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AND THE WAR CAME

AND THE WAR CAME


THE SLAVERY QUARREL
AND
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

by Donald J. Meyers

Algora Publishing
New York
© 2005 by Algora Publishing in the name of Raymond Monsour Scurfield
All Rights Reserved
www.algora.com

No portion of this book (beyond what is permitted by


Sections 107 or 108 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976)
may be reproduced by any process, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the
express written permission of the publisher.
ISBN: 0-87586-358-2 (softcover)
ISBN: 0-87586-359-0 (hardcover)
ISBN: 0-87586-360-4 (ebook)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data —

Meyers, Donald J.
And the war came : the slavery quarrel and the American Civil War / by
Donald J. Meyers.
p. cm.
Summary: “This detailed account of slavery in America, from Jamestown
through the Civil War, explains its economic importance in the North as well as
the South, its impact on the political dynamics of the Civil War, and the moral
dilemmas it posed.”
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-87586-359-0 (hard cover: alk. paper) — ISBN 0-87586-358-2 (soft
cover: alk. paper) — ISBN 0-87586-360-4 (ebook)
1. Slavery—United States—History. 2. Slavery—Southern States—History.
3. Slavery—Economic aspects—United States—History. 4. Slavery—Moral and
ethical aspects—United States—History. 5. United States—History—Civil War,
1861-1865—Causes. I. Title.

E441.M56 2005
306.3'62'0973—dc22
2005004580

Cover: Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia


A jubilant crowd greets President Abraham Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia,
soon after the surrender of the city on April 4, 1865.
Image: © CORBIS
Date Created: ca. 1865

Printed in the United States


This book is gratefully dedicated to those persons who have exerted a
major influence on the way I have lived my life and who deserve most of the
credit for the great joy I have found in it:
My parents
My wife of 45 years, Anne
Each of our nine children
A few close friends
Several zealous teachers and coaches
TABLE OF CONTENTS

PROLOGUE. EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY 1

1. THE DECLARATION: LIBERTY, BUT NOT FOR ALL 17

2. UNITING AROUND A CONSTITUTION, AT A COST 29

3. THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE 37

4. A BESIEGED SOUTH CIRCLES THE WAGONS 53

5. THE “GAG” RULE FIGHT 61

6. THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT: ONE PARTY DEAD, THE OTHER SPLIT 71

7. ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS 83

8. THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES: A DARK HORSE 93

9. LINCOLN ELECTED, SEVEN STATES DEFECTED 103

10. AN ACT OF WAR 113

11. FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN: DISILLUSION AND FRUSTRATION 121


The First Battle of Bull Run, July, 1861 121

12. THE BATTLE OF SHILOH: LARGE-SCALE KILLING SHOCKS THE NATION 131
The Battle of Shiloh, April 6 and 7, 1862 132

13. THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN: MCCLELLAN SPOOKED BY LEE 139


The Battles of the Peninsula Campaign, April 5 to July 12, 1862 140

14. SECOND BULL RUN AND ANTIETAM: OPPORTUNITY SQUANDERED 149


The Battle of Second Bull Run, August 28-30, 1862 150
The Battle of Antietam, September 17 and 18, 1862 155

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And the War Came

15. SLAUGHTER AT FREDERICKSBURG, JUBILEE WITH EMANCIPATION 163


The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11-14, 1862 168

16. THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE: LINCOLN’S DEPRESSION GROWS 175


The Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-6, 1863 176

17. GETTYSURG AND VICKSBURG: THE WRITING ON THE WALL 183


The Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863 185
The Siege of Vicksburg, May 18 to July 4, 1863 194

18. THE BATTLES OF CHICKAMAUGA AND MISSIONARY RIDGE: GENERAL GRANT 199
The Battle of Chickamauga, September 19 and 20, 1863 200
The Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 23-25, 1863 203

19. ATLANTA AND MCPHERSON FALL: SOMETHING WENT OUT OF THE WAR 211
The Battles, or “Slugfests,” of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor
211

20. CONFEDERATE DISASTER IN TENNESSEE, AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT 223


The Battles of Franklin and Nashville, November 30 and December 15, 1864
227

21. LEE SURRENDERS AT APPOMATTOX 235

22. LINCOLN ASSASSINATED, HIS SEVERE TASK DONE 245

23. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: THE MAN JOHN QUINCY ADAMS WAS LOOKING FOR 257

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 263

INDEX 277

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PROLOGUE. EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY
I do not pretend to go to sleep. How can I?...
I count four — St. Michael’s chimes.
I begin to hope. At half past four the heavy booming of a cannon.
I sprang out of bed.
And on my knees — prostrate
I prayed as I have never prayed before.

While her friends cheered the bombardment of federal Fort Sumter, from
the rooftops of Charleston’s fashionable Battery, Mary Chesnut confided her
anxiety to her diary that April morning in 1861, the day of our national
watershed.
“And so we fool on, into the black cloud ahead of us.”1
Mary was the wife of James Chesnut, who had recently resigned as United
States Senator from South Carolina. Now he was a staff officer serving Confed-
erate General Beauregard, commander of the Charleston garrison.
The cannonading was a rash act, hastily choreographed by the fledgling
Confederate Government in Montgomery, Alabama.
At 4:30 in the morning of April 12, 1861, in the charming and historical city
of Charleston, South Carolina (where Charlestonians like to say that the Ashley
and the Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean), soldiers pro-
claiming allegiance to the State of South Carolina were under the command of
General Gustave Pierre Toutant Beauregard, recently Superintendent of West
Point, the toast of this fair town, dapper, debonair, a “fox-faced” Creole from
Louisiana, who had brought a servant with him from Louisiana just to wax his

1. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 41, 46.

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And the War Came

mustache every day. They arched a cannonball high in the air in the direction of
“their” fort, Sumter, which was occupied by United States troops under the
command of Major Robert Anderson, son of a Revolutionary War officer who
had once been under a bombardment of his own, in this very city, by the British.
The son, a West Point graduate, a native of Kentucky, a man of Southern ante-
cedents, had married a woman from Georgia, and was a slave-owner and
Southern sympathizer...but on this night he would be loyal to his uniform, to his
flag and to the tall, homely, lonely, brooding man in Washington.
As that war-birthing cannonball reached its apogee and began its graceful
fall, cheered wildly by scores of defiant, confident Charlestonians, Mary Chesnut
fell to her knees. Her husband, the Colonel, as instructed by Beauregard, had
given the order to fire the signal shots to begin the bombardment.
News of the firing on Fort Sumter reached California by Pony Express on
April 24. Many Army officers stationed there would become prominent in the
war. Each declared his choice, North or South, held last-minute parties, swore
undying friendship to one another and left to face each other on the battle-
grounds.
Many Southern people thought there would be no war, or that, if one
came, it would be of short duration. Any decent Southerner knew that one
Southerner could lick ten Yankees. As has been observed, “The worst wars
usually happen because one power believes it can advance its objectives either
without a war at all or at least with only a limited war that it can quickly win —
and, consequently miscalculates.”2

The laws of changeless justice bind


Oppressor and oppressed
And, close as sin and suffering joined,
We march to Fate abreast.3

How had things come to this pass? America had been grappling with the
slavery issue for nearly four score and seven years, roughly three generations.
Resolution of the issue, originally assumed to be “around the corner,” grew more
complex, more baffling, and more frustrating with each passing decade. At long
last, and perhaps inevitably, it had come to war.

2. Casper Weinberger and Peter Schweizer, The Next War.


3.Whittier, “At Port Royal,” 1862.

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Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

Slavery’s roots twist deeply into human history. Gravesites in Lower Egypt
suggest that a Libyan people of about 8000 B.C. enslaved a Bushman tribe from
Africa.
The Athenians possessed slaves whom they enlisted to fight for them at
Marathon, but they freed them before the battle. The Athenians were the first to
discuss and explain slavery.
Aristotle wrote, “Humanity is divided into two: the masters and the
slaves...those who have the right to command and those who are born to obey,”
while affirming that “a slave is property with a soul.”4
To the Romans, a slave was an object, and could not make a will, bear
witness in civil cases, or bring criminal charges. As with so many Roman
customs, these restrictions survived into the nineteenth century in the New
World. The criticism of slavery by the great Latin writers tended to concentrate
on the opprobrium of cruel treatment by masters. Early Christians concluded
that since Christ never discussed slavery, there existed no Divine condemnation
of the institution. St. Paul recommended that slaves serve their masters with
“fear and trepidation,” implying that liberty could only be expected in the next
world. In his Epistle to Philamon the Greek, St. Paul describes his return of a
slave to his master. Though the Apostle recommended leniency, his actions sug-
gested that the early Church rejected the idea that escaped slaves had the right
to sanctuary in their churches, as did common criminals. Several centuries later,
St. John Chrysostom advised the slave to prefer the security of captivity to the
uncertainties of freedom. In the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great proclaimed
that no slave could become a priest and the Councils of Carthage refused the
right of even enfranchised slaves to bear witness in court, although the Church
often encouraged manumission of slaves. Indeed, St. Patrick of Ireland, in the
same century, condemned all trade in human beings. Perhaps his perspective
was colored by the fact that he, himself, was once seized and enslaved.
Slavery persisted throughout the Dark Ages. People became slaves for
several reasons: they were unfortunate enough to have been captives in endless
wars; they were criminals sentenced to pay their debt to society; or they were
poor and desperate people who sold themselves, or were sold by members of
their families, to avoid starvation or obtain the taste of a better life. Moral
anxiety over the custom had never been widespread and, when aroused, was
generally focused on decent treatment of slaves.

4.Aristotle, Politics, 1st book.

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And the War Came

Over one-half of the 500 surviving Visigoth laws relate to slavery. Toward
the end of the first millennium, slavery diminished substantially in Northern
Europe, probably from a combination of reasons: a rise in technology replaced
some labor-intensive work (introduction of the water-mill rendered obsolete the
exhausting, slave-powered land mill); the reduced incidence of wars encouraged
slave-owners to convert their chattel to rent-paying tenants; there were slave
revolts; and, an increasingly penitent Church awakened to a more slave-sensitive
morality. The fact that slaves were given baptism directly contradicted the
notion that slaves were anything other than men and women with souls.
The Domesday Book, in AD 1087, recorded about a tenth of the English
labor force as servi, but by 1200, slavery had disappeared in England.
In the countries bordering the Mediterranean, slavery prospered during
the Middle Ages because the Mediterranean Sea was a permanent war zone
between Christians and Muslims, who had a commercial interest in enslaving
each other. The Muslims found a basis for slavery in the Koran, but that holy
book also cited freeing slaves as a particularly exemplary act. Though African
slaves were numerous, slaves were not identified by race. All skin pigments
shared in the misery. Associating skin color or race with slavery was an intel-
lectual sophistication only conceived in the New World in the late 18th century.
In 1444, captains of Portuguese ships, sailing under the auspices of Henry
the Navigator to the west coast of Africa to find gold, were offered slaves for
trade. They discovered local kings who possessed large numbers of slaves who
had been captured in raids on neighboring tribes. These slaves were mostly
engaged in tending to their masters’ fields. “They did no more work than other
members of the community, even their master.”5 Henry quickly perceived the
opportunity to achieve a material and spiritual windfall with one stroke: profit
from trading in slaves and harvesting their souls for the Christian God. An
“African Trading Company” was established as a royal monopoly.
Initially, one horse could be traded for twelve Negroes. Within 15 years,
the price increased to six horses. By 1460, it became a mark of distinction to have
slaves in a Portuguese household.

5. William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Slave Narratives, Olaudah Equiano,
“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, p. 58.

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Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

In 1452, the Portuguese planted sugar cane on the Island of Madeira off the
northwest coast of Africa. The island was famous as the home of the Malvoisie
grape, from which Madeira wine was made (Malmsey wine, to the English).
Thus was consummated the long and unhappy marriage of slaves and
sugar cane that would end in Louisiana four hundred years later. In mid-15th
century Europe, sugar was used only for medicinal purposes. Tea, coffee and
chocolate had not yet been introduced. Sugar is an uncomplicated crop grown in
fertile and well-irrigated land. From propagation (by planting pieces of stalk) to
harvesting requires fifteen months.
Five years before Columbus’s voyage, the Portuguese established the chief
source of the future American slave trade in the Congo. By then, the right to
transport slaves over water had been awarded to a succession of privileged Por-
tuguese merchants. Exploitation of the resources of the New World would
escalate the demand for slaves. During the first three centuries after Columbus’s
discoveries, a significant portion of all the gold and silver that had ever been dis-
covered on earth was transferred from the New World to the Old World (minus
some 25 per cent lost in shipwrecks).
King Ferdinand of Spain, responding to the clamor of his colonists for
more and more slaves, authorized shipment of slaves directly from Africa rather
than through Spain. Spain controlled most of the world’s silver as well as the
majority of America’s indigo, tobacco, and cochineal, a prized scarlet dye for
fabric. After the Portuguese royal family died out, the Spanish inherited most of
the world’s gold supply, the production of salt and pepper, spices from the
Pacific Islands and sugar from Brazil. Spain then placed an embargo on foreign
trade with their principal European competitors, especially England and
Holland.
In the 16th century, Spain and Portugal regarded the Atlantic Ocean as
“Mare Nostrum,” but the Northern Europeans grew ever more desirous to share
in the spoils of Africa and the New World. First the French, then the English
and, finally, the Dutch developed a winning strategy: piracy. Each nation preyed
with great glee upon the Spanish ships, seizing gold and slaves. At times, the
predators capitalized on the opportunity of seizing the cargo of other pirate
vessels.
England, France and Spain managed the trade of their colonists as a
company manages its franchises. Sugar went only to the mother country, in her
ships, to her licensed brokers. Everything the colonists bought was to be pur-
chased from the parent. The market for sugar expanded in line with the rising

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And the War Came

income of the lower classes in the mother countries. They valued this substance
for its high calorie content and the sweet taste which enlivened the monotony of
their meals.

By the middle of the 17th century, even the poorest took sugar in their tea
and in their porridge. The pudding, traditionally made with meat or fish, became
a separate sweet course. Sugar began to be used as a preservative, like salt. It was
common for a poor family to spend up to six per cent of its income on sugar.
Sugar was the most valuable single import, energizing conversation in coffee-
houses and salons and invigorating soldiers in the Grand Armée of France.
The bow wave of British naval preeminence cleared the way for England to
capture most of the slave trade. In the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), following the
War of the Spanish Succession, the British were awarded the “Asiento,” or the
right to ship slaves to the Spanish Indies, for a period of 30 years.
The captain and key members of the crews of slave ships enjoyed a profit-
sharing plan, with payment in slaves. This did not blind them to the horror of
loading the ships:
When it became obvious to the slaves that they were leaving their country, as
they were herded aboard ship, they were overcome with despair. Some throw them-
selves into the sea, others hit their head against the ship, others hold their breath
and try to smother themselves, others still try to die of hunger from not eating, yet,
when they have definitely left their country, they begin to console themselves, par-
ticularly when the captain assuages them with the music of some instrument...6
Conditions on board were unspeakable.
“The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the
number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn
himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the
air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and
brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died...this wretched situ-
ation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insup-
portable, and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell
and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the
dying, rendered the whole scene of horror almost inconceivable.”7

6. Savary, Le Parfait Negociant, p. 11.


7. William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Slave Narratives, Olaudah Equiano,
“The Interesting Narrrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, p. 76.

6
Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

While the slaves were generally fed nearly as well as the crew and given
water, disease was rampant. Death rates ran to 24 per cent in the late 17th
century, declining to ten per cent 50 years later and to less than six per cent 100
years later. The worst ailment was dysentery, or “the flux,” causing about a third
of the deaths. Among the slaves, smallpox would have been next. The white
sailors were immune to it. Brutality, often resulting from rebellion, took many
lives, with uprisings occurring as frequently as one in every eight to ten
crossings. Raging storms drowned many. When the Dutch vessel, Leuden, was
stranded on the rocks off Surinam, 702 slaves were left to drown when the crew,
before abandoning ship, battened down the slave hold hatches to prevent pande-
monium. There also lurked the pirate ships. Occasionally the slavers themselves
turned pirate. Many of the slave ship’s officers saw nothing wrong in their activ-
ities and they were reassured by the idea that the pagan Africans would be given
the gift of baptism, so that they might aspire to an after-life in the Christian
heaven.
For the English colonists, slaveholding became a way of life soon after their
first landfall. Twenty years after the first settlers disappeared without a trace on
Roanoke Island, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement took root at
Jamestown in 1607. James I ruled England. Queen Elizabeth I had been dead only
four years. Queen Elizabeth had initiated England’s role in the slave trade by
sponsoring the voyages of Sir John Hawkins, who transported captive Africans
to Spain’s American colonies. The Jamestown settlers could scarcely have
arrived at a worse moment in the region’s meteorological history. Severe drought
withered the crops grown by Indians and white colonists alike. Only 38 of the
104 first-year Jamestown residents survived. In the next 18 years, 4800 out of
6000 settlers died.
In 1612, one John Rolfe, after being shipwrecked in Bermuda while sailing
from England to Virginia, re-embarked with others in a homemade boat and
headed for the Jamestown Colony on the mainland. Soon after his arrival, this
newcomer developed an effective method of curing tobacco. The first crop was
exported to England in 1614 (thus beginning another baneful industry). John
Rolfe married Pocahontas, the Indian maiden who, at the age of 12, had pleaded
successfully for the life of the colony’s leader, Captain John Smith, who had been
captured by her father, Powhatan, the Chief of Indian Virginia.
In 1619, the same year that the first legislative body met in America, twenty
blacks arrived in Jamestown aboard a Dutch warship.8 They were treated as
indentured servants and were the first Africans put to work by resident English

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And the War Came

colonists. The first American slave ship was launched in Marblehead, Massachu-
setts in 1636. Charleston, which would become the largest slave market in the
colonies, was settled in 1670 by settlers aboard the Carolina. They left England in
three ships. Two were wrecked by hurricanes, and the third was crowded with
the addition of those plucked from the sea.
And so it began! The haggard American colonists (frequently of humble
British or Irish origin, and obsessed with survival in their harsh environment)
became masters of human beings, accepting, albeit with a tinge of reluctance, the
fait accompli presented by the British Government which had kidnapped these
black people and left them hopelessly bereft and unable to fend for themselves.
In the beginning, there was little difference in station: the master worked
alongside his field-hands doing the daily chores. He lived in a crude wooden
abode while a slave lived in a lean-to or earthen hut.
The status of blacks varied, initially, but it is clear that after 1640 some
blacks were treated as hereditary slaves. That same year the Virginia General
Court sentenced two white runaway, indentured servants to a year’s extra
service while remanding their black fugitive companion to lifetime slavery.
Thus, slavery was introduced to the colonies. It existed, it had existed, in
many places and for many centuries, and was generally accepted. To some,
perhaps, slavery appeared as the extension of indentured servitude of a people
whose skin-color, background and patent lack of progress in the worldly arts
naturally relegated them to the condition in which they found themselves.
In the first quarter of the 17th century, the cumulative number of African
slaves transported to the New World probably reached 200,000. Half of these
unfortunates had been shipped to Brazil. Most of the rest were carried to
Spanish America. John Winthrop, educated at Cambridge, was appointed as the
first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He wrote an essay (“A Modell
of Christian Charity”) during the pilgrims’ turbulent voyage across the Atlantic
in 1630:
God Almighty in His most holy and wise Providence has so disposed the condi-
tion of mankind, as in all times some must be rich some poor, some high and emi-
nent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.9
In the second quarter of the 17th century, another 200,000 Africans slaves
were sent to the Americas. Holland had emerged as the world’s major economic

8.James Mellon, ed., introduction to Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History.
9.John Winthrop, A Modell of Christianity, An Essay, 1630.

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Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

power and she dominated the slave trade to the West Indies. Dutch planters
introduced sugar cane production in Barbados. The number of slaves there
increased from 6,000 to 80,000 in the space of 22 years.

In the third quarter of the 17th century, it is estimated that 375,000


Africans were exported as slaves to the Americas. In the next 25 years, 600,000
more Africans were forcibly migrated. The natives of Africa’s Gold Coast “were
no longer searching for gold to trade but made war on each other to acquire
slaves.”10
The British Royal African Company was chartered in 1672 for the purpose
trading English goods in West Africa for slaves primarily and then gold, ivory,
and hardwood dyes. Their license extended for a thousand years.
Evaluating their opportunity, West Africans determined that trading for
European arms would enable them to become better armed than their prey in
interior Africa. Kidnapping increased, and fueled wars of revenge. Young African
boys hid in trees as lookouts to alert their villages to the approach of human
predators.
In the slave-pens of the coastal cities, frightened African prisoners,
awaiting sale to the European slave traders, were approached by strange-looking
men with long hair and pale skins who examined them closely for signs of poor
health. Some Europeans went so far as tasting the sweat of a captive, a procedure
that they believed could tell them if a person was sick. This did little to reassure
the petrified captive, who was already afraid he would be eaten by the pale
strangers.
In England’s American colonies, the indenture system of apprenticeship in
skilled trades coexisted with slavery. The favorite voluntary method of escaping
from poverty or oppression in England and Europe, in the 17th century, was to
attach oneself to a colonial tradesman or master as an indentured servant for a
number of years. In return for labor the servant was housed, fed and clothed, and
he learned a craft. The master, in return for paying for passage, not only received
the term of service but also a land-grant of 50 acres per individual. After his term
matured, the servant received a grant of land and could offer his craftsmanship as
a skilled workman to a growing community. This was often a win-win situation,
providing inexpensive labor for the aging craftsman and training for the fledgling
artisan who then could offer his products to an expanding market.

10. Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1879, pp. 226-227.

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And the War Came

In the early decades of settlement, the distinction between blacks and


lower-class whites was not clear; but as opportunities in America proliferated, it
became more difficult to attract indentured servants. Their conditions and
treatment improved as their numbers declined. Meanwhile, the masters found
an attractive alternative to indentured servants. They could take on slave
laborers.
The slave-owner might even have considered that he was a benign
influence, providing food, shelter and care for someone who had been retched
out of hell ships onto the American continent and was incapable of surviving
unaided. The slave was his obligation for life, and also the slave’s wife or husband
and children. Children required food, clothing, and care for years, before they
became productive workers. And eventually, they all would become old, useless,
and a burden on the household. All of this expense and responsibility the slave-
holder had to bear, in exchange for work that might be grudgingly performed,
without loyalty or gratitude. Many masters saw this exchange as more than fair.
In the South, the accumulation of large land holdings in the hands a few
proprietors, along with the munificent growing climate, led to the development
of a primarily agricultural society. Slavery became fundamental to plantation
economics. This divergence from the North, with its myriad of small farms and
industrializing cities, eventually fostered two very distinct cultures.
Around Charleston, South Carolina, land was valued at a penny an acre in
1690. A future planter did not require a fortune to become a great landowner and
slaves virtually assured economic success to the venturesome.
The growth of the plantations transformed the South from a society with
slaves into a slave society, combining European capital, slave labor and American
land to transform the landscape, create new classes, restructure social relations
and establish new centers of wealth and power. The master’s authority spread
from the plantations to the statehouses, courtrooms, counting houses, churches,
colleges, taverns, racetracks, and private clubs.
The concept of class distinction and “place” in society became as firmly
rooted in the colonial society as it was in England. Masters invoked the Bible and
the precedent of history as justifications for a harsh social and economic stratifi-
cation.
In view of the sharp decline in the number of indentured servants coming
to the Colonies after 1680, landowners residing in the Chesapeake Bay area, des-
perate for labor, looked elsewhere for replacements. Between 1674 and 1691 the

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Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

ratio of slave prices to indentured servant prices fell from 2.88 to 1.83, thus
encouraging the purchase of slaves (slaves were owned for life).
Between 1680 and 1750 the estimated proportion of blacks in the Colonial
population increased from 7 to 44 per cent in Virginia and from 17 to 61 per cent
in South Carolina.

In 1671, Sir John Yeamans, a Barbados planter, who was raised in Bristol,
England, arrived in Charleston, bringing slaves from his island plantation to
clear his land on the Ashley River. He became the first Governor of the state.
In 1696, the colonial legislature in South Carolina passed a law asserting
new “chattel” status for “All Negroes, Mollatoes, and Indians which at any time
heretofore have been bought and Sold.” “Chattel” meant a slave was movable
property. Since children assumed the status of the mother, a hereditary caste of
workers was created.
By 1698, South Carolina had become the slave center of North America
with 3000 slaves, mostly black, serving 3800 free whites.
There were some who voiced their dismay. Benjamin Lay, a hunchback
from Colchester, England, who had lived in Barbados and seen slavery in oper-
ation first-hand, immigrated to Philadelphia. He attended a Quaker meeting and
displayed a sheep’s bladder he had filled with blood, into which he plunged a
sword, saying, “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave
their fellow creatures.”11
Conversely, some Baptists in South Carolina wrote home to England to
seek guidance for treatment of a fellow member who had castrated one of his
slaves. The reply admonished them not to risk dissension in the movement “over
light or indifferent causes.”12
The slave trade burgeoned in the late 17th century. Many of the leading
families in England and New England grew rich on slave transportation. Conser-
vative estimates of the total number of slaves transported to the entire New
World of the Americas range from 8 to 15 million.
In later years, Southern apologists would react venomously to Northern
attacks on the cruelty of enslavement, reminding their critics of the universality
of guilt with examples such as that which occurred in 1781 when the captain of
the slave transport Zong ordered 132 famished Africans thrown overboard

11. Clarkson, The History of Abolition...of the Slave Trade, [19, 32], i, 148.
12. Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1879, p. 459.

11
And the War Came

because his insurance covered death from drowning but not starvation. One Mr.
Phillips, captain of a slave-ship, wrote,
We have likewise seen...sharks, of which a prodigious number kept about the
ships...and I have been told will follow her hence to Barbadoes, for the dead Negroes
that are thrown overboard in the passage.13
In the century before the American Revolution, slavery spread to all of the
colonies; but it became an entrenched labor system where there was widespread
tobacco and agricultural production. In the Chesapeake Tidewater region of
Maryland, Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, annual exports of tobacco
surged from 20,000 lbs. in 1619 to 39 million lbs. in 1700, before peaking at 60
million lbs. Virginia and Maryland led all other mainland colonies in the value of
their exports to England, providing half of the total.
In the 17th century the slave population had failed to reproduce itself, but
conditions conducive to fertility and, more importantly, a more propitious
balance in male to female ratios gradually increased birth rates in the 18th
century. At this point, slaves became a self-perpetuating labor force. An
American-born master class and an American-born slave class had emerged.
South Carolina was not robust economically until rice was introduced as a
staple crop in 1690. By 1708, it was South Carolina’s largest export, far sur-
passing the earlier traffic in lumber and beef. Rice would make the fortunes of
planters for six generations.
Between 1720 and 1740, 40,000 African slaves arrived in South Carolina.
Rice was not a food for the wealthy but it had two highly redeeming, practical
qualities: It filled the stomachs of the world’s overwhelming majority of poor
people, the armies of Europe and gangs of workers; and, it did not spoil. Strains
of it had been grown in West Africa and, initially, some of the slaves were more
familiar with its cultivation than their masters. Before long it was known as
“Carolina Gold.”
The rice fields were established among the forests of tupelo gum trees and
cypress trunks along the Ashley and Cooper Rivers some 30 to 50 miles west of
Charleston. In March, the field hands planted corn and sweet potatoes to feed
the plantation and, in April, the rice fields were prepared.
Rice exports from South Carolina soared from 12,000 lbs. in 1698 to 83
million lbs. in 1770 (including Georgia, after 1750). From the middle of the 18th
century Carolinians also began to produce indigo. With every passing year, as

13.Phillips, Journal, in Dow, Slave Ships, p. 71.

12
Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

first tobacco, then rice, then indigo and finally cotton exports grew exponen-
tially, the fortunes of more and more slave-owners became dependent on the
slave labor system.
Slavery developed, therefore, into an essential element of Southern eco-
nomic life and survival, rendering the philosophical niceties of Enlightenment
Europe, with the sense of the intrinsic rights and value of all human beings, an
unaffordable luxury. Charleston, the warehouse of the Deep South, had a popu-
lation of 12,000 in 1770, placing it fourth behind Philadelphia, New York and
Boston.
Large profits enabled the master to quit manual labor, to hire overseers to
supervise and discipline the slaves, to build a “big house” on the plantation, to
utilize household servants to perform domestic labor, to build a town house in
Beaufort or Charleston to escape the summer malaria, to enjoy the comfort and
pastimes of men of leisure, to buy the accoutrements of success and status, and
to affect some of the ways of the English nobility. “The gentlemen planters are
absolutely above every occupation but eating, drinking, lolling, smoking and
sleeping, which five modes of action constitute the essence of their life and
existence,” carped a doctor in Charleston.14
In the North, since manufacturing was much less labor intensive than agri-
culture, slaves were engaged in household services and, as such, they were lux-
uries for those who could afford them. On the eve of the American Revolution,
slaves were a declining portion of the Northern population. Thus the dividing
line was already established between entrenched slavery that was an essential
underpinning to the economy of the South and sparse slavery that was a luxury
in the North.
As the “fathers” of their plantation families, masters granted themselves
the right to meddle in their slaves’ most intimate affairs, demanded obedience,
and relegated the slaves to permanent childhood.
While the North did not foster plantations, its people also prospered from
Southern plantations as suppliers of ships for slave transport, exports for slave
trade, capital, factorage, draft animals, food, and technology.
In Virginia, in 1705 and again in 1723, laws were passed requiring slaves to
carry a pass when they left their owner’s estate and which denied them the right
to meet in groups of more than four.

14. Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, p. 49.

13
And the War Came

The struggle with an overseer often was not as unequal as it might appear.
Many overseers lost their jobs when slaves employed the weapons of slowdown,
truancy (especially at critical times in crop processing) and sabotage. Some over-
seers were even killed by the overseen.
Some Negroes became slave “drivers” for the overseers and others became
artisans in the increasingly technological approaches to farming. Thus, an elite
group was formed among the slaves, both needed and feared by the plantation
owners.

Between 1701 and 1775, 46 per cent of the black people entering the
American colonies disembarked in South Carolina. In the last half of that period,
1,108 slave ships arrived in Charleston harbor. Slaves also were landed in Rhode
Island (particularly Newport), New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Aside
from Rhode Island, few slaves were sold in New England — but investment in
the slave ships and enterprise was a major industry in Massachusetts.
In 1740, South Carolina’s Negro Act took away the right of masters to free
their slaves. Henceforth, such action would require a petition to the colonial leg-
islature, a cumbersome process.
In 1750, following a decade in which English ships brought 20,000 African
slaves to the Americas, a new English Act made it “lawful for all His Majesty’s
subjects to trade and traffick to and from any port in Africa...”15 That year, the
population of the colonies was 1.5 million, of which 300,000 were black slaves,
90 per cent of whom resided in the five Southern colonies of Maryland, Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Georgia had forbidden the import
of slaves until 1751, when slave-owning was permitted to allow for the culti-
vation of rice along the Savannah River.
Since rice grain was so versatile, durable and filling, the need to feed large
numbers of troops during the French and Indian War of the 1750s created a
boom for the foodstuff. Escalating British demand nearly doubled the price of the
crop late in the decade.
For some 50 years before the Revolution, many slave-owners seriously
considered abandoning slavery. They could have done so without great remorse,
but they did not — perhaps out of habit, as much as anything else. Through time,
as slavery came to provide the slaveholder with increasingly abundant material
welfare as well as social and political status, abandonment came to mean a great

15.Elizabeth Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade to America, pp.474-484.

14
Prologue. Eight Thousand Years of Slavery

deal more than conducting business without slaves. It would have meant a life-
style change, a change which would bring about deterioration in one’s standard
of living and loss of prestige and power when other careers in the South held
little promise. It would have meant becoming a “nobody.”
Public opinion was far from monolithic. In 1758, the Annual meetings of
the Society of Friends, in Philadelphia and in England, condemned slavery and
trafficking in slavery.
The slaves themselves were in transition in their strange environment.
Africans became African-Americans as their masters became European-Amer-
icans. The slaves were developing occupational diversity and were introduced to
Protestant Christianity by their masters. This glorified the slave-owner’s
position as a vehicle for conversion of the pagans with the bonus of teaching the
slaves passive acceptance of their station in life in order to attain the joys of the
next life. Many blacks enthusiastically identified with the “glory to be found in
the next life,” while never losing hope for “the day of jubilee” in this one.
At the end of the French and Indian War, in 1763, the British resorted to
taxation of the colonies to help defray the costs of the war and the garrisoning of
British soldiers to maintain the peace. While this decision infuriated colonial
leaders in the North, these taxes had little effect on Southern plantation owners
because most of what the plantation consumed was manufactured on site, and
was not taxed. In 1774, the First Continental Congress voted to ban most trade
with Great Britain. The five South Carolina delegates threatened to walk out
unless an exception to the embargo was made for rice exports. The exception
was made.
It would become a major argument used by Southern apologists that the
slaves were far better off toiling for, and being maintained by, their white
masters than to be left to fend for themselves, in view of their perceived inexpe-
rience and inability to survive as free men. How the slaves felt about their con-
dition was put rather succinctly by a recruit to an aborted uprising: “I could kill
a white man as well as eat.”16
A large number of slaves escaped slavery during the Revolution by running
off to join the British or the Colonial army, or by taking advantage of the local
chaos and “marooning” with other slaves in swamps or forests. Between 1770 and
1790, the proportion of blacks declined from 61 to 44 per cent in South Carolina.
Blacks comprised about one-third of the Southern population in 1790 (about

16. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion, p.145.

15
And the War Came

one-half in the lower South). Reduction in the number of slaves was further
abetted by the intense awakening to the spirit of freedom in the rebellious col-
onies. A number of slaves were freed by emancipation in the North and manu-
mission in the South.
In 1776, the local plantation owners deliberated over revolt against their
absentee master, England — a similar move would have meant instant death for
any slave espousing similar options in his master’s domain.

16
1. THE DECLARATION: LIBERTY, BUT NOT FOR ALL

In 1776, more than a year after hostilities had erupted with the British at
Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress of the American Col-
onies convened for the second time at the State House on Chestnut Street in
Philadelphia. Despite repeated armed clashes during the past year, the colonies
had not yet declared war nor proclaimed their independence. To debate this stu-
pendous issue, upon which the leaders, as well as the populace, were ardently
divided, was the purpose of the meeting.
Philadelphia had been cleared on the shores of the Delaware River in 1682
by followers of William Penn, who had received the Land Grant from the British
Crown in lieu of money owed to his dead father. The city now boasted 40,000
inhabitants, and was the largest, richest city in the New World. Due to unsettled
political conditions and the increasing fear of British invasion, approximately
one-half of the inhabitants had left the city by the end of 1776.
Ben Franklin was 70 years old. He was the tenth son of a tallow chandler,
having arrived in Philadelphia around 1726, a runaway printer’s apprentice from
Boston. He arrived, with one Dutch Dollar in his pocket, at the city of then
10,000 souls.
It occurred to some Southerners that fomenting a rebellion might involve a
threat to slavery. Arthur Lee, a Virginian known to have rebel sympathies, was
visiting London and reported that King George’s ministers were considering a
new tactic against the Colonists: that of offering freedom to the blacks who
deserted their masters and joined the British troops bivouacked in the cities.

17
And the War Came

There was a rumor that the British crown planned to arm slaves in revolt
against their Colonial masters. What began as a tax quarrel in the North became,
in the South, a matter of defending their homes against a slave insurrection
fomented by London. Southern planters had not forgotten that, in 1772, a former
slave named James Somerset, taken by his master to London, had won his
freedom in a British court that ruled that as soon as a slave set foot on British
soil, that slave became free.
Before the second session of Congress convened, 500 vessels had sailed
from England with 30-50,000 soldiers to put down the rebellion. King George
was growing increasingly impatient with the American Colonies.
When a British ship landed in Boston with three British major-generals. A
local wit was moved to poetry:

Behold the Cerberus the Atlantic Plough


Its precious cargo, Burgoyne, Clinton, Howe
Bow! Wow! Wow!17

Six months before, Thomas Paine had published his blockbuster, Common
Sense, trumpeting to the world, “The birthday of a new world is at hand. We have
it in our power to begin the world all over again.”
Thomas Jefferson, 33, six feet tall, a rangy, red-headed provincial lawyer
born in Shadwell, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains (known as the “Blue
Wall,” until Daniel Boone found a gap through them), had been assigned the task
of writing the draft of the Declaration of Independence for consideration by a
committee of the Congress.
A “declaration” was a traditional English vehicle for an emphatic
statement or proclamation, dating as far back as the 14th century. Declarations
were intended to enlist broad public support. They also referred to a legal
instrument, including a written statement of claims, served on the defendant at
the commencement of a civil action. These summaries of wrongs were supposed
to be presented in a “plain and certain manner”.18
A copy of Jefferson’s draft had been submitted to the Congress and its
President, John Hancock of Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard and heir to
Boston’s largest shipping firm. He had tabled discussion until Monday, July 1.
Hancock was one of two men the British soldiers were looking for when they
marched to Lexington Green during the previous April.

17.Catherine Drinker Bowen, John Adams and the American Revolution, p. 524.
18. Lois G. Schwoerer, Declaration of Rights, pp.16-17.

18
1. The Declaration: Liberty, but Not for All

John Adams of Massachusetts, 38, had attended Harvard in the 1750s when
it was an institution sporting thirty students and a faculty of six, with all classes
taught in Latin. His family was now living on short rations in Braintree, Massa-
chusetts (renamed Quincy), which was enemy-occupied territory. He was ready
to fight for the break. Adams’ bother, Samuel, was the other man upon whose
head the British had placed a bounty. Their great-grandfather, Henry Adams,
had sailed to the colonies from England in the 1630s, bringing with him his wife
and nine children (eight sons and a daughter). He became the first town clerk in
Braintree. There John Adams was born. He attended the free Latin school before
attending Harvard. In 1764 John married Abby Smith (her mother was a
Quincy), a girl full of gaiety but deeply committed to living a purposeful life in
accordance with her concept of her obligation to God. They would transmit this
philosophy through five generations of their progeny.
Recalling the days of tension between the colonies and England, some fifty
years after the Continental Congress, John Adams would write fellow con-
gressman Elbridge Gerry: “Five and forty years ago, when any terrible news
arrived from England of their hostile designs against our liberties when the
people, gaping and staring, pale and trembling, asked me, ‘What I thought of the
news,’ my invariable answer was, ‘the worse, the better.”19
In late May, Adams was distraught. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania (for
whom Dickinson College is named) was temporizing about declaring indepen-
dence. He was, Adams wrote to a friend in Boston, “A man of great fortune and
piddling genius.”20 Dickinson had sided with the patriots before the Revolution
but opposed separation now if it meant war with Britain. Most of the states
favored moderation with Massachusetts and Virginia being of radical bent,
hawking separation.
Adams was tireless. He badgered delegates, pleading for them to vote for
independence. On the floor he urged the assembly to call the troops a Conti-
nental Army, to name a general to lead it, to arm and sustain it and to tell
England what they were about. He asked the assembly to warn England that if
she continued the hostilities, the Colonies would seek alliances, even with
France, England’s perennial enemy, or any other country in Europe who might
be disposed to oppose her.

19. John Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry, July 14, 1814.


20. John Adams, letter to James Warren, July 24, 1775.

19
And the War Came

A newspaper article signed, “Republicus,” declared, “I would...choose


rather to be conquered as an independent State than as an acknowledged rebel.”
The time had come “to call ourselves by some name,” for which the author pro-
posed, The United States of America.”21
The four strong middle colonies, led by Dickinson of Pennsylvania, were ready
to break with the bellicose men from New England and Virginia. John Adams ago-
nized over the challenge of coordinating the war effort of the thirteen colonies. His
cousin Sam Adams (in recent years hailed as the “Patriot-Brewer”) had been the
organizer of the Boston troublemakers, the “Sons of Liberty,” as well as the manager
of the Boston Tea Party. He had done his work before the Revolution, writing thou-
sands of letters to the world at large trying to fire the egalitarian spirit in readers’
minds.
John Adams and Ben Franklin reviewed Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration
of independence. Adams admired its lofty tone and was particularly pleased
with its strong indictment of slavery, but he realized that this might be a stum-
bling block to the adherence of the Southern colonies. He also wondered about
the passages denouncing George III as a tyrant. Ben Franklin offered a few modi-
fications to the declaration draft. He proposed “We hold these truths to be self-
evident” in lieu of “…sacred and undeniable.”
The four South Carolina representatives to the Convention belonged to
rich plantation families. They had studied law at the Temple in London and were
strong local patriots who disliked the idea of putting authority in the hands of
Congress.
One of them, 26-year-old Edward Rutledge, was the youngest delegate in
Congress and a bit of a dandy. Two years earlier, Rutledge had married the sister
of his colleague, Arthur Middleton. The Middletons owned 800 slaves. Arthur
would be taken prisoner by the British at Charleston in 1780 and would be
released a year later. In reply to the earlier proposal for independence made by
Virginian Richard Henry Lee, Rutledge had objected because he thought it folly
to give an enemy advance notice of their objectives. He blamed the New
Englanders for the state of affairs that he thought would bring ruin to the col-
onies.
Richard Henry Lee, a scion of one of the preeminent First Families of Vir-
ginia, rose to speak in a session on June 7. Acting upon the instructions of the
Virginia Assembly, he proposed, “That these United States colonies are, and of
right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all

21. Peter Force, ed., American Archives, vol. VI: 1131.

20
1. The Declaration: Liberty, but Not for All

allegiance to the British Crown: and that all political connexion between them
and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
The majority was hostile to this intemperate outburst, but both the Adams
men and Wythe of Virginia fought for it. A few days later, a shift occurred
toward support of Lee’s resolution and now the issue depended upon the vote of
Joseph Hewes of North Carolina. Adams had been working indefatigably on this
delegate. His ardor was rewarded. Suddenly, Hewes declared his support of
Lee’s resolution. It would carry. Adams later recalled, with relish, the horror,
almost terror, on the faces of the old majority at that moment.
John Dickinson was distraught. He thought the weak American forces
would be crushed by the might of Great Britain and that this Congress had lost
its mind.
John and Abigail Adams had been apart for one-half of the first eleven
years of their marriage. At the approach of spring, 1776, he wrote to her, “Is it not
intolerable that the opening of spring which I should enjoy with my wife and
children upon my little farm should pass away and laugh at me for laboring, day
after day and month after month, in a conclave where neither taste nor fancy nor
reason nor passion nor appetite can be gratified?”
Adams summarized his mature political views in another letter to Abigail:
I believe there is no one Principle, which predominates in human Nature so
much in every Stage of Life, from the Cradle to the Grave, in Males and females, old
and young, black and white, rich and poor, high and low, as this Passion for Superi-
ority...Every human Being compares itself in its imagination, with every other round
about it, and will find some superiority over every other...or it will die of Grief and
Vexation.22
Abigail, in turn, unburdened herself in her own correspondence with him:
I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature, and that
power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping and like the grave, cries,
“give, give.” The great fish swallow up the small; and he, who is most strenuous for
the rights of the people, when vested with power is as eager after the prerogatives of
government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which human nature is capable
of arriving, and I believe it, but, at the same time, lament that our admiration should
arise from the scarcity of the instances. You may as well hope to bind up a hungry
tiger with a cobweb as to hold such debauched patriots in the visionary chains of
decency, or to charm them with the intellectual beauty of truth and reason...23
Abigail took the long view of the struggle of the colonies with their
mother-country.

22. John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, May 22, 1777.


23. Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, November 27, 1775.

21
And the War Came

“If we expect to inherit the blessings of our fathers, we should return a little
more to their primitive simplicity of manners, and not sink into inglorious ease. We
have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with
them.”24
For their part, Southerners were apt to be scornful of both New
Englanders and Quakers. The women in Philadelphia were “homely, hard-
favored, sour. The men were pious frauds.” The well-fed Pennsylvania Dutchmen
had “too great a regard for ease and property to sacrifice either on the altar of the
unknown goddess, Liberty.” As for the New Englanders, “they can neither fight
nor pray without rum. No meaner, whimpering wretches in this universe than
sober New Englanders.” Indeed, spirits had always provided a popular escape for
the colonists from the danger and drudgery of subduing the wilderness and
defending against Indian raids, provoked or otherwise. The legal definition of
drunkenness in this age was, “where the same legs which carry a man into the
house cannot bring him out again.”25
The British were convinced the colonists could never put aside their
rivalries long enough to form a united front. The North and the South were like
England and France, close geographically but disparate culturally.
On July 2 at 4:00 p.m., the Secretary of the Congress was asked to read
Richard Henry Lee’s resolution of June 7, with its empire-shattering rhetoric.
John Adams seconded the motion. The roll call began. New Hampshire...Aye!
Massachusetts Bay...Aye! Connecticut…Aye! ...Rhode Island...Aye! “New
York?”...”Abstaining.” Their delegates were still awaiting instructions. If there
had never been enmity between Boston and New York previously, there would
be now. New Jersey...Aye. Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania had been against inde-
pendence, but two of her delegates were absent and another switched
sides…Aye.
Delaware? This delegation had been split and no one was sure how they
would vote. A clatter of hooves...Caesar Rodney, delayed by a storm, rode in,
breathlessly, on his horse. He spoke in gasps, informing the Congress that the
citizens of Delaware wanted Independence, that he wanted Independence and
that he was voting for Independence!” Virginia had instructed its delegation to
declare for Independence weeks before the Congress convened…Maryland...Aye!
Georgia...Aye! South Carolina? South Carolina had been against indepen-
dence...they switched! Aye!

24.Ibid., October 16, 1774.


25. Michael D. Dalton, Country Justice, London, 169, p. 29.

22
1. The Declaration: Liberty, but Not for All

Twelve Ayes...one abstention. The Radicals had won. Massachusetts and


Virginia had overwhelmed the moderate states and somehow seduced the
Southern states.
On the morning of July 3, an anonymous note was found on the speaker’s
table. It claimed a plot had been formed to destroy all the representatives. It was
ignored.
That afternoon, Hancock recognized Benjamin Harrison, chairman of the
Committee of the whole, who asked Secretary Thomson to read Jefferson’s
manuscript.
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the
laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the reasons which impel them to separa-
tion.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights, that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.“
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson had substituted “life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness” for John Locke’s “life, liberty and property.” Mr.
Thomson continued reading:
“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed, — that whenever any form of
government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter
or abolish it, and to institute new government...”
The last three-fourths of the document began with indictments against
King George. Jefferson’s inflammatory word “tyrant” was changed to “king” in
several places. The Secretary now read the last charge against George III: the
enslavement of the Negro people and introducing slavery into the colonies
against their will:
Article No. 20:
“Murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them, thus paying off
former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he
urges them to commit against the lives of another. In every stage of these oppres-
sions, [21] we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated
petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

Southerners stiffened and exchanged anxious glances.

23
And the War Came

Some who were present at the Convention thought Jefferson’s draft too
passionate and too violent in blaming George III for the slave trade. In his notes
on the debate, Jefferson thought the criticism of King George and his part in
introducing slavery to the colonies was entirely political. A number of Southern
delegations, South Carolina and Georgia, in particular, opposed any discussion
of limiting the slave trade. He noted that their “Northern brethren also I believe
felt a little tender under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves
themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.”26
A crucial debate followed on the subject of slavery. Those who thought it
conflicted with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and those to
whom the concept of slavery was basically cruel and immoral wanted it abol-
ished in the new Union of Colonies. Both Northerners and Southerners spoke
against the practice. Those who spoke most vociferously in favor of the Insti-
tution claimed it was a matter for each state to decide for itself. They pointed
out that the states represented by many of those seeking elimination of slavery
were profiting significantly from goods and services they provided to slaves and
slave-owners. They denied that morality had anything to do with the practice of
slavery. It was a matter, simply, of the self-interest of the state. The representa-
tives from South Carolina suggested that the Institution would probably dis-
appear naturally, in the course of time. They played a tranquilizing sonata of
reason and moderation. But, at this point in time, their crops depended on it.
South Carolina and Georgia announced that they could not join the Union if
slavery would not be allowed in it.
The voices of slaves went unheeded for centuries, but after emancipation many
of them were interviewed and a number of them are quoted throughout this book. A
slave, Jack Maddox:
There was a man lived neighbor to Judge Maddox named Ashberry Stegall. He
had a name for being a hard-handed man. If one of his niggers did something he
didn’t like, he put him in a ring made of the other niggers. Then, the nigger would
have to run around the inside of the ring and let all the other niggers hit him with a
stick. If a nigger wouldn’t hit hard, then he would get it himself. That way, he made
the niggers beat each other. Guess he thought that kep’ his hands clean.27
John Adams was troubled. Abigail had once written: “I wish most sincerely
there was not a slave in the province; it always appeared a most iniquitous
scheme to me to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering

26. Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, I, pp. 314-315.
27. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History Bullwhip Days, p. 123.

24
1. The Declaration: Liberty, but Not for All

from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind
on this subject.”28
He also knew of the part New England ship-owners were playing in the
slave trade.
John Newton, the English slave ship captain whose later remorse at his
participation in the trade caused him to become a pastor and an abolitionist,
wrote the words to the song, “Amazing Grace.” He insisted in his letters that no
one had ever suggested to him that what he was doing was wrong; nor had he
been able to perceive this for himself.29

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound


that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Jefferson, who wrestled with the conundrum of slavery in his own life and
never really reconciled the dilemma, noted privately, “I tremble for my country
when I reflect that God is just, and that his judgment cannot sleep forever...”30
The Congress adjourned for the day. The next day, July 4, the debate
resumed.
It was apparent that nothing would persuade the South Carolina and
Georgia delegations to change their minds, even if they recognized some
hypocrisy in their position. It was either strike out the abolition of slavery or
forget the Union. The clause castigating George III for enslaving the inhabitants
of Africa was struck.
Jefferson expressed his feelings:
“What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! He can endure
toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his own liberty
— and the next moment be deaf to all those motives whose power supported him
through his trial and inflict on his fellow man a bondage...which he rose in rebellion
to oppose.
But we must wait with patience the workings of an overruling Providence and
hope that it is preparing the deliverance of these our suffering brethren. When the
measure of their tears shall be full, when their groans have involved heaven itself in
darkness, doubtless a God of justice shall awaken to their distress...Nothing is more
certainly written in the book of fate that these people are to be free!”31

28. Abigail Adams, letters to John Adams, September 22, 1774.


29. Burnside/Robotham, Spirits of the Passage, p. 133.
30. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Q.XVIII.ME2:227.
31. Thomas Jefferson, Answers to de Meusnier, Q.XVIII.ME17:103.

25
And the War Came

He consoled himself, “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor,


the former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter.”32

Thomson read the closing resolution: “We mutually pledge to each other
our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The roll call was by state, in geographical order. Every man stood and
declared himself, some faintly, others boldly. Hancock announced the result:
“The declaration by the representatives of the United States of America has been
adopted unanimously.” Hancock signed first, in big, bold letters. “There, His
Majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can double the reward
on my head [£500].”
On July 19, the Declaration was read from the balcony of the State House in
Boston. The square at King Street was jammed. People had gathered on rooftops.
There were faces in every window. Abigail Adams was there. She remembered
that very balcony on the night of the Boston Massacre. Governor Thomas Hutch-
inson had stood pleading in the moonlight to the upturned faces of an angry mob
shouting for blood. A group of perhaps a hundred Americans had taunted a
British sentinel. His call for help brought seven more soldiers and a Captain
Preston to his aid. The crowd threw oyster shells, pieces of ice and wood at the
soldiers, while yelling insults and challenges. One soldier lost his footing under
the bombardment and guns went off. People in the crowd swore they heard the
Captain order it. Afterward, five colonists lay dead or mortally wounded. Hutch-
inson pleaded for the law to prevail and British troops restored a tenuous order.
The next day, Samuel Adams led a large protest meeting demanding that
all British soldiers be ordered out of Boston. Governor Hutchinson reached an
agreement with the army commander for the troops to be removed to an island
in the harbor. As they paraded out of Boston an angry crowd lined the streets
and cursed the departing Redcoats. John Adams was in his office when a Boston
merchant named Forrester, a friend of British Captain Preston, burst in begging
him to defend Preston. No one else would do so, he blurted. He had been to the
Crown Lawyers. They wouldn’t touch the case. Despite his Patriot bias, Adams
believed in the rule of law and that the British soldiers deserved a fair trial.
The trial was conducted for seven days amidst mob activity and threats.
Adams and his partner, Josiah Quincy, based their case on self-defense. They

32. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

26
1. The Declaration: Liberty, but Not for All

won acquittal for the soldiers. The populace was not happy. Adams’ law practice
dwindled to half its former size. His reputation, however, was enhanced.
Abigail’s attention returned to the spectacle at the State House balcony,
Tom Crafts (the Adams’ house painter since 1754, now Colonel Crafts), read the
Declaration. “Endowed by their Creator with sart’in unalienable rights; that
among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

When the Declaration had been read, someone in the square yelled, “God
save the American States,” and the crowd moved forward, cheering. That night,
Abigail wrote John:
“The Bells rang, privateers fired the forts and batteries, the canon were dis-
charged, the platoons followed and every face appeared joyful...After dinner the
Kings arms were taken down from the State House & every vestige of him from
every place in Which it appeared & burnt...Thus ends royal Authority in this State,
and all the people shall say Amen.”33
Thus the new “states” could now ponder the ringing affirmations of the
Continental Congress of 1776, including the assertion that “all men are created
equal...endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...among these
are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and the declaration that,
“whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the
right of these people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.”
A more obvious challenge to the existence of slavery could hardly be con-
ceived. The men who voted “yea” to this treasonous document were not drawn
from democracy’s masses, the men in the street. They were influential and often
affluent pillars of the new society. Most of those from the North and some of
those from the South viewed slavery as inherently evil, absolutely antithetical to
the principles upon which they were now staking their own lives.
But this supreme challenge to the institution of slavery was blunted by a
major dilemma. The continuance of the union was the first and foremost
concern. The great good of colonial independence from tyranny could not rea-
sonably be discarded because of a debatable issue that could be solved later. And
there was a belief that, “In time, it will disappear of its own accord.” The Decla-
ration was created primarily as a document to justify a revolution, and the
question of slavery was incidental.
The Revolutionary War rambled up and down the colonial countryside,
with the outgunned, inexperienced, unpaid colonials being forever rallied by

33. Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, July 19, 1776.

27
And the War Came

their officers, following repetitive defeats. The British could not close. They were
also fighting France and Spain, who exulted in compounding England’s frus-
tration with the escalating long-distance quarrel which was draining her
treasury.
In 1781, the colonials, with substantial help from the French fleet and
French army, bottled up General Cornwallis and his 7,241 men at Yorktown, Vir-
ginia. The war soon ended with the British surrender on October 17.

It would be two years before a peace was signed between a grudging


England and the American Confederation, a tenuous amalgamation of States
with divergent aims. What passed for a central government of colonies was
financially destitute, organizationally weak and lacking in authority. Its task
was to forge a nation capable of survival in a chaotic domestic and international
political environment.
Alexander Hamilton, born in the West Indies, Washington’s aide-de-
camp, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, fretted over the jealousy and
bickering among the states and the obvious weakness of the Federal Gov-
ernment at home and abroad. Washington himself thought the young nation
was verging on anarchy. Foreign leaders anticipated early dissolution of the
United States. In England, author Samuel Johnson posed a barb that was dif-
ficult to avoid: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the
drivers of negroes?”34

34. Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, p.275.

28
2. UNITING AROUND A CONSTITUTION, AT A COST

In early 1787, Alexander Hamilton recommended that 55 delegates from all


states gather at Philadelphia later that year to propose changes to the way the
system of government worked. He did not think it was working at all.
The Articles of Confederation of 1778, which were ratified in 1781, let each
state retain “its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, juris-
diction and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the
United States.”35 The central government was prohibited from levying taxes or
raising armies except by voluntary action. This inadequate federation nearly col-
lapsed after the war as states came near to fighting each other over boundary dis-
putes, tariffs aimed at each other, river navigation and a host of other
petulancies. What the states really wanted was to govern themselves. They did
not want to trade British domination for domination of an American central gov-
ernment. Hamilton and Washington, however, recognized the need for a strong
central government if this loose agglomeration of overly proud, contentious
pseudo-satraps was to survive.
In 1786, a conference of all states was scheduled to discuss trade issues at
Annapolis, Maryland. Only five states sent delegates. A report was drafted, rec-
ommending a convention of delegates from all states to meet in Philadelphia
later that year. Its purpose was to make “alterations and provisions” in the
Articles of Confederation. George Washington was named chairman of the
meeting. He left retirement reluctantly to so preside.

35. Articles of Confederation of the United States, Article II.

29
And the War Came

Another document was needed, a document that would form the basis of
law fundamental to operation of the new government, a document that would
tend to guarantee, in so far as guarantee was possible, the application of the prin-
ciples that “all MEN are created EQUAL...they are ENDOWED by their
CREATOR with certain INALIENABLE RIGHTS...AMONG THESE are life,
LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.” The purpose of the Constitutional Con-
vention was to create a constitution for the country, not to make laws. Suc-
cessive generations have made a virtual profession of interpreting and explaining
the precise meaning of the words in the Declaration and the Constitution. “This
is because,” historian Thomas Cahill has pointed out, “like any effective decla-
ration or constitution, they do not say too much, which enables them to be elab-
orated and interpreted by later ages in contexts that would have been
unimaginable [at the time of their writing].36
Three of the thorniest issues to be resolved were: (1) which powers were to
be granted to the federal government and which to the states; (2) the conflict
between large and small states (who resented their big brothers) as to who
would control the government; and (3), the position of the federal government
with regard to slavery.
At that time, the idea was widespread in America that the end of slavery
was only a matter of time. The Upper South’s economy had been altered by the
Revolution and would be further jolted by the European war of the 1790s, when
the French market for tobacco collapsed. That crop never regained its preemi-
nence. The tobacco region of the Upper South turned to mixed farming, growing
wheat, corn and other vegetables. As a consequence, there began an exodus of
slaves from the Upper South to the Deep South and to the West. Slave families
who had worked the Tidewater region of Virginia for one hundred years were
uprooted. Between 1780 and 1810, some 115,000 slaves involuntarily made the
trek south or west.
The price of slaves in the Southern colonies had always moved in parallel
with real wages in Europe and in the Northern colonies. During the late eigh-
teenth century, slave prices had declined sharply, as had real wages for free
laborers in Europe. This trend would reverse itself in the 1790s. Prices would
bottom out at $300 per slave in 1795.
At the time of the Constitutional Convention, only about one in five
Southern households owned slaves and three-fourths of these households had

36. Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews, p. 147.

30
2. Uniting Around a Constitution, At a Cost

only one or two slaves. The great majority of slaves lived on holdings of less than
fifty.
One of the paradoxes of the times was that the concept of “natural rights,”
which fueled emancipation thinking, also declared “property rights” sacred pro-
viding both slave owners and abolitionists with arguments in their favor.
In the Deep South, after the Revolution, rice production regained strength
quickly. Indigo demand languished for several reasons: the British eliminated
their subsidy for the dye; competition from Louisiana and South America became
formidable; and, Southern production suffered a series of natural disasters.
Searching for a substitute, planters “discovered” cotton, which slaves had grown
in patch gardens during the war.
The slave population in the Deep South, bloated by the thousands
exported by the Chesapeake planters, still could not satisfy the exploding
demand for cotton. Planters purchased slaves from Northern states, where the
emancipation movement drove down prices (although the Southerners claimed
the Yankees were dumping “infamous and incorrigible” slaves on them). Even
this failed to fulfill demand. Consequently, South Carolina, having barred inter-
national slave trade in the year of the Constitutional Convention, would reopen
it in 1803, and a burgeoning slave import market arose in Charleston.
In the three most productive parishes in the South Carolina low country,
the black population exceeded 90 per cent of the total.
Prior to the Revolutionary era, the South had championed liberal, social
thought in America, espousing an egalitarian republicanism, but during the
post-Revolutionary era the South began to distance itself from this liberalism
and commenced a steady progress toward entrenched conservatism.
At the Constitutional Convention, one pivotal issue would be the basis of
representation in the National Legislature. Thus were pitted the ten small states
against the three large states. The small states balked at proportional represen-
tation, as proposed in the Virginia Plan.
The Virginia Plan proposed a legislature composed of two houses, an
upper and a lower. This was modeled after the English bicameral system. There
was, however, no royalty in America to populate a House of Lords, at least not
the official royalty conferred by a crown. It could be argued that American
royalty was conferred by economic status, then even more than now. The
purpose of the legislature was to make laws on matters impossible for the states
to accomplish, such as defense of the nation and to nullify all state laws which
were in opposition to the Constitution.

31
And the War Came

Following spirited debate between the large and small states, it was
agreed that each state would have equal representation in the upper house and
that representation would be proportionate to population in the lower house.
What did “population” mean? What about indentured servants? What
about Indians? What about slaves?
Only 2% of the people in the North were enslaved, compared to 33% of the
Upper South (led by Virginia, with 39%) and 41% in the Lower South (led by
South Carolina, with 43%).
The slave, Henry Gladney:
Old Marster had so many slaves he don’t know what to do wid them all. He give
some of them off to his chillun...I was give to his grandson, Marse John Mobley
McCrory, just to wait on him and play wid him. Little Marse John treat me good
sometime’ and kick me around sometime...I was just a little dog or monkey, in his
heart and mind, dat it ’mused him to pet or kick, as it pleased him.37
Most of the fifty-five delegates had also attended the Second Continental
Congress. They had thrown the dice of rebellion against the most daunting
power of the western world and made the craps of victory. Now they were trying
to make the rules of governance for a fractious bunch of jealous entities, each of
whom envisioned the sword of Damocles in the potential to be outvoted by a
combination of enemies, if not now, then in the future,. Equal representation in
the upper house meant that on major issues, such as slavery, “pro” and “con”
states must be kept equal.” Proportionate representation in the lower house was
a threat to the South whose population was growing more slowly than the
North which was burgeoning from surges of immigration. The South wanted
slaves counted as population. The Northern delegates countered by claiming the
South designated slaves as property. If that were so the property of Northerners,
such as cows and horses (that did the work of slaves in the South), should be
counted as population.
James Wilson of Pennsylvania attempted conciliation and moved that the
“three-fifths” rule should be adopted, as proposed four years before by the Con-
federation Congress of 1783. This rule stipulated that the vote should be in pro-
portion to the “whole number of white and other free citizens and three-fifths of
all other persons except Indians not paying taxes...”38 Who, specifically were ‘all

37. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p. 149.
38. Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia, p. 95.

