AMBROSE BIERCE ON THE 7TH NEW YORK VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

Ths Seventh Regiment Departs, by Thomas Nast.  This romantic view by Nast shows the 7th NY Militia's departure for Washington, DC. in the spring of 1861.

Ths Seventh Regiment Departs, by Thomas Nast. This romantic view by Nast shows the 7th NY Militia’s departure for Washington, DC. in the spring of 1861.

One might think that after one has written over 100,000 words on a subject–in this case, Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife–one has said all there is to say on a subject.  But that is not the case; there are a number of miscellaneous sources, topics or quotes which simply don’t fit into the book; similarly, for every question which you answer, other questions arise as a result of your discoveries.

Following is a classic bit of Bierce: Ambrose Bierce declaiming against a famous Civil War regiment whose fame Bierce felt was less than deserved.  In the early days of the war, when Washington was virtually surrounded by Secessionists, the arrival of the 7th NY Militia was eagerly anticipated and they were widely viewed as the saviors of the Nation’s Capitol.

Bierce’s view of the regiment and its accomplishments may have been a bit jaundiced: for one thing the 7th was known as the “Silk Stocking” Regiment, because its membership included many of New York City’s social elite and Bierce, who in later life was at pains to distance himself from his humble origins, may have had a bit of a grudge against the New York patricians.  Also, Bierce was a member of the “Bloody Ninth”–the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry–who amply earned their nickname in the fierce battles of the western theater, which was in sharp contrast to the “Bloody Seventh” which Bierce emphasizes did most of its fighting in the hotels and taverns of Washington DC and precious little in the field. Their unwillingness to volunteer for the Spanish American War apparently summoned up old memories of their Civil War record in Bierce, whose prose rose to the occasion. Whatever one’s view of their war record, those who appreciate Bierce’s acid wit will certainly relish this prime example of his sarcasm:

Ambrose Bierce on the 7th NY

No matter “where rolls the Oregon,” the famous Seventh Regiment of New York is indubitably safe. And despite the lapse of time and mutations in its personnel, it is the same old Seventh Regiment of the Civil War period. True, it did not then unanimously resolve to merit the Humane Society’s great leather medal for saving life, as virtually it has now done; but as a matter of fact it then did save many lives, and all were lives of its own members. This noble benefaction it accomplished by governing its own temper—and he that subdueth his spirit is greater, and as a rule safer, than he that taketh a city. If the Seventh of that far day had suffered itself to fall into anger and uncharitableness offended Nature, who  

    hides hr lash  In the purple-black of a dyed mustache.” 

Might have sentenced that impetuous organization to be shot at and, if overtaken, hit. As it was, the Bloody Seventh advanced upon Washington, then held by a superior force of the regular army, captured and occupied some of the strongest hotels in the place, and after several weeks of brilliant and startling dress parades returned as grizzled veterans in New York without the loss of a man.  The regiment did not re-enlist, but in Central Park a costly monument to its valor,  “Like a tall bully, lifts its head and lies”; for it is inscribed with names of “members of the Seventh” who fell in battle. There is nothing to show that, righteously disgusted with their own regiment’s policy of peace on earth and good will to men, they had left it, and that they feel as members of less pacific organizations. It is not so very bad to be “dead upon the field of honor” if one have the good luck to be counted twice—a double patriot with twin renowns.

In unanimously voting to remain at home while Spain is abroad, and thereby drawing upon themselves a hot fire of patriotic reprobation, the star-spangled Quakers of the Seventh are especially blamable, for they compel many a war-willing patriot to remain at home also in order to deliver the fire. As members of the firing squad some of us are withholding from the service of our country military abilities of the highest order.  

“War Topics” San Francisco Examiner, May 22, 1898

 

For more on Bierce and his service in the Civil War, read Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, University of Tennessee Press, 2016.

Ambrose Bierce's experiences with the Army of the Cumberland, due out Summer of 2016.

Ambrose Bierce’s experiences with the Army of the Cumberland,

Posted in 7th New York Militia, 7th New York Volunteer Infantry, Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose Bierce, Civil War History, Secessionism, Seventh New York Volunteer Infantry, The Army of the Potomac | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Major Bierce Reviews Napoleon

David_-_Napoleon_crossing_the_Alps_-_Malmaison1

Napoleon Crossing the Alps by David

 

As my forthcoming Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife details in some depth, before Ambrose Bierce was the notorious cynic and destroyer of Humbug, he was an idealist and war hero.  All of his biographers acknowledge that fact, although most glossed over his service in the Civil War with varying degrees of inaccuracy. 

