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Jun 25, 2022 - American Military Genius, Foreign Viewpoints    Comments Off on Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Field Marshal Wolsely (1833-1913 became one of the most admired and influential British generals who served in the Crimea, India, Canada, West Africa, China and Egypt, and played a central role in modernizing the British army of his period. He became commander-in-chief of all British forces from 1895-1900.

Sir Garnet Joseph Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

War Office, London

8th December 1883

 

“My Dear Miss S.,

I have long been collecting the letters of eminent people but have had much difficulty in obtaining those of the great men on your side of the Atlantic. I have only known two heroes in my life, and General R. E. Lee is one of them, so you can understand how I value one of his letters. I believe that when time has calmed down the angry passions of the “North,” General Lee will be accepted in the United States as the greatest General you have ever had, and second as a patriot only to Washington himself.

Stonell Jackson, I only knew slightly, his name will live forever also in American history when that of Mr. U.S. Grant has been long forgotten, such at least is my humble opinion of these men when viewed by an outside student of military history who has no local prejudice.

That [letter] of General Beauregard is one that I shall always prize. I am indeed very grateful to you for telling me to keep it.  Again, thanking you most sincerely for your kindness to me in this matter, believe me to remain,

Very faithfully yours, Wolsely.

 

Jun 10, 2022 - Foreign Viewpoints, Historical Accuracy, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear came to Wilmington with brothers Marcus and Samuel in 1853 from Bavaria, and of course immersed themselves in the growing German and Jewish population. Bavaria was the part of Germany where the largest number of Wilmington’s adult German immigrants hailed from by 1860 and subsequent chain migration brought their relatives to the area, many being those of modest income rather than poor. In 1860 Wilmington’s German-Jewish immigrants were mostly self-employed merchants who most often began as clerks in Jewish-owned stores. In that year twelve of the eighteen clothing stores in town were Jewish-owned.  Business success followed Solomon Bear’s “Sol. Bear & Brothers” wholesale and retail clothing at 20 Market Street which included hats, boots, caps, fancy dry goods as well as wine and liquor.

Wealthy Jewish immigrant Menasse Kahnweiler had arrived much earlier and involved himself in road construction, raising sheep, and real estate.  In 1811 he utilized the upper floor of his building as a small synagogue for local Jews to worship. As more German Jews arrived, they established such organizations as the Germania Lodge of the Knights of the Pythias, and the Schutzenverein Rifle Club which evolved into the German Volunteers (German Light Infantry) led by Capt. Christian Cornehlson, born in Hanover, Germany.

As was common in the American South of that era, Jewish merchants held black laborers with five at the Kahnweiler establishment in 1860 and owned by the company itself. Historian Jonathan Sarna tells us that “as a rule those Southern Jews who could afford slaves did so.” At the same time in Charlotte, 3 German-born Jewish dry goods merchants owned slaves.

By 1858 Wilmington had developed a considerable German population which began a drive to build a place of worship in the city – soon to be known as St. Paul’s Lutheran when completed in late 1858. The pastor was Rev. John H. Mengert, D.D.  The German Jewish population sought a place of worship which was not realized until after the war – the Temple of Israel.

When war began in 1861 Solomon Bear was already involved with Wilmington’s German Volunteers which soon became Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment on June 15. Solomon first served as a hospital steward, quite possibly through fellow Wilmingtonian and wartime assistant surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood. Other German-born Hanoverians in the Volunteers were lieutenants Ackerman, Runge, Schulken and Vollers – and enlisted men with surnames such as Bachman, Henry Bear, Brahmer, Buckner, Dienstbach, Domler, Eigenbruner, Geier, Goldenschmidt, Gunther, Heins, Hoener, Jacoby, Katz, Klein, Koch, Koppel, Kordlander, Kornahreas, Kuhl, Kyhl, Linsbrink, Luhrs, Mauss, Ortman, Overbeck, Pfundt, Portwig, Rosenthal, Schlobohmm, Schoeber, Scwartz, Solomon, Steiniger, Stolter, Teller, Theis, Ulbrich, Von Glahn, Voss, Wagner, Weil and Westerman.

Jacob Blumenthal and Henry Wertheimer were among those who did not return home after the war.

