Mar 22, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Webster, Abolitionists and Free Soilers

Webster, Abolitionists and Free Soilers

Daniel Webster of Massachusetts reminded his senatorial listeners to bear in mind that when the Constitution was adopted, “the South was more outspoken than the North in denunciation of slavery.” Southerners had taken the lead in bringing on the Constitutional Convention and in the discussion on prohibiting the slave trade, in which New England was dominant, and it was James Madison of Virginia who thought twenty years was too long to permit the nefarious traffic to continue.  Webster also noted that on the question of prohibiting slavery in the Northwest Territory, the only vote cast against it was from a northern man. He very kindly gave abolitionists credit for good intentions, but not for good sense.

Webster, Abolitionists and Free-Soilers

“The story of Daniel Webster and his great speech in 1850 has been told at some length because it is instructive. The historians who had set themselves to the task of upholding the idea that it was the aggressiveness of the South, during the controversy over slavery, and not that of the North, that brought on secession and war, could not make good their contention while Daniel Webster and his speech for “the Constitution and the Union” stood in their way. They, therefore, wrote the great statesman “down and out,” as they conceived. But Webster and that speech still stand as beacon lights in the history of that crusade.

The attack came from the North. The South, standing for its constitutional rights in the Union, was the conservative party. Southern leaders, it is true, were, during the controversy over slavery, often aggressive, but they were on the defensive – aggressive, just as Lee was when he made his campaign into Pennsylvania for the purpose of stopping the invasion of his own land; and the South lost in her political campaign just for the same reason that Lee lost in his Gettysburg campaign: numbers and resources were against her. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”

Mr. Webster in his great speech for “the Constitution and the Union,” as it became a great statesman pleading for conciliation, measured the terms in which he condemned “personal liberty” laws and Abolitionism. But afterward, irritated by the attacks made upon him, he naturally spoke out more emphatically.

McMaster [“Webster,” p. 340] quotes several expressions from his speeches and letters replying to these assaults, and says: “His hatred of Abolitionists and Free-Soilers grew stronger and stronger. To him these men were a “band of sectionalists, narrow of mind, wanting in patriotism, without a spark of national feeling, and quite ready to see the Union go to pieces if their own selfish ends were gained.” Such, if this is a fair summing up of his views, was Webster’s final opinion of those who were carrying on the great anti-slavery crusade.”

(The Abolitionist Crusade and Its Consequences, Hilary A. Herbert, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912, excerpts pp. 125-127)

Mar 22, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

Lincoln, in his 1858 Peoria debate with Stephen A. Douglas stated “When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for slavery than we [the North] are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that . . . it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely do not blame them for not doing what I would not know how to do myself.”

In truth, New England and New York had far more to do with importing enslaved Africans and perpetuating their slavery, as they financed, shipped and profited immensely from the nefarious trade, as did England.  No British and New England slave importations, no slaves in the South.

Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

“In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish, English and [New England] vessels brought many thousands of Negroes from Africa, and sold them as slaves in the British West Indies and in the British American colonies.

William Goodell, a distinguished Abolitionist writer, tells us that “In the importation of slaves for the Southern colonies the merchants of New England competed with those of New York and the South (which never had much shipping). They appear indeed to have outstripped them, and to have almost monopolized at one time the profits of this detestable trade. Boston, Salem and Newburyport in Massachusetts, and Newport and Bristol in Rhode Island, amassed, in the persons of a few of their citizens, vast sums of this rapidly acquired and ill-gotten wealth.”

The slaves coming to America went chiefly to the Southern colonies, because there only was slave labor profitable. The laws and conditions under which these Negroes were sold in the American colonies were precisely the same as in the West Indies, except that the whites in the islands, so far is known, never objected, whereas the records show that earnest protests came from Virginia and also from Georgia and North Carolina.

The King of England was interested in the profits of the iniquitous trade and all protests were in vain.”

