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.

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.

Baffled Avarice, Malignant Fanaticism, and Moral Turpitude

Now, gentlemen, notwithstanding these facts I have endeavored to group before you–notwithstanding this labor, this long-suffering, this patience I have endeavored to show you she has practiced–throughout this whole land, over all Christendom, my State has been accused of “rash precipitancy.” Is it rash precipitancy to step out of the pathway when you hear the thunder-crash of the falling avalanche? Is it rash precipitancy to seek for shelter when you hear the hissing of the coming tempest, and see the storm-cloud close down upon you? Is it rash precipitancy to raise your hands to protect your heart?

I venture to assert, that never, since liberty came into the institutions of man, have a people borne with more patience, or forborne with more fortitude, than have the people of these Southern States in their relations with their confederates. As long as it was merely silly fanaticism or prurient philanthropy which proposed our destruction, we did nothing–scarcely complained. Even when partial and most oppressive taxation, continued for years, ground us into the dust of poverty, save for a moment of convulsive struggle, we bore it patiently; even when many of our confederates, by State and municipal regulations, violated provisions of our compact vital to us, and hordes of their people, under the sanction of these regulations, robbed our property and murdered our citizens; even when, under the same sanction, bands of wild fanatics invaded slave States, and proclaimed the destruction of slavery by the annihilation of the slaveholder, and States and cities erected shrines to the memory of the felons; when one confederate demanded that we must be driven from the civilization of the age in which we live, and another sent its chief representative to defame us before the civilized world; beneath all these enormities, we continued to give our blood, our gold and our sweat to build up the grandeur and maintain the power of that Republic. And when there was added to this all that baffled avarice, malignant fanaticism and moral turpitude could devise to vilify, wrong and irritate us, we still gave our blood and treasure, and offered our hands, and called them brethren. I draw no fancy picture, I use no declamatory assertions.

There is not a man in this Convention who may not cite twenty cases to meet every item of this catalogue. But when, at last, this fanaticism and eager haste for rapine, mingling their foul purposes, engendered those fermenting millions who have seized the Constitution and distorted its most sacred form into an instrument of our ruin, why then longer submission seemed to us not only base cowardice, but absolute fatuity. In South Carolina we felt that, to remain one hour under such a domination, we would merit the destruction earned by our own folly and baseness. We felt that if there was one son of a Carolina sire who would counsel such submission, there was not a hill-side or a plain, from Eutaw to the Cowpens, from which the spirit of his offended sire would not start forth to shame him from the land he desecrated. We did not find air enough in that little State to give breath to such counsel; there was not firm earth enough there for one such counsellor to stand upon.

— Address of Hon. John S. Preston, Commissioner from South Carolina, to the Convention of Virginia, 19 February 1861.

Never a Desponding Word

I am now about to leave the Southern States, after traveling quite alone throughout their entire length and breadth, including Texas and the trans-Mississippi country, for nearly three months and a half, during which time I have been thrown amongst all classes of the population–the highest and lowest, and the most lawless. Although many were very sore about the conduct of England, I never received an uncivil word from anybody, but on the contrary, I have been treated by all with more than kindness. I have never met a man who was not anxious for a termination of the war; and I have never met a man, woman, or child who contemplated its termination as possible without an entire separation from the now detested Yankee. I have never been asked for alms or a gratuity by any man or woman, black or white. Every one knew who I was, and all spoke to me with the greatest confidence. I have rarely heard any person complain of the almost total ruin which had befallen so many. All are prepared to undergo still greater sacrifices,–they contemplate and prepare to receive greater reverses which it is impossible to avert. They look to a successful termination of the war as certain, although few are sanguine enough to fix a speedy date for it, and nearly all bargain for its lasting at least all Lincoln’s presidency. Although I have always been with the Confederates in the time of their misfortunes, yet I never heard any person use a desponding word as to the result of the struggle. When I was in Texas and Louisiana, Banks seemed to be carrying every thing before him, Grant was doing the same in Mississippi, and I certainly did not bring luck to my friends at Gettysburg. I have lived in bivouacs with all the Southern armies, which are as distinct from one another as the British is from the Austrian, and I have never once seen an instance of insubordination.

Diary of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), 7 July 1863.

Liberators

I saw a most laughable spectacle this afternoon– viz., a negro, dressed in full Yankee uniform, with a rifle at full cock, leading along a barefooted white man, with whom he evidently changed clothes. General Longstreet stopped the pair, and asked the black man what it meant. He replied, “The two soldiers in charge of this here Yank have got drunk, so for fear he should escape I have took care of him, and brought him through that little town.” The consequential manner of the negro, and the supreme contempt with which he spoke to his prisoner, were most amusing. This little episode of a Southern slave leading a white Yankee soldier through a Northern village, alone and of his own accord, would not have been gratifying to an abolitionist. Nor would the sympathizers both in England and in the North feel encouraged if they could hear the language of detestation and contempt with which the numerous negroes with the Southern armies speak of their liberators.

Diary of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), 6 July 1863, describing an incident during the retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Doomed Line, Square, and Column!

SONG FOR THE IRISH BRIGADE.

Oh, not now for songs of a nation’s wrongs,
not the groans of starving labor;
Let the rifle ring and the bullet sing
to the clash of the flashing sabre!
There are Irish ranks on the tented banks
of Columbia’s guarded ocean;
And an iron clank from flank to flank
tells of armed men in motion.

And frank souls there clear true and bare
To all, as the steel beside them,
Can love or hate with the the strength of Fate,
Till the grave of the valiant hide them.
Each seems to be mailed Ard Righ,
whose sword’s avenging glory
Must light the fight and smite for Right,
Like Brian’s in olden story!

With pale affright and panic flight
Shall dastard Yankees base and hollow,
Hear a Celtic race, from their battle place,
Charge to the shout of “Faugh-a-ballaugh!”
By the souls above, by the land we love
Her tears bleeding patience
The sledge is wrought that shall smash to naught
The brazen liar of nations.

The Irish green shall again be seen
as our Irish fathers bore it,
A burning wind from the South behind,
and the Yankee rout before it!
O’Neil’s red hand shall purge the land–
Rain a fire on men and cattle,
Till the Lincoln snakes in their own cold lakes
Plunge from the blaze of battle.

The knaves that rest on Columbia’s breast,
and the voice of true men stifle;
we’ll exorcise from the rescued prize–
Our talisman, the rifle;
For a tyrant’s life a bowie knife!–
Of Union knot dissolvers,
The best we ken are stalwart men,
Columbiads and revolvers!

Whoe’er shall march by triumphal arch
Whoe’er may swell the slaughter,
Our drums shall roll from the Capitol
O’er Potomac’s fateful water!
Rise, bleeding ghosts, to the Lord of Hosts
For judgment final and solemn;
Your fanatic horde to the edge of the sword
Is doomed line, square, and column!