Although Bierce did a brief apprenticeship with his hometown paper before the war, it was not until he moved to San Francisco that the veteran soldier Bierce began his journalism career in earnest.  As time went on, Bierce returned time and again to his days as a soldier in the war, both in fiction and nonfiction pieces.  But as a journalist Bierce also wrote book reviews on occasion.  Here is one from 1895, where Major Ambrose and newspaperman Bierce join forces to write a review with a military slant: a discussion about a book on Napoleon’s first campaign in Italy.  General Bonaparte meet Major Bierce:

Bierce from Black & White London

The Prevailing Corsican: On Napoleon

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco Examiner April 21, 1895

NO series of connected and consecutive military events has been so closely analyzed by military students as those marking the first Italian campaign of Napoleon Bonaparte. All expounders of the military art who have had the good fortune to live since its principles were so wonderfully illustrated by that campaign have delighted to use its incidents in exposition. Every student has early learned that he could not afford to neglect it. Even to the “general reader,” unacquainted with the mysteries of strategy and tactics, who in the darkness of his ignorance cherishes the error that war is fortuitous fighting loosely directed to results by physical courage and the will of God, the history of these brilliant operations can hardly fail, when lucidly related, to prove interesting and charming beyond the power of fiction. As related by the mere “historian,” with his port-fire and blood-fumes to emotionalize the situation, it is doubtless as dull reading as the literature of the heart generally. What, in brief, was this remarkable campaign? 

In the month of March, 1796, Bonaparte, a boy of twenty-six, untried in independent command, was entrusted with an army of some forty thousand badly clad and inadequately supplied men, with which to invade Italy. He was opposed by Beaulieu, with a well equipped force, Austrians and Sardinians, of fifty thousand. The Alps and Apennines were between. Bonaparte began active operations on the eleventh day of less four days, with forces averaging forty-six thousand opposed to forces averaging sixty-one thousand he had in fifteen pitched battles routed one Sardinian army and the six Austrian armies successively sent to drive him out of Italy, only to be driven out themselves. His losses during the campaign in killed, wounded and prisoners were about equal to the numbers of his army at the outset. The losses that he inflicted upon the enemy were no fewer than one hundred and twenty thousand men and vast quantities of material. 

How were these astonishing feats of arms performed? Not by the superior courage of his soldiers, for the Austrians then, as they are now, were a brave and warlike people. Not by the “will of God,” whose agency is to the military eye nowhere discernible, and whose political predilections are still unknown. Nor were these admirable results due to “luck,” the “favors of fortune,” the “magic” of genius. They were brought about by the very commonplace method of knowing his business thoroughly and applying the knowledge. There is nothing miraculous in that. It is an open secret which Napoleon himself has explained: 

“In war nothing is accomplished but by calculation. During a campaign, whatever is not profoundly considered in all its details is without result. Every enterprise should be systematically conducted; chance alone cannot bring success.” 

I should be sorry to be understood as affirming the possibility of such military success as Napoleon’s to the mere student of military art, devoid of Napoleon’s genius. On the other hand, Napoleon’s genius would have been futile without his mastery of the art. Military art is no exception to art in general; for eminent achievement is required great natural aptitude, plus a comprehensive and minute knowledge of the business in hand. Given these two requisites in the commander, and the army is multiplied by two. For many generations, doubtless, the French will boast of Montenotte, Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, and Wagram; but every intelligent soldier’s view is that on all these historic fields there was but one victor. To quote his words again: 

“It was not the Roman army that conquered Gaul, but Caesar; it was not the Carthaginian army which, at the gates of Rome, made the Eternal City tremble, but Hannibal; it was not the Macedonian army that marched as far as the Indus, but Alexander; it was not the Prussian army that defended Prussia for seven years against the three most powerful states of Europe, but Frederick.” 

The contrary view—the theory of the insignificance of the individual—so persistently urged a generation ago by Mill, and so eagerly accepted by the young philosophers of his period, derives no support from military history. Tolstoi, it is true, is in full, if somewhat belated, advocacy of it, and professes to find confirmation in the events that he relates in his military novels. And it must be confessed that, as he relates them, they indubitably do seem to justify his view that leaders do not truly lead. With the splendid irresponsibility of the fictionist, he shows that the French people having incurred, somehow, a blind, reasonless impulse to go gadding about Europe, caught up Napoleon, as a stream bursting out of its banks might catch up a sheep or a log, and pushed him along before them. A careful study of the progress through Italy will, I think, show that at least he did something toward reducing the friction incident to the movement. 

