The Long, Long, Road to Secession: New England

 

Hartford Convention

The Hartford Convention was the Northeast’s early move towards seceding from the Union. Fortunately the War of 1812 before Secessionist sentiment grew any stronger.

As noted in our previous essay, the notion that slavery “caused” the Civil War seems to be in vogue again these days as a matter of political dogma, although any serious historian of the era would, or should, know better.  Journalist Ta-Nihisi Coates, influential editor at The Atlantic, in particular has pushed this as the sole cause of the Civil War.  No one can deny that slavery was an underlying cause or that many leaders of the Secession movement cited its preservation as a motive for dragging the country into war.  But that is a far cry from saying that it was THE cause.

In the previous installment I argued, rather, that it was the economic system of the South—the Plantation Economy—that was the root cause, of which the enslavement of Negroes was but a means to an end.  If good ole’ Artistotle were analyzing this, I’ll wager he would identify Negro slavery as a “formal cause” not as the material cause, the efficient cause and especially not the final cause.  An economic oligarchy—at base a very small number of tremendously wealthy planters—had control of the South’s political and economic life and managed to impose their self interest over the greater good of the majority of its inhabitants and the good of the country.

But even the economics of the Southern plantation system was not the sole cause of the Civil War.  The road to Secession was a long and convoluted process, much of it irrational and based on perceptions rather than facts.  As I noted in the previous essay, Great Britain too had a substantial economic investment in Negro slavery, especially in the West Indies; yet when it finally abolished slavery, there was no rebellion by the sugar plantation owners in the Indies, no assertions of independence, no bloodshed.

In truth, the ideology of Secessionism in the US is far older than the debate over slavery and in this and following essays we will take a brief look at previous secession movements in the United States, most of which had nothing to do with slavery.

A Boxing Match

“John Bull” gets the worst of it from “Brother Jonathan” in the Boxing Match in this rather optimistic view of the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 has sometimes been described as the “Second American Revolution” as it was perceived by many as an effort to throw off the yoke of British dominion that many still perceived the country to be under.  The western states were hot for war, looking towards expansion to the west and northwest and to many leaders in the burgeoning west the British to blame for much of their troubles with the Indians, both to the South and to the North along the western frontier.

Indeed, in the northwest the British had encouraged Tecumseh and his followers and even appointed the Shawnee leader a “brigadier” giving him a shiny gorget and a redcoat officer’s uniform, complete with epaulettes.

3-tecumseh-1768-1813-granger

The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, adorned in his British general’s uniform and medal.

 

There was also the issue of the impressments of American sailors by the British Navy.  Employment by American merchant fleets was better paying and the treatment of sailors far better than in His Majesty’s Navy, where commoners were treated as less than dirt by the officers, who were often as sadistic as they were incompetent.  To make up for the lack of willing recruits, the Royal Navy often resorted to stopping ships on the high seas and stealing as many sailors as they needed to make up a full ship’s complement.  The British government justified this by arguing that they were merely drafting English citizens into military service.  Since most Americans had been citizens of the British Empire before the Revolution, there was an element of truth in this argument, although the US disputed the claim.

 

As a note of caution, however, I should point out that historians still haggle over the causes of the War of 1812 just as they do over the Civil War and there were a number of motives at work in the period leading up to the war as well.   But our present interest is not so much in the causes of this war as one of the consequences.

Not everyone in the US was eager for war with Britain, no matter the provocations.  In particular, the New England merchants were less than pleased with the disruption the war was causing their trade with England.  New England may have led the movement towards independence in 1776, but once independence was achieved, the thrifty Puritan merchants of the northeast were quite happy to trade with the London merchants and visa versa.  The wealthy merchant traders of New York and New England may have resented the impressments of sailors as high handed, but they resented the embargos Presidents Jefferson and Madison had placed on trade far more and then, when the US declared war in 1812, the British blockaded American ports, which hit them in a very sensitive spot—their pocket books.

Leap or no Leap color

“Leap or No Leap” criticizing the Hartford Convention’s disloyalty and implying that they were actually in league with the British king.

As the war dragged on and their profits diminished, the New England shippers and merchants became quite vocal in their opposition to a war which not only benefited them nothing, but which the US seemed to be losing.

The Democratic-Republicans (today just the Democratic Party) had been the party of laissez faire economics and small government—except that no sooner was Jefferson elected President than he started wielding Federal power like a club.

The Federalist Party, in contrast, had originally been the party which had advocated a strong Federal government and policies that involved government intervention in the private sector.  But in the face of Jefferson and Madison’s adverse trade policies and then the declaration of war, the Federalists of the northeast became more and more opposed to Federal policies.  New England governors even refused to supply militia regiments to fight the war with the British.  Things came to a head in 1814, when delegates from New England attended the Hartford Convention.

As early as 1804, some New England Federalists had discussed secession from the Union if the national government became too oppressive.  By 1814, many in New England and not few in New York came to regard the “small governent” Democratic-Republican Party as oppressive and that the Northeast’s best solution was secession from a Union dominated by the South and the West. The New England governors and legislatures called for a regional convention, ostensibly to propose constitutional amendments to protect their region’s interests and to make arrangements for their own military defense against the enemy.  In theory the “enemy” was the British, but implicitly many New Englanders were viewing the Federal government as more an enemy than the British.

DetailHartfordConvetionLeap2

Detail of “Leap or No Leap” making clear the New Englander’s economic motives for seceding from the Union.

 

The amendments that were proposed by the Hartford Convention seemed more aimed at galling the opposing party than ensuring any basic liberties.  For one thing, they wished to abolish the “3/5th Compromise”  which gave the Southern states a disproportionate share of representatives in the House of Representatives.  In terms of the original Constitution, the Southern states were fine with regarding Negro slaves as people (or at least 3/5 of a person) so long as it gave them political clout.  Another amendment would have prohibited not only a person serving more than one term as President, but also prohibiting someone from the same state succeeding him—clearly aimed at Virginia, from whence most of the Presidents had come up to that point.  Other amendments would have restricted the Federal government’s ability to declare war and impose embargoes.

The delegates met in secret from December 14, 1814 to January 5; no notes were kept and even the votes were not recorded.  It is believed that secession was actively discussed in these meetings, even if their official proposals made no mention of it.  Much of what went on during these sessions was very hush-hush and even to some fellow New Englanders their activities were regarded as treasonous.  In the end their activities came to naught: by the time three commissioners from Massachusetts reached Washington, news of Andrew Jackson’s famous victory at New Orleans and the peace treaty—The Treaty of Ghent—had both reached Washington.

 

Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans made Jackson the hero of the war, even though it was fought after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed.

 

In the celebrations over Andrew Jackson’s famous victory, most people in the country forgot the string of defeats the US had suffered—Generals Hull’s and Winchester’s humiliating defeats in the Northwest territories and General Wilkinson’s bungled Canadian invasion.  Even though Jackson fought his battle after the peace was signed, in the public mind he “won” the war.

Raison River Massacre

“Remember the Raison” was the war cry after General Winchester surrendered his army and the wounded prisoners were murdered in cold blood.  Today nobody remembers this and the other defeats American troops suffered during the war.

 

With the return of peace, trade between America and Great Britain was restored, the Napoleonic Wars were over and the British no longer needed to impress seamen, and the Federalist Party, its reputation now blackened by accusations of disloyalty, extremism and advocacy of Secessionism, had been discredited.

But had the war not ended when it did and the Madison administration summarily rejected the convention’s proposals (which they were fully expected to do), who knows what would have happened next?

 

Much of New England and perhaps even the state of New York might have lined up against the South and West in a bitter sectional conflict—a conflict which had nothing to do with slavery, but everything to do with economics.

Secret_Journal_of_the_Hartford_Convention

“Secret Journal of the Hartford Convention.”

 

 

For more about lesser known aspects of the Civil War, see Ghosts and Haunts of The Civil War and The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

Paranormal Presidency cover   suitable for online use 96dpi

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5

 

Posted in Abolitonism, Causes of the Civil War, Civil War Historians, Civil War History, Secessionism, Slavery, Ta-Nehesi Coates, The American Civil War, The Hartford Convention | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHY SLAVERY WAS NOT THE REAL CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR

The Ante Bellum Plantation System was a highly commercial economic enterprise, closer to a factory than a family farm.  It was above all an economic system with slaves as the main form of capital.

The Ante Bellum Plantation System was a highly commercial economic enterprise, closer to a factory than a family farm. It was above all an economic system with slaves as the main form of capital.

Ever since a deranged racial terrorist burst into a Black church in Charleston last year and murdered the people there, politicos of all stripes have been on a iconoclastic Jihad against symbols of the Civil War throughout the South and elsewhere.  In addition, self anointed vigilantes have gone about vandalizing public monuments connected with Confederate veterans and similar symbols of the Civil War.  Just recently Ta-Nehisi Coates published an op-ed article in the Atlantic on why the Civil War was all about slavery and, by implication, nothing else.  While Mr. Coates was, as usual, eloquent in his argument and cited numerous period quotes to buttress his argument, it set me pondering this much debated topic once again and, especially in light of MLK Day, it is relevant to take a look at this issue yet again.

First off, as a disclaimer, let me reiterate that the Charleston massacre was an abominable act; that Governor Nikki Haley was entirely correct in removing the Confederate battle flag from the flag pole on state grounds, that slavery in 1860 was a Bad Thing—and still is—and that racism in all its forms is not just morally wrong, but a spiritual illness that should be actively combated in society.  Nor, for that matter, do I think that Secession was either a necessary or good thing in 1860 and the neo-Secessionists of today are a dangerous and delusional fringe group that should be taken very seriously.  A historian’s first responsibility is to the truth; part of that responsibility consists, not of simply regurgitating quotes to prove one’s a priori assumptions and still less to simply parrot the assumptions of the current prevailing historical dogma, but to go beyond what was said at the time and try to understand the underlying factors that led people to act in certain ways, for good or ill.

