Browsing "Race and the North"

Conquest, Not Union

On April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis on the Mississippi River, was surrounded by some 1,500 troops under Gen’s. Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Chalmers. After sending an ultimatum to surrender or suffer “no quarter” and the enemy rejecting capitulation, Forrest’s men attacked and caused most of the enemy’s 600 soldiers to flee into the river. As northern colored troops were half of the fort’s garrison, they suffered great loss along with their white counterparts, and the usual cries of “massacre” were heard from northern reporters anxious to sell newspapers to a gullible public. The Radical Republicans were also quick to establish a congressional committee to investigate Fort Pillow for political purposes.

This pattern was repeated late in the war as the northern public was fed atrocity stories of Georgia’s Andersonville prison stockade. Missing from the stories were the pleas of President Davis and other Southern leaders for prisoner exchanges, including safe passage for medical supplies and food to sustain the inmates. These were all refused by Grant, with Lincoln’s approval.

Conquest, Not Union

“What exactly did the [Committee on the Conduct of the War] uncover and how objective was its investigation? Critics have assumed that the committee deliberately exaggerated Southern atrocities to smear Forrest’s reputation, inflame public sentiments, and serve its own narrow partisan agenda.

The committee’s most thorough historian, T. Harry Williams, for instance, argues that Benjamin Wade used this investigation, as well as previous atrocity reports, as a means to create a consensus for an even more radical reconstruction. By deliberately exaggerating Rebel brutalities, he would cause the public to support a reconstruction policy that would treat the South as a conquered territory.

There is little doubt that the issue of reconstruction was on the minds of committee members and other Republicans during the Fort Pillow investigation. George Julian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, was already busy sponsoring legislation to confiscate the large holdings of Rebel planters and redistribute them to veterans of the Union armies, both white and black.

In remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after Fort Pillow, Julian castigated the Confederates as “devils” and argued that the [alleged] massacre provided additional reasons to support the program of confiscating [Southern property].

Even before the war, there were many in the North who viewed the South as backward and in need of radical reordering along the outline of Northern free labor institutions. The war accelerated such beliefs. “The war is quickly drawing to an end,” the Continental Monthly predicted in the summer of 1862, “but a greater and nobler task lies before the soldiers and free men of America – the extending of civilization into the South.”

In formulating its Fort Pillow findings, the committee reflected Northern opinion as much as it sought to shape it.”

(“These Devils Are Not Fit to Live on God’s Earth”: War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865”. Bruce Tap. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, John Hubbell, ed. Kent State University Press, June 1996, Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 121-122)

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).

The Cornerstone of the Republican Party

By mid-1862, the advance of the northern invasion had accumulated thousands of “contrabands” left homeless from overrun and destroyed plantations. Lincoln and his cabinet were already in talks with the Danes, Dutch and Swedes to take the contrabands to their Caribbean colonies. By the end of that year and with northern enlistments at a virtual standstill without exorbitant financial incentives, Lincoln was advised to use contrabands against the South as soldiers. His Quartermaster-General Meigs, under the interesting impression that all Southern soldiers owned plantations, believed ‘colored labor allows the rebel to leave his plantation to fight, build fortifications, cook and aid him on picket by rare skill with the rifle.”  Secretary of War Stanton wrote in a rather Marxist vein that “By striking down this system of compulsory labor, which enables the leaders of the rebellion to control the resources of the people, the rebellion would die of itself.”

The Cornerstone of the Republican Party

When northern Negroes asked Free-Soilers what they thought should be done for them or what course they should follow, the recommendation was always the same: separatism, and usually colonization in some other country as well, though the Free-Soil politicians were careful to point out that they meant voluntary separatism or colonization and not forced measures.

When the newly formed Republican party created a truly northern political organization, there was pressure from those who wanted it to take an anti-slavery stance stronger than mere free-soil, and from those who feared it would do just that.

Many Republicans clung to the idea of colonization and for some, at least, it was basic to their policy. Colonization “is the key of the whole question,” commented one. “The exclusion of slavery from the territories is only an incidental part of a general policy of which colonization is the corner stone.”

The Republicans might hope to appeal to non-slaveholders in the South as well as to northern voters if they presented the question properly as a “question of the white man against the Ethiopian.” Though the anticipated support from Southern unionists did not materialize, the narrow issue of slavery exclusion remained the sole antislavery plank in the Republican political program. The combination of anti-slave power and anti-Negro sentiment was a powerful attraction in both the Free Soil and Republican programs.”

(Slavery and the Slave Power – A Crucial Distinction. Larry Gara. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, March 1969, Volume 15, No. 1. pp. 16-17)

Secession or a War of Rebellion?

Secession or a War of Rebellion?

The Possibility Foreseen by the Continental Congress. W.A. Lederer of Philadelphia.

“The voluntary withdrawal of a State, or group of States, from a Union, or any other political body is generally known as secession, notwithstanding the reasons and procedures leading up to this decision. In 1905, Norway seceded from the Scandinavian Union of some ninety years standing, which act was considered a peaceful separation from Sweden.