32
2. Uniting Around a Constitution, At a Cost

other persons?’ They were the slaves — a word carefully omitted from the Con-
stitution. The formula “Person[s] held to service” was used, instead.

Rufus King of Massachusetts, 32, affable and wealthy, a moderate except


on the subject of slavery, which he detested, said that, “He could never agree to
let them (slaves) be imported without limitation & then let them be represented
in the Natl. Legislature…At all events, either slaves should not be represented, or
exports should be taxable.”39
Dissident representatives, who ran counter to the main current within the
territorial blocs of the North and the South, were exceptions. The mainstreamers
would shape the debate in this Convention. Roger Sherman of Connecticut, a
somber puritan, regarded the slave trade “as iniquitous.”40 Gouverneur Morris of
Pennsylvania, 35, debonair, peg legged, said, “he would never concur in
upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution… It was the curse of
heaven on the states where it prevailed. Upon what principle is it that slaves
shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them Cit-
izens and let them vote. Are they Property? Why then is no other property
included?”41
Southerners were more laconic and earthy, and spoke of local interests and
social and political reality. To the sanctimonious they pointed out the truth that
northern states had significant interest in the slave trade even though their
number of slaves was few. John Rutledge of South Carolina, elder brother to
Edward, a delegate in the Continental Congress, and whose property in
Charleston the British had seized during the Revolution, stated the Southern
case: “Religion and humanity had nothing to do with this question. Interest
alone is the governing principle with nations. The true question at present is
whether the Southn. States shall or shall not be parties to this Union. If the
Northern states consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of Slaves
which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers.”
This stung. The Northerners knew well their merchants’ proclivity to
place profit above principle. But Sherman maintained the high road. He “disap-
proved of the slave trade… it was expedient to have as few objections as possible
to the proposed scheme of Government…the abolition of slavery seemed to be

39. James Madison, The Debates in the Federal Convention 0f 1787, August 8, 1787.
40. Ibid.
41. Ibid.

33
And the War Came

going on in the U.S. and the good sense of the several States would probably by
degrees compleat it.”

A Northern moderate, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, a profound


thinker who left a trail of snuff everywhere he perched, tried to find a basis of
compromise: “let every state import what it pleases. The morality or wisdom of
slavery are considerations belonging to the States themselves.”
Rutledge reinforced the point: The people of the Carolinas and Georgia
would “never be such fools as to give up so important an interest.” Roger
Sherman agreed: “It was better to let the Southern states import slaves than to
part with them, if they make that a sine qua non.”
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, who was nineteen years old when he
became a delegate and who had once been captured by the British and then
released at Charleston, sensed victory and reinforced the Southern phalanx by
stating: “South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the slave
trade…If slavery be wrong, it is justified by the example of all the world,” adding
the justification that got abolitionists off the hook, “If the S. States were let alone
they will probably of themselves stop importations….S. Carolina may perhaps by
degrees do of herself what is wished, as Virginia and Maryland have already
done”42
In the end, both sides yielded on cherished concepts. The North conceded:
(1) that the Constitution would permit the importation of slaves until the year
1808; (2) that slaves would be counted, for purpose of representation and taxes,
in the proportion of five slaves equaling three free white inhabitants, the “federal
ratio” (Constitution, Article I, section 2, paragraph 3 — “three-fifths of slaves to
be counted for representation [in the House]”). This proposal became law until
the Fourteenth Amendment overruled it in 1868. (The number of votes allotted
to a state in the Electoral College was thus affected and the three-fifths rule
probably cost John Adams the presidential election of 1800, which went to Jef-
ferson); and, (3) recognition the right of masters to reclaim fugitives (This right
became the most emotional issue for Northerners who lived out of the sight of
slavery. Enforced searching of one’s home, for anyone or anything, was certain to
raise libertarian hackles). The South conceded: (1) that the authority to create
laws on the subject of slavery would be transferred from local to central
authority; and (2), that the importation of slaves would cease in the year 1808.

42. Ibid., August 21-22, 1787.

34
2. Uniting Around a Constitution, At a Cost

Hamilton said later that, without the “federal ratio,” no union could pos-
sibly have been formed. The question before the Convention was not, Shall
slavery be abolished? Somehow, some way, the nation would have to deal with
that question later. In the future, both sides of the slavery question would claim
support in the Constitution. The document deliberately avoided either sanc-
tioning or condemning slavery. On balance, however, the Constitution bolstered
slavery by throwing the power of the federal government behind it. The basic,
sectional positions had not changed since the Second Continental Congress of
1776. The union of states was drifting and a Constitution was sought to cement
the parts into a cohesive whole. Once again, the greater good of securing a more
viable Union precluded any fundamental confrontation over slavery, a confron-
tation that might sever the Union. In eleven years, that had not changed. Abo-
lition was less essential at this juncture than the survival of the Union. And so a
Union of thirteen states was founded, in part, on a compromise over “free” and
“slave,” with an implied understanding that representation in the Senate would
be maintained equally between “free” and “slave” states. Of the original thirteen,
seven were “free,” but by 1796, after the federal government was safely estab-
lished, the count was even: eight “‘slave” and eight “free” states (Vermont, Ken-
tucky and Tennessee had been admitted into the Union). This agreement
insured, at the very least, that slavery would go on, where it already existed. In
the House, the “free” and “slave” votes were skewed slightly toward “free”
despite the application of the “three-fifths” rule. The arrangement mollified
Southerners for the time being. They were, after all, comforted by the clear dom-
inance of Southern men in the positions of leadership in the nascent government.
This was equality with a spin and that spin must be maintained.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, North America absorbed only some six
per cent of the slaves who crossed the Atlantic. Nevertheless, the cumulative
total of involuntary migration of Africans exceeded the cumulative total of vol-
untary immigration, from all lands, until the 1830s. The cumulative total of
forced African migrants exceeded that of Europeans until the 1880s.
It is significant to note that Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island, in their
acts of ratification of the Constitution, affirmed that the powers granted by them
to the federal government could be withdrawn by the states. Author Shelby
Foote has written that, “Not one of those thirteen colonies would have joined the
Union if they hadn’t believed they could get out of it.”43

43. Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, p. 152.

35
And the War Came

Crucial among the language of the document was Article X of the “Bill of
Rights”: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people.”
Since the Constitution is a flexible, elastic document, open to varied inter-
pretations, the momentous issue of whether the federal government or the states
had authority in any area of governance, not specifically delineated in the Con-
stitution, would lead to an unending argument over the source of jurisdiction in
a host of critical matters, probably for the duration of the nation.
The convention culminated in the drafting of a document that enabled an
impoverished, unlikely coalition to survive, prosper and become great. William
Gladstone, an illustrious prime minister of England, and many others, have cited
the U.S. Constitution as one of the most remarkable products of the human
intellect in all history.

36
3. THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE

Boundary disputes in the Northwest Territory (which would eventually


become the States of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin) were
addressed when the Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance, which also
established the format for governance of territories and preparation for
statehood. It also banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. This major event
was not welcomed by many Easterners, who feared that the “over-mountain,”
back-country people would soon outnumber and outvote them in matters
inimical to their interest. Southern leadership must have thoroughly relished the
Yankee consternation. Now, the shoe was on the other foot, and the Northerners
were squirming.
The 1787 Ordinance created a political imbalance of “free” versus “slave”
states that would, in the Southern view, require redress. And what would be
more natural than the westward extension of Southern influence?
This would, however, require the Southern states to abandon certain terri-
torial claims to the federal government. Left to themselves, the coastal states
would wish to extend their territory to the Pacific shores.
In 1790, an estimated 700,000 blacks were slaves in America. America took
its first census and counted 3,929,000 souls. The House of Representatives
denied that it had the power to declare emancipation. By 1800, slaves numbered
900,000 and still demand was not being met. More slaves entered the U.S.
between 1787 and 1807 than in any other two decades in history. The slave popu-
lation of the nation had doubled from 1770 to 1810.

37
And the War Came

The North had begun to abolish slavery for lack of utility and concern over
its morality. Within three decades after the Revolutionary War, all the Northern
states had emancipated their slaves. There was also a significant increase in the
number of free blacks in the Upper South. Two decades after the war, in com-
pliance with the dictates of the Constitution, Congress put an end to the African
slave trade.
This was a period of history wherein attitudes were changing significantly,
perhaps due to the momentum of the Enlightenment. Concern about human
rights, desire for fair play and revulsion to cruelty were surfacing. Seventeenth-
century settlers took for granted “stocks and tongue-borings, religious proscrip-
tions, fear of witches, and savage repression of the lower orders.” By 1800, there
had been a decrease in corporal punishment of white adults and a growing sense
that it was improper to maltreat slaves. There was a growing consciousness that
slavery was immoral, a deepening perception that it was inefficient and
degrading to society at large and that it induced masters’ families to laziness.
A growing body of critics at the time thought slavery constituted an arti-
ficial restraint of trade. Peter Kolchin suggests that the spread of capitalism sub-
stituted “the physical coercion of the lash for the economic coercion of the
marketplace.”44 But, in the Deep South, the economics of the planter society and
the culture it nurtured relied on the entrenchment of slavery.
As international demand for indigo dye ebbed, its cultivation declined on
the coastal islands of South Carolina. The replacement crop was cotton. British
Loyalists who fled to the Bahamas during the Revolution had raised cotton
there. Discovering that the sandy soil became barren after a few crops, they sent
their cotton seeds and know-how, especially the technology of the roller gin, to
relatives and acquaintances in the Sea Islands. Cotton production was labor
intensive and ideally suited to the soil and climate of the South Carolina low
country. The coveted long-staple variety could not be grown “up country.” “King
Cotton” was born in the sea island marshes. It would become the most
important staple crop in the South. Unlike tobacco, it was economical to grow
on smaller land holdings.
In the North, the most prominent citizens of the new nation were gen-
erally lawyers and self-educated artisan-intellectuals. In the South, they were
wealthy planters. These planter-politicians led the states to independence,
created a new government and dominated that government in its early years.

44. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, pp. 67.

38
3. The Missouri Compromise

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, George


Mason and Edmund Randolph were all slave owners. Eight of the first twelve
U.S. presidents, who held office during 49 of the nation’s first 61 years, were
slaveholders. And not only the presidents: the Office of Speaker of the House
was held by a slaveholder for 28 of the nation’s first 35 years. The president pro-
tem of the Senate throughout this period was a slaveholder. The majority of the
cabinet members and of the justices on the Supreme Court were slaveholders.
In 1793, a Connecticut Yankee, Eli Whitney, sealed the future of slavery in
the South with his invention of an improved saw-tooth gin (a word derived from
“engine”) for separating the seeds from the fiber of short-staple cotton. This
invention occurred at Mulberry Plantation on the Savannah River, in Georgia,
and resulted in a cotton productivity bonanza. In cotton, “staple” is the fiber or
wool in the boll. Short staple cotton required much more handwork to cull the
seeds, a problem solved by Whitney’s gin with its revolving cylinder lined with
teeth. A slave could now separate 50 pounds of fiber from seed per day in con-
trast to one pound before the introduction of Whitney’s gin. Yankee ingenuity
would help petrify Southern intransigence.
The introduction of steam power in England and the evolution of the
Industrial Revolution sharply lowered the cost of spinning cotton into yarn and
weaving yarn into fabric, thus providing cotton goods at affordable prices.
In 1790, 9840 lbs. of cotton were exported from the Sea Islands of South
Carolina and Georgia. Eleven years later, exports exceeded 8 million pounds.
Prices, which averaged about $0.35/lb in the first decade of the nineteenth
century, rose to $0.63 per pound in 1818. The cherished Sea Island long-staple
cotton sold at two to four times the price of short-staple cotton.
Cotton became the leading export of the United States, exceeding, in
dollar value, all other exports combined. It provided the basis for the first signif-
icant growth of the factory system in New England. Any possibility that the
South might accommodate the demise of slavery vanished. Most of the land-
holdings were in the hands of a small number of landowners, the few who ran
the South, financially, politically and socially.
In the early nineteenth century, a reaction occurred against the more
radical tendencies of the American Revolution along with revulsion over the
excesses of the French Revolution. This fueled a conservative republicanism
which emphasized the protection of property, and order over equality.

39
And the War Came

South Carolina rice planter John Ball wrote to his namesake son, a student
at Harvard in 1800:
By being at such an University, you have the best chance in the United States
for Education, & Boston & its vicinity may properly be class’d among the most
polite & hospitable people in our States. As it is [however] you are in danger of
imbibing principles in the Eastern states that will be against the interest of the
southern states, tending to the ruin of your own family and fortune — however lib-
eral those ideas may appear, the carrying of them, into practice would be attended
with the most direful effects. Carry in your mind that whenever a general emancipa-
tion takes place in S Carolina and Georgia, you are a ruined man and all your family
connexions made beggars.45
Economic conditions in the lower South reinforced the new conservatism.
The cotton boom dramatically increased the demand for slave labor at the very
time that federal law prohibited slave importation. Slave prices soared. But sal-
vation was at hand. A surge in the natural population growth among the slaves
ensured that slavery could continue to flourish even after slave imports became
illegal.
By 1816, the cotton boom had vaulted South Carolina to second place in the
entire Union in the value of its exports, exceeded only by New York.
The nation’s population in 1800 was 5,038,000, an increase of 28% from the
1790 census. In 1810, it grew to 7,239,000, a further increase of 44% and in 1820 it
reached 9,638,000, a jump of 33%.
The slave, Harriet Robinson, noted:
Whenever white folks had a baby born, den all de old niggers had to come
though the room, and the master would be over ’hind the bed, and he’d say, “Here’s
a new little mistress or master you got to work for.” You had to say, “Yessuh, Mas-
ter,” and bow real low, or the overseer would crack you. Them was slavery days, dog
days.46
The fast-growing nation was pressing hard on its western boundaries. The
Louisiana Territory ran up the Mississippi River and stretched west into vast,
uncharted lands which had first come under French control, and then Spanish.
Early in Jefferson’s first term as president, the Spanish closed the port of New
Orleans to American shipping, imposing great hardship on the nation’s western
settlers. Then the Spanish secretly ceded the whole region to the French, reports
of which soon reached Jefferson. In 1803, he dispatched James Monroe to France
with an offer to buy New Orleans and, if possible, West Florida, for two million

45. Edward Ball, Slaves In the Family, p. 254.


46. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p. 149.

40
3. The Missouri Compromise

dollars. Monroe was unable to negotiate for Western Florida but returned with
an opportunity to acquire the entire Louisiana Territory at a cost of 13 million
dollars.
Jefferson was in a quandary. The Constitution said nothing on the acqui-
sition of foreign territories and the president was a strict constitutionalist. At
first, he thought to legalize the purchase through a constitutional amendment,
but was advised that any delay could allow time for Napoleon to change his
mind. Pragmatism led Jefferson to justify the purchase under the Constitution’s
treaty-making and war powers clause.
The Louisiana Purchase roughly doubled the size of the Republic, at a cost
of approximately three cents an acre. This gift, together with a brusque appro-
priation of Indian lands in Georgia and Alabama, opened vast areas for planting.
Cotton required a growing season of at least 200 frostless days. The new
territory’s southern area would provide such a climate. In addition, the Louisiana
delta was ideal for growing sugar cane. More and more slaves were needed.
Diversification of the Southern economy was postponed.
As Southerners moved west, so did cotton. The share of the cotton crop
produced by the Carolinas would decline from 60% in 1801 to 10% in 1859.47 But
migration of the “King” Cotton bonanza improved the economy in all Southern
states because the sharp increase in the demand for slaves catapulted their price
and the value of slave owners’ property everywhere.
In the Lower Mississippi Valley, sugar-cane planting was abetted by a
windfall in the form of a slave rebellion in sugar-producing Saint Domingue in
1791. A few Louisiana planters who were already experimenting with cane
received a jolt of capital and specialized technology from the former planters in
Saint Domingue.
Further north, where the weather was not conducive to growing sugar-
cane, planters opted to plant cotton. More than a million slaves, nearly twice as
many as had been cumulatively imported into the United States, were moved
from the coastal states to Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Mississippi
became a state in 1817, followed by Alabama in 1819, and the Southern landscape
was dotted with long columns of blacks tramping in chains (slave coffles)
through the back country “traces” on a forced march from South Carolina to the
new cotton plantations westward.

47. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, pp. 96.

41
And the War Came

As is common with ruling elites, the planter class gave up doing the hard
work alongside their field hands for aristocratic pleasures. They wrote papers on
the proper treatment of slaves while adjudicating disputes between overseers
and their charges. Plantation owners now celebrated the plantation as a model
community in which masters fulfilled their historic obligations to their depen-
dents — be they women, children or slaves — the “Old South” and its plantation
ideal. There was a dichotomy in the treatment of slaves which depended solely
on the character of the master. Relations between master and slave were marked
by affection and intimacy in many instances, and by fear, brute force and calcu-
lation of self-interest in others.
The slave, Stephen William, recalled:
Major Long was the one who owned the trader yard where we was put...one
morning my family is all kinda huddled up together in a corner of the yard away
from the rest, and ’long comes Major Long, carrying his bullwhip in his hand, with
another man. He makes Mary stand up and says to the man with him, “Here’s jes the
girl you want for a nurse girl.”
Ma begs Major Long not to separate us folks, and hugged Mary and Jane and me
to her...then the major come over to where we are and pulled Mary away from
mamma, and he and the man took her off.
Man, man, folks what didn’t go through slavery ain’t got no idea what it was...A
trader them days, didn’t think no more of selling a baby or little child away from its
mother than taking a little calf away from a cow. I rec’lec’, the night after Mary is
sold away from us, the colored folk in the trader yard hold prayer meeting...Mama
was very religious...didn’t do no singing, ’cause that would have ’tracted atten-
tion...But someone saw the folks praying and told him [Major Long] the next morn-
ing, and he come out in the yard with a cat-o-nine tails and rounds everybody up.
Then, he said, “You niggers what was praying last night step out here.”
None come out, though, ’cept Mama, ’cause they was ’fraid they was going to
get whipped. Major said to Mama, “Well, you are the only truthful one in the yard,
and I won’t whip you, ’cause you have been truthful. I’ll see if I can keep you and
your man and your other children together and not see you separate.” Mama jes’ fell
on her knees and thanked the good Lord right in front of the Major and he never
touched her with his whip.
The Major kept his word to Mama and sell us to Mr. Dan Sullivan, and he takes
us up to Alexandria in a wagon.48
The Native Americans were driven out and the cotton kingdom absorbed
their lands. The old South Carolina rice planters were becoming passé, along
with the tobacco planters of Virginia. Between 1830 and 1860, these two groups
would sell some 300,000 blacks to the new cotton planters west of Carolina.

48.James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, pp. 290,1

42
3. The Missouri Compromise

New Orleans assumed the mantle of the most thriving Southern city (the
only one exceeding 100,000 in population in 1860), while Charleston was already
becoming “quaint” (there were only twelve cities in the United States with pop-
ulations exceeding 100,000).
The growth of slavery in the colonies/states for 130 years, beginning in
1680, is shown below:49

Table 1: Slave Population of sections/states of North America as % of total population


1680 1700 1720 1750 1770 1790 1810
NORTH 2 4 5 5 4 2 <1
New York 12 12 16 14 12 6 2
Massachusetts <1 1 2 2 2 0 0
UPPER SOUTH 7 20 24 36 37 33 34
Virginia 7 28 30 46 42 39 40
Delaware 5 5 12 5 5 15 6
LOWER SOUTH 17 36 60 57 58 41 46
South Carolina 17 44 64 61 61 43 47
LOWER MISS.
- - 36 60 ? 52 47
VALLEY

Great Britain, leading the Industrial Revolution, was flooding America


with cheap goods, resulting in reduced production in, or shutdown of, hundreds
of American factories and putting thousands of mill-workers out of work in the
Northeast. By 1819, for this and other reasons, a protective tariff was passed to
bar English cotton manufactures from the American market.
Inventions continually spurred development. In 1807, Robert Fulton’s
steamboat was successfully tested on the Hudson River. Sail power and soon
horse power began to be replaced by steamboats and railroads. The Baltimore
and Ohio became the first passenger railroad in the U.S. in 1828.
Yet slavery adumbrated the glow of the new world. In 1819, on the 200-ton
Rodeur of Le Havre, sailing to Guadeloupe with 200 slaves, a virulent form of oph-
thalmia blinded most of the slaves and crew. The ship, without a helmsman,
tossed aimlessly about at sea, survived a storm and then encountered the vessel
San Leon of Spain. The desperate hopes of the sightless seamen were cruelly and
ironically shattered when they learned that the sailors of the San Leon were also
blind. A passenger on the Rodeur recounted, “At the announcement of this hor-
rible coincidence, there was a silence among us for some moments, like that of
death. It was broken by a fit of laughter, in which I joined myself and, before our

49.Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, Table I.

43
And the War Came

awful merriment was over, we could hear, by the sound of curses, which the
Spanish shouted at us, that the San Leon had drifted away...she never reached any
port.” Most of the crew of the Rodeur were eventually recovered, but only after
the captain had thrown 39 blind slaves overboard.50
That same year, a debate began in Congress that lasted two tumultuous
years. Alabama had applied for admission as a slave state. That was expected,
because Illinois had been admitted as a “free” state the year before, tipping the
scales to 11 “free” states to 10 “slave states.” The prior admission of Ohio and
Indiana had been balanced by acceptance of Louisiana and Mississippi. The
“code” dictated the admission of Alabama to restore the balance. But Missouri
caught the North unawares by applying for statehood at the same time.
Admission of Missouri would put the South one up. The “code” itself was
becoming an insurmountable obstacle to settlement of the slavery issue. It
would continue so as the nation expanded westward, state-pair by state-pair,
while the partisans on each side of the tragic issue escalated their rhetoric and
their posturing. The delicate balance was ever in danger; the House of Represen-
tatives, which had been near parity in 1790, had already tilted toward the “free”
states by 24 seats, reflecting the more rapid growth, largely through immi-
gration, of the more urbanized North.
Representative James Tallmadge of New York moved to right this unex-
pected imbalance by proposing an amendment: that no more slaves to be
brought into Missouri and the children of those already there to be freed at age
25. In time this “slave” state would be transformed to a “free” state. There it was!
Uproar and chaos filled the House! The full depth of the perfidious Yankee
iceberg was now exposed. For the first time in those august chambers, South-
erners referred to “disunion.”
The South not only fretted over Missouri, in particular, but also over the
general trend of Tallmadge’s line of thinking. Unchecked, his reasoning would
lead to the assumption by Congress of powers not granted by the Constitution,
forcing Missouri to meet unprecedented conditions before qualifying for
statehood. It would diminish the slave market. It would create a Northern
majority in the Senate to match their existing majority of 24 in the 186-member
House. And then, by a simple vote, it might lead to that abhorred and much
feared initiative: abolition, and with it the destruction of Southern civilization.
Compounding the Missouri problem was the fact that the Territory extended

50. G. F. Dow, Slave Ships and Slaving, (Salem 1927), XXVIII ff.

44
3. The Missouri Compromise

north of the line that had been implicitly accepted as the boundary between
“slave” and “free” states.
The great contradiction between the nation’s stated, and highly publi-
cized, ideals of individual freedom and the presence, in its bosom, of slavery had
been shunted off the political center stage for nearly a generation. It was
observed, and at times addressed, but never commanded the full attention of the
body politic. Now, the great chord had been struck. Heretofore, the North and
South, harboring little affection for the customs and mores of each other’s way of
life, had accepted the status quo; but the citizens of those regions felt no responsi-
bility for the social conditions in each other’s society. Now, with respect to the
territories destined to become new states, every American felt a responsibility
for the kind of society the newcomers would adopt. The decision to maintain
each territory as “slave” or “free” was a matter to be decided by public voice.
The Missouri question moved Jefferson to exclaim, “This momentous
question, like a fireball in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I con-
sidered it at once as the knell of the Union.” When the opening of his beloved
University of Virginia was delayed and students who had planned to attend con-
tinued to go North for education, he himself had commented that the education
they might receive there was “the speck in our horizon which is to burst on us as
a tornado, sooner or later.”51
The senior Adams wrote to Jefferson, “The Missouri question I hope will
follow the other waves under the ship and do no harm.”52 He wrote to several
other friends, calling “Negro Slavery … an evil of Colossal magnitude.” In 1820, he
wrote, “we must settle the question of slavery’s extension now, otherwise it will
stamp our National Character and lay a Foundation for Calamities, if not dis-
union.”53
John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State, agreed. He had defended the
right of Congress to exclude slavery from the territories. Adams wrote in his
journal:
the discussion of the Missouri question had betrayed the secret of their [South-
ern] souls. In the abstract they admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim all partic-
ipation in the introduction of it, and cast it all on the shoulder of old grandam

51. Alan Nevins, ed., The Diary of John Quincy Adams, 226.
52. Adams-Jefferson Correspondence, Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 21, 1819.
53. Massachusetts Historical Society, The Microfilm Edition of The Adams Papers, (608)
Reels, Adams to Robert Walsh, January 19, 1820, Reel 124.

45
And the War Came

Britain, but when probed to the quick about it, they show at the bottom of their
souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom.
They fancy themselves more generous and noble-hearted than the plain freemen
who labor for subsistence...It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very
sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice; for what
can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest
rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?
The impression produced upon any mind by the progress of this discussion is,
that the bargain between freedom and slavery contained in the Constitution of the
United States is morally and politically vicious, inconsistent with the principles
upon which alone our evolution can be justified, cruel and oppressive, by riveting
the chains of slavery, by pledging the faith of freedom to maintain and perpetuate
the tyranny of the master; and grossly unequal and impolitic, by admitting that
slaves are at once enemies to be kept in subjection, property to be secured or
restored to their owners, and persons not be represented themselves, but for whom
their masters are privileged with nearly a double share of representation.”54
The younger Adams supported the Missouri Compromise because he
thought it was as much as could be accomplished under the Constitution and
because he could not push himself do anything that would threaten the Union.
But he forever wondered, in his heart, if it would not have been wiser to chal-
lenge the slaveocracy. Would a Union of thirteen or fourteen “free” states have
encouraged other states to emancipate their slaves?
Jesse Thomas, of Illinois, proposed drawing an imaginary line across the
continent at 36 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude. Slavery would be prohibited
“forever” to the north of that line, except in Missouri. Maine was to be admitted
as a “free” state which would place the ship again on even keel, with twelve
states on each side.
But, each side was certain it had the worst of the bargain. The North now
faced an extension of slavery to new territories, never heretofore contemplated.
Meanwhile, the South believed it had received nothing. Most of the territory
south of the line was Mexico’s, and most of the land north of the line (now the
wheat belt) was thought to be useless prairie. Debate was acrimonious and, at
roll call, the outcome was uncertain.
The bill passed the House by three votes, and a last-minute objection by
John Randolph of Virginia was evaded when the Speaker, Henry Clay, secretly
signed the bill and ferried it to the Senate, which approved it immediately. This
landmark legislation, the Missouri Compromise, formally established slavery
beyond the Mississippi for the first time and divided the nation irreparably.

54. Alan Nevins, ed., The Diary of John Quincy Adams, March 13, 1820, pp.231-232.

46
3. The Missouri Compromise

President Monroe was infuriated, convinced that the limitation of slavery,


“if not in direct violation of the Constitution,” was “repugnant to its principles.”
He would have vetoed the bill summarily, had he not feared the outbreak
of civil war. He signed it into law on March 20, 1820. Reaction in the North was
bitter. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed the measure “a reprieve only.” Whatever his
moral position, Jefferson resented the growth of federal power and grew ever
more wary of its encroachment on Southern rights.
Resolution was not forthcoming. Both North and South were haunted by
the specter of becoming a minority in Congress, through control of the “new
states” by the opposition. They could neither yield in this matter nor in a wider
range of matters touching the slavery issue. They could find no way to resolve
the issue while facing the challenge of admitting new states; perhaps, in time, the
economics of slavery would become less favorable, and other factors would allow
for resolution in the years ahead. For now, some form of compromise had to be
accepted to avert rupture and catastrophe.
In 1820, the coastal North had about four and one half million people, the
South three million (including slaves), and there were two million more beyond
the Allegheny Mountains. The South was still predominantly rural, having only
seven communities with more than eight thousand inhabitants.
But the major growth lay to the west. At $2 an acre, cheap land in Ohio
lured an ever-increasing migration from the coastal states and from abroad.
These pioneers, bred in the northeast, wanted no part of slavery in building their
new communities.
The divide was widening between the North with its small farms and
growing industrial base, and the South with its stratified plantation economy.
The differences between the North and South were on course to becoming irrec-
oncilable. The South developed a defensive ideology that resisted change. Its
society resembled the rest of the world whereas the North, which was racing
toward industrial capitalism, championed individual economic opportunity for
those bold and swift enough to seize it.
The South fought to preserve its vision of the republic as the founding
fathers intended it — a government of limited powers that protected their rights
of property, including slave property, and whose constituency comprised an
independent gentry and yeomanry of the white race undisturbed by large cities,
heartless factories, restless free workers, and class conflict.
By the time of Adams’ and Jefferson’s deaths, though many citizens
remained indifferent to slavery, the issue was roiling in the minds of a small band

47
And the War Came

of activists who promoted abolition. The abolition movement was fueled by the
circulation of its ideas in books and pamphlets. There was no censorship in
England or America. Abolition was jump-started by the Quakers’ reversal of
their former acceptance of the institution.
The apologists for slavery did not underestimate the threat. They under-
stood the need to refine their arguments, which included the notion that:
• emancipation would be disastrous to the Free Citizen, producing

poverty and distress.


• slavery was the best condition for the slaves, who were unable to fend

for themselves.
• slavery was justified by Biblical precedent; and,

• abolition was a violation of the liberty of the Southern people. Denial of

the right to own slaves would be tantamount to subjecting Southerners to


slavery (just as the patriots had argued that the British, by infringing on their
traditional liberties, were subjecting them to slavery).

The movement of Southerners westward into Louisiana, Mississippi and


Texas, seeking plentiful land and a benign growing climate, was traumatic for
the slaves. Sale was always a dreaded event, but sale to the Southwest certainly
meant permanent separation from home, friends, and often family. Parents might
come in from the fields at the end of the day to find that a child had been sold and
sent away without a word.
There were many slave owners who behaved paternally toward their
charges, who lived on their property and were deeply involved in communities,
governments, landholdings and with their slaves. Masters spoke sincerely of
their slaves as “their people,” inferior members of an extended household from
whom they expected work and obedience but to whom they owed guidance and
protection. They spoke frequently and sincerely of their “love” for their slaves.
Presbyterian minister (and Georgia slave owner) Charles C. Jones said
blacks “were placed under our control...not exclusively for our benefit but theirs
also. We cannot disregard this obligation thus divinely imposed, without for-
feiting our humanity, our gratitude, our consistency, and our claim to the spirit
of Christianity itself.”
Rice planter P.C. Weston informed his overseer that “his first object is to
be, under all circumstances, the care and well being of the negroes. The Pro-
prietor is always ready to excuse such errors as may proceed from want of

48
3. The Missouri Compromise

judgment; but he never can or will excuse any cruelty, severity or want of care
toward the negroes.”55

The slave, Florence Napier, noted that:


Ise sho’ ’joy myse’f on de old plantation, an’ we-uns all had a good time. Allus
have plenty to eat. Marster used to say, “De cullud folks raised de food, an dey’s
’titled to all dey wants.” Same wid de clothes.56
Human height is related to nutrition. While “Southern slaves were, on
average, an inch shorter than Northern whites they were three inches taller than
newly (illegally) imported slaves, two inches taller than Trinidad-born slaves
and one inch taller than Englishmen in the nineteenth century Royal Marines.”
The crude death rate among slaves in the antebellum era was 30 per 1000,
slightly higher than that of white Southerners (primarily because of higher
infant mortality rates) but similar to many Western European countries. 57
Slaves were dressed in rough “Negro cloth” manufactured by Northern textile
mills expressly for sale to Southern slave owners.
The break up of slave families was estimated by historian Michael Tadman
to have been about one in three first marriages in the Upper South, with close to
half of all children being separated from at least one parent.58 This practice illus-
trated the fragility and elasticity of slaveholder paternalism. Planter Thomas B.
Chaplin, of St. Helena Island, off Beaufort, South Carolina, acknowledged some-
thing of this in explaining what happened when his hospitality exceeded his
means:
“Nothing can be more mortifying and grieving to a man that to select out some
of his negroes to be sold — you know not to whom, or how they will be treated by
their new owners, and negroes that you find no fault with — to separate families,
Mothers & Daughters, Brothers & Sisters — all to pay for your own extrava-
gance.”59
Defenders of slavery countered charges of sundering family ties, of creating
“abroad marriages” where slave couples were separated and living on different
plantations, by maintaining that blacks suffered only temporarily because they
were incapable of forming long-lasting relationships. At the same time, they dis-

55. John R. Connors et al. eds., A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, Plantation
and Frontier, vol. I, Ulrich Phillips, ed., “Rules on the Rice Plantation of P. C. Weston,” p. 116.
56. James Mellon , ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p.43.
57. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery — 1619-1877, p.113.
58. Ibid., pp. 125-6.
59. Francis Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-1839. (766).

49
And the War Came

missed slave-traders as coarse, crude and unfeeling, more like “Yankees” rather
than true Southerners. The slave, Mary Ferguson, describes the horrible moment
of sudden separation:
Bout de middle of de evenin’, up rid my young marster on his hoss, an’ up-driv
two strange white men in a buggy...Den one o’ de strangers said, “Git yo’ clothes,
Mary. We has bought yo’ from Mr. Shorter.” I c’menced cryin’ an’ beggin’ Mr.
Shorter not to let ’em take me away....
Den, dose strange mens...took me an’put me in de buggy and driv’ off wid me,
me hollerin’ at de top o’ my voice an callin’ my ma. Den, de speculataws begin to sing
loud, jes’ to drown out my hollerin’.
Us passed de very fiel’ whar Paw an’ all my folks wuz wukkin’, an’ I calt out as
loud as I could an’ as long as I could see ’em, “Good-bye Ma! Good-bye Ma!”. But she
never heard me. Naw sah, dem white mens wuz singin’ so loud, Ma couldn’ hear me.
An’ she couldn’ see me, ’cause dey had pushed me down out o’ sight on de flo’ o’ de
buggy. I ain’t never seed nor heard tell o’ my m’am an’ paw an’ brothers, an’ sisters,
from dat day to dis.60
Naturally, slaves would often try to run away. South Carolina law on the
subject dated from 1690, with revisions in 1712 and several times subsequently.
The punishment for the first attempt was whipping; for the second try, the
runaway was branded with a “R” on the right cheek; an ear was cut off after the
third foray; for the fourth attempt, a woman’s other ear was cut off and she was
given another brand. Men were castrated.
The first cotton boom ended in 1827 when the price dropped from 29.5
cents per pound to 9.3 cents per pound. The price remained depressed for 25
years. It was not until 1852 that the price returned to the level of the first quarter
of the nineteenth century. There was no recession in the North. The momentum
of the Industrial Revolution was accelerating steadily. It drove a robust eco-
nomic expansion.
In their search for a scapegoat for the recession, the Southern planters fin-
gered the protective tariff instituted by Congress in 1816 and increased in subse-
quent years. They overlooked the exhaustion of the soil and competition from
cotton grown in the rich soils of the Southwest.
Everywhere the South saw encroachment on those rights it held sacred,
and particularly an erosion of states’ rights. A series of Supreme Court actions
under the leadership of Chief Justice Marshall had strengthened federal power.
The Court ruled that Congress could charter a bank and that states could not
tax it (“the power to tax involves the power to destroy”). Under the Consti-

60. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p. 293.

50
3. The Missouri Compromise

tution a private corporation’s charter was protected from change at the hands of
a state legislature. Individual citizens convicted in state’s courts were given the
right of appeal to the federal judiciary.

Meanwhile, by 1826, there were 143 emancipation societies in the United


States. Surprisingly, 103 of these were in the South.
Southerners could hardly be blamed for nervously glancing over their
shoulders.

51
4. A BESIEGED SOUTH CIRCLES THE WAGONS

In 1828, Congress passed another tariff for the stated purpose of protecting
Northern manufacturers and businessmen. To Southerners, this “Tariff of Abom-
ination” threatened the extinction of their agrarian economy. They faced the
specter of paying more for imported English goods and receiving less for their
cotton, which was selling for less than half of its 1819 price. Furthermore, the
value of Southern land had declined by 80%.
The South produced an intrepid defender of its cause, a working farmer, a
“highest-honors” Yale graduate, a consummate politician: John C. Calhoun. He
was born in rural South Carolina in 1782, of Scots-Irish stock. He married a
South Carolina Low Country heiress and entered Congress that same year. He
thought that the Constitution ought to be “construed with plain good sense.”61
The historian Merrill Peterson described Calhoun as “intensely serious and
severe,” suggesting that, “he could never write a love poem, though he often
tried...because every line began with ‘whereas.’”62 In 1828, Calhoun wrote an
elaborate argument against the constitutionality of the tariff, declaring Southern
farmers to be “serfs” of the tariff system through which the national government
took from them $16,650,000 while disbursing less than $2,000,000. He pointed
out that the South accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s export while
receiving, in return, manufactured goods which were taxed at the customs ports
for the benefit of New England and Middle States’ manufacturers. The new
Tariff of Abomination averaged 45% ad valorem. Furthermore, he emphasized, the

61. Clement Eaton, The Civilization of the Old South, pp. 137-9.
62. Merrill D. Peterson, The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay and Calhoun, p. 27.

53
And the War Came

tariff was passed by a two-thirds majority on the one-third of the population


which provided the aforementioned two-thirds of the export.
John Calhoun introduced resolutions contending that the federal system
joined sovereign states for mutual advantages. The central government could
only preserved in either of two ways: (1) by the consent of the states; or, (2) by a
resort to federal force. Calhoun, waxing eloquent, held the floor for two days.
When he finished, Daniel Webster rose and said the Constitution was not
a contract between sovereign states that might secede from it, but a contract”
among a people to set up a permanent government. He, at least, was tired of
denunciations of majority rule. Do they wish to establish a minority government?
The slave labor system had fostered a paternalistic ideology that decried
crude materialism as a “Yankee” vice. It fostered an intense attachment to region,
state and locality. Its striking economic success was constructed on a perilously
narrow base which would ultimately leave the South gravely underdeveloped,
economically and socially. The innovative approach of the system’s founders
degraded in the hands of reactionaries who distrusted reform and feared the
future. And it was defended by men who talked endlessly of their passionate
commitment to “liberty.”
Though the growth rate of per capita income in the South slightly
exceeded that of the North from 1840 to 1860, that income was only $103 com-
pared to $141 in the North. Still, this would have placed the South, if it were a
nation, fourth in prosperity among all nations in the world. But their narrow
economic base was in stark contrast to that of the North, where a vigorous
transformation in diversified industry had altered the economy and society. The
South was, in fact, falling behind economically and technically.
The North led the South dramatically in railroad construction, literacy
(excluding blacks), and education. The majority of European immigrants settled
in the North; thus the Southern share of the population decreased from 44% to
35% in the two decades ending in 1860.
The South remained rural. Before the Civil War, New York reached well
over 1 million in population, Philadelphia 565,000, Chicago (which did not exist
in 1830) 109,000. Over one-fourth of Northerners lived in a town or city of over
2500 people, or 36% of the population, compared to 10% in the South.
The average wealth of slaveholders in the Cotton South was fourteen times
that of non-slaveholders. Slaveholders owned 93% of the region’s agricultural
wealth. Around one-fourth of Southern whites would own slaves in 1860 but a
far higher percentage had an interest in slavery. 63 Small, struggling farmers
yearned to buy slaves. Those who were not slaveholders had relatives who were,

54
4. A Besieged South Circles the Wagons

and they perceived themselves as part of the planter society. The number of
people who identified themselves with the ruling class possibly approached half
the population of the South. Even the poor whites had a stake in the system. And
no one knew what to do with the slaves if emancipation did come — how would
ex-slaves provide for themselves? Would emancipation set loose a wave of ram-
paging black thieves?
Some proposed sending American blacks to colonize other parts of the
world; but this concept foundered due to the high cost and the difficulty of
remunerating slaveholders, not to mention the hostile response from many slave-
holders (and slaves).
Outsiders’ criticism of slavery and Southern decadence made the South
more defensive. Southern politics came to revolve around the defense of slavery
and the right of Southerners to determine their own way of life without outside
interference. The identification of slavery as the cornerstone of Southern liberty
became the focal point of slave owners.
The abolitionists were a relatively minor factor in the fanning of anti-
slavery sentiment. A major economic driver was the increasing divergence in the
general standard of living between North and South; a political factor was the
“free-soilers” who urged containment of slavery within existing boundaries; and
there was an ideological impetus, as “free labor” advocates argued that slavery
prevented the South from achieving its true potential. Southerners were faced
with growing isolation and many fell into an easy nostalgia for earlier, seemingly
simpler, times.
The South reacted viscerally to the extremist abolitionists. Any ques-
tioning of slavery was perceived not only as misguided but as part of a diabolical,
Yankee-brewed plot to overthrow Southern institutions and the Southern way
of life. There was concern and even dissent about slavery in the South, but it had
to be expressed clandestinely.
To visiting Northerners, Southern hosts would say: “Sir, you are not native
here and cannot understand our ways. Please indulge me when I assure you that
customs which may to the naive eye appear harsh are necessary for the man-
agement of our domestic institutions. Men as wise as Jefferson, Calhoun and
Clay have contributed to our debate. Better minds than yours or mine have
wrestled with it. There are, if you’ll permit me the term, ‘Yankees’ who simplify
our concerns. Theirs is a world of vivid blacks and whites, ours is swirling
gray.”64

63. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, p.180.

55
And the War Came

Slaveholders dominated Southern government. A majority of legislators in


every slave state except Missouri, Arkansas and Delaware were slave-owners,
reaching about three-fourths in the lower South and two-thirds in the Upper
South. Almost all state governors were slaveholders.
During the antebellum era, when Northerners turned from rigid Calvinism
to a variety of reform movements, the South became the home of religious and
social orthodoxy. The reform movements in the North, which aimed at
improving society and human nature itself, never took root in the South, where
individuality was stressed. Radical reform movements such as utopian socialism,
trade unionism, feminism, pacifism and abolitionism, while never supported by a
majority of Northerners, were significant in the consciousness of antebellum
Northern life but were almost totally ignored in the South where such “isms”
were ridiculed as absurd curiosities that typified the excesses of “Yankee”
culture.
In the South, the wagons were circled in defense. The four pillars of their
position were:
1. Reason supported slavery. Emancipation was seen as utterly impractical,
indeed impossible. It was not economically feasible to send two million slaves
back to Africa (and recompense their owners) or to free them in a white man’s
country where they would refuse to work and cause social disorder. That would
lead to a race war that would exterminate them, anyway. Furthermore, slavery
was essential for Southern prosperity and ultimately, therefore, for the United
States. (The maintenance of a slave seldom surpassed $35/year)
2. Christianity itself supported slavery. The Bible, it was said, showed that
ancient Hebrews (God’s “chosen people”) owned slaves and that Jesus, always
ready to condemn behavior he considered immoral, never criticized slavery or
reproached anyone for owning slaves. The biblical precedent of Noah cursing his
son Ham, and through him his grandson Canaan (“Cursed be Canaan; a slave of
slaves shall he be to his brothers”) satisfied Southerners of God’s condemnation
of the black (or Hamitic) peoples to eternal slavery. Slavery apparently was part
of God’s plan to expose a hitherto heathen people to the blessings of Chris-
tianity.

A number of Southerners thought that, while God sanctioned slavery, he


could withdraw his sanction and would do so if masters did not discharge their
Christian responsibility of benevolent paternalism toward their charges.

64. Donald McCaig, Jacob’s Ladder, p. 83.

56
4. A Besieged South Circles the Wagons

Masters were stewards, with the associated responsibilities. But the more
thoughtful religious leaders held a different view of emancipation than aboli-
tionists. They envisioned a strictly regimented social order subordinating the
working class to a responsible ruling class, whether involving slavery or not. The
more sophisticated apologists for slavery refrained from stating that God dic-
tated social, political or economic order. They postulated that slavery, or even
milder systems of subordination, created conditions favorable to Christian
behavior and the spread of that doctrine among all layers of society. In the
Northern economy, they claimed, the demands of the marketplace forced busi-
nessmen to choose between Christian ethics and material interests. They con-
cluded that a righteous social system must encourage those in charge to be
benevolent to their inferiors by providing material incentives. This, as historian
Eugene Genovese has written, constituted their “dreams of an alternate road to
modernity.”65
The religious life of the slaves became a dominant force in their culture.
The Baptists allowed the slaves to organize their own congregations and adapt
African spiritualism to the Christian worship. The center of religious life became
the “praise house,” where the slaves met two or three times a week. In addition
to a deacon, there were spiritual fathers and mothers who nurtured the old
African beliefs under the canopy of Christianity. Those who were being initiated
into the Christian community were called “seekers” and their process of initi-
ation was called “seeing Jesus.” Completion was called “catching sense.”
Continuing with the Southern apologia:
3. Genetics supported slavery. Black people were inherently inferior. “Sci-
entific” racists such as Dr. Samuel Cartwright and Josiah Nott “proved” blacks
were physiologically different from, and inferior to, whites. Their premise was
supported by brief, unscientific and vaguely supported assertions that blacks
were by nature different, inferior, and thereby unsuited for freedom. Most
Northerners took the first premise for granted but would not accept the second.
For them, that argument did not lead to the conclusion that black inferiority
necessitated their enslavement.

The racial arguments were weak, on their own. Of necessity, they were
used in conjunction with other arguments.

65. Eugene D. Genovese, A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White
Christian South, p. 120.

57
And the War Came

4. Morality supported slavery. Slavery was beneficial to everyone con-


cerned: masters; slaves; and society at large. Southerners felt slavery was inher-
ently preferable to free labor. It was asserted that slaves were far better off than
free workers in Britain and the North, where working conditions for “free slaves”
were horrible, or in Ireland where peasants were starving. There was also a deep
distrust of what was seen as a dangerous experiment in free labor in the North
and in England; upsetting the “natural” state would inevitably lead to a
breakdown in relations between classes, social disintegration, and a host of pro-
found social ills.
The dissidents among the Southern clergy did not condemn the practice of
slavery but insisted that the slave owner had a sacred duty to treat his slaves
with justice as mandated by God, and that failure to do so would bring on the
wrath of God, threatening slavery’s very existence. John S. Wise of Virginia
would write a nostalgic book on life in ante-bellum Virginia. In it he described a
slave auction and concluded that the very sight of it should have made it clear to
Southerners that slavery was wrong.
For their part, many church leaders, being too timorous to condemn harsh
behavior toward slaves, when it occurred, and to call perpetrators to account,
relied on moral suasion — a weak treatment for a grave ill.
Madeleine Burnside and Rosemarie Robotham relate a moving tale that
illustrates one group of Africans’ courageous non-acceptance of this fate.
A slave ship drops anchor in the colonies...Africans below decks are Igbos, a
famously proud people who had a reputation for being melancholy and suicidal.
They were from a region of West Africa that is now part of modern Nigeria...The
captain orders his crewmen to conceal as best they can the illness and sorrow that
have sunk into the very marrow of these Africans during their long sea voyage...The
European colonists who have gathered onshore...sense something different about
these Africans. Despite their obvious physical discomforts, these blacks do not
cower in fear but hold their heads aloft, chins thrust into the air...Now, a young
woman emerges from the hold...the rest of the slaves fall in step with this woman.
She is their leader, a mystic perhaps...As the African prisoners step from the ship
onto the shore of the New World they are pointed to a path that will lead them to
the slave barracks to await auction...but then the woman’s feet turn and enter the
creek that leads to the sea...The other Africans follow her without a word, into the
ocean, far out, where it is deep...until one by one, their sculpted black heads disap-
pear below the horizon, and the surface of the Atlantic stitches together in their
wake as if they were never there. Some say this happened at a place called Igbo
landing, near Beaufort, South Carolina: others say in the Georgia Sea Islands.66

66. Madeleine Burnside and Rosemarie Robotham, Introduction to Spirits of the Passage.

58
4. A Besieged South Circles the Wagons

For slaveholders, the challenges of recognizing slave marriages and


keeping slave families together lay squarely across the railroad tracks of their
political, social and economic interests.
The restless nation continued to grow, to 12,866,020 in 1830 (an increase of
33% from 1820). The total annual receipts of the U.S. Government increased to
nearly $25 million that year.
In the Congress of 1830, the subject of federal power vs. states rights sur-
faced obliquely from a discussion of the disposal of public lands. Easterners, both
North and South, were wary of westward expansion. Northern manufacturers
feared they would have to raise their pay scales to keep people from going west
for free land. Southerners feared the potential future admission of “free” states,
out west.
Robert Young Hayne of South Carolina joined the debates in Congress and
quickly expanded the field of argument. Debates over states rights and the right
to personal property, meaning slaves, had a way of taking over everything. He
argued that it was necessary to confine the federal government strictly within
the limits prescribed by the constitution, retaining most of the power in states’
hands; Webster, of Massachusetts, countered by exalting the Union and derided
the notion that the country could stand for “Liberty first and Union afterwards.”
His call for “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” rang out
to the applauding balconies filled with admirers of his eloquence.67
The values of the Southern landowners became the defining attributes of
the society: a deep sense of obligation to family; willingness to risk one’s life for
the sake of honor; tribal pride in self and family; fear of appearing petty or mean
in financial matters (returning cents in change was almost an insult); magnan-
imous hospitality; a strong patriarchal character in the household; judgment of
individuals in their family context; and the gallant treatment of women. His-
torian David Donald has observed that “the paradoxical world that was the ante-
bellum South [was] devoted to the principles of Democracy and the practice of
Aristocracy.”68
In 1834, South Carolina passed a bill banning literacy among blacks,
imposing a six month jail sentence and a fine of $100 for whites violating the law
and an additional fifty lashes for free blacks violating the law.

67. Shewmaker, Daniel Webster, The Second Reply to Robert Hayne in the U. S. Senate,
January 26-27, 1830, 113-121.
68. Clement Eaton, The Civilization of the Old South, p. 288.

59
And the War Came

In 1833, slavery was abolished in Great Britain. That year, William Lloyd
Garrison and a few friends founded the American Anti-Slavery Society and pub-
lished its Declaration of Sentiments: “...the guilt of this nation’s oppression is
unequaled by another on the face of the earth…”The paper ended with will-
ingness, if necessary, “to perish untimely as martyrs in this great, benevolent, and
holy cause.” Membership increased to 250,000 in five years.69
Arthur Tappan, one of the wealthy retail-merchant brothers in New York,
was an ardent abolitionist. Upon learning that the South had put a $100,000
price tag on his head, he announced that if they would deposit that sum to his
name in the bank, he might consider turning himself in.70
Abolitionists mailed anti-slavery literature to Post Offices throughout the
South, for delivery to thousands of addressees, but the Post Offices refused to
deliver them. The pamphlet controversy brought awareness to the broad public
that the defenders of slavery were proposing an intellectual blockade. Not only
was the enslaved black person denied every freedom, but now the white person
was to be denied the freedom to talk about it. The combination of defending
slavery and opposing tariffs strengthened the anti-slavery faction in the North.
Seven months after the initial publication of Garrison’s “Liberator,” Nat
Turner led a slave insurrection in Southampton, Virginia; 57 whites were slaugh-
tered (as well as the blacks). This, the Southerners asserted, vindicated their
claims that the abolitionist were fomenting a slave revolt with their radical
absurdities. Fear radiated throughout the South. Repressive measures were
adopted, ranks were closed and a phalanx formed against the trouble-makers in
the North. The need of each region to explain itself in argument hardened into a
“holy crusade” as Abolitionists demanded the summary end of slavery and the
Southerners dug in to fight for the survival of their culture.
In Congress, Calhoun decried the South’s “degrading situation; to sit here,
year after year, session after session, hearing ourselves and our constituents vil-
ified by thousands of incendiary publications in the form of petitions ...against
which we must rise like culprits to defend ourselves, OR PROMPT them to go
uncontradicted and UNRESISTED? We must ultimately be not only degraded in
our own estimation and that of the world, but be exhausted and worn out in
such a contest.”71

69. William Lloyd Garrison, The Declaration of the Antislavery Convention.


70. William Lee Miller, Arguing about Slavery, p. 85.
71. Clyde N. Wilson, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, vol. 13, 1835-1837, March 11, 1836.

60
5. THE “GAG” RULE FIGHT

In 1836, the United States House of Representatives was voting on the


several resolutions of the Pinckney Committee, ostensibly addressing the rules
surrounding procedures in handling petitions from citizens. In fact, the pro-
posed action was designed to dispatch the Northern albatross to the deepest
depths of the Congressional ocean.
The clerk read the first resolution: “Resolved, that Congress possesses no
constitutional authority to interfere in any way with the institution of slavery in
any of the States of this Confederacy.”
During the roll call, ex-president John Quincy Adams announced that, “if
the House would allow him five minutes’ time, he pledged himself to prove that
resolution false and utterly untrue.”72
An artic chill, sweeping down from the North, gave a shiver to Southern
spines. What was the old fool about this time? Adams had been born eight years
before the Revolution. After he left the Presidency, the old Puritan had agreed to
represent the people of the Plymouth District of Massachusetts upon condition
he be allowed to vote as he deemed right. He remained in Congress nearly sev-
enteen years and was now sixty-nine years old. His words came as a shock. Even
anti-slavery people conceded that Congress had no authority to deal with
slavery in the states where it existed. He was not given his five minutes,

72. Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, May 25, 1836,
p.499

61
And the War Came

however, and the discussion was temporarily switched to other matters which
eventually touched on Indian wars. Adams then released a thunderbolt:
From the instant that your slaveholding states become the theatre of war, civil,
servile, or foreign, from that instant the war powers of Congress extend to interfer-
ence with the institution of slavery in every way by which it can be interfered
with.73
Pandemonium! But he was right. Under the war power, slavery could be
constitutionally interfered with, even in states where it already existed.
The next day, the House took up the second resolution: “That Congress,
for reasons of national well-being, ought not to interfere with slavery in the Dis-
trict of Columbia.”
When Adams was called, he asked to be excused from voting. The measure
passed 132-45.
The third resolution, which had not been included in the scope of the
Committee’s instructions, proposed the “gag” rule. Its objective was to remove
any mention, much less discussion, of the subject of slavery from the public eye
and from the floor of Congress. Its preamble included language about “restoring
tranquility to the public mind.” The resolution read:
“All petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers relating in
any way, or to any extent whatsoever, to the subject of slavery or the abolition of
slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid on the table and
that no further action whatever shall be had thereon.”74

Instead of resorting to the usual method of “burying” unwanted petitions,


this resolution meant that all petitions on slavery would be tabled, en masse.
They would be dispatched to Congressional limbo, forever out of sight. The
“Right of Petition” to approach the Government for “redress of grievances” is
guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In the first half of the
19th century, absent the speed and ubiquity of modern communications, signing
petitions was the normal method of informing Congressmen of that which was
on the mind of citizens. The right of petition has a long history in England,
dating from clause # 46 in Magna Carta, “to no one will we sell, to no one will we
deny or delay right or justice.”

73. Charles Francis Adams, The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of his
Diary from 1795 to 1848.
74. Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, May 18, 1836,
p.469

62
5. The “Gag” Rule Fight

Congress traditionally received petitions from citizens “praying” action on


various subjects, on specified days of each session. This resolution proposed
that, instead of sending the “prayers” to die in committee, or immediately
answering them in the negative, or summarily refusing to receive them on the
grounds they were unconstitutional, all petitions concerning slavery be tabled, a
priori. They would not even be printed.
Once again, the disruptive Adams had to be called. Now, what? The old
man startled the assembly by leaping to his feet and declared in a loud voice: “I
hold the resolution to be a direct violation of the Constitution”… loud cries in the
house…. “and of the rules of the House”…more outcries… “as well as a violation
[of] the rights of my constituents.”75
Nevertheless, supported by the votes of Northern and Southern Democrats
as well as Southern Whigs, the “gag” rule passed readily, 117-68. But, during the
lame duck session of that same 24th Congress, the effect of the “gag” rule was to
increase the submission of anti-slavery petitions.
This contest in the House continued for several years with the aging
Adams doing lonely battle with his opponents which included the Northern
Democrats who were honoring the party line. In each session Adams challenged
the “gag” rule, and introduced more petitions, only to have the rule pass once
more, easily. Still, he put forward petition after petition until, one day, he intro-
duced a petition from, as he said, nine ladies in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who
were asking for an end to slavery in the District of Columbia. He withheld their
names, as he said, to protect them from any reprisals. The petition was tabled
and Adams cannily moved on to another petition.
Later, able to contain his anger no longer, John Patton, Virginia’s
Representative, who had grown up in Fredericksburg, announced that he was
acquainted with every respectable person there. Seated to the left of Adams, he
could see the petition and he announced that no such person’s name was on it,
and he impugned the character of the one person whose name he did recognize.
Adams asked Patton whether he knew these people were infamous and whether
he knew them personally. Coloring, Patton answered no.
Then Adams stunned the Chamber again by asking the Speaker whether a
petition came within the rules of the House if it was signed in part by people
who could not write, people who, it became clear, had received the education of
slaves. That was a puzzler. While the Speaker took a moment to think, a wave of

75. Ibid., May 26, 1836, p.506

63
And the War Came

hot anger rolled through the Southern legislators. One after another they
expressed their outrage, until Dixon Lewis, of Alabama, asked for the House to
“punish the member “ and asked “that every member of the slave states should
immediately, in a body, ‘quit this house.’”76
The proposal to punish a senior fellow Representative, an ex-president, a
son of a president and Founding Father, sparked a new controversy. Julius
Alford, of Georgia, said that if Adams proposed to present his petition, “He
would move that it be instantly burnt.”77 Historian William Lee Miller said of
this event, “That would have been quite a moment in the history of civil liberty
— the ritual burning of a petition by the House of Representatives of the United
States of America.”78
Waddy Thompson proposed that Adams be censured by the Speaker; it
was understood that anyone undergoing such censure would resign in disgrace.
Crusty old John Quincy Adams let the crescendo of outrage reach its peak
before he rose to respond, with an air of bewildered innocence, claiming he
wished to correct an erroneous statement or two in the resolution for his
censure. He reminded them that he had simply asked for a ruling from the
Speaker about the status of a petition; he had not in fact submitted it. In the
second place, no one should jump to a conclusion about the content of that
petition. Mr. Lewis had assumed that petition was for the abolition of slavery
when, in fact, it was just the opposite, as the slaves had signed, or had been
induced to sign, a petition praying for the opposite of abolition.
What an uproar! How dare he trick them so crudely? Thompson
threatened to bring Adams before a grand jury, for incendiary language.
Adams suffered four days of incessant incrimination. And what of the
defense of Adams by Northern Representatives? Those Democrats who spoke
against censure meekly blamed Adams’ actions on senility. The old crusader
allowed the crescendo of outrage to peak before he rose to defend himself.
Adams conducted a review of the first principles of civil liberty, among
which was one of the cardinal postulates, that of freedom of debate in the
people’s legislature. Indeed, Adams underscored that in England, “the first act of
the Speaker chosen by the House of Commons….is to demand of the King

76. Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representatives, February 6,
1837, p162.
77. Ibid.
78. William Lee Miller, Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress, p.
232

64
5. The “Gag” Rule Fight

freedom of speech for the Commons and the King never sends them to the grand
juries of Westminster to settle it.”79 He asked whether, in such a context, the
representatives of the Northern and Eastern States were liable to be indicted as
“incendiaries” for presenting petitions that were not agreeable to some members
from the South.
Adams went on to say that the right of petition, “God gave to the whole
human race, when he made them men — the right of prayer, by asking a favor of
another…The right of petition contests no power. It is supplication; it is prayer.
It is the cry of distress asking for relief.” As he went on, the overwhelming
majority against him began to crumble.”80
He was not through. “What Sir? The members of this House, the represen-
tatives of this whole nation, answerable to a grand jury of the District for words
spoken in the House?!” His back straightened and he looked across the aisle with
burning eyes. “Did the gentleman think he could frighten me from my purpose by
the threat of a Grand Jury? If that was his object, let me tell him he mistook his
man.”81 The recorder for the Congressional Globe that day annotated his notes,
saying that the effect of this speech on the House has been rarely, if ever,
exceeded by the influence of any speech on any assembly.
In the censure vote only twenty-two members voted against him. The reso-
lutions were rejected. And, still before the House was the issue of a slave’s right
to petition. Adams might be forgiven a sky wink.
The Southerners girded for battle led by Waddy Thompson. He declared
that “Slaves have no right to petition. They are property, not persons: they have
no political rights. Having no political rights, Congress has no power in relation
to them, and therefore no right to receive their petition. They are property, not
persons under the Constitution.”82 Thompson had not kept within himself. The
Constitution, in all its linguistic contortions, still uses the word “persons” when
discussing slaves’ rights. Now that Adams was free of censure, which would
have been a terrible embarrassment to Northern Democrats, they joined ranks
with the South in condemning Adam’s ridiculous gesture of introducing a
petition from slaves.

79. Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representa-
tives, February 9, 1837, p. 265.
80. Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representatives, February 9,
1837, p. 262.
81. Ibid., p. 264.
82. Ibid., p. 265

65
And the War Came

Thompson went on the offensive. “As long as the slave trade was profitable
and tolerated, it had no horrors in the sight” of New Englanders. “The blackest
and bloodiest pages in the history of this country, or of man, are to be found in
the treatment of aborigines by New England…. I like not your courtesan turned
prude, after ability to be vicious has ceased.” Earlier he had said of them, “They
regard abolition in the District as a first but decisive step to abolition in the
States. So do I. So does the whole slaveholding country.”83
Following a week of turmoil, insults and umbrage, the House voted on the
first resolution:
That this House cannot receive the said petition without disregarding its own
dignity, the rights of a large class of citizens of the South and West, and the Consti-
tution of the United States.
It passed, 160-35.
The second resolution was now offered:
That slaves do not possess the right of petition secured to the people of the
United States by the Constitution.
It passed, 162-18.84
There it was! The most directly Representative body in the Government of
the United States had voted overwhelmingly to deny the right of petition to the
powerless, the insignificant, the outsider, the disenfranchised, sixty years after
their progenitors had fomented a revolution they justified by accusing their Gov-
ernment of denying them, in their powerlessness, the basic civil liberties. “Who
then is left to hear petitions and consider redress?”
A Negro spiritual that the slaves used to cry out to each other asks,

My Lord, I dun jes like yuh said


How long watchman, how long?
De rich man lib an’ de po’ man dead.
How long watchman, how long?
How long?
How long?
How long watchman, how long?85

Adams wrote in his Journal:

83. Ibid., pp. 265-266


84. Congressional Globe, 24th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representatives, February 11,
1837, p. 175.
85. Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family, p. 303.