Let me just say that the road to Secession was a long one which really stretches back to the earliest days of the Republic and that, yes, slavery was a very important factor in the long process that led to the outbreak of Civil War.  But that is a far cry from saying that slavery, in and of itself, caused the Civil War.

It would take a very large volume to detail all the factors that led to the Secession Crisis of 1860 and certainly the debate over slavery would play a very large part of that book.  But other countries outlawed slavery and did not go to war over it—notably Great Britain—although during our war, the British establishment was quite active in aiding and abetting the slave states in their rebellion.  In fact, far more Black slaves were transported to the Caribbean and South America than to the US, which fact is conveniently overlooked by most historians.  So Great Britain’s investment in slavery in the Caribbean was quite substantial–yet no rebellion or civil war when it was finally abolished.  Conversely, when the colony of Georgia was first founded in the early 1700’s, slavery was banned as its founders did want the colonists to be dependent on an economy based on human bondage.  The truth was far more complex than most Americans realize and nostrums and stereotypes abound.  Be that as it may, let me limit this present essay to analyzing just one aspect of this Gordion’s Knot of causality leading to the Civil War and try to show why slavery was not THE cause of war.

Let us deal with the North to start with.  In 1860, Lincoln did not run on a platform of abolishing slavery; he ran on a plank which would have prohibited the extension of slavery into the territories not yet admitted to the Union—two very different things.  Lincoln, although opposed to slavery on moral grounds, was not an Abolitionist, although as a good politician he actively solicited their votes.  At best one could label Abraham Lincoln as a “gradualist”—to try to slowly wean the nation away from the “Peculiar Institution” and more or less starve it to death.  Even after war broke out, Lincoln only came to emancipation very cautiously: several more militant generals who tried to free slaves prematurely were severely reprimanded by Lincoln early in the war.  He stated on several occasions to the effect that if to preserve the Union he would maintain slavery, he would not hesitate to do so.  Even after embracing emancipation, Lincoln continued to entertain various schemes to ship freed Negroes back to Africa, rather than allow them to remain as citizens in the US.

In retrospect, President Lincoln was entirely correct to go slow: had Lincoln asked the North to go to war in April of 1861 to free the slaves, the response among northern whites would been have been an overwhelming no.  The truth is that Abolitionists, while very vocal and politically powerful in many states, were a very small minority in 1860.  Preserving the Union; rallying to the flag; fighting Southern rebellion; northern patriotism; these were all important motives to go war for most northerners—and even some southerners.

Although postwar Lost Cause propaganda glossed over it, the truth is that in many parts of the South there was strong anti-Secessionist sentiment that over the course of the war turned violent.  Nor were Southern loyalists at all motivated by sentiments of abolishing slavery; many were virulently racist themselves and detested not only the Southern plantation owners, but their slaves as well.

Fernando Wood was Mayor of New York City at the start of the War.  As a shipping magnate his sympathies were with the South and proposed the city secede from the Union.

Fernando Wood was Mayor of New York City at the start of the War. As a shipping magnate his sympathies were with the South and proposed the city secede from the Union.

In the North, moreover, there were pockets of strong sympathy for the Confederate cause: throughout the Ohio Valley there was strong pro-Secessionist sentiment in southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; similarly in ostensibly Free States along the Mississippi there were pro-Confederate pockets.  For that matter, the northeast also had its Rebel sympathizers: the Mayor of New York, Fernando Wood, proposed that New York City secede from the Union and there were Yankee factory owners in New England who were none too happy that the supply of cotton for their textile mills was cut off by the Union blockade.

Although slavery existed from the beginning of the first colonies, the nature of slavery in America evolved over time.  In the Jamestown Colony and elsewhere, there co-existed several forms of unfree labor, of which slavery was only one.  Far more numerous in raw numbers were indentured servants; although de facto treated like slaves (or worse) their term of servitude was only for a limited number of years.  In fact the first 33 Blacks to land in Jamestown were not slaves but indentured servants.  Nor was slavery exclusively limited to Negroes.  During the reign of the usurper Oliver Cromwell in England, the Puritan ‘reign of saints’ carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Ireland; English troops would descend on Irish villages and massacre everyone over the age of 12 and then send the survivors as slaves to the West Indies, which why today one frequently finds Jamaican Americans with names like O’Brian or O’Hara.  Although, like modern Holocaust deniers, you will find English apologists who deny the genocidal policies of Oliver Cromwell and other English leaders, the truth is that whites were often enslaved as well in the early years.

The northern colonies practiced slavery as well as the southern ones at the time of the American Revolution, although by that time Black slavery was already well entrenched in the South.  Many of the founding fathers were aware of the incongruity of having slavery while proclaiming freedom; but they were men of the Enlightenment and sincerely believed that in time rationalism and humanism would lead to the end of slavery.  Rice and tobacco cultivation at that time made up most of the large plantation agriculture and while they were economically important to the southern states, small farms had far less need of slaves, especially in the more mountainous regions of the South.  Cotton was a small part of Southern agriculture, mainly because it was so time consuming to process.  That all changed with the invention of the Cotton Gin.  It was this invention by Yankee inventor Eli Whitney that revolutionized the Southern economy in the early nineteenth century.  Large plantations, owned by a very small number of landowners, many of them absentee owners, could efficiently raised large crops of cotton, a raw material in high demand in both the northeast and also in England, where the Industrial Revolution was in full swing.  These were a far cry from the small “Yeomen Farmers” that Thomas Jefferson had envisioned as the basis for his ideal of democratic agrarian republic.  In truth the plantation system was big business, a form of commercialized agriculture—Agribusiness—at its very worst and it contaminated every other institution it touched.

If one so chose, I’m willing to wager one could track the growth of ever more restrictive slave legislation with the growth of the cotton economy in the deep South, as well as the growing ideology of Blacks as an inferior race who needed to be kept in permanent submission.  The growth of racist ideology and of racism was a necessary corollary to the rise of King Cotton.  The growing numbers of slaves, needed to work what were essentially factory farms, spawned increasing fear of blacks, punctuated by occasional slave revolts.  The official outlawing of the transatlantic slave trade did nothing to slow its growth and was more honored in its violation than observance.

By the world view of the Southern plantation owner, Abolitionists rabble rousers were not just a threat to public safety, they were a threat to their very way of life.  Destroy slavery and the elite who owned most of the wealth in the South would be impoverished—or so they believed.

The Ante Bellum economy was based on the cotton plantation economy; an economy controlled by a small minority of politically powerful landowners owners--the  "Slaveocracy"

The Ante Bellum economy was based on the cotton plantation economy; an economy controlled by a small minority of politically powerful landowners owners–the
“Slaveocracy”

A crusading journalist in Great Britain, who wrote for the New York Tribune from 1852 to 1862, understood this very well and gave a name to it: he dubbed it “the Slaveocracy.”  It was a small group of very wealthy planters who became fabulously wealthy on the enslavement of Negroes who dominated the politics of the South and even of the Nation as a whole.  It was, as the name implies, an oligarchy based on slavery.  According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia: “Slaveholders controlled not only the best land and the vast majority of personal property in the state but also the state political system. In 1850 and 1860 more than two-thirds of all state legislators were slaveholders. More striking, almost a third of the state legislators were planters.”

This economic elite controlled the state legislatures, the newspapers and just about everything else in the South; moreover the dominance of the plantation economy in the South also meant that free whites who did not own large plantations were at a severe disadvantage both as farmers and as laborers.  It meant that you were either very, very wealthy or very poor, with a small group in the middle dependent on the slave masters.  No wonder that in many places like Appalachia hatred of slaves went hand in hand with hatred of their masters.

Sherman's march was aimed at destroying the economic base of the South--its plantation economy.

Sherman’s march was aimed at destroying the economic base of the South–its plantation economy.

In 1992, James Carville famously advised up and coming Presidential candidate Bill Clinton that it was “the economy stupid;” In 2008 it was also “the economy stupid” and today it is still the same thing.  Similarly, in 1860 it was also the economy, not States’ Rights, tariffs, or at base even slavery in itself, although many at the time believed it was.  White Folks did not going about kidnapping Negroes from Africa just to get their jollies; the slave system was a by-product of the plantation economy, not a cause.  In turn, racism was an ideology which grew to justify that vile yet profitable economic system.  It was the Slaveocracy’s stranglehold on the economy of the South and the politics of the nation which really precipitated war.  So, although to Americans of African descent it is understandable that they should be fixated on the most important aspect of their own personal history, if we are really going to understand what caused nearly three quarters of a million of Americans to die in the Civil War and the event whose after effects still dog us today, we need to look more deeply to this key underlying factor and its lingering after effects on American society.

A Mississippi cotton planter and his field hands.  Although free in theory, Blacks were de facto subservient due to the Jim Crow laws of the late 19th century.  Note the planter's shotgun.

A Mississippi cotton planter and his field hands ca. 1908. Although free in theory, Blacks were de facto subservient due to the Jim Crow laws of the late 19th century. Note the planter’s shotgun.

There is another lesson to be learned here: Oligarchy and Democracy are mutually exclusive political-economic systems.  The concentration of wealth into the hands of the few is an immanent threat, not only to Democracy, but to the peace and prosperity of the nation.  Let us hope it does not take another civil war to finally learn that lesson.

