A Hard Fate

City Hall, April 28, 1862.
To Flag-Officer D. G. Farragut, U. S. Flag-Ship Hartford:

Your communication of this morning is the first intimation I ever had that it was by your strict orders that the United States flag was attempted to be hoisted upon certain of our public edifices by officers sent or there to communicate with the authorities. The officers who approached me in your name disclosed no such orders and intimated no such design on your part, not would I have for a moment entertained the remotest suspicion that they could have been invested with power to enter such an errand while the negotiations for a surrender between you and the city authorities were pending. The interference of any force under your command, as long as those negotiations were not brought to a close, could not be viewed by us otherwise than as a flagrant violation of those courtesies, if not of the absolute rights, which prevail between belligerents under such circumstances. My views and sentiments with reference to such conduct remain unchanged. You now review the demands made in your former communication, and you insist on their being complied with unconditionally, under a threat of bombardment within forty-eight hours; and you notify me to remove the women and children from the city that they may be protected from your shells.

Sir, you can but know that there is no possible exit from this city for a population which still exceeds in number one hundred and forty thousand, and you must therefore be aware of the utter inanity of such a notification. Our women and children cannot escape from your shells, if it be your pleasure to murder them on a question of etiquette. But if they could, there are few among them who would consent to desert their families and their homes, and the graves of their relatives in so awful a moment. They would bravely stand the sight of your shells tearing up the graves of those who are so dear to them, and would deem that they died not ingloriously by the side of the tombs erected by their piety to the memory of departed relatives.

You are not satisfied with the peaceful possession of an undefended city, opposing no resistance to your guns, because of its bearing its hard fate with something of manliness and dignity, and you wish to humble and disgrace us by the performance of an act against which our nature rebels. This satisfaction you cannot expect to obtain at our hands.

We will stand your bombardment, unarmed and undefended as we are. The civilized world will consign to indelible infamy the heart that will conceive the dead and the hand that will dare to consummate it.

Respectfully,
John T. Monroe,
Mayor of New Orleans.

Never Again Will Reign

No, my child, I had no conception of the intensity of feeling, the bitterness and hatred toward those who were so lately our friends and are now our enemies. I, of course, have always strenuously opposed disunion, not as doubting the right of secession, which was taught in our text-book at West Point, but as gravely questioning its expediency. I believed that the revolutionary spirit which infected both North and South was but a passing phase of fanaticism which would perish under the rebuke of all good citizens, who would surely unite in upholding the Constitution; but when that great assembly, composed of ministers, lawyers, judges, chancellors, statesmen, mostly white haired men of thought, met in South Carolina and when their districts were called crept noiselessly to the table in the center of the room and affixed their signatures to the parchment on which the ordinance of secession was inscribed, and when in deathly silence, spite of the gathered multitude, General Jamison arose and without preamble read: “The ordinance of secession has been signed and ratified; I proclaim the State of South Carolina an independent sovereignty,” and lastly, when my old boyhood’s friend called for an invasion, it was evident that both the advocates and opponents of secession had read the portents aright.

You know, my little lady, some of those cross-stitched mottoes on the cardboard samplers which used to hang on my nursery wall, such as, “He who provides not for his own household is worse than an infidel” and “Charity begins at home,” made a lasting impression upon me; and while I love my neighbor, i.e., my country, I love my household, i.e., my state, more, and I could not be an infidel and lift my sword against my own kith and kin, even though I do believe, my most wise little counselor and confidante, that the measure of American greatness can be achieved only under one flag, and I fear, alas, there can never again reign for either of us the true spirit of national unity whether divided under two flags or united under one.

The Heart of a Soldier: As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett, C.S.A., New York: Seth Moyle, 1913.

Bear and Serve

[Exeter Mills, April 2, 1865.]

Ah, my Sally, the triumphs of might are transient; but the sufferings and crucifixions for the right can never be forgotten. The sorrow and song of my glory-crowned division nears its doxology. May God pity those who wait at home for the soldier who has reported to the Great Commander! God pity them as the days go by and the sad nights follow.

The birds were hushed in the woods when I started to write, and now one calls to its mate “Cheer up—cheer up.” Let’s listen and obey the birds, my darling. Let’s try to cheer up—cheer up. I remember that Milton said: “Those who best bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best.” Let’s bear and serve Him best, my darling wife.

The Heart of a Soldier: As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett, C.S.A., New York: Seth Moyle, 1913.

Mexico and Richmond

Abraham Lincoln once asked General Scott the question: “Why is it that you were once able to take the City of Mexico in three months with five thousand men, and we have been unable to take Richmond with one hundred thousand men?”