(The Abolitionist Crusade and Its Consequences, Hilary A. Herbert, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912, excerpts pp. 37-38)

Mar 17, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Black Codes in Illinois

Black Codes in Illinois

As a result of extreme racial prejudice toward blacks, the 109th Illinois Regiment, formed in September 1862, was disarmed and imprisoned during the war due to opposition in the ranks to Lincoln’s proclamation emancipating slaves and arming them.  Another regiment, the 128th Illinois formed in November 1862, “was disbanded because of a high desertion rate, possibly caused by the prospect of white soldiers serving in the army with black troops.”  

But as other Northern governors discovered with Lincoln shrewdly allowing States to count black men, no matter their place of origin or how obtained, against their State troop quotas, white military age men could remain home. And if the latter were caught in the draft, brokers found black men to be paid substitutes.

Black Codes in Illinois

“State authority over one aspect of the US Colored Troops was retained; States were authorized to recruit black soldiers and to provide camps of assembly for their organizations into regiments and batteries. The State’s incentive was that a black soldier counted the same as a white recruit in meeting the State’s Washington-imposed volunteer quota. On the day of mustering in . . . black units became a federal responsibility.

When conscription began in mid-1863, meeting volunteer quotas became more important . . . Exemptions could be purchased, however, and paid substitutes were accepted, thus benefiting the more affluent members of society.  The draft itself caused riots among the working class in New York, and numerous assaults on black troops were reported.

Illinois governor Richard Yates [believed] that the rebellion had to be destroyed and that Illinois was ready for the call to total war.  Black interest in military service was not high, but it was encouraged by black leader Frederick Douglass’ March 1863 call, “Men of Color to Arms” . . . His emphasis on the killing of slaveholders did not do much to stir blacks in the North, and the fact that blacks were paid less than their white comrades and were refused [officer] commissions made the recruiting job difficult.

The background of race relations in Illinois was not one of tolerance . . . Only a year after the State joined the Union, 1818, it passed the first of a series of “black codes” that continued in effect in various forms until 1865. These laws required blacks to record at the county seat a “certificate of freedom” and a description of family members, information allowing overseers of the poor to expel them from the State when it was thought necessary. Other provisions withheld court standing and the vote from blacks, allowed flogging of “lazy” or disobedient blacks, and made the harboring of a black by another black a felony calling for a fine and a thirty-five stripe whipping.

Free blacks entering the State had to post a one-thousand dollar bond as a guarantee against becoming a public charge, and blacks who could not pay fines could be sold to indentured service. Furthermore, blacks could not serve in the militia and were not provided education by law.  Asked in 1862 if the State should modify a law making it “a crime for a Negro to set foot in Illinois,” 150,000 out of 260,000 voters in a constitutional referendum opposed repeal.”

(The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-Ninth US Colored Infantry, Edward A. Miller, Jr., University of South Carolina Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 4-7,

Mar 15, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cheers of Defiance at Olustee

Cheers of Defiance at Olustee

“Headquarters, District of Florida, Department of the South,

Jacksonville, FLA., March 10, 1864.

General Orders No. 13.

The brigadier-general commanding recurs with great satisfaction to the conduct of his troops in their late battle, and desires to convey to them in the most public manner his full appreciation of their courage on that well-contested field.  Against superior numbers holding a position by themselves, you were all but successful. For four hours you stood face to face with the enemy; and when the battle ended, and it ceased only with night, you sent him cheers of defiance. In your repulse there was perhaps misfortune, but neither disaster nor disgrace; and every officer and soldier may remember with just pride that he fought at Olustee.” By order of, Brigadier-General [Truman] Seymour”

As described above by Brigadier-General Truman Seymour, commanding the Northern forces at Olustee, also known as the battle at Ocean Pond at the South, his troops fought admirably though overpowered by more numerous Southern forces. Olustee is about 40 miles west of Jacksonville, Florida.

From occupied Jacksonville, Gen. Seymour was leading a well-equipped force of 5500 men, which included New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut regiments, plus the Eighth US Colored Infantry, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts colored regiment, and nearly three batteries of artillery.