 

For more about the Civil War, read Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, Causes of the Civil War, Slavery, Ta-Nehesi Coates | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home is the Hunter: Christmas, 1865. A Civil War Christmas

"Merry Christmas to All" Thomas Nast's pictorial celebration of Christmas, 1865

“Merry Christmas to All” Thomas Nast’s pictorial celebration of Christmas, 1865

Christmas, 1865.  The fighting was over, the armies disbanded and all over the nation men were returning to hearth and home.  When the war began the country was an agrarian republic of dispersed and disputing communities; by war’s end the nation was an industrial giant only beginning to flex its might, bound together from coast to coast by a band of steel rails.  While most folk still lived on the farm at war’s end, changes were already in the air.

Our Women and the War depicts scenes of women's participation unthought of before the war.

Our Women and the War depicts scenes of women’s participation in public unheard of before the war.

"Home from the War" by Winslow Homer illustrates the joyous return to family by northern troops.

“Home from the War” by Winslow Homer illustrates the joyous return to family by northern troops.

Women, bereft of their husbands, brothers and fathers had become use to fending for themselves; now their men-folk were back by their sides and all hoped things would return to normal, but while no one realized it, society had been fundamentally altered by the war.

Soldiers returned home to warm welcomes from family and friends.  Those who were maimed—who’d won their ‘red badge’—were celebrated as heroes; but many of those who came home whole had wounds as well; invisible wounds.  Many wives welcomed their husbands back to their side, only find themselves sleeping next to a stranger.  Today we have a name for it—PTSD—but back then it was just attributed to “the war” and men and women simply made do and got on with their lives.

"Hanging up the Musket," by Winslow Homer shows a veteran hanging up his gun while his wife has a curious expression on her face.

“Hanging up the Musket,” by Winslow Homer shows a veteran hanging up his gun while his wife has a curious expression on her face.

Winslow Homer, whose evocative art captured camp life during the war, captured something of this new domestic reality in his artwork.

Still, all told, Christmas of 1865 in the North was indeed a joyous time: the nation was reunited and at peace.  Moreover, only a week before Christmas Secretary State Seward announced with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, officially doing away with slavery.  On December 18, the words of the new amendment at last became the law of the land:  “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  Slavery was at last abolished; the Union victory was complete.

A terrible winter storm struck the east coast just before Christmas that claimed the lives of many aboard ships at sea, but Christmas Day itself dawned bright and clear in New York City, although the rain melted the snow and ice of the previous days, spoiling the usual skating parties in Central Park.

Although the Christmas cover of Harper’s had a religious theme for a change, Thomas Nast still weighed in with his usual centerfold celebrating both Christmas and the Union victory.  Although most of the tableau celebrates the new peace, down at the bottom General Grant stands center stage with the heads of Jefferson Davis, General Lee and other Rebel leaders at his feet.  The caption in part reads:  “For the heroic dead, the flower of our youth which the fierce war withered, there will be forever renewed tenderness of private remembrance and of public respect with every Christmas season. For most Americans in the North, Christmas was a time of plenty and celebration, food was abundant on every table and scarcely anyone had cause for complaint.

Embittered Confederate Veterans found Black emancipation a bitter pill to swallow. Thomas Nast Harpers

Embittered Confederate Veterans found Black emancipation difficult to accept. Thomas Nast Harpers

In the South, however, the situation was far different.  Peace had come to the land and for the most part the soldiers were home with their loved ones—if they still had homes to live in.  But throughout the South, many cities were still in ruins: Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia and Selma; the work of rebuilding and recovery had just begun.  Many parts of the countryside, moreover, had also been ravaged by the passage of armies.  Far more so than in the North, there were many families where the man of the household would never be returning; food was scarce and many who had known plenty before the war, now faced want and deprivation.  Even where there was adequate shelter and food, and loved ones had made it safely home again, the bitter gall of defeat left a pall over the holiday season.

Early Klansmen, arrested for violence.  More often than not they escaped justice.

Early Klansmen, arrested for violence. More often than not they escaped justice.

Christmas Eve, December 24, 1865 marked one notable anniversary in the South, however.  On that date eight former Confederate soldiers gathered in Pulaski, Tennessee to form a new fraternal organization.  As former Rebels they were prohibited by law from working in business, so they decided to while away their idle hours in social merriment, with secret handshakes, signs and other occult activities know only to the members of their circle—or kuklos.  Although initially organized more from boredom than animosity, the night-time rides of their Kuklos—their Klu Klux Klan—lubricated by large quantities of liquor, soon turned more sinister and more violent.  In many parts of the South, civil government had virtually ceased to exist and the isolated Federal garrisons were resented as an occupying army.  Life and property were defended by knife and gun and wartime scores were evened in the same manner.  Vendetta and vigilantism soon became the order of the day in many parts of the South.

Added to that was the fact that in the deep South the cotton farmers had been forced to sell their last cotton harvest to the Confederate government in return for virtually worthless Confederate paper money.  With the collapse of government, many farmers hid their bales of cotton in hopes of somehow getting it to market either in the North or in England, where cotton was going for record prices.  Meanwhile, close behind the Union troops had also come a small army of Treasury Agents who were paid on commission for every bale of Confederate cotton they seized.  Corruption was rife among the Federal agents who pocketed much of the profits for themselves.  While Southern planters were primarily interested in their making money back on their valuable cotton, killing a Federal agent or two in the process was more or less a bonus.  Peace was restored, but in the South it was a fragile peace that Christmas and goodwill to their fellow men was in short supply.  The process of healing would a long one.

Just before Christmas, the editor of Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly expressed the sentiment of many in the recently reunited republic when he exclaimed that, “The lands devastated by the tramp of armies, and the homes laid waste by the invader of either side are once more being brought back to the standard they held five years agone….A stranger coming among us would hardly believe, looking at our wealth, prosperity and happiness that but a few months had elapsed since the most terrible war of the last thousand years has just closed; that thousands of miles of territory have been despoiled, and hundreds of thousands of lives sacrificed. And yet in the face of this we have great cause for thankfulness.  We are everywhere overburdened with natural wealth.  We have national recuperative power beyond telling, and we are, as a people, determined upon the ultimate greatness of the nation, and that is the grand secret of all our success….The camp gives way to the pleasant church and the joys of home, the sword is almost literally beaten into a ploughshare, and the “hardtack” gives place to the thanksgiving turkey and the pumkin pie….Never before, since we have had a record of great nations, has one year made so great a difference in their status of happiness as that of the past twelve months in the welfare, prosperity and cause for thankfulness of this country.”

The Wheel of Time, reflecting back on the war and the present peace.  Winslow Homer

The Wheel of Time, reflecting back on the war and the present peace. Winslow Homer

Christmas in 1865 was a joyous affair, to be sure, but for many it was a bittersweet joy.

 

 

For more true accounts of less publicized aspects of the Civil War, read Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.  Coming in mid-2016 will be Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, chronicling American author Ambrose Bierce’s wartime experiences with the Army of the Cumberland.

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.

The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Schiffer)

The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Schiffer)

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground covers uncanny but true stories of the Civil War and later in the South.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground covers uncanny but true stories of the Civil War and later in the South.

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose Bierce, Christmas 1865, Christmas during the Civil War, Civil War Christmas, Civil War History, The American Civil War | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Christmas Picket: A Civil War Christmas, 12

Advance picket guard keeping watch against surprise attack.

Advance picket guard keeping watch against surprise attack.

December 25, 1861. A nineteen year old private in the Confederate army, Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was on guard detail along the Potomac River this Winter day, pacing back and forth and occasionally staring over at the Yankees of General Sickles’ New York Brigade on the Maryland side.

Private Giles of the 4th Texas, was on picket duty on December 21, 1861, when he had an uncanny encounter.

Private Giles of the 4th Texas was on picket duty on December 21, 1861, when he had an uncanny encounter.

As a picket, his duty was give the alarm of any enemy activity, lest the vile Yankees should decide to leave the comfort of their warm huts and brave the bleak cold outside. Private Giles’ unit, a detachment of the 4th Texas Infantry, had just relieved another unit guarding that sector. The men would rather have been back in camp, enjoying the holiday as best they could; but duty called, and someone needed to be on duty, no matter what.

Private Giles and his two brothers had all answered the call of duty and volunteered for the Confederate army. Giles, still smartly dressed in his long grey frock coat with black waist belt and black strap over his right shoulder, and adorned with a black Hardee hat with one side turned up, looked the model of a military man. One of Giles’s brothers was serving with the Tenth Texas Infantry in Arkansas, while the other, brother Lew, was with Terry’s Rangers (Eighth Texas Cavalry), somewhere in Kentucky.

There was little likelihood of Valerius being in any personal danger that Christmas; the Yankees desired a break from war that day as much as the Rebels. That afternoon there was a brief to-do when a Yankee steamboat came in sight. But it was soon recognized as a hospital ship and not a gunboat, and so was left alone to ply it trade on the opposite shore.

Picket Duty for either side in Winter was an unpleasant task--all the more so on Christmas Day.  Illustration by William Trego

Picket Duty for either side in Winter was an unpleasant task–all the more so on Christmas Day. Illustration by William Trego

More out of boredom than necessity, Private Giles began to walk his post, tramping through snow knee deep in places. The colder clime of northern Virginia was a change of scene for the Texas boy and there in the piney woods in midwinter, when the earth and green branches of the trees were covered with snow, there was no sound of birds singing or crickets chirping. With not a breath of air blowing, the stillness all around him seemed oppressive.

Valerius’s thoughts naturally started to wander, thinking about his home and family members on that Christmas Day. It was at four p.m. that afternoon when he heard it. He remembered that he was not sleepy or drowsy and perfectly wide awake when he heard it. He heard his brother Lew Giles’s voice, clear as day, calling out his name:

“It was then 4 P.M., December 25, 1861. I was not sleeping or dreaming. and firmly believed at the time that I heard my brother calling me, but it must have been a delusion of the imagination.”