In 1776, the thirteen colonies separated from the motherland, which act, being settled with arms, but successfully, is known as the Revolution of ’76, or the first War of Independence. The year 1861 witnessed the outbreak of the second War of Independence, as we may justly name it, which received the offensive name given by the victor, the War of the Rebellion. (Commonly spoken, a revolution is a successful rebellion and thus had the thirteen colonies been unsuccessful, that war would have been known as the War of Rebellion, notwithstanding the causes).

To the truthful and sincere historian, the War of 1861-1865 is known as the War Between the States, its purpose being the prevention of the peaceful separation and secession of the Southern States from the 1789 Union. To the informed and educated American, therefore, secession means the justified act of a peaceful separation of economically two different sections of the Union.”

Mr. Lederer continued his review of the newly independent States and the issue of slavery and the North’s important role in perpetuating the institution. He wrote:

“Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence was “considerate and courteous, yet Voltaire-like as he caustically refers to the slave trade of the pious Yankee, and rather than cause a disruption of the drive for independence, he omitted this” from his final draft. In explaining this omission regarding African slavery: “It was struck out in compliance with South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain slave importation . . . Our Northern brethren also, felt a little tender toward those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they have been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.”

(W.A. Lederer, Confederate Veteran, September, 1930, pp. 337-338)

Feb 25, 2024 - Northern Culture Laid Bare, Prisons for Americans, Race and the North, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

Southern Officers and Slaves at Johnson’s Island

‘Dr. Christian was colonel of the 51st Virginia Infantry who was captured after the battle at Gettysburg while Lee’s army was crossing “Falling Waters.” He was sent to Johnson’s Island where the officers [captured at] Port Hudson were also imprisoned. Said the Doctor:

“My recollection is that there were thirteen negroes who spent the dreadful winter of 1863-64 with us at Johnson’s Island, and not one of them deserted or accepted freedom, though it was urged upon them time and again.

You recall that Port Hudson was compelled to surrender after Vicksburg had fallen. The officers were notified they would not be paroled as those at Vicksburg had been but told they could retain their personal property. Some of the officers claimed their negro servants as personal property and took them along to prison with them.

Arriving at Johnson’s Island the federal authorities assured the negroes they were as free as their masters had been, and were not prisoners of war; that they would give them no rations and no rights as prisoners of war if they went in the prison, but they all elected to go in and declared to the Yankees they would stick to their young masters to the end of time, if they starved to death by doing so. Those officers, of course, shared their rations and everything else with their servants.

‘George’ was the negro of an Alabama colonel also a prisoner. George was frequently summoned by the prison’s commanding officer and told he was a free man and had but to say the word and he would be taken out of prison to work for $2 a day and furnished good clothes to wear plus live anywhere he wanted. He was also told he was a fool as his master would never be exchanged or let out of prison, and if he stayed with the Rebel officer he as well would starve in prison.

After George returned to the cell and related this, I asked what he said in reply to the Yankee officer. He told him: ‘Sir, what you want me to do is to desert. I ain’t no deserter, and down South, sir, where we live, deserters always disgrace their families. I’ve got a family down home, sir, and if I do what you tell me, I will be a deserter and disgrace my family, and I am never going to do that.’

‘What did the commanding officer say?’ I asked. ‘Get out of here you d—- fool nigger and rot in prison.’ And now master, here I am, and I am going to stay here as long as you stay, if I starve and rot.’

(The Negroes as Slaves, Capt. James Dinkins. Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXV, 1907, pp. 62-64)

Feb 25, 2024 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Accuracy, Race and the North, Race and the South    Comments Off on A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

The letter below describes a newlywed Northern woman’s experience in North Carolina and interaction with the colored people on her husband’s plantation. In a subsequent letter home, a few weeks later she wrote that ‘The Negroes are not overtasked on this plantation’ and that ‘one house girl at the North will accomplish more than two here.’ Also observed was an overseer summarily discharged for striking a colored worker; the servants ‘have plots of lands they cultivate and own what they grow from them.’

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

Clifton Grove, North Carolina, October 10, 1853

My Dear Parents:

I arrived safely at my new home on Friday last, but have had no time to write until now . . . You may imagine I have seen many strange things. As for my opinions, in so short a time, it would not be fair to give them.

I have seen no unkind treatment of servants. Indeed, I think they are treated with more familiarity than many Northern servants. They are in the parlor, in your room, and all over. The first of the nights we spent in the Slave Holding States, we slept in a room without a lock. Twice before we were up a waiting girl came into the room, and while I was dressing, in she came to look at me. She seemed perfectly at home, took up the locket with your miniatures in it and wanted to know if it was a watch. I showed it to her. “Well,” she said, “I should think your mother and father are mighty old folks.”

Just before we arrived home, one old Negro caught a glimpse of us and came tearing out of the pine woods to touch his hat to us. All along the road we met them and their salutation of “Howdy (meaning How do you) Massa Ben,” and they seemed so glad to see him that I felt assured that they were well treated.

