Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Old South - Described

From Temple's "East Tennessee in the Civil War":

But, while the North was capturing and organizing new states in the North-west, and extending its empire of thought to the Pacific, the South was slowly moving on as it had done fifty years before. The negro and the mule were the two great factors in its growth, and they leisurely moved on in the old way. They tilled the fields and raised the cotton, the sugar, the rice and the tobacco on which all prosperity depended. Kentucky, Tennessee and the West furnished the mule, the corn, the hay and the bacon. Southern harbors were filled, for the most part, only with coasting vessels. The harbors and the great natural highways to a large extent remained unimproved, because of the supersensitive scruples of Southern statesmen on constitutional questions.

Free, universal education was unknown. The great body of the people were poorly educated, many not at all. The result was, that they were generally thriftless, nerveless and non-progressive. As a rule, only the sons of wealthy men were thoroughly educated. The most promising sons of the rich planters were sent to the University of Virginia, or to Princeton, or Yale, or West Point, to be educated for the bar or the army, with the hope of their ultimately going to congress or becoming governors or great generals, while some were educated for the ministry or for the profession of medicine. The army or a political life was thought to be the highway to honor. Many of the young men on the great plantations grew up with no definite aim, no high purpose. They frolicked, and played cards, and followed the yelping hounds; they "sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

Manufacturing received but little encouragement; It served to develop a spirit of independent thought among the operatives, inconsistent with the safety of slavery. Skilled laborers, especially of the higher grade, would read and think and talk. Slavery was naturally repugnant to them, because it degraded them and their own labor. It tended to lower all laborers to the level of slaves. Trading was only tolerated as a necessity. Mining was almost unknown. The mechanic arts were only practiced in a small way. Planting and war were the only honorable callings aside from the learned professions. Even the learned professions were considered inferior in dignity to the other two. The little land owners who cultivated their fields with their own hands did not rise into the honorable dignity of planters. They were farmers, laborers, "poor whites."Only the man with his broad acres, his drove of Negroes, and his overseer was styled a planter. Without the appendage of an overseer—the most cruel and despicable of men—the position of no planter was high.

The great planter was a man of power. He was courted and honored. The doors of society opened wide at his approach. No wonder he became arrogant and haughty. Yet he possessed many noble qualities. He was brave, generous, magnanimous, sincere and honorable. Certainly in his day he had his good things—"was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day."From the serene heights of his fancied exaltation, the great planter looked down with cold contempt on the large body of Northern men. He regarded them as little tillers of the soil, petty traders, low shop-keepers, enslaved mechanics, howling fanatics and lovers of money. They were mean in spirit, cowardly, narrow, selfish and abased. Mammon was their God. If they gave to objects of charity, it was on a cold calculation that they would get back in some way two dollars for every one given. The operatives in factories were the slaves of the lordly manufacturers, with fewer comforts than the bondsmen of the South.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

African-American Troops in the Civil War

After watching "Glory" (and reading some of the comments) I just wanted to write some facts about African-American troops in the Civil war. It seems that after being neglected for over 120 years the pendulum has swung the other way, and many people are completely overestimating the impact and importance of African-American Soldiers in the Civil War. Some facts:

  • Of the estimated 2, 000,000 men who served in the Union Army about 186,000 were "Colored" (the 19th century term for Black Americans). Mostly former slaves, they were a nice addition to the Union's manpower pool, but not essential. Only 50 percent of Northerners ages 18-35 served in the Union army, so having blacks enlist allowed some whites to stay home, but thats it.
  • Of the 110,000 Union soldiers killed in battle about 3,000 were African-American. That's about 3 percent. Almost 99 percent of the 30,000 union soldiers who died in Confederate prisons were white.
  • Very few African-American units saw action prior to 1864. Those that did were like the famous "54th Massachusetts" used in "side-show" operations. So, no African American units at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Shiloh, Antietam, Stones River, Bull Run, 2nd Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, or Seven Days.
  • Even after January 1864 African American units were used for Garrison duty, guarding lines of communications, "side show" operations, and guarding supply wagons. For example, Sherman's Army in the Atlanta campaign (May-September 1864) and the March-to-the-Sea and the Carolina's (November 1864-March 1865) had no African-American Combat units. The Army of the Potomac during the "Overland Campaign" (May to June 1864) had no black artillery or Calvary regiments. And only 2 of its 44 infantry brigades were African-Americans. Even the famed Battle of Franklin (November 1864) was an "all-white" affair.
  • African American troops did fight in some significant battles, the Battle of Crater in July 1864, the Battle of Nashville in December 1864, and the Siege of Petersburg from June 1864 to March 1865. Some 280 "Colored" soldiers were killed by Forest's Calvary at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. Some call it a massacre since only 70 were taken prisoner.
  • Black troops should have led the attack during the Battle of the crater in July 1864, but Grant and Meade were afraid they would be called 'racists' if the attack failed, so white troops led the attack. As Grant explained later:

General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front, and I believe if he had done so it would have been a success. Still I agreed with General Meade as to his objections to that plan. General Meade said that if we put the colored troops in front (we had only one division) and it should prove a failure, it would then be said and very properly, that we were shoving these people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them. But that could not be said if we put white troops in front."

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Folly of Fort Sumter

From Temple's "The Civil War In East Tennessee":

With this avowed purpose on the part of Mr. Lincoln, which he carefully pursued, it may afford a curious theme for speculation as to what would have been the fate of the Southern Confederacy if Sumter had not been assaulted, or if some similar act of open war had not been resorted to. Would it have gone on exercising the powers of government over the states which had seceded until its authority had become securely cemented and established? Would Virginia, Tennesseeand North Carolina have joined the seceded states? Sooner or later this is most probable. Would the people of the North have acquiesced in this dismemberment of the government? Yes, at that time, in preference to civil war. In this very contingency such men as Greeley, Seward, Thurlow Weed and Crittenden, and thousands of others, if they did not all say, as Mr. Greeley did, let the cotton states "go in peace," they did all insist in spirit that there should be no coercion to restrain them from going. Previous to this time, Expresident Pierce had written to Jefferson Davis, assuring him that if there was to be fighting "it will not be along Mason's and Dixon's line merely. It will be within our own borders, in our own streets, between the two classes of citizens to whom I have referred." "The Albany Argus," a Democratic paper said: "The first gun fired in the way of forcing a seceding state back into the Union would probably prove the knell of its final dismemberment."

So high was the tide of public opinion running, at the time of the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, against the party that had elevated him to power, especially against the Abolition part of it, that it is almost certain that any attempt at coercion against the people of the seceding states, would have been followed in the North by mobs, riots and civil war. Mr. Lincoln saw and knew the hazardous condition of affairs around him. He knew that a blow prematurely struck at secession was more likely to produce a revolution in the North than to end the existing one. In addition to his earnest desire to avoid the shedding of blood, there was necessary on his part the most cautious statesmanship. A single false step would prove fatal to the Union. He must so act as to put the South clearly in the wrong before the world in the event of a conflict of arms. There must be no divided North. He delayed, apparently hesitated, and seemingly negotiated with the enemy. He refused to reenforce Sumter, and only attempted to send provisions to the starving garrison. No troops were mustered for the national defense, not one; no force was used; no threats were made. Never did Mr. Lincoln exhibit a more masterly wisdom, or pro founder sagacity than in this crisis. By his discretion, secession came to a standstill. The North was petrified with fear. A majority had turned with rage against the triumphant party. In the South there was danger, as Mr. Gilchrist said, that some of the states would return to the old Union.

And now came the stupendous folly of firing on Sumter. That single act, in "one hour by Shrewsbury's clock" united the divided North. Without that, or some equally foolish deed, the North could never have been brought to the point of resisting the South, and secession would have triumphed. But when the nation's honor was assailed, and the national flag brought low, sympathy was in a moment turned to wrath, and men everywhere rushed to arms. That first shot, as it went sounding round the world, announcing the commencement of the conflict, was also sounding the death knell of the Southern Confederacy, But for that shot, it might be in existence to-day as a government. But it accomplished its purpose in the direction intended. By it, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina were induced, most unwisely but most naturally, to rush to the help, not of the aggrieved party, but of the aggressor. But it did more than this—something not anticipated. It lost to the South, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, East Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. And still more; by this needless act, the North was brought together in one hour as one man in the determination to avenge the nation's insult, and to lift up and restore the fallen and dishonored flag. Thus Mr. Davis by that shot did what no other power on earth could have done—united the divided North.

The Southern people were sadly mistaken. They expected a divided North. Such would have been the case if the leaders had waited in patience for the fruit to ripen. There can scarcely exist a doubt that a large majority of the Northern people would have voted, in the spring of 1861, to let the seceding states go in preference to the alternative of Civil War. So shocking, so dreadful was the idea of such a war that men were ready to give up everything rather than have such an affliction. But when the nation's honor was insulted, the feeling of brotherhood was turned into rage, that of peace into determined relentless war.

To the last the South was mistaken. They believed the Northern people would not fight. They expected easy victories. Washington, as they boasted, would soon be their capitol. One enthusiastic orator—a senator in the Confederate congress—boasted that they would soon quaff wine from golden goblets in the palaces of New York. Another gentlemen boasted that he would call the roll of his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill Monument. The boast was universal, and perhaps the belief also, that one Southern man could whip five Yankees. An Alabama gentleman reached the climax when he declared in a public speech that they could whip the North with pop-guns made out of elder stalks.1

It really appears as if Providence intended that the Southern people should be the instruments of the destruction of their own favorite institution. At a period when there was, for the first time in twenty years, peace between the two sections, they broke that peace by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and thus turned loose the angry winds of sectionalism. This in the end, through successive steps, led to secession. And when war came, the conviction gradually grew on the minds of men that that was the opportunity offered by Heaven for destroying slavery. It had caused one war, said they ; it should not cause another. Let it perish—by the war. And thus the folly of men was made to do the will of God.

The Real Reason for the Civil War

From "East Tennessee in the Civil War" By Oliver Temple:

Diplomacy and negotiation, however, to say nothing of conciliation, were still open to the Southern States when war was inaugurated by them. At this very time, as is shown in detail elsewhere, the people of the North were ready to concede to the slave states nearly everything they might demand, if they would forego their determination to leave the Union. They could have had whatever they demanded. But no concessions, no guaranties, it is believed, would have satisfied the ambitious leaders. They asked for none; they would have accepted none, They wanted independence and that only.

The controversy—at least the essential part of it—could have been adjusted. It ought to have been. A terrible responsibility lies at the door of one section or the other in that it was not settled. There was no necessity for war. It could and should have been avoided if the North had stood out defiantly in the winter of 1860-1861—if Mr. Lincoln and congress had obstinately refused any concessions, or had manifested no spirit of conciliation, no return of brotherly love—they would have stood forever before the world as haughty and implacable in their overwhelming strength. But they exhibited, in this hour, no implacable hatred, no haughty confidence born of conscious superiority of power.

"Put it in your book," said to the author, an intelligent and most worthy gentleman from Alabama, an ex-Confederate surgeon, who served in the army during the whole war, part of the time under Forrest—" put it in your book, that there should have been no war, that the differences should have been adjusted; that the people of the North and of the South were of substantially the same blood and did not hate each other, and that the war was the work of ambitious politicians and bad men on each side. The great body of the people on both sides were opposed to the war."

It would be surprising, if we could exactly ascertain, how small the number of men in the South is who are actually responsible for the inauguration of the war. Up to the close of the presidential election in 1860, it is doubtful whether as many as a thousand in all the Southern States were working for the distinct object of separation. Previous to the time of firing on Sumter, it is doubtful whether in a single state, aside from South Carolina and Mississippi, a majority of the people were in their hearts honestly for a separation from the Union. They professed to be, it is true. But every one familiar with the fearful despotism of public opinion, in the cotton states, on the subject of slavery, will readily realize how impossible it was to resist this public sentiment in the winter and spring of 1861. In most of the states but few men were found brave enough to do so, and in some of the states secession swept over them with the suddenness and fury of a tropical tornado.

The War of Secession is generally regarded as the "Slaveholders' War." It would be more correct to call it the "Politicians' War." In the beginning it was the work alone of ambitious politicians. Gradually the circle widened and other classes were drawn into it. Finally whole sections were seized with the idea. Thus, from a beginning started by a few men, the movement spread over eight states.

Slavery was the remote, but not the immediate, cause of the war. This institution was as secure in 1861 as it was in 1820, and if the South had waited and willed it, it could have been so hedged around by constitutional guaranties and safeguards as to place it forever beyond the power of government to molest. Slavery was made the excuse, the pretext for the war. It was the rallying cry of the daring leaders when they would inflame the minds of the Southern people with madness.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jefferson Davis - Decides to Flee to Mexico & not die in the last ditch

Letter to Varina Davis April 23, 1865:

I think my judgement is undisturbed by any pride of opinion or of place, I have prayed to our heavenly Father to give me wisdom and fortitude equal to the demands of the position in which Providence has placed me. I have sacrificed so much for the cause of the Confederacy that I can measure my ability to make any further sacrifice required, and am assured there is but one to which I am not equal, my Wife and my Children. How are they to be saved from degradation or want is now my care. During the suspension of hostilities you may have the best opportunity to go to Missi. and thence either to sail from Mobile for a foreign port or to cross the river and proceed to Texas, as the one or the other may be more practicable. The little sterling you have will be a very scanty store and under other circumstances would not be counted, but if our land can be sold that will secure you from absolute want.

For myself it may be that our Enemy will prefer to banish me, it may be that a devoted band of Cavalry will cling to me and that I can force my way across the Missi. and if nothing can be done there which it will be proper to do, then I can go to Mexico and have the world from which to choose a location. Dear Wife this is not the fate to which I invited when the future was rose-colored to us both; but I know you will bear it even better than myself and that /of us two/ I alone will ever look back reproachfully on my past career.

Jefferson Davis - Delusional - Beauregard's View - April 1865

General Beauregard, in his conference with the President, also told him that, from Macon, General Cobb reported that the enemy's cavalry had penetrated North Alabama, from the Tennessee River, threatening Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery; while another force of cavalry, supported by infantry and artillery, was advancing, through North Georgia, on Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon, where he, General Cobb, had but few troops, principally local and State reserves, to oppose to them.

General Beauregard also said to Mr. Davis that the picture he presented to him was most gloomy, but that he thought it his duty to attempt no concealment of the truth, so that the President might have a clear knowledge of the situation, and be prepared for the inevitable. President Davis lent an attentive ear to the account thus given of the hopeless condition of the Confederacy, but appeared, nevertheless, undismayed. He said that the struggle could still be carried on to a successful issue, by bringing out all our latent resources; that if the worst came to the worst, we might, by crossing the Mississippi River, with such troops as we could retreat with, unite with Kirby Smith's army, which he estimated at some sixty thousand men, and prolong the war indefinitely. General Beauregard did not expect, and was amazed at, this evidence of visionary hope on the part of the President. He admired his confidence, but inwardly condemned what to him seemed to be a total want of judgment and a misconception of the military resources of the country.

The President on that day (11th April), after his interview with General Beauregard, sent telegrams to General Johnston, by way of Raleigh... and one to Governor Vance, also at Raleigh. They fully indicate the state of Mr. Davis's mind at the time, and need no commentary:

"Greensboro", N. C, April Uth, 1865. "Governor Z. B. Vance, Raleigh, N. C.:"I have no official report, but scouts, said to be reliable, and whose statements were circumstantial and corroborative, represent the disaster as extreme."I have not heard from General Lee since the 6th instant, and have little or no hope from his army as an organized body. I expected to visit you at Raleigh, but am accidentally prevented from executing that design, and would be very glad to see you here, if you can come at once, or to meet you elsewhere in North Carolina at a future time. We must redouble our efforts to meet present disaster. An army holding its position with determination to fight on, and manifest ability to maintain the struggle, will attract all the scattered soldiers and daily rapidly gather strength."Moral influence is wanting, and I am sure you can do much now to revive the spirit and hope of the people. Jeffn. Davis."

*From the Military Operations of P.T. Beauregard Volume II

Jefferson Davis - Delusional - Joe Johnston's View - April 1865

From General Joseph Johnston's "My Negotiations" (N.A. Review August 1886)

On April 10th, the Federal army commenced its march toward Raleigh. The Confederate troops moved in the same direction. Having the advantage of a day's march, they reached Raleigh the next afternoon, when I received, by telegraph, orders to report to the President at Greensboro' without delay.

[Johnston meets with Davis on April 12th, and Davis makes wild statements that the army will soon number in the hundreds of thousands]

I reached the station there early in the morning of the 12th, and was General Beauregard's guest in the box-car in which he lodged... We found Davis with three members of his Cabinet—Messrs. Benjamin, Mallory, and Beagan... We had supposed that the President wished to obtain information from us of the military condition of that department, but it soon appeared that we were to receive, not to give information. For those present were told, with very little preface, that, in two or three weeks, the President would have in the field a larger army than the Confederacy ever had in its ranks at one time, by calling out the many thousands who had abandoned the service, and all those enrolled by the conscript bureau, who could not be brought into it by the military force used for the purpose by that bureau. It was suggested that men who had left the army when our cause was not desperate, and those who under similar circumstances could not be forced into it, would scarcely return to it, or enter it, in its present hopeless condition, upon a mere invitation. The fact that we had not arms enough for the soldiers who stood by their colors made this scheme inexpressibly wild. But no opinions were asked and we were dismissed.

Before leaving the room, General Breckenridge came as expected, .and reported that General Lee had capitulated on the 9th. After this intelligence, General Beauregard and I carefully considered the state of our affairs. We found ourselves compelled to admit that the military resources of the South were exhausted, and that the Confederacy was overthrown.

General Beauregard and I were summoned to the President's quarters next morning (the 13th); I supposed at General Breckenridge's suggestion. We were desired to compare the military condition of the Confederacy with that of the United States. As spokesman, I said that we had an army of 20,000 * infantry and artillery, and 5,000f mounted troops; against which the United States could bring three: that in Virginia of 180,000, as we were informed ; that in North Carolina of 110,000, and that in Alabama of 60,000, making odds against us of at least fifteen to one. Then we had neither money nor credit, and no arms except those in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition excepting that in their cartridge-boxes, nor shops to repair arms or fix ammunition; and that therefore the only effect of our keeping the field would be the devastation of our country and the ruin of the people, and this, too, without inflicting harm on the enemy. I asserted further that it would be the highest of human crimes to continue the war. General Beauregard assented decidedly to this view.

The members of the Cabinet were then desired by the President to express their opinions as to the possibility of our continuing the war. GeneralBreckenridge and Messrs. Mallory and Reagan concurred with the military officers—that we had been overcome in arms, and that it was necessary to make peace. But Mr. Benjamin entertained the opposite opinion, which he asserted in a speech enthusiastically warlike.

[Johnston then met with Sherman and signed a convention for peace that was repudiated by President Johnson. ]

In the afternoon of the 24th I received from the President, who was then in Charlotte, notice by telegraph that he had ratified the terms of pacification agreed upon by General Sherman and me on the 18th. Within an hour thereafter a courier brought me from General Hampton two communications from General Sherman—one giving notice of the rejection of the terms above mentioned by the President of the United States, and the other announcing the termination of the armistice forty-eight hours after noon of that day. These facts were communicated to the administration without delay; and I proposed that, to prevent further devastation of our country by the marching of armies, our army should be disbanded.

[Davis orders Johnston to disband the infantry and keep on fighting]

A reply dated 11 P.m., April 24th, was received early next morning. It suggested that the infantry might be disbanded then, to re-assemble at a place named. I was directed to bring with me all the cavalry, a few light field-pieces, and all other men who could be mounted on serviceable beasts. I declined to obey this order; giving as my reason, that it provided for the performance of but one of the three important duties I had to perform—securing the safety of the President and Cabinet, but not that of the people and of the army, and I suggested the immediate escape of the high civil officers under a proper escort.

The confident belief that it would be a high crime to continue the war governed me in this instance, as it had prompted me to urge the civil authorities of the South to end the war. The arrangement ordered would have put the great bodies of Union troops in motion, everywhere spreading suffering and ruin among our people, without serving the object of the President's escape as well as an escort of a few picked men would have done.

[Having rejected Davis' crazy plan, Johnston met with Sherman and made peace in N.C., S.C, Ga. and Florida]

I determined, therefore, to make another effort to bring about a pacification—within the extent of my command, at least—in the confidence that it would spread fast to the West and South. In that hope I proposed another armistice to General Sherman, and another arrangement, on the basis of the military clause in the agreement of the 18th. General Sherman sent a favorable reply very promptly; so that I was able to set out early on the 26th to meet him at Bennett's, as before, after reporting to the Administration that I was about to do so. We met at Mr. Bennett's about noon ; and, as General Sherman was anxious to restore tranquillity to the country, we soon agreed upon terms, and established peace within the limits of our commands, which were the same.