Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

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)

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

Author Roger Lowenstein writes that on Christmas Eve, 1825, “Thomas Jefferson let out an anguished cry. The government of the country he had helped to found, half a century earlier, was causing him great distress. It was assuming vast powers, specifically the right to construct canals and roads, and to effect other improvements. Jefferson thought of the federal government in the most restrictive terms: as a “compact” or a “confederated fabric” – that is, a loose affiliation of practically sovereign States.”

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

“He was roused at the age of eighty-two to issue a “Solemn Declaration and Protest” against what he termed the “usurpation” of power by the federal branch. Jefferson was so agitated that he declared that the “rupture” of the United States would be, although a calamity, not the greatest calamity. Even worse, reckoned the sage of Monticello, would be “submission to a government of unlimited powers.”

Though Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton had sought to establish a strong central government, Jeffersonians adamantly objected. No fewer than six of President Jefferson’s successors vetoed or thwarted federal legislation to build roads and canals, improve harbors and riverways, maintain a national bank, [and] fund education . . .”

Had Jefferson survived until 1860, the federal government of that day would not have displeased him. Its main vocation was operating the postal service and collecting customs duties at ports, [and] its army consisted of merely sixteen thousand troops scattered mostly among a series of isolated forts west of the Mississippi. The federal payroll was modest . . . the civilian bureaucracy in Washington consisted of a mere two thousand employees.

The modest federal purse was supported by tariff duties and a smattering of land sales. Federal taxes (an unpleasant reminder of the English Parliament) were reflexively scorned. Then came the “rupture.”

The Republicans – [Lincoln elected in November 1860] – vastly enlarged the federal government . . . [and] accomplished a revolution that has been largely overlooked.”

(Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War. Roger Lowenstein, Penguin Books, 2022. pp. 1-2)

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)

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)

Jul 1, 2023 - America Transformed, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Myth of Saving the Union, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on The Death’s Head on the Board

The Death’s Head on the Board

The Death’s Head on the Board

“The . . . celebration of the birth of the American nation — was held in Philadelphia in 1876. An occasion so completely engaging the attention of the country and participated in so widely drew forth much discussion in the South.

Some Southern leaders opposed their section taking part; they still felt that the country was not theirs and that it might be less than dignified in themselves, and lacking in respect for their heroic Revolutionary ancestors, to go to Philadelphia and be treated as less than equals in a union which those ancestors had done a major part to found.

Former [South Carolina] Governor Benjamin F. Perry saw in the Centennial an effective way to drive home to the country the similarity of principles of the rebellion that became the Revolution, and the rebellion that became the “Lost Cause.”

[He wrote:] “This Centennial celebration of the rebels of ’76 cannot fail to teach the Northern mind to look with more leniency on Confederate rebels who only attempted to do in the late civil war what the ancestors of the Northern people did do in the American revolution . . . It shows a want of sense as well as a want of principle, and a want of truth, to call the rebels of 1776 patriots and heroes, and the rebels of 1861, “traitors.”

Only one contingency would induce a Virginian not to take part. The Grand Army must not be represented: “It would be the death’s head on the board; the skeleton in the banquet hall.”

(The History of the South, Volume VIII, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947)

 

Dec 11, 2022 - Myth of Saving the Union, Pleading for Peace, Southern Unionists, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on Southern Unionists

Southern Unionists

Southern Unionists

“One Southern conservative on the eve of war was a teacher of physics at a military institute. Observing the actions and words of the people in the North, he said:

‘It is painful to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. They do not seem to know what its horrors are. I have had the opportunity of knowing enough on the subject to make me fear war as the sum of all evils.’

Looking around him at his own duties, he said – this was on February 2, 1861, after the first seven States had declared independence: ‘I am much gratified to see a strong Union feeling in my portion of Virginia . . . For my own part I plan to vote for the Union candidates for the [State] convention and I desire to see every honorable means used for peace, and I believe that Providence will bless such means with the fruits of peace.’

That was Thomas Jonathan Jackson.

Another was a United States cavalry colonel at the time. After the first six States had declared independence, he wrote his son on January 29, 1861:

‘I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope that all Constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love & kindness, has no charm for me . . . If the Union is dissolved & the government disrupted, I shall return to my native State & share the miseries of my people & save in her defense, will draw my sword on none.’

That was Robert E. Lee.”

(Lenoir Chambers, The South on the Eve of the Civil War. North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2., Spring 1962, pp. 193-194)

The Timeworn Stereotype of the South

In the following paper historian Frank L. Owsley refutes the claim that the North fought the war to preserve democratic government in America. He asserted that on the surface the South sought to establish its independence while the North fought to deny this desire. Owsley wrote that by early 1861 the Southern people “felt it both abhorrent and dangerous to continue to live under the same government with the people of the North. And so profound was this feeling among the bulk of the Southern population that they were prepared to fight a long and devastation war to accomplish a separation. On the other hand, the North was willing to fight a war to retain their fellow citizens under the same government with themselves.”