It is noteworthy that the force included the Second South Carolina of infamous Kansas Jayhawker Col. James Montgomery, who just returned from occupied Key West after conscripting 120 black men into his regiment.

The black regiments were sent by Gen. David Hunter at occupied Hilton Head, who ordered the commanders “to carry the Proclamation of Freedom to the enslaved; to call all loyal men into the service of the United States; to occupy as much of Florida as possible; and to neglect no means consistent with the usages of civilized warfare to weaken, harass, and annoy those who are in rebellion against the United States.”  

The Northern forces outnumbered the opposing 5000 Southern troops of Florida and Georgia – including four guns of Savannah’s Chatham Artillery. The Florida troops were commanded by Brigadier-General Joseph Finegan; the Georgia troops by Brigadier-General Alfred Colquitt.

By 1:30PM Seymour’s force was advancing in three columns against the entrenched Confederates, and soon a tremendous fire was being poured into the front rank of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment on the right, which broke and ran to the rear. On the left, the same fire was directed at the Eighth US Colored Infantry which also broke and swept rearward – “the head of the Northern army had been simply battered in.”

A brigade of New York troops then moved forward through those running to the rear, only to be engulfed in the sustained and well-directed fire of the Georgians and Floridians.  After the Northern field artillery had opened its initial barrage, it became ineffective as gunners were picked off and many horses were shot.

On the Southern side, the Sixth and Thirty-second Georgia regiments stood firm under fire for nearly twenty minutes awaiting more ammunition, then joined the steady advance of the Confederate line pushing the Northerners into retreat. By 5PM and daylight waning in the pine woods, the bluecoats were in full retreat toward Jacksonville after losing 1,861 killed, wounded and missing in the battle; the Confederates loss was 946 total.  

Col. J.R. Hawley of the Seventh Connecticut reported “the black men stood to be killed or wounded – losing more than 300 out of 500.” It is unlikely that any cheers of defiance were heard from those hurriedly retreating.

Regarding the latter, the history of black troops fighting the North’s war effort is most perplexing. 

Noted abolitionist Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, commanding the First South Carolina Regiment of black troops at Olustee, earlier wrote:

“[Northern] white officers and soldiers were generally opposed to the experiment, and filled the ears of the Negroes with the same tales which had been told by their masters – that the Yankees really meant to sell them to Cuba, and the like. The mildest threats were that they would be made to work without pay (which turned out to be the case), and that they would be put in the front rank in every battle. Nobody could assume them that they and their families would be freed by the Government, if they fought for it, since no such policy had been adopted.”

But it is clear that the primary purpose of the Florida expedition was to destroy both the agricultural and livestock production of that State and thus deprive Southern armies of needed food. This was in part accomplished by capturing the Africans working interior plantations, with an additional benefit of enlisting, or if that failed, conscripting those workers into colored regiments as laborers or workers. Observing black troops in blue was thought to encourage black workers to more readily abandon their crops and white families they grew up with.     

This strategy was not new as Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, issued his emancipation proclamation in November 1775 to Africans who would repair to His Majesty’s banners.

Lincoln’s War Department issued instructions to Gen. Rufus Saxton on August 25, 1862 for the same purpose as Dunmore in 1775 – to deprive his enemy of agricultural workers, obtain laborers and possibly soldiers.  The 1862 message included “The population of African descent that cultivate the lands and perform the labor of the rebels constitute a large share of their military strength, and enable the white masters to fill the rebel armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the Northern States.” This was a military decision, not a moral one.

The ultimate irony is that African slaves certainly knew who forced their ancestors to endure the infamous Middle Passage to America. It was England, and later New England — the transatlantic slave trade operated by the fathers and grandfathers of their new abolitionist friends. How could the African now trust the descendants of those who carried them in chains from slavery in Africa to slavery in America?

