Browsing "Crimes of War"

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

In 1863 Republican Senator John Sherman recalled that it was William H. Seward rather than Lincoln who ordered the seizure of Maryland’s legislators in 1861, that “the high-handed proceeding was the work of Mr. Seward, of his own mere motion, without the knowledge of Lincoln.” Seward later told a British official that the arrests had been made to influence coming Maryland elections as well. Frederick (below) was Seward’s son.

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

“The Lincoln administration believed, according to Frederick Seward, that “a disunion majority” in the Maryland State house would pass an ordinance to withdraw from the Union in September 1861. Lincoln had resolved to keep that from happening. Seward recalled: “[The military was] instructed to carefully watch the movements of members of the [Maryland] Legislature . . . Loyal Union members would not be interfered with . . . but “disunion” members would be turned back toward their homes and would not reach Frederick City at all. The views of each member were well-known . . . so there would be little difficulty, as Mr. Lincoln remarked, in “separating the sheep from the goats.”

[Seward continued]: “When the time arrived . . . it was found that not only was no secession ordinance likely to be adopted, but that there seemed to be no Secessionists to present one. The two generals had carried out their instructions faithfully, and with tact and discretion . . . No ordinance was adopted, Baltimore remained quiet, and Maryland stayed in the Union.”

Many arrests of northerners at that time involved freedom of speech and freedom of the press with Seward’s State Department records citing “treasonable language, “Southern sympathizer,” secessionist” and “disloyalty” as standard reasons for arrest and confinement. Additionally, even more serious-sounding arrest reasons were vague and sometimes denoted offensive words rather than deeds: “aiding and abetting the enemy,” threatening Unionists,” or “inducing desertion,” for example. A man in Cincinnati was arrested for selling envelopes and stationery with Confederate mottoes printed on them.

When an old associate of Seward came to Washington to plead for the release of a political prisoner from Kentucky held in Fort Lafayette, the secretary of state readily admitted that no charges were on file against the prisoner. When asked whether he intended to keep citizens imprisoned against whom no charge had been made, Seward apparently answered: “I don’t care a d—n whether they are guilty or innocent. I saved Maryland by similar arrests, and so I mean to hold Kentucky.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, pp. 15-16; 27-30)

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

A review of the martial law imposed upon the island of Key West 1861-1865 was recently presented by a local college history teacher, and as a part of the North’s comprehensive military strategy during the Civil War. The audience was a local Civil War Roundtable (CWRT) group.

The lecturer noted the military takeover of the civilian government on the island in mid-January 1861 as the local commander, Capt. James Brannan surreptitiously barricaded his 44 men in the nearly completed Fort Zachary Taylor and turned its guns on the town. Overnight, the US military’s local friends and neighbors became an enemy to be treated with suspicion and contempt. Now fearing bombardment of their homes from the nearby fort, the residents became prisoners in their homes.

The reason cited for Brannan’s warlike action was overhearing “secession” talk among the residents as well as Florida’s recent decision to formally withdraw from the United States federation and become an independent State. Florida was to remain independent until it formally voted to join the Confederate States of America on April 22, 1861.

The arrival in March 1861 of more Northern troops increased armed patrols roaming the town and surveilling citizens. Arbitrary arrests were common, and Fort Taylor became an American bastille to hold prisoners of conscience. Locals, especially merchants with inventories to sell, sought favor with the military as willing informants, reporting on anyone complaining of military rule. Elected officials who disagreed with the military faced arrest and confinement, and new elections of approved candidates were held under armed supervision. Those considered “dangerous secessionists” were deported to the mainland.

What Capt. Brannan accomplished with his unilateral action, and unfortunately not pointed out by the lecturer, was to wage war against a State which is the very definition of treason in the US Constitution – Article III, Section 3. Though Brannan was applauded by his fellow officers and eventually promoted for his act, this does not absolve him of treason.