Anyone really believing in unimportance of the individual must be prepared to affirm that a chance bullet finding a lodgment in the brain of the commander of the Army of Italy at Montenotte would have made but little difference in the conduct of the campaign and the later history of Europe; and any one prepared to affirm this may justly boast himself impregnable to argument, through induration of the understanding. The history of the military operations that we have been considering has never been better told than in a book entitled Napoleon Bonaparte’s First Campaign—it should be remembered that he was then simply General Bonaparte. The author of the book is Lieutenant Herbert H. Sargent, of the Army. Nothing could well exceed the clarity with which the author has told his story; and nothing that I have seen in military literature is more admirable than his professional but untechnical comments on its successive stages Everything is made so clear that the benighted civilian of the anti-West Point sort, the fearfully and wonderfully bepistoled swashbuckler of the frontier, the gilded whiskey-soldier of the National Guard and even the self-taught strategist of the press can comprehend it all without a special revelation from Heaven. Those conscious of a desire, however vague and formless, to acquire such a knowledge of military science and art as will give them a keener interest in “war news” that is not “bluggy” than they ever had in that which reeks with gore and “multiplies the slain” will find in Lieutenant Sargent a guide, philosopher and friend for whom they cannot be sufficiently thankful to the God that bestowed him.

 

This reprint of Bierce’s military book review is via Tom Streissguth’s site The Archive of American Journalism Ambrose Bierce Collection:

http://www.historicjournalism.com/ambrose-bierce-1.html

 

Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife cover

Although only four years out of a long and productive life, the Civil War proved to be a pivotal period for Ambrose Bierce, one which affected both his later career and his personality. Due for release this August.  If your local bookstore does not stock it, or won’t back order it, stand up on a table in the middle of the store, call them poltroons and jackanapes and then in a loud voice recommend to all its patrons that they order it from Amazon and that their store’s coffee is made from monkey-poop.                  

Posted in Ambrose Bierce, Ambrose Bierce Book Reviewer, Bierce on Miltary Genius, Civil War History, Napoleon Bonaparte, The American Civil War, The Napoleonic Wars | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mary Lincoln’s Big Sister: Elizabeth Edwards

Here is an interesting article about Elizabeth Todd Edwards from Feather Foster, Presidential Historian. Elizabeth is often overlooked by Lincoln historians, yet she played an important role in Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln’s lives.

Presidential History Blog

Elizabeth Todd Edwards was the oldest of Mary Lincoln’s siblings.

The Todd Family

Robert and Eliza Todd of Lexington, KY had six children who lived to adulthood. Mary was the fourth. Eliza died when Mary was only seven; eighteen months later, Robert remarried, and the family dynamic was changed forever with the arrival of a new stepmother – followed by eight more little Todd offspring.

edwards_eliz_ihl_large Elizabeth Todd Edwards, Mary Lincoln’s eldest sister, as a young Springfield matron.

Elizabeth Todd (1813-1888), the eldest, was the quintessential prototype of the “first-born syndrome.” She took on the responsibility of quasi-mothering her younger siblings, and escaping the strained household at sixteen by marriage to Ninian Edwards, Jr., the son of the first governor of Illinois. She moved to Springfield, its new capital, with a goal of creating a social scene befitting a state capital – practically from scratch. In the early 1830s, it was…

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EllSWORTH’S GHOST: The Phantom Zouave

Elmer_Ellsworth_in_National_Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4388 lge

Colonel Ellsworth’s portrait via the National Portrait Gallery.  His close association with Lincoln and the Union cause, as well as the manner of his death, made him an early martyr for the Union cause.

Today’s article was originally published in our sister blog about unexplained phenomena of the South, Dixie Spirits, itself based on my book by the same name.  In that tome we investigated the Custis-Lee Mansion, also known as Arlington House, which still stands near Alexandria, Virginia, but we did not explore the many other Civil War related ghosts and haunts of Alexandria proper. Today let’s take a quick look at one well known Civil War haunted down in the city proper.