Knowing Lew was far away to the west somewhere in either Kentucky or Tennessee, Val thought at first that somehow it was just his homesickness playing on his imagination; that it was some kind of delusion. Yet he knew his brother’s voice and knew that the voice he had heard was his brother’s.

Gallatin, Tennessee, where Valerius' brother Lew was brought after being wounded in Kentucky.

Gallatin, Tennessee, where Valerius’ brother Lew was brought after being wounded in Kentucky.

It was only later that Val learned that Lew had been wounded at the Battle of Mumfordville, in Kentucky, on the seventeenth of December. Seriously injured, he had been taken to Gallatin, Tennessee, to the home of a family friend, where he lingered for several days.

That at about the same time that his brother was dying, Valerius heard his voice cry out was  unbelievable, but in his heart the young soldier knew it to be true

According to information the family later received from their father’s friend in Gallatin, Lew Giles expired at exactly four p.m. on Christmas Day of 1861.

For more true Civil War stories, see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.  Coming in 2016 will be Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, chronicling true uncanny tales the Mid South.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, chronicling true tales the Mid South.

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

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War,  uncanny tales of the Civil War.

Posted in 4th Texas Infantry, Christmas, Christmas 1861, Civil War Christmas, Civil War ghosts, Presentiments, The American Civil War, The Army of the Potomac, the Paranormal, Valerius Giles, Washington D. C. | Leave a comment

OF MULES AND MEN

Ambrose Bierce, journalist, editor, satirist and war hero.

Ambrose Bierce, journalist, editor, satirist and war hero.

While I go into the background behind this short story of Ambrose Bierce’s in greater depth in my forthcoming bio of the famous American author, Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, I thought a word or two would be appropriate as an intro to this classic bit of Biercean humor.  Jupiter Doke, Brigadier General is based on a real incident that occurred during the war.  In this short story, Bierce has changed many of the details: names, places and dates, but the underlying tale is true–depending on which side of the battle you listen to.  The “Charge of the Mule Brigade” occurred during the siege of Chattanooga in the fall of 1863, not in eastern Kentucky; also the Butternuts and their descendants to this day swear it never occurred, while members of all three Union armies present in Chattanooga claim it did.  Hence the crux of Bierce’s use of multiple viewpoints to tell the story: how in war (and in other things) we often never know the whole truth and, depending on one’s perspective or bias, confabulate very differing versions of events.  The famous Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, was very much influenced by Ambrose Bierce in this regard, as his 1950 movie Rashomon illustrates.  With all this in mind, enjoy Ambrose Bierce’s Jupiter Doke, an example of Bierce’s devilish wit at its best:

Jupiter Doke, Brigadier-General

by Ambrose Bierce

From the Secretary of War to the Hon. Jupiter Doke, Hardpan Crossroads, Posey County, Illinois.

WASHINGTON, November 3, 1861.

Having faith in your patriotism and ability, the President has been pleased to appoint you a brigadier-general of volunteers. Do you accept?

 

From the Hon. Jupiter Doke to the Secretary of War.

HARDPAN, ILLINOIS, November 9, 1861.

It is the proudest moment of my life. The office is one which should be neither sought nor declined. In times that try men’s souls the patriot knows no North, no South, no East, no West. His motto should be: “My country, my whole country and nothing but my country.” I accept the great trust confided in me by a free and intelligent people, and with a firm reliance on the principles of constitutional liberty, and invoking the guidance of an all-wise Providence, Ruler of Nations, shall labor so to discharge it as to leave no blot upon my political escutcheon. Say to his Excellency, the successor of the immortal Washington in the Seat of Power, that the patronage of my office will be bestowed with an eye single to securing the greatest good to the greatest number, the stability of republican institutions and the triumph of the party in all elections; and to this I pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor. I shall at once prepare an appropriate response to the speech of the chairman of the committee deputed to inform me of my appointment, and I trust the sentiments therein expressed will strike a sympathetic chord in the public heart, as well as command the Executive approval.

 

From the Secretary of War to Major-General Blount Wardorg, Commanding the Military Department of Eastern Kentucky.

WASHINGTON, November 14, 1861.

I have assigned to your department Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke, who will soon proceed to Distilleryville, on the Little Buttermilk River, and take command of the Illinois Brigade at that point, reporting to you by letter for orders. Is the route from Covington by way of Bluegrass, Opossum Corners and Horsecave still infested with bushwhackers, as reported in your last dispatch? I have a plan for cleaning them out.

 

From Major-General Blount Wardorg to the Secretary of War.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, November 20, 1861.

The name and services of Brigadier-General Doke are unfamiliar to me, but I shall be pleased to have the advantage of his skill. The route from Covington to Distilleryville via Opossum Corners and Horsecave I have been compelled to abandon to the enemy, whose guerilla warfare made it possible to keep it open without detaching too many troops from the front. The brigade at Distilleryville is supplied by steamboats up the Little Buttermilk.

 

From the Secretary of War to Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke, Hardpan, Illinois.

WASHINGTON, November 26, 1861.

I deeply regret that your commission had been forwarded by mail before the receipt of your letter of acceptance; so we must dispense with the formality of official notification to you by a committee. The President is highly gratified by the noble and patriotic sentiments of your letter, and directs that you proceed at once to your command at Distilleryville, Kentucky, and there report by letter to Major-General Wardorg at Louisville, for orders. It is important that the strictest secrecy be observed regarding your movements until you have passed Covington, as it is desired to hold the enemy in front of Distilleryville until you are within three days of him. Then if your approach is known it will operate as a demonstration against his right and cause him to strengthen it with his left now at Memphis, Tennessee, which it is desirable to capture first. Go by way of Bluegrass, Opossum Corners and Horsecave. All officers are expected to be in full uniform when en route to the front.

 

From Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke to the Secretary of War.

COVINGTON, KENTUCKY, December 7, 1861.

I arrived yesterday at this point, and have given my proxy to Joel Briller, Esq., my wife’s cousin, and a staunch Republican, who will worthily represent Posey County in field and forum. He points with pride to a stainless record in the halls of legislation, which have often echoed to his soul-stirring eloquence on questions which lie at the very foundation of popular government. He has been called the Patrick Henry of Hardpan, where he has done yeoman’s service in the cause of civil and religious liberty. Mr. Briller left for Distilleryville last evening, and the standard bearer of the Democratic host confronting that stronghold of freedom will find him a lion in his path. I have been asked to remain here and deliver some addresses to the people in a local contest involving issues of paramount importance. That duty being performed, I shall in person enter the arena of armed debate and move in the direction of the heaviest firing, burning my ships behind me. I forward by this mail to his Excellency the President a request for the appointment of my son, Jabez Leonidas Doke, as postmaster at Hardpan. I would take it, sir, as a great favor if you would give the application a strong oral indorsement, as the appointment is in the line of reform. Be kind enough to inform me what are the emoluments of the office I hold in the military arm, and if they are by salary or fees. Are there any perquisites? My mileage account will be transmitted monthly.

 

From Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke to Major General Blount Wardorg.

DISTILLERYVILLE, KENTUCKY, January 12, 1862.

I arrived on the tented field yesterday by steamboat, the recent storms having inundated the landscape, covering, I understand, the greater part of a congressional district. I am pained to find that Joel Briller, Esq., a prominent citizen of Posey County, Illinois, and a far-seeing statesman who held my proxy, and who a month ago should have been thundering at the gates of Disunion, has not been heard from, and has doubtless been sacrificed upon the altar of his country. In him the American people lose a bulwark of freedom. I would respectfully move that you designate a committee to draw up resolutions of respect to his memory, and that the office holders and men under your command wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days. I shall at once place myself at the head of affairs here, and am now ready to entertain any suggestions which you may make, looking to the better enforcement of the laws in this commonwealth. The militant Democrats on the other side of the river appear to be contemplating extreme measures. They have two large cannons facing this way, and yesterday morning, I am told, some of them came down to the water’s edge and remained in session for some time, making infamous allegations.

 

From the Diary of Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke, at Distilleryville, Kentucky

January 12, 1862.–On my arrival yesterday at the Henry Clay Hotel (named in honor of the late far-seeing statesman) I was waited on by a delegation consisting of the three colonels intrusted with the command of the regiments of my brigade. It was an occasion that will be memorable in the political annals of America. Forwarded copies of the speeches to the Posey Maverick, to be spread upon the record of the ages. The gentlemen composing the delegation unanimously reaffirmed their devotion to the principles of national unity and the Republican party. Was gratified to recognize in them men of political prominence and untarnished escutcheons. At the subsequent banquet, sentiments of lofty patriotism were expressed. Wrote to Mr. Wardorg at Louisville for instructions.

January 13, 1862.–Leased a prominent residence (the former incumbent being absent in arms against his country) for the term of one year, and wrote at once for Mrs. Brigadier-General Doke and the vital issues–excepting Jabez Leonidas. In the camp of treason opposite here there are supposed to be three thousand misguided men laying the ax at the root of the tree of liberty. They have a clear majority, many of our men having returned without leave to their constituents. We could probably not poll more than two thousand votes. Have advised my heads of regiments to make a canvass of those remaining, all bolters to be read out of the phalanx.

January 14, 1862.–Wrote to the President, asking for the contract to supply this command with firearms and regalia through my brother-in-law, prominently identified with the manufacturing interests of the country. Club of cannon soldiers arrived at Jayhawk, three miles back from here, on their way to join us in battle array. Marched my whole brigade to Jayhawk to escort them into town, but their chairman, mistaking us for the opposing party, opened fire on the head of the procession and by the extraordinary noise of the cannon balls (I had no conception of it!) so frightened my horse that I was unseated without a contest. The meeting adjourned in disorder and returning to camp I found that a deputation of the enemy had crossed the river in our absence and made a division of the loaves and fishes. Wrote to the President, applying for the Gubernatorial Chair of the Territory of Idaho.

 

From Editorial Article in the Posey, Illinois, “Maverick,” January 20, 1862.

Brigadier-General Doke’s thrilling account, in another column, of the Battle of Distilleryville will make the heart of every loyal Illinoisian leap with exultation. The brilliant exploit marks an era in military history, and as General Doke says, “lays broad and deep the foundations of American prowess in arms.” As none of the troops engaged, except the gallant author-chieftain (a host in himself) hails from Posey County, he justly considered that a list of the fallen would only occupy our valuable space to the exclusion of more important matter, but his account of the strategic ruse by which he apparently abandoned his camp and so inveigled a perfidious enemy into it for the purpose of murdering the sick, the unfortunate countertempus at Jayhawk, the subsequent dash upon a trapped enemy flushed with a supposed success, driving their terrified legions across an impassable river which precluded pursuit–all these “moving accidents by flood and field” are related with a pen of fire and have all the terrible interest of romance.

Verily, truth is stranger than fiction and the pen is mightier than the sword. When by the graphic power of the art preservative of all arts we are brought face to face with such glorious events as these, the Maverick’s enterprise in securing for its thousands of readers the services of so distinguished a contributor as the Great Captain who made the history as well as wrote it seems a matter of almost secondary importance. For President in 1864 (subject to the decision of the Republican National Convention) Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke, of Illinois!

 

From Major-General Blount Wardorg to Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke.

LOUISVILLE, January 22, 1862.

Your letter apprising me of your arrival at Distilleryville was delayed in transmission, having only just been received (open) through the courtesy of the Confederate department commander under a flag of truce. He begs me to assure you that he would consider it an act of cruelty to trouble you, and I think it would be. Maintain, however, a threatening attitude, but at the least pressure retire. Your position is simply an outpost which it is not intended to hold.

 

From Major-General Blount Wardorg to the Secretary of War.

LOUISVILLE, January 23, 1862.

I have certain information that the enemy has concentrated twenty thousand troops of all arms on the Little Buttermilk. According to your assignment, General Doke is in command of the small brigade of raw troops opposing them. It is no part of my plan to contest the enemy’s advance at that point, but I cannot hold myself responsible for any reverses to the brigade mentioned, under its present commander. I think him a fool.

 

From the Secretary of War to Major-General Blount Wardorg.

WASHINGTON, February 1, 1862.

The President has great faith in General Doke. If your estimate of him is correct, however, he would seem to be singularly well placed where he now is, as your plans appear to contemplate a considerable sacrifice for whatever advantages you expect to gain.

 

From Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke to Major-General Blount Wardorg.

DISTILLERYVILLE, February 1, 1862.

To-morrow I shall remove my headquarters to Jayhawk in order to point the way whenever my brigade retires from Distilleryville, as foreshadowed by your letter of the 22d ult. I have appointed a Committee on Retreat, the minutes of whose first meeting I transmit to you. You will perceive that the committee having been duly organized by the election of a chairman and secretary, a resolution (prepared by myself) was adopted, to the effect that in case treason again raises her hideous head on this side of the river every man of the brigade is to mount a mule, the procession to move promptly in the direction of Louisville and the loyal North. In preparation for such an emergency I have for some time been collecting mules from the resident Democracy, and have on hand 2300 in a field at Jayhawk. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!

 

From Major-General Gibeon J. Buxter, C.S.A., to the Confederate Secretary of War.

BUNG STATION, KENTUCKY, February 4, 1862.

On the night of the 2d inst., our entire force, consisting of 25,000 men and thirty-two field pieces, under command of Major-General Simmons B. Flood, crossed by a ford to the north side of Little Buttermilk River at a point three miles above Distilleryville and moved obliquely down and away from the stream, to strike the Covington turnpike at Jayhawk; the object being, as you know, to capture Covington, destroy Cincinnati and occupy the Ohio Valley. For some months there had been in our front only a small brigade of undisciplined troops, apparently without a commander, who were useful to us, for by not disturbing them we could create an impression of our weakness. But the movement on Jayhawk having isolated them, I was about to detach an Alabama regiment to bring them in, my division being the leading one, when an earth-shaking rumble was felt and heard, and suddenly the head-of-column was struck by one of the terrible tornadoes for which this region is famous, and utterly annihilated. The tornado, I believe, passed along the entire length of the road back to the ford, dispersing or destroying our entire army; but of this I cannot be sure, for I was lifted from the earth insensible and blown back to the south side of the river. Continuous firing all night on the north side and the reports of such of our men as have recrossed at the ford convince me that the Yankee brigade has exterminated the disabled survivors. Our loss has been uncommonly heavy. Of my own division of 15,000 infantry, the casualties–killed, wounded, captured, and missing–are 14,994. Of General Dolliver Billow’s division, 11,200 strong, I can find but two officers and a nigger cook. Of the artillery, 800 men, none has reported on this side of the river. General Flood is dead. I have assumed command of the expeditionary force, but owing to the heavy losses have deemed it advisable to contract my line of supplies as rapidly as possible. I shall push southward to-morrow morning early. The purposes of the campaign have been as yet but partly accomplished.

Verily, truth is stranger than fiction and the pen is mightier than the sword. When by the graphic power of the art preservative of all arts we are brought face to face with such glorious events as these, the Maverick’s enterprise in securing for its thousands of readers the services of so distinguished a contributor as the Great Captain who made the history as well as wrote it seems a matter of almost secondary importance. For President in 1864 (subject to the decision of the Republican National Convention) Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke, of Illinois!

 

From Major-General Blount Wardorg to Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke.

LOUISVILLE, January 22, 1862.

Your letter apprising me of your arrival at Distilleryville was delayed in transmission, having only just been received (open) through the courtesy of the Confederate department commander under a flag of truce. He begs me to assure you that he would consider it an act of cruelty to trouble you, and I think it would be. Maintain, however, a threatening attitude, but at the least pressure retire. Your position is simply an outpost which it is not intended to hold.

 

From Major-General Blount Wardorg to the Secretary of War.

LOUISVILLE, January 23, 1862.

I have certain information that the enemy has concentrated twenty thousand troops of all arms on the Little Buttermilk. According to your assignment, General Doke is in command of the small brigade of raw troops opposing them. It is no part of my plan to contest the enemy’s advance at that point, but I cannot hold myself responsible for any reverses to the brigade mentioned, under its present commander. I think him a fool.

 

From the Secretary of War to Major-General Blount Wardorg.

WASHINGTON, February 1, 1862.

The President has great faith in General Doke. If your estimate of him is correct, however, he would seem to be singularly well placed where he now is, as your plans appear to contemplate a considerable sacrifice for whatever advantages you expect to gain.

 

From Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke to Major-General Blount Wardorg.

DISTILLERYVILLE, February 1, 1862.

To-morrow I shall remove my headquarters to Jayhawk in order to point the way whenever my brigade retires from Distilleryville, as foreshadowed by your letter of the 22d ult. I have appointed a Committee on Retreat, the minutes of whose first meeting I transmit to you. You will perceive that the committee having been duly organized by the election of a chairman and secretary, a resolution (prepared by myself) was adopted, to the effect that in case treason again raises her hideous head on this side of the river every man of the brigade is to mount a mule, the procession to move promptly in the direction of Louisville and the loyal North. In preparation for such an emergency I have for some time been collecting mules from the resident Democracy, and have on hand 2300 in a field at Jayhawk. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!

 

From Major-General Gibeon J. Buxter, C.S.A., to the Confederate Secretary of War.

BUNG STATION, KENTUCKY, February 4, 1862.

On the night of the 2d inst., our entire force, consisting of 25,000 men and thirty-two field pieces, under command of Major-General Simmons B. Flood, crossed by a ford to the north side of Little Buttermilk River at a point three miles above Distilleryville and moved obliquely down and away from the stream, to strike the Covington turnpike at Jayhawk; the object being, as you know, to capture Covington, destroy Cincinnati and occupy the Ohio Valley. For some months there had been in our front only a small brigade of undisciplined troops, apparently without a commander, who were useful to us, for by not disturbing them we could create an impression of our weakness. But the movement on Jayhawk having isolated them, I was about to detach an Alabama regiment to bring them in, my division being the leading one, when an earth-shaking rumble was felt and heard, and suddenly the head-of-column was struck by one of the terrible tornadoes for which this region is famous, and utterly annihilated. The tornado, I believe, passed along the entire length of the road back to the ford, dispersing or destroying our entire army; but of this I cannot be sure, for I was lifted from the earth insensible and blown back to the south side of the river. Continuous firing all night on the north side and the reports of such of our men as have recrossed at the ford convince me that the Yankee brigade has exterminated the disabled survivors. Our loss has been uncommonly heavy. Of my own division of 15,000 infantry, the casualties–killed, wounded, captured, and missing–are 14,994. Of General Dolliver Billow’s division, 11,200 strong, I can find but two officers and a nigger cook. Of the artillery, 800 men, none has reported on this side of the river. General Flood is dead. I have assumed command of the expeditionary force, but owing to the heavy losses have deemed it advisable to contract my line of supplies as rapidly as possible. I shall push southward to-morrow morning early. The purposes of the campaign have been as yet but partly accomplished.

 

From Major-General Dolliver Billows, C.S.A., to the Confederate Secretary of War.

BUHAC, KENTUCKY, February 5, 1862.

… But during the 2d they had, unknown to us, been reinforced by fifty thousand cavalry, and being apprised of our movement by a spy, this vast body was drawn up in the darkness at Jayhawk, and as the head of our column reached that point at about 11 P.M., fell upon it with astonishing fury, destroying the division of General Buxter in an instant. General Baumschank’s brigade of artillery, which was in the rear, may have escaped–I did not wait to see, but withdrew my division to the river at a point several miles above the ford, and at daylight ferried it across on two fence rails lashed together with a suspender. Its losses, from an effective strength of 11,200, are 11,199. General Buxter is dead. I am changing my base to Mobile, Alabama.

 

From Brigadier-General Schneddeker Baumschank, C.S.A., to the Confederate Secretary of War.

IODINE, KENTUCKY, February 6, 1862.

… Yoost den somdings occur, I know nod vot it vos–somdings mackneefcent, but it vas nod vor–und I finds meinselluf, afder leedle viles, in dis blace, midout a hors und mit no men und goons. Sheneral Peelows is deadt, You will blease be so goot as to resign me–I vights no more in a dam gontry vere I gets vipped und knows nod how it vos done.

 

Resolutions of Congress, February 15, 1862.

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress are due, and hereby tendered, to Brigadier-General Jupiter Doke and the gallant men under his command for their unparalleled feat of attacking–themselves only 2000 strong–an army of 25,000 men and utterly overthrowing it, killing 5327, making prisoners of 19,003, of whom more than half were wounded, taking 32 guns, 20,000 stand of small arms and, in short, the enemy’s entire equipment.

Resolved, That for this unexampled victory the President be requested to designate a day of thanksgiving and public celebration of religious rites in the various churches.

Resolved, That he be requested, in further commemoration of the great event, and in reward of the gallant spirits whose deeds have added such imperishable lustre to the American arms, to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the following officer:

One major-general.

 

Statement of Mr. Hannibal Alcazar Peyton, of Jayhawk, Kentucky.

Dat wus a almighty dark night, sho’, and dese yere ole eyes aint wuf shuks, but I’s got a year like a sque’l, an’ w’en I cotch de mummer o’ v’ices I knowed dat gang b’long on de far side o’ de ribber. So I jes’ runs in de house an’ wakes Marse Doke an’ tells him: “Skin outer dis fo’ yo’ life!” An’ de Lo’d bress my soul! ef dat man didn’ go right fru de winder in his shir’ tail an’ break for to cross de mule patch! An’ dem twenty-free hunerd mules dey jes’ t’nk it is de debble hese’f wid de brandin’ iron, an’ dey bu’st outen dat patch like a yarthquake, an’ pile inter de upper ford road, an’ flash down it five deep, an’ it full o’ Con-fed’rates from en’ to en’!…

The alleged "Charge of the Mule Brigade" at the night battle of Wauhatchie Station was the basis for Bierce's short story "Jupiter Doke."

The alleged “Charge of the Mule Brigade” at the night battle of Wauhatchie Station was the basis for Bierce’s short story “Jupiter Doke.”

 

Posted in Ambrose Bierce, Battle of Wauhatchie Station, Brigadier General, Chattanooga, Civil War History, Civil War in East Tennessee, The Army of Cumberland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Dog in the Fight: Commemorating the Civil War without an Ancestor

I post this piece by a student of Gettysburg College because, even as the actual sesquicentennial winds down, the battle over the meaning and memory of the Civil War seems to be heating up. On the one hand we have the PC crowd who wants all memorials to the war they don’t personally approve of removed from public view, while on the other we have the flaggers and neo-secessionists who are using the War to promote divisiveness and racism. While most of my ancestors were lovers and not fighters, I do know that great great grandfather Thorp made a hefty profit off the war, outfitting the Union fleet as a Ship’s Chandler in NYC and also manufacturing uniforms for the Federal Army. So as a proud descendent of a Yankee War Profiteer, I suppose my kin could be considered spiritual kin to the Carpetbaggers. Perhaps all those descendants of sutlers, merchants, smugglers etc. should form a heritage organization like the SCV or the GAR heritage groups and get license plates proclaiming the fact: I propose a carpet bag as its logo. Any like minded folk whose ancestors benefitted off the war, directly or indirectly, are welcome to join, as well as those who wish their great grand sires had! Just an idea. Enjoy this thought piece via the Gettysburg Compiler.

The Gettysburg Compiler

By Megan McNish ’16

Luminaria. Photograph courtesy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP.

In anticipation of Remembrance Day and Dedication Day this week, we have asked our Fellows why and how they commemorate the Civil War. Read Megan’s post below, then check back later in the week for more posts on commemoration and remembrance.

Commemoration of the Civil War has been a hot topic lately, with many discussing why and how it should and shouldn’t be done. As a student of Civil War history, I’m clearly biased in believing that the war I study should be commemorated, but, unlike many, my bias doesn’t come from the fact that I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. My ancestors came to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s from Scotland and settled in New Jersey and haven’t moved since. So why do I care about the Civil War? Why…

View original post 396 more words

Posted in The American Civil War | Leave a comment

Why We Are Is: McPherson vs Bierce

James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning scholar of the Civil War, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning scholar of the Civil War, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

The Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson, in summing up his 900 page history of the Late Unpleasantness, famously observed that after the Civil War our country, The United States of America, which used to referred to in the plural in all texts and documents, suddenly began to be referred to in the singular.  Thus, today, we say “The United States is going to Hell in a handbag” and not “The United States are going to Hell in handbags.”  McPherson, in Battle Cry of Freedom, also noted that after the war Americans now referred to our country as the Nation, no longer as the Union, except when referring to it in a historical sense—as in “The Union forces won the war.”  In his first inaugural address in 1861, Lincoln referred to the Union 23 times and to the Nation not once.  Yet, by 1863, in the very, very brief Gettysburg Address, Lincoln refers to the Nation five times and the Union not once.  Lincoln is now talking about a new birth of freedom, of ONE NATION, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, which shall not perish from the earth.[i]

Lincoln, author of the Gettysburg Address and the man who transformed the Union into a Nation.

Lincoln, author of the Gettysburg Address and the man who transformed the Union into a Nation.

What makes this brief homily of Lincoln’s so timeless is that every phrase is fraught with meaning, every word carries some point to it.  It is not just some flowery prose.  It had a specific political message to convey to the North as well as the South.  This is why generations of school children (myself included) were required to memorize this text—and if teachers are doing their job these days, still should be.  Kindle or Google won’t cut it; it is one of those texts that needs to be remembered.

Well, while I sometimes disagree with Professor McPherson on some issues, on this score I believe his argument is cogent and his observation of the is vs are is quite right.  While McPherson’s point was made decades ago, I recently stumbled across a reference to the same point by Ambrose Bierce, eveyone’s famous curmudgeon and, as I have spent several years researching and writing about, a veteran of the Civil War, someone who fought and bled for that “new birth of freedom.”

Ambrose Bierce, brilliant writer, curmudgeon, lexicographer and war hero.

Ambrose Bierce, brilliant writer, curmudgeon, lexicographer and war hero.

As anyone who has tried to delve into his life and career will tell you, one of the major problems with Major Bierce is that almost all of his work was originally published in serial form in newspapers and magazines spanning a period of over forty years.  While the situation is now getting better thanks to messrs Joshi and Schultz and a handful of others, traditionally most people only accessed the corpus of Bierce’s work via sever anthologies published during his lifetime or through his “Collected Works” which he collated late in life.  All the anthologies you may have read of Bierce since then have largely been rehashes of those old tomes.  In recent years, however, a few brave souls have gone back into microfilms archives of old newspapers, going back and looking at the original articles and essays.  While much in these old journalistic pieces are only of passing historical interest on persons and events of the day, here and there one finds occasional nuggets among the dust.

Fredrick Edwin Church's patriotic "Our Banner in the Sky" (1861)

Fredrick Church’s patriotic “Our Banner in the Sky” (1861)

For example, when the Spanish American War broke out, it stirred the old war dog in Bierce and in between pontificating about current events in his “War Topics” column, it also motivated Bierce to ruminate about his own experience of war.  While Jingoism grated against his last nerve, Bierce too was reluctantly caught up in the war fever of the day.  Always the contrarian, one would not suspect from these pieces written close to the turn of the century that once Bierce was a fierce idealist and a recklessly brave soldier—but I’ll leave that for another time.  More to the point, in one of his ruminations, the Devil’s Lexicographer Bierce also weighs in on the “is” vs “are” issue.  Since “Almighty  God” Bierce is by far a better writer than I, it is to let him make his point in his own words:

“In the light of patriotism’s altar fires, newly kindled and splendoring the Land of the Comparatively Free, I note a revival of that disgusting solecism, “the United States is,” :the United States does” etc. Actually, there are persons—writers, too—who believe that the laws of syntax are affectible by political phenomena, and that the word “States” becomes singular in number if the things that it represents are for some purposes “united.” They would not thing of saying: “The herded cows is grazing,” or “The yoked oxen is tired”—there would be no patriotism in that; and these excellent persons are, before all else, lovers of their country. (The shrillest and most raucous of them—a teacher in the public schools!—is chief proponent of the simple plan of making little children good and loyal citizens by compelling them once a week to perform monkey-tricks before the flag.) Tell them that this is not a political matter, but a grammatical, and they will put you down with “E pluribus unum,” the only Latin that they know. They will affirm (and not care a cent if overheard by the effete dynasties and tottering despotisms of the Old World) that these United States is one nation—one nation, sir, and don’t you forget it! We shall not forget it, nor are we permitted to forget that they themselves are one nuisance; yet Heaven forbid that any of us should say “These united intolerable is in danger of everlasting fire!” God sees them, and that is enough.”[ii]

For more about Lincoln, read The Paranormal Presidency, while for Ambrose Bierce’s wartime career I will have to, for now, refer you to a book that has yet to be published: Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife (University of Tennessee Press, forthcoming).

The Paranormal Presidency delves into the more esoteric aspects of Abraham Lincoln and his presidency

The Paranormal Presidency delves into the more esoteric aspects of Abraham Lincoln and his presidency

 

[i] See James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (NY: Oxford U. Press, 1988), 859,

[ii] S.F. Examiner, May 8, 1898.

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose Bierce, Civil War Historians, Civil War History, James McPherson, The American Civil War, The Paranoral Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the United States is..., WHY ARE WE IS? | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

At Shiloh, Grant's men, contrary to official reports, were caught by off-guard and forced back throughout the day, until the remnants ended up huddled in a defensive perimeter around Pittsburg Landing

At Shiloh, Grant’s men, contrary to official reports, were caught by off-guard and forced back throughout the day, until the remnants ended up huddled in a defensive perimeter around Pittsburg Landing

Sunday is a day of rest, or it should be; all the more so if it is Easter Sunday.  April sixth, 1862 started out that way for the Union forces camped along the Tennessee River.  At Pittsburg Landing, where most of General Grant’s men were, all seemed placid.  Most men were sleeping in; a few early risers had begun breakfast, others were just lolling about, enjoying their leisure.  To be sure there had been some shots in the distance when it was still pitch black; but no one took notice—probably a nervous guard or two, is all.  Then, even as men dreamed dreams of home and loved ones, ear piercing yells broke the silence.

The following day, April 7, General Buell's army counter-attacked and drove the Confederates back, saving Grant's army; Grant however, claimed credit for the victory.

The following day, April 7, General Buell’s army counter-attacked and drove the Confederates back, saving Grant’s army; Grant however, claimed credit for the victory.

Men awoke in their beds, disoriented, only to find a bayonet descending on them the next second.  As one witness observed, “many of Grant’s men when spitted on Confederate bayonets were as naked as civilians; but it should not be allowed that this was not because of any defect in their picket line.  Their error was of another sort: they had no pickets.” The outlying camps were quickly overrun; Federals who ran to grab their guns and rush to the front found they were too late, as successive waves of howling Rebels outflanked and overran successive positions.  By the end of the day, the shattered remnants of Grants army were mostly crowded by the edge of the river, awaiting their doom.

In the weeks leading up to the battle, Grant had had ample time to build redoubts, entrenchments and other defenses to protect against surprise attack, yet failed to do so.  He was not even at Pittsburg Landing, making his headquarters a number of miles away at Savannah, Tennessee.  Nor did Grant’s many regiments of cavalry and infantry do any patrol work outside their own bivouacs as they may easily have done.  Still, one must give credit where credit is due: Grant knew how to write a great after action report, and in it everyone but himself found some blame, save for his flame bearded—and some said crazy—friend General Sherman.  Buell “went slow,” Wallace “went slow;” but apparently the Butternuts of Johnston & Beauregard’s army did not go slow that day.  Luckily, the Confederates failed to overrun the riverboat landing by sunset on the first day and during the night a fresh Federal army came across the river under General Don Carlos Buell to save the day—only that day would be April seventh, not the sixth.

Ambrose Bierce, at the time only a sergeant, was eyewitness to the second day's battle and witnessed how demoralized Grant's army was. He blamed Grant's carelessness for their defeat.

Ambrose Bierce, at the time only a sergeant in Hazen’s brigade, was eyewitness to the second day’s battle and witnessed how demoralized Grant’s army was. He blamed Grant’s carelessness for their defeat.

If you read any one of the many books on Shiloh, the word that almost always comes to mind is “bloody.”  While there would be many battles that would prove as gory as Shiloh, this was the first where the bloodletting proved to be on such a staggering scale for both sides.  Many a young man with a sweetheart at home never got to see her again; many a son never was ever to see his mother or sister; many who fell earned a mass grave with other unnamed souls in unhallowed ground.  Is it any wonder that ever since that awful Sunday those who have traversed the many acres that make up Shiloh battlefield have reported feeling strange feelings, hearing strange sounds and seeing strange sights?

Pittsburg Landing shortly after the battle. It was here, during the night, that most of General Buell's army was ferried over to rescue Grant's men from their leader's incompetence. Proper credit for the victory was never given to Buell.

Pittsburg Landing shortly after the battle. It was here, during the night, that most of General Buell’s army was ferried over to rescue Grant’s men from their leader’s incompetence. Proper credit for the victory was never given to Buell.

There is, for example, the tale of the phantom drummer.  I won’t recite the full story here, it is told in full in Strange Tales; suffice it to say that on more than one occasion visitors to the national park have heard the sound of a distant drum, rolling the “long roll,” when no re-enactor or musician is present anywhere on the grounds.  Other visitors to Shiloh claim to have heard the sounds of gun-fire, or the moaning and screams of wounded men, desperately crying out for help.

Since most visitors leave the park by sunset, only a select few have actually seen apparitions on the grounds.  A few locals, driving through the terrain at night encounter strange fog and swear it’s filled with the shadows of figures slowly moving through it.  But park rangers I have talked vehemently deny any such things occur.

Park officials, of course, are always concerned about trespassers and strange tales such as these could lure some folk to go where and when they aren’t allowed.  Far be it from me to add to their concerns.  But still, the restless dead of Bloody Shiloh cannot so easily be mollified.  Likely if you go, you may only feel an eerie silence as I did; is it just your imagination?  Perhaps; or perhaps there is something more that yet abides there.

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War for a compendium of true accounts of Civil War ghosts and haunts

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War for a compendium of true accounts of Civil War apparitions and other paranormal events.

For more about the restless shades of Shiloh and the Civil War, I refer you to Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

Posted in Ambrose Bierce, Battle of Shiloh, Civil War ghosts, Civil War Historians, Civil War History, Civil War Leaders, General Lewis Wallace, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, Hazen's Brigade, The American Civil War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ambrose Bierce: Spymaster?

Ambrose Bierce, best known as a cynic, was a soldier in the Civil War, among whose duties may have been that of spy-master.

Ambrose Bierce, best known as fiction writer, muckraking journalist and cynic, was also a soldier during the Civil War, among whose duties may have been that of spy-master.

Having spent the last several years researching, then writing, about noted American author Ambrose Bierce’s wartime service during the Civil War, one would think by now that I had uncovered all there was to know about the man noted for acerbic wit and cynical outlook—or at least about his wartime activities.  One would think.

In truth, while I have corrected many false impressions and incorrect assumptions created by some of his previous biographers, the truth is that the more I uncovered about Ambrose Bierce and his service during the Civil War, the more questions have arisen about him.  Some of these unanswered questions are perhaps only of interest to those already devoted to Bierce and his work; others are fascinating quandaries which may or may not eventually find a solution.  One such quandary that tantalize this author concerns  what facts may lie behind Ambrose Bierce’s career as a spy—something which he only intimated at once, yet is a subject one would greatly like to learn more.

I had come across reference to it in his war service record, deeply buried in the National Archives.  The reference to it is fleeting—a one sentence mention on one monthly muster card.  Prior to his brief service as spy, Bierce had done a brief stint as his brigade’s Provost Marshal—a general purpose MP and disciplinarian—about which he shared considerably more in his postwar writings.  In the Western Theater of the war, the Provost Marshal’s department also sometimes doubled as a counter-espionage bureau, at least in Nashville.  But it doesn’t seem as though that was part of Bierce’s cop duties.

An artist's impression of the life of a Civil War spy, after Harper's Weekly.

An artist’s impression of the life of a Civil War spy, after Harper’s Weekly.

Then too, from about mid-1863 on Lt. Bierce served as his brigade’s topographical engineer—in effect its mapmaker.  Lest one think that a dull desk job, understand that during the Civil War topographical engineers were required to go out into the field and not only survey roads and physical features, but scout out enemy emplacements and fortifications as well, a task which frequently entailed infiltrating behind enemy lines.  It was always a matter of some importance to commanders to know whether a strategic ford or bridge was held by the enemy and if so in what strength.  During the war, scout and spy were often interchangeable terms—and both could get you executed by the opposing side.

Still, it seems clear that Lt. Bierce was not just penetrating behind enemy lines on mapping expeditions but coordinating a network of civilian spies, at least for a brief time.  I recently stumbled across Bierce’s brief reference to his espionage work in his discussion, generally inaccurate, of naval firepower during the Spanish American War.  After pontificating how 12 inch guns couldn’t possibly be used at sea (wrong!) he then informs the readers of his column:

“In our Civil War, as in most wars, spies were employed by both sides and some made honorable records, each among his own people. I once had command of

The use of field or "spy" glasses were a much safer way of observing enemy forces, but not always as productive of results as going behind enemy lines.

The use of field or “spy” glasses were a much safer way of observing enemy forces, but not always as productive of results as going behind enemy lines.

about a dozen spies for some months—gave them their assignments, received and collated their reports and tried as hard as I could to believe them. I must say that they were about as scurvy a lot of imposters as could be found on Uncle Sam’s payroll (that was before the pension era) and I should have experienced a secret joy if they had been caught and hanged. But they were in an honorable calling—a calling in which the proportion of intelligent and conscientious workers is probably about the same as in other trades and professions.”

Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish radical Socialist turned American spymaster, was Lincoln's chief of intelligence. Unfortunately much of his information regarding the Rebel army was faulty.

Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish radical Socialist turned American spymaster, was Lincoln’s chief of intelligence. Unfortunately much of his information regarding the Rebel army was faulty.