It was highly likely that Brannan was emulating Major Robert Anderson at Charleston as news of the Fort Sumter seizure could have reached him at Key West in early January. As Anderson suffered no adverse consequences for his fort seizure, Brannan perhaps saw a green light to do the same but should have been more circumspect as he certainly was aware that John Brown was hung in 1858 for waging war against Virginia – the crime being treason. Noteworthy is that Brown was tried and convicted in Virginia, where he committed his crime.

Though this speaker outlined how the island was placed under military rule, no adequate or honest discussion was provided regarding how or why military rule had suddenly materialized, how it was justified under American law, or who specifically ordered it. Martial law is generally considered to be the absence of law with arrests and detentions made at the discretion of the military commander, or those commanded by him. Missing was any explanation of how easily Northern commanders could ignore habeas corpus which was so deeply rooted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. But importantly, as Lincoln ignored the Constitution and approved the repressive actions of those like Brannan, it only encouraged more violations of the law.

The seizure of Fort Taylor came at the whim of a local military commander who was sworn to uphold the United States Constitution – and who should have clearly understood the definition of treason. Though simplistically following orders to protect the fort he was charged with commanding, the withdrawal of the State of Florida and its relationship with the United States government at Washington took precedence. After being officially advised of Florida’s decision to formally declare independence, and lacking any reason to remain on the island, which was no longer part of the United States, Capt. Brannan should have sought Florida officials to provide him with receipts for all equipment left behind before departing with his command. Though he likely would have been court-martialed for doing this, he would have been true to his oath to support the United States Constitution.

The above indicates that there is more than one viewpoint regarding this particular topic, and a more well-versed history teacher should have been able to present all credible perspectives beyond their own. In this particular case, the audience deserved a far better explanation of how military rule quickly overwhelmed a peaceful American town. The listeners were unfortunately left with a partial and limited view of this important and most revealing topic.

(For more information on this topic, see: “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam – Shotwell Publishing and available on Amazon)

Yankees in Georgia

Yankees in Georgia

“I . . . reached Halifax, my sister’s place, in two and a half hours at 9AM. She unlocked the door, looked at me with a terrified air [and] all overwhelmed with distress for my danger, for they too believed the Yankees were still in the county.

Then followed the sad recital of their sufferings and losses at the hand of the Yankees. The evidences were on every side. Broken trunks, smashed bureaus, overturned wardrobes – everything topsy-turvy just as the Yankees had left them. No use to put things in order to be again disturbed. But worse, far worse than all the mental agony from fear of personal violence and insult.

The Yankees had entered the house every day for nearly two weeks. Every separate gang ransacked the house afresh, entering every room and taking whatever they desired. The mental suffering of these three ladies and of my child only fourteen-years-old during these two weeks can never be told.

As soon as I could get a word in edgewise, I told them my reasons for believing the Yankees had left the county, but at the same time my grave fears that they were returning or had already returned. If they desired to go out, they must do so immediately, [and] the wagons would be here tonight. Anything was preferable to a repetition of the dreadful suspense through which they had passed.

In the afternoon I walked over to my own place to see Calder, the overseer. I received from him a detailed and most doleful account of [my] losses and the behavior of the negroes. Every living thing taken or destroyed, all the horses, the mules, the hogs (of which there were 100 head), cattle, chickens, ducks, every wheeled vehicle, also much corn, but none of the rice and cotton.

The negroes throughout the country he represents as in a state of complete insubordination – no work of any kind done. The Yankees had not only stripped him, Calder, of everything but had personally maltreated him and his family. They have treated overseers everywhere, I hear, harshly, and the negroes too take the opportunity of showing their dislike. To me and Sister’s family the negroes are extremely kind and considerate, even affectionate. Sister and her family are served as usual, and even more kindly and faithfully than usual.”

(‘Ware Sherman: A Journal of Three Months Personal Experience in the Last Days of the Confederacy. Joseph LeConte. LSU Press, 1999. Original 1937. pp. 29-32)

Sherman’s Final Solution

The following is excerpted from a review of author Michael Fellman’s “Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman (Random House, 1995). The reviewer is John Y. Simon of the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1996.

Sherman’s Final Solution

“In 1875, a fellow officer reported to [General] Sherman that Indians in Florida were receiving training as soldiers and might eventually return to police their tribes [out West]. Sherman wrote in response that this experiment, if successful, might present a “final solution to the Indian problem.” (pg. 260). Sherman could write that that some Indians were “more to be pitied than dreaded” and others deserved pursuit with “vindictive earnestness” to the point of “extermination, men, women and children.” (pg. 264).

American Civilians Suffer Total War

What is termed “total war” can be said to begin with the birth of the modern state, in which war became an instrument of national policy. Though the north’s “Lieber Code” of early 1863 clearly protected civilians from the barbarous acts of invading northern armies, senior officers such as Sherman had evolved their own personal philosophy of war clearly at variance with official pronouncements. Despite the “Code”, Sherman’s brutal conduct found no opposition from Lincoln or Grant.

Americans Civilians Suffer Total War

“The march of the Federals into our State,” says a writer in the Columbia [South Carolina] Phoenix, “was characterized by such scenes of license, plunder and conflagration as showed that the threats of the northern press, and that of their soldiery, were not to be regarded as mere brutum fulmen.

Daily, long trains of fugitives lined the roads, with wives and children, and horses and stock and cattle, seeking refuge from their pursuers. Long lines of wagons covered the highways. Half-naked people cowered from the winter under bush-tents in the thickets, under the eaves of houses, under the railroad sheds and in old cars left along the route. All these repeated the same story of suffering, violence, poverty and nakedness. Habitation after habitation, village after village – one sending up its signal flames to the other, presaging for it the same fate – lighted the winter and midnight sky with crimson horrors.

“No language can describe, not can any catalogue furnish, an adequate detail of the widespread destruction of homes and property. Granaries were emptied, and where the grain was not carried off, it was strewn to waste under the feet of the [Yankee] cavalry, or consigned to the fire which consumed the dwelling. The negroes were robbed equally with the whites of food and clothing. The roads were covered with butchered cattle, hogs, mules, and the costliest furniture. Valuable cabinets, rich pianos, were not only hewn to pieces, but bottles of ink, turpentine, oil, whatever could efface or destroy, were employed to defile and ruin. Horses were ridden into the houses.

“The beautiful homesteads of the parish country . . . were ruined; ancient dwellings of black cypress, one hundred years old, which had been reared by the fathers of the Republic – men whose names were famous in Revolutionary history – were given to the torch as recklessly as were the rude hovels; choice pictures and works of art from Europe, select and numerous libraries, were all destroyed.

The inhabitants, black no less than white, were left to starve, compelled to feed only upon the garbage to be found in the abandoned camps of the northern soldiers. The corn scraped up from the spots where the horses fed has been the only means of life left to thousands but lately in affluence.”

(The Desolate South, 1865-1866. John T. Trowbridge; Gordon Carroll, ed. Little, Brown and Company, 1956, pp. 294-296)

A Land as Silent as a Graveyard

A Land as Silent as a Graveyard

“The raids and rumors of raids were so traumatic to Clarissa Bowen that the tired, terrified woman miscarried. “All was over and we knew that God had taken from us the desire from our hearts – our much prayed for and longed for treasure,” the South Carolinian wrote in her journal, June 1865. “O, it was hard, very, very hard to give up . . . My recovery had been slow, being constantly retarded by fear of the Yankees.”

“Still another batch of Yankees . . .,” a weary Eliza Andrews scribbled in her diary. “One of them proceeded to distinguish himself at once, by ‘capturing’ a Negro’s watch. They carry out their principles by robbing impartially, without regard to race, color or previous condition. Ginny Dick has kept his watch and chain hid ever since the bluecoats put forth this act of philanthropy, and . . . old Maum Betsy says that she has “knowed white folks all her life an’ some mighty mean ones, but Yankees is de fust ever she seed mean enough to steal from n******.”

Not surprisingly, after suffering through several such visits, most plantations and farms had little more to offer. “We were left almost destitute,” said one stunned and suddenly impoverished lady. “Our poverty,” noted another victim, “is now our protection.”

Eventually, the highways of the South began to resemble scenes from antiquity and the plundering hordes of Mongolia. Observed one man:

“The road was filled with an indiscriminate mass of armed men on horseback and on foot, carts, wagons, cannon and caissons, rolling along in most tumultuous disorder, while to the right and to the left, joining the mass, and detaching from it, singly and in groups, were hundreds [of soldiers] going empty-handed and returning laden. Country carts, horses, mules and oxen, followed by Negro men, women and even children, (who were pressed into service to carry plunder) laden with every conceivable object, were approaching and mingling in mass from every side.

When the blue tide finally receded and moved off to garrison the cities and towns of the South, it left behind in its wake a land “as silent as a graveyard.”

(The Day Dixie Died – Southern Occupation 1865-1866. Thomas and Debra Goodrich. Stackpole Books, 2001, pp. 100-101)

Inciting Insurrection

After his military’s defeat at Second Manassas in August 1862, Lincoln thought that threatening to free black laborers at the South might help his prospects in his war against the South. Despite those who thought it a barbarity to incite insurrections, he replied: “Nor do I urge objections of a moral nature in view of possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South.”

In New York City, a French-language newspaper opined: “Does the Government at Washington mean to say on January 1st, 1863, it will call for a servile war to aid in his conquest of the South? And after the blacks have killed the white people of the South, they themselves must be drowned in their own blood?”

Inciting Insurrection

“In the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas, pursuant to the Constitution, introduced a bill to punish those people who seek to incite slave insurrections. “Abraham Lincoln, in his speech at New York, declared it was a seditious speech” – “His press and party hooted it.” “It received their jeers and jibes.” (pg. 663, Stephen’s Pictorial History).

Then came the election of President. The party of [black] insurrection swept the Northern States. The people of the South had realized the possible results. With the people of the North making a saint of [John Brown] who planned and started to murder the slaveholders . . . and the Northern States all going in favor of the Republican party which protected those engaged in such plans.  Naturally there were in every Southern State those who thought it best to guard against such massacres by separating from those States where John Brown was deified.

When news came that Abraham Lincoln was elected, the South Carolina Legislature, being in session, called a State Convention. When the Convention met it withdrew ratification of the US Constitution and declared South Carolina an independent State.

In its declaration it said: “Those States have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who have remained have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing until it has now secured to its aid the power of the general government. “

So, to escape insurrections and ensure public safety, South Carolina separated itself from the United States government to free itself from a government led by a man who was not opposed to the massacre of the Southern people.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-1865. Capt. S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, North Carolina, pp. 46-47)

“Such Was the Spirit of Those Who Made the War”

The US Constitution clearly states that only Congress may declare war against a foreign enemy, and Article III, Section 3 of the same document clearly defines the definition of treason committed against the United States.

‘Such Was the Spirit of Those Who Made the War’

“And so, without any authorization from Congress, Lincoln began a war on the Southern States which had formed themselves into a more perfect union. A few months after he began the war, he had the United States Congress to meet and the first thing offered was a resolution confirming and legalizing his acts, as if they had been authorized.

This particular resolution was before the Senate fifteen times between July 6 and August 6 and never passed. Then, after twenty months of warfare, the Supreme Court of the United States (67 US Reports, pg. 668) said Congress had no power delegated to it to make war upon a State, and that the President held no authority to make war – only Congress could do so.

That ‘the Civil War between the Northern and Southern States arose because the citizens of the States owed a supreme allegiance to the United States which the Southern States sought to absolve themselves from, by State secession, and the right of a State to do what was now being decided by wager of battle.’

There was no reason or ground stated to justify the above claim that “the citizens of each State owed supreme allegiance to the United States.” It was a war by the Northern States to hold the Southern States in union with them; a conquest of free, sovereign and independent States to be held under the domination of the more numerous States.

As Senator Baker, of Oregon, declared in the Senate that he favored ‘reducing the population of the Southern States to abject to the sway of the federal government.’ ‘We may reduce the Southern States to the condition of territories and send to them from Massachusetts or from Illinois, loyal governors to control them. I would do that.’ (Cong. Globe LW, pg. 48). Such was the spirit of those who made the war.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-1865. Capt. S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, North Carolina. Pg. 53)

A Second Boston Massacre

New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democrat, firmly believed that conscription was unconstitutional as the federal government was to depend upon the States to furnish needed troops. He charged Lincoln’s draft with bringing disgrace upon the American name and shamed his administration. Seymour further declared that neither the President nor the Congress had a right ‘to force men to take part in the ungodly conflict which is distracting the land.’ Seymour also charged – and proved – that Lincoln levied higher draft quotas upon New York’s Democratic voting districts as part of a ‘manifest design to reduce the Democratic majority of voters.’ In short, the draft was designed, it appeared to Seymour, ‘to take Democrats into the army and exempt Republicans.’

New York City’s bloody draft riot which began July 11, 1863, ended the lives of some 120 residents as blue-coated soldiers hurried from Gettysburg opened fire on them with muskets and cannon. At least five black men were hung as demonstrators denounced Lincoln’s emancipation war. Strong anti-draft riots occurred across the State to include Buffalo, and throughout the north.

In Boston, though the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment was available, Gov. John Andrew feared that the sight of colored soldiers might excite his white citizenry. This colored regiment contained nearly 400 men enticed mostly from Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania to count toward Massachusetts troop quota and leave white residents at home. Only 22 soldiers were Massachusetts residents; 3 were Canadians. The black soldiers were hurried away and replaced with white men.

The governor’s fears were realized on July 14, 1863, when nearly a thousand angry residents – many of them women and children – gathered in front of the city’s Cooper Street Armory. After they hurled paving bricks at the wooden doors, a nervous officer inside ordered a field cannon loaded with grapeshot wheeled to the door and opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 14 and maiming many more.

This senseless slaughter of civilians recalled the massacre just over 93 years earlier, when British soldiers fired into a crowd of three hundred jeering and rock-throwing Boston residents. Eight were killed and five wounded. The post-riot investigation featured future US president John Adams representing the British soldiers.

(Lincoln and the War Governors. William B. Hesseltine. Alfred A. Knopf. 1948, pg. 305)

 

 

Grant and Treason

As true then as it is today, it is not “treason” to question the autocratic actions of a republican form of government, especially through the citizen’s elected representatives. Lincoln and his sectional party wrongly considered any criticism of their policies and actions “treason.” The US Constitution defines treason in Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” It is very clear who levied war against the States, adhered to their enemies, plus gave them aid and comfort.

As he levied war against Virginia, it was Grant (with Lincoln’s approval) who directed Sheridan to lay absolute waste to the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, sufficient to starve any crows flying above and in search of food – likewise for Virginia’s citizens. Below he congratulates his underling for his violent act of treason while referring to Virginians as “the enemy.”

As is well-known, Grant went on to win the presidency only with the help of recently enfranchised freedmen marched to the polls with Republican ballots; he is afterward known as the most corrupt president in the history of the United States.

Grant and Treason

“Now one of the main objects of the expedition began to be accomplished. Sheridan went to work with his command, gathering in all the crops, cattle and everything in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley required by our troops; and especially taking what might be of use to the enemy. What he could not take away he destroyed so that the enemy would not be invited to return. I congratulated Sheridan upon his recent great victory and had a salute of one-hundred guns fired in honor of it, the guns being aimed at the enemy around Petersburg.

I had reason to believe that the Lincoln administration was a little afraid to have a decisive battle fought at that time, for fear it might go against us and have a bad effect on the November elections. The convention which had met and made its nomination of the Democratic candidate for the presidency had declared the war a failure.  Treason was talked as boldly in Chicago at that Democratic convention as ever it had been in Charleston. It was a question of whether the government would then have had the power to make arrests and punish those who thus talked treason.”

(Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Vol. II. Charles L. Webster & Company, 1886, pp. 331-332)

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