66
5. The “Gag” Rule Fight

“The conflict between the principle of liberty and the fact of slavery is
coming gradually to an issue. Slavery has now the power and falls into convul-
sions at the approach of freedom. That the fall of slavery is predetermined in the
counsels of Omnipotence I cannot doubt; it is a part of the great moral
improvement in the condition of man…But the conflict will be terrible.”86
If the “gag” rule stifled anti-slavery petitions, Adams would find another
way to bring the question before his colleagues. He introduced a petition “from
sundry inhabitants of Boston,” asking Congress to remove the seat of gov-
ernment from the District of Columbia to some point further north, where the
principles of the Declaration of Independence are “not treated as a mere rhe-
torical flourish.” 87 His humor was not shared by all there.
In 1840, the House did something extraordinary. It passed a rule that dealt
with policy, not parliamentary procedure. It was rushed through Congress by
the Speaker in one afternoon, with no discussion. Adams’ attempts to stop the
process were called “out of order.” The House proceeded to revise the Rules by
which it was governed. New Rule No. 21 read as follows:
“No petition, memorial, resolution, or other paper praying the abolition of
slavery in the District of Columbia, or any state or Territory, or the slave trade
between the States or Territories of the United States, in which it now exists,
shall be received by this House, or entertained in anyway whatsoever.”88
In the future any attempt by a Congressman to introduce the subject of
slavery would be followed by cries of “Order! Order!” and the offender summarily
seated.
But storm clouds followed the series of victories for the South in passing
successive “gag” rules. The margin of victory narrowed steadily. In 1836, the first
vote margin was 149. The next year it declined to 49, then 48, and, in 1840, the
last margin was 6. The number of free-state Congressmen, voting for it, had
declined from 64 to 28 Disaffection was spreading among the public, also.
Southern victory was proving costly, if not Pyrrhic.
In 1842, Adams’ opponents again brought a motion to censure him. He
voted on the side of the censurers to let the trial occur. This was the man who
had grown up with a hand-written copy of the Declaration of Independence

86. Alan Nevins, The Diary of John Quincy Adams, December 11, 1838.
87. Journal of the House of Representatives, January 17, 1839, p. 236.
88. Congressional Globe, 26th Congress, House of Representatives, 1st Session, January 28,
1840, p. 151.

67
And the War Came

lying on a table in his home; who had been taken up a hill by his mother to watch
the battle of Bunker Hill; whose father, a founding father of the republic, had
served as president; who had been President and Secretary of State himself. Now
seventy-five years old, he was under censure for inviting, among other things,
“the indignation of true American citizens,” and for calling on the members of
the House to commit high treason through introduction of yet another petition.
But he would not have voted for the abolition of slavery in the District of
Columbia if he had had the chance. Slavery in the District was the anvil over
which he would shape the sword of his crusade against the national dragon. He
recognized the roar of a mouse when he heard it. Implacable opposition to denial
of basic liberties to slaves had brought him to this pass. Some say this forum gave
him the chance to strike back at his old enemies after being defeated for a second
Presidential term.
Adams continued to issue a stream of provocative petitions and memorials
to the repeated indignant cries of “Order! Order!” The new objective in the House
became, in the words of Thomas Gilmer of Virginia, to “stop the music” of John
Quincy Adams.
A plan was developed to censure Adams on the basis of one of his endless,
wearying petitions. The plan would have to be one which did not blatantly
involve sectional interests or slavery. And, alas! He gave them the perfect
occasion: a petition from the citizens of Haverhill, Massachusetts, which con-
tained a prayer that, astonishingly, asked that the Union be dissolved!89
Slavery was not mentioned but the prayer was based on the “peculiar insti-
tution” (“Because a vast proportion of the resources of one section of the Union
is annually drained to sustain the views and course of another section...”). His
opponents could attack Adams for brazenly presenting a petition for disunion
(even though he disagreed with it).
Henry Wise arose from his seat to propose a move to censure any member
presenting such a petition. Once again, a voluble debate ensued. And once again
they took the bait. John Quincy Adams looked forward to his trial.
Before a large audience of intrigued, prominent citizens, the aged son of
John and Abigail Adams stood accused of high treason by his peers, after a
lifetime of service to his country.

89. Ibid., 27th Congress, House of Representatives, 2nd Session, January 25, 1842, p. 168.

68
5. The “Gag” Rule Fight

The “trial” went on for two weeks, filled mostly with attacks upon Adams
and his treason and with defense of slavery. Congressman Thomas Gilmer of Vir-
ginia, during one speech, mocked Adams, who he said:

In one revolving moon


Is statesman, poet, fiddler, and buffoon.90

Sarcasm notwithstanding, the arguments of the South began to sound spu-


rious and hollow. When his turn came, Adams took the floor to defend himself
and over the course of a week he cited his first-hand knowledge of the senti-
ments of George Washington, Jefferson and Madison against slavery, and won-
dered to see members from the State of Virginia endeavoring to destroy him and
his character, “for the sole purpose of presenting a petition.”91
Support of Adams in the newspapers and among the public in the North
was growing. Petitions were piling up against the proposed censure of Adams. A
profoundly disturbing thought crept into the consciousness of his enemies. A
frontal assault against a renowned patriot’s son, entrenched behind ex-presi-
dential abatis, in the most formal, public forum in the nation, might not have
been a sound idea. The alliance of Northern and of Southern representatives
against Adams faltered. They announced that they would withdraw their
petition if he would withdraw the offending petition. He refused.
After the first week of his defense, Adams informed his peers that he
would require another week to present his case. Staring at the wall, wondering if
they saw a vague “Mene, Thecel, Phares” scrawled on it, the Southerners moved
to table their censure resolution. A weary House exhaled in relief as the counter-
resolution passed.92
“IO TRIUMPHE” rang in Adams’ ears. He thereupon introduced two
hundred more petitions before adjournment that day.93
Nearly two years later, a lame duck session of Congress reconvened in
December of 1844. The aging Adams submitted yet another resolution, with a
trembling hand, to rescind the “gag” rule. Following ineffectual attempts to defer
action, the resolution was put to a vote and passed 108-80. “Old Man Eloquent”,
“The Sage of Quincy”, now 77, had persevered and won.94

90. Congressional Globe, 27th Congress, House of Representatives, 2nd Session, February 3,
1842, p. 209.
91. Ibid.
92. Bible, Daniel, V:25
93. Alan Nevins, The Diary of John Quincy Adams, February 5,1842.

69
And the War Came

That night he wrote in his diary, “Blessed, forever blessed, be the name of
God.”95

A few years later, the 80-year-old Adams suddenly slumped over his desk
in the House; he died two days later. Seated far in the back row, watching as the
stricken old man was carried by him in the aisle was a young Whig serving his
first term — Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.
John Adams had once told John Quincy, “You come into life with advan-
tages which will disgrace you if your success is mediocre,” and said that if he
failed, it “will be owing to your own Laziness, Slovenliness, and Obstinacy.”96
Abigail had put in her word also. In a letter to eleven-year-old John
Quincy, following his voyage to France with his father, she admonished him:
“dear as you are to me, I would much rather you should have found your grave in
the ocean you have crossed, or that any untimely death crop you in your infant
years, than see you an immoral, profligate, or graceless child.”97
He had stood virtually alone against the power and scorn of his peers and
fought for what he believed was right, in the few remaining years of his life, at
the peril of his dignity, a thing highly prized in those days.

94. New York Tribune, December 5, 1844.


95. Alan Nevins, The Diary of John Quincy Adams, December 5, 1844.
96. Joseph J. Ellis, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, p. 195.
97. Abigail Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, June, 1778.

70
6. THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT: ONE PARTY DEAD, THE
OTHER SPLIT

If the blacks were enslaved, the Native Americans were exiled. In 1824 the
“Indian” population east of the Mississippi was approximately 77,000. Through
a series of forced evacuations conducted by the U.S. military under the aegis of
the federal government, this number was reduced to insignificance by 1840. In
1838, the Cherokee, relatively culturally advanced, were forced to march from the
beauty of their Appalachian Mountain home to the dreary flats of Oklahoma
along what became known as “The Trail of Tears.”
In the southwest, Americans had been pouring into the area north of the
Rio Grande, onto land that had been ceded to Mexico by Spain following the
Mexican uprising in 1821. Stephen Austin led three hundred families into the
area in 1822, buying land at 12.5 cents an acre and professing Catholicism, a con-
dition of settlement imposed by the Mexican government. In 1829, the Mexican
government abolished slavery. Prior to that, however, many Americans had
crossed over into their lands (the future Texas) and brought their slaves with
them. By 1832, over 20,000 whites had settled in the area. It was obvious that the
local Americans were moving to take control north of the Rio Grande. The
Mexican government, which had refused two offers from Washington to pur-
chase the territory, attempted to tighten its control by sending in troops, while
maintaining administration from Mexico City. In 1836, the Texians, as the Amer-
icans called themselves, revolted, and declared themselves a free government.
They were annihilated by superior Mexican forces at the Alamo and at Goliad,
before Sam Houston led them to victory at San Jacinto.

71
And the War Came

This coup put the American government on the horns of a dilemma. The
possibility of admitting Texas as a slave state raised the issue of blatant moral
regression and, as always, it threatened the balance of power. Anti-slavery forces
regarded admittance of Texas as a slave state as a naked grab for power by the
South.
Texas first sought admission to the United States in 1836 but President
Jackson offered only recognition. England jumped quickly to recognize Texas as
an independent nation, which they welcomed as a barrier to U.S. expansion and
whose market they viewed as an economic opportunity. The Southerners needed
Texas. Northern legislators recognized this ploy; and staunchly opposed the
acceptance of Texas.
In 1844 and again in 1845, the Legislature of Massachusetts avowed the
right to secede and threatened to exercise the right should Texas be admitted to
the Union. Northern and Southern components of the Baptist and Methodist
Churches split over their differences concerning the slavery problem. Indeed, it
seemed everywhere one turned this issue was dividing community.
President Tyler and his Vice President, Calhoun, aware that a treaty to
accomplish their goal (to annex Texas) would require a two-thirds vote of the
Senate, lit upon the idea that a joint resolution would require only a simple
majority in both Houses. They could count on enough Northern Democrats to
combine with Southern Democrats to approve annexation. Despite the usual
heated sectional argumentation, both Houses promptly passed the resolution to
admit Texas into the Union, along with slavery, with the future option of
splitting the land area into five states.
The nation awaited Sam Houston’s response — England or America?
What Houston had desired from the beginning, he now possessed. Texas
became an American State in 1846.
Not surprisingly, war with Mexico followed later that year and concluded
with the anticipated American victory in 1848. It was opposed by many in Con-
gress as a ruthless, bullying land-grab. Mexico ceded the territories of New
Mexico and California to the U.S., while establishing their border along the Rio
Grande River. Our Southern neighbor has never forgotten this heavy-handed
behavior,
Now, two more territories, along with the Oregon territory, would become
grist for the slavery-abolition dissension-mill.
During the Mexican War, Congressman David Wilmot of Pennsylvania
had proposed an amendment to territorial legislation so that, “neither slavery

72
6. The Kansas-Nebraska Act: One Party Dead, The Other Split

nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist” in any area acquired from Mexico. But
the South would never accept the Proviso. The North was determined to have it.
In 1846, it passed the House but failed in the Senate. Reintroduced in 1847, it
failed again. It would not go away. The North contemplated the specter of
slavery in California, New Mexico and Utah. The Proviso, in one form or another,
came to a vote perhaps forty times, and though consistently defeated, proved to
be hydra-headed. Only the peace treaty following the Mexican War killed it
forever.
In 1848 Jefferson Davis of Mississippi declared to his colleagues in the
Senate, “I have no fear of insurrection, no more dread of our slaves than I have of
our cattle...Our slaves are happy and contented.” The only source of misery for
the slaves of the South was, “the unwarrantable interference of those who know
nothing about that with which they meddle. We who represent the southern
states are not here to be insulted on account of institutions which we inherit,
and if civil discord is to be thrown from this Chamber upon the land — if the fire
is to be kindled here with which to burn the temple of our Union — if this is to
be made the center from which the civil war is to radiate, here let the conflict
begin.”98
Speaking later about a petition to colonize free blacks in Africa, Davis reit-
erated how regrettable it was that Senators should, “find themselves beleaguered
by irritating questions forced upon them by individuals whose piety is so great
that they must always be appropriating to themselves other men’s sins.” He
called upon abolitionists to “cease this perfidious interference with the rights of
other men.” He called the men of the North, who raised the stir, hypocrites, “You
were the men who imported these Negroes into this country, you enjoyed the
benefits resulting from their carriage and sale; and you reaped the largest profit
accruing from the introduction of slaves.”99
The geopolitical battlefield, as Davis and his Southern brethren saw it, was
beginning to tilt downward toward the South. The Missouri Compromise did
not extend to cover New Mexico, thus enhancing the likelihood of establishing
slavery there, but legislation on the Northwest Ordinance seemed to point to
Oregon being a free territory. Southern men had helped win that territory but

98. James T. McIntosh, ed., The Papers of Jefferson Davis, July 1846 — December 1848, vol. 3, pp.
314-315.
99. Dunbar Rowland, ed., Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches, vol.1,
pp. 217-219.

73
And the War Came

they would not be able to take their “property” there. Unwilling to move there
without slaves, it would be settled by Northerners and anti-slavery men.
When he rose from his chair, as “Defender of the Southern Faith,” he pre-
sented his region as the historical underdog in this expanding nation. In the
summer of 1848, that expansion now confronted Congress once again with con-
sideration of statehood for the newly acquired lands of New Mexico and Cali-
fornia and for Oregon, where the settlers had not yet formed a territorial
government.
John Hale of New Hampshire proposed an amendment to the Oregon
“statehood” bill that would preclude slavery there. Davis responded with his
own amendment preventing Congress from prohibiting slavery. He was certain
that an imbalance of power in the vote in Congress, as threatened by prohibiting
slavery in Oregon, would lead to a destruction of the Southern economy, culture,
life-style and social structure, a culture perpetually misunderstood by Yankees.
It was clear to Davis that agitation over slavery had but one real goal,
“which is to totally destroy political equality.” For “such obligations as belong to
other species of property, we claim as due to our property in slaves.”100
He attacked “squatter sovereignty.” To posit that settlers were sovereign
was tantamount to acknowledging them to be an independent state since only a
sovereign power could exclude property from a territory. If Oregon was a Ter-
ritory, how could Congress turn over decisions about its institutions to its
inhabitants, for a Territory was the property of all Americans?101
Davis brought a degree of sophistication to pro-slavery argumentation that
was rarely exceeded. His own management of his slaves reached the ideals he
championed and, if some slave owners were less fair, the exception proved the
rule. He asserted that the expansion of slavery would reduce the percentage of
unworthy masters. But on no account, he said, could a Yankee discourse intelli-
gently on this subject, and their unspeakable effrontery in attempting to do so
was nearly more than a gentleman could bear, without resorting to a duel to put
an end to their insufferable nuisance. His half-cultivated plantation at Brierfield,
Mississippi spread over 800 acres and was worked by 72 slaves. The annual crop
yield reached over 36,000 lbs.

100. James T. McIntosh, ed., The Papers of Jefferson Davis, July 1846 — December 1848, vol. 3, pp.
332-373.
101. Ibid.

74
6. The Kansas-Nebraska Act: One Party Dead, The Other Split

The price of slaves tracked the price of cotton to such a degree that it was
commonplace in the years after 1840 that the price of slaves could be determined
by multiplying the price of cotton per pound by ten thousand. After 1850, specu-
lation bloated slave value.
“The question is before us; it is a struggle for political power. If “ a self-sus-
taining majority,” opposed to the South and its institutions, continued in its
course “the days of the Confederacy are numbered. We should part peaceably,
and avoid staining the battle-fields of the Revolution with the blood of civil
war.... Let no wounds be inflicted which time may not heal.” In conclusion, he
said if his amendment did not pass it would be “ominous for the future.”102
Davis’ amendment did not pass and the ubiquitous compromise led to
passage of an Oregon Bill faithful to the terms of the Northwest Ordinance with
Davis in opposition until the end. Oregon would be a “free” state.
In 1845, Baptist delegations from nine southern states split over the issue
of slaveholders serving as missionaries and they abandoned the national body to
form the Southern Baptist Convention.
The admission of Wisconsin as a state in 1848 had leveled the balance
again, this time at 15. Iowa and Wisconsin offset the admission of Texas and
Florida. This “code” seemed as if it could endure forever. Those who cared to
examine the situation more closely, however, could see that the climate in the
future southwestern lands was not highly suitable to an agricultural, slave-based
economy. Though the balance might be maintained in the Senate by designating
these intemperate lands as “slave” states, the population trend had already been
skewed toward “free” states for a quarter-century.
In the interminable argument over slavery, there was no disagreement that
a State could decide the status of slavery within its bounds. The disagreement
was over who would determine that status in the territories prior to statehood.
But Southern suspicion of Northern intent convinced them that the ultimate
goal of the Yankees was the elimination of slavery throughout the land. The
South’s proportion of the total population had declined in every decade. It
remained predominately rural. In the House of Representatives and the Electoral
College, their vote was a decreasing minority.

102. Ibid.

75
And the War Came

There was disparity in the land, also. Primarily due to soil exhaustion and
erosion, the average value per acre of agricultural land in the South was less than
half the similar value in the North.
In 1850, the population of the country surpassed 23 million, an increase of
36% from 1840. The national birthrate was 5.4 children per family. The world
was not all political strife. In a span of two years, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and
House of the Seven Gables, and Melville’s Moby Dick were published. Jane Eyre had
been recently published in England.
Henry Clay of Kentucky, struggling as always to reach a compromise,
pleaded against Secession — which he felt would inevitably be followed by war.
Clay would spend over 45 years in Washington, representing his state. He had
grown up a poor boy in Virginia but had gradually accumulated 513 acres on his
plantation, called Ashland, located one mile and one-half from the center of Lex-
ington, Kentucky. He was famous for the blood-line of his horseflesh and the
quality of his livestock. He pioneered importing Hereford cattle from England.
The father of eleven children, Clay was an unusually congenial host and a man
who read very little. He was a slave owner, but dedicated to the preservation of
the Union.
Now, the rub was California. The gold seekers had come mostly from the
North and sought to make it a “free” state. This would put the North one-up at
16-15. While the Southerners recognized that they had to accept this result in
California they were adamant that the Wilmot Proviso not bar slavery from the
rest of the Mexican cessation territory and, in reserve, they would back Texas in
its extravagant land claims, thus guaranteeing slavery in most of what became
New Mexico and a piece of Colorado.
Clay proposed a number of resolutions addressing every major controversy
on the slavery issue. He proposed that: (1) California be admitted as a free state;
(2) territorial governments to be provided for in the rest of the Mexican cession
area with no congressional action for or against slavery; (3) Texas should accept
a reduced western boundary but the U.S. government would assume its debt in
exchange; (4) the slave trade, but not slavery, be abolished in the District of
Columbia; and, (5) Congress should enact a law for the effective apprehension of
fugitive slaves.
Clay was supported by Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. The collection of
talent in the Senate, arrayed against a seemingly insoluble problem, was
impressive: Davis of Mississippi, Seward of New York, Douglas (the rising star of
the west), Calhoun and the Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina, Robert

76
6. The Kansas-Nebraska Act: One Party Dead, The Other Split

Toombs and Alexander Stephens of Georgia, Sam Houston of Texas, Thomas


Hart Benton of Missouri, and Webster of Massachusetts (“a great cannon loaded
to the lips,” as Emerson called him).
Old Calhoun was failing from the final stages of tuberculosis, with less
than a month to live. Daniel Webster, ailing, like Calhoun, had less than two
years to live. Webster rose for his last oration in an effort to moderate the radical
Northerners. It was unnecessary to exclude slavery, he said, from territories
where it would not be profitable because of climate and geography. He also
denounced the intemperate language of the abolitionists and criticized the
Northerners for impeding the return of runaway slaves.
The reaction in Massachusetts was immediate and vitriolic.
Clay was surprised at the ferment caused by his “proposal” and offered to
debate Davis. Davis said that if secession occurred, the North would suffer more
than the South, which would flourish as the world beat a path to its doors for
cotton, “the great staple,” while the industrial North would perish as all com-
mercial states perished.
The death of John C. Calhoun on March 31 was followed by the demise of
President Zachary Taylor on July 4th. Taylor had exerted himself and then cele-
brated too much. As the President was dying, his last intelligible words to Davis,
who was at his side, were, “Apply the Constitution to the measure, Sir,
regardless of the consequences.”103
James Hammond delivered Calhoun’s eulogy in Charleston and aptly
framed the man’s lifelong philosophy of “nullification” rather than “secessation”:
“Mr. Calhoun was mainly influenced by that deep, long cherished, and I might
almost say superstitious attachment to the Union, which marked every act of his
career.”104 With the passing of these two gentlemen and the aging of Clay and
Webster, the impediments to compromise had largely dissolved. Handsome, but
colorless, Millard Fillmore, the succeeding Vice President, was in favor of com-
promise and the rising Senator Douglas assumed leadership of the forces for con-
ciliation. Douglas remained in the background while manipulating his colleagues
and guided them to passage of the “Compromise of 1850.” Enough Northerners
joined the Southern bloc to enable the bill to pass.
California was admitted as a “free” State. New Mexico and Utah were
organized as territories with no congressional exclusion of slavery. Those terri-

103. Lynda Lasswell Crist, ed., The Papers of Jefferson Davis, vol. 4, pp. 123-124.
104. Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond of South Carolina, p. 262.

77
And the War Came

tories, when admitted as States, could choose for or against slavery. The western
boundary of Texas was fixed, to pacify the North, but Texas received ten million
dollars to pay her debts. The slave trade was abolished in the District of
Columbia. All territorial laws were to be submitted to Congress for approval or
rejection. The new Fugitive Slave Act placed the power of the government
behind the apprehension of runaway slaves.
The Fugitive Slave Act was a costly, Pyrrhic victory for the South. Mod-
erate Northerners were disgusted with its language and spirit. It made the South
look ridiculous, contrasting their traditionally staunch advocacy of “states
rights” with this call for the full force of the federal government in recovering
runaway slaves. It was estimated that runaways amounted to no more than 1000
per year, mostly from the Border States. The Act provided the abolitionists with
the most effective tool they ever wielded and triggered a widespread and dra-
matic response among Northerners by threatening a most fundamental and
sacred American right: protection against searches and seizures in one’s own
home. A number of cities organized mobs for the purpose of rescuing recaptured
slaves. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin declared the Fugitive Slave Act uncon-
stitutional. By the 1850s the white South had assumed a siege mentality.
As each new territory approached statehood the slavery quarrel was resur-
rected and intensified, fanning the flames of suspicion and intolerance in the two
sections of the country, driving more and more moderates to the fringes. In 74
years, no progress at all had been made in achieving a solution to the slavery
issue; sectional divergence had widened; rhetoric had become more reckless. For
those in positions of leadership who believed slavery to be wrong, time was
running out. The Compromise of 1850 was the third major challenge unmet.
Harriet Beecher, who married Calvin Stowe, a professor of Biblical Liter-
ature at Lane Seminary, was a talented writer whose articles appeared mainly in
religious magazines. In 1845, she wrote an essay defending “immediate Emanci-
pation.” Five years later, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law stimulated her
sister to suggest to Harriet that she channel her efforts in the cause of abolition.
In 1852, she published Uncle Toms Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, as a serial
story in a religious magazine. Mrs. Stowe had succeeded in personalizing the
victims of slavery whereas abolitionists had always harangued about the insti-
tution. Her myriad readers did not become abolitionists but they were duly
biased against slavery, if not already so disposed, by the appealing images of poor
Tom, little Eva, Topsy and the malicious Simon Legree. The first printing sold
out in two days. Within a year, it sold 300,000 copies in the United States and 3

78
6. The Kansas-Nebraska Act: One Party Dead, The Other Split

million in the world. By 1862, it had sold over 2 million copies in the United
States, equivalent, in today’s population, to 25 million. One of the millions of
floating sparks of abolition, so long rising and falling in the erratic currents of
sectional conflict, finally lit on tinder, in the heart and mind of an unheralded,
young lady who became the catalyst to ignite a firestorm of indignation in a
public now roused to the issue.
Southerners were horrified at the nagging portrayal of their culture,
always, it seemed to them, one-sided, misinformed, simplistic and righteous. “As
if we were night-black ravens, which cannot be washed clean with all the soap of
the Gospel.”105 The South Carolina novelist William Gilmore Simms became one
of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s most vehement critics, imputing a satanic nature to
her: “Mrs. Stowe betrays a malignity so remarkable that the petticoat lifts of
itself, and we see the hoof of the beast under the table.”106
“Niggers are not niggers unless they are slaves,” remarked the famous sto-
ryteller from Lynchburg, Virginia, Edward Bagby.107
“South Carolina,” wrote native son John Petrigru, who would oppose
secession in 1860, “is too small for a Republic, but too large for an insane
asylum.”108
The attitudes of the two sections toward slavery were hardening. A certain
inevitability of catastrophe permeated the atmosphere.
In 1853 Jefferson Davis was appointed Secretary of War by President
Pierce, the last Whig President. In his new position, he exhibited traits that
would haunt him, administratively, until his death. He could not delegate. He
wanted to make all the decisions. He ignored objections and, when embroiled in
disputes, lost his temper.
The country was abuzz with excitement about the transcontinental
railroad that would finally bind civilized east with wild west. The new railroad
would extend from California to an as yet undetermined location in the Missis-
sippi valley.

105. Field, The Sermons of Henry Smith, pub. 1593


106. Mark Perry, Conceived in Liberty, Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates and the American Civil
War, p. 72.
107. Selections from the Miscellaneous Writings of George W. Bagby, George Bagby, “Cornfield
Peas”, I:174.
108. James L Petigru to Benjamin F. Perry, December 8, 1860, quoted in Lacy K. Ford Jr.,
Origins of Southern Radicalism, p.371.

79
And the War Came

Another explosion was about to erupt in the minefield of slavery. For the
past decade, Stephen Douglas, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Terri-
tories, had been reporting bills from his Committee aimed at facilitating white
settlement in the Nebraska Territory. Douglas was passionately interested in
opening the west for white settlement, for the country to fulfill its “manifest
destiny,” to control all the land between the two great oceans. He cared little
about slavery. Each time, the Southern bloc defeated the Bills, fearing appli-
cation of the Missouri Compromise (the Nebraska Territory lay north of the 36-
30 line and thus should be designated free).
In January 1854, once again, Douglas introduced a bill to organize the
Nebraska territory west of Iowa and Missouri. The bill, published in the Wash-
ington newspapers, said nothing about the “virtual repeal” of the Missouri Com-
promise being championed by a select group of Southerners. It noted simply that
when Nebraska became a state, it could decide for itself about the status of
slavery. But that question had already been settled by the 1820 law.
A number of Southern senators of Douglas’ Democratic Party, from Border
States, were running for reelection and eagerly sought an issue to excite their
constituents. They found it. They demanded that Douglas add a clause that
would reopen the slavery issue. This would effectively repeal the Missouri Com-
promise. The whole Southern bloc spurred their chargers to the clarion call of
“Southern Rights.” Douglas yielded to Southern pressure and added language
acknowledging that the status of slavery was not settled but would be deter-
mined by “popular sovereignty”.
Thoughtful Southerners realized that leaving the Missouri Compromise
intact would discourage distant Southerners from settling in Kansas. Archibald
Dixon, a Kentucky Whig, rose in the Senate demanding repeal of the Missouri
Compromise in Kansas-Nebraska. Douglas caved in and promised he would
place repeal in his bill. He did and the final bill created two territories, Kansas
and Nebraska. Kansas bordered Missouri to the west and Southerners eagerly
hoped it might become “slave.” Northern Democrats cried betrayal. Douglas had
fomented rebellion in his own party. One paper referred to Douglas as the
puppet of the South:

The Dropsied Dwarf of Illinois


By brother sneaks called “little giant”
He who has made so great a noise
By being to the Slave Power pliant.

80
6. The Kansas-Nebraska Act: One Party Dead, The Other Split

In the voting, the North controlled the House so it would require that
nearly half of the Northern Democrats would have to support the South for the
Bill to pass. The slaveholding States supported the bill 71-11, while the Northern
Democrats, opting for Party discipline over the will of their constituents, voted
42-39 with the South and the Northern Whigs/Freesoilers/Nativists opposed
50-0. Thus the Kansas-Nebraska Bill passed in the House by 113-100. The “three-
fifths” rule gave the South 19 more seats than it would have otherwise have had.
The Bill passed 37-14 in the Senate. Practically all Southern Congressman
voted for it. One of the latter, Indiana’s John Pettit, defiantly announced that the
supposed “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal” was a “self-evident
lie” with “no truth in it...The negro in Africa and the free-born American are not
created equal...it is utterly false that men are, either mentally, morally, physically,
or politically, created equal.”109
The Kansas-Nebraska Act shattered the truce of 1850. It caused the disso-
lution of the Whig Party, and convinced Northern Democrats that the South
controlled their party.
Douglas wryly commented that he could travel to his home in Chicago by
the light of his burning effigies. He heard the crushing epithet of “Judas Iscariot”
and, in Ohio, a group of women presented him with 30 pieces of silver.
Where was the young nation headed? One hundred years earlier, slavery
existed in all of its colonies and most of the New World. Now, the slave South
stood nearly alone along with Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico in an otherwise
“free” New World. In the afterbirth of Kansas-Nebraska, one of the nation’s two
political parties was expiring unceremoniously, one was splitting like a tree
struck by lightning and a new party was not so much born as bubbling to the
surface at the local level in many Northern communities simultaneously. The
mid-wives called themselves “Anti-Nebraska” men, and sometimes, Repub-
licans.
Professional politicians, quick to take notice of the widespread, local phe-
nomenon, then took control of the fledgling party in one state after another. In
elections that year, the new Republican Party won control of many Northern
governments and sent a large delegation to Congress. It had but one principle,
the exclusion of slavery from every territory.

109. Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 33rd Congress, First Session, ed. John V. Rives, New
Series vol. xxxi (Washington, D.C., 1854), 137, 310.

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And the War Came

It seemed as if the explosive environment of the country at mid-century


was ignited by a thoughtless Southern grab at an easy victory in Congress: a
crude maneuver that flaunted the grudgingly accepted, but still honored, “code”
of the land and exhibited a wanton selfishness too difficult for Northerners to
swallow.
But there were men in the South just as spiritedly disgusted with the
North. The South Carolina “fire-eaters,” nurtured in the Low-country planta-
tions of the Beaufort District’s Sea Islands, inspired and led the “Southern
Rights” movements which gave birth to a number of Southern Rights Associa-
tions. The exasperated men that led these Associations believed that further dis-
course with the North on Southern Rights and Slavery was patently futile. As far
as they were concerned, the time for decisive action had arrived.
“Therefore it is now the solemn duty of the Southern States to sever the
formal tie that yet binds us to the Union already practically sundered, and to
unite in a slaveholding Confederacy, maintaining as a fundamental principle, the
perpetual recognition of that institution...”110
Kansas-Nebraska ignited unrequited passions in the North, in the South
and in the lands across the Mississippi. It also kindled something else, the spirit
of a restless Westerner on the plains of Illinois.

110. Charleston Courier, November 16, 1850.

82
7. ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS

“I was losing interest in politics,” said Abraham Lincoln, “when the repeal
of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again.”111
Lincoln agreed to work for the election to Congress of Richard Yates, a
Whig, by delivering stump speeches in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Curiously, he also agreed to run again for the Illinois Legislature even though it
would eliminate him from consideration to replace Senator Shields when his
term was up in the fall of 1854.
Five months after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, spurred by
Democratic defeats in Iowa and Maine, Douglas scheduled a whirlwind cam-
paign in Illinois to bring his case, in support of the controversial legislation,
before the voters. Lincoln sought to enter into public debate with Douglas but
Douglas declined repeatedly. After Douglas addressed a large crowd of Demo-
crats in the Hall of Representatives in Springfield, Lincoln shouted to Douglas
that he would make a reply the next day and invited Douglas to be present.
Lincoln was well-prepared. What impressed listeners most was the sin-
cerity of his conviction of the moral wrong of the “monstrous injustice of slavery.
There can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of
another,” he stated emphatically, and went on to draw the inevitable conclusion
that extending it into territories and “to every other part of the wide world,

111. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: his Speeches and Writings, Letter to J. W. Fell,
December 20, 1859, p. 512.

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And the War Came

where men can be found inclined to take it,” was just as wrong. Lincoln admon-
ished, “We are proclaiming ourselves political hypocrites before the world by
thus fostering human slavery and proclaiming ourselves, at the same time, the
sole friends of human freedom.”112 People also admired his frankness when he
echoed a common Northern sentiment: “The southern people were no more
responsible for the origin of slavery than we.” He thought it was impossible to
free slaves and make them “politically and socially our equals. My own feelings
will not admit of this. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound
judgment, is not the sole question. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-
founded, can not be safely disregarded.”113
When Lincoln finished, Douglas took the floor and delivered a two-hour
rebuttal. As was customary, Party newspapers trumpeted the overwhelming
victory of “their” man, but there was no question that Lincoln had made a signif-
icant impression. Lincoln asked Douglas to debate at Peoria. Douglas, tired and
hoarse, wanted to avoid another confrontation. He told a friend, privately, that
he did not want to debate with “the most difficult and dangerous opponent that
I have ever met.” He was, however, aware of the political danger of declining
such a confrontation so he agreed but arranged to speak three hours until well
past five in the afternoon, thereby leaving Lincoln a tired, hungry and restless
audience.114
Douglas finished to six vociferous cheers and stirring band music. Then
crowd began to call for Lincoln, who, as Douglas had announced, would
respond. Douglas also added that he would have an hour afterward to reply to
Lincoln.
Lincoln asked his audience to eat supper and return in two hours as his
address would take as long as Douglas’ speech. He said he had agreed to giving
Douglas, “one of his high reputation and known ability, this advantage of me,”
though he was not being “wholly unselfish, for I suspected if it were understood
that the judge was entirely done, you democrats would leave and not hear me;
but by giving him the close, I felt confident you would stay for the fun of hearing
him skin me.”
Lincoln delivered perhaps the finest address thus far in his career. In it, he
revealed himself as an unusually tough-minded debating opponent, extremely

112. Ibid., p. 177.


113. Ibid., p. 175, 6.
114. Frank E. Stevens, The Life of Stephen Arnold Douglas, Journal of the Illinois State Histor-
ical Society, 16 , (Oct. 1923-Jan. 1924): 487.

84
7. Abraham Lincoln in Illinois

skilled in the use of irony and sarcasm but, nevertheless, possessing a relentless
logic and passion for truth. This was a maturing Lincoln.
Lincoln’s words, in part:
“But it is said, there now is no law in Nebraska on the subject of slavery...that is
good book-law, but it is not the rule of actual practice. Wherever slavery is, it has
first been introduced without law. The oldest laws we find concerning it are not
laws introducing it; but regulating it, as an already existing thing...at last, if ever the
time for voting comes, on the question of slavery, the institution already exists in
the country, and cannot be well removed. The fact of its presence, and the difficulty
of its removal, will carry the vote in his favor [the territorial slave-owner]...To get
slaves into the country simultaneously with the whites, in the incipient stages of
emigration and settlement, is the precise stake played for, and won in this Nebraska
measure.115
“Then again, in control of the government...they [the South] have greatly the
advantage of us...this is more aptly shown by a comparison of the States of South
Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six representatives (in the Lower House),
and so has Maine. South Carolina has eight presidential electors, and so has Maine.
This is precise equality so far; and, of course they are equal in Senators, each having
two. Thus in control of the government, the two States are equals precisely. But
how are they in the number of their white people? Maine has 581,813 while South
Carolina has 274,567...thus each white man in South Carolina is more than double
of any man in Maine. This is all because South Carolina, besides her free people, has
394,984 slaves [three-fifths rule]...This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave
States in the present Congress, twenty additional representatives — being seven
more than the whole majority by which they passed the Nebraska bill. Argue as you
will, and as long as you will, this is the naked front and aspect of it. And in this
aspect, it could not but produce agitation...
“Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature — opposition to it, is his
love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into
collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and con-
vulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all
compromises — repeal the ‘Declaration of Independence’ — repeal all past history,
you still cannot repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart,
that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth
will continue to speak...
“The Missouri Compromise ought to be restored. For the sake of the Union it
ought to be restored...If by any means, we omit to do this...we shall have repudiated
— discarded from councils of the Nation — the spirit of compromise; for who after
this will ever trust in a national compromise? The spirit of mutual concession —
that spirit which first gave us the Constitution, and which has thrice saved the
Union—we shall have strangled and cast from us forever.

115. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: his Speeches and Writings, Lincoln Speech at Peoria, Illinois,
in Reply to

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And the War Came

“I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of this
Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes
there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another. I object to it as a
dangerous dalliance for a few people — a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity, we
forget right—that liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to revere. I object to it
because the fathers of the republic eschewed, and rejected it. The argument of
‘Necessity’ was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery...they pro-
hibited its introduction into the Northwestern Territory — the only country we
owned — then free from it...they forbore to so much as mention the word “slave” or
“slavery” in the whole instrument...Thus, the thing is hid away, in the Constitution,
just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at
once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise nevertheless, that the cutting may
begin at the end of a given time...
“Little by Little...we have been giving up the OLD for the NEW faith. Near
eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal, but now from
that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for SOME men to
enslave OTHERS is a ‘sacred right of self-government.’ These principles cannot
stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon; and whoever holds to
the one must despise the other.
“Let no one be deceived. The spirit of seventy-six and the spirit of Nebraska are
utter antagonisms. Fellow-countrymen — Americans south, as well as north, shall
we make no effort to arrest this?...This is not the taunt of enemies, but the warning
of friends...In our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware, lest we
‘cancel and tear to pieces’ even the white man’s charter to freedom.
“Our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust...Let us return it [slavery]
to the positions our fathers gave it; and there let it rest in peace...Let us repurify
it...Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and
policy, which harmonize with it. Let north and south — let all Americans — let all
lovers of liberty everywhere — join in the great and good work...If we do this, we
shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved it, as to make, and to
keep it, forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding
millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed, to the
latest generations.”116
Lincoln’s mother’s family, the Hanks, had moved to Kentucky from Vir-
ginia around 1780. They were illiterate but respectable farmers. On his father’s
side, he belonged to the seventh generation of an American family descended
from Samuel Lincoln who emigrated from Norfolk, England to Hingham,
Massachusetts in 1637. There, he became a trader and businessman, fathering
eleven children. One grandson, Mordecai, became a wealthy landowner in Penn-
sylvania and gave his son, John, 201 acres of prime Virginia soil in the
Shenandoah Valley.

116. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: his Speeches and Writings, The Repeal of the Missouri
Compromise and the Propriety

86
7. Abraham Lincoln in Illinois

Lincoln’s grandfather, Abraham, a distant relative of Daniel Boone, moved


his family from Virginia to Kentucky and soon owned nearly 6000 acres of land
there. One day, while he and his three boys were planting corn, they were
attacked by Indians. Abraham was killed instantly. Mordecai, the eldest, sent a
younger brother to get help and retreated to a nearby cabin. Looking through a
crack he saw an Indian moving out of the woods toward eight-year-old Thomas
who was sitting beside his dead father. Mordecai raised his rifle and aimed at the
silver pendant on the Indian’s chest. The shot killed him instantly. According to
the rule of primogeniture, the law in Virginia and its extension, the Kentucky
region, the eldest son, Mordecai, inherited everything when their father died.
Thomas struggled to make a modest living; he married Nancy Hanks in 1806 and
lived in a little house in Elizabethtown. Their son Abraham was born in 1809.
When he was seven, the family crossed the river to Indiana. Lincoln
probably developed his anti-slavery bias from his Baptist parents who, for eco-
nomic reasons, if not their religious leaning, disliked slavery. The senior Lincoln
had been forced to compete with slave-labor farms in the slave state of Ken-
tucky. Within a year after their move, Nancy died, as did many of their new
friends and neighbors, from the “milk sickness,” a disease stemming from the
milk of cows which had eaten the poisonous white snakeroot plant that grew
abundantly in the woods. A year later, Thomas returned to Kentucky where he
met and married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow with three children, whom he
had courted unsuccessfully before he married Nancy.
Four of the children were enrolled in a school opened by a neighbor in a
cabin a mile away. Sarah was illiterate but had a notion that education might be
a thing of value. Tom thought it would be good for his son to learn to read and
“cipher.” Some of his cousins thought Abraham was a slow learner because he
toiled so repetitiously to learn things, but Sarah recognized his compulsion to
master a subject. “He must understand everything — even to the smallest thing
— minutely and exactly...and when it was fixed in his mind to suit him he...never
lost that fact or his understanding of it.”117
Lincoln attended the school for three months before the teacher quit. It
was a “blab” school, with no separate grades, where all students recited at the
same time and the teacher strained to decipher error amid the cacophony.
In his late teens, Lincoln tried a stint working on a river boat to New
Orleans. Returning to Indiana, he moved to New Salem, Illinois. There, William

117. Mrs. Thomas Lincoln, Statement to William H. Herndon, September 8, 1865,


Herndon-Weik Collection, Library of Congress.

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And the War Came

Butler described the young Lincoln tersely: “as ruff a specimen of humanity as
could be found.”118
In matters of religious faith, despite his Baptist upbringing, the young
Lincoln was somewhat of a skeptic toward formal religion and its institutions.
Probably, he had been influenced by the theological free-thinking of two books:
the Age of Reason by Thomas Paine; and, Ruins by Constantin De Volney. Both
championed rational theology and were widely considered to be “atheistic.”
Lincoln came to agree with Paine’s dictum, “My own mind is my own church.”
Lincoln told Herndon, “He could not believe that [God] created a world and that
the result of that would be eternal damnation &c.”119
A neighbor, Parthena Hill, once asked him: “Do you really believe there
isn’t any future state?” Lincoln replied: “Mrs. Hill, I’m afraid there isn’t. It isn’t a
pleasant thing to think that when we die that is the last of us.”120 Herndon
quoted Lincoln as often saying, “no prayers of ours can reverse the decree.” On
these subjects, Lincoln reflected the rationalism of the Enlightenment with its
18th century skepticism.121
In New Salem, Lincoln clerked in a store that failed, served in the
Blackhawk War, was appointed a postmaster, became a surveyor, and ran suc-
cessfully (in his second try) for the State Legislature in 1834, whereupon he
began to prepare himself by studying law.
As Lincoln’s law partner and friend, Billy Herndon, described him: “His
structure was loose and leathery...he had dark skin, dark hair, and looked woe
struck. The whole man, body and mind worked slowly, as if it needed oiling.”
But he went on to add, “When those little gray eyes and face were lighted up by
the inward soul on fires of emotion...then it was that all those apparently ugly or
homely features sprang into organs of beauty...Sometimes it did appear to me
that Lincoln was just fresh from the hands of his Creator.”122
In 1837, having read all the law books a law school would require, he
received his license to practice the law. There was no examination in Illinois yet
for admittance to the bar.

118. David C. Mearns ed., The Lincoln Papers, 2 vols, 1:51.


119. Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Wilson, Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and
Statements about
120. Walter B. Stevens and Michael Burlingame, A Reporter’s Lincoln, pp. 11-12.
121. Mary Todd Lincoln (William H. Herndon Interview), (September 1866). Herndon’s
Informants, p. 358.
122. Kennedy, Kunhardt and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, pp. 8-9.

88
7. Abraham Lincoln in Illinois

J. H. Buckingham, a reporter for the Boston Courier, who once accompanied


Lincoln on a circuit court ride wrote, “He knew, or appeared to know, everybody
we met, the name of the tenant of every farm house, and the owner of every plat
of ground. Such a shaking of hands-such a how-d’ye do-such a greeting of dif-
ferent kinds, as we saw, was never seen before. It seemed as if he had a kind
word, a smile and a bow for everybody on the road, even to the horses and the
cattle and the swine.”
In contrast to his confident bearing among men, where his reputation for
strength, agility and courage and his ability to spin humorous, mostly spicy (for
those days) yarns made him very popular, he was awkward and unsure of
himself with the opposite sex, especially those young ladies from “high society.”
He was devastated by the death of his first love, the lovely Ann Rutledge.
Later, Lincoln met Mary Todd, who was born to a prominent Kentucky
family, well-educated, confident, pretentious, gay, sharp-tongued and possessed
of a violent temper. While different in many ways, both loved poetry, were
ardent Whigs and very ambitious. Mary, however, loved display, pomp and
power and had long maintained that she would be the wife of a future President.
Whether or not this was a love match has always been a matter of conjecture.
Mary had a number of suitors much nearer her station in life than Lincoln, a man
Mary’s sister considered plebeian, but Mary chose Lincoln, perhaps because she
was prescient concerning his future. Lincoln had engaged himself to Mary and
then proceeded to become enamored with another girl, who did not reciprocate
his ardor. He tried to “ease out” of the arrangement with Mary. Mary did not
insist on his keeping faith but played an adroit game with Lincoln’s hyper-sensi-
tivity. He was anguished that his actions had caused her pain, for she wanted
him and him only, but he was also deeply troubled that he had failed to maintain
his initial resolve, the self-avowed “gem” of his character. He ultimately resolved
both issues by standing by his initial commitment. In 1842, Lincoln married
Mary Todd. The evidence seems to indicate that he did not love Mary when he
married her, if ever, but that he sacrificed potential domestic bliss to preserve his
honor, in his own estimation, and to reaffirm to himself the purity of his resolve.
As he matured, Lincoln became more guarded and reserved, more self-absorbed
and more melancholy. He exercised tighter control over himself.
In 1846, Lincoln ran for Congress against the fiery, evangelist Democrat,
Peter Cartwright. Cartwright invited his opponent to one of his prayer meetings.
Toward the end of the proceedings, Cartwright asked those in the room who
thought they were going to heaven, to stand up. Then he asked those who
thought they were headed in the opposite direction to rise. When Lincoln did

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And the War Came

not respond to either summons, Cartwright turned to him and asked, “Just
where are you going Mr. Lincoln?” Lincoln drawled, “I’m going to Congress.”
Lincoln won the election.123
His experience in Congress, however, and observation of slave auctions in
the nation’s capitol reinforced his conviction as to how degrading and inbred
was the institution wherever it existed. He introduced a bill to outlaw slavery in
the District of Columbia. It failed along with his attempt at a second term.
Attacks upon the South by most of the anti-slavery forces often originated
from the moral high ground, were personal in nature, were over-stated and uni-
versalized the cruelty of masters while completely ignoring the practical diffi-
culties of abolition solutions. Lincoln examined the problem with relentless
logic, a sensitive understanding and a quiet and humble perseverance. At the
same time, he was not unaware of the political attraction of his position to many
Northerners, nor of his own ability to impress listeners by his intellect, wit,
obvious sincerity, his unique manner of expressing his convictions, nor of the
strange appeal of his physical awkwardness, even ugliness.
So it was that, in 1854, Lincoln easily won election to the Illinois State
Assembly; but then resigned to run for the U.S. Senate, where he could have a
real impact. He failed in this attempt and turned away from his Whig heritage to
help create a new political party in Illinois, the Republican Party.
He continued to tackle the slavery question on an intellectual and moral
basis, without condemning the slaveholder. In 1856, Lincoln stated, on the
question of the Union, “If the united opposition of the North caused Southerners
to “raise the bugbear of disunion,” they should be told bluntly, “The Union must
be preserved in the purity of its principles as well as the integrity of its territorial
parts.”124
Lincoln often returned to the theme: “Although volume upon volume is
written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes
to take the good of it, by being a slave himself...As labor is the common burthen
of our race, so the effort of some to shift their share of the burthen on to the
shoulders of others, is the great, durable, curse of the race.”125 Lincoln contended
that those who believed slavery offered labor the greatest freedom ran into the
inescapable fact...” that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a
master, does constantly know that he is wronged.”126

123. Kennedy, Kunhardt and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, p. 71.


124. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:341.
125. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 113-114.
126. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:222.

90
7. Abraham Lincoln in Illinois

Stephen A. Douglas declared that Blacks belonged to, “an inferior race and
must occupy an inferior position…in my opinion a negro is not a citizen, cannot
and ought not to be under the Constitution of the United States.”127 He claimed
that the Republicans favored the amalgamation of superior and inferior races,
that they wanted to vote, eat, sleep, and marry with negroes.
Lincoln rejected “that logic which concludes that because I do not want a
black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife.” The authors of
the Declaration of Independence never intended, “to say that all were equal in
color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity,” but they “did con-
sider all men created equal — equal in certain inalienable rights, among which
are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.128
After 1856, many members of Congress came to those halls armed. Knives
and pistols were flourished during debate and brawls occurred. Southerners reg-
ularly flung challenges to duels at Northerners, who, unfamiliar with the
practice, loftily declined. But Ohio’s Ben Wade found a safe way to accept —
choose a weapon Southern chivalry was unfamiliar with. Challenged, he selected
squirrel rifles at 20 paces and met a hasty withdrawal.
In 1856, The Supreme Court handed down a 7-2 decision denying freedom
to the slave, Dred Scott, (whose case was based on legal technicalities) on the
basis that slaves were not citizens and “possessed no rights the white man was
bound to respect.” This effectively declared the Missouri Compromise unconsti-
tutional...slaves were property...as recognized by the Constitution and by the
Fifth Amendment...Congress could pass no laws depriving persons of
property...therefore Congressional prohibition of slavery in any territory was
illegal...Congress was obligated to protect slave property in the Territories.
Southerners were ecstatic and jubilantly informed the North of their
expectation that the North must accept the decision. Republicans denounced
the decision and announced that if they secured control of the government they
would change personnel on the Court and have the decision overruled.
The decision rendered the concept of “popular sovereignty” ludicrous.
In 1857 one Southerner wisecracked that “Knoxville churchgoers were
meeting to inform God where He stood in the prospect of disunion.”129
Lincoln was very deeply troubled by the decision. He had always main-
tained the greatest respect for the law and the Supreme Court as its chief

127. Harold Holzer, The Lincoln–Douglas Debates, pp. 55,224.


128. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:222.
129. Rebecca Hunt Moulder, May the Sod Rest Lightly: Thomas O’Conner, p. 35.

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And the War Came

guardian. The Dred Scott decision forced him to reexamine some of his most
cherished convictions because of Chief Justice Taney’s assertion that neither the
Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution was ever meant to include
blacks.
Taney, Lincoln declared, was doing “obvious violence to the plain unmis-
takable language of the Declaration.” Now, he lamented, the Declaration “is
assailed, and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its
framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it.”130 To
Lincoln, the question would recur: “If those who wrote and adopted the Consti-
tution Believed slavery to be a good thing, why did they insert a provision pro-
hibiting the slave trade after the year 1808?”
In 1858, Lincoln was nominated for the Senate to run against the nationally
renowned Stephen A. Douglas. The nomination was no surprise. Lincoln had
been working on the acceptance speech for weeks. He opened with acknowl-
edged imitation of Webster in his debate with Hayne:
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we
could then better judge what to do and how to do it.
“We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the
avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
“Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased,
but has constantly augmented. “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis
shall have been reached, and passed.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.
“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half
free.
“I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall
— but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all
the other.
“Either the opponents of slavery, will...place it where the public mind shall
rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates
will put it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as
new — North as well as South.”131

130. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:404.


131. Ibid., 2:461-462.

92
8. THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES: A DARK HORSE

Since the creation of the Constitution, approximately one million slaves


had been relocated from the Upper South to the lower South to meet the needs
of the shifting geography of slaveholder economics. Twenty-five per cent of these
migrations destroyed a first marriage. Fifty per cent destroyed a nuclear family.
Those figures represented only the interstate sales.
A slave was sold for a variety of reasons: to pay a master’s debt; to provide
cash; to divide an estate; to punish a transgression; for failure to submit sexually
— or for having become an object of sexual attention, in the first place. The dis-
posed slave ended in a slave pen, was often transported to distant places, placed
again in a slave pen and sold to a stranger, in a strange land, doing strange work,
and in the bargain often losing a spouse and/or children and always being sepa-
rated from friends. Lucy Delaney was sold because her mistress thought she was
getting too proud and putting on “white airs.” 132 Celestine was sold by her
elderly mistress because the woman’s son liked to “play and fool about her.”133
Pennington’s mother was sold because she had been raped by her master’s son
and her mistress found out about it. Mrs. Harry Brant was gambled away to a
slave trader aboard a steamboat.
The slave James Phillips, having been sold by his master in Richmond and
separated from his wife, wrote her from the slave pen, “Do pray, try and get Brant

132. Lucey Delaney, From the Darkness Cometh the Light, or Struggles For Freedom, p. 21.
133. Cohn vs. Costa, No. 5252, 15 La. Ann. 618(1860),Testimony of Francois Terralon, UNO.

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And the War Came

and Mr. Byers and Mr. Weaver to send or come on to buy me, and if they will
only buy me back, I will be a faithful man to them so long as I live....Feel for me
now or never.”134
A slave woman wrote to her husband in the slave pen, “Howdy and
goodbye, for I never expect to see you again. Try to do the best you can, and if
you have a good master behave properly to him, and try to think about your
master in Heaven. If I had known you were going to be sold I would have been
better satisfied, but I am very much distressed now at being separated from you.
Remember me and I will think of you. Write to me after you are settled. Your
wife, Fatima.”135
Little Joe, the son of a slave cook, was dressed in his best clothes one day
and taken away. “When her son started for Petersburg in the wagon, the truth
began to dawn on his mother’s mind, and she pleaded piteously that her boy
should not be taken from her, but master quieted her by falsely telling her he was
simply going to town with the wagon, and would be back in the morning.”136
Eliza, a slave in a Washington, D.C. pen, had been brought there by her
owner (who was also her lover), “under the pretense that the time had come
when her free papers were to be executed, in fulfillment of her master’s
promise.”137
One observer reported events in a slave coffle in the woods near New
River, Virginia:
“It was a camp of negro slave drivers, just packing up to start; they had
about three hundred slaves with them who had bivouacked the previous night in
chains in the woods...they had a caravan of nine wagons and single-horse car-
riages, for the purpose of conducting the white people, and any of the blacks
who should fall lame, to which they were now putting the horses to pursue their
march. The female slaves were, some of them, sitting on logs of wood, whilst
others were standing, and a great many little black children were warming
themselves at the fire of the bivouac. In front of them all, and prepared for the
march, stood, in double files, about two hundred male slaves, manacled and
chained to each other.”138 In a coffle, the slave Henry Bibb spoke quietly to his

134. John W. Blassingame, ed., Slave testimony, “James Phillips to Mary Phillips, June 20, 1852,
pp. 95-99.
135. Michael Tadman, Speculators and Slaves, Fatima [by her master] to Ziba Oakes, April 14,
1857.
136. Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes, pp. 28-29.
137. Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, eds., Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northrup.

94
8. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: A Dark Horse

wife under the cover of darkness after she had been sexually assaulted and
beaten by a trader who threatened to sell her child if she did not submit.139
Some of the people the traders sold were not slaves at all. Eulalie had been
living as “free” for decades when she, her six children, and ten grandchildren
were taken by force from their home in Point Coupe, Louisiana, sold at auction
in New Orleans, and then placed in a slave pen for “safekeeping.” They were sold
at public auction after living twenty-two years in freedom.
“When a negro was put on the block he had to help sell himself by telling
what he could do. If he refused to praise himself and acted sullen, he was sure to
be stripped and given thirty lashes. Frequently a man was compelled to exag-
gerate his accomplishments, and when his buyer found out that he could not do
what he said he could he would be beaten unmercifully. It was pretty sure a
thrashing either way.”140
Fugitive slave Lewis Clark, “As for whipping, a slave don’t get whipped
according to his crime, but according to the ambition of his master [in the
investment of his slaves].”141
Slave buyers read in the deformity of a scarred back not the malevolence of
the inflictor but the deformity of character of the receptor whose transgressions
demanded such hideous discipline.
The slave, Willis Cofer:
“At dem sales, dey would put a nigger on the de scales and weigh him, and den
de biddin’ would start. If he was young and strong, de biddin’ would start around a
hundred and fifty dollars, and de highest bidder got de nigger. A good young bree-
din’ ‘oman brung two hundred dollars easy, ‘cause all de marsters wanted to see
plenty of strong healthy chillun comin’on, all de time.”142
The slave, Robert Farmer:
“I have personally known a few slaves that were beaten to death for one or
more of the following offenses: leaving home without a pass, talking back to —
‘sassing’ — a white person, hitting another Negro, fussing, fighting, and ruck-
ussing in the quarters, lying, loitering on their work, taking things — the whites
called it stealing.”143

138. Isaac Franklin, Stephenson Quoting Featherstonhaugh, p. 46.


139. Henry Bibb, Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, in Osofsky ed. Puttin on
Ole Massa, p. 112.
140. John W. Blassingame ed., Slave Testimony, Interview with L. M. Mills, p. 503.
141. ‘National Anti-Slavery Standard’, October 27, 1842, “Lewis Clarke Speech”.
142. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p. 287.
143. Ibid., 240

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And the War Came

On the older plantations in the South, less than half of slaves worked in the
fields. Many were either under-age or over-age, though only slightly over one per
cent of slaves reached their seventieth birthday. Of the working-age slaves,
about three-quarters worked in the fields.
The house servants fared better than field hands, eating food from the
master’s kitchen, wearing cast-off clothing from the master or mistress, and
absorbing some of the niceties of refined atmosphere. Mary Chesnut summed it
up:
“Those old gray-haired darkies and their automatic noiseless perfection of
training...Your own servants think for you, they know your ways and your
wants. They save you all responsibility even in matters of your own ease and
well-being.”144
Nearly 33% of Southern families owned slaves, nearly 50% in Mississippi
and South Carolina. On plantations with 20 slaves or more, the value of the
slaves exceeded the value of land and equipment. In the 1950s only 2% of Amer-
icans owned stock worth more than the value of one slave in 1860.
The cotton crop of 5 million bales in 1860 was nearly double the size of the
1850 crop and five times that of 1830.
If the slave system was considered to be lucrative for practitioners, trav-
elers in the South reported few people living in luxury and they noted the sharp
border-demarcation between the neat and prosperous farms of the North and
the careless appearance of slave-operated farms which suffered from soil
exhaustion. Land was valued accordingly and, worse yet, the Southern farmer
had practically no cash while his Northern counterpart often possessed a nest
egg. The slaveholding farmers of the 1850s lived only slightly better than their
grandfathers had. Frederick Law Olmstead, who had traveled extensively in the
South, wrote: “From the banks of the Mississippi to the banks of the James, I did
not (that I remember) see, except perhaps in one or two towns, a thermometer,
nor a book of Shakespeare, nor a pianoforte nor a sheet of music, nor the light of
a carcel or other good centre-table or reading-lamp, nor an engraving nor copy of
any kind, or a work of art of the slightest merit. I am not speaking of what are
commonly called ‘poor whites’; a large majority of all these houses were the resi-
dences of slaveholders, a considerable portion cotton-planters.”145

144. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 488.


145. Frederick Law Olmstead, Arthur M. Schlesinger (ed.) The Cotton Kingdom, p. 131.

96
8. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: A Dark Horse

Southerners were prone to significantly exaggerate the number and impact


of the Northern liberals. Garrison’s Liberator counted less than 400 white sub-
scribers in 1833. It was kept in business mostly due to Negro contributions.
A fair interchange of ideas between the two sections was rendered impos-
sible by mutual, deep-set misunderstanding and suspicion, marinated to the
peak of loathing by politicians, fire-eaters and anti-slavery fanatics. As a result
there developed a Southern intellectual blockade, not just of abolitionist
material but of all “isms.”
Southern insecurity and mistrust of Yankees proved a volatile combi-
nation. What had incensed them so about the Wilmot Proviso was its tone of
superiority and their suspicion that if forced to “stand still” on slavery by not
allowing it in the new territories, the institution would be attacked next at its
roots. Already they were outnumbered in the House. The Senate was equal and
they feared but one defection. There were too many voices in the South declaring
slavery to be wrong, and that the end was approaching. As Calhoun had said in
his major speech against the Proviso, the South would become “a mere handful of
states” in shackles to the North “forever.” The federal government would be
“entirely in the hands of the non-slaveholding States overwhelmingly.”
The South, which had always maintained a stronger martial tradition than
the North, felt besieged. The rise of the Republican Party in the aftermath of
Kansas-Nebraska and, finally, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry prompted all
the Southern Militia into serious drill. In the late 1850s, Charleston had 22 mil-
itary companies, one for every two hundred white men of military age. The South
had a higher per capita (white) representation at West Point than the North
and, on the same basis, provided four times the number of volunteers in the
Mexican War. From 1849 to 1861, the Secretaries of War were Southern, the
general-in-chief, two of three brigadier generals, and all but one commander of
the geographical departments hailed from the South. The authors of both
manuals on military tactics and the artillery manual used at West Point were
Southern.
Further west, two moderates would soon engage in extended debates for a
seat in the U.S. Senate. One was prominent, a booming orator and a presidential
hopeful; the other, a little-known rustic who looked every part the hick. The
South would brand the first a turncoat and would split his party, their party,
rather than make him their presidential candidate.
The South would hate the other Westerner, without ever knowing him.

97
And the War Came

In July, 1858, Stephen Douglas returned to Chicago to answer Lincoln’s


charges concerning Kansas-Nebraska.

For the next six weeks, Lincoln followed Douglas around Illinois,
addressing the crowds which had assembled to hear Douglas, later the same day
or the next day. Douglas, the most prominent, the most respected public figure
in America, had nothing to gain from a direct debate. Still, a refusal might make
him seem afraid of Lincoln; he agreed reluctantly to debates in seven of the nine
Congressional Districts in which the candidates had not yet appeared.
In completing the circuit, Douglas and Lincoln traveled nearly five
thousand miles, by boat, carriage and train.
The debates purportedly focused on the question of allowing the insti-
tution of slavery to spread to new territories. In fact, the debates often were not
terribly interesting; they were repetitious in content and frequently slid into
tedious detail about past events involving the contestants or their associates.
Debates in general, however, were the most entertaining pastime of the day,
wherein you could root for your champion and harass and interrupt his
opponent.
For the public of 1858, politics and speeches were pastimes to be sweetly
relished. The sound of an elegantly-crafted phrase, spoken grandly, intoxicated
the senses and ravaged the soul. And to listen to a speaker prick his opponent
with rapier-like sarcasm delighted the sense of justice of a smaller man frus-
trating a giant.
Many of the Lincoln-Douglas debates attracted between 10,000 and
20,000 spectators who came on foot, horseback, in carriages, on canal boats
sporting huge banners, and on trains, including one of seventeen cars from
Chicago. They were prepared to stand for three hours in the scorching sun to
listen to the two antagonists. The crowds went out to escort both rivals with
brass bands for the last half mile of their separate entrances into town.
The debates focused on whether slavery should, or should not be, allowed
in the new territories. Americans, north and south, generally harbored prejudice
against black people, deeming them inferior to whites. The stridency of the abo-
litionists turned off most Northerners in addition to earning the undying hatred
of Southerners. But there was a growing sense that something had to change.