Bierce gave his San Francisco readers no chronology for his career as spy-master, but I can.  Based on his service record and what I have learned of his military career, his work as spymaster would have been in the late spring of 1863.  Beyond that, however, the five w’s of his espionage activities remain an enigma.  Unlike some soldiers who wrote voluminous tomes on how they won the war, Bierce largely avoided such self-serving promotions and so, save for some fortuitous discovery, Lt. Ambrose Bierce’s work as espionage operative  must remain an enduring enigma.

 

Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife is due for release by the University of Tennessee Press.  For those interested in Bierce’s fictional works, I recommend the press’s three volume Short Fiction of Ambrose Bierce which not only includes all his best known works but quite a few lesser known gems.

Posted in 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Ambrose Bierce, Civil War Spies, Espionage, General William B. Hazen, Hazen's Brigade, Nashville, Third Ohio Cavalry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Causes of the Civil War: Another Perspective

Cherokee Confederate reunion in New Orleans in 1903, veterans of Thomas' Legion

Cherokee Confederate reunion in New Orleans in 1903, veterans of Thomas’ Legion

While Flaggers, neo-Secessionists and other fringe groups continue to justify the Lost Cause, most thoughtful students of the Late Unpleasantness generally agree that preserving the Union was generally a good thing.  A modern corollary to this is the dogma that the cause of the War was slavery and slavery alone; all else was just rhetoric or propaganda to justify the unjustifiable.  I am simplifying here, but I think most intellectuals and academics would basically subscribe to that premise, albeit with a few ifs, ands and buts.  Certainly preservation of slavery was a root cause of the War and among the Slavocracy that dominated the political and social fabric of the South–and much of the Federal government–that was certainly their main reason for Secession; but it was hardly the only cause of the war.

I have long felt that other factors paved the downward road to Secession as well and that in 1861 in both the North and the South there was a broad spectrum of motives for siding with one side or another.  Quite a few Federal officers–including Ulysses S. Grant’s family–were slave owners for one thing.  Moreover, a number of Confederate officers later claimed that they would not have gone to war solely to defend the Peculiar Institution, while I think it could fairly be argued that very few in the North would have volunteered to go to war had it been presented as a war to abolish slavery in 1861.  Lincoln himself was on record on a number of occasions as saying he placed preservation of the Union over the destruction of slavery.

While slavery was an underlying factor, for some groups other motives lay behind their decision to cast their lot with the Confederacy.  It is in this context that I reproduce below the declaration of war by the Cherokee Nation, dating to October of 1861.  It is true that the Native American tribes in Oklahoma were slave-owners as well, but their economy and well being were hardly dependent on the institution.  It is clear from their statement of purposes that their motives were far different than, say, the South Carolina plutocrats or the Cotton aristocracy of the Cotton Belt.  Of course, behind all the Cherokee justifications looms the Trail of Tears and an innate distrust of the Federal government and its promises.  Some Native Americans did side with the North; many did not; more than a few did not give a rat’s ass about the war.  Following is the Cherokee Nations explanation of its “inexorable necessity” for siding with the South:

Declaration by the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes
Which Have Impelled Them to Unite Their Fortunes With Those of the
Confederate States of America.

When circumstances beyond their control compel one people to sever the ties which have long existed between them and another state or confederacy, and to contract new alliances and establish new relations for the security of their rights and liberties, it is fit that they should publicly declare the reasons by which their action is justified.

The Cherokee people had its origin in the South; its institutions are similar to those of the Southern States, and their interests identical with theirs. Long since it accepted the protection of the United States of America, contracted with them treaties of alliance and friendship, and allowed themselves to be to a great extent governed by their laws.

In peace and war they have been faithful to their engagements with the United States. With much of hardship and injustice to complain of, they resorted to no other means than solicitation and argument to obtain redress. Loyal and obedient to the laws and the stipulations of their treaties, they served under the flag of the United States, shared the common dangers, and were entitled to a share in the common glory, to gain which their blood was freely shed on the battlefield.

When the dissensions between the Southern and Northern States culminated in a separation of State after State from the Union they watched the progress of events with anxiety and consternation. While their institutions and the contiguity of their territory to the States of Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri made the cause of the seceding States necessarily their own cause, their treaties had been made with the United States, and they felt the utmost reluctance even in appearance to violate their engagements or set at naught the obligations of good faith.

Conscious that they were a people few in numbers compared with either of the contending parties, and that their country might with no considerable force be easily overrun and devastated and desolation and ruin be the result if they took up arms for either side, their authorities determined that no other course was consistent with the dictates of prudence or could secure the safety of their people and immunity from the horrors of a war waged by an invading enemy than a strict neutrality, and in this decision they were sustained by a majority of the nation.

That policy was accordingly adopted and faithfully adhered to. Early in the month of June of the present year the authorities of the nation declined to enter into negotiations for an alliance with the Confederate States, and protested against the occupation of the Cherokee country by their troops, or any other violation of their neutrality. No act was allowed that could be construed by the United States to be a violation of the faith of treaties.

But Providence rules the destinies of nations, and events, by inexorable necessity, overrule human resolutions. The number of the Confederate States has increased to eleven, and their Government is firmly established and consolidated. Maintaining in the field an army of 200,000 men, the war became for them but a succession of victories. Disclaiming any intention to invade the Northern States, they sought only to repel invaders from their own soil and to secure the right of governing themselves. They claimed only the privilege asserted by the Declaration of American Independence, and on which the right of the Northern States themselves to self-government is founded, of altering their form of government when it became no longer tolerable and establishing new forms for the security of their liberties.

Throughout the Confederate States we saw this great revolution effected without violence or the suspension of the laws or the closing of the courts. The military power was nowhere placed above the civil authorities. None were seized and imprisoned at the mandate of arbitrary power. All division among the people disappeared, and the determination became unanimous that there should never again be any union with the Northern States. Almost as one man all who were able to bear arms rushed to the defense of an invaded country, and nowhere has it been found necessary to compel men to serve or to enlist mercenaries by the offer of extraordinary bounties.

But in the Northern States the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated Constitution, all civil liberty put in peril, and all the rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In States which still adhered to the Union a military despotism has displaced the civil power and the laws became silent amid arms. Free speech and almost free thought became a crime. The right to the writ of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the Constitution, disappeared at the nod of a Secretary of State or a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was set at naught by the military power, and this outrage on common right approved by a President sworn to support the Constitution. War on the largest scale was waged, and the immense bodies of troops called into the field in the absence of any law warranting it under the pretense of suppressing unlawful combination of men.

The humanities of war, which even barbarians respect, were no longer thought worthy to be observed. Foreign mercenaries and the scum of cities and the inmates of prisons were enlisted and organized into regiments and brigades and sent into Southern States to aid in subjugating a people struggling for freedom, to burn, to plunder, and to commit the basest of outrages on women; while the heels of armed tyranny trod upon the necks of Maryland and Missouri, and men of the highest character and position were incarcerated upon suspicion and without process of law in jails, in forts, and in prison-ships, and even women were imprisoned by the arbitrary order of a President and Cabinet ministers; while the press ceased to be free, the publication of newspapers was suspended and their issues seized and destroyed; the officers and men taken prisoners in battle were allowed to remain in captivity by the refusal of their Government to consent to an exchange of prisoners; as they had left their dead on more than one field of battle that had witnessed their defeat to be buried and their wounded to be cared for by Southern hands.

Whatever causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past, to complain of some of the Southern States, they cannot but feel that their interests and their destiny are inseparably connected with those of the South. The war now raging is a war of Northern cupidity and fanaticism against the institution of African servitude; against the commercial freedom of the South, and against the political freedom of the States, and its objects are to annihilate the sovereignty of those States and utterly change the nature of the General Government.

The Cherokee people and their neighbors were warned before the war commenced that the first object of the party which now holds the powers of government of the United States would be to annul the institution of slavery in the whole Indian country, and make it what they term free territory and after a time a free State; and they have been also warned by the fate which has befallen those of their race in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oregon that at no distant day they too would be compelled to surrender their country at the demand of Northern rapacity, and be content with an extinct nationality, and with reserves of limited extent for individuals, of which their people would soon be despoiled by speculators, if not plundered unscrupulously by the State.

Urged by these considerations, the Cherokees, long divided in opinion, became unanimous, and like their brethren, the Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, determined, by the undivided voice of a General Convention of all the people, held at Tahlequah, on the 21st day of August, in the present year, to make common cause with the South and share its fortunes.

In now carrying this resolution into effect and consummating a treaty of alliance and friendship with the Confederate States of America the Cherokee people declares that it has been faithful and loyal to is engagements with the United States until, by placing its safety and even its national existence in imminent peril, those States have released them from those engagements.

Menaced by a great danger, they exercise the inalienable right of self-defense, and declare themselves a free people, independent of the Northern States of America, and at war with them by their own act. Obeying the dictates of prudence and providing for the general safety and welfare, confident of the rectitude of their intentions and true to the obligations of duty and honor, they accept the issue thus forced upon them, unite their fortunes now and forever with those of the Confederate States, and take up arms for the common cause, and with entire confidence in the justice of that cause and with a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, will resolutely abide the consequences.

Tahlequah, C. N., October 28, 1861.

THOMAS PEGG,
President National Committee.

JOSHUA ROSS,
Clerk National Committee.

Concurred.
LACY MOUSE,
Speaker of Council.

THOMAS B. WOLFE,
Clerk Council.

Approved.
JNO. ROSS

 

This text is reproduced from The Cherokee Nation official website: Cherokee Declaration of Causes 1861 ,  where you may learn more about their perspective on things.  The document itself is in public domain.

 

Posted in Abolitonism, Abraham Lincoln, Cherokee Confederates, Civil War History, Thomas' Legion, Ulysses S. Grant | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment