unsavory actions go unchecked. Murder degenerated into massacre. “The hands of the rebel are again red with loyal blood,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.”

(Lee After the War, The Greatest Period in the Life of a Great American, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, excerpts, pp. 122-126)

Barbarous Blot on New England's Escutcheon

African slavery in North America began with a Portuguese ship with slaves to sell, and a Virginia free black man who sued in court to retain a black man as a slave in 1654. Further north, New Englander’s were engaged in enslaving Indians who resisted their settlements, and developing a transatlantic slave trade that surpassed Liverpool’s dominance.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 

Barbarous Blot on New England’s Escutcheon

“Negro slavery in New England was a peculiar admixture of servitude and bondage. There was the same horror of the [plantation-era] slave trade, the same spectacle of gangs of manacled blacks deposited on the wharves of Boston and Newport, and the same selling of human chattel at auction. Nor was the tearing the wife from husband, nor the separation of children from both, nor the existence of a slave code, peculiar only to the Middle and Southern Colonies. It was applicable in New England as well; and, in some instances, New England led the way.

The Puritan settlements of New England enjoyed, either contemporaneously or separately, the three forms of servitude common in that day, namely; indentured servants, Indian slaves, and Negro slaves. Indentured servants date from the founding of Massachusetts . . . [and a] new source of [servants] was soon found, however, for Indian warfare began about 1636, and the captives were promptly sold into slavery. The women and children were usually employed in the colonies; the warriors were carried to the West Indies and there sold as slaves.

The barbarous treatment of the Pequots by the New Englanders in their ruthless war of extermination against them, must ever remain a blot upon New England’s escutcheon. However, the pious Puritans easily dismissed any qualms of conscience which might have arisen, by the simple fact that “a gracious Providence had been pleased to deliver the heathen Indians into their hands.”

Thus the redskin, not the black man, was the first slave in New England. As such they were eagerly sought by the Puritans for their labor. Even the much-vaunted saintliness of Roger Williams, was not sufficient to deter him from writing John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts, asking that a small Indian boy be sent to him as a servant. He had just previously written Winthrop (1636), protesting against the cruel treatment of the Indians by the whites, and praying that “they be used kindly and have houses and fields given them.”

Indian slavery was, however, soon to be supplemented by Negro servitude, for the redskin was considered lazy, intractable, vindictive, and inclined to run away. [Most] authorities agree that the mention of Negro slaves by John Winthrop in his diary, in the year 1638 is the earliest authentic testimony of black slaves in New England. There were Negro slaves in New Haven [Connecticut] as early as 1644, six years after the founding of the colony. It is known that John Pantry of Hartford owned a slave in 1653. In New Hampshire [mention of black slaves mentioned in 1646].

The Eighteenth Century . . . saw the rise of the New England colonies as the greatest slave carriers of America. Quick to see the unprofitableness of the Negro slave as a laborer in such an environment, when the price of the slave was greater than the labor returned, the ingenious Yankee soon found a market in the West Indies for slaves, exchanged for rum, sugar and molasses on the Guinea Coast.

Massachusetts early assumed a commanding position in this trade. Peter Faneuil, whose “whole lineage is held in peculiar honor” in Boston, was typical of the many possessors of comfortable fortunes amassed from profits of this traffic.”

(Slave-Holding in New England and Its Awakening, Lorenzo J. Greene, Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 4, October, 1928, pp. 492-496)

 

Northern Recruiting Efforts in Florida

The number of black troops in Northern forces numbered about 186,000 with many attracted by cash bonuses like many Canadian blacks were, conscripted, threatened with bodily harm should they refuse enlistment, or simply impressed. Disease caused the death of some 68,000 black troops; less than 2800 black soldiers died in combat.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Northern Recruiting Efforts in Florida

“[Confederate Brigadier-General Joseph] Finegan’s estimate of the emergency was made clear in a proclamation he circulated throughout East Florida informing the people that:

“ . . . our unscrupulous enemy has landed a large force of Negroes, under command of white officers, at Jacksonville, under cover of gunboats. He is attempting to fortify the place as to make it secure against attacks. The purpose of this movement is obvious and need not be mentioned in direct terms. I therefore call on such of the citizens as can possibly leave their homes to arm and organize themselves into companies without delay and to report to me. Ammunition, subsistence, and transportation will be furnished then while they remain in service.

With the blessing of the Almighty, the zealous support of the people and the government, I doubt not that the detestable foe will soon be driven from their cover.”

On March 16, after fighting an exhausting series of skirmishes with Yankee troops, [Winston] Stephens wrote to warn his wife of the black troops in Jacksonville, and of the grave danger that Yankee raiders might come upriver to Welaka. “Get the slaves ready to run to the woods on a moment’s notice,” he wrote his wife, adding that “the Negroes in arms will promise them fair prospects, but they will suffer the same fate those did in town that we killed, and the Yankees say they will hang them if they don’t fight.”

(Jacksonville’s Ordeal by Fire, Martin & Schafer, Florida Publishing Company, 1984, page 145)