In the debates, Douglas’ main points were:

98
8. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: A Dark Horse

• that each State, or Territory has the right to do as it pleases on this


question of slavery.
• and that the government could endure divided into free and slave states.

Lincoln’s main points were that:


• slavery is inherently wrong.

• there is no reason at all why the negro is not entitled to all that the
Declaration of Independence holds out
• he had no purpose to interfere with slavery where it exists, but it should

not be extended to any new Territory or State.146


The shrewd Lincoln nurtured the differences in his and Douglas’
appearance. Lincoln dressed the part of the incorruptible country hick, carefully
distracting attention from the fact that he was a man of means and a very prom-
inent lawyer in his state. His well-dressed wife was intentionally absent.
Douglas’ followers, Lincoln liked to point out, anticipated that their idol would
become President and saw in his “round, jolly, fruitful face” promises of “post
offices, land offices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments...bursting and
sprouting out in wonderful exuberance,” while in Lincoln’s “poor, lean, lank,
face” nobody ever saw “that any cabbages were sprouting out.” No one ever
expected him to be president.147
In the last debate, Lincoln read from a prior speech in Peoria:
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise...I think...is wrong; wrong in its direct
effect, letting slavery into Kansa and Nebraska — and wrong in its prospective
principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world...I hate it
because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our
republican example of its just influence in the world...enables enemies of free insti-
tutions...to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our
sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men amongst ourselves into
an open war with the very principles of civil liberty...insisting that there is no right
principle of action but self-interest.148
Regardless of the outcome of the election, through these debates Lincoln
had gained national recognition, without which he could not have been an alter-
native candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party for President in
1860. The confrontation highlighted and forced national attention upon the
ultimate issue of the day — slavery.
Gustave Koerner, a local politician, summarized his view of the two men:
“Douglas was eminently talented, Lincoln was original. But what made Lincoln

146. Harold Holzer, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 63.


147. John W. Blassingame ed., Slave Testimony, James Phillips to Mary Phillips, pp. 95-99.
148. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln, His Letters, Speeches and Writings, pp. 20-21.

99
And the War Came

vastly more effective in this contest was that even the most obtuse hearer could
see at once that Douglas spoke for himself and Lincoln for his cause.”149
Yankees were not the only ones making and listening to speeches. South
Carolina’s James Hammond told the Senate, “The slaveholding South is now the
controlling power of the world.” It supplied 80% of the world’s cotton and
covered 350,000 square miles, “as large as Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia,
and Spain. Is that not territory enough to make an empire that shall rule the
world? Would any sane nation make war upon us? Without firing a gun,
without drawing a sword, should they make war on us we could bring the whole
world to our feet...no, you dare not make war on cotton...Cotton is king…. In all
social systems there must be a class to do menial duties, to perform the drudgery
of life...It constitutes he very mud-sill of society...Fortunately for the South, she
found a race adapted for the purpose...The difference between us is that our
slaves are hired for life and well compensated...Yours are hired by the day, not
cared for, and scantily compensated.”150
In the Senate, Davis offered the challenge that, should a Republican win
the White House in 1860, it would not be an election but “a species of revolution
by which the purposes of the government would be destroyed and the obser-
vance of its mere forms entitled to no respect.”151
Speaking in Vicksburg, he said if an “Abolition President” should win the
White House in 1860, Southerners should make certain that the man “should
never be permitted to take his seat in the presidential chair.” The Union would
be dissolved by such an election, he said, and he “would be in favor of holding the
City of Washington, the public archives, and the glorious star spangled banner,
declaring the government at an end, and maintaining our rights and honor, even
though blood should flow in torrents throughout the land. As for himself he
would rather appeal to the God of battles at once than to attempt to live longer
in such a Union.”152
Lincoln lost the Senatorial election. Republicans received 50 per cent of
the popular vote but the election was not decided by popular vote. At that time

149. Gustave Koerner, Memoirs , vol II.


150. Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond of South Carolina, pp. 316-
319.
151. John Ashworth, Slavery, Capitalism and, Politics in the Antebellum Republic; i, 1820-1850,
m.268, 9.
152. Dunbar Rowland, ed., Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters Papers and Speeches, vol.
6, pp. 227-229.

100
8. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: A Dark Horse

citizens could not vote for U.S. Senatorial candidates directly, but cast their
ballots for local legislative nominees who in turn were empowered to choose
Senators, parliamentary style. In the vote of both houses Douglas won 54 to 46
due to apportionment (1850 census). Douglas’ party won more legislative seats
than Lincoln’s that year, and the Senator was thus returned to office, “defeating
Lincoln.”

Of the seven counties in which the debates were staged, four gave Repub-
licans more votes. In all seven, 52 per cent voted Republican, 47 per cent voted
Democrat.
Lincoln had demonstrated that he could win a popular majority against
the best-known politician in America and his name began to be mentioned as a
possible presidential candidate in 1860. Reinvigorated by his return to the
political arena, Lincoln traveled the windy plains in an open buggy, gaining the
faith of listeners in five states and territories.

101
9. LINCOLN ELECTED, SEVEN STATES DEFECTED

The air throughout the country was tinged with a sharp and bitter scent,
like the smell of burnt gunpowder. One whiff inclined one to look around, appre-
hensively, for a smoking gun.
During a bitter contest between Southerners and Northerners to elect a
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1859, the Governor of
South Carolina wired one of the state’s congressmen, “If you upon consultation
decide to make the issue of force in Washington, write or telegraph me, and I
will have a regiment in or near Washington in the shortest possible time.”153
On October, 1859, John Brown, who had ceased his depredations in Kansas
but, still obsessed with his Messianic mission, moved his ministry of vengeance
to Virginia. He seized the federal armory and an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. When
word reached Washington, President Buchanan dispatched an army force to
deal with Brown.
Before the arrival of the federal troops, the local militia and armed
townsmen surrounded Brown’s men in separate strongholds, and picked off ten
of them, including two of Brown’s sons, while Brown tried, unsuccessfully, to
parley.
The next day the army arrived, led by Robert E. Lee, broke down the doors
to Brown’s bastions, and easily overcame his party.

153. Quoted in Alan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, II:122.

103
And the War Came

Brown’s group was turned over to Virginia to be tried for treason against
the state. In prison, Brown issued a stream of written communication pro-
claiming himself as a man of God who had acted to defend the oppressed. At his
trial he claimed he had come to Virginia only to liberate slaves without
bloodshed, as he had done in Kansas. “I believe that to have interfered as I have
done...in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right...Now, if it is
deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of
justice...I submit: so let it be done.”
In December, he was hanged in Charles Town at a site ringed by a
detachment of Virginia military cadets under the command of a professor named
Thomas J. Jackson. Present also were soldiers of the Richmond Grays’ militia, in
whose rear ranks stood a man named John Wilkes Booth.
Before going to the gallows, Brown penned the jeremiad, “I, John Brown,
am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged
away but with blood.” He added, “You may dispose of me easily but the negro
question — the end of that is not yet.”154
In the North, the abolitionists proclaimed Brown a hero but prominent
Republicans quickly disavowed any connection with his methods. In the South,
they were not believed. This was considered an obvious case of incitement to
insurrection from outside. If it was not orchestrated by, then it was most cer-
tainly and abjectly influenced by, the most heinous of the barbarous North-
erners, the Black Republicans.
The escalating tensions and the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric in
America led quite a few people in the rest of the world to anticipate the end of
the Republic through internecine struggle, but those watching carefully might
have also noticed that the slavery issue had not paralyzed the nation. America
was a vortex of dynamic change, economic, social and political. For the first time,
in 1859, the country’s industrial production equaled the value of agricultural pro-
duction. The oil industry was born. The North even unwittingly provided the
South with a cultural bonanza: the song “Dixie” was composed by a Yankee.
Southern planters wanted to freeze then-current conditions for a mil-
lennium. Cotton prices averaged nearly forty cents a pound between 1852 and
1860, bringing great prosperity to this ruling class. But, this prosperity, this
superior culture, was threatened. Had not the abolitionists found a home in the
Republican Party? Was it not sickeningly obvious that the majority of North-

154. Kennedy, Kunhardt and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, p. 111.

104
9. Lincoln Elected, Seven States Defected

erners were hostile to Southern institutions, particularly slavery? And too, there
was always that unsettling realization that despite the open cordiality that
existed between masters and slaves on many plantations, there was much that
planters did not understand about slave attitudes. This recognition fueled a fear
that was rarely expressed, and that fear fostered a political extremism.
By 1860, a number of links in the chain of Union had broken: division over
slavery had ruptured the ties in the Methodist and Baptist churches; the Whig
Party, a strong force for national unity, had disintegrated; Southern students in
Northern colleges had returned home rather than contaminate their minds with
liberalism and other “isms” espoused in the North; Northern newspapers and
magazines were boycotted in a South which was calcifying its conservatism; the
Republican Party was considered by Southerners as an Abolition Party. In the
words of historian Carl Russell Fish: “The Democratic Party, the Roman
Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the American Medical Association and
the Constitution were among the few ties that had not snapped.”155
Abraham Lincoln had told an audience in Kalamazoo, Michigan, four years
previously: “A majority will never dissolve the Union.” Then he asked, “Will a
minority do it?”156
About this time, Lincoln had privately written a fragment containing his
thoughts: “Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained
the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity.
There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human
heart. That something, is the principle of ‘liberty to all.’”157
In February, Lincoln addressed the establishment of the East at Cooper
Union, New York. As usual, he presented himself as a rumpled country
bumpkin, disarming an audience used to polished self-promoters. He told them
that there were people saying they could “not abide the election of a Republican
President,” in which event they would destroy the Union.
“And then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That
is cool, a highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth,
‘Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer...’
“If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of
the old times...There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which

155. Carl Russell Fish, The American Civil War: An Interpretation, p. 11.
156. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln his Speeches and Writings, Speech Delivered at Kalam-
azoo, Michigan, August 27, 1856, p.345.
157. Ibid., Fragment, the Constitution and the Union [1860?], p.513.

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And the War Came

cast at least a million and a half votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling
— that sentiment — by breaking up the political organization which rallies around
it [the Republican Party].
“And now, if they would listen — as I suppose they will not — I would address
a few words to the Southern people. The question recurs, what will satisfy them?
Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince
then that we do let them alone...Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to
leave it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its
actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to
spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If
our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effec-
tively.
“All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they
could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and your
thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy.
Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition,
as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast
our votes with their view, and against our own? Let us have faith that right makes
might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand
it.”158
Thunderous applause!
This was 1860, the year of the presidential election. The Democratic
National Convention was held in Charleston in April, 1860. Charleston had the
highest per capita income of any city in the United States at that time. Second
was the town of Lynchburg, Virginia with, its 41 tobacco factories, making
quality “plug” for the nation. In the lowlands surrounding Charleston, blacks
outnumbered whites nine to one. The Southern faction stood ready to support
the “Alabama Platform” affirming the obligation of the federal government to
protect slavery in the territories and the principle that the Constitution was
merely a compact between the States. That such a platform would guarantee
defeat in the presidential election was immaterial.
The Western faction resented the increasing tempo of Southern attacks on
their leader, Stephen A. Douglas, whose nomination they considered mandatory.
They were committed to popular sovereignty and would oppose the “Alabama
Platform.” The weaker Northeastern faction was chiefly interested in patronage
rewards.
Discord surfaced immediately during the discussion of the platform plank
on slavery. William L. Yancey announced that the South would stand on prin-

158. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln his Speeches and Writings, Address at Cooper Institute, New
York, February 27, 1860, pp. 529-536.

106
9. Lincoln Elected, Seven States Defected

ciple. Ohio’s George E. Pugh responded in no uncertain terms, saying that the
Northern Democrats would not give in.
The Convention adjourned in chaos for a three-day weekend. On Monday,
when the Douglas forces shoved through a popular sovereignty plank, the
chairman of the Alabama delegation jumped up and announced that his dele-
gation was leaving the Convention. They walked, and were followed by some or
all of the delegates from seven other states.
When Douglas could not garner the newly-required two-thirds majority
for nomination, the convention adjourned, to reconvene in Baltimore in June.
The change of venue solved nothing. Many Southerners reappeared there but
when the credentials of some were questioned, they walked out again, met in
another hall and nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky as their candidate.
Those who remained in the original building nominated Douglas. Both groups
called themselves Democrats (Northern and Southern Democrats).
That May, the Republicans met in the booming Western metropolis of
Chicago, in the specially erected Wigwam, seating over 10,000 people. Chicago
had grown from a village of 250 souls in 1832 to a population of nearly 100,000.
The convention was a rowdy affair with liquid spirits imbibed freely.
The Republican platform adopted a conservative platform appealing to
every major power group in the North, reaffirming opposition to the expansion
of slavery, denouncing popular sovereignty, condemning talk of secession as
“contemplated treason,” supporting protective tariffs, infrastructure improve-
ments, a homestead bill, and a Pacific railroad.
The two candidates with the most pre-convention delegates were William
H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. Seward, a former Governor of New York, was
an able, experienced and adroit politician, but was handicapped by a reputation
for extremism.
Chase, of Ohio, lacked personal magnetism and political adroitness and,
more important, he also lacked sufficient support outside Ohio. The same was
true of another aspirant, Simon Cameron from Pennsylvania. As is often the case
with presidential candidates, these men were too prominent, had said too many
things offending too many voting blocs. Seward faced only two real competitors:
Edward Bates of Missouri and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. A candidate from a
large state, with some national reputation, with a firm, but not extreme, anti-
slavery position was needed.
Lincoln was aware of his position among the hopefuls. He wanted to go to
the Republican National Convention with the unanimous support of the Illinois

107
And the War Came

delegation and a few individuals in other delegations. Lincoln did have the
support of the Illinois delegation. If Seward failed to win on the first ballot,
Lincoln’s chances would improve dramatically.
With spirits undamped and knowing that a thirteen-car train had come
from New York full of supporters for Seward, Lincoln’s men printed duplicate
tickets and provided them to Lincoln supporters, who were instructed to flock
to the Wigwam early.
Lincoln’s managers shrewdly reasoned that they should try to win over
Bates’ supporters, not Seward’s, particularly those in the Pennsylvania and
Indiana delegations. With their support, Lincoln would have a chance on the
second ballot which, they reasoned, was sure to be required. The night before the
voting, two of Lincoln’s managers appeared before an Indiana-Pennsylvania
caucus and Orville Browning, a law colleague of Lincoln’s, gave him a ringing
endorsement. Indiana decided to support Lincoln from the start and Pennsyl-
vania decided that they would vote for him as their second choice.
Two hundred and thirty-three votes were necessary for nomination. On
the first ballot Seward built a sizeable lead with 173½ votes; Lincoln garnered
102. Three other candidates amassed about 50 votes each. Lincoln gained
substantially in the second ballot, when it became apparent that no one else
could seriously challenge Seward. Lincoln received many of Pennsylvania’s votes
and now had 181 votes to Seward’s 184.5. In the third ballot, Lincoln garnered
231½ votes, 1½ short of the total needed for victory. Then, David K. Carter of
Ohio arose and announced the switch of four votes from Chase to Lincoln. A
landslide commenced, with Lincoln amassing 132 more votes than needed. The
Wigwam exploded.
Lincoln, the local boy, had won.
In preparation for the presidential campaign and to combat the general
impression in the east that Lincoln was “ugly,” a renowned painter was commis-
sioned by Judge John M. Read of Pennsylvania to paint a miniature of Lincoln
that “would be good-looking whether the original justified it or not.”159
At West Point, a year before the war began, Mrs. Jefferson Davis said to an
acquaintance sadly: “The South will secede if Lincoln is made president. They
will make Mr. Davis President of the Southern side. And the whole thing is
bound to be a failure.”160

159. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, p. 252.


160. C. Vann Woodward, Ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 800.

108
9. Lincoln Elected, Seven States Defected

Sensing defeat for himself and fearing the Southern reaction to a Repub-
lican victory, Douglas toured the South with speaking engagements. But events
had upset Southern emotional equilibrium. The demise of the Whig Party, John
Brown’s raid and the increasing success of the Republican Party enabled their
politicians to play on the fear that the very basis of white dominance was
threatened. They succumbed to vigilantism. Militia enrollments blossomed,
drills were conducted more frequently and the number of night patrols multi-
plied.
Election Day finally arrived. Lincoln walked to the polls in Springfield, cut
his name from the ballot to avoid voting for himself, and proceeded to vote a
straight Republican ticket.
In those days, the two parties had differently colored ballots and a voter
asked for one or the other, which is why Lincoln had to clip his name if he didn’t
want to vote for himself. Lincoln won the election, in which 85 per cent of the
eligible electorate had voted, carrying every “free” state except New Jersey. His
party, however, did not win Congress.
Douglas won only Missouri. The South faced the truth, terrible for it to
behold, that about 70 per cent of the popular vote had gone for Lincoln and
Douglas combined; each of them, in the Southern view, was committed to
excluding slavery in the territories. Horrified, the South contemplated the
extinction of a way of life.
The South despaired of the maintenance of slavery in the old states and put
no faith in the Republican Party platform which professed to let the institution
stand, where it was already in place. They feared several things from the new
president: that he could force free circulation of abolition literature in the South;
that he would lead an effort to outlaw slavery in the District of Columbia; that he
would work to repeal the fugitive slave laws; and, that, in patronage, he would
appoint anti-slavery men to federal offices in the South. Southerners did not
realize how moderate Lincoln was and mistakenly regarded Seward as a fanatic,
fearing he would control the administration. Southern insecurity, affecting all
classes of whites, feared the loss of property, the liberation of blacks in areas
where they outnumbered whites, the gradual provision of political rights to
freed blacks, and finally, a catastrophic breakdown of all racial barriers leading
to the unspeakable eventuality of amalgamation of the races. The Southern
newspapers reflected the public’s fear and repugnance.

109
And the War Came

The contemplated westward expansion of slavery, through the Kansas-


Nebraska Act, had (as foreseen by some) been limited by natural phenomena,
mainly the semi-arid climate in much of the Southwest. In 1860, there was not a
single slave in the New Mexico Territory despite a ten-year opportunity. In
Kansas there were two slaves and in Missouri fifteen, six years after the oppor-
tunity arose. In Texas alone did slavery advance westward. Southerners recog-
nized this problem but they kept up their political clamor for the right to extend
slavery westward.
In December, South Carolina convened a Secession Convention which
authored a document, The “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce
and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”:
[A]n increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the insti-
tution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations...[T]he non-slaveholding
States...have denounced as sinful the institution of Slavery, they have permitted the
open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the
peace and to purloin the property of the citizens of other States. They have encour-
aged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who
remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrec-
tion...[T]he public mind must rest in the belief that Slavery is in the course of ulti-
mate extinction.161
Lincoln remained humble. He often told the public that, “he came before
them...that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have
the best of the bargain.”162
Lincoln’s feet, measured in today’s terms, were size 14. He weighed 180
pounds when he came to Washington. He stood just about six feet four inches.
His left shoulder was higher than his right, and his gait was slightly uneven. The
patriarchal Massachusetts senator Edward Everett wrote in his diary, after lis-
tening to president-elect Lincoln’s speeches at train stops on the way to Wash-
ington: “These speeches have been of the most ordinary kind, destitute of
everything, not merely of felicity and grace, but of common pertinence. He is evi-
dently a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.”163
James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald, a rather sensation-
alist journal, advised Lincoln to step down before he was inaugurated, “to avert
impending ruin, and invest his name with an immortality far more enduring than
would attach to it by his elevation to the Presidency...If he persists in his present

161. Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family, p. 324.


162.Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 4:218
163. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, I :48.

110
9. Lincoln Elected, Seven States Defected

position, in the teeth of such results as his election must produce, he will totter
into a dishonored grave, driven there perhaps by the hands of an assassin, leaving
behind him a memory more execrable than that of Arnold — more despised than
that of the traitor Cataline.”164
Views were divided on what to do with the South. Initially, many influ-
ential anti-slavery partisans and abolitionists declared that the Southerners
should be allowed to go their way in peace. Yet, as historian George Freder-
ickson has stated, “government by its very nature cannot admit a legal right of
revolution.”165 The famous anti-slavery intellectual James Russell Lowell argued
in the Atlantic that “coercion” could be justified by “an appeal to that authority
which is of divine right.”166
Within three months of the election, seven Deep South states held conven-
tions and voted for secession. Led by South Carolina, the States of Mississippi,
Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas also abandoned the Union.
Thirty-seven per cent of the families in these states were slaveholders.
On January 21, despite illness, Davis went to the Senate where several
Southern senators were announcing their departure. He rose last. “I rise, Mister
President, for the purpose of announcing to the Senate that...my functions are
terminated here. I am sure I feel no hostility to you Senators from the North. In
the presence of my God I wish you well. Whatever of offense there has been in
me, I leave here. I have, Senators, in this hour of our parting, to offer you my
apology. That done, it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu.” He sat down
to thundering applause from all sides. He then left Washington for Missis-
sippi.167
That night his wife heard him praying aloud, “May God have us in his holy
keeping, and grant that before it is too late peaceful councils may prevail.” A few
weeks later, recalling the “unutterable grief of the occasion, he said his words
had been, “not my utterances but rather leaves torn from the book of fate.”168

164. Quoted in Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, I:12.
165. George M. Frederickson, The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the
Union, p. 59.
166. James Russell Lowell, Political Essays, The Writings of James Russell Lowell, v, pp. 36-37.
167. Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of the Confederate States of America: A Memoir By
his Wife, vol. 1, pp. 696-699.
168. Jefferson Davis to Anna Ella Carroll, March 1, 1861, Anna Ella Carroll Papers, Maryland
Historical Society.

111
10. AN ACT OF WAR

Delegates from the seceded states met in convention in Montgomery,


Alabama. They drafted a Constitution modeled after that of the United States
with one major exception: the classification of slaves as property. The con-
vention elected Jefferson Davis, 53, President of the Confederate States. It was a
position he did not want. He would rather have been general-in-chief and critics
would later contend that that is exactly what he attempted to be for the next
four years. Following the precedent of the Constitutional Congress in 1787, the
convention named the meeting site as the Confederate Capitol.
The Confederate states believed they were completely within their rights
to take possession of federal properties within their borders and this they did,
with the exception of two forts which were beyond the capability of their navy
to control: Fort Pickens off Florida’s east coast, and Fort Sumter in Charleston
harbor, which was defended by a garrison of 76 soldiers.
In his inaugural address Davis tried to lure England and France to rec-
ognize the Confederacy based on the righteousness of the Confederate cause.
The speech also reminded those two countries, who imported huge amounts of
the South’s cotton, of their economic interest in keeping the supply flowing.
Ironically, not one of the original Confederate States had decided on secession by
popular referendum. The delegates to the various secession conventions had
been selected by the state legislatures.
This political revolution, like the one in 1776, was fomented primarily by
an upper-class minority.

113
And the War Came

Lincoln, as President-elect, had said,


“I will suffer death before I will consent or will advise my friend [President
Buchanan] to consent, to any concession or compromise which looks like buying
the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitu-
tional right. 169
“The right of a state to secede is not an open or debatable question. It is the duty
of the President to execute the laws and maintain the existing government. He can-
not entertain any proposition for dissolution or dismemberment. No state, can in
any way, lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others.”170
Davis saw things differently. He saw the Union as a compact between
independent states whose sovereignty was guaranteed by amendments to the
Constitution reserving all powers to the states not expressly delegated to the
federal government. In the view of the Secessionists, all that the Southerners
desired was peace, to be let alone, to be free from tyranny, to be independent and
self-governing. That vulgar Western bumpkin had said it himself, his gov-
ernment could not endure “half-slave and half-free.” The South agreed and so
departed. They had no choice.
When Lincoln took office in March, four months of compromise effort by
the previous administration had failed. The eight slave states of the Upper and
Border South, however, were still in the Union.
Lincoln addressed delicate issues in his inaugural speech, delivered on the
steps of the Capitol with its dome still incomplete:
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the
momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no
conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in
heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘pre-
serve, protect and defend it...’
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies but friends. We must not be ene-
mies...The mystic chords of memories, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot
grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell
the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better
angels of our nature.”171
The Charleston Mercury denounced these words from the “Ourang-Outang at
the White House” as the “tocsin of battle” that was also, “the signal of our
freedom.”172

169. New York Herald, January 28, 1861


170. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 4:154.
171. Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, First Inaugural Address, p 588.
172. Herbert Mitgang, Lincoln a Press Portrait, pp. 243-244.

114
10. An Act of War

O, if you raise this house against this house,


it will be the woefullest division prove
That ever fell upon this cursed earth

Prevent it, resist it, let it not be so,


Lest child, child’s children, cry against you woe.173

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, an impassioned orator, aboli-


tionist and reformer who had been a prodigy of the aging John Quincy Adams,
visited Lincoln frequently, imploring the President to be more resolute in
resolving the slavery issue. In one conversation, he mentioned an idea he had
heard from Adams: that under the war power there could be constitutional
emancipation of slaves in slave states. Lincoln kept it in mind.
There were 9 million people in the South, of whom nearly 4 million were
slaves, while the North totaled 22 million. The North produced 20 times as much
pig iron as did the South, had more than twice the railway mileage and 24 times
as many locomotive engines. Almost 90 per cent of industrial firms were located
in the North. They provided more than 92 per cent of the nation’s gross national
product.
The South had only half the proportion of white children enrolled in
school and the length of the school term was little more than half as long as in
the North. Per capita newspaper circulation was three times greater in the
North. Library volumes, per white person, were twice as large in the North.
Undaunted, William Harper of South Carolina proclaimed that, “the
Creator did not intend that every individual human being should be highly culti-
vated. It is better that a part should be fully and highly educated and the rest
utterly ignorant.” Commenting on a demand by Northern workingmen for uni-
versal education, the Southern Review asked: “Is this the way to produce pro-
ducers?”174
President Davis imposed his will upon a generally reluctant Cabinet. He
ordered Beauregard to demand the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter or else to
take it.”
Lincoln believed Forts Sumter and Pickens to be federal property. Under
no condition would he yield them.

173. Shakespeare, Richard II, iv.i.


174. Quoted in Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schooling and American Society,
1780-1860, p. 206-207.

115
And the War Came

Lincoln began the process of establishing his Cabinet the night after his
election. He was nothing if not a realist. He knew that he had no record of dem-
onstrated leadership. He would need the support of nationally recognized
leaders such as Seward, Chase and Bates, whom he had defeated in the election.
The Republican Party was bitterly divided between anti-slavery former
Whigs and free-soil Democrats. He could allow neither to dominate. Of the eight
names selected for the cabinet, four were tied to the Democrats and three to the
Whigs. When Thurlow Weed commented that that gave the edge to the Demo-
crats, Lincoln replied, “You seem to forget that I expect to be there; and counting
me as one, you see how nicely the cabinet would be balanced and ballasted.”175
Its members were generally competent and its composition quieted unruly
factions long enough for the President to consolidate, even while being con-
demned on all sides for his gross inadequacy and maladministration.
Lincoln asked his new cabinet for their opinions on what to do about
Sumter. They were divided. Lincoln agonized over the decision. In his inaugural
address, he had clearly stated two principles that would govern his adminis-
tration: avoidance “of bloodshed or violence...unless it is forced upon the
national authority;” and to “hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places
belonging to the government,” such as Fort Sumter.176 As events transpired, he
could not do both. The states of the Upper South had warned him that: “If a shot
is fired, as sure as there is a God in heaven, the thing is gone. Virginia will be out
of the Union in forty-eight hours.” Lincoln felt the Union would endure a terrible
blow if states from the Upper South joined those already seceded. Loss of all of
the Upper South, including the Border States of Maryland and Kentucky, and of
Missouri might well spell doom to the Union.
As was his way, Lincoln pondered while more impetuous voices were
urging immediate action. Lincoln sent a relief expedition to Sumter. He informed
Governor Pickens that only provisions would be transferred and if no resistance
was met, no transfer of men or munitions would take place. He would neither
evacuate nor cede the fort to the presumption of a self-declared, seceded state.
General Beauregard had sent a boat to the fort on April 11, demanding evac-
uation. Commanding Officer Anderson refused. On Friday, the 12th, Beauregard
sent James Chesnut to inform Anderson that unless he surrendered, Beauregard
would commence firing in an hour. Anderson did not surrender.177
After enduring 33 hours of a bombardment of over 4000 shells, and
without sufficient food, Anderson made his decision to surrender.

175. Thurlow Weed, Autobiography of Thurlow Weed, p. 610.


176. Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, First Inaugural Address, p 579.
177. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 229.

116
10. An Act of War

Mary Chesnut continued her writing: “Not by one word or look can we
detect any change in the demeanor of these negro servants. They carry it too far.
You could not tell that they hear even the awful row that is going on in the bay
[Charleston], though it is dinning in their ears by night and by day. And people
talk before them as if they were chairs and tables. And they make no sign. Are
they stolidly stupid or wiser than we are, silent and strong, biding their time?”178
In Washington, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress
rebellion.
On a sparkling April morning in the lovely city of Charlottesville, Virginia,
there was a sudden explosion of excitement at the University of Virginia. Shouts
and cheers were heard from the students, who supposed the state would join the
secessionists.
Lincoln’s call for troops, as Virginia saw it, threatened the seceded states
with coercion to rejoin the union. She had not joined in secession because the
election of Lincoln but this new development challenged state sovereignty, a
challenge she could not ignore.
The Northern press was exuberantly confident. The Chicago Tribune pro-
claimed: “Success in two or three months at the furthest. Illinois can whip the
South by herself.”179
During April and May, Lincoln’s burden grew heavier. North Carolina, Vir-
ginia, Tennessee and Arkansas seceded from the Union. In these States the ratio
of slaveholding families to non-slaveholding families was one in four compared
to one in three in those states which had seceded before Sumter. In the
remaining slave states that remained loyal to the Union, this ratio was one in
five.
The eleven seceded Southern states plus Kentucky and Missouri, which
the Confederates felt were loyal to their cause and thus tacitly part of the
Confederacy, possessed, as a percentage of the old Union:

• almost half the territory, or 750,000 square miles


• 50% of the livestock
• 43% of grain production

• but only 27% of banking assets.

178. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 48.


179. Otto Eisenschiml, Why the Civil War?, p.114

117
And the War Came

After Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the rebellion, John Brown
Gordon, a Georgian, decided to volunteer his services to the South. He helped
raise a company of volunteers from the tri-state region of Georgia, Tennessee and
Alabama. He would become one of the finest men and one of the most competent
generals in the Confederacy.
The Richmond Examiner noted, “There is one wild shout of fierce resolve to
capture Washington city, at all and every human hazard. The filthy cage of
unclean birds must and will be purified by fire.”
To Congress, Lincoln declared: “Our popular government has often been
called an experiment. The central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity...of
proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this
question now, whether, in a free government, the minority have the right to
break up the government whenever they choose.”180
Throughout the country, families split apart over the divisive issue of
slavery and states’ rights versus the benefits of maintaining the Union. The more
outspoken and hot-headed partisans on both sides called for immediate and
drastic actions. Northerners wondered…where was their commanding, decisive
Executive at this hour? Lincoln’s perceived lack of leadership was ascribed to his
background as someone born of poor white trash in a slave state.
Virginia extended an invitation for the Confederate Capitol to be moved to
Virginia. Although Virginia was one of eleven Confederate States, it held one-
third of the South’s industry and 20 per cent of its population, banking capital,
railroad mileage and grain production.
Robert E. Lee had been offered command of the Northern armies by Com-
manding General Winfield Scott, who reckoned Lee as worth 50,000 men. Lee
met with Scott. A long conversation ensued and Lee declined the offer, saying
that if the Union were dissolved, he would go home to his own state and try to
avoid taking a pro-active role in the conflict.
Of the total of 1108 U.S. Army Officers, 387 had resigned to go South (288
West Point trained, including 19 Northern-born men). Among West Pointers
remaining in Northern Service were 162 born in slave States. The United States
Army stood at 16,000 men.
The fratricidal chess game had begun. The cities began to be filled with
troops, buzzing with officials, and office-and-favor-seekers. A sense of self-
importance pervaded the scene, many chanting the slogans like, “On to

180. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 4:439.

118
10. An Act of War

Richmond,” or “On to Washington.” Northerners were confident that their


superior forces could knock out the Southerners in one decisive blow and end
the war along with the grandiose posturing and overblown rhetoric of the
Southerners, pining, as they were, for a bygone age where birthright eliminated
the necessity of taking seriously anyone whose name could not be found on the
social register. One major clash and the rebellion would disintegrate. Men
became impatient with the endless drilling and preparation.

119
11. FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN: DISILLUSION AND
FRUSTRATION

In July, responding to Lincoln’s request for $400 million to sustain any


army of 400,000 men, Congress exceeded his request by 25 per cent.
In the early months of the war, a series of minor, unsuccessful, military
skirmishes increased the unease of the Northern populace. They clamored for a
major Union offensive. General McDowell, in charge of the Northern army, felt
he needed more time to whip the inexperienced recruits into shape. The public
would not wait, and Lincoln felt he could put the people off no longer. So the
Union Army went into battle under a General who felt unready to fight.

THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN, JULY, 1861

Generals Commanding:
Union: Irvin McDowell, 42, graduated in the middle of his class at West
Point, classmate of General Beauregard, taught at West Point, Mexican War
Veteran.
Confederacy: Gustave Pierre Toutant Beauregard, a 43 year-old Creole,
second in his class at West Point, twice wounded in Mexico, artillery student of
Major Anderson at West Point.

121
And the War Came

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: Five division commanders whose contribution to the Union effort
was hardly conspicuous.
Confederacy: Joseph E. Johnston: 53, West Point (top quarter of the class), Sem-
inole War veteran, Blackhawk War veteran, Mexican War veteran.
Thomas J. Jackson: 37, a penniless orphan, West Point (rose from the bottom
of his class in his first year to the top third at graduation), Seminole War veteran,
Mexican War veteran, Virginia Military Institute faculty member.

Troops available:
Union — 35,700
Confederacy — 31,300

General Beauregard’s 22,000 soldiers were camped at Manassas, before the


battle which took place 21 miles west of Washington. He had been forewarned
of McDowell’s advance by charming Southern spies in petticoats who resided in
Washington. Reinforcements were in the Shenandoah Valley. Throngs of
civilians from Washington rode out to see the rebels thrashed.
The Federals launched their offensive by attacking in single brigades
rather than regiments, thus failing to take advantage of the opportunity afforded
by their superior numbers. Instead of overwhelming the Southern forces they
merely pushed them into an organized retreat, a retreat which ended when the
fleeing Confederates were materially reinforced by Jackson’s five regiments.
Union General McDowell lost time (to which soon would be added men
and materiel) reorganizing his lines. This gave Confederate generals Beauregard
and Johnston the chance to rally their men while Jackson held the line.
At Sudley Ford, the Federals were about to flank the enemy when the
West Point graduate Confederate Colonel “Shanks” Evans, badly outnumbered,
ordered an attack and held off the stunned Yankees until support could arrive.
Evans, a South Carolinian, was followed everywhere by an orderly who carried a
gallon container of whiskey strapped to his back, which Evans affectionately
called his “barrelita.” His conduct this day was a key to the Confederate perfor-
mance.
A Federal attempt to move artillery in to attack the Confederates was
unsupported by infantry and Confederate counter-attacks captured the battery
and started a panic among Federal troops. Within two hours, the tide had
turned. McDowell, now engrossed in rallying his lines, failed to bring up strong

122
11. First Battle of Bull Run: Disillusion and Frustration

reserves. He continued to attack with single brigades in series instead of capital-


izing on his overwhelming strength. The reinforced Confederates, fighting under
aggressive officers, went on the offensive and soon the Union forces were routed.
“The expression heard on every side [of the Union forces] during the retreat was:
‘Why were not the reserves brought up from Centerville to help us? Why didn’t
they bring up the troops from Fairfax Court House?’”181
At a critical juncture, Rhode Island regiments were prepared to make a
stand against the enemy and thought they could have stopped the retreat, but
they were ordered to pull out.

Casualties:
Union — Total 2837, 401 killed, 1124 wounded, 1312 missing;
Confederacy — Total 1982, 387 killed, 1582 wounded, 13 missing.

Result: The rout of the Union Army demolished the “quick victory, short
war” expectations of the North and reinforced Southern confidence in its martial
superiority.

Newspapers in Europe and England cheerfully anticipated the demise of


the upstart nation so recently born of the British Colonies.
Soon after the Southern victory, flaws appeared in the fabric of Confed-
erate cohesion at the top. Johnston and Beauregard bickered with Davis over
issues of status and ego. The South witnessed the spectacle of a vainglorious
General (Beauregard) resorting to end-runs around his commander-in-chief in
order to advance his popularity following a battle victory, and a Confederate
President who would never forgive a breach of protocol nor, more importantly,
any disloyalty to himself. Despite the Confederate victory, jealousy, criticism,
and deviousness infected the Southern military command.
Historian Douglas Southall Freeman has described the danger of over-
reaching by subordinates operating beyond their capability as: “the familiar
danger to the effective organization of an army, the danger that a competent
executive officer will destroy his usefulness by regarding himself as a great strat-
egist.” 182

181. Warren Lee Goss, Recollections of a Private, p. 16.


182. Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, one volume abridgement by Stephen W.
Sears, p. 650.

123
And the War Came

If Beauregard was not a comfortable subordinate, Davis was not a poli-


tician, and he underestimated the importance of maintaining good relations.
Davis was tired of Beauregard’s back-stabbing. He persuaded him to accept a
transfer to the Western theater.
Davis’ other front-line Virginia general at this time was Joseph E. Johnston,
a classmate of Robert E. Lee at West Point. All career officers desire promotion
but Joe Johnston was absolutely obsessed by advancement. He wanted to be in
charge of all Confederate military operations and he carped upon this theme and
other irritations in a running, petulant correspondence with Davis. Up North,
Lincoln began to stir. He approved the first Confiscation Bill, declaring that cap-
tured slaves who had been forced to support the Rebel war effort would be freed
and put to work by the Union armies. He also signed the first income tax bill in
American history, levying a 3 per cent tax on annual incomes of $800 or more.
In the early days of his administration, the corridors outside Lincoln’s
room were crowded with office seekers. Knowing there were not nearly enough
jobs for them all, he remarked, “There are too many pigs for the tits.”183
For survival, the Confederacy needed to export agricultural commodities
and import consumer goods. The government’s self-imposed embargo on cotton
exports severely hampered imports. The transportation system deteriorated
seriously by the end of 1861. Inflation began to impact the South. Because of the
Union blockade and the neutrality of salt-rich Kentucky, the cost of a 210 lb.
sack of salt increased from $0.65 in May, 1861, to $7 to $8 the following October.
Davis was elected to the permanent Presidency of the Confederacy in
November.
Lee advised Davis that the slaves should be emancipated to remove an
internal weakness, to gain foreign support and divide the North, but Davis was
incapable of such a leap.
After the debacle of Bull Run, Lincoln replaced McDowell with George B.
McClellan. It was a popular choice except among Radical Republicans.
McClellan had given the Union a few minor victories in Western Virginia. He
was an excellent organizer and administrator, just the man who could whip the
ragtag Northern army into shape. He was popular with the men. He was also a
conservative Democrat whose appointment Lincoln knew would solidify needed
support within the opposition Party. He had resigned from the army a few years

183.Kennedy, Phillip B. Kunhardt III & Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography,
p. 278.

124
11. First Battle of Bull Run: Disillusion and Frustration

before the war and gone to work for the Illinois Central Railroad, where he soon
became Vice President.
McClellan was the son of a Philadelphia physician. He distinguished
himself in the Mexican War and developed “a thorough contempt for the civilian
management of the conflict.” His distrust of civilians extended to volunteer sol-
diers, whom he regarded as wont to loot, steal and pillage, behavior abhorrent to
his professionalism. While in West Virginia, in 1861, he wrote Samuel Barlow,
“Help me dodge the nigger, I am fighting to preserve the integrity of the Union &
the power of the Govt. — on no other issue.”184
In the months following the debacle at Bull Run, McClellan supposed
General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army in front of Washington to be
150,000 strong. In fact, it was he who outnumbered Johnston, two-to-one.
McClellan continued to train his army day in and day out and made no proposals
for offensive action. The lack of military success of the Union forces thus far and
their army’s inactivity was upsetting many Northern political leaders.
In the South, Mary Chesnut thought about how the Northern writers and
thought leaders so clearly misunderstood the burdens of slavery on the slave-
owners: “I say we are better than our judges North — and no worse. We are
human beings of the nineteenth century — and slavery has to go, of course. All
that has been gained by it goes to the North and to the negroes.. I hate slavery. I
even hate the harsh authority I see parents think it their duty to exercise toward
their children...Their [Northern] philanthropy is cheap. There are as noble, pure
lives here as there — and a great deal more of self-sacrifice...”185
Lincoln insisted from the start that he was fighting to preserve the Union.
He struggled with the conflicting imperatives of righting a grievous wrong,
versus maintaining a strong enough alliance to prevail. He believed slavery ought
to be abolished, but he also considered the four slave Border States (Maryland,
Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky) indispensable to the Union. Most Northern
Democrats supported the war effort so long as it remained a war to preserve the
status quo, but would not support a war to overturn slavery. As the war pro-
gressed, however, there were mounting pressures on the President, from many
other sources, to embrace a new war aim: freedom for the slaves.

184. Stephen W, Sears, ed., The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence,
1860-1865, George McClellan to Samuel Barlow, November 8, 1861, p. 128.
185. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, pp. 245-6.

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And the War Came

The rationale for this was more complex and less purely “moral” than is
commonly supposed in our times. Freeing the slaves would certainly assuage
many people’s consciences, but it would also help convince foreign powers to
refrain from recognizing the Confederacy, offset the decline in volunteers for sol-
diers in the North by rekindling enthusiasm for striking at the underpinning of
the Southern economy, and facilitate conscription of thousands of potential
black recruits. Northerners began to see the war as an opportunity to remake the
South.
Lincoln had set his priorities: “For my own part, I consider the first
necessity that is upon us, is of proving that popular government is not an
absurdity. We must settle the question now, — whether in a free government
the minority have the right to break it up whenever they choose. If we fail, it will
go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.”186
But Lincoln’s own half-nation was fractious, its factions agreeing on only
one thing — that Lincoln, as President, was inept. The Peace Democrats were
against the war and were willing to let the Southern states go. The Radical
Republicans wanted slavery abolished immediately, although that could only
presently apply to Lincoln’s desperately coveted Southern Border States. They
had always called for abolition of slavery. The longer the war lasted, the more
many Northerners were calling for radical measures. Many Republicans,
however, felt Lincoln was avoiding the moral commitment to abolish slavery
which was the foundation of their party’s ideology. Eastern and western Repub-
licans opposed each other on economic issues and everyone criticized Lincoln’s
management of the war. His critics became overbearing, while he remained
evasive and elusive. Whatever else Lincoln might do or not do, he did nothing to
discourage the loyalty of Maryland and Kentucky.
He could not ignore the Democrats; he needed them as his party had come
to power as a minority. He appointed a large number of Democrats to high posi-
tions in his administration, placed four in cabinet positions, and appointed one
to head his eastern army. But out of the sight of the social and political raptors,
Abraham Lincoln was working over the possible ways of moving against slavery.
Senator Trumbull announced he would introduce a bill for the confis-
cation of all lands and slaves of all persons in arms against the United States. He,
and Attorney-General Bates among others, continued to express a lack of confi-
dence in the president.

186. Carl, Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 235.

126
11. First Battle of Bull Run: Disillusion and Frustration

In January, Lincoln had to replace Simon Cameron with Edward


McMasters Stanton as Secretary of War because Cameron had issued embar-
rassing statements to the newspapers declaring that the government should arm
slaves against the rebels — hardly a way to maintain the good graces of the
Border States.
Stanton was a Democrat who hated slavery and liked Lincoln only a little
more. He had been Attorney-General under Buchanan and was a brilliant land
and patent lawyer. He was a confidential legal adviser to Cameron. Ironically, he
was responsible for the part of Cameron’s release calling for freeing and arming
slaves. He was very smart, brutally honest, with tendency to shout and slam his
fist on his desk; and he was irritatingly arrogant. As usual, Lincoln held no
grudges and had appointed this man for his competence, decisiveness, work
ethic, honesty and anti-slavery sentiments. Stanton tore into the disorganized
and scandal-ridden War Department with feverish energy.
Nothing was happening militarily. The endless training and preparations
went on under the “Pax McClella.”
Frustrated, Lincoln issued his “President’s General War Order No. 1,”
directing all land and sea forces to undertake a general advance on February 22,
1862.
Meanwhile, out West, Union General Grant had captured Forts Henry
and Donelson in Kentucky, offering the beleaguered Confederates only terms of
“unconditional surrender.”
The capture of the two forts, with their 12-15,000 prisoners and huge cache
of guns, began the incision which led to the geographical splitting of the Confed-
eracy along the Mississippi River. It set off wild celebrations around the North,
where no important good news had been received since the war started.
Grant mentioned the value of Captain James B. McPherson’s work in his
battle report and nominated him for brevet major. At West Point, one of
McPherson’s roommates, John Schofield recalled, “by common consent of all the
classes,” James McPherson was, “the most popular man in the corps.”187 In 1852,
McPherson had graduated first in his class of fifty-two.

In 1859, while stationed in San Francisco, McPherson met and fell in love
with a tall, intelligent, attractive and very Southern young lady from Baltimore,

187. Tamara Mosher Melia, James B. McPherson and the Ideals of the Old Army, Doctoral Disser-
tation, University of Southern Illinois, p. 15.

127
And the War Came

Emily Hoffman. He and Emily had considered marrying, at that time, but Emily
received a letter from her mother forbidding her to marry a Northerner and a
second letter summoning her home. Her sister intervened, claiming that she still
needed her in San Francisco. James left the decision to Emily, and she decided to
let things ride for a while.
Lincoln continued to parry the questions and goadings of those who per-
sisted with suggestions on every facet of policy and action. A Senator, who
accosted Lincoln one day on the need for immediate emancipation everywhere
lost his temper, “You are on the road to Hell with this government,” he shouted,
“and you are not a mile off this minute.”
“A mile from Hell, Senator?” responded the amused Lincoln, “that is just
about the distance from here to the Capitol, is it not?”188
At the White House, the Lincolns’ son lay ill in bed with what was called
“bilious fever.” The doctor calmed the anxious parents. There was no immediate
danger. His brother fell ill, also, but soon grew better — while the condition of
the first deteriorated. The father would sit all night and watch over him. He had
a deep foreboding about this favorite child. Fatigue rendered the desperate man
listless and desultory during the day. The boy’s condition fluctuated, but it
seemed to the father that he was failing, slowly, and his despair was com-
pounded. Was there nothing a man could do to keep a nation whole — and
nothing a father could do to keep a son whole?
The funeral took place in a terrible wind and rainstorm. Long after the
burial, Lincoln often locked himself in his room so that he could weep alone.
Willie had been his favorite among the three children left. Robert, the oldest,
and his father were never close. He would have happy dreams of playing with
Willie only to wake to the gnawing agony of irreparable loss.
Until this time in his life Lincoln had not given much credence to orga-
nized religion. But his experience of life had eroded his youthful skepticism.
Now, he was gravitating slowly toward religion for solace and understanding.
He could not find much solace with Mary. She was devastated, some would say
deranged, by Willie’s death. She remained in bed for three weeks, failing to even
attend his funeral.

This was their second tragedy. They had lost another son, Eddie, in Spring-
field. She draped herself in layers of black and suspended all social activities for a

188.Donnal V. Smith, Chase and Civil War Politics, pp. 68-9.

128
11. First Battle of Bull Run: Disillusion and Frustration

year. After one of her many fits of hysteria, Lincoln led Mary to the window and
pointed to a large white building, saying gently, “Mother, if you don’t stop it you
will spend the rest of your days there.” The building housed Washington’s
insane asylum.189
A friend once asked Lincoln what he thought of marriage. He responded
softly, “My father always said, ‘When you make a bad bargain, hug it the
tighter.’”190
Lincoln was buckling under the burdens of the war, the vituperation from
North and South, the loss of sons and the crumbling of a wife who not only was
too weak to face reality but who considered the eminence of her husband’s
position a license for self-indulgence.
While nestling deeper into to the protective comforter of God, Lincoln, the
fatalist, began to experience a theological conversion. His lifelong presentiment
that some special and dark destiny awaited him was intensified during his presi-
dency and the hell of a civil war.
He often quoted a particular passage from Hamlet:

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,


Rough-hew them how we will.”191

McClellan disdained Lincoln as inactive and inept; he also despised most


of Lincoln’s cabinet and General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Meanwhile, Lincoln
held fast. “My policy is to have no policy.”
A Confederate officer, James B. Griffin, wrote his wife, “We cannot see, My
Darling, into the future, but I trust & have confidence in our people to believe,
that if the unprincipled North shall persist in her policy of Subjugating the
South, that we, who are able to resist them, will continue to do so, until we grow
old and worn out in the service, and that then, our Sons will take the arms from
our hands, and spend their lives, if necessary, in battling for Liberty and indepen-
dence.”192
One Southern soldier wrote home of an incident that took place while on
the march: “On the next morning, as our brigade passed the prisoners that had
been captured the evening before, one of them hallooed to us, ‘How are you
Tom?’ Tom replied, ‘What are you doing in such bad company, Bob?’...Tom went

189. Jim Bishop, The Day Lincoln was Shot, p. 24.


190. Ibid., 25.
191. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act V, Scene II.
192. Orville Burton and Judith N. McArthur Burton, A Gentleman and An Officer, p. 163.

129
And the War Came

inside the prison lines...and had...a few minutes conversation...it was his
brother”193
A strange war this was to be. Soldiers who were fighting for deeply-held
principles, carrying a gun in one hand and an olive branch in the other, ever
ready to use the one or offer the other on a moment’s notice.

193. John Worsham, One of Jackson’s Foot Cavalry, p. 83.

130
12. THE BATTLE OF SHILOH: LARGE-SCALE KILLING
SHOCKS THE NATION

If military activity in the East was somnolent, this was not true in the
West. Following the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee, Yankee
forces moved southward and occupied the capital of the state, Nashville, which
had been abandoned by the Confederates. The Union troops then marched
toward Mississippi and Alabama, the heartland of the Confederacy.
Confederate Generals Albert Sydney Johnston and Beauregard had their
men in Corinth, Mississippi, just south of the Tennessee border and 23 miles
west of Alabama. Corinth was a terminal on the Confederacy’s most important
east-west railroad. Loss of that city would probably mean the fall of Memphis
and another few hundred miles of the Mississippi. Loss of control of that
waterway would seriously damage the Confederate cause.
Grant’s forces concentrated at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, 22 miles
northeast of Corinth, and were equivalent to Johnston’s in number. Grant had
ordered General Carlos Buell to trail behind him with his 18,000 men. Grant was
looking for battle and would soon have it. He had no idea that the Confederate
army was so near to him.
The Union soldiers that fought in the West were largely Westerners.
Mollie Vandenburg wrote her Southern sweetheart soldier, C. H. Clark, a month
before the battle of Shiloh:

131
And the War Came

Dear Henry,
I feel more lonely and sad than I have been in some time — perhaps tis because
the last companie have taken off nearly all of the gentlemen I respect in Texas...Oh!
that I knew what the termination of this awful conflict would be.
Henry I want to see you but don’t you come — join for the War if tis forty years
if you get killed tis the most honorable death — if you escape I will rejoice. I love
thee still.”194

THE BATTLE OF SHILOH, APRIL 6 AND 7, 1862

Generals Commanding:
Union: Ulysses S. Grant, West Point (graduated 21st of 39), Mexican War
veteran.
Confederacy: Albert Sydney Johnson, 58, Kentuckian, 8th in his class at West
Point, served in the Blackhawk and Mexican Wars, resigned from the Army
twice to become a farmer and cotton planter, former Secretary of War for Texas,
thought to be the most competent General in the South when the war started,
but his reputation was suffering from the loss of a fourth of his men at Donelson.
Greatly admired by Davis whom Johnston, five years senior, had befriended at
West Point

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: William Tecumseh Sherman, West Point (graduated 6th in a class
of 42 but deprived of fourth-class rank due to demerits for pranks), family
arrived in America in 1634.
Confederacy: Gustave Pierre Toutant Beauregard

Troops available:
Union — nearly 48,000 in the immediate area (Grant), with 17,900 more
(Buell) marching toward the area
Confederacy — around 44,000.

The Confederates struck at dawn and completely surprised the Yankees.


By 8:45 a.m., the entire Union front was threatened with collapse with many ele-
ments retreating northward toward Pittsburg landing. Northern General

194.Mollie Vandenburg, letter to C. H. Clark, March 11, 1862

132
12. The Battle of Shiloh: Large-Scale Killing Shocks the Nation

Sherman was conducting a fighting retreat with reserves called up to cover the
withdrawal. Grant knew that if his lines could not hold until General Buell
arrived with more troops, defeat was a certainty.
As thousands of Union troops fled toward the river in the rear, the Confed-
erates squandered a marvelous opportunity due to: (1) confusion among the high
command as to where they wanted to drive the Federals; (2) uncoordinated
attacks as Beauregard, who was left with overall direction of the attack after
Johnston had ridden toward the front lines, committed his forces piecemeal; (3)
loss of command control wherein regiments and brigades became intermingled;
and, (4) loss of discipline as too many troops engaged in looting the overrun
Yankee camps rather than pushing their advantage. The Confederate leadership
had lost control of the battle.
The Union forces, having been afforded precious time by confusion in the
enemy command, established a new horseshoe-shaped salient that became
known as “the hornet’s nest.” For three and a half hours the Rebels threw them-
selves into this stormy vortex, losing many soldiers and gaining nothing in
twelve separate charges. Other Southern forces had been making progress
against the Union right and left but Grant used the time thus gained at the stale-
mated hornet’s nest to establish a second defensive perimeter around Pittsburg
landing.
Beauregard, in the rear command post, learned that Johnson had been
wounded but had remained in his saddle and in the fray. He bled to death on the
field. Beauregard issued orders to continue the attack. A while later, Beauregard
suddenly ordered his offensive halted. The South had won the day.
Unbeknownst to Beauregard, who intended to resume the offensive the
following morning, the lead portion of Buell’s army was, at last, arriving on the
field. He wired Richmond announcing “a complete victory,” a premature
assessment of the situation. Both Grant and Buell planned their own offensive at
daylight, exploiting their new numerical advantage.
The Federals did advance at dawn, surprising the Rebel pickets. The Rebel
lines were sorely pressed and began giving way. At 2:30 p.m., Beauregard ordered
a general withdrawal. Grant and Buell did not press the retreating enemy, being
content with driving the enemy from the field and regaining the ground lost on
the first day of the battle.
“I did not think any more of seeing a man shot down by my side than you
would of seeing a dumb beast killed. Strange as it may seem to you, but the more

133
And the War Came

men I saw killed the more reckless I became,” Franklin H. Bailey confided to his
parents.195

Among the Southern officers in the melee that day was Patrick Ronayne
Cleburne. He was born in Ireland in 1828, on St. Patrick’s Eve. After the potato
famine of 1845, he, his step-mother and brother decided that America had better
to offer, so they made the seven-week voyage to the new world. The family sepa-
rated in Cincinnati and Patrick found work there as a drugstore clerk, subse-
quently moving to Arkansas. In 1860 Lincoln was not even on the ballot there.
The State did not secede until Lincoln issued his call to arms. Cleburne volun-
teered to serve in the Confederate Army.
In 1861, he was promoted to colonel of a brigade of four regiments under
General Hardee and was part of the Confederate advance into Kentucky. He was
made a brigadier-general in March, 1862, on the first anniversary of Lincoln’s
inauguration.
Of the 2700 men with whom Cleburne entered the fight at Shiloh, 800
remained. Cleburne himself lost most of his teeth when he was struck by a Minie
ball. General Hardee’s battle report cited Cleburne’s “persevering valor. No
repulse discouraged him...he was conspicuous for his gallantry to the end of the
battle.”196
The Southern army limped into Corinth, Mississippi, with 30,000 men
ready for duty, of which 10,000 would soon be ill with typhoid and dysentery
when Corinth’s water supply became polluted. The superior numbers of the
Federal armies could have destroyed the Rebel force but Grant was satisfied to
regain the ground lost during the first day. He believed that his troops were
exhausted.
Leander Stillwell recounted an incident with Southern homefolk:
Frank and I had another adventure outside the picket lines. we came to an old
log house...the only occupants were women and children...a middle-aged mother, a
tall slab-sided, long legged girl, seemingly sixteen or seventeen years old, and some
little children...Their name was Leadbetter...The house...with a puncheon floor,
which was uneven, dirty and splotched with grease. The girl was bare- footed and
wearing a dirty white sort of cotton gown...that looked a great deal like a gunny
sack. She really was not bad looking, only dirty and mighty slouchy. We wanted
some butter...She replied that they were just going to churn...We waited, and when

195. Frank H. Bailey, letter to his parents, April 8, 1862.


196. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Hardee to
Cooper, February 7, 1863, I, 10(1):570.

134
12. The Battle of Shiloh: Large-Scale Killing Shocks the Nation

the job was finished, handed the girl a pint tin cup...which she proceeded to fill
with butter. As she walked towards us to hand over the cup, her bare feet slipped
on a grease spot on the floor, and down she went on her back...At the same time the
cup fell from her grasp, and the contents rolled out on the dirty floor...
About this time her mother appeared on the scene. “Why Sal Leadbetter!” she
exclaimed, “you dirty slut! Get a spoon and scrape that butter right up!” Sal rose
(cow fashion) to her feet, still giggling over the mishap, and the butter was duly
“scraped up”, restored to the cup, and this time safely delivered. We paid for the
“dairy product” and left, but I told Frank I wanted none of it in mine.197

Casualties:
Union — total, 13,047 — 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, 2,885 missing
Confederacy — total, 10,694 — 1,723 killed, 8,012 wounded, 959 missing

Result: Nominally a draw, but the Confederates, having been so close to


victory, suffered a moral setback that made Southerners doubt the future of the
Western Confederacy. Davis was in shock at the loss of his near idol, Albert
Sydney Johnston. Thereafter, the Confederate military command in the West
remained a shambles. Western Tennessee was lost to the South forever. Two
months later, Memphis fell. The Confederate cause in the West slowly melted.
More lives were lost at Shiloh than America had lost in the Revolution, the
War of 1812 and the Mexican War combined. Eight out of ten amputees died
from infection or related causes. The brutality of this war was made plain by this
battle.
“Short War” advocates now realized this would be a long, brutal slugfest.
Gone was the hope of a negotiated settlement. In the North the huge loss of men,
the first large killing and maiming of the war, stunned the populace.
In his battle report, Grant praised McPherson for his “activity and
courage.” Beauregard was sick, sullen, and sedentary. He felt he needed a rest
and wrote Davis that he was taking leave for the sake of his health. He left three
days later without waiting for a reply. An Aide, in a letter to home, mentioned
that he thought Beauregard looked better than he had in months. Davis was dis-
gusted, disdainful and distrustful. To the Confederate President, Beauregard’s
behavior was disgraceful, amounting to little more than desertion. His
estrangement from Beauregard had grown irreversible.

197. Leander Stillwell, The Story of a Common Soldier, pp. 74-75.

135
And the War Came

Davis charged Beauregard with abandoning his responsibilities and


replaced him with Braxton Bragg. Bragg was an unappealing man, but he had
demonstrated bravery at Buena Vista in the Mexican War. Bragg had written
Davis the previous November complaining about state governments placing a
higher priority on local defense than on the main Confederate military thrust.
Judah Benjamin replied: “The difficulty lies with the Governors of the States who
are unwilling to trust the common defense to one common head...Each Governor
wants to satisfy his own people and there are not wanting politicians in each
State to encourage the people to raise the cry that they will not consent to be left
defenseless — the voice of reason is stilled.”198
Only one thing united the endlessly quarrelling Confederates — their hos-
tility toward the Union. They engaged in debilitating, futile arguments among
themselves. The inability of each side to work smoothly within its own organi-
zation exposed the challenges of making a democracy work and drew ridicule
from abroad.
In April, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the first of several con-
scription bills subjecting men between 18 and 35 to a three-year draft. By 1865,
amended legislation would expand the age range to from 17 to 60. Three of every
four white men of military age would serve in the Confederate military.
Lincoln’s critics bayed in the night also. Wendell Phillips, the abolitionist,
said, “the President has no mind whatsoever... He may be honest — nobody cares
whether the tortoise is honest or not; he has neither insight nor provision nor
decision. As long as you keep the present turtle at the head of the government
you make a pit with one hand and fill it with the other.”199
Betty Herndon Maury of, Fredericksburg, Virginia, wrote in her diary in
April, 1862, “The negroes are going off in great numbers, and are beginning to be
very independent and impudent. We hear our three are going soon. I am afraid of
the lawless Yankee soldiers, but it is nothing to my fear of the negroes if they
should rise against us.”200
In the summer of 1862 a Confederate woman overheard two small girls
“playing ladies.” “Good morning, m’am,” said little Sallie to her friend. “How are
you today?” “I don’t feel very well this morning,” four-year-old Nannie Bell
replied. “All my niggers have run away and left me.”201

198. Clement Eaton, The Civilization of the Old South, p. 260.


199. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 312.
200. Robert A. Hodge, ed., The Civil War Diary of Betty Herndon Maury, p. 149.
201. Alice Maury Parmalee, ed., Betty Herndon Maury, The Confederate Diary of Betty Herndon
Maury, 1861-1863, p. 89.

136
12. The Battle of Shiloh: Large-Scale Killing Shocks the Nation

By mid-1862, the Palmerston Ministry in London was close to intervention


in the American crisis.
In his summer message to Congress, Lincoln wrote: “Our popular gov-
ernment has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have
already settled — the successful establishing and the successful administering of
it. One still remains — its successful maintenance against a formidable internal
attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that
those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots
are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets...No popular government can
long survive a marked precedent that those who carry an election can only save
the government from immediate destruction by giving up the main point upon
which the people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their ser-
vants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.”202

202. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln his Speeches and Writings, “Message to Congress in
Special Session,” July 4, 1861, pp. 602-609.

137
13. THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN: MCCLELLAN SPOOKED BY
LEE

Many Northerners talked as if they would be better defended by the Devil


than by Abe Lincoln. His Commander of the Army of the Potomac certainly
made it seem that way.
The Army of the Potomac remained motionless and the people of the
North grew restless. McClellan was whipping “his army” into magnificent shape
with constant drilling in the Washington camps. His critics chafed at his inat-
tention to the Confederates blocking the Potomac southwest of Washington,
indeed, threatening the nation’s capital, itself.
McClellan’s army now numbered 160,000, at least three times the size of
the enemy in camp at Manassas. McClellan’s inactivity was a mystery and an
annoyance to the people.
It had been eight and a half months since the First Bull Run, with no
significant battle occurring in the east. The traditional hiatus from combat
during winter months plus the inbred procrastination of McClellan to force the
issue left the North moribund.
There was other, significant military activity in the East, which did not
involve the two largest armies. Stonewall Jackson, heavily outnumbered in Vir-
ginia’s magnificent and fertile Shenandoah Valley (an Indian name meaning
“daughter of the stars”), out-marched, outmaneuvered and out-soldiered a phys-
ically, and intellectually lethargic group of Federal commanders. Despite being
outnumbered 6 to 1, Jackson routed the bluecoats repeatedly with his audacity
and determination. This valley was the breadbasket of the eastern Confederacy

139
And the War Came

and was absolutely crucial to the war effort. Jackson’s army never exceeded
17,000 soldiers but they drew off and continually bested over 40,000 Union men.
Mary Chestnut wrote of hearing General Lawson comment on General
Jackson:
He had no sympathy with human infirmity. He was a one-idea’d man. He
looked upon broken-down men and stragglers as the same thing. He classed all who
were weak and weary, who fainted by the way side, as men wanting in patriotism.
He was the true type of all great soldiers. The successful warrior of the world, he did
not value human life where he had an object to accomplish. He could order men to
their death as a matter of course.203
The steely, single-minded grit that enables a general to send men to their
death without paralyzing his resolve is also the type of characteristic that makes
a man seem bizarre and out-of-place in peacetime. But if one must fight, that is
the man to have on your side. Jackson was such a man. Patton was such a man in
the Second World War.

THE BATTLES OF THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN, APRIL 5 TO JULY 12, 1862

Location: Virginia, from Chesapeake Bay to Richmond, between the James


and York Rivers, and the James and Pamunkey Rivers.

Generals Commanding:
Union: George B. McClellan: 36, 5’ 8,” second in his class at West Point,
beloved by his soldiers.
Confederacy: Joseph E. Johnston; Robert Edward Lee.

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: Joe Hooker: “Fighting Joe,” 47, son of a captain the in Revolutionary
War, graduated 29th of 50 at West Point, Seminole and Mexican War veteran;
his troops were devoted to him.
Confederate: James Longstreet: West Point, 42, one of the few highly-ranked
officers in the Army of Northern Virginia not from Virginia himself (from
Georgia, born in South Carolina); preferred defensive warfare. A fine tactician
and operational leader.
Thomas J. Jackson.

203. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 499.

140
13. The Peninsula Campaign: McClellan spooked by Lee

Troops available:
Union — 121,500
Confederacy — 50,000 initially, reinforced to 92,000 when retiring close to
Richmond.

Motivation of the North: Capture of Richmond. Land forces at the tip of the
Peninsula, and proceed northwest, overland, 75 miles to Richmond. This plan
was designed to avoid the anticipated major battles that would have been
required by marching from Washington due south to Richmond.

McClellan, with his overwhelming superiority in numbers was bluffed


into conducting a siege at his first objective, Yorktown, rather than attacking, by
Confederate General Magruder, who had 11,000 men but staged a colossal sham
by having his men fire at any sound or movement, ordering his bands to blare
loudly after dark, and sending a column of men marching in a circle, part of
which was visible to the Yankees, creating the impression of a huge force.
McClellan was sucked in and wired Lincoln, “It seems clear that I shall have the
whole force of the enemy on my hands, probably not less than 100,000 men.” Joe
Johnston told Lee, “No one but McClellan could have hesitated to attack.”204
The delay caused by the siege gave Johnston the time he needed to transfer
reinforcements to the Peninsula. Thus, Confederate strength increased to 50,000
by late April. Just before McClellan prepared to bombard the Southern
entrenchments, Magruder abandoned them and headed toward Richmond.
McClellan announced gleefully, “Our success is brilliant.”205
He should have added that his trepidation was greater than his success. He
insisted on inflating his enemies’ strength as they retreated toward Richmond.
He wired Washington, “I must attack in position, probably entrenched, a much
larger force, perhaps double my numbers.”206
Lee’s commanders knew their man. General D. H. Hill summarized their
feelings, “I do not feel sure McClellan will venture to attack at all. His move-
ments have been characterized by great prudence, not to say great timidity.”207

204. Joe Johnston, letter to Lee, April 22, 1862


205. George B. McClellan Papers, McClellan telegraph to Stanton, May 4, 1862, p 253.
206. Ibid., pp. 264-265.
207. D. H. Hill Papers, D. H. Hill to his Wife, May 11, 1862

141
And the War Came

At Williamsburg, the Union forces triumphed and proceeded once again


toward Richmond. Johnston repeatedly told Davis he wanted to retreat to
Richmond and defend against McClellan there. Davis would not listen. He
wanted to fight McClellan where he was and he threatened to replace Johnston.
Twelve miles east of Richmond lay the crossroads of Seven Pines. The Con-
federates there mustered half of McClellan’s forces but they decided to attack
both wings of the Federal army. The advance was late and disorganized. In one
assault, John Gordon was the only officer in his regiment to remain on horseback
while most of his officers, including his brother, were disabled. As he
approached an abatis, his horse was killed and he continued to lead his men on
foot The Confederates remained with their backs against Richmond.
Johnston, wearing his father’s Revolutionary War sword, was struck by a
musket ball in the right shoulder and then a shell fragment struck him in the
chest knocking, him to the ground unconscious. He would require a long
recovery. Davis appointed Robert E. Lee to replace him.
McClellan dug in, brought up more big guns and concluded that he had
plenty of time for a siege of Richmond. He assumed that the Confederates would
remain in their trenches. With Lee in command, he could not have been more
misguided. McClellan’s forces were immobile; he continued to wait, repeatedly
asking for reinforcements. Lee capitalized on McClellan’s signature gift, time, by
reorganizing his patchwork army. He renamed it the “Army of Northern Vir-
ginia.”
McClellan professed delight, “I prefer Lee to Johnston,” he wrote, “the
former is too cautious and weak under grave responsibility-personally brave and
energetic to a fault, yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy
responsibility and is likely to be timid and irresolute in action.208
McClellan was now within five miles of Richmond. He cancelled yet
another attack when he was bluffed by a vastly inferior force shamming a major
deployment.
In fact, Richmond could have been easily taken, and the war possibly
ended, by a Union commander with half of Lee’s nerve. The wholesale slaughter
of another three years turned on relatively minor human deficiencies which
might cause little havoc in non-military situations but were critical in these
events.

208. George B. McClellan Papers, McClellan to Lincoln, April 20, 1862, p. 248.

142
13. The Peninsula Campaign: McClellan spooked by Lee

Union Lieutenant Haydon wrote of passing among the dead after the
battle, “most of them on their backs, their heads thrown back, mouth slightly
open, elbows on the ground by their sides, with hands up, folded...or frequently
one of them placed over the wound...One I saw on his hands and knees with his
head shot off. Two men were found lying opposite each other with each his
bayonet through the other’s body.”209
Warren Lee Goss described his amazement at bizarre injuries: “Before
seeing very much service we discovered that a man may be hit with bullets in a
great many places without killing him...I saw a man who had both his eyes
destroyed by a bullet without injuring the bridge of his nose, or otherwise
marking his face.”210
McClellan called a council of war and told his generals that the army
would abandon its position in front of Richmond and move to a new position
on the north bank of the James River, where he would have the protection of
the gunboats. It was labeled a change of base but, in reality, it was a retreat in
the face of significantly inferior numbers. When Generals Kearny and Hooker
heard about it, they rushed to headquarters and Kearny rebuked McClellan.
They wanted to attack Richmond. McClellan was convinced that Lee had at
least 200,000 troops and that his job was to save his army. The retreat began
on June 28.
Lee pursued. His blood was up. At Gaines Mill, a battle raged from early
afternoon until evening. McClellan withheld large numbers of troops from the
main front in anticipation of threats in other areas which never materialized. The
superior Union forces recoiled in front of Confederate onslaughts and only
darkness saved them from rout.
McClellan sent a telegram to Secretary of War Stanton: “I have lost this
Battle because my force was too small…I again repeat that I am not responsible
for this…I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise
than that the Govt has not sustained this army…I tell you plainly that I owe no
thanks to you or any other persons in Washington — you have done your best to
sacrifice this army.”211 McClellan had not been within two miles of the battle-
field that day.

209. Stephen W. Sears, ed., For Country Cause and Leader, The Civil War Journal of Charles B.
Haydon, p. 8.
210. Warren Lee Goss, Recollections of a Private, p. 47.
211. Stephen W. Sears, ed., The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan, p. 322-323.

143
And the War Came

After the battle of Glendale, a Massachusetts soldier named Adams wrote:


“It was the saddest night I ever spent...They [the wounded] cried out for water,
or for someone to put them out of their agony; others groaned and loudly cursed
their fate.”
Francis W. Palfrey of the 20th Massachusetts wrote, “curiously enough
there was almost always something for McClellan to do more important than to
fight his own battles.”212 No matter to the men in blue. They pushed their kepis a
little further down their brow and awaited their orders.
The Union army retreated to Malvern Hill, an eminence around which
they established a formidable defensive position. Lee wanted to have at them.
Repeated Confederate assaults failed to take the position and their losses
mounted. Confederate commanders D.H. Hill, Ewell, and Whiting all agreed, in
the evening after the Union victory in the battle of Malvern Hill, that if
McClellan attacked the following morning they would not be able to resist him.
But McClellan retreated, as he had after every battle in the Seven Days.
“The idea of stealing away in the night from such a position, after such a
victory, was simply galling,” wrote Captain Biddle of McClellan’s staff. General
Phil Kearny spoke to his fellow generals in the Third Corps, “I, Philip Kearny, an
old soldier, enter my solemn protest against this order for retreat. I say to you all,
such an order can only be prompted by cowardice or treason.”213

Casualties:
Union — total 15,849 plus an enormous materiel loss including 31,000 small
arms.
Confederacy — total 20,614
Result: Richmond was saved. Lee’s victory against huge odds left the North
moribund. Johnston, had he remained in command, might well have lost
Richmond, which could have meant the end of the Confederacy. Conversely, had
McClellan shown competence, he might well have captured Richmond and
destroyed the Confederacy.

Next to food, mail from home was the most sought after nourishment of
the soldiers. In 1861, some regiments of 1000 soldiers sent out as many as 600
letters a day.

212.Francis W. Palfrey in Military Historical Society of Mass., Peninsular Campaign, p. 96


213. E.M. Woodward, History of the Third Pennsylvania Reserve, pp. 124-125.

144
13. The Peninsula Campaign: McClellan spooked by Lee

“FOR GODSAKE RITE,” William Worthington admonished his homefolk.

In Washington, Lincoln signed the Federal Homestead Law, granting 160


acres of publicly owned western land to anyone who would claim, occupy and
improve the property for a period of at least five years.
Robert E. Lee was now in command of Confederate forces in the East. It
might have been said of him, as a classmate at Brown University said of John D.
Rockefeller, that he was “reeking of virtue and without one redeeming vice.”214
Or even, as the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, said of the Essenes...that they
were “addicted to virtue.”215
Lee’s record at West Point indicated the strength of his character. His
applied his excellent native intelligence with vigor and discipline and conducted
himself at all times with exemplary military bearing, achieving highest honors.
Lee’s marks at West Point:

Subject Lee’s Mark Highest Possible Mark


Natural Philosophy 295 300
Drawing 97 100
Engineering 292 300
Chemistry 99 100
Rhetoric 199 200
Moral Philosophy 200 200
French 98.5 100
Math 286 300
Tactics 100 100
Conduct 300 300
General Merit 1966.5 2000

Lee accumulated fewer disciplinary demerits than anyone in the history of


the Academy.

During the Peninsular Campaign, Lincoln became extremely fatigued, lost


weight, failed to eat regularly and found little rest in sleep. He appeared haggard.
When his doctor evidenced concern, Lincoln told his friend Orville Browning, “I
must die sometime….I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I
die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the Country forsakes
me.”216

214. Charles Towne, The College Career of Johnny Rock, p .350.


215. Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War and the Antiquities, Vil I-IIII.

145
And the War Came

After the collapse of the Peninsula Campaign, Lincoln admitted: “I was as


nearly inconsolable as I could be, and live.”

McClellan again asked for more troops. Lincoln wondered aloud where the
men were going, since more and more had been sent into what seemed to be a
bottomless pit.
Frustrated at making so little progress in bringing the war to a close,
Lincoln scratched his tortured thoughts on paper:
In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God.
Both may be, and one must be, wrong...In the present civil war it is quite possible
that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet
the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to
fit his purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God wills
this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power on the
minds of the now contestants, he could have either saved or destroyed the Union
without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, He could give
the final victory to either side any day, yet the contest proceeds.217

The “contest proceeded” because the South had two generals, Lee and
Jackson, who fought their outnumbered men with daring, dexterity and deter-
mination to win battles decisively in the hope of discouraging the North from
continuing the conflict, thereby gaining independence.
The “contest proceeded” because Lincoln had appointed three consecutive
commanders in the East who, despite possessing some military experience and
talent and a normal array of personal endowments, were each infected with fatal
flaws that prevented them from excelling in the job at hand.
The “contest proceeded” because the fighting men on both sides were ada-
mantly committed to the cause for which they struggled, and in the South, to the
perceived nobility of their two great commanders and the gallantry of many of
the officers serving them.
As the “contest proceeded,” death and agony proceeded apace. The war
was, ironically, prolonged by a reluctance to be ruthless with one’s own coun-
trymen: failure to prosecute combat with a merciless/merciful determination, in
order to shorten the agony; failure to destroy a retreating and whipped enemy;

216. Theodore C. Peace and James G. Randall, eds., The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning,
I:559-560.
217. Roy. P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings. “Meditation on Divine
Will,” p. 655.

146
13. The Peninsula Campaign: McClellan spooked by Lee

fighting not to “lose the field” instead of endeavoring to destroy the “enemy”; tru-
culence in obeying both the spirit and letter of orders from superiors; and, pan-
dering to one’s own ego.
And the dying took place not only on the battlefield. In this war, the most
remorseless killer was disease. More combatants died from disease than in
battle. Poor diet, unsanitary camp conditions, exposure to terrible weather and
the ever-present insects combined to decimate the fighting men. Diarrhea and
dysentery claimed the most lives but measles, smallpox, malaria, pneumonia,
bronchitis, scurvy and “camp itch” compounded the woe. Bacteriology was not
yet a science and antitoxins were unknown. While doctors prescribed astrin-
gents or purgatives, bleeding, opium, quinine, tree-bark derivatives, mustard
plasters, vegetables and fruit, quarantine and vaccination, the most common
“cure-all” was alcohol, which, while probably not medicinally effective, at least
eased discomfort and was welcomed by most patients.
National manufacture of drugs was minimal. Both North and South
imported their medicines but the blockade of Southern ports steadily con-
stricted their drug imports and attempts at local production were insufficient. In
the latter part of the war, Confederate soldiers increasingly suffered illness,
wounds and amputations without medication.
In 1862, the death rate from disease for all Union forces climbed to nearly
5% of mean strength. While Confederate records are sketchy, the rate of deaths
due to illness probably approximated that of the North as their armies shared
the same locale and climate. Extrapolating for both sides, by the end of 1862,
approximately 65,000 soldiers had succumbed to illness and disease since the
war began. With the increase in numbers serving, the monthly death-due-to-
illness toll, for the remainder of the war, would often exceed 10,000.
For the entire war, disease killed more soldiers than did combat, claiming
over 384,000 victims, including prisoner-of-war deaths. The penalty for post-
poning a battle that should have been fought, or for failure to capitalize on a
major opportunity to follow up victory with a decisive stroke, was awesome. It is
possible that effective follow through on some victories might have ended the
war in some regions, with huge savings of lives from the ravages of sickness and
from death in subsequent battles.
McDowell, McClellan, and Pope were the first three of the five sorrowful
military mysteries of the Northern rosary, a sorrow easily seen in the haunted
mask that was Lincoln’s face. Lee, Jackson, Forrest, Longstreet and Gordon were

147
And the War Came

the five joyful, evangelical-military mysteries of Southern Celtic heritage: a joy


easily seen on the face of Johnny Reb.
That June, Lincoln surprised Seward and Welles by informing them that
he was beginning to think that the slaves would have to be released, or the
Union itself might be subdued. Having made a campaign promise not to interfere
with slavery in the states where it already existed, this was a highly charged
issue and the change in perspective had not come easily to Lincoln. Lincoln
worked, meanwhile, to urge the Border States toward gradual and compensated
emancipation.

The fortunes of the Union had deteriorated steadily until Lincoln felt that
the country was losing faith in his plan of operations. Ponderous and cautious as
always, he was becoming certain that the time had come to change tactics or lose
the game. His spirit was being smothered by McClellan’s retreat-defeats; demor-
alization of the soldiers; the near-mutinous attitude of some of the high-ranking
officers; the growing chorus of anti-slavery opinion in the North; and the dwin-
dling trickle of volunteers for the army. Governor Andrew of Massachusetts
claimed that volunteer enlistments could not be increased so long as Lincoln
persisted in fighting a war that would leave slavery intact.
Lincoln began work on a document addressing the slavery issue in the
cipher room of the War Department telegraph office, where he used to go to wait
for messages of import from the military. He could work there without the fre-
quent interruptions he endured at the White House. Each day, as he waited for
war news, he would sit at a small desk with a piece of paper on which he would
occasionally write a line or two, after much thought. At the end of the day he
would fold the paper and put it in his pocket. He would return the next day and
for many days, repeating the process.
Lincoln was persuaded by his Cabinet to postpone releasing this doc-
ument. He appreciated the logic — they warned of the potential loss of the
Border States and noted the government’s inability to enforce such measures. He
kept the proclamation draft locked in his drawer, thinking to issue it after a
victory. Always, the desire to preserve the Union was his primary goal.
And the preservation of the Union, as well as the launching of his thun-
derbolt, required a significant victory by the men in blue.

148
14. SECOND BULL RUN AND ANTIETAM: OPPORTUNITY
SQUANDERED

All during July, McClellan’s army remained at “parade rust” in the stifling
heat on Virginia’s Peninsula, their commander unable to make a decision to
either assume the offensive or to leave the finger of land that had witnessed so
much fighting to so little purpose.
Lincoln, distraught with McClellan’s Peninsula debacle, brought General
Henry W. Halleck, “Old Brains,” in from the West to assume the position of
General-in-Chief of Union Armies. Halleck reorganized the army in Northern
Virginia under General John Pope.
Halleck repeatedly ordered McClellan to leave the Peninsula for the
Washington area in order to be in position to reinforce Pope’s advancing army.
The last thing McClellan intended to do, however, was to support his rival. He
brought to the art of procrastination a mesmerizing virtuosity.
McClellan’s correspondence with his wife included the following sen-
timent: “I have a strong idea that Pope will be thrashed during the coming week
— & very badly whipped. He will be and ought to be — such a villain as he
ought to bring defeat on any cause that employs him.”218
On August 3, Halleck once again issued orders to McClellan: to leave the
James and proceed, by water, to Aquia Creek near Fredericksburg, where he

218. Stephen W. Sears, ed., The Civil War Papers of George W. McClellan, McClellan to wife,
August 10, 1862, p. 389.

149
And the War Came

could both defend Washington and join with Pope in the new campaign
overland.

THE BATTLE OF SECOND BULL RUN, AUGUST 28-30, 1862

Generals Commanding:
Union: Major General John Pope, 40, graduated 17th of 56 at West Point,
Mexican War, staunch Republican, not universally admired.
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

Troops available:
Union — 70,000
Confederacy — 55,000

Motivation: Following Jackson’s victory at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, and


aware that McClellan’s Peninsula forces had been ordered to reinforce Pope, Lee
wanted to place himself between Pope’s Army and the landing point of
McClellan’s army and to force Pope into battle before he received reinforce-
ments.
Plan: Lee gambled that, by sending Jackson’s Corps west and north of
Pope, bypassing his left flank and attacking his supply depots far in the rear,
Pope would be prevented from attacking the vulnerable remnant of Lee’s army in
his rear, commanded by Longstreet. Instead, Longstreet would hurry northward
toward Jackson and join him.
In late August, Jackson’s “foot cavalry” covered more than 50 miles in two
days, heading toward Manassas once again.
As Lee had surmised, Pope quickly left the Rappahannock to head for
Jackson and exploit his two-to-one advantage. Pope was unaware that Long-
street was following rapidly and that Jackson’s men were the bait.
Pope planned to attack Jackson the next morning; Jackson counseled his
command to avoid battle until Longstreet’s and Lee’s troops arrived. Pope
reached the battlefield at 1:00 p.m., intent on mauling Jackson but unaware,
incredibly, that Longstreet’s troops had arrived. McDowell, who knew of this,
unaccountably failed to notify Pope.
Pope finally realized that Longstreet was present at about 7:00 p.m., but he
completely misjudged Lee’s intention, thinking he would pour troops into

150
14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

Jackson’s defense or cover Jackson’s retreat. Instead, Lee was planning an offense
of his own.
The next morning several federal probes encountered strong resistance,
which Pope regarded as rear-guard actions that confirmed his belief in a Confed-
erate retreat. At noon, he ordered a two-pronged attack, which was summarily
halted by artillery. Frustrated, Pope ordered a massive assault to the right of
Jackson’s line. He turned a deaf ear to General Reynolds, who rode up to warn
him of a large Confederate force massing on their left.
Union troops, lacking reinforcements, began retreating. At this point,
McDowell decided to send some of Reynolds’ troops to bolster the sagging lines,
leaving only two brigades facing Longstreet’s five divisions. Lee knew the
moment had come and sent Longstreet’s force hurtling into the sparse Union
position at 4:00 p.m.
Warren Lee Goss saw a father and his son charge, side by side. The son fell,
pierced by the enemy’s bullets. A quiver of grief swept over the father’s face, and
then he said, “I’d rather have him shot like that than see him run.”219
Pope now continued to shift more support to his failing left but there was
no way to stop Longstreet’s juggernaut, and a frantic retreat began in that
quarter around 6:00 p.m. McClellan had withheld the troops of Generals
Franklin and Sumner while continually offering excuses for his failure to
support Pope.
In one Federal charge, a Union officer on a white horse was killed while
leading a charge. A Southern officer, Isaac Feagan, berated his soldiers for killing
such a courageous man instead of capturing him, but Stonewall Jackson told
him, “No, Captain, the men are right; kill the brave ones, they lead on the
others.”220
The next day, Lee, still determined to take the initiative, sent Jackson’s
troops to swing around the Federal right in an attempt to cut off Pope’s line of
retreat to Washington; but rain and fatigue slowed the march which was being
shadowed by Federals. Pope then proceeded to move his forces back into the
Capitol’s defenses.

219. Warren Lee Goss, Recollections of a Private, p. 85.


220. Mark Perry, Conceived in Liberty, Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates and the American Civil
War, p. 158.

151
And the War Came

Casualties:
Union — 1,724 killed; 8,372 wounded; 5,958 missing; Total 16,054
Confederacy — 1,481 killed; 7,627 wounded; 89 missing; Total 9,197

Result: A smashing Confederate victory over superior numbers due to the


superb generalship of Robert E. Lee, excellent execution by Jackson and Long-
street, and a desultory performance by General Pope. Three straight ignominious
defeats for three different Union commanders blew an air of hopelessness and
foreboding across the North and, like a following sea, created a sense of uneas-
iness in the psyche of the Administration. But in the South, heavy losses to
company, brigade and regimental officers in the summer’s battles left the army
critically short of officers with the rank and experience required to maintain the
discipline necessary to prevent straggling.
McClellan was pleased with himself. “I believe I have triumphed! Just
received a telegram from Halleck stating that Pope & Burnside are very hard
pressed — urging me to push forward reinforcements & and to come myself as
soon as I possibly can. Now they want the “‘procrastinator,’ the ‘coward.’”
Within a month, Lee would drive the Federals out of Virginia. Confederate
morale rebounded. Europe was considering recognition of the South. Lincoln
would face a crisis in the November elections and Virginia farmers were able to
gather a harvest.
Lee emerged as an immortal to his men and gave real hope to the success of
the Confederacy. Without Lee, the Confederacy might have died in 1862 and the
prodigal South reunited with the North, with slavery intact. The South would
have suffered only limited death and destruction. Lee’s victories significantly
prolonged the war. In turn, the long war destroyed slavery, the plantation
economy, the wealth and infrastructure of the region, and virtually everything
else for which the Confederacy stood.
A letter to his wife from Colonel Thornton F. Broadhead, 1st Michigan
Cavalry, was published in a newspaper; it said,
My Dear Wife:
I write to you mortally wounded, from the battlefield. We have again been
defeated, and ere this reaches you your children will be fatherless...Our cause is just,
and our Generals, — not the enemys, —have defeated us. Before I die let me implore
that in some way it may be stated that General Pope has been outwitted, and that
McDowell is a traitor. Had they done their duty as I did mine, and had led as I did,
the dear old flag had waived in triumph.

152
14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

In God’s good time he will give us the victory. And now, good by, wife and chil-
dren...But for you and the dear ones dependent, I should die happy.

McDowell demanded and received a formal investigation. He was not


found guilty of treason but was judged to be incompetent, was removed from
command, and sent west to fight Indians.
Though Lincoln was extremely dissatisfied with McClellan’s behavior, he
recognized that the army favored McClellan and he could not afford to further
alienate the Democrats at a time when they were already irritated with the
radical measures being enacted in Congress and at a time when the entire North
was critical of the President’s conduct of the war.
Lincoln asked McClellan to take command of the troops retreating to
Washington. McClellan was not happy to do so, but felt he had no choice. He,
and the rest of the country, still had a dismal opinion of President Lincoln.
Despite obsession with the war, legislation important to the future vitality
of the Union was passed by Congress: (1) The Homestead Act donated free land
to pioneers willing to settle the West; (2) The College Land Grant Act provided
for the creation of the Land Grant Colleges; and, (3) the Union Pacific Railroad
was chartered to run from Nebraska to California.
On September 12, at Camp Mason near Portland, Maine, a presentation
ceremony was taking place before the Twentieth Maine Regiment, commanded
by Colonel Ames. Accepting a gift of a gray war-horse from the townspeople of
Brunswick, the regiment’s Lieutenant-Colonel, Joshua L. Chamberlain, aged
about 34, said, “I accept it, if I may so speak, not to regard it as fairly my own,
until I have earned a title to it by conduct equal to your generosity.”221
The Chamberlain family history in the United States began with William,
who arrived in 1648. Chamberlain’s father was a man of few words. Once when
young Joshua and his brothers told him they could not move a heavy rock in the
field, his reply was, “Move it.” In later years, Joshua said that “do it” became an
“order for life” that was “worth infinitely more” than years of schooling.222
In July of 1862, following Lincoln’s call for 300,000 volunteers, Professor
Chamberlain of Bowdoin College wrote to Governor Washburn, asking for a
commission to lead a regiment he would raise.

221. Joshua L. Chamberlain, “Early Memoirs”, pp. 62-63.


222. Chamberlain-Adams Family Correspondence, Sae Chamberlain to Joshua L. Chamberlain,
May 8, 1859.

153
And the War Came

Down in Virginia, Lee struggled to glue the divergent Southern factions


into an effective military machine. In July, he discovered more than one third of
his forces missing from the ranks. Thirty thousand officers and men were absent
for a variety of reasons, few of them legitimate. Furthermore, dispersal of Con-
federate troops to meet threats at so many points throughout their extended ter-
ritory reduced their concentrations in the critical battle areas of Virginia,
Tennessee and Missouri. The difficulty in prying additional troops loose from
the states of the Deep South to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia lay in the
rational fear of leaders in those states that their homefolk would be, or thought
they would be, defenseless against Yankee raids.
Lee continued to press upon Davis a concept which had been steadily
gathering importance in his mind — an offensive thrust into the North: “The
present seems the most propitious time since the commencement of the war for
the Confederate army to enter Maryland. I shall proceed to make the movement
at once unless you [Davis] should signify your disapprobation.”223
Lee continued his full-court press by courier: “The present position of
affairs, in my opinion, places it in the power of the Government of the Confed-
erate States to propose with propriety to that of the United States the recog-
nition of our independence.”224 Lee reasoned that the North was no nearer to
restoring the Union than they were when the war started. His invasion of
Yankee soil would make that point dramatically. A decisive victory over the
Army of the Potomac, followed by a Southern overture for peace, would convince
the world that the South only desired peaceful separation, not conquest.
Lee wanted to maintain his momentum. He wanted to sustain the ini-
tiative. He was looking for battle. He was confident that he could lure the Army
of the Potomac away from Washington, thus eliminating any threat to
Richmond. Davis quietly acquiesced. Lee was a difficult man to refuse. He had
that rare combination of forthrightness, graciousness and inner strength, with
no hint that he thought others less gifted than himself. He asserted that he
would feed his troops and animals from the autumn harvest in Maryland,
affording Virginian farmers the chance to replenish their stores.
His army, however, was somewhat threadbare as it advanced toward
Maryland. Perhaps one-quarter of the men marched barefoot. They subsisted on

223. Freeman and McWhiney, eds., Lee’s Dispatches, p.61.


224. The War of Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
Lee to Davis, September 8, 1862, 19, pt. 2:600-601.

154
14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

apples and corn until diarrhea became endemic. As many as 15,000 stragglers fell
out, ill or exhausted, or unwilling to fight in an invasion force. They had fought,
and would continue to fight enthusiastically, in defense of their homeland,
which, they felt, was the reason they had enlisted. This depletion nearly can-
celled the gain of 20,000 reinforcements Lee had received from Richmond. Yet,
the morale of those who stayed was superb.
Lee’s victory at Second Bull Run enhanced the image of a victoriously
emerging South. England’s Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston thought the
Northern Army received a “very complete smashing,” and spoke of Britain and
France proffering “an arrangement upon the basis of separation.
In a letter to his sister, Daniel Faust, a Yankee soldier, responded, “You
asked me who would clean my ears sins I am out here.” He confessed, “I reckon I
haf to do that myself and wash my cloth and cook my victles and mend my
cloth.”225
Union Private Charles Babbot characterized a recently received letter as
“Short and sweet just like a rosted maget.”226
As the Confederates marched into Maryland toward Sharpsburg
[Antietam], a woman confided to her diary: “When I say they were hungry I
convey no impression of the gaunt starvation that looked from their cavernous
eyes.”
Another Marylander remembered the Southern soldiers, with their slouch
hats and haversacks, as a “ragged, lean and hungry set of wolves. Yet there was a
dash about them that the Northern men lacked. They rode like circus riders.”227

The Battle of Antietam, September 17 and 18, 1862

Location: Sharpsburg, Maryland, some 75 miles northwest of Washington.

Generals Commanding:
Union: George B. McClellan
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

225. Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home, p.82.
226.Manuscript, Hayes Memorial Library, Charles Babbot to his father, January 1, 1863.
227. Clifford Dowdey and Louis H. Manarin, eds., The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, p. 307.

155
And the War Came

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: Ambrose Burnside, 38, son of a South Carolina slave-owner, grad-
uated 18th in his class at West Point, unimaginative, unsuited intellectually and
emotionally for command.
Confederacy: Thomas J. Jackson, James Longstreet

Troops available:
Union — 84,000
Confederacy — 50,000+

Motivation: Confederates hoped that their invasion would: (1) influence


the defeat-weary North to sue for peace; and (2) secure foreign recognition of the
Confederacy. These hopes were quite reasonable, given the prevailing mood in
the North and in Europe.
Plan: To drive into Pennsylvania, perhaps as far as Harrisburg, and destroy
a major railroad bridge, thus interrupting a vital east-west supply link in the
North; then, to threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington. Lee would have
to deal with Federal outposts at Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg, which would
threaten his supply line. He proposed dividing his army four ways: Longstreet
would head toward Pennsylvania; Jackson would attack the Yankees at Martin-
sburg and then Harper’s Ferry; another force would descend upon Harper’s
Ferry from the Maryland side of the Potomac; and, another force would attack
Harper’s Ferry from the Virginia side. These three latter forces would then
hasten to join Longstreet in the Keystone State.
Lee’s battle plan to divide his forces and send some of them to capture
Harper’s Ferry was based on his assumption that McClellan’s legendary delay-
malaise would give Lee time to capture Harper’s Ferry and still combine his
entire force (though badly outnumbered) in Maryland.
One copy of Lee’s battle plan, Special Orders No. 191, intended for General
D.H. Hill, was somehow misplaced and found its way into the hands of a Con-
federate officer, who wrapped them around three fresh cigars and placed the
package in his pocket. A few days later, Union sergeant John W. Moss and Cor-
poral Barton W. Mitchell were lounging on the grass on what had recently
served as a Confederate campground, when they spied a package nearby. The
three “free” cigars were a welcome bounty. A more impressive bounty followed
with the discovery of Lee’s order. The men took the document to their company
commander, who passed it up the line until one officer recognized the hand-

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14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

writing of a friend, Robert H. Chilton, Lee’s Adjutant General. The message was
immediately taken to McClellan’s headquarters, where he read it with rising
interest. It spelled out the location and plan of action for each unit in Lee’s riskily
divided army. McClellan exclaimed, “Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip
Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.”228

Major Hitchcock of the 123rd Pennsylvania wrote,


On our third day’s march we were halted for rest, when an orderly rode through
the lines saying to different colonels, “General McClellan will pass this way in ten
minutes.” This meant that we were to be ready to cheer “Little Mac”...He was cer-
tainly a fine-looking officer and a very striking figure. But whether all this “fuss and
feathers” was designed to impress the men, or was a freak of personal vanity, it did
not favorably impress our men. Many of the old vets...were very enthusias-
tic...but...they rather negatived their praises by the remark, “No fighting today; Lit-
tle Mac has gone to the front. Look out for a fight when he goes to the rear.”
This night I succeeded in getting a “bang-up” supper [at twenty-five cents a
meal]...at a reb farm house. The old gentleman, talked freely about the war, not con-
cealing his rebel sympathies. He firmly believed we would be whipped...She [his
wife] seemed to be a nice old lady...I felt almost unwilling to eat her supper, she
looked so tired...She smiled and said she was tired, but couldn’t bear to turn away
these hungry boys. She said she had a son in the rebel army, and knew he must be
hungry and wet.229
Lee, having received news of the capture of Harper’s Ferry, decided to
make his stand in the hills around Sharpsburg, despite the fact that his 18,000
men would be outnumbered 3 to 1 until the troops from Harper’s Ferry rejoined.
When one of his officers worried about the odds, Lee told him that McClellan
would not attack that day or the next.
McClellan proceeded slowly with his first two divisions, arriving near
Sharpsburg in the afternoon with the remainder of his army due after dark. The
next day, the Federals deployed with extreme lassitude while Jackson’s divisions
began to arrive from Harper’s Ferry. After assuring himself that all details had
been attended to, McClellan issued orders for an attack the next morning.
McClellan’s strength was 70,000. Lee’s was now 40,000, though McClellan had
convinced himself that it numbered at least 120,000.
The initial clash developed into wholesale slaughter as successive waves of
both sides broke against each other. Fresh reserves from both armies added new
carnage to the 240-yard by 400-yard cornfield where it was estimated that

228. Shelby Foote, The Civil War, I:671.


229. Frederick L. Hitchcock, War from the Inside, pp. 39,40, 42.

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And the War Came

opposing forces surged back and forth 15 times that day. Lee had ridden close to
the front. He sensed that his army was in trouble and took a gamble, weakening
his right line to bolster Jackson and committing the last of his reserves to his left
and center. McClellan remained at his headquarters a mile east of the fighting,
unable to see much, even through telescopes, of the undulating, smoke-shrouded
battlefield.

The Confederate line broke under the pressure at about noon, despite a
counter-attack led by a fiddler in the 3rd Arkansas who played the square dance
tune, “Granny, will your dog bite…Hellfire, No!” Half of the force was killed or
wounded, including the fiddler.
Had McClellan seized the moment and attacked with his reserves, some
25,000 soldiers, destruction of the Southern army would have been assured.
McClellan gave orders for the men to “hold their positions,” while Lee gambled
everything, and the Federal opportunity was lost.
The 6th Alabama occupied the most advanced point in the line. When the
fighting on the left abated from sheer exhaustion, Lee expected an attack on his
center and he rode along the lane by the defenders and informed them that they
must hold or risk disaster for his entire army. John Gordon yelled, in a voice loud
enough for his men to hear, “These men are going to stay here General, till the
sun goes down or victory is won.”230
Gordon was hit by a bullet in the calf of his right leg in the next attack and
was struck again higher up that leg in another assault. He remained in the fight
and, an hour later, was hit in the left arm suffering a nasty wound that severed an
artery. His men pleaded for him to go to the rear but, remembering his promise
to Lee, he refused to leave. Then another ball pierced his shoulder. He was still
on his feet and moving toward his endangered right when a fifth ball smashed
into his face, passing through his left cheek and out his jaw, whereupon he fell
forward on his face with blood pouring into his cap. He was saved from
drowning in his own blood by an earlier bullet, which had put a hole in that cap.
He lapsed into unconsciousness.
When he came to, he did not know if he was alive or dead; he attempted to
move his leg, to decide the issue. It moved. He crawled a hundred yards to the
rear, to the point where a new defensive line had formed. He collapsed, and was
removed on a stretcher to a barn with other wounded men. When he regained

230. John B. Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War, p. 84.

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14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

consciousness, his friend Dr. Weatherly was attending him and Gordon noticed
the look of concern on his face. He reassured the Doctor, “You think I am going
to die but I am going to get well.”231
A Confederate soldier recalled after the war, “David Barton...in command
of Cutshaw’s [Confederate battery], kindly sent his ambulance, with instruc-
tions that I be taken to his father’s house in Winchester...I intensely enjoyed the
rest and kindness received in that hospitable home, which, I later learned, was
repeatedly made desolate by the deaths of its gallant sons who fell in battle.
Marshall, the eldest...was killed on the outskirts of Winchester in May, 1862.
David, the third son, whom I just mentioned, was killed in December of that same
year. Strother, the second son, lost a leg at Chancellorsville and died soon after the
war; and Randolph, the fourth son...was seven times wounded...Our mutual cousin,
Robert Barton, was shot through the lungs in General Early’s Valley campaign.232
The focus of the battle shifted to a gracefully arched stone bridge, 125 feet
in length, spanning the 50-foot wide Antietam Creek. Union General Burnside
made two successive attempts to gain the bridge and ford the creek but both
went awry, principally due to poor reconnaissance and preparation. The third
attempt was a direct charge across the bridge. This time, the Yankees succeeded.
Later, the Confederates found a gap in the Federal left which had resulted
from forces not keeping pace with each other. General Hill’s attack was directed
at untried Northern troops, who became confused under the onslaught and were
ineffective. Burnside, witnessing the reversal, pulled back his troops, who were
twice the number of the enemy, all the way to the heights overlooking the west
bank of the Antietam. He requested reinforcements from McClellan, who told
him, “I will send him Miller’s battery. I can do nothing more. I have no
infantry.”233
McClellan did not understand that victory was nearly his. He still had two
Corps in reserve, which, had they been thrown in, could have destroyed Lee’s
depleted ranks. Once again, he was obsessed with his losses and fear of a massive
counter-attack.
Longstreet wrote later, “We were so badly crushed at the close of the day,
10,000 fresh troops could have come in and taken Lee’s army and everything in
it.” McClellan had missed yet another chance.
Lee turned around and headed for Virginia, leaving his wounded in Federal
hands. McClellan managed no significant pursuit.

231. Ralph Lowell Eckert, John Brown Gordon: Soldier, Southerner, American p. 36.
232. Edward A. Moore, The Story of a Cannoneer under Stonewall Jackson, p. 158
233. New York Tribune, September 19, 1862.

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And the War Came

More Americans fell in combat at Antietam than in any prior battle in


American history.

Casualties:
Union — 2,108 killed, 9,549 wounded, 753 missing
Confederacy — 1,546 killed, 7,752 wounded, 1,018 missing

Result: A tactical standoff, which became a strategic victory for the North
when Lee retired to Virginia. McClellan’s excessive caution notwithstanding, he
had transformed the Army of the Potomac in a few weeks and they had forced
the Army of Northern Virginia into their first-ever retreat. It was the first major
battle in the East not won by the Confederates. And it provided Lincoln with his
launching platform he needed for the Emancipation Proclamation.
At our hospital the heap of amputated legs and arms increased in size until it
became several feet in height.234
The smooth-bore musket balls broke bones. The minie ball shattered
them. A man shot in the bowels almost always died. In amputations, the conva-
lescents carried the litter to the surgeon, a chloroform cloth was deposited on
the dirty face, the target limb was exposed and washed, the knife went quickly
through the flesh, exposing the bone to the fine-toothed saw. A tourniquet was
kept tight so the soldier would not bleed to death. The limb was thrown on the
rising pile outside the tent. Next!
When no anesthesia was available, usually ether or chloroform, soldiers bit
bullets during surgery. “Soldiers bit so hard that they’d throw their jaws out. So
it was determined that two bullets were better, one on each side. That way the
bite was more even.”235 The odds of surviving a head wound were one in six.
Years later, Union surgeon W. W. Keen provided a medical overview:
In the Civil War we knew absolutely nothing of “germs”. Bacteriology — the
youngest and greatest science to aid in this conquest of death — did not exist...San-
itation...was crude and unsatisfactory...research had not discovered any of the anti-
toxins nor the role of the insect world in spreading disease. We operated in old,
blood-stained and often pus-stained coats...We used infected instruments...used
marine sponges which had been used in prior pus cases and had only been washed
in tap water...The silk with which we sewed up all wounds was undisinfected. If
there was any difficulty in threading the needle we moistened it with...bacteria-

234.Edward A. Moore, The Story of a Cannoneer under Stonewall Jackson, p. 156.


235. Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, p. 193.

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14. Second Bull Run and Antietam: Opportunity Squandered

laden saliva, and rolled it between bacteria-laden fingers...We knew nothing about
antiseptics and therefore used none.236
Edward Porter Alexander concluded, in view of the numerical advantage
of the Yankees, “a drawn battle, such as we actually did fight, was the best pos-
sible outcome one could hope for.” Alexander was certain that the results were
entirely wrought, “by the Good Lord’s putting it into McClellan’s heart to keep
Fitz-John Porter’s corps entirely out of the battle & Franklin’s nearly all out. I
doubt whether many hearts but McClellan’s would have accepted the sugges-
tions, even from a Divine source...For common sense was just shouting, ‘Your
adversary is backed against a river, with no bridge & only one ford, & that the
worst one in the whole river. If you whip him now you destroy him utterly, root
& branch & bag & baggage...and such game is worth great risks.’ … No military
genius, but only the commonest kind of every day common sense, was necessary
to appreciate that.”237
Major John J. Key, a staff officer working in Halleck’s office and brother of
a colonel on McClellan’s staff, was overheard stating his opinion on why the
Confederate Army was not destroyed at Antietam: “That is not the game...the
object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall
be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and
save slavery.”238 Key was interviewed by Lincoln and did not deny the report;
Lincoln dismissed him from the service.
“Great God,” a Georgia soldier wrote his wife the day after the battle,
“what awful things I have to chronicle this morning! One of the most awful
battles that was ever fought was fought yesterday[.] It commenced at daylight
and continued all day until dark...it looks like they are going to kill all the men in
battle before they stop...God grant that it may close and close soon.”239
As Lee’s army crossed into Virginia on September 18, John H. Lewis of the
9th Virginia Infantry noted, “When going over the river [into Maryland] the
boys were singing ‘Maryland, my Maryland,’ but all was quiet on that point
when we came back. Occasionally some fellow would strike that tune, and you
would then hear the echo, ‘Damn My Maryland.”240

236. William Williams Keen, Military Surgery in 1861 and 1918, 12, 18 L.
237. Edward Porter Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. 146.
238. Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln to John J. Key, September 26-
27, 5:442-443.
239. Letter of William Stilwell to his Wife, September 18, 1862
240. John H. Lewis, Recollections from 1860-1865, p. 56.

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And the War Came

Jefferson Davis complimented Lee and his army, “for the deeds which have
covered our flag with imperishable fame.”241
Lee wrote to Davis, “Desertion and straggling have so thinned the ranks of
the army it is unable to cope with advantage with the numerous host of the
enemy. I find that the discipline of the army...has not been improved by the
forced marches and hard service it has lately undergone...one of the greatest evils
is the habit of straggling from the ranks. Unless something is done, the army will
melt away.”242
Lee lost from one-third to one-half of his effective fighting force before he
fought at Antietam, due to straggling — exacerbated by lack of shoes and
exhaustion. Significantly, desertions increased after the Confederates returned
to Virginia. The Assistant Secretary of War in the Confederate government esti-
mated the number of soldiers on unauthorized absence to be between 50,000
and 100,000.
Throughout the summer of 1862, Lincoln’s obsession with the resolution of
the slavery issue was intertwined with his worries over the progress of the war.
He was thoroughly exasperated with a general who exhibited no desire to fight
an all-out war. Accordingly, Lincoln issued orders relieving McClellan, replacing
him with a reluctant Ambrose Burnside.

241. Dunbar Rowland, ed., Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches, vol.
5, p. 346
242.The War of Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
Lee to Davis, September 8, 1862, 19, pt. 2:617-627..

162
15. SLAUGHTER AT FREDERICKSBURG, JUBILEE WITH
EMANCIPATION

After Antietam, Lincoln convened the cabinet and told them he would
issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He reminded them that, because of their
objections, he had withheld issuing the proclamation when he first reviewed it
with them and promised to withhold it until a major victory was won.
In the West, the Union continued to expand its control of the Mississippi
River. New Orleans had been captured in April and Fort Pillow, 50 miles north
of Memphis, had been neutralized. Davis had not believed the North would
attack New Orleans from the sea and left it virtually defenseless. He was wrong.
The city fell, with the loss of one Northern ship.
In October, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed a law exempting from
service one white man on each plantation of twenty or more slaves.
During Lincoln’s visit with the Army, Chamberlain observed him closely
and commented:
His figure was striking; stature and bearing uncommon and commanding. The
slight stoop of the shoulders, an attitude of habitual in-wrapped thought...His fea-
tures, strong; if homely...In his deep, over-shadowed eyes, a look as from the inner-
most of things. Over all this would come at times a play, or pathos...
Slowly he rode along...We could see the deep sadness in his face, and feel the
burden on his heart...How he shrunk from the costly sacrifice we could see; and we
took him into our hearts with answering sympathy and gave him our pity in
return.243

243.Joshua L. Chamberlain, My Story of Fredericksburg, p. 148.

163
And the War Came

Patrick Cleburne was wounded at the battle of Richmond, Kentucky,


while organizing a counterattack. A minie ball pierced his left cheek, demolished
two teeth in his lower jaw and exited his open mouth. Though he could not
speak from the swelling and bleeding, the wound was not serious. In addition to
his customary bravery, Cleburne had demonstrated an improved coordination of
his command as his troops routed an enemy twice their number, capturing 4300
prisoners. He was wounded in the leg two months later, at Shelbyville, Ken-
tucky, but continued to lead his troops in an attack. Cleburne was highly com-
mended for his conduct in the fruitless, Confederate Kentucky campaigns with
special note made of his ability to instill enthusiasm in his subordinates, his pen-
chant for the offensive, and his courage under fire. He was a superb leader of
men.
In the mid-term elections, the Republicans, having lost badly, blamed their
defeat on Lincoln’s management of the war. Major Republican leaders in the
House were turned out and Democrats gained twenty-five seats. The Democrats
won the governorships of New Jersey and New York, and the state legislatures of
Illinois and Indiana. They made sizeable gains in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and
Indiana. The Democrats even carried Lincoln’s home District in Illinois. His
fellow Republicans and the newspapers alike derided Lincoln as he carefully and
painstakingly maneuvered through the complexities of the situation.
Nevertheless, the mid-term election losses were the slightest of any
incumbent within the last twenty years and Lincoln felt strongly that he and his
Party were strong enough to withstand the backlash of McClellan’s removal
from command.
Lincoln’s sense of humor preserved his equilibrium amid the furor into
which his ambition had plunged him. His listeners found his stories very funny,
but he was usually the first to start laughing and sometimes could only sputter
convulsively at the end of the tale. Perhaps Lincoln’s humor saved his sanity,
given his overriding melancholia and the broiling tragedy surrounding him:
perhaps it spared the country the catastrophe of a breakdown in his resolve. It
was certainly an antidote for the strain of his marvelous but relentless logic.
Davis, on the other hand, was a man of modest humor, of quiet, dignified,
extremely proper restraint. As with Lincoln, his responsibilities were exceed-
ingly burdensome, but whereas Lincoln’s humor restored much of his vigor each
day, Davis weakened physically and grew ill as well as tired. When he did dis-
course with people, he frequently digressed, rambling on about on some favorite
theme, failing to shepherd his valuable time toward the real crisis. Then, when

164
15. Slaughter at Fredericksburg, Jubilee with Emancipation

he would address the needs of the moment, he would frustrate his companion
with interminable hashing of every fine point.
He could not, like Lincoln, “work the crowd,” nor pull together diverse fac-
tions, nor overlook unpleasant but non-essential traits in the character of men he
must use to further the greater purpose. He was a fine man, but in the wrong job.
Never was anyone more right for a job than his fellow-sufferer on the Potomac.
Down in Tennessee, Patrick Cleburne was promoted to major general, one
of twelve in the Army of that rank. His brother Kit, who was twenty-one, had
enlisted in Confederate General Morgan’s cavalry.
In his annual message to Congress in December, Lincoln wrote,
“Our strife pertains to ourselves the passing generations of men; and it can,
without convulsion, be hushed forever in the passing of one generation...
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occa-
sion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is
new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and
then we shall save our country.
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history...the fiery trial through which we
pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation...In giving
freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free...We shall nobly save or meanly
lose, the last best, hope of earth...The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way
which, if followed, the world will forever, and God must forever bless.”244
Lincoln periodically confided to his secretary, Noah Brooks, that he was
exhausted. He would repeat that the tired spot was inside him, out of reach and
that nothing could touch it.
One day a delegation called on Lincoln, headed by a distinguished Doctor
of Divinity. They protested Grant being retained in command in the West
because of his drinking. Lincoln replied, “Doctor, can you tell me where General
Grant gets his liquor?” The doctor, nonplussed, could not. “I am very sorry, for if
you could tell me I would direct the Chief Quartermaster of the army to lay in a
large stock of the same kind of liquor, and would also direct him to furnish a
supply to some of my other generals who have never yet won a victory...”245
Most of his associates thought Lincoln was wasting time with his
extensive hours of granting interviews to the public. He was a man who, habit-
ually, worked long hours. He always believed that he gained a great deal from
what he termed his “public opinion baths.” There was always the chance to

244. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln, His speeches and Writings, “Annual Message to
Congress,” December 1, 1862,
245. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, One Volume Edition, p. 369.

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And the War Came

indulge in humor and sometimes it came unexpectedly, such as the day when
Lincoln took a visiting child on his lap in the white house and she said, “Oh Pa!
he isn’t ugly at all; he’s just beautiful.”246 The child’s “Pa” no doubt wished he
were somewhere else.
Davis visited the West at that time. He told the Mississippi legislature
that the North was no better than a “den of thieves.” “The poor do indeed fight
the battles of the country. It is the poor who save nations and make revolutions.”
Referring to the success of the Confederate fighters, “In spite of the disparity of
numbers, we have always whipped them.” The issue was simple, he told them:
“Will you be slaves or will you be independent?”
Referring to the hoped-for, but elusive, foreign recognition for the Confed-
eracy, he said, “‘Put not your trust in Princes.’ This war is ours, we must fight it
ourselves.” In all respects, moral as well as physical, we are better prepared than
we were a year ago. On their [Southern people] valor and the assistance of God I
confidently rely.”247
Immediately after Burnside had been placed in command, Halleck told him
to propose a plan of action for his army. Lincoln was at his wits’ end. He desper-
ately wanted to strike a blow against the Confederates that would end the war,
and end it now. Burnside was cognizant of the fact that McClellan had been
sacked because he had proceeded too cautiously. He knew that he must, in ori-
ental parlance, “chop-chop.”
Burnside conceived a plan. He would move his forces southwest towards
Gordonsville to convince Lee that the city was his destination, then abruptly
change direction to the east, heading for Fredericksburg, closer to his supply line
and to Richmond. He would cross the Rappahannock before Lee could stop him,
take the town and head for Richmond. Burnside’s prominent whisker porkchops
were the origin of the word “sideburns.”
Halleck was lukewarm toward the oft-repeated and tired strategy of
sliding by Lee to get at Richmond, but passed the decision to Lincoln, who diffi-
dently agreed to let Burnside do it his way. Lincoln sensed that speed was of the
essence and the army should capture Fredericksburg as soon as it arrived there.
He so instructed Burnside, who understood perfectly and agreed.

246. Ibid., p. 397.


247. Patricia L. Faust, ed., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, pp. 487488.

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15. Slaughter at Fredericksburg, Jubilee with Emancipation

Burnside requested supplies, including pontoon boats to cross the


Rappahannock (since the Confederates had destroyed the bridges). Halleck
assured him the supplies would be waiting for him when he arrived.
Burnside moved with alacrity and led his army forty-two miles in two and
a half days, from Warrenton to Fredericksburg where only four companies and
one cavalry regiment defended for the Confederates.
All he had to do was cross the river and the town was his. It had begun
raining, and it would pour for days. Rising water threatened the safety of the
fords — and the pontoon boats had not arrived.
Two of his commanders, Sumner and Hooker, advised crossing, but
Burnside felt the rising water might trap the soldiers on the western side of the
river, so he declined the move.
Evidently Halleck had misunderstood the urgency of the pontoon delivery.
Once he did get them moving, the rains turned the roads to mud and bridges
were washed out; he had to transfer them to boats. The pontoons arrived in Fre-
dericksburg ten precious days after the first of Burnside’s forces had arrived.
Once again, a crucial event in history devolved upon a circumstance
involving a routine error. Neither the error nor the unexpected twist of nature
alone caused the catastrophe that followed, but the combination did. Lee knew
something was happening but he could not feel certain of Burnside’s real
objective. He sent Longstreet to Fredericksburg to investigate. A Confederate
cavalry unit, scouting the area, had reported the presence of the Federals, in
force, two days after their arrival at the Rappahannock across from Freder-
icksburg. Lee directed Longstreet to continue on to Fredericksburg and occupy
the high ground south of the city and ordered the rest of his forces, including
Jackson’s, to join Longstreet.
When Lee arrived at Fredericksburg, he established a textbook defensive
position in the wooded elevations overlooking the plain on the south side of the
river. Jackson was deployed in the woods downriver. Lee ordered trees felled to
provide a commanding view of the broad, wide plain from the river to the rise
known as Marye’s Heights. Lee advised the residents to evacuate.

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And the War Came

THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, DECEMBER 11-14, 1862

Location: Fredericksburg, VA, about 30 miles south of Washington.

Generals Commanding:
Union: Ambrose E. Burnside
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

Troops available (the most ever confronting each other in the war):
Union — 116,683
Confederacy — 72,564

Burnside was keenly aware that many of his officers felt the opportunity
had been lost and they opposed his battle plan. The chance of success, now, was
slim; the chance of being slaughtered was overwhelming. Why did Burnside
elect to go ahead, in view of Lee’s position and preparations, the disadvantage of
running pontoon bridges across the river under sniper fire and the discouraging
necessity of crossing a broad plain to attack an entrenched enemy? It is possible
that he simply could not bring himself to tell Washington that he was adding
one more delay to the nauseating series of procrastinations produced by his pre-
decessor. It was a gamble, either bold or foolhardy, but if he chose not to fight,
certain disgrace awaited him.
In fact, Lee’s carefully prepared defenses, with their magnificent natural
advantages, would be about as perfect as any general ever had or could ever
want. Lee was so confident in the fighting spirit of his army he was impatient for
Burnside to attack. He told Dorsey Pender, “he would be willing to fall back and
let them cross for the sake of a fight.”248
The attack was set for the next morning. That night the Federal bands,
within earshot of both armies, played “Hail Columbia,” “The Star Spangled
Banner,” and “Yankee Doodle,” and, after a thoughtful pause, “Dixie.”
The fog lifted at 10:00 a.m. and the Northern troops moved out to cross the
plain, advancing uphill against artillery and lines of Confederates four deep
behind a stone wall by a sunken road. Artillery fire tore holes in their advancing

248. Southern Historical Society Papers, Pender Papers, William D. Pender to his wife,
December 3, 1862.

168
15. Slaughter at Fredericksburg, Jubilee with Emancipation

ranks. Artillery Colonel Porter Alexander told Longstreet, “General, a chicken


could not live on that field when we open on it.”249

When they approached within 125 yards of the Confederate ranks, the
waiting soldiers rose up like a wall and fired in sheets of flame. Confederate
volley followed upon volley. Most Yankees fell to the dubious cover of the barren
incline. A quarter of the first brigade up the hill fell as casualties. Then a whole
division was demolished.
The slaughter continued as Union soldiers futilely endeavored to storm the
wall of fire. Each new brigade, coming in succession, would be staggered, first by
artillery, then by infantry-fire until they were dead, wounded or clinging to the
ground, slippery with the blood of the fallen, desperately struggling to avoid the
fate of their predecessors. The soldiers making this charge were being paid $13/
month.
Federal General Griffin cried, “There goes one of my brigades to Hell, and
the other two will soon follow.”250 Four divisions had tried and failed to take the
enemy position. After two hours, the Federals paused to regroup.
Burnside would not change his obviously failing tactics and ordered
Hooker to cross the Rappahannock and assault Marye’s Heights with his
division. Brigade after brigade ran into the fire-storm of quadruple Confederate
lines standing behind the shoulder-high wall by the sunken road. General
Andrew Humphreys led his second brigade (which included his son) to the fray.
Seven divisions had now been thrown at Marye’s Heights incurring about
7,000 casualties to the Confederates’ twelve hundred. Not a Union soldier had
reached the wall.
Chamberlain watched from the Yankee side of the Rappahannock as the
first waves of Federal troops went to their slaughter advancing on Marye’s
Heights. At about 3:00 p.m., the Twentieth Maine was ordered across the river
There were fourteen or fifteen separate attempts to take that cursed stone
wall by the sunken road.
Following that futile, fifteenth charge, Chamberlain was lying on the frigid
ground, unhurt, in a depression near the last crest before the stone wall. He had
no overcoat and no blanket. At nightfall, he made his bed between two dark,

249. The War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 21, pp. 549-552.
250.Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four Brothers in Blue, or Sunshine and Shadows of the War of the
Rebellion: A Story of the Great Civil War from Bull Run to Appomattox, p. 213.

169
And the War Came

motionless forms, and pulled the overcoat skirt of one of them over his head for
warmth. He slept uneasily and was startled awake when a hand pulled back the
coat skirt and a dark head peered into his face. When he opened his mouth to
speak, the scrounger went off elsewhere to look for booty.

A small New Testament fell from the coat of the body at his head and
Chamberlain took it with the thought of returning it to the man’s family.
The next morning, the Sabbath, found the Twentieth Maine about eighty
yards from the wall in the rear of the last crest before it. They spent that day
being fired upon by sharpshooters on their flanks and they neither advanced nor
retreated. Their last orders were, “Hold this ground at all hazards, and to the
last.”
A New Yorker who had joined the Confederate Army killed his youngest
brother at Fredericksburg — and discovered the fact only when he turned his
victim over to strip him.
During the previous night the bitter cold froze bodies as soon as they were
dead. A distraught Burnside visited his commands that evening, aware of the
disaster and wishing he could change places with some of the men dead on the
plain. He ordered an attack in the morning, probably wishing to lead it himself.
General Sumner came to him with severe objections and Burnside asked
the advice of his other commanders. Their counsel was unanimously negative so
he relented, calling off the attack. At noon the next day, he decided to withdraw.
Richard Kirkland, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers, 19 years old, asked per-
mission to take water to the Federals on the field. He was warned he might be
shot and was refused permission to show a white handkerchief lest the enemy
think a parley was sought. Kirkland went ahead and spent hours tending to the
men on the ground. He was nicknamed, “The Angel of Fredericksburg,” and a
street in that town was later named for him.
A Union soldier philosophized, “The feeling was deep and universal that it
was of but little use to fight, unless the government could find someone to
command who would not throw away our lives in useless experiments...It was
evident to the most ordinary soldier in the ranks...that we were constantly out-
generalled rather than whipped.”251
“It was a slaughter pen,” exclaimed one Union officer, “they might as well
have tried to take hell.”252

251. Warren Lee Goss, Recollections of a Private, p. 134=135.

170
15. Slaughter at Fredericksburg, Jubilee with Emancipation

Casualties:
Union — 12,535 killed or wounded
Confederacy — about 5,000 killed or wounded

Combined casualties were three times as many as the United States suf-
fered on D-Day of the Invasion of France.

Result: Wanton destruction of Union soldiers’ lives in a horrible Federal


defeat. There followed a complete loss of confidence in the military leadership
among the ranks and among the officers of the Army of the Potomac. More and
more people in the North called for a negotiated peace.

Lincoln was reaching the end of his tether. Was there no man who could
lead his troops to victory?
The French government suggested mediation.
Former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin R. Curtis cried, “He [Lincoln] is
shattered, dazed, and utterly foolish. It would not surprise me if he were to
destroy himself.”253
Vice President Hamlin said about Lincoln, “He is a good man if there ever
was one—but God did not make him of such stuff as these times demand.”254
A Yankee soldier wrote: “If it were not treason to tell the truth I would say
that the whole army would run home if they had the chance.” “We are all tired of
the war, the whole army,” said another, “we never shall whip them I believe.”255
The editor of the Cincinnati Commercial thought the President “an awful,
woeful ass.”
Winston Churchill would later write of Lincoln: “Fortitude was written
on his countenance.”256
On New Year’s Day, 1863, Lincoln issued his Proclamation. “All persons
held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof
shall then be in rebellion...shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

252.Kennedy, Kunhardt, and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, p. 194.