 

They say the first casualty of war is the truth. That may well be true, but in the early days of the war, neither side was much concerned with truth, but more with justifying their own actions, as well as portraying the opposite side as the aggressor. Regardless, by the time that Lincoln was inaugurated, the time for rational discussion was already over and the Secessionists moved quickly to surround Washington, DC in the weeks following his installation as President. Lincoln could call for 75,000 troops—but actually organizing, equipping and fielding them to defend the capitol was quite another thing.

 

The original zouaves were Algerians, recruited by the French to serve in their army. Their elan in battle became legendary and many "zouave" regiments were formed during the Civil War in emulation of them.

The original zouaves were Algerians, recruited by the French to serve in their army. Their elan in battle became legendary and many “zouave” regiments were formed during the Civil War in emulation of them.

Before the war, volunteer militia units were quite the rage in the US. In the antebellum era it was fun to be a soldier and many volunteer groups donned colorful costumes, learned to drill like real soldiers and above all, attract the ladies with their displays of martial virtue. Some militia groups developed a reputation for their skill at close order drill and toured the country performing for the public, especially those units who fashioned themselves as zouaves. The original zouaves had been recruited by the French in Algeria and wore colorful oriental style uniforms, but over the years their ethnic makeup was of less importance than their reputation for élan and aggressiveness.

Recruiting for a Zouave regiment, NYC in 1861. While considered elite units, the zouaves could also be quite rowdy when not in combat.

Recruiting for a Zouave regiment, NYC in 1861. While considered elite units, the zouaves could also be quite rowdy when not in combat.

One of the more famous such show units was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth’s Cadet Zouaves, originally based out of Chicago. Although he was never able to get into West Point, Ellsworth had studied military tactics with a passion and his fencing instructor in Chicago had been an actual French zouave. Ellsworth was a close personal friend of Lincoln’s and when the call went out for volunteers to suppress the rebellion, Ellsworth wasted no time forming a regiment. He went to New York City, sent out a call, seeking out firemen in particular, and within an amazingly brief time received more than double the number of volunteers than he needed. Although rough around the edges and short on discipline, the 11th NY “Fire” Zouaves were shipped south in short order.

The Marshall House as it looked in 1861. Note the tall flagpole on the roof of the building. Its owner was a brutal slave owner and fire-breathing Secessionist.

The Marshall House as it looked early in the War. Note the tall flagpole on the roof of the building. Its owner was a brutal slave owner and fire-breathing Secessionist.

When, on May 23, Virginia officially seceded from the Union, Ellsworth’s regiment was ordered across the Potomac to secure Alexandria and Arlington Heights on the Virginia side of the river. While securing the city, Ellsworth noticed that a Rebel flag was still flying over the Marshall House, a local inn. The flag had been something of a sore point for weeks, being visible from across the river and symbol of Lincoln’s inability to preserve the Union even within the shadow of the capital. Not willing to allow this act of defiance to go unanswered, Ellsworth personally climbed up to the top of the Marshall House and tore down the offending flag from the large flagpole on the roof. As he was descending the stairs, however, the hotel owner, one James Jackson, suddenly appeared without warning and shot and killed Ellsworth with a shotgun at close quarters, for which action he was immediately rewarded with his own death at the hands of Ellsworth’s men. It was still early in the war and the death of a single officer, such as Ellsworth, was still notable news in the North. Ellsworth being a close associate of Lincoln amplified the importance of his death. Soon Ellsworth was hailed as a martyr—the first of many—to the cause of preserving the Union.

The murder of Colonel Ellsworth. His ghost was sighted in the Marshall House on repeated occasions over the years.

The murder of Colonel Ellsworth. His ghost was sighted in the Marshall House on repeated occasions over the years.

In the ensuing months and years following his death, rumors began to circulate that, although dead, Colonel Ellsworth was not really gone from the Marshall House. Some claimed to see him removing the Rebel flag from the rooftop of the hotel, others swore they saw his shade on its stairs, where he was murdered. It was also said that the ghost of the fire-breathing Secesh James Jackson also haunted the same stairwell in the old inn. The Marshall House and its ghosts stood on the same spot until the 1950’s, when it was torn down as part of a modernization trend in the city. Normally, that would be the end of the story, but apparently it is not.

Today the Monaco Hotel, a nice “boutique hotel,” occupies the same space where the old inn stood. It has all the amenities one expects in a modern hotel, plus one more: it is haunted. There are those who claim that it is the restless shades of the Civil War who still roam the new hotel. Sometimes nothing is actually seen, but people claim to hear the sound of gunshots out in the hallways, as if the Rebel hotel owner and the zouaves who killed him are still having it out in the new building. On one occasion recently, a couple was riding the elevator when it unexpectedly opened at the fourth floor; no guests were there but they saw a glowing light appear on the wall opposite, then disappear. Later, the visitors found they were not alone in having uncanny experiences there.