Mar 8, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on British Slave Merchants

British Slave Merchants

In the same manner that mid-eighteenth century New England merchants produced many notions and rum to trade for West African slaves, Liverpool merchants supplied trade goods used for barter in Africa. They provided “beads, textiles, ironmongery, brass bars, cheap rifles, liquor, and so on – and generally fitted out the ships for each new venture.”

British Slave Merchants

“British merchant shippers had been transporting Negro slaves from Africa to the West Indies since the end of the 16th century. What began as a modest venture, operated by a chartered company, gradually became an extensive and highly competitive trade. By 1775, when the British West Indies had reached the peak of their prosperity, and when non-British territories were rapidly expanding, merchants from London, Liverpool and Bristol carried nearly 60,000 slaves a year across the Atlantic.

[After disruption by American privateers during the war, by] 1787 British traders still had not regained their former level of human exports. In that year some 137 ships sailed from British ports to trade for slaves on the African coast. They carried British goods . . . part of [which] were delivered to private black dealers for slaves. Paying goods worth about 15 [pounds] for adult male slaves in good health, less for females and children, the merchants collected 38,000 to 42,000 Negroes.

With them the ships began the difficult eight-week journey across the Atlantic [and] because of the frightful conditions on board, perhaps only 34,000 remained alive when they reached the West Indies. There they were sold for an average 35 [pounds] each to English, French, Dutch, Danish and Spanish proprietors, either directly or through agents.

The organization of the British slave trade centered in Liverpool and Bristol. Aggressiveness, specialization and proximity to the manufacturers of African slave trade goods had helped the former town overcome the lead of the latter in the first half of the century.

In 1787 Liverpool sent 78 ships totaling 13,700 tons [of goods] to Africa, whereas Bristol sent only 31 ships totaling 4,236 tons. A few ships cleared from London, Lancaster and Poole. Liverpool slave merchants often engaged in other kinds of shipping, as well as banking and insurance. Some of them traded to North America and Europe . . . Few, if any, depended solely on slaves for a livelihood.”

(The Abolition of the Slave Trade in England, 1784-1807, Dale H. Porter, Archon Books, 1970, excerpts pp. 1-3)

Mar 7, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Poker Money

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Poker Money

Jefferson Davis thought of Forrest as a genius; Gen. Robert E. Lee, though he had never met Forrest, proclaimed him the greatest battlefield commander of the war; Gen. Joseph E. Johnston “named him the greatest soldier the war produced, and said, “Had he the advantage of a thorough military education and training, he would have been the central figure of the war.”

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Poker Money

“[Forrest’s] target on December 20 [1862] was Trenton, Tennessee. Memphis and Jackson aside, it was the home of the largest Union garrison between Mississippi and Kentucky. Trenton’s women, waving their handkerchiefs, pointed Forrest to the Yankees, who had fortified the supply depot with eight hundred bales of cotton but without any cannon.

Forrest led the attack, supported by [Captain Samuel] Freeman’s guns, and the garrison surrendered quickly. When Northerners tried to burn the depot, Captain J. P. Strange and [Forrest] captured the arsonists and made them quench the fire.

With 275 men, Forrest captured four hundred men at Trenton, including two colonels . . . one thousand horses, thirteen wagons and ambulances, seven caissons, one hundred thousand rations, twenty thousand rounds of artillery ammunition, and four hundred thousand rounds of small arms ammunition, among other things.

The garrison commander sadly handed over his sword to Forrest, wistfully adding that it was a family relic. Forrest examined it and handed it back to him, saying that he hoped the next time he drew it, it would not be against his own people.

Forrest learned that the federals had forced the residents of Trenton to sign oaths of allegiance to the United States. He ordered Captain Charles Anderson to collect all of these papers. They were piled on the courthouse lawn and burned.

The Rebels had also captured a large quantity of counterfeit Confederate money. It had no value because the engraving and printing were so perfect and the quality of the paper so high that any Southerner would immediately recognize it as bogus. Forrest and his men kept is poker money.”

(Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., Regnery, 2016, excerpts pp. 80-81)

Feb 24, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Expanding New England Ways

Expanding New England Ways

The most glaring omission in histories of New England and its well-worn anti-slavery stance against the American South is its own preeminence in the transatlantic slave trade which brought enslaved Africans to the South, as well as the West Indies. By 1750, it is recorded that Providence, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of that trade, with numerous ships carrying rum and Yankee notions to the Gulf of Benin to be exchanged for human cargo. And predating this nefarious trade was the Puritan settlers brutal triumph over the Pequots – and selling that tribe’s survivors into West Indian slavery.

Expanding New England Ways

“[New England] reformers . . . all inherited the Puritan belief that New Englander’s in general, and people in Massachusetts and Boston in particular, had a mission: Through the perfection of their own social, economic and political institutions, they were to show the way for the rest of the nation.

The younger reformers also learned from their more wealthy forefathers the tradition of public service or stewardship . . . but by the mid-nineteenth century the younger generation was looking outward and thinking of expanding New England influences into other States and regions.

Most notably, the reformers among Boston’s business class wished to address the question of slavery, which the older generation had ignored or subordinated to other concerns. They were not abolitionists, whom they scorned as sentimental, impractical idealists who alienated the mass of white Americans with their self-righteous contentiousness.

In the minds of the Boston free-labor advocates, slavery, and the insidious Southern political influence it generated, which they called the Slave Power, threatened all these things.

New Englanders believed their town meetings were the perfect embodiment of the republican spirit. The Boston businessmen were eager to expand New England ways, first to Kansas and later to the South.

Arguing that blacks would work more efficiently as free laborers than as slaves and would be greater consumers of Northern manufacturing goods. Recruiting blacks into the Union armies, they insisted, would protect white workers from the draft. They claimed that . . . giving [freedmen] the vote would offset the political influence of unreconstructed rebels, hence protecting republican government.

Some historians have wondered how Northerners could attack slavery as oppressive and at the same time be blind to the deficiencies of their own wage-labor system. They were opposed to state intervention in the economy to regulate wages or hours, and they were unsympathetic to labor union organization.”

(Cotton and Capital: Boston Businessmen and Antislavery Reform, 1854-1868, Richard H. Abbott, University of Massachusetts Press, 1991, excerpts pp. 4-7)

Dec 17, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on “What is all this for?”

“What is all this for?”

“What is all this for? Why this array of armies? Why this fierce meeting in mortal combat? What is all this carnage and slaughter for? Why the prolongation of this conflict? Why this lamentation and mourning going up from almost every house and family from Maine to the Rio Grande, and from the Atlantic and Gulf to the Lakes, for friends and dear ones who have fallen by disease and violence in this unparalleled struggle?

The question if replied to by the North can have but one answer.”

Alexander H. Stephens, 1863, Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Vol. I, pg. 175. 

Dec 16, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Dictator of the Republic

Dictator of the Republic

In December 1865, President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, announced his plan of “reconstructing” the States which had departed the Union four years earlier and had been defeated militarily. But Northern Republicans had their own vision of reconstruction, seeing the black man’s enfranchisement as a convenient vehicle for enduring political hegemony, and clothing it in high moral sentiments which set that black man against his white neighbor.

Later, W.E.B. DuBois, would see the War’s result in Marxist terms and viewed it as the greatest social revolution ever possible – “that of giving the Negro the franchise and uniting the workers as such, against the capitalists.” But these newly united workers, and their votes, were destined to be used by the Gilded Age capitalists energized by Lincoln’s war.

Dictator of the Republic

“Had reconstruction had been only a problem of restoring the Union and bringing peace to a war weary people, Andrew Johnson’s report would have indicated real progress. Under existing conditions, it served only to show that the war had become the carrier of a social, political and moral revolution and had left its early impulses far behind. The great masses may have gladly seen the army disbanded and looked forward to a quick return to normal living, but there were persons in Congress and out who would not believe the war had come to an end until those who had caused it were adequately punished, the Negro set on the road to first-class citizenship and the Republican party assured of perpetual political dominance.