At dinner we had everything very nice. It is customary when the waiting girl is not passing things at table, to keep a large broom of peacock feathers in motion over our heads to keep off flies, etc. I feel confused. Everything is so different here that I do not know which way to stir for fear of making a blunder. I have determined to keep still for a while, at any rate.

Yesterday I went to Church in a very handsome carriage, servants before and behind. I began to realize yesterday how much I had lost in the way of religious privileges. On arriving I found a rough framed building in the midst of woods with a large congregation, white and black. Things that Northerners consider essential are of no importance here. I have seen enough to convince me that the ill-treatment of the Slaves is exaggerated at the North, but I have not seen enough to make me like the institution.

I am quite the talk of the day, not only in the whole County but on the plantation. Yesterday I was out in the yard and an old Negro woman came up to me, “Howdy Miss Sara, are you the lady who won my young Master? Well, I raised him.” Between you and me, my husband is better off than I ever dreamed of. He owns 2000 acres of land in this vicinity, but you must bear in mind that land here is not as valuable as with you.  Love to all. Ever your Sara.

PS: I wish you could see the cotton fields. The Bolls are just opening. I cannot compare their appearance to anything but fields of white roses. As to the cotton picking, I should think it a very light and pleasant work.

(J.C. Bonner (ed.), “Plantation Experiences of a New York Woman,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXIII, pp. 389-400, 532-533)

Jul 22, 2023 - From Africa to America, Historical Accuracy, Race and the North, Race and the South, Slavery Comes to America    Comments Off on America the Dumping Ground

America the Dumping Ground

American colonist protestations against British government importation of unwanted peoples went unheeded until the American Revolution brought an end to it and forced England to turn to Australia as a substitute destination for undesirables.

America the Dumping Ground

“Why then will Americans purchase Slaves? Because Slaves may be as long a Man pleases or has Occasion for their Labour; while hired Men are continually leaving their Masters (often in the midst of his Business) and setting up for themselves.” – Benjamin Franklin

At the time of the Revolution, about half the white population of the Colonies consisted of indentured laborers and their descendants. Some were orphans, debtors, paupers and mental defectives. Others had committed petty crimes. Still others were whores. Children were stolen and spirited off to be sold under indenture.

The Irish in particular were victimized. Oliver Cromwell believed that they were admirably suited for slavery and saw to it that the survivors of Drogheda massacre met their fate in Bermuda. His agents scoured Ireland for children to be sold to planters in the Americas. Between 1717 and 1775, 50,000 English felons were transported to mainland North America.

For the most part, the indentured workers settled in the South where the demand for unskilled labor was greatest. American writers and politicians protested against the use of the Colonies as a dumping ground for the unwanted, the impoverished and, in some cases, the vicious and mentally inferior. Benjamin Franklin compared British emigration policy with sending American rattlesnakes to England to teach them manners.

The importation of Negro slaves became quantitatively significant by the end of the 17th century. At the eve of the Revolution the black population of Georgia equaled or exceeded the white in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland. Delaware and Pennsylvania were one-fifth Negro; New York one-sixth or so.

Like some of their Northern counterparts, Federalists in the South openly opposed institution and in 1789 an anti-slavery society was founded in Maryland. Further south, in North Carolina, Hugh Williamson worked against any extension of slave power. Opposition both the African slave trade and to the slave-based plantation economy was grounded partly on moral considerations and partly on the belief that the African was a savage who could not and should not be assimilated into American society. When American rationalists in the late 18th century spoke about the unalienable rights of man, it was tacitly understood that the African was not included.”

(The Negro in American Civilization. Nathaniel Weyl. Public Affairs Press, 1960; pp. 23-24)

Ramaswamy and Dred Scott

Though one of the brightest stars in the line-up for US president, Vivek Ramaswamy greatly errs in his uninformed explanation of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s (pronounced “Taw-nee”) majority opinion in the Dred Scott Case of 1857. Ramaswamy recently opined that Justice Taney’s majority opinion denying free status to Scott was for the purpose of “keeping guns out of the hands of black people.” He offers no documentation to support this belief.

First, Justice Taney was born in Maryland in 1777 and had a far better understanding of the Founders’ minds and logic than Mr. Ramaswamy does today. Further, prior to his seat on the Court, Taney served as US Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew Jackson.

In the Dred Scott decision before them, Justice Taney and his Court were primarily concerned with Dred Scott’s free or slave status, and if somehow he had obtained citizenship in some State under the Articles of Confederation or the later Constitution. Prior to the postwar 14th Amendment, the US Constitution did not include the word “citizen” and each State set its own standard for citizenship.  As Dred Scott was born an African slave, was not freed from this status and was not a “citizen” of a State who could sue in federal court.

The question of access to weapons had no bearing on the case as Mr. Ramaswamy suggests.

The Court ruled, with two Justices dissenting, that black people descended from American slave ancestors were not such persons as the word “citizen” means when the Constitution gives federal courts jurisdiction over suits between citizens of different States.”

(The Legal & Historical Status of the Dred Scott Decision. Elbert William R. Ewing, Cobden Publishing, 1909, pp. 54-55)

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)

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)

 

 

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