Some visitors allege the modern hotel on the site of the old Marshall still holds the ghost of Ellsworth and perhaps of his murderer.

Some visitors allege the modern hotel on the site of the old Marshall still holds the ghost of Ellsworth and perhaps of his murderer.

 

 

According to some, it is the Monaco’s sixth floor that is most haunted, which could be a reflection of Ellsworth’s flag taking venture, although the reports are vague on that score. Regardless, the hotel embraces the site’s haunted heritage and in the Fall offers a “Ghosts of Alexandria Family Package” which includes discounted room rate, a stay on the “haunted sixth” plus tickets for the local ghost tour of the town. Not a bad deal and maybe Colonel Ellsworth will put in a personal appearance, but don’t hold your breath.

For more Civil War ghosts see: Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and for more on General Lee’s Arlington ghosts, plus other famous Southern ghosts, go to Dixie SpiritsDue out this summer will be the long awaited story of Ambrose’s Civil War career with the Army of the Cumberland,  Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife.

Dixie Spirits via Sourcebooks

Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.

Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.

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The Long Road to Secession: Part IV The Nullification Crisis

The US lost the War of 1812 but won the Battle of New Orleans, and so claimed victory.  The battle also assured Andrew Jackson's political career.

The US lost the War of 1812 but won the Battle of New Orleans, and so claimed victory. The battle also assured Andrew Jackson’s political career.

As we have seen previously, beginning with the very foundation of the nation, there have been successive movements to split apart the Union, none of which had anything to do with slavery per se.  In this installment we shall look at one episode which had a direct bearing on the 1860 Secession Crisis, yet which did not directly impinge on the issue of slavery versus abolition.  This was the Nullification Crisis.

After the War of 1812, the country entered a period of renewed national unity, which some historians have labeled as an age of Nationalism.  Although the United States had done poorly in the war, Andrew Jackson’s spectacular victory at New Orleans gave the country the perception that we had actually won it.  To foster American industry, Congress had instituted tariffs to prevent foreign, mainly English, imports.  The Tariff of 1828 was particularly stiff in restricting imports, earning it the sobriquet, “The Tariff of Abominations.”  Many in the South opposed the tariff, but so did many New England merchants.  In South Carolina in particular, opposition to this tariff was very strong.  When Andrew Jackson ran for President in 1828, many in South Carolina and elsewhere hoped that Jackson would repeal the hated import duties.

John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, was the leading proponent of the Theory of Nullification, which proclaimed the rights of the states as superior to those of the Federal government.  The Nullification Crisis 0f 1832 was a predecessor to the Secession Crisis of 1860

John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, was the leading proponent of the Theory of Nullification, which proclaimed the rights of the states as superior to those of the Federal government. The Nullification Crisis 0f 1832 was a predecessor to the Secession Crisis of 1860

When, after taking office, Jackson did not take immediate action to repeal the tariff, the radicals in South Carolina became even more militant in their opposition.  Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned his office to run for the Senate, where he felt he could more effectively oppose the tariff.  President Jackson did in fact pass a reduced tariff in 1832, which had the support of New England and much of the South, but it was not enough for either John C. Calhoun or the radicals in South Carolina.

Here’s where the situation grew from a simple political dispute into a potential threat to the Union.  John C. Calhoun proposed the Theory of Nullification: that the individual states had the right to overrule any Federal law which that state considered unconstitutional.  In essence, if accepted, nullification meant that no law passed by Congress would be able to be enforced, returning the country to the same chaos which had caused the downfall of the Confederation government.  The separate and individual states were to be the ultimate arbiters of what was and was not constitutional, not the Supreme Court.  Nullification flew in the face of both the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, as well as Article III, which gave the Federal judiciary the right to rule on constitutionality.

A less than flattering portrayal of Calhoun and where his political ambitions would lead.

A less than flattering portrayal of Calhoun and where his political ambitions would lead.

Andrew Jackson, it should be borne in mind, was a slave holder and was not opposed to reducing tariffs to the benefit of the planters and shipping merchants; but he was also a nationalist and felt a sense of betrayal by the actions of his former vice president, who was the main proponent of what was tantamount to an act of rebellion.  Previously, as the controversy was still brewing, at a Democratic Party celebration in honor of Jefferson’s birthday, Jackson had famously proclaimed, “Our Federal Union: It must be preserved.”