As early as May 5, 1865, the Independent, which spoke for what came to be called the Radical Republicans in Congress, was asserting:

“There is one, and only one, sure and safe policy for the immediate future, namely: The North must remain the absolute Dictator of the Republic until the spirit of the North shall become the spirit of the whole country . . . The South is still unpurged of her treason. Prostrate in the dust she is no less a traitor at this hour than when her head was erect . . . They cannot be trusted with authority over their former slaves: they cannot be trusted with authority over the recemented Republic . . . The only hope for the South is to give the ballot to the Negro and in denying it to the rebels.”

In like spirit George W. Julian of Indiana would “indict, convict and hang Jefferson Davis in the name of God; as for Robert E. Lee, unmolested in Virginia, hang him too. And stop there? Not at all. I would hang liberally while I had a hand in.” Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio suggested that “if the Negroes by insurrection could contrive to slay one-half of the Southern whites, the remaining half would then hold them in respect and treat them with justice.”

Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania] would wipe out Southern State lines and reduce the section to a territory where rebels would learn to practice justice to all men. Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts] would seize all rebel property and distribute it to the Negroes, give them the vote, and let them rule the section.”

(Reconstruction and the Ending of the Civil War, Avery Craven, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969, excerpts, pp. 92-93)

Dec 7, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Making Trouble Generally in the South

Making Trouble Generally in the South

At Fredericksburg in December 1862, Lee’s 70,000 men repulsed the North’s 114,000-man army and inflicted heavy casualties. The latter army looted the town before advancing against Lee, and blue-clad soldiers, many in Gen. Meagher’s brigade of Irishmen, were “found dead . . . with women’s shawls and bonnets on.” Lincoln replaced this discredited commander with yet another general, under orders to defeat Lee and lay waste to Richmond. This was not to be a war to effect reunion, but to conquer and subjugate those States wishing to form a more perfect union.

Making Trouble Generally in the South

“As May, 1863 approached, the prospects of the South looked far more favorable, and the victories of Cold Harbor, Cedar Run, the Second Manassas and Fredericksburg had inspired the troops with enthusiasm. In Virginia, two years of arduous struggle had not enabled the Federal authorities to penetrate beyond the Rappahannock; and on the southern banks of that river . . . the long lines of Confederate pickets warned the enemy that any attempt to cross would be resisted by the army which had repulsed them in December at Fredericksburg.

What had, however, a direct bearing on the Virginia campaign . . . was the evident impression among many of the most prominent politicians at the North, that unless the approaching campaign was successful, the [Northern] government was must make peace upon the basis of separation and Southern independence.

The New York “Tribune” announced the programme of operations which the times demanded, and gave its views as follows:

“Having massed our forces and filled our depots and caissons, charge upon the rebels in every quarter – assailing their ports with iron-clads, their armies with stronger armies, fighting resolutely but warily with intent to capture their strongholds and exhaust their resources – while expeditions of light-armed black Unionists, carrying only arms and ammunition, traverse those portions of Rebeldom most exposed and thickly populated with slaves, carrying liberty to all who wish it, and arms wherewith to defend it; moving rapidly and evading all fortified points and overpowering forces, while breaking up railroads and telegraph lines, and making trouble generally.”

If this “making trouble generally” by black Unionists and others did not attain its object, then the war must be given up by the North.

“If three months more of earnest fighting,” said the “Tribune,” “shall not serve to make a serious impression on the rebels – if the end of that term shall find us no further advanced than at its beginning – if some malignant fate has decreed that the blood and treasure of the nation shall ever be squandered in fruitless efforts – let us bow to our destiny, and make the best attainable peace.”

(Life of Stonewall Jackson: A Military Biography, John Esten Cooke, D. Appleton & Company, 1876, excerpts pp. 395-396)