“I will tell you,” said General Scott. “The men who took us into the City of Mexico then are the same men who are keeping us out of Richmond now.”

Without Any Exception

But, after all, this ruffianism was really not a whit worse in its effects on the national character than was the case with certain of the “universal peace” and “non-resistance” developments in the Northeastern States; in fact, it was more healthy. A class of professional non-combatants is as hurtful to the real, healthy growth of a nation as is a class of fire-eaters; for a weakness or folly is nationally as bad as a vice, or worse; and, in the long run, a Quaker may be quite as undesirable a citizen as is a duelist. No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community. The decline of the militant spirit in the Northeast during the first half of this century was much to be regretted. To it is due, more than to any other cause, the undoubted average individual inferiority of the Northern compared to the Southern troops; at any rate, at the beginning of the great war of the Rebellion. The Southerners, by their whole mode of living, their habits, and their love of out-door sports, kept up their warlike spirit; while in the North the so-called upper classes developed along the lines of a wealthy and timid bourgeoisie type, measuring everything by a mercantile standard (a peculiarly debasing one if taken purely by itself), and submitting to be ruled in local affairs by low foreign mobs, and in national matters by their arrogant Southern kinsmen. The militant spirit of these last certainly stood them in good stead in the Civil War. The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee; and their leader will undoubtedly rank as without any exception the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth and this, although the last and chief of his antagonists may himself claim to stand as the full equal of Marlborough and Wellington.

Theodore Roosevelt, Life of Thomas Hart Benton, Boston: Houghton and Mifflin and Co., 1887.

A Cold-Blooded Set

While our citizens were collecting the bodies of the Confederate dead the Federal Government was engaged in the same work and some three hundred Federal dead in our county were removed to the National Cemetery at Winchester. These men were buried in many places, often in the neglected spots where they had fallen in battle. In a field adjoining my home nine men, killed in a charge, May 30th, 1862, were buried in one grave. A few weeks later a soldier belonging to an Ohio Regiment died in the home of one of our citizens and was buried in this lot. Some days later his friends came and removed his body and left the grave open with the coffin in it. About the same time a negro died in one of the camps and was buried in this open grave. This negro had on an old uniform of a Federal captain. When these bodies were removed to Winchester the body of the negro was marked “Federal captain. Name unknown.” He rests now with the Federal dead in the National Cemetery. What is fame?

The men employed by the Government to remove the dead were a cold-blooded set. I watched them open a number of graves, and when they found anything on the dead that was worth keeping they appropriated it to their own use. They invariably examined the teeth to see if any had gold fillings, and if such fillings were found, the teeth were removed and placed in the men’s pockets. No gold was ever buried with the dead, if these ghouls could help it.

These inhuman practices were the outgrowth of the war. These men,– now employed by the Federal Government to collect the bodies of the men who had lost their lives in service,– were members of the same army that had pillaged and robbed our people during the last two years of the war. As they could no longer rob the living they were robbing the remains of their dead comrades. I saw one of these men take a skull of one of these dead soldiers, and on examining it he found some four or five of the teeth were filled with gold. He took a stone and deliberately knocked out these teeth and put them in his pocket, with the remark, “They are of no use to this dead man, and they are of some value to me.”

A Federal soldier had been buried in a field in front of my home. A depression in the ground marked his grave. I had often passed the place and thought it was a hog wallow. One of my boy associates had seen the man buried and called the attention of the grave-diggers to the spot. I was somewhat shocked at the way they asked for the information. We boys were watching the removal of some of the dead and one of the men, turning to us, asked if we knew where any more of these men were “planted.” It was then that the boy called attention to the grave. I followed the grave-diggers and saw them open the grave. The man had been buried in a shallow grave without a coffin. When the earth was removed one of the diggers discovered a black silk handkerchief and pulled it from under the earth. He then shook off the dirt and held it up for inspection. It was in good condition, so he put it in his pocket. He next examined the teeth for gold fillings, but found none. The bones were collected and thrown into a small box for transportation to Winchester.

— Thomas Almond Ashby, The Valley Campaigns: Being the Reminiscences of a Non-Combatant While Between the Lines in the Shenandoah Valley During the War of the States, New York: The Neale Publishing Co., 1914.

Impracticable

In asserting the right of secession, it has not been my wish to incite to its exercise. I recognize the fact that the war showed it to be impracticable, but this did not prove that it was wrong; and now, that it may not be again attempted, and the Union may promote the general welfare, it is needful that the truth, the whole truth, should be known, so that crimination and recrimination may forever cease, and then, on the basis of fraternity and faithful regard for the rights of the states, there may be written on the arch of the Union, “Esto Perpetua.”

Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 2, New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1881.

In Plain Violation of the Constitution

Whereas, seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United States to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled. Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

Cromwell, Lincoln, and Virginia

Cromwell, Lincoln and Virginia.

When Oliver Cromwell was installed Protector of England, the Commonwealth of Virginia refused to acknowledge his authority. The English Commonwealth was then at the height of its power, and, at its head, one who was admirably described by Bossuet as “a man of an incredible depth of thought; as profound a hypocrite as he was a skillful politician; capable alike of concealing and undertaking everything; active and indefatigable equally in peace as war; so vigilant and active that he has never proved himself wanting to any opportunity which presented itself to his elevation; in fine, one of those stirring and audacious spirits which seem born to overturn the world.” Such was the Commonwealth and such the man, triumphant over all other enemies, against which this gallant Commonwealth, then numbering only twenty thousand inhabitants, unfurled the standard of defence.

The Commonwealth of England was disposed to submit to this resistance.–Virginia, from the first, had arrayed itself on the side of the King. During the whole preceding struggle of Charles and the Parliament, Virginia was firm in its adherence to the monarch, and enacted a declaration “that they were born under a monarchy, and would never degenerate from the condition of their birth by being subject to any other government.” After the beheading of Charles I., Virginia acknowledged the authority of his son, and actually continued the provincial government under a commission sent by him from his retreat at Breda to Sir William Berkeley. The wrath of Parliament was intensely roused by this bold and persistent contumacy; an ordinance was issued declaring the inhabitants of Virginia notorious robbers and traitors, and all intercourse prohibited with them, either by the people of England, the inhabitants of the other American settlements, or with foreign nations. Finally, a fleet was sent over to overpower the rebellious colony. But observe the difference between the great intellects that then ruled England and the Government of the United States. Cromwell extended the olive branch as well as the sword, and commissioners accompanied the fleet, who were empowered to try the effect of pacific and conciliatory measures. The result proved the wisdom of the policy.

“It marks,” says Bancroft, a Massachusetts historian, “the character of the Virginians, that they refused to surrender to force, but yielded by a voluntary deed and mutual compact. We copy the articles concluded between the commissioners of the Commonwealth, and the Council of State, and the Grand Assembly of Virginia, that our readers may contrast them with the terms of Lincoln’s so-called amnesty:

“First. That this should be considered a voluntary act, not forced or constrained by a conquest upon the country; and that the colonists should have and enjoy such freedoms and privileges as belong to the free-born people of England.
“Secondly. That the Grand Assembly, as formerly, should convene and transact the affairs of Virginia, doing nothing contrary to the Government of the Commonwealth or laws of England.
“Thirdly. That there should be a full and total remission of all acts, words, or writings against the Parliament.
“Fourthly. That Virginia should have her ancient bounds and limits, granted by the charters of the former kings, and that a new charter was to be sought from Parliament to that effect, against such as had trespassed upon their ancient rights. (This clause would seem to be aimed at some of the neighboring colonies.)
“Fifthly. That all patents of land under the seal of the colony, granted by the Governor, should remain in full force.
“Sixthly. That the privilege of fifty acres of land for every person emigrating to the colony should remain in full force.
“Sevenths. That the people of Virginia have free trade, as the people of England enjoy, with all places and nations, according to the laws of the Commonwealth; and that Virginia should enjoy equal privileges, in every respect, with any other colony in America.
“Eighths. That Virginia should be free from all taxes, customs and impositions whatever; and that none should be imposed upon them without the consent of their Grand Assembly; and no forts or castles be erected, or garrisons maintained, without their consent.
“Ninth. That no charge should be required from the country on account of the expense incurred by the present fleet.
“Tenths. That this agreement should be tendered to all persons, and that such as should refuse to subscribe to it should have a year’s time to remove themselves and effects from Virginia, and in the meantime enjoy equal justice.”

The remaining articles were of less importance. This was followed by a supplemental treaty, for the benefit of the Governor and Council, and such soldiers as had served against the Commonwealth in England—allowing them the most favorable terms.

We need not enumerate the unconditional-surrender terms proposed by Lincoln. Their contrast to the overtures by which Cromwell pacificated the colony is too striking to require comment.