253. Ibid., 423.
254. Ibid., p.426.
255. Randall C. Jimerson, The Private Civil War: Popular Thought during the Sectional Conflict, p.
230.
256.Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, vol. iv, p. 215.

171
And the War Came

The Proclamation took away property valued on tax books at nearly $3


billion, severely impacting Union sympathizers in the South as well as Confed-
erates.
McClellan considered publicly opposing the Proclamation, but was dis-
suaded by Montgomery Blair.
Many Northern soldiers had enlisted and re-enlisted to fight to maintain
the Union. Some people felt that the men would be upset to think they were
fighting to free the negroes; the main thing was to put down the Southern
rebellion. Lincoln didn’t think so. He felt when the people had time to reflect on
the situation, as he had reflected on it, they would see it as the best course for the
future of the nation.
The London Times believed the Emancipation Proclamation had “proved a
solvent which has loosened the Federal bond in the North itself,” and predicted
the imminent secession of the western states.257
Lincoln then named his fifth General of the Army of the Potomac, Joe
Hooker. He took command of a dispirited as well as underfed force of men. If
mud had slopped into the spirits of the Army of the Potomac, they had little
better to put in their stomachs. The staple food of the Union army was hardtack.
Hardtack is a plain flour and water biscuit measuring three and one-eighth by
two and seven-eighths inches, and nearly half an inch thick. It became the
standard ration, nine or ten constituting a ration — a hungry man could eat ten
in a short time and still be not be full. They usually came in one of three condi-
tions. The first was when they were so hard that they could not be bitten; it then
required a very strong blow of the fist to break them...They could not be soaked
soft, but if that were tried they assumed, in a little while, the elasticity of gutta
percha.
The second case was when they were moldy or wet.
The third condition was when, from long storage, they had become
infested with maggots and weevils. Eaten in the dark, no one could tell the dif-
ference between an infested cake and hardtack that was untenanted. It was not
uncommon occurrence for a man to find the surface of his pot of coffee
swimming with weevils, after breaking up hardtack in it. The weevils had exited
the fragments, like rats leaving a sinking ship, only to drown with a caffeine
high.258

257. New York Herald, March 5, 1863.


258. John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, pp.113-116.

172
15. Slaughter at Fredericksburg, Jubilee with Emancipation

After Fredericksburg, Lee wrote Davis, “the absolute necessity exists...to


increase our armies. Due to the disparity of numbers (between our two armies),
victory if attained, can only be achieved by a terrible expenditure of the most
precious blood of the country, which will be upon the hands of the thousands of
able bodied men who remain at home in safety and in ease. The country has yet
to learn how often, advantages, secured at the expense of many valuable lives,
have failed to produce their legitimate results by reason of our inability to pros-
ecute them. This is the difference ‘between the defeat of an army and its ruin.’
More than once have most promising opportunities been lost for want of men to
take advantage of them, and victory itself has been made to put on the
appearance of defeat, because our diminished and exhausted troops have been
unable to renew a successful struggle against fresh numbers of the enemy. The
lives of our soldiers are too precious to be sacrificed in the attainment of suc-
cesses that inflict no loss upon the enemy beyond the actual loss in battle.”259
It was through Lincoln’s insistence that some mounted infantrymen
received the Spencer repeating rifles. Chief of Ordnance, James W. Ripley, had
rejected them for infantrymen because he thought it would lead to a colossal
waste of ammunition. Although they could not have been produced in sufficient
quantities to arm the entire infantry early in the war, some prominent scholars
believe the Union could have won the war in 1862 had they been in general usage
then.
Where picket lines of both armies were near each other, there was frater-
nization: this was manifested daily on the picket-line, not only in talk across the
river (the Rappahannock), but in communication by means of miniature boats.
Adjutant Hitchcock recalled, “Our men were generally short of tobacco, and the
Johnnies had an abundance of this article of the very best quality; on the other
hand, our men were long on coffee, of which commodity they were short... ‘Say,
Yank, if I send you over a boat-load of backy will ye send her back filled with
coffee?’...Newspapers soon were called for by ‘Johnny,’...for the rebels were wild
to get our papers.”260
Many soldiers worked hard to learn to write their own letters and then
applied pressure on those back home to emulate their proud achievement, as did
Private W.W. Brown in a letter written to his mother in Georgia:

259. Clifford Dowdey and Louis H. Manarin, The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, Lee to Seddon,
January 10, 1863, pp. 388-390.
260. Frederick L. Hitchcock, War From the Inside, p. 184.

173
And the War Came

Mother when you wright to me get somebody to wright that can wright a plain
hand to read I Cold not read your leter to make sence of it is wrote so bad I have
lurned to do my own wrading and writing and it is a grate help to me.261

That March, the Confederate Congress authorized the army to supply its
needs by impressment. The Yankee blockade and occupation of food-producing
areas by Northern troops were severely hampering Southern imports and pro-
duction. Impressment meant seizure of private property from civilians: food-
stuffs, horses, livestock and equipment deemed useful to the military, in return
for certificates of credit. The measure also permitted seizure of slaves for military
labor. The impressment may have been the most hated Confederate government
action of the war. Its intentions were good but it developed into a gross evil bit-
terly resented by the populace.
Davis, like so many chief executives in history, was isolated. He had little
choice in applying hardships, but he may also have been insensitive to the
problems besetting ordinary, non-planter Southerners who suffered from
inflation, shortages, speculation and impressment.

261. Letter of W.W. Brown to his Mother, August 2, 1863.

174
16. THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE: LINCOLN’S
DEPRESSION GROWS

Hooker, full of bombast as usual, would tell anyone who would listen that
he had the finest army on the planet and that it was only a matter of time before
he would take Richmond. Lee was camped about three miles away from Hooker.
Lee’s troops were freezing and nearly starved. Many were without shoes, some
without socks, shirts or blankets and most without overcoats. Meat rations
were cut to a paltry four ounces of bacon per day. Vegetables were scarce. The
horses lacked fodder, a commodity which no longer existed in northern Virginia.
Orders were issued in Jackson’s division, directing that the men should get the
hides of the cattle that were daily killed and make moccasins of them.
The South was also ravaged by inflation. The base index had ballooned
from 100 in February, 1861, to 686 in early 1863. During the same period in the
North, the index had increased to only 114. For some families, without their men
folk to provide at home, conditions were severe. Lizzie Neblett wrote to her
soldier husband, Will, of her anguish in trying to control eleven slaves: “I am so
sick of trying to do a man’s business…tied to the house by a crying young
one…The negroes are doing nothing….so high in anticipation of their glorious
freedom by the Yankees…that they resist a whipping… I don’t think we have one
who will stay with us.”262
The somnolent cadence of the winter routine in the camps was interrupted
by the staccato sounds of breaking up and packing, readying for more marches

262. Neblett Papers, Lizzie Neblett to Will Neblett, August 18, 1863.

175
And the War Came

and battles as the third year of the war began, piling combat death and maiming
onto death from disease, and percolating misery throughout a land already
sodden with sorrow and regret.
“Fighting Joe” Hooker set his mind toward meeting and defeating “Bobby”
Lee. Lincoln wanted Hooker to meet Lee; and Joe was on his way.

THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE, MAY 1-6, 1863

Location: Chancellorsville, Virginia, a country crossroads some 30 miles


west of Fredericksburg

Generals Commanding:
Union: Joe Hooker
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: John Reynolds, 43, graduated 26th in his class at West Point,
Mexican War veteran, former commander of West Point, superb tactician, bril-
liant fighter.
George Gordon Meade, 48, born in Spain, graduated 19th in his class of 56
at West Point, former engineer, Mexican war veteran, called “old snapping
turtle,” discerning grasp of tactical or strategic situations, refused to play pol-
itics or criticize superiors, had the confidence but not the affection of his men.
Daniel E. Sickles, 44, a Democratic politician who had served in Congress,
shot and killed the son of Francis Scott Key for having an affair with his wife. His
“temporary insanity” defense, the first of its kind, was managed by Edward
Stanton. He was acquitted. The next day he told friends, “Of course I intended to
kill him. He deserved it.”263 His biographer, W. A. Sawnburg, quoted Shakes-
peare’s King Lear, referring to his subject, “He hath ever but slenderly known
himself.”264
Confederacy:
James Longstreet
Thomas J. Jackson

263. W.A. Sawnburg, Sickles the Incredible, p. 67.


264.Ibid.

176
16. The Battle of Chancellorsville: Lincoln’s Depression Grows

James Ewell Brown Stuart, graduated 13th in his class at West Point, was
requested by Lee as an aide in quelling the John Brown affair at Harper’s Ferry,
called the “Cavalier of Dixie,” courageous, famous for his circumnavigations of
Union armies while scouting their whereabouts.

Troops available:
Union — 130,000
Confederacy — 60,000

Motivation: A new Federal general’s need to satisfy Washington’s desire


that his army attack as soon as winter weather conditions abated.
Union plan: Envelop Lee’s left flank with troops and cavalry and threaten
his right flank at Fredericksburg.
Hooker’s plan would hurl 70,000 men at Lee’s left flank while two corps
would approach Fredericksburg and deploy as if to attack Jackson’s troops on
the Confederate right flank, hopefully confusing Lee. Two corps would stay put,
to be used where they would be the most effective.
The Twentieth Maine moved out of their winter quarters as one wag
described it, “The army commenced its annual movement toward Richmond,
this time its route by way of Chancellorsville.” The regiment had been placed in
quarantine a few weeks before because defective smallpox vaccine had been
administered to eighty of its men, some of whom died. Accordingly, the outfit
was held back from the front lines.
Chamberlain went to general headquarters, asking for assignment on the
battlefield. “If we couldn’t do anything else, we could give the enemy the
smallpox.”265 They were assigned guard duty, protecting Hooker’s telegraph and
signal lines in the rear.
Reputation was a cherished thing, in those days. When the troops antici-
pated going into battle soon, some would throw away their decks of playing
cards rather than risk being found dead on the battlefield with frivolous and
ungodly items on their persons, which might be reported to the folks at home.
Not only were Lee’s forces severely outnumbered by Hooker but he was
also at a 2:1 disadvantage in cannon. Hooker was supremely confident. “My plans
are perfect,” he crowed, “and when I start to carry them out, may God have
mercy on Bobby Lee; for I shall have none.”266

265. Annual Reports of the Adjutant General of the State of Maine, 1864-1865, I:331.

177
And the War Came

On May 1, near Chancellorsville, the Union army was marching on the


Plank Road and the Turnpike. Jackson, with only 14,000 men, was also moving
on the same roads, but in the opposite direction. Fighting erupted southeast of
Chancellorsville. Things were going well for the Federals when, inexplicably,
orders arrived from Hooker to stop the advance, disengage the enemy and return
to Chancellorsville where they had begun the night before. His generals were
stupefied by these orders, unaware that Hooker had lost his nerve and was going
on the defensive.
Hooker had expected Lee to retreat in the face of such great odds and,
when he did not, and showed signs of resistance, Hooker panicked. And thus the
Union army, followed step by step by the enemy, fell back to fight a defensive
battle.
After being told that Hooker’s right was not anchored, Lee had the
audacity to split his already outnumbered force and he sent Jackson on a quick
march around the Federal right. Hooker thought Lee was retreating.
Jackson’s force, arriving at the right flank of the Northern lines at 5:00
p.m., ordered an attack and the soldiers surged forward, screaming the rebel yell.
The Federals, lounging in camp, hardly got off a shot and retreated wildly into
the forest. It turned into a rout.
The Confederates advanced two miles before darkness and separation
from their commands brought them to a halt. Jackson, not satisfied with the
victory at hand, rode forward to scout out a road for a night attack, determined
to completely destroy the enemy. Around 9:00 p.m., as he returned, numerous
soldiers from the 18th North Carolina mistook his party for Federals and opened
fire on them. Three bullets found Jackson. He was taken to the rear, where his
arm was amputated. When Lee was informed of his wounding, he was nearly in
tears. Jackson died of pneumonia shortly thereafter
Hooker still had the upper hand with 76,000 troops around Chancellors-
ville, twice as many as Lee’s force which was still divided and separated by two
miles. Hooker could smash the divided Confederate forces one at a time, but he
was obsessed with remaining on the defensive and even ordered General Sickles
to abandon a strong position and pull back.
At one point Hooker was stunned by the explosion of a shell nearby and
the army was without a sentient commander for several hours. When he

266. Shelby Foote, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian, vol. II, p. 262

178
16. The Battle of Chancellorsville: Lincoln’s Depression Grows

recovered, he still let slide several opportunities and remained in a defensive


posture to the disgust of his subordinates.

Casualties:
Union — 1,606 killed, 9762 wounded, 5,919 missing
Confederacy — 1,581 killed, 8,700 wounded, 2,545 missing
The Federals had lost 17,000 men. Lee lost 13,000 men, proportionally
higher. The Army of Northern Virginia lost a staggering number of invaluable
officers, including two division leaders, 11 brigadiers, and 40 regimental com-
manders.

Result: A stunning Confederate victory against great odds due to the


remarkable boldness of Lee and Jackson and an equal measure of unaccustomed
timidity on Hooker’s part. But, the Confederates suffered a fateful cost in irre-
placeable officers at all levels.

Lee was now revered among the Confederates, along with Jackson, both
brazenly challenging the entrenched power of the Yankees.
As usual, the Confederates lost fewer men in the battle, but a higher per-
centage of their forces engaged, indeed, of their total active manpower. And, as
usual, they lost too many courageous leaders, of which they were running cru-
cially short and whom they would miss dearly during the remainder of the war.
The Southern performance was glorious but sprinkled with the seeds of ultimate
disaster.
Hooker joined the list of Northern failures. “One general after another
[Union] had his army whipped and came back with a list of excuses as long as
his casualty list.”267 Superior forces, poorly led; unlimited resources to no avail
(except to the enemy); casualties mounting; hostilities prolonged; another
month another 10,000 dead of illness; another battle another 10,000 plus casu-
alties. Lincoln, already subject to fits of depression, was facing despair.
The Peace Democrats were calling ever more loudly for a negotiated set-
tlement, even, if necessary, including recognition of independence for the South.
When Lincoln received the bad news from Chancellorsville by telegraph, his
friend Noah Brooks said, “Never as long as I knew him did he seem to be so

267. Donald McCaig, Jacob’s Ladder, p. 244.

179
And the War Came

broken, so dispirited and so ghostlike.” Lincoln paced back and forth in agony,
exclaiming, “My God! My God! What will the country say?”268
Meanwhile, the rank and file of the Army of the Potomac soldiered on
despite the debacles engendered by a succession of incompetent commanding
generals. A tedious succession of command mediocrity and incompetence did
not shake heir faith in themselves, their sundered nation, nor the plain, often
ungainly but as often majestic Illinois plainsman whose own vision for the
broken Union was as obdurate as Vermont granite.
For their part, after Chancellorsville, the Southern army was sure that the
North could never come up with a general who could defeat Robert E. Lee.
Confederate Randolph McKim wrote, “Major Wm. Duncan McKim was
killed in the conflict...he was the only officer in the division who remained
mounted in the midst of that frightful hail of bullets...the day before he had
received a severe contusion on the leg from grapeshot and the brigade surgeon
told him he was unfit for battle...but Duncan could not be restrained...he refused
to dismount because he knew he could not walk...I was now the last survivor of
the three of my name who had entered the Confederate service at the outbreak of
the war.”269
For his role in the battle, Lee appointed John Gordon Brigadier General.
A plan was maturing in Lee’s mind. He would move to the Shenandoah
River, then back into the rich farmlands of Pennsylvania, where Hooker would
be forced to follow, thus eliminating any threat to Richmond and giving more
opportunity to the Peace Democrats and anti-Lincoln forces to convince the
North to give up the war. He felt a general engagement was to be avoided; but
there might be a chance to destroy a part of the Federal Army. He faced a
decreasing supply of manpower, and in that, the North was gaining steadily.
Lee realized how badly outnumbered he was. In addition, his army was no
longer sufficiently or properly officered. Yet, in his troops his pride was
boundless. He was convinced they could accomplish anything, anywhere, if
properly led.
Throughout the preparation for, and during the initial stages of, the cam-
paign, Lee’s beloved “War-Horse” General Longstreet labored zealously to con-
vince Lee to adopt a defensive posture once in Pennsylvania. He never heard

268. Herbert Mitgang, ed., Noah Brooks, Washington, D.C. in Lincoln’s Time(Journalist’s
Lincoln), pp. 57-58
269. Randolph H. McKim, A Soldier’s Recollections, p. 132.

180
16. The Battle of Chancellorsville: Lincoln’s Depression Grows

definitive disagreement from Lee and, consequently, regarded this happy cir-
cumstance as tacit agreement with his proposal. He assumed Lee was committed
to defensive tactics, while holding an option for an offensive strike should any
appropriately attractive opportunities present themselves.
Longstreet’s assumption would become crucial at Gettysburg.
In the nocturnal quiet and darkness of the White House, the sleepless
Lincoln wandered, a tall and angular skeleton, shrouded in his long yellow night-
shirt. He moved about, his slippers flip-flopping, obsessively preoccupied and
utterly exhausted. The lines of one of his favorite poems — “The Dream,” by
Byron — cascaded through his tortured mind:

And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise


Have a far deeper madness — and the glance
of melancholy is a fearful gift;
What is it but the telescope of truth?
Which strips the distance of its fantasies.
And brings life near in utter nakedness,
Making cold reality too real!

The forlorn man fell in a heap into a chair, like a jack-knife folding up, into
a fetal position, and sobbed uncontrollably, friendless and without the support
of even a wife who could help him to endure. This was one of his most extreme
depressions, or hypos, as he liked to refer to them.
Nevertheless, he rallied once again to dedicate himself to the unfinished
task.

181
17. GETTYSURG AND VICKSBURG: THE WRITING ON THE
WALL

As he was marching into Pennsylvania, Lee pointed to the town of Get-


tysburg on his map and predicted, “Hereabout we shall probably meet the enemy
and fight a great battle, and if God gives us the victory, the war will be over and
we shall achieve the recognition of our independence.”270
In a letter home, an Irish-born carpenter from Massachusetts rebuked his
wife and father-in-law who criticized him for risking his life for the war aims of
the Lincoln Administration. “This is the first test of a modern free government in
the act of sustaining itself against internal enemies. If it fails then the hopes of
millions fall and the designs and wishes of all the tyrants will succeed. The old
cry will be sent forth from the aristocrats of Europe that such is the common lot
of all republics...Irishmen and their descendants have...a stake in this
nation...America is Irland’s refuge Irlands last hope destroy this republic and her
hopes are blasted.”271
The number of Irish who came to America had risen from 52,000 in the
1820s to more than a million in the 1850s (largely due to the potato famine). This
represented about 12 per cent of the total population of that country. In fact,
these statistics are low due to shoddy immigration paperwork procedures.

270. Southern Historical Society Papers, 26:121


271. Laurence Frederick Kohl and Margaret Cosse Richard, eds., Irish Green and Union Blue:
The Civil War Letters of Peter Welsh, Peter Welsh letter to Mary Welsh, February 3, 1863, Peter
Welsh to Patrick Prendergast, June 1, 1863, pp.65-66, 102.

183
And the War Came

Something more like 25 per cent of the population joined the “Irish Diaspora” in
the 1850s, leaving a home population of four million, the level of 1750.
Marching into Pennsylvania, the Southern boys were shocked by the
natural beauty of the countryside and the opulence of the Northern farmers.
Rich soil, fat livestock, stone homes and huge barns belied the tales that had
been told about free labor vs. slave labor. Perhaps there was more to the story
than they had been told. At the same time, one scornful Southerner described his
view of Yankee households. “They live in real Yankee style wife &
daughters...doing all the work. It makes me more than ever devoted to our own
Southern institutions.”272
John B. Gordon and his men marched north into Pennsylvania and he told
the frightened inhabitants of York that he would have the “head of any soldier
under my command who destroyed private property, disturbed the repose of a
single home, or insulted a woman.”273
After Chancellorsville, an important change occurred in the Union army.
The new officers who were now rising through the ranks would provide a lead-
ership that had been missing — and would prove conclusively that leadership
was all the soldiers had lacked heretofore.
At the beginning of the war, courage and valor were deemed the essential
qualities necessary for victory, the manly virtues of standing up face-to-face
against the enemy with solid, unwavering ranks. Reality came in the form of the
rifle and its deadly, improved bullet, the minie ball. The rifled bore imparted a
spinning motion to the minie ball. James H. Burton had modified the conoidal-
shaped minie ball developed by French officer Claude Etienne Minie, and the
altered projectile cut through the air and traveled much further and more accu-
rately than a ball. The modification removed a wooden plug at the projectile’s
base, leaving a hollow base which expanded upon explosion, trapping the force
of the blast and permitting the bullet to grip the gun’s rifling grooves for a tight
spin. The recess in its base trapped the gasses and expanded the soft lead edges
of the bullet into the rifles grooves imparting much greater velocity and
improved accuracy as compared to smooth bore rifles in which the ball literally
bounced down the barrel. Accuracy improved from 50 yards to 200 yards in
skilled hands.

272. William Calder, letter to his mother, 6/26/63.


273. John B. Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War, p. 143.

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17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

In his Personal Memoirs, General Grant wrote that an enemy could fire at
you with a smooth-bore musket from several hundred yards distance “all day
without your finding it out.”274 Because of the range of the newly developed
bullets, armies formed further apart and attackers had to cover greater distances
under fire to get at the defenders. Retreating soldiers also used rifles for better
defense, rendering battles less decisive. According to the research of scholar
Paddy Griffith, the average distance of infantry fights was 127 yards.
A skilled infantryman could fire three rounds a minute. After eight shots in
succession, his rifle barrel would be extremely hot from the explosions and the
friction of the bullets gripping the grooves. After twelve firings, he could not
touch the barrel even through a piece of his clothing. After four minutes in
action, therefore, he could no longer shoot at the enemy; but they would still be
shooting at him. After ten rounds with a black powder weapon, the crust of
burnt gunpowder would foul the barrel and great strength was required to ram
the bullet home. Since the residue filled the grooves first, accuracy declined
steadily. After twelve firings the gun was virtually unusable so he had to search
for a replacement, often from the dead or wounded, or clean his rifle while either
hiding behind a tree or other protection, or while lying down. The cleaning
process required water, patches and percussion caps, and took several minutes.
Units that experienced water shortages were in deep trouble during a battle.
The problems of keeping a rifle usable could explain the falling behind of many
soldiers during attack or soldiers drifting away from their units during battle.
Lincoln accepted Hooker’s resignation following a wrangle over whether
to relieve the garrison at Harper’s Ferry. Resisting pressure from important
Pennsylvanians to reappoint McClellan, the President named Gordon Meade,
himself a Pennsylvanian, to lead the Army of the Potomac.

THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG, JULY 1-3, 1863

Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a small crossroads town about 60 miles


north of Washington with 2391 residents, of which 8 per cent were black (the
town had been a stop on the “underground railroad”). Eighty per cent of the res-
idents were born in Pennsylvania; one in fourteen listed European birthplaces. It
had twice the percentage of immigrants found in Southern states but well below

274. Joseph T. Glatthaar, Battlefield Tactics, p. 63.

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And the War Came

the 20 per cent aggregate of the North. Black children attended a separate
“colored” school. There were twenty-two shoemakers in the town but no shoe
factory nor shoe warehouse. Lincoln had received 54 per cent of the town’s 1860
vote. In 1864, Gettysburg would vote for Lincoln, against the Democrats and
McClellan, 259 to 178.

Generals Commanding:
Union: George Meade
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: John Reynolds
Winfield Scott Hancock
Confederacy: James Longstreet
A. P. Hill
Richard Stoddard Ewell: 46, Virginian, West Point, Mexican War veteran,
Indian fighter, lost a leg in the battle of Second Bull Run and was recuperated
until the battle of Gettysburg.

Troops available:
Union — 85,500
Confederacy — 75,000

Confederate Plan: Move north into Pennsylvania under cover of the Blue
Ridge Mountains, feed the nearly starving soldiers off the land, confuse the
enemy as to Lee’s intentions, capture Harrisburg if practicable, then the rail line
from there to Philadelphia; engage the Union army, if they appeared, on ground
of Lee’s choosing; if not, head for Washington or Baltimore and wreak more
havoc until the Yankee forces did appear.
The crossing into Maryland began on June 15 and into Pennsylvania on the
24th. The plan started off well. Removing the troops from Virginia gave that
state a respite during which to regenerate food production. The Northern army
lost several days before it had intelligence of Lee’s movements and had to
proceed at a grueling pace to catch up.
On July 1, Confederate General Heth’s 7500 men advanced toward Get-
tysburg, expecting to roll over the local militia. Unknown to the General, Union
General Buford was in Gettysburg with his cavalry regulars. He stretched his

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17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

lines thin, determined to hold off the rebels until support arrived. Heth was sur-
prised by the strength of the Federal resistance, which slowed his advance.
Buford’s dismounted troopers were beginning to give way when General Rey-
nolds arrived and threw his men into line, riding among them and shouting
encouragement. Suddenly he was it by a bullet in the back of his head and fell
dead from his horse. Reynolds was one of the most highly regarded generals in
the Union and had turned downed Lincoln’s offer of Command of the Army of
the Potomac when Hooker was relieved.
Major General Abner Doubleday (erroneously credited, by some, as the
inventor of baseball) took charge for Reynolds. Doubleday was nicknamed
“Forty-Eight Hours” because of his McClellan-like slowness in conducting oper-
ations.
The Union troops on the Federal right were caught in a deadly crossfire as
General Early’s forces attacked from the north while other Southern groups
assaulted from the west. After sustained and fierce combat, the Federal lines
broke and, by 4:30 p.m., both Union corps were retreating toward Gettysburg.
General Gordon engaged the Federals north of town and drove them back,
fleeing through town to the south. Gordon’s 1,200 men had inflicted 1,200 to
1,500 Yankee casualties and captured 1,800 more in an hour.
As Gordon was riding through his lines on his midnight black stallion an
officer asked him where his fallen were laid. “I haven’t got any, sir,” he answered.
“The almighty has covered my men with his shield and buckler.”275
Later that evening, Lee shifted his entire army to the right to attack the
Federal left. Confusion over orders from Lee caused a delay or postponement of
the Confederate assaults. Lack of pursuit probably saved the Union army from
defeat in one day at Gettysburg. At the end of that first day, the Federals
retreated from McPherson’s Ridge to Cemetery Ridge south of town. Had the
onrushing rebels managed to mount a unified assault on Cemetery Hill, or had
Early attempted to take Culp’s Hill, the battle of Gettysburg might have ended
then and there, a Confederate victory.
The Confederates had won day one, but Meade’s forces were marching
rapidly toward Gettysburg. Lee’s plan for July 2 was for Longstreet’s divisions to
attack the Federal left en echelon, from right to left, with Hill continuing the

275. Mark Perry, Conceived in Liberty, Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates and the American Civil
War, p. 206.

187
And the War Came

movement in turn against the Federal center while Ewell initiated a diversionary
attack against the Federal right.
Longstreet, trying to avoid detection during his march to get in position, as
instructed, ended up retracing his steps and losing time. It was after 3:30 p.m.
before his men were in place. Things had changed along the Union front and an
entire corps was now waiting for him.
Meade used the short arc of his interior lines adroitly to rush men from
quiet sectors to hot spots. The unevenness of the Confederate attacks abetted
his strategy. Lee’s plan for the echelon attack was frustrated by his lieutenants’
inability to execute the difficult movement precisely, resulting in attacks in fits
and starts, without concert and rhythm, ending in confusion.
The battle was raging below in the Devil’s Den and Peach Orchard.
Colonel Vincent positioned his brigade in a quarter circle around the southern
spur, some distance below the peak, of Little Round Top. This was the most
effective place for artillery. The Twentieth Maine, numbering a little more than
358 men and 28 officers, held down the left, facing the 305-foot promontory of
Big Round Top.
The position had to be held in the face of an assault expected momentarily
or the Federal left would be turned. If the Confederates should occupy the
Round Tops, they would interdict Federal supplies and the road to Washington
would be open to them. The last words Chamberlain heard from Vincent were,
“Hold that ground at all hazards.”
Chamberlain sent out about forty skirmishers to protect his exposed left
flank and released the regimental pioneers, provost guard and their Union pris-
oners to take up muskets. His regiment took shelter behind the rocks and trees.
Seven Southern regiments headed for the southern spur of Little Round Top.
Colonel Oates’ 15th Alabama was endeavoring to march around the Union
left flank as he had been ordered when he had won control of Big Round Top.
Moving behind his ranks and preparing his thoughts for battle, the sudden
silence of Confederate artillery warned Chamberlain that Southern infantry was
close.
Soon the 20th was engaged all along the line. Chamberlain was alerted by
Lt. Nichols that something odd was going on behind the attacker’s lines. Cham-
berlain climbed on top of a rock to see Oates’ Alabamans marching around his
left flank. He ordered the men to keep firing, to conceal a sidestep movement to
the left and rear. It was executed flawlessly, a payoff for hours of drill and disci-
pline. Oates wheeled his men left, expecting to have flanked the Federals, only to

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17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

be met with a terrific surge of fire, “the most destructive I have ever seen,” he
declared.276
The Confederate lines were ripped apart, but they kept coming. They were
within 30 feet of the Yankees before being forced to retire. A series of new
attacks followed and the edge of the fight rolled backward and forward like a
wave. As the conflict extended to two hours, Chamberlain observed.
“The two lines met and broke and mingled in the shock. The crash of mus-
ketry gave way to cuts and thrusts, grapplings and wrestlings. The edge of the
conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies. At times I saw
around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening, swallowing,
closing again with sharp convulsive energy; squads of stalwart men who had cut
their way through us, disappearing as if translated. All around, strange mingled
roar — shouts of defiance, rally, and desperation; and underneath, murmured
entreaty and stifled moans; gasping prayers, snatches of Sabbath song, whispers
of loved names; everywhere men torn and broken, staggering, creeping, quivering
on the earth, and dead faces with strangely fixed eyes staring into the sky, things
which cannot be told or dreamed. How men held on, each one knows — not I.
But manhood commands admiration.”277
One third of the 20th Maine was dead or badly wounded. Chamberlain’s
men were virtually without ammunition. Some officers were shouting that they
were “annihilated.” He knew the line could not withstand another attack, being
outnumbered two to one. He thought “only a desperate chance was left.” He
yelled, “We are to make a great right wheel,” and stepping to the colors shouted,
“Bayonet... Forward...”278 The remainder of his command was unheard in the din
of metal clashing on metal while a wild yell rose from the remnant of the reg-
iment. The colors moved forward with Chamberlain beside them.
The awesome and fearful sight of two hundred men rushing at them with
bayonets pointed downhill unnerved the Confederates, many of whom surren-
dered or headed for the rear.
Men from another Yankee Company rose and fired on the Confederate
flank. The Yankee officers then shouted “charge.” Oates felt he was being ham-
mered by superior forces all around him. His officers reported Federal reinforce-

276. William C. Oates, Gettysburg, the Battle on the Right, p. 176


277. Joshua L. Chamberlain, Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg, p. 903.
278. Ibid., p.906.

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And the War Came

ments in the rear. He had lost half his officers and men. He signaled retreat. He
and his men, he later recounted, “ran like a herd of wild cattle.”279
Chamberlain was shot at in close range, the man aiming at his face, but the
shot missed him and the man surrendered when Chamberlain pricked his neck
with the point of his sword. The Twentieth had captured 400 prisoners, killed
50 and wounded another 100. Chamberlain was then informed that Colonel
Vincent had fallen, mortally wounded, early in the battle.
Both Oates and Chamberlain had lost over forty per cent of their men, dead
wounded or missing.
Two Confederate divisions, stalled by their commanders’ indecision or
lack of will to take matters into their own hands, crippled Lee’s offensive plan
and by 8:30 p.m. the nearly successful Southern onslaught ground to a halt after
fearful slaughter on both sides. Lee’s orders had been sparse and fuzzy. The com-
plicated maneuvers he had ordered lacked the precise coordination required.
That night, Lee finalized his plans for the next day. Attack! But Longstreet
was not through with his objections. He argued “that the distance to be covered
by the assault, 1400 yards, was too great for success.”
Longstreet asked Lee about the strength of Pickett’s Brigade. He estimated
15,000. Longstreet voiced the opinion “that the fifteen thousand men who could
make successful assault over that field had never been arraigned for battle; but
[Lee] was impatient of listening and tired of talking.”280
Longstreet, who always wore his carpet slippers into battle, recalled
Jackson’s remark, made shortly before he was killed, “We sometimes fail to drive
the enemy from a position, but they always fail to drive us.”281 Longstreet was
one of the few American soldiers who understood that the days of fair fights
were being replaced by an age of mechanized killing. Life, he knew too well, was
not fair, either. The previous winter, he had lost three children in a single week
to disease.
He pondered Lee’s “headlong combativeness.” If a blow was struck against
Lee, he “wished to return it on the spot.”282 That sentiment constituted Long-
street’s only criticism of Lee, whom he considered “perfect” in defensive warfare.

279.William C. Oates, Gettysburg, the Battle on the Right, p. 178.


280. James I Robertson, ed., General James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox,
Memoirs of the Civil War in America, “The Battle of Gettysburg.”
281.G. F. R. Henderson, Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War, vol. II, p. 465.
282.Glenn Tucker, Lee and Longstreet at Gettysburg, p. 254.

190
17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

It was, he felt, simply that “when the hunt was up, his combativeness was
overruling.”283
Pickett would command the assault force, lines of two ranks, around one
mile wide, that would converge upon the Union lines at and angle of about 25
degrees, moving toward the north. The men had been told what they were facing
and that capture of the Federals’ key position would end the war. Forty-six regi-
ments prepared to assault the Ridge where the Yankees waited.
Meade had reconsidered the likely point of Lee’s attack and decided it
would be near the Round Tops, so he shifted personnel accordingly. This left
some 5750 infantry to face Lee’s nearly 11,000 men in the center. The Federals
had placed 103 guns on Cemetery Ridge.

It was 3:00 p.m. when Pickett, whose division had lost over 500 men in the
cannonade prior to the charge, rode over to Longstreet, who was not far off, and
asked “General, shall I advance?” Longstreet turned around to answer but no
words came from his mouth. Unable to speak his will, he bowed his head (was it
a nod?).
Pickett immediately saluted, and said, “I shall lead my division forward,
Sir,” and galloped off to put it in motion.
Longstreet rode away to find Colonel Alexander. Hearing that the artil-
leryman was low on ammunition, he cried, “Go and stop Pickett where he is, and
replenish your ammunition.” Alexander explained that reserves were low and it
would take an hour to replenish, even with the little ammunition available. He
thought this too much time to give the Yankees. Longstreet was distraught and
spoke slowly, with great emotion. “I don’t want to make this charge. I don’t
believe it can succeed. I would stop Pickett now, but that General Lee has
ordered it and is expecting it.”284
In New York, the stock market had just closed, up, believing the day at
Gettysburg was favorable to the Union. New York Central Railroad gained 1 3/4.
Pickett rode out in front of his men and, in a loud and clear voice, shouted,
“Charge the enemy and remember Old Virginia!”
Picket faced his men left as they emerged from the woods to close with
Pettigrew’s Division, exposing his right flank to artillery on the southern slope of
Seminary Ridge. The Federals could not see the oncoming rebels but were

283. Ibid.
284. Southern Historical Society Papers, 4:107-108.

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And the War Came

alerted by signalmen from Little Round Top. In less than five minutes Pickett’s
men came into the view of the Yankees. They were moving at quick-step, 110
paces per minute.
The Federals opened with artillery, knowing they could not miss, at times
killing ten men with a single shell. The Yankees were awed by the aplomb with
which the Rebel soldiers filled their torn ranks.
The assault had covered half the distance to the Union lines in eight
minutes, and had been under artillery for half that time.
The total number of attacking troops was around 10,500, including 4,900
Virginians, 3,600 North Carolinians, 1,100 from Mississippi, 550 from Tennessee
and 250 from Alabama. They would meet slightly more than half their number in
defensive positions on Cemetery Ridge, including 1,600 New Yorkers, 1,400 from
Vermont, 1,000 from Pennsylvania and 475 from Massachusetts.
Then it happened. All along the Confederate line the canister struck.
Officers went down. Flags went down — and up again. The soldiers pressed
forward, stooped forward as if leaning into a storm. The Southerners were being
torn by shells and, as they approached the stone wall at 200 yards distance, 1700
muskets and 11 cannon suddenly exploded on them. The Rebel lines were lost in
dust and smoke with equipment and body parts tossed pell-mell into the air. A
collective moan was heard, above the din of battle. Pickett’s Division virtually
disappeared. Through the smoke, hovering over the battlefield, stragglers
appeared, staggering piecemeal back to the Confederate lines.
Union General Hancock, commanding the defenders, was hit in the groin
by a minie ball which drove a nail from his saddle and some splinters before it.
An aide caught the slumping General and eased him to the ground. He refused to
leave the field.
The tide of battle was turning against the Rebels. Singly, and in little
pockets, their men streamed toward the rear. There were still a few isolated
charges at the Angle but all were bloodily repulsed. Then, of a sudden, from two
directions, the Union colors surged forward, followed by a sharp yell; soldiers
charged over the wall where the outnumbered Confederates fought briefly hand-
to-hand and then began surrendering.
One tree in the line of fire had 250 bullets in it. One board on a fence, in the
path of the Confederate advance, had 837 holes in it. It measured fourteen inches
wide by sixteen feet long.
Captain Barre, a father of three, known for his beautiful voice, had both his
arms and both his legs shattered by balls. There were two more lodged near his

192
17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

spine. He awoke from unconsciousness, lying on the ground near a hospital, and
said, “I wish I were a child again, just for tonight.” He died a half hour later.285
The Union suffered 1500 casualties in the charge, roughly one in four
engaged, Confederate casualties were 6025, or 60 per cent plus 792 unwounded
prisoners. Some Southern brigades lost 74 per cent and three companies claimed
100 per cent. Adjusting the relative losses by accounting for the Confederate
practice of not counting as wounded any men who could stay with their regi-
ments, the real figures might be close to 7500 casualties or 5:1 over the Federal
losses. Confederate soldiers taken prisoner were estimated at 3750.
Lee lost at Gettysburg, on July 3, almost one third of his army killed,
wounded and missing. In three days the Confederates suffered over 23,000 casu-
alties.
Meade and the Union army made no effort to pursue the disorganized,
demoralized and vanquished enemy. As historian Douglas Southall Freeman has
written, “If the Confederates were disorganized, the enemy was irresolute.”

Casualties:
Union — 2,592 killed, 12,706 wounded, 5,150 captured and missing —
Total: 20,448
Confederacy — 3,070 killed, 14,497 wounded, 5,434 captured and missing —
Total: 23,001

Result: A decisive Union victory and a shaken Army of Northern Virginia


meant that the South’s aura of invincibility was shattered. This was a great relief
for Abraham Lincoln, but he was disconsolate at what he considered to be a lost
opportunity to end the war. Now, in the North, there was hope; more than hope,
a rebirth of conviction that they would prevail. There was an increase in the
respect the two armies had for each other: new respect for the determination and
capability of the Army of the Potomac, and an ever growing respect for the
courage and fighting spirit of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The battle took three days. It took 300 surgeons five days to perform the
necessary amputations. Lee concluded later: “If I had had Stonewall Jackson
with me, so far as I can see, I should have won the battle of Gettysburg.”286

285. John Ames, letter to his mother, July 8, 1863.


286. William J. Jones, Personal Reminiscences of Lee, p. 156.

193
And the War Came

The day after Gettysburg Halleck wired Meade in Lincoln’s words, “You
are strong enough to attack and defeat the enemy before he can effect a crossing
[of the Potomac]...Call no council of War. It is proverbial that councils of war
never fight...Do not let the enemy escape.”287
Still, Meade did not follow up the victory.
Lincoln told Secretary Welles, “And that, my God, is the last of this Army
of the Potomac. There is bad faith somewhere.”288
As William Faulkner imagined so elegantly, for every white Southern boy,
it is always two o’clock on July 3, 1863, just a moment before Pickett’s Charge
dealt a fatal blow to the cherished myth of Southern invincibility.
Sydney Richardson, a Georgian, had written to his parents before the
battle: “Don’t grieve about me, If I get killed, I’ll only be dead... [i]t looks like it
does not do any good to whip them here in this state and out West they are
tearing everything to pieces...But I am willing to fight them as long as General
Lee says fight.”289
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was promoted to command of a brigade.
Double trouble bubbled in the cauldron of the Confederacy: Gettysburg in
the east and Vicksburg in the west, the last stronghold preventing the Yankees
from dividing the South down the Mississippi. The anniversary of the Decla-
ration of Independence, “fourscore and seven years ago,” was underscored by
twin disasters for Southern independence, tilting the fortunes of civil war
northward.
Out in the Western Sector, following his victory at Corinth, Grant turned
his attention to the last Confederate bastion on the Mississippi, Vicksburg.

The Siege of Vicksburg, May 18 to July 4, 1863

Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi. The counties containing Vicksburg and


Natchez were the only two in Mississippi that voted against secession.

Generals Commanding:
Union: Ulysses S. Grant

287. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 414.


288. Ibid., p. 415.
289. Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War, pp. 258,272-280.

194
17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

Confederacy: John C. Pemberton, 49, graduated 27th in his class of 50 at


West Point where, despite being raised in Philadelphia, he developed a strong
attachment to Southerners and began espousing “States Rights.” Seminole War
veteran, Mexican War veteran, married a Virginia girl, resigned his U.S. Com-
mission to join the CSA army after Sumter while two of his brothers remained in
the Union army. He was trapped between the reciprocal animosity of Davis and
Johnston who were both acting as his boss.

Key supporting Generals:


Union: William Tecumseh Sherman
Confederacy: None in particular

Troops available:
Union — 45,000
Confederacy — 30,000 in Vicksburg, 20,000 in Jackson with Johnston

The Confederates had constructed a 7-mile semicircle of earthworks


around the town, terminating at the river at each end. Despite some brief suc-
cesses, the Yankees were repulsed across the entrenchment arc. The defendants
had mowed down the bayonet-wielding attackers and the Federals lost 3199
men to the Confederates’ less than 500.
Sixty thousand feet of trenches were dug at Vicksburg during the 47-day
siege. This was grinding warfare presaging that of a later day.
By mid-June, in excess of 200 Federal cannon were shelling Vicksburg
from the land while Admiral Porter’s ships frequently shelled it from the river.
The inhabitants had left their homes and burrowed into the hillsides, making
caves, some 500 of them.
By July 1, it was becoming apparent to the Confederate and Union com-
mands that the fall of Vicksburg was imminent. Yankee sharpshooters were
making life hell in the Southern trenches. The Confederate soldiers were
exhausted and hungry. They had been living on insufficient rations since the
siege began. Livestock was gone, dogs and cats disappeared, and mules began to
be devoured. Water was short and guards were posted at the wells to keep sol-
diers from wasting water “for the purposes of cleanliness.”
Southern commander Pemberton, seeing no alternative, sent a feeler to
Grant, suggesting capitulation. Later they met, and Grant offered parole to Pem-

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And the War Came

berton’s forces upon surrender of the town. After midnight, on July 4, Pemberton
accepted Grant’s terms and surrendered the city and his 30,000 men.
Grant immediately delivered food to the city. The Federal sentinels
brought food in their haversacks.

Casualties:
Union —763 killed, 3746 wounded, 162 missing/captured
Confederacy —805 killed, 1938 wounded, 129 missing/captured, 29,491 sur-
rendered
Result: A stunning shock (in tandem with Gettysburg) to the South,
obliterating the elation and sense of victory which had reigned shortly before.
The entire Mississippi River was now open to Northern shipping. A major
wound had been opened in the western end of the Confederate corpus.
The ten Mississippi Counties and Louisiana Parishes within a 100-mile
radius of Vicksburg produced one-seventh of the entire Southern cotton crop in
1850, generating revenues which were crucial to the war effort. The high tide of
the Confederacy began receding from Pennsylvania and the banks of the Missis-
sippi.
Grant conferred the honor of first entering Vicksburg on McPherson’s
XVII Corps, and singled out McPherson for exceptional praise in his report to
Washington. He also received the Gold Medal of Honor award from a board of
soldier peers in Grant’s army.
McPherson selected the most destitute of the families to receive provisions
from the Federal army and issued humane regulations which brought censure
from some Northern papers for “soft” treatment of the Southerners. He
responded, “When the time comes that to be a soldier a man has to overlook the
claims of humanity, then I do not want to be a soldier.”290
Many Southerners refused to recognize Gettysburg and Vicksburg as her-
alding the future. Others dared not declare publicly their presentiments. Their
President would not allow such a thought to form.
And so, the unfortunate courage to press on to whatever culmination,
would cost an enormous number of additional lives, over 200,000 from sickness
alone plus a horrendous number of battle deaths and maiming in some of the
fiercest fighting of the war.

290. Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the War, op. cit.

196
17. Gettysurg and Vicksburg: The Writing on the Wall

Lucy Buck of Front Royal, Virginia, lamented in her diary, “We shall never
any of us be the same as we have been.”291
The war was not about to end. It was barely more than half over. No one
could have endured that knowledge if they had possessed it. Southern pride and
Yankee hatred would fuel Confederate ardor for a long time to come. Besides,
they believed they could win every battle forthcoming. A couple of setbacks
meant nothing in the long run.
Lincoln’s sense of humor revived. At the opera, noting the exceptionally
large feet of one of the leading female singers, Lincoln commented, “the beetles
wouldn’t have much of a chance there.”

For 78 years after its fall, until the patriotism of the Second World War
overcame the anguish of its memory, the city of Vicksburg did not celebrate
“Independence Day.”
Three days after the battle, Lincoln received a dispatch from Admiral
David Dixon Porter, through Navy Secretary Welles, relating the wonderful
news of Vicksburg. Lincoln rejoiced. Even Southerners had to concede that
Grant was tenacious, and undeterred by apparently insurmountable obstacles.
The hope that the need for cotton would induce England and France to
recognize the Confederacy was beginning to be exposed as fantasy. Jeff Davis
never knew that England and France had stashed away a two-year supply of
cotton in their warehouses by the time the war began.
General Sherman was a man of substantial intellect. He had thought about
the war, the people North and South, both of whom he knew well, and arrived at
some conclusions he thought best for the country and which, while sounding
harsh, would spill far less blood than “moderate” strategies that in fact piled up
casualties by failing to bring resolution to the crisis. He wrote to Lincoln, with
his thoughts on the future conduct of the war. He was well-acquainted with the
Southern psyche, having lived among them for years. He was certain that the
South would never quit the war unless they suffered decisive, destructive blows
to their means of industrial and agricultural production and to the morale of
their home front. Their armies, while they may have been defeated in a few
battles, were far from destroyed. Faith in Robert E. Lee was boundless. All they
needed, they felt, was another chance at the Northern armies, more generals like
Lee, and an end to the incompetence in Richmond. With the Yankees there to

291.Lucy Rebecca Buck, Sad Earth, Sweet Heaven: The Diary of Lucy Rebecca Buck, p.50.

197
And the War Came

hate, the concept of subjugation to the North would inspire the Rebel soldier to
fight to his death. The threat to the Southern culture and slavery was a bond that
Gettysburg and Vicksburg could not dissolve.
Lincoln wrote a public letter which was read aloud in a Union rally back in
Springfield in the summer of 1863. He knew the message would reach all the cit-
izens of the North. Beginning with the dissatisfaction of many over his use of too
much force to restore the Union, he said that only three options existed: to fight
to put down the rebellion; to let the Union dissolve; or to accept some com-
promise — and no compromise remained, in his view, which could preserve the
Union. Second, he addressed the “Negro question.” For those who disliked the
emancipation proclamation, he observed that there were negroes fighting on
behalf of the Union. They could hardly be expected to continue doing so without
some motive… “And then, there will be some black men who can remember that,
with silent tongues, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised
bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear,
there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and
deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it...Thanks to all, for the Great
Republic — for the principle it lives by, and keeps alive — for man’s vast future
— thanks to all.”292

292. Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings, Lincoln to James C. Conkling,
August 26, 1863.

198
18. THE BATTLES OF CHICKAMAUGA AND MISSIONARY
RIDGE: GENERAL GRANT

Lincoln and Halleck were pressing General Rosecrans, without success, to


take the offensive in Tennessee, the only major theater of war left in the West.
They wanted to capture Chattanooga, population 3500, to gain control of the
junction of four vital railroad lines which transported a large percentage of the
Confederacy’s arms, munitions and food. The city was also a gateway to Atlanta.
Rosecrans had fought and beaten Bragg at Stones River (Murphreesboro), Ten-
nessee in January. Bragg had retired thirty miles to the southeast searching for
reinforcements to defend against the next Yankee attack. They did not arrive.
Rosecrans, though a hard fighter in battle, once again frustrated the Adminis-
tration by not advancing on the vulnerable enemy. Rosecrans had sulked
because General Grant outranked him.
In August, the Federals finally stirred, threatening to capture Chattanooga
and the Confederate forces therein. During a bombardment of Cleburne’s
position upriver, a shell landed three or four feet from Cleburne but did not
explode. Cleburne offered no comment and returned to his observations of the
enemy. A staffer wrote home, “The Yankees are determined if they cannot kill
him in reality, they will in imagination, on paper.
Bragg vacillated for some time before finally deciding to evacuate Chatta-
nooga. They faced a federal Corps of 40,000 more men than Bragg had in his
entire army.
Rosecrans sent his forces in pursuit of Bragg, believing the Confederates to
be retreating in disorder. In reality, Bragg had stopped 25 miles south of Chatta-

199
And the War Came

nooga, was reorganizing, and received 20,000 reinforcements from Knoxville and
western Tennessee.

The Battle of Chickamauga, September 19 and 20, 1863

Location: a creek, known to the Indians as “the river of blood,” a few miles
southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Generals Commanding:
Union: William S. Rosecrans
Confederacy: Braxton Bragg: graduated 5th in his class at West Point, Sem-
inole War veteran, Mexican War veteran.

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: Thomas L. Crittenden
George H. Thomas: Virginia-born, graduated 5th in his class at West Point,
Seminole War veteran, Mexican War veteran, considered a traitor by Virginians
for staying with the Union.

Troops available:
Union — 80,000
Confederacy — 65,000

Confederate motivation: To stem the Confederate retreat in Tennessee, capi-


talize on the chance to destroy the divided Union Army.
Plan: Attack the left flank of Union General Crittenden’s Corps, destroy it,
and cut off the retreat of the rest of Rosecran’s army to Chattanooga.

In mid-September, General Longstreet arrived from Virginia with rein-


forcements to support Bragg. Longstreet had importuned Lee to allow his men to
temporarily join the western forces.
The troops had boarded boxcars, flat cars, coal cars and mail cars for the
roundabout trip from Virginia to Atlanta over a patchwork rail system, with fre-
quently changing track gages. At nighttime, as they passed through towns, vil-
lages and crossings, women, children and old men lined the roadbed in tribute,
keeping their bands silent as the dark forms slept on top of and in the cars, the

200
18. The Battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge: General Grant

flower of the South, Longstreet’s men, from Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
From Atlanta they marched to Tennessee. The entire trip covered 1000 miles.
Rosecrans and Longstreet had been roommates at West Point and the bril-
liant Rosecrans had helped “Old Pete” through his studies.
To commence the battle, Bragg sent his men to cross Chickamauga Creek.
The fight turned into a brawl. That night, Union General Rosecrans and his gen-
erals decided to stand on the defensive. The next morning, the Confederates
attacked. Rosecrans and several of his subordinates decided the battle was lost
and fled the field. As was common in Bragg’s army, the Confederate dawn
attacks were delayed and uncoordinated.
Union General Thomas remained on the field and conducted a heroic
defense against superior numbers while the remaining Federal troops retired.
Cleburne’s force came up against Thomas’ entrenchments in a semi-cir-
cular salient, where they enjoyed a 4 to 1 advantage in that mile of the line.
Cleburne thought he had lost 500 men in five minutes, bringing the assault to a
line less than 200 yards from the enemy.
Thirty-four thousand men fell in two days, over half of them Confederate.
Bragg’s soldiers had presented him with a victory but the brooding general could
not recognize it, and failed to pursue his defeated enemy and rout them.
Colonel Oates, of the 15th Alabama recalled, “I knew a soldier in the reg-
iment named Smith who always ate all his rations at the first halt on the march.
It mattered not whether his rations were for one, two, or three days, he ate them
all at once just the same, not because he was hungry; but, as he said, his rations
were easier to carry that way than in his haversack.”293

Casualties:
Union — 1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded, 4,757 missing — total 16,170
Confederacy — 2,312 killed, 14,678 wounded, 1,468 missing — total 18,458

Result: A brutally fought, bushwhacking Confederate victory that Bragg


failed to capitalize upon by not destroying Rosecrans’ army. As a result, Lincoln
changed commanders — and the tide of the war, in Tennessee, turned against
the Confederates. Once again Southern blood, nobly spilled, bought only more

293. Mark Perry, Conceived in Liberty, Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates And the American Civil
War, pp. 236-237.

201
And the War Came

suffering, more setbacks and more agony as the South celebrated yet another
victory on the road to disaster.

Two days later, Rosecrans’ survivors had retreated to the defenses of Chat-
tanooga. Bragg marched north and occupied the heights of Missionary Ridge
overlooking Chattanooga and then extended his domain to Lookout Mountain
when Rosecrans unaccountably abandoned it.
Lincoln, meanwhile, appointed Grant head of three armies: Rosecrans’
Army of the Cumberland; Burnside’s Army of the Ohio; and Sherman’s Army of
the Tennessee. Grant appointed Sherman as his replacement. Sherman mused, “I
am a damned sight smarter than Grant; I know a great deal more about war, mil-
itary history, strategy, and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organi-
zation, supply, and administration and about everything else than he does; but
I’ll tell you where he beats me and where he beats the world. He don’t care a
damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell!”294
That November, in Gettysburg, a memorial was held for the soldiers who
had lost their lives there. After Senator Everett’s long peroration, probably
exceeding 15,000 words, the brevity of Lincoln’s 272-word address, written on
foolscap, caught the audience by surprise. Lincoln returned to his seat 135
seconds after he began. Lincoln’s words snared attention with their stunning
simplicity, resonance, elegance of thought and uncommon sense.
His speech contained only two four-syllable words (proposition, alto-
gether) and just eleven different three-syllable words (continent, government,
battlefield, remember, dedicate, ed[6], consecrate, ed[2], devotion[2] liberty,
remaining, unfinished, devotion).
A British observer commented, “It may be doubted whether any king in
Europe would have expressed himself more royally than the peasant’s son.”295
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a profile of Lincoln, reprinted in Littel’s
Living Life, likening Lincoln to a wire cable whose strength sways and yields, yet
tenaciously holds fast.

294. Wilson, Under the Old Flag: Recollections of Military Operations in the War for the Union, The
Spanish War, The Boxer Rebellion etc., 2 vol., 2:17.
295.Goldwin Smith, “President Lincoln”, MacMillan’s Magazine. Reprinted in The Living Age
84 (1865):427.

202
18. The Battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge: General Grant

THE BATTLE OF MISSIONARY RIDGE, NOVEMBER 23-25, 1863

Location: The Mountain Ridge overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee

Generals Commanding:
Union: Ulysses S. Grant
Confederacy: Braxton Bragg

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: William Tecumseh Sherman
George W. Thomas
Joe Hooker
Confederacy: William J. Hardee
James Longstreet

Troops available:
Union — 86,000
Confederacy — 49,000

Motivation: Break out of Chattanooga, assume the offensive, drive Bragg’s


army out of Tennessee, and, Grant’s guiding principle — seek battle to decide all
issues.
Sherman’s forces numbered 26,000. They faced 10,000 Confederate troops
in vastly superior defensive array on and around Missionary Ridge.
The Rebels unleashed devastating fire into line after line of Federal troops,
which kept coming in waves. The battle extended into hours of carnage. The
Confederate artillery could not depress their pieces low enough to fire on the
Yankees and, as the Northerners climbed the slopes hand over hand, the Rebels
rolled large stones down upon them.
The Federals regrouped and came on again. Despite heavy losses on both
sides, they fell back a second time. About 1:00 p.m., they came a third time and
were repulsed again.
Grant had sent Hooker to pressure the Confederate left and his troops
were delayed by Confederate obstacles, but finally arrived at 3:00 p.m. The
Yankees overpowered the Confederates with superior numbers. With dark
approaching, Grant sent Thomas to take the Confederate rifle pits at the foot of
Missionary Ridge and then await further orders.

203
And the War Came

Bragg had thinned his lines dangerously. Half his men, in the center, were
in the rifle pits and half on the crest, above the military crest where guns could
train effectively down the mountain. The soldiers in the pits were to fire one
volley, if attacked, and withdraw up the hill. This was a blueprint for catas-
trophe.

The Federals, in the newly won pits, were subject to fire from the enemy
positions above them and an unspoken determination came over the Yankees
who, to Grant’s astonishment, started up the hill. Apparently, they did so
without orders. The uncanny recklessness of the climbers unnerved some of the
Confederates, who threw down their weapons and fled. The bluecoats charged
the crest and sprang over it yelling and screaming. The day was theirs. Bragg
tried to stop the rout, but the men kept rushing by. The Southerners fled down
the back of the hill, tossing away their rifles and equipment as they went,
ignoring the entreaties of officers who were desperately trying to gain control.

Casualties:
Union— 5,800 killed, wounded or missing
Confederacy — 6,700 killed, wounded or missing.

Result: The entrance to the heart of the Confederacy was laid bare. Sherman
was already conceiving an advance on Atlanta in the spring.

These were dark days for the Confederacy. Tennessee, Louisiana and
Vicksburg were gone.
The Northern army was back in Virginia again. The economic situation
was dire. England had become irascible. The people were tiring and losing their
heart, even the women. In Richmond, there was starvation and freezing. “The
Ham the Lamb, the Jelly & the Jam,” are now of the past, a friend told Davis. “It is
now Small Hominy, sometimes called Grits.”296
Lincoln was still far from popular in many quarters. Abolitionists opposed
his reelection. Many saw him as slow-moving, an impediment to change. And
because he had in-laws among the Rebels, some doubted his resolve. There was a
view that he had discriminated against German-born generals, and German-

296. William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis, The Man and His Hour, p. 531.

204
18. The Battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge: General Grant

Americans were a significant portion of the population. But he had won over
much of the public, earning their respect and trust.

It was at this time that McClellan’s official report on the Army of the
Potomac was published. It ran to a thousand pages. The New York Times informed
its readers that it was twice as long as Caesar’s Commentaries. By contrast, all of
Grant’s reports could be read in sixty minutes.

Down South, a Confederate War Department official privately confessed,


“I have never actually despaired of the cause, priceless, holy as it is, but my
faith...is yielding to a sense of hopelessness.”297
The Confederacy had been conscripting men up to 45 years of age. There
were hardly any men left to tap. To Patrick Cleburne, the answer to the problem
was clear: they would have to mobilize the South’s black population. He went to
work writing his proposal to arm and train the slaves for war, granting them
freedom in exchange. He wrote General Hardee, asking him to call a meeting of
his general officers where Cleburne would present his proposal. Permission was
granted and Cleburne gave a lengthy presentation. The response was immediate.
His audience was shocked, emotional and aggressive. His infamous proposal was
delivered to Richmond as evidence of his perfidy.
At the same time, Cleburne was heading for a social upheaval of his own.
He took a two-week leave to go to Mobile in order to serve as best man for
General Hardee, who was to marry Mary Lewis at Bleak House Plantation.
There, servants with lighted lamps guided visitors from the boat landing to the
big house. The opulence of the candlelight wedding, the softly elegant beauty
and beguiling charm of the young women present, especially the maid of honor
across from him, twenty-four year-old Susan Tarleton, contrasted with the bleak
atmosphere of camp life and Cleburne was smitten by love. The two weeks fled
too quickly but, before he left, Cleburne asked Miss Sue to marry him. She
declined an immediate answer, but extended permission to write her.
As Cleburne arrived back in Dalton, his slave-arming proposal landed on
the desk of President Davis. Davis knew what a furor would follow any
endorsement of Cleburne’s idea. He ordered the suppression of the proposal and
forbid any discussion of it. Nonetheless, at Davis’ urging, Congress voted for a

297. Robert Garlic Hill Kean, Inside the Confederate Government, The Diary of Robert Garlic Hill
Kean, p. 119.

205
And the War Came

measure to commandeer twenty thousand slaves to labor as cooks, teamsters,


and fortification builders for the Southern armies, with a compensation of $11
per month to the master of each slave thus employed.
By this point, the price index of commodities had now risen to 763. Real
wages fell by 65%.
The South had tried a new draft, suspended habeas corpus, imposed new
taxes, introduced currency-reducing legislation, introduced impressment of
private goods, and instituted a government monopoly of blockade running. The
effect of the blockade and inability to hold onto to territory continually reduced
the materiel resources available to the Confederacy.
All of these problems caused morale to slip among the less dedicated
civilians and soldiers alike, and rendered the sacrifices of all more onerous. Pri-
vates also had their crosses to bear with superiors. “The Major is a hell of a man
to go on [detail] with he don’t no enough to learn a dog to bark,” wrote one
soldier.298
During the winter of 1863/64, both eastern armies entered their annual
hibernation. In February, 1864, though it tore his heart out, Lincoln ordered a
draft of 500,000 men to provide more troops and, a few weeks later, he con-
scripted 200,000 more.
In March, 1864, Lincoln created the rank of Lieutenant-general, naming
Grant as chief of all the Union armies, the first use of that rank since George
Washington. Sherman was to succeed Grant and McPherson succeeded
Sherman as Commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Grant traveled to Cincinnati to meet Sherman and outlined his strategy for
ending the war. They agreed that Grant would go after Lee, while Sherman tar-
geted Joe Johnston. General Banks was to leave Louisiana and strike Mobile.
Sherman was to join with him to cut the South in two from Chattanooga to the
Gulf. General Butler was to proceed to Petersburg, Virginia, to sever the rail-
roads supplying Richmond and threaten the capitol from the South, thus pre-
venting Lee from being reinforced from that sector.
McPherson left Vicksburg for a twenty-day furlough, intending to stop at
his home in Clyde, Ohio, before heading for his wedding in Baltimore. Now that
McPherson was a widely-heralded military leader, the mother of his beloved had
consented to their marriage. He and Emily had not seen each other in nearly
three years. He sent her a telegram from every town where the boat stopped.

298. “Jake” to “Friend Page,” August 11, 1863.

206
18. The Battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge: General Grant

When he arrived in Cairo, Illinois, there were two telegrams waiting for him.
One advised him of his promotion. The other ordered him to proceed immedi-
ately to Huntsville, Alabama, to help organize the drive for Atlanta. Sherman
later told him the decision had wrung his heart but he needed him for the coming
campaign. Sherman even wrote Emily a letter, doing his best to explain the vicis-
situdes of war.

While the politicians, newspapers and thought leaders of the Union were
criticizing Lincoln and his Administration, many of the mid-western farmers,
eastern factory workers and soldiers were staunchly supporting the man they
believed in above all others in the land. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote articles
extolling Lincoln as an honest, bucolic man of the people surrounded by irre-
sponsible critics, sycophants, and radicals while he manned the helm with his
eyes glued to the compass rose, absolutely determined to bring his ship through
the awful tempest.
Cleburne traveled to Montgomery and Mobile to further his cause with
Miss Tarleton, and as in most of his campaigns, he was successful. Upon
returning to base he commenced a flurry of love-letter writing and complained
about the brevity of his fiancée’s missives.
The meat ration of Richmond war clerk J. B. Jones was down to one ounce
per day. Their pet parrot stole the cook’s ration and swallowed it before the cook
could recover it. 299
Much of the Southern populace remained faithful and determined. The
Charleston Daily Courier wrote in early 1864, “Never at any period of this bloody
war has the spirit of soldiers and people been more in keeping with the character
of the occasion that at the present time.”300
General Grant took up his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac on
March 24, 1864, at Culpeper Court-House.
Warren Lee Goss wrote, “We had expected to see a large man, broad-
shouldered and athletic. His appearance to many was a great surprise. ‘Of all the
officers in the group, where I saw him,’ said one, ‘I should have selected almost
anyone but him as the general who won Vicksburg. He was small and slim, even
to under size; very quiet, and with a slight stoop...This was the first impression.

299. John B. Jones, A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary, vol. II.


300. Charleston Daily Courier, February 26, 1864.

207
And the War Came

The second was the look of concentration shown in his quiet, self-controlled
face.’”301
It was said Grant could be silent in several languages.
It was generally agreed that Grant was the finest horseman to ever attend
West Point.

At this time, large numbers of Northern soldiers were due for discharge as
their three-year enlistment was nearing its end. More than half of the eligible
soldiers stayed on, some 136,000 veterans.302
One entire command re-upped: General McPherson’s. He had worked
assiduously, encouraging his men to reenlist, and out of regard for him, they did.
No other Corps general in the country came close to matching that accom-
plishment. Lincoln, therefore, was forced to draft additional men.
The South’s supply of white males, anywhere near military age, was
exhausted. John Preston of the Conscription Bureau was desperate. There was
no such thing as a Confederate short timer. Their Congress required men whose
enlistments expired to reenlist: else they would be drafted. The South mobilized
three-quarters of its white male population of military age (which they could
better afford to do, thanks to slaves doing work at home), compared to one-half
for the North.
The command structure in the Army of Northern Virginia, following the
battle of Gettysburg, was patchwork quilt, dominated by red. Six of nine divi-
sions and twenty-three of twenty-eight brigades were under commanders who
had not held similar positions twelve months previously.
The size of the Northern armies grew with the enrollment of Northern and
Southern Negroes. Negroes serving in the Northern armies numbered 186,111, of
which 134,111 came from slaveholding states. Officered by whites, paid thirty-
three per cent less than the whites, they had proven to be as excellent in sol-
diering as the whites, exposing themselves to every danger and dying as readily
as did the white man. Their strong motivation clearly overcame any resentment
of this discriminatory treatment.
The Confederate defeats of 1863 were followed by a number of victories in
battles which, if not major, were of great psychological relief to the Southern
cause. Thus, Southerners’ were spiritedly optimistic heading into 1864 and many

301. Warren Lee Goss, Recollections of a Private, pp. 258-259.


302.James M. McPherson, For Cause & Comrades, p 173.

208
18. The Battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge: General Grant

felt it would be the last year of the war and that it would end with Confederate
victory.
As Lincoln had done, Davis suffered a personal tragedy that spring. His
child, Joseph, fell from the balcony in the back of his home twenty feet onto the
brick pavement. Little Jeff found him, dead.
Salvation through the Northern presidential election became an idée fixe
with the leaders of the South. With Lincoln defeated, a whole new day would
dawn on Dixie. They were only too well aware that bitterness toward Lincoln
was seething in the Western states, that much of the North was tired of the war,
and that many voters were drifting toward the Peace Democrats. Secret societies
were flourishing.
The winter of 1863/64 was over and it was time for the annual rites of
spring.

209
19. ATLANTA AND MCPHERSON FALL: SOMETHING WENT
OUT OF THE WAR

Here they come again! This time it was General Grant, leading the Army of
the Potomac into central Virginia to try, once more, to whip Bobby Lee and his
Army of Northern Virginia.

THE BATTLES, OR “SLUGFESTS,” OF THE WILDERNESS, SPOTSYLVANIA AND COLD


HARBOR

May 5 through June 13, 1864


Location: The Wilderness: A 72 square mile patch of woods and dense
undergrowth in Virginia, 10 miles west of Fredericksburg then spreading south.
Spotsylvania Court House: a tiny crossroads about 12 miles southeast of the Wil-
derness. Cold Harbor: a former stagecoach-traveler rest stop about 20 miles
south, southeast of Spotsylvania Court House, some nine miles northwest of
Richmond.

Generals Commanding:
Union: Ulysses S. Grant
Confederacy: Robert E. Lee

211
And the War Came

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: George Meade
Ambrose Burnside
Phil Sheridan, 33, son of Irish immigrants, graduated 34th in his class at
West Point, an excellent fighter.
Confederacy: James Longstreet
Richard S. Ewell
Richard H. Anderson: 43, son of a Revolutionary War hero, graduated
40th in his class at West Point, Seminole War veteran, Mexican War veteran,
successful leader in battle, nicknamed “Fighting Dick.”
A P. Hill

Troops available:
Union — 122,000
Confederacy — 61,000

Union motivation: To destroy Lee’s army


Plan: Engage Lee in battle at every opportunity and win by applying
superior numbers relentlessly and never retreating, ever sidling toward
Richmond, forcing Lee to engage and then destroy his army.
On May 4, three corps of the Union army crossed pontoon bridges at Ger-
manna Ford in Virginia. Advised of the Federal movement by scouts, Lee set his
forces in motion toward the Wilderness.
Fighting commenced near the Orange Turnpike as Union soldiers under
General Charles Griffin emerged from the foliage to attack four of Ewell’s bri-
gades. They were driven back initially but recovered and tried again and the fight
entered the woods with close-range combat.
Elsewhere, a contest was developing for control of the intersection of the
Orange Plank and Brock roads. Desperate fighting resulted in a seesaw battle
which ended inconclusively with nightfall. The lines were jumbled and groups of
soldiers did not know if groups next to them were friend or foe. Both armies pre-
pared to attack at 6:00 a. m. the next day.
“No sleep and the wounded groaning on all sides,” wrote Elisha Hunt
Rhodes. The next day, he continued: “Our brigade charged into the swamp six
times, and each time was driven out. Darkness again put an end to the fighting,
and we lay down amid the dead and wounded. During the night the brush
caught fire, and many of the wounded burned to death.”303

212
19. Atlanta and McPherson Fall: Something Went Out of the War

Early that morning, Union general Hancock’s 20,000 veterans moved out
smartly, slamming into the main body of the Confederates, who were still in dis-
array. The Rebels gave way. By 7:00 a.m. the Federals had advanced more than a
mile, but became confused in the dense thicket as units interfered with one
another. Lack of cohesion stalled the advance. Just then, Longstreet (who had
been called back earlier from Tennessee) arrived and Lee was visibly delighted.
In two days of fighting the Confederates had suffered 7,500 casualties, the
Union 17,666. Grant had lost more men than Lee in the Wilderness, but Lee had
lost more than he could spare of irreplaceable manpower. After such fighting, it
was customary to rest an army. Grant agonized over his decision. He would
move on.
Yankee Private Harris declared that the men were pleased with Grant’s
order to renew the fight as the idea, “was new to them,” and was a distinct
pleasure to know that, “a man of iron had taken command of the army,” that they
“saw it was best to wear the enemy out and that there was but one way to do it
and that was to fight.”304
The battle of the Wilderness did not resume the next morning. Lee won-
dered what Grant was going to do: go east? retreat north? Grant issued orders to
Meade to prepare that day to move southeast by night to Spotsylvania Court-
house, twelve miles closer to Richmond.
On the march, the Northern troops cheered Grant when he passed them,
heading south, on his horse, Cincinnati. They realized that this was not the usual
Yankee retreat following a battle with Lee.
The Battle of Spotsylvania had started with accidental engagements of
opposing cavalry troops who had stumbled into each other. The advances forces
of both armies were ordered up as reinforcements.
In intense fighting a thrust by Gordon routed the Federals, disrupted a
mile of the VI Corps front, captured two generals and 600 Yankees at a cost of 50
men, half of whom were disabled by their confused comrades as the pursuing
Southerners passed a Confederate front.
After midnight, quiet descended upon the nightmare. A Georgian remem-
bered that, far behind the line, a Southern band played “The Dead March” from-
Handel’s Saul and when they finished, a Northern band followed with “Nearer
My God to Thee,” after which the other band played “The Bonnie Blue Flag,”

303. Robert Hunt Rhodes, All for the Union, p. 146.


304. Harris, The Wilderness.

213
And the War Came

then another round of “Dixieland” and “Home Sweet Home.” Then, a remarkable
thing happened: a united yell went up in concert from the men on both sides, a
Georgian remembered, “such a one as was never heard among the hills of Spot-
sylvania county before or since.”305
The bluecoats had massed for a dawn attack. Fired up by the emotion of
this scene, the outnumbered, but impassioned, Confederate charge on the right
side of the salient, after brutal combat, drove the Federals back and out of that
portion of the “Bloody Angle.” The Federal threat had been blunted.
Grant had suffered 18,399 casualties at Spotsylvania, 36,065 since the
beginning of the Wilderness. Lee had lost 10,000 and 17,500 respectively, but had
lost heavily in commanders: Stuart dead; Longstreet and Ewell wounded; A.P.
Hill too sick to fight.
While Lee had parried Grant’s thrusts successfully, the somber impact of
his irreplaceable losses robbed him of the ability to go the offensive, his cher-
ished way of fighting. He would be forced into a series of defensive struggles
against overpowering numbers. Avoidance of disaster could only come in buying
time for a political solution. Lee had Gordon promoted to Major-General for
contributions that he reckoned gave the Confederacy another lease on life.
Both generals fixed their attention on Cold Harbor, where five roads met.
Lee’s army described a seven-mile crescent anchored on the Totopotomy
and Chickahominy Rivers, just nine miles from Richmond. Lee had been given
another 24 hours to entrench. His men worked ingeniously, digging latticework
trenches and positioning artillery to provide crossfire on any avenue of approach.
There was deep concern in the Union camp where soldiers, unable to
sleep, read and reread letters from home or lay staring into the night. Horace
Porter noticed that the men had taken off their coats and were sewing, an odd
occupation for that time of night. He discovered that, “the men were calmly
writing their names and home addresses on slips of paper and pinning them on
the back of their coats, so that their bodies might be recognized on the field and
their fate made known to their families at home.”306
Rain ceased just before dawn and 50,000 Union infantrymen moved
toward the Southern fortifications, hidden in the mists, several hundred yards
away. The Confederates had trouble holding their fire and finally let loose a
barrage that mowed down successive waves of bluecoats.

305. Thomas, History of the Doles-Cook Brigade, Tribune, September 17, 908, p. 479.
306. Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant, p. 174.

214
19. Atlanta and McPherson Fall: Something Went Out of the War

Between 5,600 and 7,000 Union soldiers fell in this attack, most of them in
the first 15 minutes while the Confederates lost 1,500 men.
There was much criticism of Grant for ordering the assault and even he
admitted, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever
made.”307
He was not, however, deterred from his basic strategy of pressing Lee or
passing him to the east, always maintaining pressure. The bulldog would not let
go. He decided to swing far to the southeast on June 12 and threaten the Confed-
erate rail hub of Petersburg.

Casualties:
Union — 50,000 casualties in a month, half of all prior casualties in the
entire history of the Army of the Potomac
Confederacy — around 30,000 casualties

Result: Grant’s losses, huge though they were, were replaceable; Lee’s were
not. Unlike all previous engagements, the Yankees did not retire northward
afterward. Despite Lee’s tactical successes, Grant kept coming. He kept fouling
off pitches and the man on the mound was visibly tiring. Grant could go any-
where but straight ahead and Lee could not move for fear of exposing Richmond.
Grant was edging ever closer to Lee’s supply lines. He was applying the
North’s superiority in numbers without surcease. The South was running out of
bodies to fight and lacked sufficient numbers of experienced officers to lead
them. Elan and courage had accomplished wonders but could not overcome such
odds, once superior advantage was properly managed. Maintenance of Grant’s
strategy would spell doom for the Army of Northern Virginia and nothing could
induce Lincoln or Grant to abort, as long as they remained in their positions.
Grant’s command philosophy eschewed holding formal councils of war.
He believed that some officers would oppose any plan adopted; and when it was
put into execution, such officers might convince themselves so well of the
weakness of the plan that they would not be able to pursue it with enthusiasm.
The optimism of the North, after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, that the war
would end quickly and the remaining sacrifice of lives would be relatively light,
was shattered by the Wilderness Campaign and the delays in conquering Atlanta
in Sherman’s Campaign (which was already underway). A pervasive depression

307. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, vol. 2, p. 276

215
And the War Came

subdued Northern spirits, hopes were dashed, casualty lists were longer than
ever, and people began to despair that this horrible war would never end.
The portrait painter, Frank B. Carpenter, in the White House, observed
Lincoln closely. “In repose,” his was, “the saddest face I ever knew. There were
days when I could scarcely look into it without crying.”308
Others thought the President, “looked like a man worn and harassed with
petty fault-findings and criticisms, until he had turned at bay, like an old stag
pursued and hunted by a cowardly rabble of men and dogs.”309
As the news of the mounting losses arrived, Lincoln was distraught. Even
his iron resolve was threatened. He could, however, sense a different resolve in
Grant. During the Wilderness campaign Lincoln said, “It is the dogged perti-
nacity of Grant that wins...The great thing about Grant is his perfect coolness
and persistency of purpose...he is not easily excited...and he has the grit of a bull-
dog! Once let him get his teeth in, and nothing can shake him off.”310A wounded
soldier coming home from Virginia arrived in a hospital and the surgeon said he
must be lashed down while a leg was amputated. “No,” said the soldier.
“Never!...Is there a violin in camp?” They brought one. He put it under his chin,
tuned it, and laughed. “Now doctor, begin.” And he went on playing the violin,
“without missing a note or moving a muscle” during 40 minutes while they
sawed his leg off.311
For the Union, the national debt was approaching $2 billion, the treasury
was nearly empty and the war was costing $2 million a day. The President had
called for another half million men.
Lincoln’s closest friends saw these as the gloomiest days of the war: the
lack of good news from the battlefront following great expectations; the lin-
gering depression over the butchery in the Wilderness campaign; the never-
ending peace initiative fiascoes; the depleted treasury; the call for 500,000 more
men; and the excruciating elusiveness of an end to the horror.

James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald called for Lincoln to step
aside. “One thing must be self-evident to him and that is that under no circum-
stances can he hope to be the next President of the United States.”312

308. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 509.


309. Albert G. Riddle, Recollections of War Times, p. 266.
310. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, p. 501.
311. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 513-514.
312.New York Herald, 6 and 11 August 1864.

216
19. Atlanta and McPherson Fall: Something Went Out of the War

The Richmond Examiner gloated, “The fact...begins to shine out clear that
Abraham Lincoln is lost; that he will never be President again...The obscene ape
of Illinois is about to be deposed from the Washington purple, and the White
House will echo to his little jokes no more.”313
Lincoln had become a frequent reader of the Bible.
What the Radical Republicans feared most of all in their crusade to make
the South pay the ultimate price for their rebellion was the man, Abraham
Lincoln. They were paranoid that his compassion, gentility, and forgiving nature
would fail to exact a bitter recompense from the South, a rendering of accounts
consistent with its unpardonable guilt for starting a civil war.
Lincoln was advised by many highly-placed individuals to cancel the elec-
tions. The President regarded such a move as tantamount to conceding that the
Union was already conquered.
The materiel shortages in the South grew more serious by the day.
Financial management, in the Confederacy, was inadequate, and had been ham-
pered, in the beginning, by “short war” syndrome. Comprehensive tax laws were
not enacted until 1863. Even then, taxes provided only 7 per cent of revenues:
borrowing or sale of bonds provided 25 per cent; impressment of goods, 17 per
cent; and sale of Treasury Notes, 51 per cent. Confederate debt ballooned and
inflation soared.
The Federal blockade had a significant impact, even though it faced a
nearly impossible task. In the early stages, Nearly five out of six blockade
runners made it through, but the successful transits fell from over 90 per cent in
1861 to 50 per cent in 1865. Many blockade runners carried luxuries, until that
traffic was banned by the Confederate government in 1864. Historian James
McPherson has estimated that only 33% of normal water-borne traffic was
getting through, at a time when the South’s needs far exceeded their peacetime
norm.
Confederate industry, greatly subordinate to agriculture and lagging far
behind Northern industry when the war started, performed prodigious feats
during the war. It supplied manufactured goods, mostly military, far beyond any
reasonable expectation. As the war progressed, production was hampered by
dwindling supplies of raw materials, and even food for slave labor.
Sherman had 113,000 troops and 254 cannon massed in Ringgold, Georgia,
twelve miles northwest of Dalton. What he needed critically was supplies and

313. Richmond Examiner, 12 August, 1864.

217
And the War Came

the establishment of an effective supply line to support his move to Atlanta. He


set to work with a vengeance on this challenge and also prepared to live off the
land, if necessary. Thomas and McPherson attacked Johnston repeatedly, forcing
him to continue to withdraw. McPherson pursued and engaged the enemy,
always moving closer to Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Grant headed his army toward Petersburg, 30 miles below
Richmond, desiring to cut the Confederate rail lines to Richmond. In the
fighting around Petersburg, Chamberlain was seriously wounded and doctors
gave him no chance to live; but recover, he did, although he faced a long convales-
cence. For his latest heroism, Grant gave him a field promotion to Brigadier-
General without asking approval, the only such favor granted by him during the
War.
In Lee’s army, from May 4 through June 5, of 58 general officers, 8 were
killed, 12 wounded, and 2 captured.
Around Petersburg, in July, both sides began digging entrenchments: not
the usual ditch and parapet with abatis of sharpened tree branches, out front,
but an extensive honeycomb with covered ways. Each side’s artillery responded
with mortars and rifled artillery pieces and shelling became a daily routine.
The Northern discontent was fueled by growing disenchantment with a
war that was bogged down in the siege at Petersburg and Sherman’s apparent
inability to capture Atlanta. It was commonly understood that Lincoln stood no
chance in the election unless there was a great shift in the war situation; and
many still believed that he would have to back down on emancipation.
Henry Raymond of the New York Times wrote: “No living man was ever
charged with the political crimes of such multiplicity and such enormity as
Abraham Lincoln. He has been denounced without end as a perjurer, a usurper, a
tyrant, a subverter of the Constitution, a destroyer of the liberties of his country,
a reckless desperado, a heartless trifler over the last agonies of an expiring
nation. Had that which has been said of him been true there is no circle in
Dante’s ‘Inferno’ full enough of torment to expiate his iniquities.”
President Davis confided to Lee that General Johnston had failed in
stopping Sherman, and seemed likely to abandon Atlanta. Johnston was relieved
on July 17, not by the senior corps commander, Hardee, but by John Bell Hood.
Many in the army were outraged. Hood, when on a fact-finding mission for
Davis, had bad-mouthed Johnston. He new that Davis was already predisposed
against Johnston and was looking for any excuse to fire him..

218
19. Atlanta and McPherson Fall: Something Went Out of the War

Hood, with one leg and one good arm, was the son of a prosperous Ken-
tucky doctor. In his youth, the young Hood had a streak of wildness and noncon-
formity. While he was at West Point, his father told him, “If you don’t behave,
don’t come home. Go to the nearest gatepost and butt your brains out.” He accu-
mulated 196 demerits, four short of expulsion, and graduated forty-fourth in a
class of fifty-two. He did possess remarkable physical courage. His performance
in battle in Virginia early in the war escalated his rank from first-lieutenant to
colonel in four months. The Union generals who knew Hood regarded him as an
intrepid fighter and consummately brave — but fatally rash.
Sherman continued to hammer away at the frantic Confederates. General
Thomas was facing Peachtree Creek. General Schofield, another of McPherson’s
roommates at West Point, was on his left.
McPherson was buoyant, as he felt the capture of Atlanta would result in a
furlough to see his family and marry Emily. A friend of his remarked on the
“absolute freedom from all sense of danger or apprehension he showed.”
While he was having lunch with Sherman, heavy firing erupted in front of
his lines. Hardee had begun his attack. McPherson jumped on his horse with his
aides trailing behind, and promised to send word back to Sherman as to what
was occurring. When McPherson came upon his lines, his men were already
engaged in battle and successfully driving the enemy back. He noticed a gap
between the XVI and XVII Corps, which had been created by the reshuffling of
his lines earlier. He dispatched three aides to rectify the problem.
A staff officer approached him with news that the left wing of the Corps
was being pushed back by a very large force of enemy. McPherson instructed
General Logan to send a brigade to close the gap. He then rode toward the XVII
Corps, where he felt he was needed. He rode with only his orderly, Andrew
Jackson Thompson of the 4th Ohio, in attendance. As he galloped into the woods
toward his left wing, he rode into an advance skirmish line of Confederates from
Cleburne’s command. As he dashed off in a desperate attempt to escape, a volley
rang out. McPherson rode a short distance and then fell to the ground. He had
been shot diagonally through the lungs; he bled to death where he lay.
The battle raged on, with Hood’s forces attacking in wave after wave but
each advance wave was repulsed. The rebel shouts were drowned out by the cry
of “McPherson!” “McPherson!” all along the front. One officer said his “men
fought like tigers,” when they heard of McPherson’s death.

219
And the War Came

Confederate casualties numbered around 8000, including General W.H.T.


Walker, to McPherson’s 3,722. McPherson had never lost a battle, even after
dying.
The Richmond Examiner wrote, “it was his genius that had so successfully
planned the reduction of Vicksburg; it was McPherson who had made Grant
famous, and was about to do the same for Sherman.”
Sherman wrote, “Those who he commanded loved him even to idolatry;
and I, his associate and commander, fail in words adequate to express my
opinion of his great worth...”
The news arrived in Baltimore at twilight in a telegram addressed to Mrs. Sam-
uel Hoffman who, thinking it contained news about the safety of her son in the
Confederate army, asked Emily to read it to her. “As the lights in that room were not
yet lighted, Grandmother handed it to my Aunt Emily with the request that she
read it to her. Aunt Emily took the telegram into the hall and stood under the lan-
tern to read it. Suddenly my grandmother heard the sound of a falling body and
rushed out to find her daughter in a dead faint with the telegram clutched in her
hands.” Emily never married. From 1876, when a monument was erected to her man
in “McPherson Square” in Washington, D.C., until her death in 1891, Emily often
took a train from Baltimore, arriving at twilight and sat, heavily veiled, on a particu-
lar park bench to gaze at the statue.314

Civil War historian Bruce Catton remarked that something went out of
the war when McPherson was killed.
“Never before, during this war have we received so hard a blow as that,”
wrote one of McPherson’s soldiers.315
On September 2, in the doomed city of Atlanta, factories, mills and supply
depots were torched by the Rebels and Sherman’s troops moved into a smol-
dering, abandoned city.

The Army of Tennessee lost more than a third of its men defending Atlanta.
In the four months since Sherman began his Atlanta campaign, he had
experienced casualties of 31,687 men. That the defending Confederates lost
30,796 men reflects upon Hood’s desperate combat recklessness. If the number
of losses appears equal, the percentage and the effect were far from it. Sherman’s
losses were 28 per cent, Hood’s 44 per cent. The calculus of doom was ineluc-

314. Elizabeth J. Whaley, Forgotten Hero: General James B. McPherson, from an Interview with
Emily Hoffman’s niece, p. 167.
315. Edward P. Stanfield, Letter to “Mother,” 24 July, 1864

220
19. Atlanta and McPherson Fall: Something Went Out of the War

table and Southern war managers had become irrational from the frustration and
agony of observing the desecration of their cause by the hated “Yankees.”
Hood would soon lead his remaining 40,000 men into the oblivion of his
consuming courage. For the destruction of Atlanta (much of it at Southern
hands) and the March to the Sea, Sherman would be damned in Southern lore
forever and Hood would be similarly enshrined. Sherman may have saved over
50,000 soldier lives, on each side, by shortening the war. Hood’s casualties (in
Atlanta and, subsequently, Tennessee), greatly exceeded 50,000 men, all
Southern.
Sherman was intellectually acute and effective in execution. Hood was
unusually courageous, physically, but he was not mentally acute and had a ten-
dency to foolhardy actions.

221
20. CONFEDERATE DISASTER IN TENNESSEE, AND THE 13TH
AMENDMENT

Bad news was smothering the spirits of the South. In Virginia, Grant had
seized the Weldon Railroad, one of the last major supply routes into Petersburg
and Phil Sheridan had defeated Early in the Valley at Winchester, following up
with an even greater victory at Fisher’s Hill.
To cross the “T” on the Confederate fortunes, Admiral Farragut captured
Mobile, the last major Gulf of Mexico port in Confederate hands. Davis decided
to make another trip through the West to bolster the fighting spirit of the
people. He began by journeying to Georgia where he pleaded with the people to
hear him. At Macon, he told his audience that more than a third of the fighting
men were absent, most without leave, and asked them to pressure deserters to
return to their commands. “If one-half the men now absent without leave will
return to duty, we can defeat the enemy.”316
The number of desertions in the Confederate armies was officially listed as
103,400 for the entire war, but was undoubtedly much higher. The number of
soldiers absent for all reasons was inflated by the lax policy of granting fur-
loughs.
Modern estimates place desertions at one in every nine enlistments in the
Southern Army and one in seven in the Northern Army, but the percentage was,
in addition to being higher, much more critical for the Confederates. At the

316. Clement Eaton, The Civilization of the Old South, p. 270

223
And the War Came

beginning of the war, absenteeism amounted to 21 per cent of the muster-rolls


the Confederate Army. By the end of the war, it was 51 per cent.
Aside from bad war news and the war’s numbing consumption of loved
ones, the South suffered domestic turmoil beyond the depredations of locust
armies sweeping back and forth across the land.
The institution of slavery began to crumble during the war as a result of a
number of eroding forces: government dictation of crop production diminished
the image of slave-owners’ authority; government impressment of slaves for mil-
itary labor; the absence of masters, who were serving in the military, with conse-
quentially less servile, even “uppity”, attitudes exhibited to overseers and
mistresses; slaves running away in greater numbers as the Yankees armies
neared; and many of those ex-slaves were serving honorably and courageously as
soldiers in the Union army.
More than 100,000 whites from seceded states fought in Northern armies.
If black soldiers are added to this total, some Southern states supplied more men
to Northern armies than to the ranks of the Confederacy.
Historian Luraghi concluded:
War is the hardest test to which a given society is subjected. Every society
meets this challenging strain in a way that is directly linked to its social, moral, eth-
ical — in other words, its cultural — scale of values. Consequently we would say
that any people are led, both politically and militarily, in the way they deserve to be;
or, less drastically, that any society wages its own peculiar kind of warfare.” Given
their agrarian economy, Luraghi credits the South with establishing a wartime
economy “ex Nihilo” without creating a “powerful industrial bourgeoisie...Instead
they chose the way of “state socialism”...the man who....embodied this stroke of
genius was President Jefferson Davis.317
In the North, the fall of Atlanta disemboweled Lincoln’s Republican oppo-
sition. They abandoned their plan to support an alternate candidate and the
party fell into lockstep to oppose the Democrat’s McClellan.
The Democrats must have thought they had lit a fuse parted three ways to
ignite three bombs. A few days after the Democratic Convention, Sherman
announced that “Atlanta is ours.” A few weeks later General Sheridan defeated
Confederate General Early in the Valley. Then, Admiral Farragut took control of
Mobile Bay. These military stump speeches vaporized the Democratic “war-
failure” theme.
That September, Lee wrote to Davis, “As matters now stand, we have no
troops disposable to meet movements of the enemy...Our ranks are constantly

317. Raimondo Luraghi, preface to The Rise and Fall of the Plantation South.

224
20. Confederate Disaster in Tennessee, And the 13th Amendment

diminishing by battle and disease, and few recruits are received. The conse-
quences are inevitable.”318
In the fall of 1864, at Petersburg, every two minutes or so, around the clock,
a shell or two landed among the troops. The Yankee troops were well fed while
the Southerners often went a week without meat. Food packages from home
often disappeared in the collapsing Southern transportation system. General
Gordon reported, “Starvation, literal starvation,” had so weakened his men that
minor scratches often resulted in infection and even death. Even their pay was
four months late. That fall, a visitor to Fredericksburg remarked, “All is still as
death for miles and miles under the sweet autumnal sun.”319
Gone was a boost for the Army of Northern Virginia soldiers’ morale, those
major battles that were mostly victories.
They were replaced by the boredom of waiting and a number of small
clashes where nothing significant could be accomplished but the greater per-
centage losses of the Confederacy.
Democrat newspapers still shrilled for Lincoln’s removal. But, from the
western horizon arose a groundswell from many small newspapers and the
humble folk, rolling eastward from the plains, building a momentum that would
overwhelm the Lincoln-haters.
A reader of the New York Times wrote, “A copperhead is one who has all the
instincts of a traitor without the pluck to be a rebel.”320
Lincoln, a past-master at politics, pulled many sensitive levers behind the
scenes; McClellan, in his political naiveté, had no such levers in reach.
In the miserable confines of the Confederate Libby Prison in Richmond,
the straw votes of the prisoners were 276 for Lincoln, 95 for McClellan.
The Town Hall was the polling place in the old, colonial town of Stur-
bridge, Massachusetts. Into the building, on Election Day, strode 105-year-old
Deacon John Phillips, accompanied by his seventy-nine-year old son. He had
voted for George Washington and was a lifelong Democrat in the Jeffersonian
tradition. When he entered, everyone rose in his honor. When he was offered
two ballots and told to take his choice, he announced, “I vote for Abraham
Lincoln.”321

318. Dowdey and Manarin, eds., The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, p.44
319. Mobile Register, November 26, 1864.
320. New York Times, June 24, 1864.
321. Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8:118n.

225
And the War Came

On Election Day it became apparent early that an overwhelming Repub-


lican victory would occur. The soldier vote was massively Republican, nearly 80
per cent. Pennsylvania was a swing state, where Republican feuds had hurt
Lincoln, but the soldiers’ vote saved him. The Republicans carried every State
except New Jersey, Delaware and Kentucky. McClellan received a respectable
45 per cent of the popular vote, and was strong in the cities and among Irish-
American and German-American voters. Lincoln was supported by the same fac-
tions as in 1860, the native-born farmers, skilled workers, professional men
(people of New England descent) and, the soldiers. Lincoln had won with a
margin of slightly over four hundred thousand out of four million votes, but in
the Electoral College he won 212 to 21. The soldier vote was far more lopsided. In
McClellan’s old command, the Army of the Potomac, the General received only
30 per cent of the vote. In Sherman’s army, he received only 20 per cent.
Sherman had conceived a plan that he felt would hasten the end of the war.
He would march his army through Georgia to the sea, demonstrating to the
South that a Northern army could do as it pleased deep within their country,
that their homeland could be violated with impunity, their “sacred soil” could be
desecrated, that through such humiliating depredation he could destroy their
will to continue the contest. Sherman telegraphed Grant:
Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter
destruction of its roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources...I
can make the march and make Georgia howl!322

Sherman had already declared that the most humane way to end the war
was to destroy the South’s power to resist by cutting off supplies and manufac-
turing and by making the civilians’ lot as miserable as possible, to break the
morale of the Confederates at home and in the field. After the presidential
election, Grant approved Sherman’s plan of severing his communications to
Atlanta and heading toward the Georgia seacoast with his army of 60,000.
After the loss of Atlanta, Hood, instead of confronting Sherman, moved his
army toward Tennessee, intending to bring Sherman to his knees by cutting his
lifeline and recapturing that state for the South. He did this without consulting
Davis. Sherman responded by sending General Thomas back to Tennessee to
challenge Hood.

322.Burke Davis, Sherman’s March, p. 23.

226
20. Confederate Disaster in Tennessee, And the 13th Amendment

THE BATTLES OF FRANKLIN AND NASHVILLE, NOVEMBER 30 AND DECEMBER 15,


1864

Location: Tennessee, Franklin being 18 miles south of Nashville

Generals Commanding:
Union: George H. Thomas
Confederacy: John Bell Hood

Key Supporting Generals:


Union: John M. Schofield, 33, graduated 7th in his class at West Point, a
competent general, ambitious.
Confederacy: Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
Alexander Stewart
Stephen Dill Lee

Troops available:
Union — 50,000
Confederacy — 30,000

Confederate motivation: By capturing stores and soldiers in Tennessee, to


force Sherman to turn back from Georgia in pursuit.
Plan: Move toward Nashville and contest with any Federal forces encoun-
tered, seek a fight at all costs.
The Battle of Franklin followed a Confederate fiasco at Spring Hill, where
the badly outnumbered 5,000-man force of Union General Stanley staged a
nearly hopeless defensive struggle to allow General Schofield to escape
entrapment south of Franklin. Lack of scouting by the Confederates resulted in
misdirected attacks, and nightfall ended the hostilities which should have
brought a rout of the Yankees. Worse yet, the entire Northern force escaped
during the night, closely skirting the Rebel camp and moving toward Franklin.
At Franklin, the Confederate assault was managed very poorly by Hood,
who felt his troops lacked the guts and the will to whip the Yankees. The assault
was made utilizing only seven of the 18 brigades available. That left the opposing
forces evenly matched, but the attackers would have to negotiate two miles of
treeless expanse. The charge began half an hour before sunset.

227
And the War Came

The Confederate generals were dying along with the men. Before darkness
fell, of 24 of Hood’s generals exposed in the fighting, six were killed or mortally
wounded, four seriously wounded and one captured. The army’s middle
command structure was all but wrecked.
The Federal cavalry were armed with the new seven-shot Spencer lever
action carbines. The Confederates, who had seen them in action during the
Atlanta campaign, marveled that those Yankees were the “God damnedest fellas
they’d ever see’d.” As they waded through the river the bluecoats were seen to
fire and dive to reload, then fire and dive underwater again (the new metallic car-
tridges could be loaded while submersed and still fire).323
Cleburne rode in the center of the advancing line on a borrowed horse. He
and other ranking officers were smarting under the tongue-lashings of General
Hood who maintained that the Confederate fighting men lacked sufficient
courage to win battles! A hundred battle flags unfurled in a wave of men almost
two miles wide. This force was larger than Pickett’s at Gettysburg, by 50%, and
had twice as far to go to reach the enemy lines. It had the courage, all right. At
fifty yards from the Union lines, the charge began in earnest, accompanied by the
Rebel Yell. The advanced line of Federals turned and ran into their works.
Cleburne charged diagonally across his brigades at the center of the Union line.
His horse went down, nose first, killed. He called for another horse and had one
foot in the stirrup when it went down, too. He drew his sword, waved it above
his head and joined his men going over the breastworks. As he headed for one of
his own flags on the breastworks, a single bullet hit him, went through the heart
and killed him instantly. The Confederates kept up their attack for hours, in the
face of awful Northern gunfire.
Among the defenders, Major Arthur MacArthur, Jr., of the 24th Wis-
consin, later to be the father of General Douglas MacArthur, went down with a
severe wound. They are the only father and son who each won the Congressional
Medal of Honor.
Hood had planned to attack again in the morning until he found the Fed-
erals gone. He wired Richmond of a great victory achieved.
At Nashville, with Hood pursuing them, the Federals counter-attacked.
The attacks were aimed at several points along the Confederate lines and suc-
ceeded in breaking through them. The Confederates withdrew about two miles

323. Wiley Sword, Embrace an Angry Wind, the General’s Books, p. 241

228
20. Confederate Disaster in Tennessee, And the 13th Amendment

to new lines, but did not panic. The officers felt that their men had lost their will
to fight.
Hood planned a counter-attack for the morning. But, by then, Union
General Thomas began a devastating artillery fire to which the few big guns of
the Southerners could not respond. The bombardment was followed by Federal
assaults on the right and left, aided by cavalry charges. The Confederate lines
broke and ran to the rear, confused and completely shaken.

Casualties:
Union — 5,306
Confederacy — 13,400

Result: Hood’s army had been virtually obliterated and the surviving troops
were embittered. The Federals had escaped near certain annihilation at Spring
Hill and only destroyed Hood’s forces as a result of his foolhardy attack at
Franklin. The Federal forces in Nashville exceeded 50,000 after Schofield
arrived. After the battles, Hood reported his effective force at 23,053; many of his
weary soldiers vanished silently, heading for home. Hood led his defeated troops
back to Franklin. The Army of Tennessee was no longer a fighting entity.
On January 13, Hood asked to be relieved and Davis complied with his
request.
For the entire campaign, Confederate losses were: 8,600 killed and
wounded; 13,389 prisoners of war (including 8 generals and 2,000 deserters) out
of 38,000 men, and loss of 72 pieces of artillery. Union losses were less than
6,000.
Elizabeth Pendleton Hardin of Kentucky expressed a “hope I may never
again love anything as I have loved the cause that is lost.”324
As the Southerners marched southward, after the battle of Nashville, the
temperature hovered in the teens, and the ground glistened with crisp snow.
Many of Hood’s infantrymen shuffled along as best they could, on bare feet,
across the frozen ruts and ice-covered chuckholes. Some had frostbitten feet so
swollen they left blood with every footstep; others had legs turned blue by the
bitter cold.
The men were singing, “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” but to different words:

324. Elizabeth P. Hardin, “The Private War of Lizzie Hardin: A Kentucky Confederate Girl’s Diary
of the Civil War” in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, pp. 241-254.

229
And the War Came

So now I’m marching southward


My heart is full of woe.
I’m going back to Georgia to see my Uncle Joe.
You may talk about your Beauregard
And sing of General Lee,
But the gallant Hood of Texas
Played Hell in Tennessee.325

From how many homes across the heartland of the South did the trium-
phantly buoyant strains of the “Bonnie Blue Flag” leap from the piano in the
parlor, through the window with the lace curtains angling in the breeze, and
then end abruptly, in mid-phrase, when the contents of an official letter were
read out loud. And in how many homes throughout the North, in this fall of ’64,
were family groups singing the sadly hopeful refrain of “Tenting Tonight,”
thinking of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, only to be silent with fear
at the opening of a telegram? The silence of death! Across the whole afflicted land
was heard the sorrow of those left behind.
In Georgia, Sherman and his 62,000 troops headed east in two wings, on
parallel routes, destined to converge in the state capital, Milledgeville, one
hundred miles east of Atlanta. Southern newspapers excoriated him as “Attila”
and “Judas Iscariot,” headed for “The paradise of fools.” Sherman severed com-
munications with the North and tore up the rails of his own supply line twenty
miles north of Atlanta. He was determined to march an army straight through
the South. The civilians — mostly women and children, helplessly watched them
pass — and lost perhaps their last farm animal to the troops. A bottomless bit-
terness was born.
Blacks, meanwhile, felt an upwelling of hope mingled with fear.
A slave, Katie Rowe, recalled her overseer telling a group of slaves:
“You niggers been seeing de ’Federate soldiers coming by here looking purty
raggedy and hurt and wore out,” he’d [Saunders, the overseer] say, “but dat no sign
they licked! Dem Yankees ain’t gwine git dis fur, but iffen they do, you all ain’t
gwine gut ‘free’ by ’em ’cause I gwine line you up on de bank of Bois d’Arc Creek and
free you with my shotgun!”326

325.Wiley Sword, Embrace an Angry Wind, the General’s Books, p. 422.


326. James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, pp. 24-25.

230
20. Confederate Disaster in Tennessee, And the 13th Amendment

Sherman’s troops, rampaging through Georgia, claimed the sentiment they


heard the most was that they should visit South Carolina with their depreda-
tions because they were the ones who started this mess.

One afternoon Sherman came upon a wagon mired in a mud hole. One of
the mules was belly-deep in the black muck, and a teamster flailed her with a
blacksnake whip.
“Stop pounding that mule,” the general said.
“Mind your own damn business.”
“I tell you again to stop. I’m General Sherman.”
“Hell, that’s played out,” the teamster said. “Every son of a bitch who
comes along with an old coat and slouch hat claims he’s Sherman.” Uncle Billy
grinned and rode on.327

In December Sherman captured Savannah, Georgia, and telegraphed


Lincoln to tell him of his “Christmas gift.”
Sherman learned of the death of his six-month-old son Charles, whom he
had never seen, from reading a newspaper brought into Savannah. It was a ter-
rible blow, but not enough to stop him.

Back in 1739 in Darien, Georgia, after the settlers had constructed the man-
datory fort, backers of James Oglethorpe filed a petition opposing the intro-
duction of slavery into Georgia. It read, in part:

It is shocking to human nature, that any race of mankind and their Posterity,
should be sentenced to perpetual slavery, nor in justice can we think otherwise of it,
than that they are thrown amongst us to be our Scourge one day or other for our
Sins: and as freedom to them must be as dear to us, what a scene of horror must it
bring about! and the longer it is un-executed, the bloody scene must be the
greater.328

One hundred and twenty-five years later, the Union army arrived in
Darien. Most of the town’s 500 whites had fled and had taken most of the town’s
1500 blacks with them. The two Yankee colonels in charge were abolitionists,
the vengeful James Montgomery and the humane Robert Gould Shaw, both in

327. Burke Davis, Sherman’s March, p. 95.


328. Spencer B. King, Jr., Darien: The Death and Rebirth of a Southern Town, p. 6-7.

231
And the War Came

charge of black troops. Shaw’s men were the famed 54th Massachusetts Reg-
iment. With the Confederate forces far away, the remaining citizens surrendered
their town and asked that it be spared according to the convention of civilized
warfare. Montgomery, ignoring insistent pleas from Gould, allowed his troops to
rampage and burn the helpless town. The prophecy of 1739 had been fulfilled.
Indeed, as the war turned against the south, Southern religious leaders
liked to remind their flocks that the Lord often used Infidels to punish the sins of
his chosen people.
In January, Congress debated the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the
Constitution, which would free the slaves. The Senate had approved it in early
1864, but it had been defeated in the House. This time, the measure passed 119 to
56, with two “aye” votes more than the required two-thirds majority. In the
House there was a moment of awed silence, then a thunder of cheers from the
gallery, then shouting, and, on the floor, hugging, tears, backslapping...a wild cel-
ebration lasting over ten minutes.
In the Confederacy, calamity tripped over calamity in excruciating suc-
cession. One gold dollar, which had been valued at $1.03 in 1861, was now worth
nearly $60 Confederate. In Richmond, a pair of gloves cost $30; slippers, $50; six
spools of thread, $24. In mid-January, the last open Confederate seaport, Wilm-
ington, North Carolina, was closed, captured by the Federals. Foreign trade
ceased altogether. The Union had amassed a fleet of 671 ships by 1865, while the
Confederates manufactured or converted 130 ships during the course of the war.
At Christmas time, Southerners held “starvation parties,” having no
refreshments to serve.
On New Year’s Eve in Virginia, Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes noted in
his diary, “Goodbye, old 1864. Your departure is not regretted, as it brings us so
much nearer to the end of the war. May God grant us success in the year about to
open.”329
Lincoln held the customary public reception at the White House.Outside,
negroes stood waiting for two hours. At last, it was agreed the time had come for
them to go in. Lincoln gave this motley crowd a hearty welcome that made them
wild with joy — it made many of the whites mad with fury, too, but that was
another matter.

329.Robert Hunt Rhodes, All for the Union, p. 203.

232
20. Confederate Disaster in Tennessee, And the 13th Amendment

The Confederate Congress named Lee General-in-Chief of all Southern


armies, rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Confederacy. Lee replaced the
ailing Beauregard with Johnston, in the Southeast.
With the advent of 1865, the Confederates were running out of soldiers.
Lee and Benjamin, and now Davis, supported the enlistment of slaves as soldiers
in the Confederate armies. When Davis advanced his new thinking, and, in
addition, proposed that the blacks should be freed afterward, some of the
planters erupted in a furor and Richmond sulked. General Cobb of Georgia said,
“I think that the proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious
idea that has been suggested since the war began...You cannot make soldiers of
slaves, or slaves of soldiers.”330
In March, legislation was finally passed to put blacks in uniform and teen-
agers and men over 60 in the reserves. The government could accept slaves vol-
unteered by their masters and the relation to the master would not change,
“except by consent of the owners.” It had taken a long time to progress even this
far (if progress it was).

Desertions in the Southern armies increased at an alarming pace as rela-


tives suffering the depredations of Sherman’s men urged them to come home to
be with their families in their time of need and as the feeling of despair over the
outcome of the war increased. Lee issued orders that joking about desertion was
an offense punishable by death.
In January, the Confederate reserve of food for the armies was reduced to
two days’ short rations. February brought increasing desertions. During ten
days, they totaled over 1,000 men. Most returned home, with their rifles, so they
could fend off the provost guards. The situation was exacerbated by the absence
of many high-level officers due to wounds and illness. Longstreet had one major-
general and seven brigadiers missing out of thirteen brigades. Of ten major-gen-
erals of the infantry, only four were present. Of 39 brigade commanders, only 21
were present. There was no one to fill these vacancies.
Surveying the political and military landscape, the newspapers began to
evince a grudging respect for Lincoln and his single-mindedness, having with-
stood torrents of abuse and criticism for so long.
A South Carolina woman, Emma LeConte commented about Johnston in
her diary, “The last news from Johnston was that he had retreated to Raleigh.

330. Robert Franklin Durden, Gray and Black, p. 184.

233
And the War Came

This arch-retreater will probably retreat till perhaps he retreats to Gen. Lee, who
may put a stop to his retrograde movement.”331

Through four years of threat of attacks and actual assaults, Charlestonians


lived by the declaration of one of their own: “We intend to die hard.”332
Sherman: “Any one who is not satisfied with war should go and see
Charleston and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that the country may in
the long future be spared any more war.”333
Sherman moved on to Columbia where the Confederates put up token
resistance before abandoning the city. The mayor surrendered it. The streets
were littered with broken furniture, the result of pillaging before the Yankees
arrived. The railroad depot and another large building had been burned to the
ground. Cotton bales had been torn open and lint was flying everywhere.
Drunken natives were wandering around offering the Federal soldiers liquor.334
The fires, which were small and separated at first, began spreading until the city
was in conflagration. The role of the Federal soldiers has been a subject of con-
troversy ever since. Sherman said later: “Though I never ordered it [the burning
of Columbia] and never wished it, I have never shed many tears over the event,
because I believe it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the war.”335
Emma LeConte: “As far as the eye can reach, nothing is to be seen but heaps
of rubbish, tall dreary chimneys and shattered brick walls...the market is a ruined
shell...the old bell — ‘Secessia’ that had rung out every state as it seceded, lying
half-buried in the earth.”336 Three-quarters of the City was destroyed, more than
366 acres — with 1386 houses, stores and other buildings burned to the ground.
Mary Chesnut was informed, “‘Madame, Columbia is burned to the
ground.’ I bowed my head and sobbed aloud.”337

331. Emma LeConte, When the World Ended: The Diary of Emma LeConte, ed., Early Schenck
Miers, p. 83.
332. E. Milby Burton, The Siege of Charleston, 1861-1865, p. 26.
333. War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, 47, pt. 1, p. 38.
334. John F. Marszalek, Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order, p.332-333.
335. Burke Davis, Sherman’s March, p. 179.
336. Ibid., p. 180.
337. C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, p. 725.

234
21. LEE SURRENDERS AT APPOMATTOX

Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address on the Capitol steps,


while from a platform above and behind him a fuming John Wilkes Booth glared
at the man he felt had ruined the South, the only worthwhile civilization on the
continent.
“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anx-
iously directed toward an impending civil-war.
“All dreaded it — all sought to avert it...Both parties deprecated the war, but
one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would
accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
“The slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this
interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend
this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by
war; while the government claimed no right to do more than restrict the territorial
enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the dura-
tion which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict
might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease...Both read the same
Bible, and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may
seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing
their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not that we be not
judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been
answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.
“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences
come; but woe to the man by whom the offence cometh! [quoting from Matthew]. If
we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the Provi-
dence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His
appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and
South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we

235
And the War Came

discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a
living God always ascribe to Him?
“Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war
may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it may continue, until all the wealth
piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be
sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another
drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said,
‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as
God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up
the nation’s wounds;...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting
peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”338
Lincoln was not troubled that his address was not immediately popular.
“Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of
purpose between the Almighty and them.”339
His eloquence was further put to the test in letters to the bereaved.
Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Bixby, a Boston widow, who had lost five sons in battle:
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt
to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from
tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic
they died to save.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement,
and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost, and the solemn
pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln340

Lincoln was now 35 pounds underweight. At fifty-six, he looked old and


sick. In the waning months of the conflict, his spirit seemed to sag. Ten days
after his Inauguration, Lincoln could not summon the energy to get out of bed.
Mary called a doctor, who examined him and pronounced the cause “exhaustion,
complete exhaustion.”341
A week before, a seemingly minor incident occurred at Ford’s theater. The
policy of the theater was to allow patrons to occupy choice seats, if those for
whom the seats were reserved did not show by the end of the first act. A Mr.

338. Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings, pp. 792-793.
339. Kennedy, Kunhardt and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, p. 266.
340. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 639.
341. Jim Bishop, The Day Lincoln was Shot, pp. 37-38.

236
21. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

Merrick arrived at the start of Act II to find his seats thus occupied. He was agi-
tated. The ticket-seller tried to find him box seats. He tried Box #6, upstairs, but
it was locked. The usher, who was not on that night, kept the keys because Mr.
Ford did not like employees sleeping in the boxes during the day. The ticket-
seller tried Box #7 and Box #8, the presidential box. Both were locked. His
embarrassment growing, he put his shoulder to door and leaned… nothing. He
heard giggling from the ladies. He raised his foot to the lock and smashed it. The
lock broke and the door opened. On his way out, he tried the lock...yes, broken.
That door could now be opened by anyone. The ticket-seller did not report it.
Here again, an insignificant, random, minor accident contributed to the
turbulent waters of catastrophe that were coursing forward.
Lee evacuated his position at Petersburg, hoping he could beat the Yankee
troops to Danville, obtain rations and then join with Johnston. The Confederate
government evacuated Richmond. Fires set by authorities to deprive the
Yankees of spoils raged out-of-hand and much of the city burned.
Lee had hoped to find provisions waiting for his staggering troops at
Amelia Courthouse, west of Richmond. There the columns were halted on the
road. No provisions appeared. No one understood why. Three hundred and fifty
thousand rations had been gathered in Richmond and Lee had requested they be
sent to Amelia Courthouse. The Confederates found ammunition, but no food.
“Worry clings to me like a cocklebur.” This lament, now so applicable to
the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, was once uttered by a slave,
to describe a life of gnawing burden. The Yankees were moving parallel to the
Confederates in order to keep themselves on the inside, thus shorter, arc. Lee
ordered further movement toward Burkeville in hopes of coming upon a supply
train ordered from Danville. Now, he would have to outrun the Union infantry.
During the retreat to Appomattox, a soldier wrote: “Two days fasting,
marching, and fighting was not uncommon;...no rations were issued to
Cutshaw’s battalion of artillery for one entire week.”342
After subtracting deserters and stragglers from the effective soldier count
in Lee’s army, there were around 10,000 men left at arms.
Lee set his army in motion again. Supplies had reached Appomattox
Station from Lynchburg but were unprotected, so he moved in hopes of beating
the Yankees to them. As the Southern vanguard approached Appomattox at twi-
light, the sight in the heavens wrenched their empty guts. A glow on the horizon!

342. Douglas, op. cit. 331.

237
And the War Came

To the south! To the west! To the east! Only in the north was darkness
unrelieved by the shimmering light of campfires. The enemy was
there...waiting...they were virtually surrounded! Any supplies that had moved
from Lynchburg would certainly have been captured.
By April 9, Palm Sunday, the rest of the Federal infantry had arrived to
support Sheridan’s cavalry and any attempt to begin a fight could only bring
obvious disaster to the Southerners. Lee’s staff officers heard him say, “There is
nothing left me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a
thousand deaths.”
Lee sent Grant a note asking for an interview “with reference to the sur-
render of this army.”
Near the courthouse, Brigadier-General Joshua Chamberlain joined a
group of generals from both sides, including Sheridan and Gordon. A sound of
hoof beats came from a distance and there was a breathless stir among the
troops. Chamberlain turned to the rear to catch sight of Robert E. Lee, riding
with his chief of staff between the two lines. He was dressed in a splendid gold-
embroidered gray uniform, his sword at his side. His face appeared sad but his
bearing strong and dignified. Chamberlain felt “a certain awe and admiration,” as
he watched the man pass.343
Lee and Grant met at the McClean House at the edge of Appomattox
village. At the battle of First Bull Run, General Beauregard had used the house of
Wilmer McClean as headquarters. McClean moved away, wanting to distance
himself from the fighting. Now, three years and nine months later, his new house
was to be the site of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Lee was 58 years old, with
silver hair, tall and erect; Grant was 42, with black hair and the strength of
youth. Lee wore a clean and dazzling military dress; Grant was dressed in a
rough-worn and dusty blouse. Grant apologized to Lee, saying that he had come
directly from the field and hadn’t had time to change his uniform.
Lee’s bearing concealed his inner turmoil. Grant was embarrassed. Both
wore inscrutable faces.
After small talk, Lee said, “I suppose, General Grant, that the object of our
present meeting is fully understood. I asked to see you to ascertain upon what
terms you would receive the surrender of my army.”
“The terms I propose are those stated substantially in my letter of yes-
terday — that is, the officers and men surrendered to be paroled and disqualified

343. Joshua L. Chamberlain, The Passing of the Armies, pp. 246.

238
21. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

from taking up arms again until properly exchanged, and all arms, ammunition
and supplies to be delivered up as captured property.”
“Those,” said Lee, “are about the conditions I expected would be pro-
posed.”
Grant put it in writing and handed it to Lee, who read it slowly and said,
with his first touch of warmth, “This will have a very happy effect on my army.”
Grant asked for any further thoughts. Lee had one. His cavalrymen and
artillerists owned their horses and he wanted his men to have them for the
spring plowing. Grant agreed.
Lee shook hands with some of Grant’s generals who offered theirs, bowed;
and then turned to Grant, saying that his army was in a very bad condition for
want of food and that they had been living on parched corn exclusively. He asked
for rations and forage. Grant replied, “Certainly,” asked how much he needed,
and directed that 25,000 rations be sent to Lee’s men.344
Horace Porter, Grant’s aide-de-camp, wrote, “Lee signaled to his orderly to
bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on
the lowest step of the front porch and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley
beyond where his army waited — now an army of prisoners. He thrice smote the
palm of his left hand slowly with his right fist in an absent sort of way, seemed
not to see the group of Union officers in the yard that rose respectfully at his
approach. Lee appeared unaware of everything about him. Nor did he notice
Robert Lincoln standing on the porch. All appreciated the sadness that over-
whelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at
this supreme moment of trial.”345
At this most anguished, profoundly searching moment of his life, his
thoughts must have been suspended between random memories of past events
and an overpowering sense of loss: self-loss; family loss; loss for the hundreds of
thousands he had led in battle; and, loss for millions of his disintegrating nation’s
people — losses he had been incapable of preventing.
A hollow voice intruded on his reverie. Then it telescoped into the steady,
respectful voice of his orderly, in counterpoint to the silent eloquence of
springtime at Appomattox Courthouse...the rusty, comforting mat of dead pine
needles, the startling green of living, sun-illumined pines against the blue, the

344. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, pp. 494-495.


345. Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant, pp. 485-486.

239
And the War Came

glory of the dogwood and redbud blossoms mixed in a splendid and delicate
white and pink palette.

“Your mount, General...Sir? Your mount...General.”


As he climbed into the saddle, he assumed his uniquely graceful, com-
manding posture. The General was barely conscious of motionless blue and gray
forms — mostly blue — that seemed to fix him in time, seemed to regard him in
a silent, simple reverence, both personal and professional.
Over nearly three years under Robert E. Lee, six lieutenant generals had
commanded Corps. Now only Longstreet was with him. Forty-seven men had
served Lee as major-generals; seven were left at Appomattox. There had been 146
brigadiers; 22 were now counted at the surrender. Instead of the 200 colonels
appropriate for the remaining forces of Lee, 85 were present. Armed foot soldiers
had dwindled to 7,892 and men in all conditions, in all branches, numbered
slightly over 28,000.
After hearing of Lee’s surrender, Virginian Sarah Striker Fife declared, “I
cannot keep off this terrible feeling that I am standing at the deathbed of the
dearest thing on earth to me.”346
One Virginian said defiantly, “They never whipped us, Sir, unless they
were four to one. If we had anything like a fair chance, or less disparity of
numbers, we should have won our cause and established our independence.”347
General order No. 9, R. E. Lee’s farewell to his army:
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and
fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to over-
whelming numbers and resources...I earnestly pray that a merciful God will
extend to you his blessing and protection. With an unceasing admiration of your
constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your
kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate
farewell.”348 Comrades wept as they gazed upon each other, and with choking
voices said, farewell! And so — they parted. Little groups of two or three or four,
without food, without money...were soon plodding their way homeward.
In the beginning of the war Grant had electrified the North by saying, “No
terms except an immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted.” At its

346. Sarah Striker Fife, Diary


347. David Donald, ed., Why the North Won The Civil War, p. ix.
348. Letters of General Robert E. Lee, General Order No. 9, Appomattox, Virginia, April 10,
1865.

240
21. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

close, he said to Lee, “Let every man of the Confederate Army who claimed to
own a horse or mule take the animal to his home.”349

Chamberlain was summoned to headquarters and informed by Generals


Griffin and Gibbon that Grant had chosen him to command the surrender cere-
monies of the Confederate infantry.
On April 12, the Northern Brigades formed along the Richmond-
Lynchburg Road east of the courthouse in line of battle with the mounted
Chamberlain and his staff to the right, thus being the first soldiers the Confed-
erates would pass. The Stars and Stripes and the triangular ensign of the Third
Brigade with its Maltese cross fluttered in the breeze behind them. The Union
soldiers stood at “order arms” in battle array with muskets gleaming.
Across the valley the men in gray came together in the familiar and easy
route step. The misery of knowing that their cause was dead was nearly crushing
and they knew not what future they might have. These were proud men, emo-
tionally, intellectually and spiritually undefeated even if physically overpowered.
This bitter thing had to be faced...to march by the victorious Yankees whose
victory over the greatest general who ever lived was due to numbers only...would
the Yankees jeer or jibe, with word or gesture or look?
Leading the Southern army was General John B. Gordon, amazingly fit
and young-looking for a man with thirteen battle wounds, a masterful
horseman and ramrod straight in the saddle. His head slightly bowed, eyes
serious and saddened and with dejected determination to “drink this cup”
etched on his visage. The flag of the Confederacy, with its solid white field, red
background and crossed blue bars with white stars in the upper left corner,
preceded the column behind him. At intervals, the battle flag, the “stars and
bars,” oversized, appeared along with the unit battle flags. The Federal soldiers
who watched the approach of the Confederates did a double-take. “The regi-
mental battle-flags...crowded so thick, by thinning out of men, that the whole
column seemed crowned with red.”350
As Gordon reached the point in the Union ranks where Chamberlain
waited, a bugle sounded and the entire Union line snapped to attention, “and the
slapping noise of hands on shifting rifles echoed in the stillness as regiment after

349. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, p. 493.


350. Joshua Chamberlain, The Passing of the Armies, pp. 258-261..

241
And the War Came

regiment in succession down the Union line came into the old manual of arms
position of ‘salute’ and then back to ‘order arms’ and ‘parade rest.’”351
Gordon recognized immediately what was happening, wheeled his horse
to face Chamberlain, spurred his horse, causing it to rear and drops its head in a
bow, while Gordon dropped his sword to his boot toe in graceful salute to a man
he would refer to as, “one of the knightliest soldiers in the General army.”
Turning to his own columns, Gordon gave an order that was repeated down the
columns. The large Confederate banner dipped and as his men passed by they
saluted the Union soldiers in kind.
“On our part,” as Chamberlain described it, “not a sound of trumpet more,
nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion
of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-
holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.”352
The two recent antagonists behaved not as bitter enemies normally do
when one has conquered and one has succumbed, but rather with a deep-seated
respect colored with the regret that it had to come to this, like two close friends
after an unfortunately bitter altercation. It was consonant, as well, with the
admonishment of Abraham Lincoln to “Let ’em up easy.”
After Lee surrendered at Appomattox, a New Jersey Colonel wrote his
wife, “it has been our privilege to live and take part in the struggle that has
decided for all time that Republics are not a failure.”353
Author Tony Horwitz has written: “It was hard to imagine modern Amer-
icans ending any contest with such grace, much less one that lasted four years
and claimed over a million casualties.”354
The South stacked its arms at Appomattox Court House four years to the
day after Beauregard had fired their first shot at Sumter.
The parole passes at Appomattox entitled the Confederates to travel free
on any Union-controlled ship or railroad and draw rations from any Union sol-
diers they met on their journey. The South also had hundreds of thousands of
rations at cities and rail junctions.

351. Ibid.
352. Ibid.
353. Civil War Letters of John McCallister, p. 608.
354. Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, p. 270.

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21. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

Result:
The Civil War cost $20 billion, a sum eleven times greater than the Federal
government had spent in its entire existence. The value of property in the Con-
federate States declined from over $4 billion to $1.6 billion during the War.
It is estimated that two-fifths of the South’s livestock and two-thirds of all
of its assessed wealth were destroyed.