As was common in the South, those with merchant and trading backgrounds were sent to Europe as purchasing agents for the Confederacy and Bear was no doubt charged with obtaining medical supplies to run through the blockade. The Kahnweiler store offered many European luxuries such as millinery, shoes and thread brought through the blockade. Nephew Simon Kahnweiler was a Southern agent in Europe and through his father in Philadelphia arranged for ships to run the blockade to Wilmington.

After the war Solomon returned home with wife Henrietta Melman whom he had met in Richmond, and their union produced eight children. Their residence was on North Fifth Street and business success enabled them to build their summer cottage “Breezeland” at Wrightsville Beach. Solomon took an active interest in religious affairs and was a driving force in the construction of the Temple of Isael at Fourth and Market Streets. A poignant photograph exists of the grey-clad veteran Solomon Bear on horseback on January 19, 1900 – Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Birthday. Solomon died in 1904 and sons Isadore and Fred managed the business. In 1912 they built the Bear Winery at Front and Marstellar Streets and through a legal loophole in the Prohibition Act, were able to manufacture their wine for medicinal purposes only.

Lastly, though he served in the Northern military during the war, postwar immigrant Solomon Fishblate acclimated himself to Wilmington as a supporter of the conservative Democratic party. He rose to mayor of the city first in 1878, then again in the early 1890s.

 

Notes and Sources:

Heike. Anton. Jews at the Cape Fear Coast. Southern Jewish History.

Solomon Bear. Wilmington Past, Present and Future.  1908.

Sharp Gettysburg Farmers

After the carnage and devastation experienced by both sides in early July 1863, the silence of the guns on July 4th allowed Northern soldiers the opportunity to view the result of battle. They quickly discovered the depth of the local farmers’ patriotism as the latter saw an opportunity to profit from the soldiers’ misery.

Sharp Gettysburg Farmers     

“Most of the thrifty, compulsively orderly farm families of German ancestry had, until now, viewed the sectional conflict with indifference, a struggle over issues that were foreign to their interests. When, after two years, the war finally intruded itself upon their lives, it entered with a destructive force few parts of the North had yet experienced. For miles about, their carefully tended fields had been stripped of laboriously built post and rail fences, all the greyed wood having gone to fires or barricades.

There was not a grazing animal to be seen. The low stone walls dividing the properties in the area, products of countless plowings by generations of frugal farmers, had been broken down by shot and shell. Once rich fields wheat and grain had been trampled to worthlessness by masses of farm-boys turned soldiers who could fully appreciate the extent of the damage they were doing. The ground itself was furrowed and scarred by the wheels of caissons and gun carriages. Once symmetrical orchards had been made incongruous; some trees had been reduced to stumps while on others fractured limbs with crumpled dead leaves hung limply.

Regardless of what high principles the Union soldiers may have been fighting for on their soil, they were being regarded by some of the ruined farmers as the source of financial devastation, and they were not anxious to comfort the soldiers in any way.

One officer of a New York regiment complained that ‘a well-to-do farmer near us refused us straw for our men . . . not a man or woman in the vicinity offered a hand to help or drop of milk for the poor sufferers.’ A Northern surgeon said ‘I have yet to see the first thing brought in for the comfort of the wounded. Some farmers brought in some bread which they sold for 75 cents a loaf. The brave army that has defended this State surely deserves better treatment.’

The morning after the epic Little Round Top battle a committee of farmers confronted a Northern major of the 155th Pennsylvania and demanded payment for straw taken for field hospitals. They were driven away with threats of arrest ‘for their disloyalty as well as their inhumanity.’ Perhaps the meanest offenses were being committed by the local farmers who removed the handles and buckets from their wells to prevent the soldiers from reaching water.

What particularly offended a Northern artillery colonel was the hundreds of people who had come “in their wagons to see the sights, to stroll over the ground and gaze and gape at the dead and wounded.”

(Debris of Battle: The Wounded of Gettysburg. Gerard A. Patterson. Stackpole Books, 1997, pp. 53-55)

War was Lincoln’s Choice

President James Buchanan disagreed with secession as the prerogative of a State, but admitted that he as president held no authority to levy war to stop it — and his attorney general concurred. Both were well-aware of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying was against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Buchanan could not use military force against a State without committing treason.