The record of Virginia from the first, warrants the pride and devotion of persons. The correspondence between the rights secured under the articles with the Commonwealth Parliament, and the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, as violated by the British King, will suggest itself to every intelligent reader. That Old Dominion, with all its traditional love of monarchy; would not permit even its born king to trample upon its rights. If it did not lead the way in the American Revolution, it came up in due time; and, like a broad-shouldered and double-jointed giant, carried it through when others tottered and trembled under the burthen. “Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, bear it that the opposer may beware of thee,” seems to have been always the maxim of this deliberate and plucky old Commonwealth. But for Virginia, and Virginia’s Washington, what would have become of the American Revolution?

It becomes not us to speak of her career in the present war. She arrogates to herself no superiority over her patriotic and heroic sister States. She has been reproached, indeed, for coming so late into the contest. It is true, that in this Revolution, as in that of ’76, she was not in a hurry. She exhausted every effort for peace, conciliation and compromise before she drew the sword. She seemed like her great orator, Patrick Henry, somewhat awkward and hesitating in her first utterances in the grand debate. But she waxes warm as she proceeds, and then the lightnings flash and the thunders roll over the heated sky. Whatever be the result of this struggle, no Virginian will have reason to be ashamed of his State. Let Lincoln, more despotic than Cromwell, deprive her of her liberties and expunge her name from the roll of States, he cannot despoil her of the Past, nor extinguish the lustre with which History will reflect the majestic luminary long after it has descended beneath the horizon.

— The Daily Dispatch: 25 January 1865; Richmond Dispatch.

A Standing Menace to the South

Preamble and resolution

Offered in a large mass meeting of the people of Botetourt county, December 10th, 1860, by the Hon. John J. Allen, President of the Supreme court of Virginia, and adopted with but two dissenting voices.

The people of Botetourt county, in general meeting assembled, believe it to be the duty of all the citizens of the Commonwealth, in the present alarming condition of our country, to give some expression of their opinion upon the threatening aspect of public affairs. They deem it unnecessary and out of place to avow sentiments of loyalty to the constitution and devotion to the union of these States. A brief reference to the part the State has acted in the past will furnish the best evidence of the feelings of her sons in regard to the union of the States and the constitution, which is the sole bond which binds them together.
In the controversies with the mother country, growing out of the efforts of the latter to tax the colonies without their consent, it was Virginia who, by the resolutions against the stamp act, gave the example of the first authoritative resistance by a legislative body to the British Government, and so imparted the first impulse to the Revolution.

Virginia declared her independence before any of the colonies, and gave the first written constitution to mankind.

By her instructions her representatives in the General Congress introduced a resolution to declare the colonies independent States, and the declaration itself was written by one of her sons.

She furnished to the Confederate States the father of his country, under whose guidance independence was achieved, and the rights and liberties of each State, it was hoped, perpetually established.

She stood undismayed through the long night of the Revolution, breasting the storm of war and pouring out the blood of her sons like water on almost every battle-field, from the ramparts of Quebec to the sands of Georgia.

By her own unaided efforts the northwestern territory was conquered, whereby the Mississippi, instead of the Ohio river, was recognized as the boundary of the United States by the treaty of peace.

To secure harmony, and as an evidence of her estimate of the value of the union of the States, she ceded to all for their common benefit this magnificent region — an empire in itself.

When the articles of confederation were shown to be inadequate to secure peace and tranquility at home and respect abroad, Virginia first moved to bring about a more perfect union.

At her instance the first assemblage of commissioners took place at Annapolis, which ultimately led to the meeting of the convention which formed the present constitution.

This instrument itself was in a great measure the production of one of her sons, who has been justly styled the father of the constitution.

The government created by it was put into operation with her Washington, the father of his country, at its head; her Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, in his cabinet; her Madison, the great advocate of the constitution, in the legislative hall.

Under the leading of Virginia statesmen the Revolution of 1798 was brought about, Louisiana was acquired, and the second war of independence was waged.

Throughout the whole progress of the republic she has never infringed on the rights of any State, or asked or received an exclusive benefit.

On the contrary, she has been the first to vindicate the equality of all the States, the smallest as well as the greatest.

But claiming no exclusive benefit for her efforts and sacrifices in the common cause, she had a right to look for feelings of fraternity and kindness for her citizens from the citizens of other States, and equality of rights for her citizens with all others; that those for whom she had done so much would abstain from actual aggressions upon her soil, or if they could not be prevented, would show themselves ready and prompt in punishing the aggressors; and that the common government, to the promotion of which she contributed so largely for the purpose of “establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility,” would not, whilst the forms of the constitution were observed, be so perverted in spirit as to inflict wrong and injustice and produce universal insecurity.

These reasonable expectations have been grievously disappointed.

Continue reading “A Standing Menace to the South”

“Little They’ll Reck”

DECKING SOUTHERN SOLDIERS’ GRAVES.

“Pulveris tua maniplia ad manes spargere.”

Beautiful feet, with maidenly tread,
Offerings bring to the gallant dead,
Footsteps light press the sacred sod
Of heroes untimely ascended to God.
Bring spring flowers! in fragrant perfume,
And offer sweet prayers for a merciful doom.

Beautiful hands! ye deck the graves,
Above the dust of the Southern braves,
Here was extinguished their manly fire,
Who scorned to flinch from the foeman’s ire.
Bring spring flowers! the laurel and rose,
And deck ye the graves where your friends repose.

Beautiful eyes! the tears ye shed
Are brighter than diamonds to those who bled;
Spurned is the cause they fell to save,
But “little they’ll reck,”—if ye honor the brave.
Bring spring flowers! with tears and praise.
And chant o’er their tombs, your grateful lays.

Beautiful lips! ye trembled now,
Memory wakens the sleeping one’s vow;
Mute are the lips and faded the forms,
That never knelt, save to God and your charms.
Bring spring flowers! all dewy with morn,
And think how they loved ye, whose graves ye adorn.

Beautiful hearts! of matron and maid,
Faithful were ye, when Apostles betrayed!
Here are your loved and cherished ones laid.
Peace to their ashes, the flowers ye strew
Are monuments worthy the faithful and true.
Bring spring flowers! perfume their sod,
With annual incense to glory and God.

— Col. A. W. Slayback, C. S. A., Steamer Stonewall, Missouri River, 9 May 1865.

Her Baptism of Blood

Deus, repulisti nos, et destruxisti nos; iratus es, et misertus es nobis. Commovisti terram, et conturbasti eam; sana contritiones ejus, quia commota est. Ostendisti populo tuo dura; potasti nos vino compunctionis. Dedisti metuentibus te significationem, ut fugiant a facie arcus; ut liberentur dilecti tui, salvum fac dextera tua, et exaudi me.

Psalmus lix. 4-7.

During the progress of this relentless war, our enemies have wrested from us the great river of the west, which once bore upon its waters the commerce of half a continent; and though its possession has proved nearly valueless to them, its loss to us severs the connexion between portions of the Confederacy, and renders active cooperation betwixt them almost impossible. They have placed the heel of oppression upon the queenly city which, within the embraces of this imperial stream, once filled her horn with plenty, and danced gaily to the sound of the viol and harp. They have trodden down and defiled other noble towns and cities, once the abodes of affluence, the seats of learning and science, whose ancient families handed down from father to son a proud, ancestral name. Their mailed ships beleaguer our coast, and seek to seal our ports against the commerce of the world. They have massed their numerous armies and driven them, like a wedge, nearer and nearer to the heart of the land; exulting in the hope of speedily riving it in sunder, as the axeman of the forest rives the gigantic but fallen oak. They have stirred up the resentment of the civilized world against our social organization, and pointed their prejudices, like poisoned spears, against our cause, that our strength may dry up within our bones in this state of dreadful seclusion. In all history there is nothing more grandly sublime than the perfect isolation in which the Southern Confederacy is now battling for those rights which are so dear to the human heart. The nations of the earth have no eye of pity for our distress, no tear of sympathy for our wrongs. They turn away in cold indifference, and leave us to grapple with a superior foe, whose malice feeds upon the memories of past brotherhood, and can be satiated only by drinking the life of a people to whom they were once bound by the most sacred of covenants. Yet all alone, this young nation, strong only in her consciousness of right, girds herself for the mighty struggle. Like the fabled Antoeus, she gathers strength from the very reverses which bring her to the ground, and rises with new energy to the conflict. She drops a tear over the tombs of her martyrs, and then goes patiently again under her baptism of blood. All alone, she lifts an eye of faith to Heaven above, and beneath the shadow of Jehovah’s throne, strikes again for liberty and life. All alone, with God for her avenger, she treads danger beneath her feet, and moves forward to the triumph which an assured faith reveals steadily to her gaze. Like David in the text, she stands upon the trembling earth, and whilst drinking the wine of astonishment mingled in her cup, she recognizes a commission from the God of Heaven which binds her to duty in the face of trial, and receives at His hands a banner which she must display because of the truth. Let us, my hearers, read the inscriptions upon this banner; and then throw its folds anew to the breeze, in testimony of the principles which we are called this day to confess before the nations of the world.

— Benjamin M. Palmer, D. D., A Discourse before the General Assembly of South Carolina, Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, 10 December 1863.