During the war, 16,000 new patents were issued by the Union. Only 266
were issued by the Confederate government.
The Confederacy mobilized something like 80 per cent of its military pool
(18-45 years old), compared to 30 per cent in the North. Six hundred and twenty
thousand Americans died, almost as many as the combined death in all of
America’s other wars until today. Another five hundred thousand were wounded
— over one million casualties out of a population of thirty-two million.
At the end of the war, 178,895 blacks were in the Union ranks, having
fought in 369 major battles and 410 major engagements, suffering 68,178 casu-
alties.
The average Southern soldier who lived past the end of the war had been
wounded, stricken with disease, or otherwise disabled, six times.
A Georgia woman, Sara Hine, wrote, after Appomattox:
“We never yielded in the struggle until we were bound hand & foot & the
heel of the despot was on our throats. Bankrupt in men, in money, & in provi-
sions, the wail of the bereaved & the cry of hunger rising all over the land, Our
cities burned with fire and our pleasant things laid waste, the best & bravest of
our sons in captivity, and the entire resources of our country exhausted — what
else could we do but give up.”355

355. James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper, eds., Writing the Civil War, Gary W.
Gallagher, Blueprint for Victory, p. 18.

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22. LINCOLN ASSASSINATED, HIS SEVERE TASK DONE

The President’s close friend and ever-faithful bodyguard, barrel-chested


Ward Hill Lamon, was certain Lincoln would be assassinated. He always made
Lincoln promise he wouldn’t go to the theater when Lamon was out of town. He
was out of town on this day.
In the second week of April, Lincoln had a dream which haunted him. In it,
he seemed to hear people weeping; he left his bed and wandered downstairs,
going from room to room. No one was in sight, but the sound of piteous grieving
went on. In the East Room, he found a corpse laid out for a funeral, surrounded
by a guard of soldiers. He demanded, “Who is dead in the White House?” “The
President…he was killed by an assassin!”
Hotels were a recent convenience in Washington. Guests were used to
boarding houses or taverns for room and board. “The Willard” was the place “to
be seen” but the National Hotel catered to Southerners. For the morning of April
14, the registry showed one John Wilkes Booth, an actor, of Bel Air, Maryland.
That morning, Booth confided to his diary that it was time to do something
decisive. Later that morning he learned of Lincoln’s plans to attend the theater
that evening and the “something decisive” took a more concrete and insidious
form.
Since the surrender at Appomattox, Washington had been on a cele-
bratory binge, right into Holy Week. This day was Good Friday.
Lincoln was at his desk by 7:30 a.m. A few blocks away, Secretary Stanton,
eating his customary soft-boiled eggs, asked his wife to send regrets to Mrs.

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And the War Came

Lincoln concerning a theater invitation. Stanton did not believe in the theater
and had no intention of attending such a spectacle. He had advised Lincoln to
stay away from all theaters and reduce public appearances to a minimum.
At 8:00 a.m., Lincoln breakfasted with his wife and his sons Robert and
Tad. Lincoln habitually ate one egg and drank one cup of coffee. This morning he
wanted to hear what Robert had to say about Grant and the last days of the war.
Robert spoke of events at the surrender at Appomattox and of Grant’s genius.
When Robert showed his father a photograph of Robert E. Lee, the President
admired the man’s face.
One good face admired another. Benjamin Franklin once made an
intriguing observation, “I believe long habits of virtue have a sensible effect on
the countenance.”356 The characters of Lincoln and Lee were etched in their
visages.
Mrs. Lincoln announced that she had tickets for the huge celebration at
Grover’s Theater that evening but admitted that she would rather see Laura
Keene in “Our American Cousin,” playing at Ford’s theater. The play had been
written fourteen years before by the English playwright Tom Taylor. Following
the initial rehearsal, Taylor decided it would not succeed with a British audience
and sent it to America, where it had a reasonable run but was now about played
out. Lincoln expressed little interest, but indicated he would go. Mary asked
Robert to join them, but he declined.
She asked Mr. Lincoln if the Grants could join them and Lincoln promised
to see to it.
By 8:30 a.m., the President was back in his office. The books in the Pres-
ident’s office consisted of the Bible, the Statutes of the United States of America,
and the complete works of William Shakespeare.
At 9:00 a.m., the President had finished reading his newspapers. One of the
pigeon-holes in his desk was labeled “assassination.” It contained eighty threats.
He gestured to the soldier standing by the door to admit his first vulture, i.e.
visitor. He liked to refer to the ritual of greeting visitors who waited to see him
everyday as “the Beggars’ Opera.” His favorites were the inventors, original but
eccentric. He enjoyed repeating the story of one visit in particular, with a man
from deep in the backwoods, who counseled him, “a gun ought not to rekyle, if it
rekyled at all, it ought to rekyle a little forrid.”357

356. Ron Chernow, Titan, The Life of John D, Rockefeller, Sr., p. 612.
357. John C. Waugh, Reelecting Lincoln, The Battle for the 1864 Presidency, p. 82.

246
22. Lincoln Assassinated, His Severe Task Done

John Wilkes Booth, his haircut finished, walked into the lobby of the
National Hotel. Everyone knew him. Many envied the handsome, self-assured,
famous actor. No one would have been suspicious of him.
In Stanton’s office, General Grant presented his recommendations for
paring down the size of the army to that needed in Reconstruction peacetime
and for cancellation of vendor contracts. Grant notified his wife, Julia, that they
would be leaving for Burlington, New Jersey, to see their children.
By 10:00 a.m., the President was still seeing favor-seekers, but directed a
messenger to run over to The Ford Opera house on the east side of tenth Street
between E and F and inform them he would require the President’s box tonight
and that General and Mrs. Grant would accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln.
Lincoln was not keen to out that evening, especially since he expected the capit-
ulation of Joe Johnston’s army to General Sherman at any time and, if it hap-
pened, his mind would not be on the theater. Mr. James Ford was delighted with
the news, for Good Friday was the worst night of the theater year. “Our
American Cousin” was no magnet and his rival, Grover’s, was staging a gala
victory celebration. He also knew whom he had to thank...the President’s wife.
Lincoln had attended his establishment three times recently but, in each case, a
Shakespearean play was staged. Tonight’s show was not Lincoln fare. Mr. Ford
hastened to the Treasury building to obtain bunting for the occasion.
Lincoln knew that historic decisions would be made regarding the nature
of Reconstruction of the South, and therefore the future of the nation, at the
11:00 cabinet meeting. He might be permitted a soft chuckle when he thought
that Congress, which was not in session, could hardly do anything to change
what would be decided before they convened in December, eight months off.
Grant was applauded when he entered the room and he and Lincoln chatted by
the window.
The discussion proceeded. After a while, Stanton gently waved a great
sheaf of papers while announcing he had a plan which he had given “a great deal
of reflection.” In fact, Lincoln had asked Stanton to prepare this document,
expecting it to be a middle ground between his “soft” approach to recon-
struction and Stanton’s “harsh” one. It was generally agreed that, regarding of
election of officials in the South, the political and military leaders of the rebellion
be disenfranchised and officials elected from the rest of the populace. Stanton
suggested that Virginia and North Carolina be combined into one state but this

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And the War Came

proposal gained no support, as the others thought the process of reuniting the
states was more important than engaging in a stupendous gerrymander.

Talk turned to what to do about the leaders of the rebellion and some
harsh words escaped. Lincoln interrupted, urging wisdom and discretion to
enable the States to get back on their feet before Congress reconvened in
December.
At about this time, Booth walked into Ford’s to pick up his mail, which
Ford always kept for him. While there, Booth heard Ford order the partition to
be removed between Boxes 7 and 8. Out of respect for the President, no other
boxes would be occupied. Booth went outside to read his mail and then re-
entered the 1700-seat, gas-lit theater and went upstairs. Outside the boxes was
an unlighted hallway to which entrance was gained through a door. The Pres-
ident’s guard would be seated at another door, which led into the hallway. The
boxes overhung the sides of the stage and the distance from the ledge of the box
to the stage below was eleven feet. Booth entered the hallway and went through
the door of Box 7, seated himself and watched the rehearsal. His mind was
rehearsing the details of a drama of a vastly different nature.
The cabinet meeting was still going on at 1:00 p.m. and Lincoln was
warmed by the trend of the discussion, the gist of which was that if the North
helped the South to revitalize its economy, the North would benefit likewise.
At 2:00 p.m., the Whig Press of Middletown, New York, published the
shocking story that Lincoln had been assassinated. The editor had not even per-
formed a rudimentary check on the “scoop.”
Stranger yet, at the same time, in distant St. Joseph, Minnesota, forty miles
from the nearest telegraph office, people asked each other, gasping, if they had
heard the news that Lincoln had been assassinated.
The cabinet meeting ended with general agreement on taking a con-
structive approach to the reconstruction of the South. General Grant walked
over to Lincoln, thanked him for allowing him to attend, and then nervously
begged off attending the play that night, saying that he “was very anxious to get
away and visit my children.358 Lincoln, who had wished to show the General to
the people, was disappointed, but he relented.

358. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, vol.2, p. 508.

248
22. Lincoln Assassinated, His Severe Task Done

It was after two o’clock when he shook Mr. Lincoln’s hand and said good-
bye. The General went at once to his rooms at the hotel. Lincoln had lunch with
Mary and no doubt told her of Grant’s decision.
The theater was ready for the President. The red-upholstered rocking chair
reserved for the President and two sofas for the ladies were set in place. Three
chairs were added in back. Bunting and flags were positioned and a picture of
George Washington nailed over the Treasury Department regimental flag. Mr.
Ford personally checked that everything was to his liking, opening the doors to
Box 7 and then Box 8. That fact that neither door locked escaped his notice.
The First Lady had suggested to the President that it would be nice to go
for a carriage ride. At around 4:00 p.m., the President went to the War
Department. He had sent word to Mary that he would go for the ride when he
returned.
At the War Department, Lincoln asked Stanton if there was any news
from Sherman. There was none. Then Lincoln spied Thomas Eckert, Chief of the
Telegraph Bureau and a hulk of a man, and asked him if he would accompany the
Lincolns to the theater that night. Stanton interrupted, saying the man was
needed for important work. Lincoln addressed him directly: “Now Major, come
along. You can do Stanton’s work tomorrow.” In deference to his boss, Eckert
declined.359
The President and First Lady were seated in their carriage about 5:00 p.m.
During their ride Lincoln was in a buoyant mood frequently doffing his stove-
pipe hat to passers-by who hailed him. Mary was startled by his cheerfulness.
She reminded him that he was similarly buoyant just before Willie died.
John Wilkes Booth was also out riding along Pennsylvania Avenue. He
came upon a carriage with two escorts and luggage, heading toward the train
station. He knew it wasn’t Lincoln, whose carriage he had passed shortly before.
He rode by the puzzling carriage and reined in ahead of it, then turned around
and approached the carriage at a walk. Peering in, he saw two ladies, who
thought him a wild-eyed stranger. They were Julia Grant and General Rucker’s
wife, who had offered to take the Grants to the railroad station. In the carriage
box was the driver and a military officer who looked like Grant.
Booth went to Ford’s Theater around 6 o’clock. He took the stagehands to
a tavern and brought them drinks and then a bottle. He left them, went back to
the theater, picked up a pine music-stand board and climbed the stairs toward

359. David Homer Bates, “Lincoln in the Telegraph Office, pp. 366-367.

249
And the War Came

the hallway behind the President’s box. He entered the hallway and came to the
white door at Box 7. It opened readily. He tried to brace the hallway door shut by
wedging the board between it and the rear wall of Box 7 but found the board a
bit too long. Holding a handkerchief under the plaster of the wall, he whittled
out a space until the board fit. He placed the board away in a corner. Now, he
could prevent anyone following him into the box. If he had to stab the guard
outside the hallway entrance, someone would be sure to come running.
He moved to the side of the President’s rocker and mulled over the drop to
the stage. If he could avoid jumping from the ledge of the box and swing over it,
hanging down, he could reduce the fall substantially. He then went back to the
door and carved a hole in the corner of one of its recessed panels. Through it, he
could see the top of the back of the President’s rocking chair. He carefully
cleaned up the wood shavings. He stepped outside, went down the hallway and
exited. He was ready. He returned to his hotel, ate, and returned to his room
where he loaded his brass derringer, a tiny pistol that could be concealed in a
woman’s hand. It fired a lead ball nearly one-half inch thick. It could not be fired
again until reloaded. He checked the sheathed knife in the waistband of his
pants.
Lincoln’s guard, William Henry Crook, was still at his post outside the
President’s office at 7:00 p.m., three hours after he should have been relieved by
John F. Parker, a Washington policeman who was frequently late. Crook begged
the President not to go to the theater that evening but Lincoln did not want to
disappoint his wife. Parker finally arrived. Crook told him of the President’s
plans that evening and said that, even though there would be room for him in the
carriage, it might be best for him to go to the theater a few minutes early and
wait for Lincoln there.
The President said some words to Crook and then said “goodbye, Crook.”
Lincoln then went back into his office. Crook was startled. The President always
said “Good night” to Crook, never “Goodbye.”360
Parker’s record as a policeman was stained: it included charges of using
insulting language, while on duty, toward a number of men, women and his
superiors; of being found drunk and disorderly in a house of prostitution as a
customer; and, of failure to properly patrol his post.
At dinner the First Lady had informed her husband that she had invited a
young couple, who were engaged, to join them at the theater: Clara Harris, the

360.Kennedy, Kunhardt and Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, p 346.

250
22. Lincoln Assassinated, His Severe Task Done

lovely young daughter of Senator Ira Harris of New York, and her fiancé, Major
Henry Rathbone, the Senator’s stepson.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the Lincolns entered their carriage, the President
saying a cheery good-bye to a few friends he promised to see in the morning. May
was wearing a low-cut white dress and a bonnet with pink flowers on it. They
stopped at H Street to pick up Major Rathbone and his fiancée. The officer was
in civilian clothes and was not armed. It was 8:25 when the Lincolns arrived at
Fords. Act One was in progress to an almost full house of nearly 1675 people.
Policeman Parker had arrived early; he checked the President’s Box and
awaited his arrival. He led the party to their box. On stage, the action ceased as
Laura Keene began to applaud the arrival of the President. The band started to
play “Hail to the Chief,” and the audience joined the applause. Lincoln had first
heard “Hail to the Chief” on the capitol steps in 1861 as he was about to take the
oath of office. Since then, he heard it thousands of times more. This would be the
last time. Parker sat on his chair, outside the corridor.
Just before 9:00 p.m., Parker grew bored, and stepped out of the theater.
Spying the President’s carriage, he strolled over and invited the dozing
coachman for some ale at Taltavul’s tavern. They were joined by Lincoln’s valet,
Forbes, who had been seated on a crate in the box.
In the Box, Major Rathbone and Miss Harris were holding hands. The
President reached over and took Mary’s hand, which he held at the side of his
rocker.
Around 9:30 p.m., John Wilkes Booth arrived at Ford’s, went inside for a
while and stood to the side of the stage, and looked across, to the President’s
Box. Through the haze he could see practically nothing. He had time. He went
back outside and over to Taltavul’s Tavern and ordered a bottle of whiskey.
Strange, thought Taltavul, he usually drank brandy.
Around 10:00 p.m., the second scene of the third act of the play had begun.
Lincoln saw portly General Ambrose Burnside return to his seat, late. At 10:07,
Booth walked into the lobby of the theater and headed up the stairs. He was
startled to find the chair by the little white door empty. He walked up to it and
turned around with his back almost against it. Laughter from the audience
diverted attention of any that might have been watching him.
Listening to the dialogue on stage, Booth knew that in couple of moments,
“Asa” would be alone on stage. He turned the knob, opened the door, entered the
inner hallway and closed the door behind him. He found the pine board he had
stored and wedged it against the door and into the wall niche he had carved.

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And the War Came

There would be no interference from that direction. He moved down the hallway
in darkness toward Door Number 7.
He could see light coming through the door reflecting on the hallway wall.
He heard the muffled voice of Mrs. Mountchessington, on stage:
“Augusta, to your room.”
Augusta said, “Yes, Ma. The nasty beast.”

Booth peered through the gimlet hole and saw a head above the rocking
chair. On stage, Trenchard said: “don’t know the manners of good society, eh....?”
Booth, Derringer in hand, turned the knob. Lincoln was four feet away
from him.
Trenchard continued:
“Wal, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologizing
old mantrap!”
Booth pointed the gun at the President’s head, between the left ear and
spine. He squeezed the trigger and a sound like a popped paper bag was heard by
some, not by others, as laughter trilled through the audience. Lincoln did not
move. His head slumped on his chest and the rocker became still. Mary, Major
Rathbone and Clara Harris turned to look, laughter blooming on their faces.
Booth forced his way between the Lincolns. Clara Harris was startled.
Major Rathbone, unaware of what had happened, responded instinctively and
lunged at Booth. He grabbed Booth’s arm but Booth had pulled out his knife, and
he slashed his attacker. Rathbone’s left arm was slashed to the bone. Booth
approached the ledge of the box and shouted melodramatically,
“Sic Semper Tyrannus.”361
Mary looked at Lincoln, who appeared to be dozing. Booth swept his legs
over the ledge, and with his back to the audience, let himself over the side. He
pushed his body away from the box with his right hand but the spur of his right
boot caught in the draped Treasury flag. The banner ripped, following Booth to
the stage. Booth held his left foot stiff and shoved out his two hands to break his
fall. He landed on the left leg, which broke just above the instep. He arose and
ran across the stage to the wings. The confused audience saw him fall again, get
up, and limp on the outside of his left foot, walking on his ankle.
Mary shrieked from the box. Clara Harris shouted, “Water.”

361. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 72 (February 1979), William Hanchett,
Booth’s Diary, p.40.

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22. Lincoln Assassinated, His Severe Task Done

Booth made it to the back door where an innocent stagehand had his horse
waiting, following earlier instructions. Booth limped toward the horse and
managed to swing up on it. He was settling in the saddle when Major Stewart
emerged from the building, crying, “Stop! Stop!” Stewart reached for the reins.
Booth barely evaded him, and rode out of the alley. Surprisingly, Booth was
not yet in much pain. He leaned on the right stirrup and sat with his left thigh in
the saddle. He turned left onto Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol.

From the State Box rang another scream, which brought the audience to
their feet. Mary Lincoln could not rouse her husband.
Clara Harris was begging for water. Women in the audience began
fainting and more cries for “water” were heard. Major Rathbone went into the
corner and found the pine bar blocking the door while a crowd pushed from the
other side. He yelled for them to stop and he dropped the bar to the floor. It was
covered with his blood. He entreated the crowd to let only doctors through. Dr.
Charles Leale, a twenty-three-year old Assistant Surgeon of United States Vol-
unteers made his way from the back. Rathbone asked Doctor Leale for imme-
diate attention. The doctor lifted his chin, peered into his eyes and walked into
the box. The man was not critically wounded.
The doctor lifted Mary Lincoln’s head off her husband’s chest. She was
moaning helplessly. He asked that she be taken away; she was seated in Box 8
with Clara Harris, who was trying to console her. Leale pushed the president’s
shoulders back against the rocker and studied the man. Lincoln’s eyes were
closed. Breathing was inaudible. There was no sign of a wound. Leale asked some
soldiers who had arrived to place Lincoln on the floor. He wanted to look for a
knife wound. He had heard shouts about a man with a knife and had seen
Rathbone’s knife wound.
Lifting an eyelid, Leale spotted evidence of brain injury. Separating his
fingers, he combed Lincoln’s hair and, in the rear, found matted blood. His
fingers loosened the clot and the President began to breathe faintly and produce
a weak pulse.
A Doctor Taft arrived and Leale lifted Lincoln to a near-sitting position,
asking Taft to hold him. Leale inserted his little finger in the wound, determined
that it was caused by a bullet with the projectile moving through the brain
toward the right eye. Feeling around the eye he determined the bullet had not
emerged. It was still in the brain. He lowered Lincoln toward the floor. He knew
Lincoln would die. He straddled Lincoln and administered artificial respiration.

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And the War Came

He would prolong life as much as he could. Lincoln’s breathing became stronger


but Leale told the two doctors now present that the wound was mortal.
Laura Keene had joined Clara and Mary Lincoln on the sofa in Box 8. All
three heard the doctor’s prognosis but only Mary Lincoln seemed not to under-
stand.
Doctor Taft asked people to find a place nearby to take Lincoln and
ordered soldiers to carry him down. There was chaos in the building and on the
street. A captain, sword raised high, led soldiers to clear the way. Every few
steps, Dr. Leale removed a clot. A man appeared in a doorway at 453 Tenth Street
and motioned to have Lincoln brought there. It was the tailor, William Petersen,
and it was his home. The President was brought to a small bedroom, nine by
fifteen feet, under the stairway.
Lincoln was placed diagonally on the bed, too short for a man of his
stature, and propped up with pillows so that his chin rested upon his breast.
Leale and the other doctors began to remove the Presidents’ clothing. Looking
up, he saw Mary, Clara and Laura Keene standing in the doorway and asked
them to wait in the front room. His examination discovered no other wounds.
Mustard plasters were placed over Lincoln’s entire body and sheets and a
comforter were placed over him.
Lincoln sighed now and then. His breathing was raspy and labored. His
pulse was forty-four and light. The pupil of his left eye was contracted, the right
pupil was dilated. Both were insensitive to light. Leale sent for Robert Lincoln.
Dr. Robert K. Sine, the President’s physician and Dr. Phineas D. Gurley,
Lincoln’s pastor were summoned. Surgeon General Barnes was stopped in his
carriage while he was passing by Willard’s Hotel and was told to hurry to the
President. He rushed to his office for his instruments and, while there, was told
about Secretary Seward’s wounding at the hands of Booth’s accomplice, Lewis
Paine. Confused, Doctor Barnes went to Seward’s home and was dressing
Seward’s knife wounds (Seward was reported dead by berserk mobs, but would
live) when a frantic negro hack driver burst in the house and begged him to come
to Tenth Street, where the President of the United States lay dying. Dr. Barnes
left to attend the President. He thought Seward would live if he survived the
shock, but thought that his son, Frederick , having suffered a double fracture of
the cranium during the attack, might die.
The news was spreading around the city. Ella Turner, a prostitute who
loved Booth, placed a picture of Booth beneath her pillow and placed a chlo-
roform-soaked rag over her face. She was discovered, and revived. The com-

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22. Lincoln Assassinated, His Severe Task Done

mercial telegraph lines in the city went dead and would not be revived until
12:30 a.m.
Even though many witnesses saw and identified Booth as Lincoln’s
assassin, the impression of official Washington was that a massive Confederate
retaliation plot was just unfolding. There was a shut-down of the commercial
telegraph system at 10:30 p.m.; it would seem to require the work of many hands
to cut so many wires at once. Washington appeared to be a city besieged by a
defeated Confederate government, left only the ultimate revenge.

At 12:30 a.m., the telegraph came alive. The wires had not been cut. Two
wires from the main battery had been crossed and service shorted out.
While he was riding south in Maryland toward his intended escape route
in Virginia, Booth’s leg began hurting badly. He needed a doctor. The only one he
knew in the area was Dr. Samuel Mudd in Bryantown, a man he did not trust. He
was already eleven miles south of Ford’s Theatre and Mudd’s farm was another
seventeen miles further south. He rode with co-conspirator David Herold and
determined he would wear a disguise he had brought along when they visited
Dr. Mudd. They would tell him that Booth had broken his leg when thrown from
his horse.
After 2:00 a.m., Mrs. Lincoln made another trip to the bedroom. She rested
her cheek on her husband’s and the President emitted an explosive breath. Mary
screamed and fainted.
Booth had left a personal manifesto with his sister, Asia, in Philadelphia, so
that “history to might judge him fairly:”
...The country was formed for the white, not the black man...I, for one, have con-
sidered it [slavery] one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that
God ever bestowed upon a favored nation. Witness heretofore our wealth and our
power; witness their elevation and enlightenment above their race elsewhere...the
South are not, nor have they been, fighting for the continuation of slavery...Even
should we allow that they were wrong at the beginning of this contest, cruelty and
injustice have made the wrong become the right. The south can make no choice. It is
either extermination or slavery for themselves (worse than death)...I know my
choice...but God is my judge; I love justice more than I do a country that disowns
it...Nor do I deem it a dishonor in attempting to make for her a prisoner of this man
to whom she owes so much of misery...362
Booth arrived at Dr. Mudd’s five-hundred acre farm after 4:00 a.m., dis-
guised as an old man. Until the Emancipation Proclamation, Mudd had owned

362. Jim Bishop, The Day Lincoln was shot, pp. 70-71.

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And the War Came

eleven slaves. Once, when one of his slaves refused an order, Mudd shot the man
in the leg. The doctor worked on Booth’s leg, found a simple fracture of the tibia,
affixed a splint and offered to let the stranger stay until morning.
Shortly after 5:00 a.m., Lincoln hemorrhaged again; he was attended by the
doctors until his breathing became regular. The President appeared relaxed
although his right eye, with the bullet lodged behind it, was swollen and purple.
His lips were blue from insufficient oxygen. His legs were stone cold. His
breathing stopped for long periods, with the doctors timing the lapses.

Lincoln’s missing guard, John Parker, showed up at a police station with a


prostitute in hand. She was ordered out of town. No one asked Parker where he
had been last night. Parker did not inquire as to the condition of the President
nor offer to file a report about the assassination.
After 7:00 a.m., Lincoln began to moan. His right eye was black. His
breathing was swift and his lips blew out and were sucked back in. Surgeon
General Barnes felt his cold hands and asked to have Mrs. Lincoln brought to the
bedroom. Robert Lincoln, a reserved man, buried his face in his hands. Mary
Lincoln arrived, looked at her husband, heard her son sob, and then was led out
of the room in silence. The President was failing. Dr. Leale saw Lincoln’s chest
heave, hold, and then relax. This was 7:22:10.
All waited for the next breath. It did not occur.

Lincoln’s face was now peacefully composed at rest. “What a history was
written on that careworn and furrowed face — of suffering accepted, sorrow
entertained, emotions buried, and duty done.”363

363.Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Pastor, Third Congregational Unitarian Society in


New York City, Sermon (after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln).

256
23. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: THE MAN JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
WAS LOOKING FOR

In December of 1865, the bleeding, divided nation which was destined to


become the most powerful and wealthiest in the world ratified the Thirteenth
Amendment to its Constitution:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United
States...”
It reads simply enough, but what a journey it was to arrive at such sim-
plicity.
“Oh, if but one man could arise with a genius capable of comprehending, a
heart capable of supporting, and an utterance capable of communicating those
eternal truths that belong to this question.” John Quincy Adams’ prayer had
been answered in the form of an unschooled rustic from somewhere out on the
Plains.
“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half
free...it will become all one thing or all the other...whether this shall be an entire
slave nation is the issue before us.”364
Winston Churchill wrote that the “American Civil War...must upon the
whole be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass-con-
flicts...”365

364. Roy p. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, “House Divided” Speech, p.
372.
365. Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, The Great Democracies, vol.
IV, p. 263.

257
And the War Came

The freed slaves added to their repertoire of spiritual songs a beautifully-


cadenced chant that rejoiced:

Free at last,
Free at last,
Thank God Almighty
I’m free at last.

By 1890, forty per cent of the Federal Budget was spent in pensions to
wounded and elderly soldiers and widows and orphans of the war.

The slave, Cato Carter:


“Mr. Ol came back [from the war]...He was all wore out and ragged. He
stood on the front porch and called all the niggers to the front yard. He said,
‘Mens and womens, you are as free today as I am.’ You is free to do as you like,
‘cause the damned Yankees done ‘creed that you are. But they ain’t a nigger on
my place that was born here or ever lived here that can’t stay here and work and
eat to the end of his days, as long as this old place will raise peas and goobers. Go
if you wants or stay if you wants.’
“Some of the niggers stayed and some went. And some that had run away
to the north came back. They always called real humble-like at the back gate to
Miss Earing, and she always fixed it up with Mr. Ol that they could have a
place.”366
Historian Bruce Catton wrote, over a century after the Civil War:
“...the country made a commitment during that war; a commitment to a
broader freedom, a broader citizenship. We can no longer be content with any-
thing less than complete liberty, complete equality before the law for all of our
people...we are fated to continue the experience in peaceful democracy.”367
Lincoln had said: “In stating a single condition of peace, I mean simply to
say that the war will cease on the part of the government, whenever it shall have
ceased on the part of those who began it.”368
Bruce Catton observes that
The legend of Robert E. Lee and the heroic Confederate soldiers [who] … suf-
fered mightily in a great but lost cause...[includes] no hint … of biding one’s time and
waiting for a moment when there could be revenge...[As such] the legend of the lost

366.James Mellon , ed., Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, An Oral History, p. 277.
367. Bruce Catton, Reflections on the Civil War, p. 226.
368.Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln his Speeches and Writings, Annual Message to
Congress, December 6, 1864, p. 789.

258
23. Abraham Lincoln: The Man John Quincy Adams was Looking For

cause has served the entire country very well...we have had national peace since the
war ended, and we will always have it.369
There was an 1866 song entitled, “‘O, I’m a Good Old Rebel.”

Three hundred thousand Yankees is stiff in Rebel Dust


We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
I wish they was three million instead of what we got
I can’t take up my musket and fight them now no more,
But I ain’t gonna love them; now, that is certain sure.
And I don’t want no pardon for what I was and am
I won’t be reconstructed, and I don’t care a damn.370

The Civil War led directly to three Constitutional Amendments,


destroyed the major social and economic institution of half the nation, led to the
election of five presidents, freed over four million slaves, killed 620,000 men and
destroyed an ideology that threatened to end the life of our nation in adoles-
cence, and with it, the republic that offered hope for freedom to all the disenfran-
chised souls on our planet.
William Graham Sumner, the Northern Social Darwinist, asserted that
freedom for the slaves meant greater personal hardship for the Negro than
slavery, but that such suffering was the price of evolution.
The Monument to Abraham Lincoln in Washington is a stirring memorial.
The words of his two Inaugural and Gettysburg addresses move the heart and
mind with their elegant simplicity and poignancy. Another kind of memorial can
be found, of a contrary kind, in the words that poured out of the hearts and
minds of those who were his “friends”, on his side in the war, after he was elected
President of the United States. They include quotations from high officials,
editors of important newspapers and others of note. All of the following quota-
tions were spoken or written by Northerners, or Northern sympathizers in the
South. None of these emanated from the Confederates.
“Imbecile.” — Pennsylvania
“His conduct is all that could be expected of one born of poor white trash.”
— Ohio
“Liar.”
“He lacks the will and purpose...has not the power to command.” — Missouri
“Illinois beast.”

369. Bruce Catton, Reflections on the Civil War, pp. 227-228.


370. Innes Randolph, Song, ‘A Good Old Rebel’, 1870.

259
And the War Came

“Pitiful coward.”
“Butcher.”
“Shallow, dazed, utterly foolish.”
“Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches.” — Ohio
“Has no mind whatsoever.” — Massachusetts
“Has neither insight nor provision for decision.” — Massachusetts
“Thief.”
“Ignoramus.”
“We must save the President from the infamy of ruining his country.” —
Massachusetts
“The good of the country requires me to submit to men whom I know to be
vastly my inferiors, socially, intellectually and morally.” — Commander, Army of
the Potomac
“Would be glad to hear some morning that you had been found hanging
from the post of a lamp at the door of the White House.” — Pennsylvania
“The ugliest man I have ever put my eyes on, with the expression of ple-
beian vulgarity in his face.” —Massachusetts
“His weakness requires replacement by a stronger man.” — Officer Clique
in the Army of the Potomac
“There is no hope for this country except in the death of the President and
a new administration.” — Minnesota
“He is shattered, dazed, and utterly foolish.” — Former Supreme Court
Justice
“So cautious as to be timid...so ignorant as to fear the little danger near
more than the danger farther off.” — Massachusetts
“Swindler.”
“Lincoln has failed, failed, failed, FAILED!” — Iowa
“So vacillating… so weak…so fearful...and so ignorant.” — Michigan
“God did not make him of such stuff as these times demand.” — Vice Pres-
ident of the United States
“Fool.”
“Fiend.”
“Buffoon...vulgar buffoon.”
“The feebleness of his will...His want of intellectual grasp…” — Secretary of
the Treasury
“Our great want is a competent leader.” — Attorney General of the United
States

260
23. Abraham Lincoln: The Man John Quincy Adams was Looking For

“If he is elected...for another four years, we trust some bold hand will
pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.” —Wisconsin

In striking counterpoint to the above litany of scorn would appear


Lincoln’s words from his Second Inaugural Address:
I am loath to close.
We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies...
With Malice toward None; with Charity for All.

And his words to Western audiences in 1858:


Never forget that we have before us this whole matter of right and wrong.

There were, of course, Lincoln supporters during the war, and there was an
avalanche of posthumous adulation. One of the most beautiful tributes comes in
a letter written to Abraham Lincoln by Mary Abigail Dodge, a writer for maga-
zines and newspapers from a small village in Massachusetts, on the day of his
Second Inaugural.
I only wish to thank you for being so good — and to say how sorry we all are
that you must have four years more of this terrible toil...But if you had been in this
little speck of a village this morning and heard the soft, sweet music of unseen bells
rippling through the morning silence from every quarter of the far-off horizon, you
would have better known what your name is to this nation...May God help you in
the future as he has helped you in the past and a people’s love and gratitude will be
but a small portion of your exceeding great reward.371
Frustrated by a cabinet initially composed of enemies and patronizers, vil-
ified by senators and governors, excoriated by the press, excruciatingly disap-
pointed by five consecutive astonishingly ineffective generals, disdained by ill-
wishers...lacking even a lifeline of succor from a shallow, distracted wife, thus
did Lincoln work toward his goal.
But many common Northern people and most of the soldiers were strongly
attached to this awkward, ungainly, unattractive and absolutely beautiful and
magnificent man.
At the price of being lonely, unhappy, misunderstood, maligned, grief-
stricken and finally murdered, Lincoln recalled the “better angels” of our human
nature.

371. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, p. 666.

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271
And the War Came

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272
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273
And the War Came

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2000.

275
INDEX

Numerics Andrew, Governor, 148


Annapolis, MD, 29
123rd Pennsylvania, 157 Antietam Creek, MD, 159
15th Alabama, 188, 201 Antietam, Battle of, 155, 273
1787 Ordinance, 37 Appomattox Court House, VA, 242
1st Michigan Cavalry, 152 Aquia Creek, VA, 149
20th Maine, 189 Aristotle, 3, 263
20th Massachusetts, 144 Arkansas, 41, 56, 117, 134, 158
24th Wisconsin, 228 Articles of Confederation, 29
2nd South Carolina, 170 Ashley River, 11
54th Massachusetts, 232 Asiento, 6
6th Alabama, 158 Athens, 3
9th Virginia, 161 Austin, Stephen, 71
Austria, 100
A
Abolition, 11, 35, 48, 100, 105, 265 B
Abolitionists, 60, 204 Babbot, Charles, 155
Adams, Abigail, 21, 25–27, 68, 70, 265 Bagby, Edward, 79
Adams, Charles Francis Jr., 62 Bahamas, 38
Adams, Henry, 19 Bailey, Franklin H., 134
Adams, John, 18–22, 24–27, 34, 70, 264–266 Ball, John, 40
Adams, Sam, 20 Baltimore, 43, 107, 127, 156, 186, 206, 220,
Adams. John Quincy, 45–46, 61–62, 64, 67– 273
70, 115, 257, 263, 271 Barbados, 9, 11
Africa, 3–5, 9, 14, 25, 56, 73, 81 Barlow, Samuel, 125
African Slave Trade, 265 Barnes, Surgeon General, 254, 256
African Trading Company, 4 Bates, Edward, 107
Alabama, 1, 41, 44, 64, 106–107, 111, 113, Beaufort, SC, 13, 49, 58, 82, 273
118, 131, 192, 207, 229, 268
Beauregard, Gustave Pierre Toutant, 1–2,
Alabama Platform, 106 115–116, 121–124, 131–133, 135–136,
Alexander, Edward Porter, Colonel, 161, 191 230, 233, 238, 242
Alexandria, VA, 42, 263 Benjamin, Judah, 136
Alford, Julius, 64 Bennett, James Gordon, 110, 216
Amelia Courthouse, VA, 237 Benton, Thomas Hart, 77
American Medical Association, 105 Bermuda, 7
American Revolution, 12–13, 18, 39, 264, 267, Biddle, Captain, 144
270, 275 Bill of Rights, 36, 62
Ames, Colonel, 153, 193 Blackhawk War, 88, 122
Anderson, Richard H., 212 Blair, Montgomery, 172
Anderson, Robert, Major, 2 Blue Ridge Mountains, 18, 186

277
And the War Came

Boone, Daniel, 18, 87 Charlottesville, VA, 117, 265


Booth, John Wilkes, 104, 235, 245, 247, 249, Chase, Salmon P., 107, 265
251 Chattanooga, TN, 199–200, 202–203, 206
Boston, 13, 17–20, 22, 26, 40, 67, 89, 236, Cheatham, Benjamin Franklin, 227
263–264, 266–267, 269–270, 273, 275 Cherokee Indians, 71, 266
Boston Courier, 89 Chesapeake Bay, 10, 12, 31, 140
Boston Tea Party, 20 Chesnut, James, 1, 116
Bowdoin College, 153 Chicago, 54, 81, 98, 107, 117
Bragg, Braxton, 136, 199–204 Chickahominy River, 214
Braintree, MA, 19 Chickamauga, Battle of, 199–201, 267
Brazil, 5, 8, 81 Chilton, Robert H., 157
Brierfield, Mississippi, 74 Churchill, Winston, 171, 257, 265
Bristol, England, 11 Cincinnati, 134, 171, 206, 213
British, 8 Clay, Henry, 46, 53, 55, 76–77, 272
British Royal African Company, 9 Cleburne, Patrick Ronayne, 134
Broadhead, Thornton F., 152 Clyde, OH, 60, 206, 275
Brooks, Noah, 165, 179–180, 271 Cobb, Thomas R., 233
Brown University, 145 Cofer, Willis, 95
Brown, John, 97, 103–104, 109, 118, 159, 177, Colbert, William, 265
266 Colchester (England), 11
Brown, W.W., 173–174 Cold Harbor, Battle of, 211, 214–215, 272
Browning, Orville, 108, 145 College Land Grant Act, 153
Brunswick, Maine, 153 Colorado, 76
Buck, Lucy, 197 Columbia, SC, 62–63, 67–68, 76, 78, 90, 109,
Buckingham, J.H., 89 168, 234, 264–265, 271, 273, 275
Buell, Carlos, 131–133 Compromise of 1850, 77–78
Buena Vista, Battle of, 136 Concord, MA, 17
Buford, John, 186–187 Confederacy, The, 57, 61, 75, 82, 113, 117–
Burlington, NJ, 247 118, 121–122, 124, 126–127, 131, 135,
Burnside, Ambrose, 156, 162, 212, 251 139–140, 144, 150, 152, 155–156, 160–
Burton, James H., 129, 184, 234, 264 161, 166, 168, 171, 176–177, 179, 186,
193–197, 199–201, 203–206, 211–212,
214–215, 217, 224–225, 227, 229, 232–
C 233, 241, 243, 263–264, 266, 268, 274–
Cahill, Thomas, 30 275
Cairo, IL, 207 Confederate Congress, 136, 163, 174, 233
Calhoun, John C., 53–55, 60, 72, 76–77, 97, Confederate States, 111, 113, 118, 154, 243,
272, 275 266
California, 2, 72–74, 76–77, 79, 153 Congo (African), 5
Calvinism, 56 Congressional Medal of Honor, 228
Cambridge University, 8, 263–264, 266, 268– Connecticut, 22, 33–34, 39
270 Constitutional Convention, 30–31, 264
Cameron, Simon, 107, 127 Cooper River, 1, 12
Camp Mason, 153 Corinth, MS, 131, 134, 194
Carter, David K., 108 Cornwallis, General, 28
Cartwright, Peter, 57, 89–90 cotton, 13, 31, 38–43, 50, 53, 75, 77, 96, 100,
Catton, Bruce, 265 113, 124, 132, 134, 196–197
Cedar Mountain, Battle of, 150, 270 Crafts, Tom, 27
Centerville, VA, 123 Crittenden, Thomas L., 200
Chamberlain, Joshua L., 153, 163, 189, 238, Crook, William Henry, 250
274 Cuba, 81
Chancellorsville, Battle of, 159, 175–180, 184, Culpeper Courthouse, VA, 207
268 Curtis, Benjamin R., 171
Chaplin, Thomas B., 49
Charles Town, VA, 104, 145 D
Charleston, SC, 1, 8, 10–14, 20, 31, 33–34, 43,
77, 82, 97, 106, 113–114, 117, 207, 234, Dalton, GA, 22, 205, 217, 266
264 Danville, VA, 237

278
Index

Darien, GA, 231, 270 France, 5–6, 14–15, 19, 22, 28, 30, 39–40, 70,
Davis, Jefferson, 73–74, 77, 79, 100, 108, 111, 100, 113, 145, 155, 171, 184, 197
113, 140, 162, 204, 224, 265–266, 271, Franklin, Battle of, 227, 229
273 Franklin, Benjamin, 17, 20
Davis, Varina, 111, 266 Fredericksburg, Battle of, 63, 136, 149, 163,
Davis, William C., 204 166–168, 170, 173, 176–178, 211, 225,
Declaration of Independence, 18, 23–24, 67, 265
85–86, 91–92, 99, 194, 270 Frederickson, George, 111, 267
Delaney, Lucy, 93, 266 French and Indian War, 14–15
Delaware, 17, 22, 43, 56, 125, 226 French Revolution, 39
Delaware River, 17 Front Royal, VA, 197, 264
Democratic National Convention, 106 Fugitive Slave Act, 78
Democratic Party, 80, 105 Fulton, Robert, 43
Democrats, 64, 81, 83, 107, 116, 126, 153, 164,
186, 224
Dickinson, John, 19–21 G
Dixon, Archibald, 64, 80 Gaines Mill, Battle of, 143
Dodge, Mary Abigail, 261 Garrison, William Lloyd, 60
Domesday Book, 4 Genovese, Eugene, 57, 268
Donald, David, 59, 240, 265 George III (King of England), 20, 23–25
Doubleday, Abner, 187 Georgia, 2, 12, 14, 22, 24–25, 34, 39–41, 48–
Dred Scot Decision, 91–92 49, 58, 64, 77, 111, 118, 140, 161, 173,
194, 217, 223, 226–227, 229–231, 233,
243, 268–269, 271
E Germanna Ford, VA, 212
Egypt, 3 Gerry, Elbridge, 19
Electoral College, 34, 75, 226 Gettysburg Battle of, 185, 190
Elizabethtown, Kentucky, 87 Gettysburg, PA, 181, 183, 185–187, 189–191,
Ellsworth, Oliver, 34 193–194, 196, 198, 202, 208, 215, 228,
Emancipation Proclamation, 56, 78, 160, 163, 259, 264–265, 272–275
172, 255, 266 Gibbon, General, 241
Enlightenment, The, 13, 38, 88 Gilmer, Thomas, 68–69
Episcopal Church, 105 Gladney, Henry, 32
Evans, Shanks, 122 Gladstone, William, 36
Everett, Edward, 110, 202 Glendale, Battle of, 144
Ewell, Richard Stoddard, 144, 177, 186, 188, Gold Coast (Africa), 9
212, 214, 272 Gordon, John Brown, 118, 159, 266
Gordonsville, VA, 166
Goss, Warren Lee, 123, 143, 151, 170, 207–
F 208
Farmer, Robert, 95 Grant, Ulysses S., 127, 131–134, 165, 185,
Farragut, Admiral, 223–224 194, 197, 199, 203, 207–208, 211, 213,
Faust, Daniel, 155 215, 238–239, 241, 247–248
Feagan, Isaac, 151 Great Britain, 4–12, 15–16, 18–19, 21–22, 28,
Federal Government, 28 36, 39, 43, 46, 48, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 72,
76, 86, 100, 113, 123, 155, 197, 204
Federal Homestead Law, 145
Griffin, Charles, 212
Ferdinand (King of Spain), 5
Griffin, James B., 129
Ferguson, Mary, 50
Griffith, Paddy, 185
Fife, Sarah Striker, 240
Guadeloupe (city), 43
Fillmore, Millard, 77
Gurley, Phineas D., 254
First Bull Run (or First Manassas, Battle of),
139, 238
Fish, Carl Russell, 105, 267 H
Florida, 40, 75, 111, 113
Hale, John, 74
Foote, Shelby, 35, 157, 178, 267
Halleck, Henry W., 149, 152, 161, 166–167,
Fort Pickens, 113 194, 199
Fort Pillow, 163 Hamilton, Alexander, 28–29
Fort Sumter, 1–2, 113, 115–116 Hammond, James H., 77, 100, 268

279
And the War Came

Hancock, John, 18 J
Hancock, Winfield Scott, 186, 269
Hanks, Nancy, 87 Jackson, Thomas J. (Stonewall), 72, 104, 122,
130, 139–140, 146–147, 150–152, 156–
Hardee, William J., 203 160, 167, 175–179, 190, 193, 195, 268,
Hardin, Elizabeth Pendleton, 229 270–271, 273–275
Hardtack, 172, 264 Jamestown, VA, 7
Harper, William, 115 Jefferson, Thomas, 18, 20, 23–26, 34, 39–41,
Harris, Clara, 250, 252–253 45, 47, 55, 69, 73–74, 77, 79, 100, 108,
Harris, Ira, 251 111, 113, 162, 204, 224, 264–267, 271–
Harris, Private, 213 273
Harrisburg, PA, 156, 186 Johnson, Samuel, 28
Harrison, Benjamin, 23 Johnston, Albert Sydney, 131–132, 135
Harvard University, 18–19, 40, 264, 268–270 Johnston, Joseph E., 122, 124–125, 140
Haverhill, MA, 68 Johnston, Sarah Bush, 87
Hawkins, Sir John, 7 Jones, Charles C., 48
Haydon, Lt., 143, 273
Hayne, Robert Young, 59
Henry the Navigator (Portugal), 4 K
Henry, Patrick, 39 Kalamazoo, MI, 105
Herndon, Billy, 87–88, 136, 269, 275 Kansas, 71, 80–83, 97–98, 103–104, 110, 266,
Herold, David, 255 274–275
Hewes, Joseph, 21 Kansas-Nebraska Act, 71, 81, 83
Hill, A.P., 214 Kearny, Philip, 143–144
Hill, D.H., 144, 156 Keen, W.W., 160–161
Hill, Parthena, 88 Keene, Laura, 246, 251, 254, 269
Hine, Sara, 243 Kentucky, 2, 35, 76, 80, 86–87, 89, 107, 116–
Hingham, MA, 86 117, 124–127, 134, 164, 226, 229, 266,
Hitchcock, Major, 157 268
Hoffman, Emily, 128, 220 Key, John J., 161
Hoffman, Mrs. Samuel, 220 Kirkland, Richard, 170
Holland, 5, 7–8, 17 Knoxville, TN, 91, 200, 271
Hood, John Bell, 227 Koerner, Gustave, 99–100
Hooker, Joe, 140, 172, 176, 203
Horwitz, Tony, 13, 35, 160, 242, 269 L
Houston, Sam, 71–72, 77
Humphreys, Andrew, 169 Lamon, Ward Hill, 245
Hutchinson, Governor Thomas, 26 Lane Seminary, 78
Lawson, General, 140
Lay, Benjamin, 11
I Leadbetter, Sal, 134–135
Igbos (African tribe), 58 Leale, Dr. Charles, 253–254, 256
Illinois, 37, 44, 46, 70, 76, 80, 82–85, 87–88, Lee, Arthur, 17
90, 98, 107–108, 117, 125, 127, 164, 180, Lee, Richard Henry, 20, 22
207, 217, 252, 259, 267–268, 271–272, Lee, Robert E., General, 103, 118, 124, 142,
275 145, 150, 152, 155, 168, 176, 180, 186,
Illinois Central Railroad, 125 197, 211, 238, 240, 246, 258, 268, 274
Illinois Legislature, 83 Lee, Stephen Dill, 227
Impressment, 174, 206, 217, 224 Leuden, The, 7
Indentured Servants, 7–8, 10, 13, 32, 96, 117, Lewis, Dixon, 64
137, 205 Lewis, John H., 161
Indiana, 37, 44, 81, 87, 108, 164, 269, 272–273 Lewis, Mary, 205
Indians (American), 7, 11, 32, 87, 153, 200 Libby Prison, 225
Indigo, 5, 12, 38 Lincoln, Abraham, 70, 83–93, 98–101, 103–
Industrial Revolution, 39, 43, 50 111, 114–118, 121, 124–129, 134, 136–
Iowa, 75, 80, 83, 260 137, 139, 141–142, 145–149, 152–153,
Ireland, 3, 58, 134 160–166, 171–173, 175–176, 179–181,
183, 185–187, 193–194, 197–199, 201–
202, 204, 206–209, 215–217, 224–226,

280
Index

231–233, 235–236, 239, 242, 245–261, Mediterranean (sea), 4


263–275 Melville, Herman, 76
Lincoln, Mary Todd, 88–89, 246–247, 253– Memphis, TN, 131, 135, 163
256 Methodist Church, 72, 105
Locke, John, 23 Mexican War, 72–73, 97, 121–122, 125, 132,
London, England, 17–18, 20, 22, 137, 172, 266 135–136, 140, 150, 176, 186, 195, 200,
Long, Major, 42 212
Longstreet, James, 140, 147, 150–152, 156, Mexico, 46, 71–74, 76–77, 121, 223
159, 167, 169, 176, 180–181, 186–188, Michigan, 37, 105, 260
190–191, 200–201, 203, 212–214, 233, Middleton, Arthur, 20
240, 272, 274 Middletown, NY, 248
Lookout Mountain, TN, 202 Milledgeville, GA, 230
Louisiana, 1, 5, 31, 40–41, 44, 48, 95, 111, 196, Miller, William Lee, 60, 64
204, 206, 264–266, 268–272, 275 Minie Ball, 160, 164, 184, 192
Louisiana Purchase, 41 Minie, Claude Etienne, 184
Louisiana Territory, 1, 5, 31, 40–41, 44, 48, 95, Missionary Ridge, Battle of, 199, 202–203
111, 196, 204, 206, 264–266, 268–272, Mississippi, 41, 44, 48, 73–74, 76, 96, 111,
275 131, 134, 192, 194, 196
Lowell, James Russell, 111, 270 Mississippi River, 40, 46, 71, 79, 82, 96, 127,
Lynchburg, VA, 79, 106, 237–238, 241, 274 131, 163, 166, 194, 196
Missouri, 37, 44–46, 56, 73, 77, 80, 83, 85–86,
M 91, 99, 107, 109–110, 116–117, 125, 154,
259
MacArthur, Arthur Jr., 228 Missouri Compromise, 37, 46, 73, 80, 83, 85–
MacArthur, Douglas, 228 86, 91, 99
Macon, GA, 223 Mitchell, Barton W., 156
Maddox, Jack, 24 Mobile, AL, 205–207, 223–225
Maddox, Judge, 24 Monroe, James, 40–41, 47, 271
Madeira, 5 Montgomery, AL, 1, 113, 172, 207, 232
Madison, James, 33, 39 Montgomery, James, 231
Magna Carta, 62 Morgan, General, 165
Magruder, General, 141 Morris, Gouverneur, 33
Maine, 46, 83, 85, 153, 169–170, 177, 188, 270 Moss, John W., 156
Malmsey Wine, 5 Mudd, Dr. Samuel, 255
Malvern Hill, Battle of, 144 Mulberry Plantation, SC, 39
Malvoisie Grape, 5 Murphreesboro, TN, 199
Manassas, VA, 122, 139, 150, 190, 272
Marblehead, MA, 8
Marshall, Chief Justice, 50 N
Maryland, 12, 14, 22, 29, 34, 111, 116, 125– Napier, Florence, 49
126, 154–156, 161, 186, 245, 255 Nashville, Battle of, 131, 227–229, 268, 270–
Mason, George, 39 271, 274
Massachusetts, 8, 14, 18–19, 22–23, 33, 43, Nebraska Territory, 80
45, 59, 61, 68, 72, 77, 86, 110, 115, 144, New England, 11, 14, 20, 22, 25, 39, 53, 66,
148, 183, 192, 225, 260, 263, 272, 275 226
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 8 New Hampshire, 22, 74
Maury, Betty Herndon, 136, 269 New Jersey, 22, 109, 164, 226, 242, 247
McClellan, George B., 124–125, 129, 139–144, New Mexico Territory, 110
146–153, 155–162, 164, 166, 172, 185– New Orleans, LA, 40, 43, 87, 95, 163
187, 205, 224–226, 270, 273 New River, VA, 94
McCrory, John Mobley, 32 New Salem, IL, 87–88
McDowell, Irvin, General, 121–122, 124, 147, New York, 13–14, 22, 35, 40, 43–44, 54, 60,
150–153 70, 76, 105–108, 110, 114, 159, 164, 170,
McKim, Duncan, 180 172, 191–192, 205, 216, 225, 248, 251,
McKim, Randolph, 180 256, 263–275
McPherson, James B., 127, 220, 271, 273, 275 Newport, RI, 14
McPherson, James M., 208, 243, 265 Newton, John, 25
Meade, Gordon, 176, 185–188, 191, 193–194, Nichols, Lt., 188, 272
212–213

281
And the War Came

Norfolk (England), 86 Pope, John, 149–150


North Carolina, 12, 14, 21, 34, 41, 117, 178, Porter, David Dixon, 197
232, 247, 263–265, 267–268, 270, 272, Porter, Horace, 214, 239
274 Portland, Maine, 153
Northern Democrats, 63, 65, 72, 80–81, 107, Portugal, 4–5
125 Powhatan (American Indian), 7
Northwest Ordinance, 37, 73, 75 Preston, Captain, 26
Northwest Territory, 37 Preston, John, 208
Nott, Josiah, 57 Prussia, 100
Puerto Rico, 81
O Pugh, George E., 107
Oates, William C., 189–190
Oglethorpe, James, 231 Q
Ohio, 37, 43–44, 47, 81, 91, 107–108, 164, Quakers, 11, 15, 22, 48
196, 202, 206, 259–260, 272 Quincy, Josiah, 26
Oklahoma, 71, 265, 273
Olmstead, Frederick Law, 96, 272
Orange Plank Road, VA, 212 R
Orange Turnpike, VA, 212 Radical Republicans, 124, 126, 217
Oregon Bill, 75 Raleigh, NC, 233
Randolph, Edmund, 39
P Randolph, John, 46
Rappahannock River, 150, 166–167, 169, 173
Paine, Lewis, 254 Rathbone, Henry, 251–253
Paine, Thomas, 18, 88 Read, John M., 108
Palfrey, Francis W., 144, 272 Republican Party, 81, 90, 97, 99, 104–106,
Palmerston, Lord, 137, 155 109, 116
Pamunkey River, 140 Republicans, 81, 91, 100–101, 104, 107, 126,
Parker, John F., 250 164, 226
Patton, John, 63 Reynolds, John, 176, 186
Peace Democrats, 126, 179–180, 209 Rhett, Robert Barnwell, 76
Pemberton, John C., 195–196 Rhode Island, 14, 22, 35, 123
Pender, Dorsey, 168 Rhodes, Elisha Hunt, 212, 232
Peninsular Campaign, 144, 272 Rice, 12–15, 31, 40, 42
Penn, William, 17 Richardson, Sydney, 194
Pennsylvania, 14, 19–20, 22, 32–33, 72, 86, Richmond Grays (militia), 104
107–108, 144, 156, 164, 180, 183–186, Richmond, VA, 119, 140–143, 154, 164, 166,
192, 196, 226, 249, 253, 259–260 180, 205, 207, 211, 213, 218, 237, 273
Pennsylvania Avenue, 249, 253 Ringgold, GA, 217
Peoria, IL, 84–85, 99 Rio Grande River, 71–72
Petersburg, VA, 94, 206, 215, 218, 223, 225, Ripley, James W., 173
237 Roanoke Island, (American colony), 7
Peterson, Merrill, 53 Robotham, Rosemarie, 58, 264
Petigru, John, 79 Rockefeller, John D., 145, 265
Philadelphia, PA, 11, 13, 15, 17, 22, 29, 32, 54, Rodeur, (vessel), 43–44
125, 156, 186, 195, 255, 263–264, 269 Rodney, Caesar, 22
Phillips, Deacon John, 225 Rolfe, John, 7
Phillips, Wendell, 136 Rosecrans, William S., 199–202
Pickens, Governor, 116 Rowe, Katie, 230
Pickett, George E., General, 190–192, 194, Rutledge, Edward, 20
228, 273
Pierce, Franklin, President, 79
Pinckney Committee (Congress), 61 S
Pittsburg Landing, TN, 131 Saint Domingue, 41
Plymouth District of Massachusetts, 61 San Leon, (vessel), 43–44
Pocahontas (American Indian), 7 Savannah, GA, 14, 39, 231
Pony Express, 2 Sawnburg, W.A., 176, 273

282
Index

Schofield, John, 127, 227, 229, 273 T


Scott, Winfield, 118, 129, 186, 269
Sea Islands, 38–39, 58, 82 Tadman, Michael, 49, 94, 274
Second Bull Run (or Second Manassas, Battle Tallmadge, James, 44
of), 149–150, 155, 186 Tappan, Arthur, 60
Second Continental Congress, 17, 32, 35 Tarleton, Susan, 205, 207
Seven Pines, Battle of, 142 Taylor, Tom, 246
Seward, William H., 107 Tennessee, 35, 117–118, 131, 135, 154, 165,
Shadwell, VA, 18 192, 199–204, 206, 213, 220–221, 223,
226–227, 229–230, 268, 271
Sharpsburg, MD, 155, 157
Texas, 48, 71–72, 75–78, 110–111, 132, 229–
Shaw, Robert Gould, 231, 266 230, 271
Shelbyville, KY, 164 The Wilderness, Battle of, 211–216, 268
Shenandoah Valley, VA, 86, 122, 139, 180 Thirteenth Amendment, 232, 257
Sheridan, Phil, 212, 223 Thomas, George H., 200, 227
Sherman, Roger, 33–34 Thomas, Jesse, 46
Sherman, William Tecumseh, 132, 195, 203 Thompson, Waddy, 64–65
Shiloh, Battle of, 131–132, 134–135 Tobacco, 5, 7, 12–13, 30, 38, 42, 106, 173
Sickles, Daniel E., 176, 178, 273 Toombs, Robert, 77
Simms, William Gilmore, 79 Totopotomy River, 214
Sine, Robert K., 254 Treaty of Utrecht, 6
Smith, John, 7 Trinidad, 49
Somerset, James, 18 Trumbull, Senator, 126
Sons of Liberty, 20 Tucker, Josiah, 190, 274
South Carolina, 1, 10–12, 14–15, 20, 22, 24– Turner, Ella, 254
25, 31–34, 38–43, 49–50, 53, 58–59, 76–
77, 79, 82, 85, 96, 100, 103, 110–111, Turner, Nat, 60
115, 140, 156, 231, 233, 264–265, 267– Tyler, John, President, 72
268, 271, 273, 275
Southampton, VA, 60 U
Southern Baptist Convention, 75
Southern Democrats, 63, 72, 107 Union Pacific Railroad, 153
Spain, 5, 7, 28, 43, 71, 100, 176 United States Military Academy (West
Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA, 213 Point), 1, 97, 108, 118, 121–122, 124,
127, 132, 140, 145, 150, 156, 176–177,
Spotsylvania, Battle of, 211, 213–214, 272 186, 195, 200–201, 208, 212, 227
Spring Hill, Battle of, 227, 229, 274 US Constitution, 29–31, 33–36, 38, 41, 44,
Springfield, IL, 83, 109, 128, 198 46–47, 51, 54, 63, 65–66, 77, 85–86, 91–
St. Helena Island, SC, 49 93, 105–106, 113–114, 232, 257, 264
St. Joseph, MN, 248
Stanley, General, 227
Stanton, Edward McMasters, 127, 141, 143, V
176, 245, 247, 249 Vandenburg, Mollie, 131–132, 274
States Rights, 195 Vermont, 35, 180, 192
Stegall, Ashberry, 24 Vicksburg, MS, 100, 183, 194–198, 204, 206–
Stephens, Alexander, 77 207, 215
Stewart, Alexander, 227 Virginia, 7–8, 11–14, 18–23, 25, 28, 30–32,
Stillwell, Leander, 134–135, 273 34–35, 42–43, 45–46, 58, 60, 63, 68–69,
Stowe, Calvin, 78 76, 79, 86–87, 94, 103–104, 106, 116–
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 79, 202, 207 118, 122, 124–125, 136, 139–140, 142,
Sturbridge, MA, 225 149–150, 152, 154, 156, 159–162, 175–
Sudley Ford, VA, 122 176, 179, 186, 191, 193, 195, 197, 200–
Sugar, 5–6, 9, 41 201, 204, 206, 208, 211–212, 215–216,
Sullivan, Dan, 42 223, 225, 229, 232, 237, 240, 247, 255,
264–265, 268, 270–271
Sumner, Charles, 115
Virginia General Court, 8
Sumner, General, 170
Volney, Constantin de, 88
Sumner, William Graham, 259
Surinam, 7

283
And the War Came

W William, Stephen, 42
Williamsburg, VA, 142
Wade, Ben, 91 Wilmington, NC, 232
War of 1812, 135 Wilmot Proviso, 76, 97
Warrenton, VA, 167 Wilmot, David, 72
Washburn, Governor, 153 Wilson, James, 32
Washington, George, 29, 39, 69, 206, 225, 249 Winchester, VA, 159, 223
Webster, Daniel, 54, 59, 77 Winthrop, John, 8
Weed, Thurlow, 116, 274 Wisconsin, 37, 75, 78, 261, 274
Weldon Railroad, 223 Wise, Henry, 68
West Africa, 9, 12, 58 Wise, John S., 58
West Indies, 9, 28 Worthington, William, 145
Western Florida, 41
Western Virginia, 124
Weston, P.C., 48 Y
Whigs, 63, 81, 89, 116 Yale University, 53, 275
Whipple, A.W., 275 Yancey, William L., 106
White House, 100, 114, 128, 148, 181, 216– Yates, Richard, 83
217, 245, 260 Yeamans, Sir John, 11
Whitney, Eli, 39 York River, 140
Whittier, John Greenleaf, 2, 275 Yorktown, VA, 28, 141

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