War was Lincoln’s Choice

“The States of the deep South dissolved their connection with the voluntary union of the United States with marked legality at the beginning of 1861. For a quarter of a year no one knew that there was to be a war. Then Lincoln (unauthorized by the Constitution) called for troops; and the upper South, led by Virginia, seceded.

The point is, Lincoln could have chosen to let the South go in peace on the grounds that a just government depends on the consent of the governed, and the Southern States had withdrawn that consent.

But, said the North, the majority do consent, since there are more people in the North. Even if most of the people in the South do not consent, we in the North are the majority of the whole nation. Thus, the rights of a minority, although a minority of millions, mean nothing.

This is precisely what [Alexis] de Tocqueville warned against: the tyranny of the majority. And Lord Acton was deeply convinced that the principle of States’ rights was the best limitation upon the tyranny of the majority that had ever been devised.

Thus Lee did represent the cause of freedom, and Lord Acton broke his heart over Lee’s surrender because the principle of States’ rights was finally and forever denied.

The America of today is the America that won that immense triumph in the war – the triumph of unlimited, equalitarian democracy. And its leaders have blurred the distinction between freedom and equality to the point where many people use those words as virtually interchangeable terms.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 142)

Jun 4, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Historians on History, Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

Two young visitors from the Old World who briefly studied America, Alexis de Tocqueville of France and Russian Alexandr Lakier, were historians, jurisprudents, and both involved in public service careers. It is said that Alexis de Tocqueville was fascinated by the idea of political equality in America and wished to obtain first-hand knowledge of this. While Tocqueville, the philosopher, spoke with the upper classes, Lakier was a better reporter on the typical American. Tocqueville arrived in 1831, Lakier in 1857.

Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

“Tocqueville came with overpowering credentials. He was able to see everybody who was anybody – presidents, senators, judges, university presidents, scholars, men of letters. He managed, in the brief time he was here, to interview statesmen like Albert Gallatin, John Quincy Adams and Edward Livingston; jurists like Chancellor Kent and Joseph Story; scholars like Edward Everett, Francis Lieber and Jared Sparks; luminaries like Daniel Webster and William Ellerry Channing, and his thinking was profoundly influenced by what these distinguished men told him.

Lakier came on his own, and depended on fortuity for his interviews. He talked with the most miscellaneous people – shipboard acquaintances, workingmen, petty officials, farmers, fur traders, and newly arrived immigrants – a pretty good cross-section of American society.

There was a pervasive melancholy in much that Tocqueville wrote, a conviction that though democracy was indeed the wave of the future, that wave would drown out much that was precious – that democracy would expose every Old World society to the threat of cultural mediocrity, majority tyranny, and the ultimate subversion of liberty.

Lakier, who was by nature more sanguine and more buoyant, looked with confidence to the future – a future that would see the triumph of equality and a closer friendship between the United States and his own nation.

Lakier saw too, that the example of America could not be confined to the Western Hemisphere, but would sweep around the globe . . . “They will have an influence on Europe, but they will use neither arms nor sword nor fire, nor death and destruction. They will spread their influence by the strength of their inventions, their trade, and their industry. And this influence will be more durable than any conquest.”

(A Russian Looks at America: The Journey of Aleksandr Lakier Borisovich in 1857, University of Chicago Press, 1979, excerpts x-xiii)

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

Had England gone to war against the United States in late 1861 over the seizure of two Confederate States diplomats from the RMS Trent, Lincoln’s ports would have been blockaded by the Royal Navy, and Northern shipping destroyed on the high seas in concert with Confederate privateers. Also contemplated was invasion of the undefended American northwest, as well as Canada West — today’s Ontario – thus creating a Northern war front.  Added to this was Maximillian’s French army in Mexico, which may have marched northward to help American’s achieve independence a second time.

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

“The prime minister, Viscount Palmerston, was seventy-seven years old in 1861. Born in 1784, just after the American Revolution, he was twenty-eight when Britain went to war again with the United States in 1812. Palmerston had served as foreign secretary in three British governments for a total of about fifteen years.

His involvement with several major US-British disputes had left him with the view that the Americans were pushy, ill-mannered, unyielding in their demands that their rights be respected, and totally lacking in awe of the imperial power of Britain. His continuing fears that the United States would eventually invade and annex Canada ultimately prevented him from supporting a more aggressive British policy toward the American Civil War.

One of Palmerston’s biographers, Jasper Ridley, wrote that “he believed that the British constitution and social system . . . was the best in the world . . . He was a liberal abroad because he wished to see this system replace the absolute monarchies of the Continent.”  But when he looked toward America, Palmerston was no liberal. He was hostile to the idea of a government elected by all of the citizens and, as Ridley noted, was very dubious about militant democracy in America:

“Palmerston had played a very active role in the suppression of the international slave trade . . .  But though Palmerston was delighted when slaves in the intercepted slave ships were liberated by officers and gentlemen of the Royal Navy, he was not pleased at the prospect of the slaves on cotton plantations in the Confederate States being freed by large armies . . . commanded by cigar-chomping generals in ill-fitting uniforms.  And he was as conscious as [John] Bright and the [British] Radicals that the Union armies were the most powerful force of militant democracy since the French revolutionary armies of 1793.”

Oxford professor H.C. Allen wrote that Palmerston “privately . . . hoped for success of the Confederacy because it would weaken a potential rival of Britain’s – and a democratic one . . .”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 32-33)

The Real Motives of the War

The British were comfortable with a near-aristocratic political system in the American South and feared the popular democracy of the North. They clearly saw the division since the early 1840s of the United States into two distinct peoples splitting into two independent countries.

The Real Motives of the War

“The ruling classes in Britain were inclined to accept the Confederacy’s leaders’ portrayals of themselves as defenders of liberty and independence and their portrayals of Northern leaders as tyrants seeking to impose their will on the South. The Liberal Party in England stood for the kind of political and economic liberalism that stressed limits on the powers of government.

A British scholar, Martin Crawford, described the newspaper’s persistent belief that the North could not win the war and that continued separation of North and South was inevitable:

“The longer the conflict lasted, the more convinced The Times became that Lincoln’s government should accept disunion for what it was, a sad and irrevocable fact . . . The critique of the American conflict which The Times fashioned in the late summer and autumn of 1861 would remain virtually unchanged for the duration of the war . . . Britain’s leading newspaper had established itself as a committed opponent of the federal cause, with the result that its capacity for independent judgment of American affairs was substantially impaired.”

The Times had no monopoly on anti-Northern prejudices. The conservative London Dispatch compressed into a single sentence most of the upper class prejudices against the North:

“The real motives of the civil war are the continuance of the power of the North to tax the industry of the South and the consolidation of the huge confederation to sweep every other power from the American continent, to enter into the politics of Europe with a Republican propaganda, and to bully the world.”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 27-30)

Mar 14, 2021 - Foreign Viewpoints, Historical Accuracy, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Multicultural Confederates

Multicultural Confederates

The German citizens of Charleston were quick to form ranks against invasion, organizing the German Riflemen (Schutzen) of Captain J. Small; the Palmetto Schutzen of Captain A. Melchers; the German Fusiliers of Captain Schroder; Captain Theodore Cordes’ German Hussars. But German South Carolinians won their greatest distinction as artillerists in Hampton’s Legion, early on known as Major Johann Wagener’s artillery.

Multicultural Confederates

“In Richmond . . . The old German Rifle Company, which had been organized on March 1, 1850, was attached to the First Infantry Regiment as Company K.  Another company of recent comers, the Marion Rifles, was mustered into service on May 1, 1861, and ordered to the peninsula on the twenty-fourth of that month. Colonel Rains recruited an artillery regiment composed in part of Germans from Richmond.

The First Virginia Regiment was, except for the German Rifle Company, composed of Irishmen, and was termed accordingly the Irish Battalion. It was attached to [Stonewall] Jackson’s division From December 1861, to about December 1862, when it was made provost guard for the Army of Northern Virginia. The Nineteenth Virginia Reserved Forces were chiefly composed of foreigners, Germans, Frenchmen and Italians, recruited for home defense among the artisans in the government workshops.

Even from North Carolina, which boasts of its almost purely Anglo-Saxon population, hail several companies which were constituted of sons from other climes. Wilmington had a goodly number of foreign-born [including the German Volunteers of Captain Christian Cornehlson], a group which became Company A, Eighteenth North Carolina. Every officer and every enlisted man, 102 in all, except 30, had been born in Germany.

It was inevitable that a city, with as large groups of Germans and Irish as Charleston had, should send forth companies comprised in whole or in large part of men born in the Germans states or in Ireland. Most generously and patriotically did the Germans of Charleston uniform and equip the company . . . They came from the superior ranks of the German citizens, merchants, lawyers, teachers, clerks and artisans.”

(Foreigners in the Confederacy, Ella Lonn, UNC Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 117-120)

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

Nearly two years into the war, Lincoln’s government announced “General Orders No. 100,” the rules under his armies would conduct their operations. Selected to write the code was Prussian emigre Francis Lieber, a fervent nationalist in Prussia who fled his country while under police investigation in 1825 for plotting to overthrow the government.  After short residence in England, he was recruited to teach at Columbia University, and in the United States “directed the ardent nationalistic emotion with which he had regarded Germany.” Lieber believed he left behind the “bureaucratic ministries and police spies,” though his new employer relied on these as well.

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

“But there is a puzzling side to this document that has gone largely unnoticed by historians and legal scholars. Why was it allowed to be created and adopted? One could argue that the process by which Lieber’s code of war came into being contradicted constitutional principles and the established practices of the United States.

The Constitution states that the power to declare war and, even more pertinently, to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” belongs with the Congress. When the [United States] created the Articles of War in 1806, it did so through congressional legislation, not executive fiat. With General Orders No. 100, the executive branch took a bolder step than many have realized, by assuming the right to determine the parameters of war making, especially the meaning of “military necessity,” without these policies originating with Congress.

As the compilation of military law and usages made its way through the bureaucracy, Lieber understood that at least a few paragraphs might benefit from “the assistance of Congress,” but added that it “is now too late.”

[Some] sections gave the executive and his generals broad powers. The instructions allowed for the bombardment of civilians feeling a siege back into towns so their suffering could force surrender more quickly; and for taking most of the property from an enemy based on military necessity.”

(With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, William A. Blair, UNC Press, 2014, excerpt. pp. 93-94)

Feb 27, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Black Soldiers, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Jeffersonian America, Patriotism, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

Andrew Jackson thought of himself as not an innovator or man of ideas, but that he must revive and continue Jeffersonian principles in the federal government. He was a man hostile to the clamoring abolitionist radicals and in general to the various “isms” of the North, sure to cause strife where none should be. His conception of patriotism included a determination to uphold the national honor and interests, even at the risk of war.

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

“[The] Age of Jackson appears to have been characterized by a high degree of patriotism – the patriotism of a provincial people who were virtually untouched by the internationalism of our own day and who as a whole lived close to nature and therefore perhaps had a child’s love for the homeland.

The Italian Count Francesco Arese, who traveled in the United States in 1837-38, described this invigorating spirit of patriotism, which he witnessed during a Fourth-of-July celebration in Lexington, Virginia.

After the usual fireworks, marching of the militia, and playing by the band of “Hail, Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” the townspeople sat down to an elaborate banquet. “There were 160-odd people,” the Count relates in his journal, “and though Americans are accused of being not too sober, I am forced to say that not a soul got drunk. After the dinner, which didn’t last over ½ hour, several toasts were drunk. The first was to “the 4th of July, 1776,” the next to General George Washington, the third to General Lafayette; and many others followed.

Among the banqueters were two old veterans that had served under Washington, one of whom was a Negro who had gone everywhere with the brave general, and for that reason, a half-century later, he was allowed the honor once every year of sitting down to the table with white men!

There was nothing, absolutely nothing in this celebration that suggested in the remotest degree that trumped-up joy, that official gaiety they gratify us with in Europe, quite contrary to our desire. Here the joy, the enthusiasm were real, natural, heartfelt. Each individual was rightly proud to feel himself an American.

Each one believed himself to share the glory of Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and all the other illustrious men whom not only America but the whole world has the right to be proud of. Oh. God, when shall my own beautiful and wretched country be able to celebrate a day like that?”

(The Leaven of Democracy: The Growth of the Democratic Spirit in the Time of Jackson, Clement Eaton, editor, George Braziller Publishers, 1963, excerpt, pp. 10-11)