The Timeworn Stereotype of the South

“The Civil War was not a struggle on the part of the South to destroy free government and personal liberty, nor on the part of the North to preserve them.

Looked at from the present perspective of the worldwide attempt of totalitarians to erase free governments and nations living under such governments from the face of the earth, the timeworn stereotype that the South was attempting the destruction of free government and the North was fighting to preserve it, seems very unrealistic and downright silly.

Indeed, both Northern and Southern people in 1861 were alike profoundly attached to the principles of free government which is substantiated by period newspapers, diaries, letters and speeches give irrefutable evidence in support of this assertion. Their ideology was democratic and identical.

By 1860 the northeastern section of the United States had already assumed its modern outlines of a capitalist-industrial society where the means of production were owned by a relatively few. That is to say that New England and the middle States were fast becoming in essence a plutocracy with the lower classes dependent upon those who owned the tools of production.

Turning to the South, which was primarily agricultural, we find the situation completely contradictory to what has usually been assumed. The so-called slave-oligarchy of the South owned scarcely any of the land outside the black belt and only about 25 percent of the land inside the black belt. Actually, the basic means of production in the black belt and in the South as a whole was well-distributed among all classes of the population. The overwhelming majority of Southern families in 1860 owned their farms and livestock; about 90 percent of the slaveholders and about 70 percent of the non-slaveholders owned the land on which they farmed.

And it is important to note that the bulk of slaveholders were small farmers and not oligarchs – the majority of whom owned from one to four slaves and less than three hundred acres of land.

Thus, unlike the industrial population of the East, the overwhelming majority of white families in the South, owned the means of production. In other words, the average Southerner like the average Westerner possessed economic independence and held on strongly to its democratic ideology and sound economic foundation of a free government.”

(The Fundamental Cause of the Civil War, Frank L. Owsley. Journal of Southern History, Vol. 7, No. 1, February 1941. pp. 5-6)

Unable to Settle the Great Differences

“The South in 1860 knew only that the party which was hotly intolerant of the whole body of Southern institutions and interests had triumphed in the elections and was about to take possession of the government, and that it was morally impossible to preserve the Union any longer.

“If you who represent the stronger portion,” Senator John C. Calhoun stated in 1850, in words which perfectly convey this feeling in their quiet cadences, cannot agree to settle the great questions at issue on the broad principle of justice and duty, say so; and let the States we both represent agree to separate and depart in peace.”  (Division and Reunion, 1829-1909. Woodrow Wilson. Longmans, Green and Co., 1912; pp. 209-210)

Jul 27, 2022 - America Transformed, Carnage, Costs of War, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Myth of Saving the Union, Northern Resistance to Lincoln, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

Edmund D. Patterson was born in Ohio of New England parents in 1842. Age seventeen found him well-educated and selling books by subscription in northern Alabama as well as teaching school. With war in 1861 came his enlistment in the Lauderdale Rifles, which became Company D of the Ninth Alabama Infantry. Patterson’s regiment arrived in Virginia two days after the battle of First Manassas, and the following extract is from his diary entry of July 23, 1861.

The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

“On the day we reached this place the rain poured down in torrents, and when we camped for the night, it was in mud and water several inches deep, and near the bloodiest part of the battlefield.

I have just returned from a walk over the battlefield. I made an attempt to go over it some hours ago, but the smell of the blood made me sick, and I had to turn back, but this time I succeeded, and may God grant that I may never see another.

I have often read descriptions of battlefields but never, until now, realized all the horrors that the word expresses. Here are the mangled human bodies on every side, some pierced by a rifle or musket ball – others almost torn to fragments by a shell – in some places horse and rider have fallen together. Some have a look or expression on their face as mild and calm as if they were only sleeping, others seem to have had a terrible struggle with the monster death and only yielded after having suffered such pain as has caused their faces to assume expressions that are fearful to look upon, their features distorted, the eyeballs glaring, and often with their hands full of mud and grass that they have clutched in their last agony.

I noticed one who had striven vainly to staunch the flow of blood from a wound through the body by stuffing mud into the wound. This was probably while the battle was still raging and no one near to attend to him. Another clutched in his hand a portion of a pack of cards, while the remained of them lay scattered around him.

But why attempt to describe in detail the particulars of this sickening scene? Many a poor fellow who left his home a few weeks or few months ago full of hope for the future now lies sleeping on this battlefield never more to be disturbed by the rattle of musketry . . . or the roar of artillery.

The result of this battle will teach the North a lesson that will not soon be forgotten. It will show them, and the world, that we are in earnest and that we mean what we say and that in attempting our subjugation they have undertaken a Herculean task. It seems to me that this battle has been a complete victory.”

(Yankee Rebel: Civil War Journal of Edmund DeWitt Patterson. J.G. Barrett, editor, UNC Press, 1966, pp. 7-8)

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