South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification in November, 1832, unilaterally repealing the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and the state began to make military preparations to resist the Federal government.  In response, in December of 1832, President Jackson issued the “Proclamation to South Carolina” as his response to the Ordinance of Nullification, which categorically refuted Carolina’s claims.

Another anti-nullification political cartoon, showing the English John Bull waiting to devour a fragmented "Union Pie."

Another anti-nullification political cartoon, showing the English John Bull waiting to devour a fragmented “Union Pie.”

Andrew Jackson was in a high rage at both Calhoun and the radicals in South Carolina; Congress passed the Force Bill, which authorized the President to use military force against South Carolina to compel it to submit to Federal authority.  Jackson threatened to personally lead an army into the state to enforce his will and hang all the state legislators who had passed the rebellious acts.  But at the same time, Congress also passed the Tariff of 1833, which substantially reduced the import duties to a level which even the radicals in South Carolina could live with.

In the end a military solution was averted and South Carolina backed down, although they continued to argue their right to nullify Federal laws.  In retrospect, the Nullification Crisis was very similar to the situation which existed during the Secession Crisis of late 1860 and early 1861; but there were important differences.  As in 1860, it was South Carolina that was the most militant and aggressive in seeking to undermine Federal authority; but unlike 1860, none of the other Southern states sided with Carolina in the crisis, even though there were many in the South who disliked the high tariffs.

A political cartoon from the time of the Civil War, comparing the Nullification Crisis to the Secession Crisi and Civil War.

A political cartoon from the time of the Civil War, comparing the Nullification Crisis to the Secession Crisi and Civil War.

Moreover, it was not strictly a North versus South issue, as there were many in New England who were equally unhappy about the protectionist tariffs.  On another point, although South Carolina talked of defying the Federal government to enforce its “rights” in truth they were not militarily prepared to do so.  In 1860, contrary to all their talk about being the offended party and of Lincoln’s aggression, South Carolina had in fact been secretly stockpiling arms and ammunition, including heavy artillery, for a decade or more.

The Nullification Crisis was not directly about slavery; it was about free trade versus protectionism.  But in pursing their militant theories of states rights, Calhoun and other Carolinians of his ilk were setting the groundwork for the later Secession Crisis.  Slavery was not the issue at stake in this fight, although it was lurking in the background, to be sure.  The Age of Jackson was considered a period where Nationalism was triumphant over sectionalism; indeed, even the though Jackson was from Tennessee, at this time Tennessee was still considered The West and not The South, a perception which would change after he left office.

An overly optimistic view of how Secession would be "exploded" by the Federal government.  Civil War was averted in 1832, but not in 1860.

An overly optimistic view of how Secession would be “exploded” by the Federal government. Civil War was averted in 1832, but not in 1860.

Following the Jacksonian era, the country would increasingly divide itself over the issue of slave versus free.  But the notion that one or more states had the right to go their own way was not fundamentally tied to the issue of slavery; it was very much tied to whose economic interests were threatened at any given time.  Or, to quote James Carville: “It’s the Economy Stupid.”

In 1860, despite what many Secessionists tried to claim in their ordinances of Secession, and which modern writers have taken out of context, Lincoln had no intention of abolishing slavery, nor did he run on that issue in the presidential election.  Nor could Lincoln have abolished slavery even if he had wanted to on taking office in 1861; President Lincoln was simply too good a lawyer to think so.  Slavery was built into the Constitution and it would take Constitutional amendments to abolish it—which only came about because of the hubris of the Southern States and the “Fire-Breathing” Secessionists in South Carolina and elsewhere, who goaded the South into rebellion and war.

Ambrose Bierce's experiences with the Army of the Cumberland, due out Summer of 2016.

Ambrose Bierce’s experiences with the Army of the Cumberland, due out Summer of 2016.

The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Schiffer)

The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Schiffer)

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War (HarperCollins). True uncanny tales of the Civil War.

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War (HarperCollins). True uncanny tales of the Civil War.

For more esoteric and interesting aspects of the Civil War, see The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.  Coming out later this year is Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, an in depth look at the Civil War in the western theater and the famous author’s participation in it.

 

Posted in Abolitonism, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Causes of the Civil War, Civil War History, Great American Presidents, John C. Calhoun, The Nullification Crisis | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment