It’s up to Uncle Sam


justice and prudence

For, disguise it as we may, the United States government really holds and exercises the power which gives vitality to the preliminaries of reconstruction, and it is therefore responsible for all evils in the future which shall spring from its neglect or injustice in the present.

Earlier this month Seven Score and Ten published a letter written by Mississippi politician Henry S. Foote that advocated black suffrage as a necessary policy for the South to be reunited to the North:

We must, in order to assure our own return to liberty and happiness, not only recognize the colored denizens of the South as now free, but we must allow them the same means of preserving their freedom that we ourselves desire to possess. They must be freedmen in fact as well as in name. We must consent to their being invested with the elective franchise; and this must be done, too, no matter what cherished notions we may entertain in regard to the mental inferiority of those whom some of us have heretofore regarded as the doomed posterity of Ham.

150 years ago a Northern publication made a similar case. I didn’t read all 6200 words (without pictures!), but here are a few excerpts from The Atlantic Monthly, VOL. XVI.—AUGUST, 1865.—NO. XCIV.:


The submission of the Rebel armies and the occupation of the Rebel territory by the forces of the United States are successes which have been purchased at the cost of the lives of half a million of loyal men and a debt of nearly three thousand millions of dollars; but, according to theories of State Rights now springing anew to life, victory has smitten us with impotence. The war, it seems, was waged for the purpose of forcing the sword out of the Rebel’s hands, and forcing into them the ballot. At an enormous waste of treasure and blood, we have acquired the territory for which we fought; and lo! it is not ours, but belongs to the people we have been engaged in fighting, in virtue of the constitution we have been fighting for. The Federal government is now, it appears, what Wigfall elegantly styled it four years ago,—nothing but “the one-horse concern at Washington”: the real power is in the States it has subdued. We are therefore expected to act like the savage, who, after thrashing his Fetich for disappointing his prayers, falls down again and worships it. Our Fetich is State Rights, as perversely misunderstood. The Rebellion would have been soon put down, had it been merely an insurrectionary outbreak of masses of people without any political organization. Its tremendous force came from its being a revolt of States, with the capacity to employ those powers of taxation and conscription which place the persons and property of all residing in political communities at the service of their governments. And now that characteristic which gave strength to the Rebel communities in war is invoked to shield them from Federal regulation in defeat. We are required to substitute technicalities for facts; to consider the Rebellion—what it notoriously was not—a mere revolt of loose aggregations of men owing allegiance to the United States; and to hold the States, which endowed them with such a perfect organization and poisonous vitality, as innocent of the crime. The verbal dilemma in which this reasoning places us is this: that the Rebel States could not do what they did, and therefore we cannot do what we must. Among other things which it is said we cannot do, the prescribing of the qualifications of voters in the States occupies the most important place; and it is necessary to inquire whether the Rebel communities now held by our military power are States, in the sense that word bears in the Federal Constitution. If they are, we have not only no right to say that negroes shall enjoy in them the privilege of voting, but no right to prescribe any qualifications for white voters. …

[Several arguments that the rebel states are currently not Constitutional states and that the federal government has the right and power to decide who has the right to vote in the rebel territories]

It is often said, that, although the Federal government may have the right and power to decide who shall be considered “the people” of the Rebel States, in so important a matter as the conversion of them into States of the Federal Union, it is still politic and just to make the qualifications of voters as nearly as possible what they were before the Rebellion. Conceding this, we still have to face the fact, that a large body of men, held before the war as slaves, have been emancipated, and added to the body of the people. They are now as free as the white men. The old constitutions of the Slave States could have no application to the new condition of affairs. The change in the circumstances, by which four years have done the ordinary work of a century, demands a corresponding change in the application of old rules, even admitting that we should take them as a guide. Having converted the loyal blacks from slaves into the condition of citizens of the United States, there can be no reason or justice or policy in allowing them to be made, in localities recently Rebel, the subjects of whites who have but just purged themselves from the guilt of treason.

The question of negro suffrage being thus reduced to a question of expediency, to be decided on its own merits, the first argument brought against it is based on the proposition, that it is inexpedient to give the privilege of voting to the ignorant and unintelligent. This sounds well; but a moment’s reflection shows us that the objection is directed simply against deficiencies of education and intelligence which happen to be accompanied with a black skin. Three fifths or three fourths of the poor whites of the South cannot read or write; and they are cruelly belied, if they do not add to their ignorance that more important disqualification for good citizenship,—indisposition or incapacity for work. In general, the American system proceeds on the idea that the best way of qualifying men to vote is voting, as the best way of teaching boys to swim is to let them go into the water. “Our national experience,” says Chief-Justice Chase, in a letter to the New Orleans freedmen, “has demonstrated that public order reposes most securely on the broad base of Universal Suffrage. It has proved, also, that universal suffrage is the surest guaranty and most powerful stimulus of individual, social, and political progress.” But even if we take the ground, that education and suffrage, though not actually, should properly be, identical, the argument would not apply to the case of the freedmen. What we need primarily at the South is loyal citizens of the United States, and treason there is in inverse proportion to ignorance. If, in reconstructing the Rebel communities, we make suffrage depend on education, we inevitably put the local governments into the hands of a small minority of prominent Confederates whom we have recently defeated; of men physically subdued, but morally rebellious; of men who have used their education simply to destroy the prosperity created by the industry of the ignorant and enslaved, and who, however skilful they may be as “architects of ruin,” have shown no capacity for the nobler art which repairs and rebuilds. If, on the other hand, we make suffrage depend on color, we disfranchise the only portion of the population on whose allegiance we can thoroughly rely, and give the States over to white ignorance and idleness led by white intrigue and disloyalty. We are placed by events in that strange condition in which the safety of that “republican form of government” we desire to insure the Southern States has more safeguards in the instincts of the ignorant than in the intelligence of the educated. The right of the freedmen, not merely to the common privileges of citizens, but to own themselves, depends on the connection of the States in which they live with the United States being preserved. They must know that Secession and State Independence mean their reënslavement. Saulsbury of Delaware, and Willey of West Virginia, declared in the Senate, in 1862, that the Rebel States, when they came back into the Union, would have the legal power to reënslave any blacks whom the National government might emancipate; and it is only the plighted faith of the United States to the freedmen, which such a proceeding would violate, which can prevent the crime from being perpetrated. It is as citizens of the United States, and not as inhabitants of North Carolina or Mississippi, that their freedom is secure. Their instincts, their interests, and their position will thus be their teachers in the duties of citizenship. They are as sure to vote in accordance with the most advanced ideas of the time as most of the embittered aristocracy are to vote for the most retrograde. They will, though at first ignorant, necessarily be in political sympathy with the most educated voters of New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts; if they were as low in the scale of being as their bitterest revilers assert, they would still be forced by their instincts into intuitions of their interests; and their interests are identical with those of civilization and progress. We suppose that those who think them most degraded would be willing to concede to them the possession of a little selfish cunning; and a little selfish cunning is enough to bring them into harmony with the purposes, if not the spirit, of the largest-minded philanthropy and statesmanship of the North.

It is claimed, we know, by some of the hardiest dealers in assertion, that the freedmen will vote as their former masters shall direct; but as this argument is generally put forward by those whose sympathies are with the former masters rather than with the emancipated bondmen, one finds it difficult to understand why they should object to a policy which will increase the power of those whom they wish to be dominant. …

We think, then, it may be taken for granted, that, while ignorant, the freedmen will vote right by the force of their instincts, and that the education they require will be the result of their possessing the political power to demand it. Free schools are not the creations of private benevolence, but of public taxation; it is useless to expect a system of universal education in a community which does not rest on universal suffrage; and the children of the poor freeman are educated at the public expense, not so much by the pleading of the children’s needs as by the power of the father’s ballot. To take the ground, that the “superior” race will educate the “inferior” race it has but just held in bondage, that it will humanely set to work to prepare and qualify the “niggers” to be voters, only escapes from being considered the artifice of the knave by charitably referring it to the credulity of the simpleton. We do not send, as Mr. Sumner has happily said, “the child to be nursed by the wolf”; and he might have added, that the only precedent for such a proceeding, the case of Romulus and Remus, has lost all the little force it may once have had by the criticism of Niebuhr.

If the negroes do not get the power of political self-protection in the conventions of the people which are now to be called, it is not reasonable to expect they will ever get it by the consent of the whites. … For, disguise it as we may, the United States government really holds and exercises the power which gives vitality to the preliminaries of reconstruction, and it is therefore responsible for all evils in the future which shall spring from its neglect or injustice in the present.

Civil War contraband (between 1862 and 1865; LOC:

five-fifths a citizen now (Library of Congress)

The addition, too, of four millions of persons to the people of the South, without any corresponding addition of voters, will increase the political power of the ruling whites to an alarming extent, while it will remove all checks on its mischievous exercise. The constitution declares that “representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included in this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” The unanswerable argument presented at the time against the clause relating to the slaves did not prevent its adoption. “If,” it was said, “the negroes are property, why is other property not represented? if men, why three fifths?” Still the South has always enjoyed the double privilege of treating the negro as an article of merchandise and of using three fifths of him as political capital. He has thus added to the power by which he was enslaved, and has been represented in Congress by persons who regarded him either as a beast or as “a descendant of Ham.” In 1860, when the ratio of representation was about one hundred and twenty-seven thousand, the South had, by the three-fifths rule, the right to eighteen more representatives in Congress, and eighteen more electoral votes, than it would have had, if only free persons had been counted. The emancipation of the slaves will give it twelve more; for the blacks will now no longer be constitutional fractions, but constitutional units. The three-fifths arrangement was a monstrous anomaly; but the five-fifths will be worse, if negro suffrage be denied. Four millions of free people will, by the mere fact of being inhabitants of Southern territory, confer a political power equal to thirty members of Congress, and yet have no voice in their election. It has been computed by the Hon. Robert Dale Owen, in a paper on the subject, published in the New York “Tribune,” that in some States, where the blacks and whites are about equal in number, and where two thirds of the whites shall “qualify” as voters, this new condition of things will give the Southern white voter, in a Presidential or Congressional election, three times as much political influence as a Northern voter. …

But this great power, wielded by a population imperfectly qualified to vote, in the name of a population which do not vote at all,—a power equivalent to thirty members of Congress and thirty electoral votes,—will be directed as much against Northern interests as against negro interests. …

One result of Southern predominance everybody can appreciate. The national debt is so interwoven with every form of the business and industry of the loyal States that its repudiation would be the most appalling of evils. A tax to pay it at once would not produce half the financial derangement and moral disorder which repudiation would cause; for repudiation, as Mirabeau well observed, is nothing but taxation in its most cruel, unequal, iniquitous, and calamitous form. But what reason have we to think that a reconstructed South, dominant in the Federal government, would regard the debt with feelings similar to ours? The negroes would associate it with their freedom, of which it was the price; their late masters would view it as the symbol of their humiliation, which it was incurred to effect. …

From every point of view, then, in which we can survey the subject, negro suffrage is, unless we are destitute of the commonest practical reason, the logical sequence of negro emancipation. It is not more necessary for the protection of the freedmen than for the safety and honor of the nation. Our interests are inextricably bound up with their rights. The highest requirements of abstract justice coincide with the lowest requirements of political prudence. And the largest justice to the loyal blacks is the real condition of the widest clemency to the Rebel whites. If the Southern communities are to be reorganized into Federal States, it is of the first importance that they should be States whose power rests on the proscription or degradation of no class of their population. It would be a great evil, if they were absolutely governed by a faction, even if that faction were a minority of the “loyal” people, whose loyalty consisted in merely taking an oath which the most unscrupulous would be the readiest to take, because the readiest to break. We are bound either to give them a republican form of government, or to hold them in the grasp of the military power of the nation; and we cannot safely give them anything which approaches a republican form of government, unless we allow the great mass of the free people the right to vote. And least of all should we think of proscribing that particular class of the free people who most thoroughly represent in their localities the interests of the United States, and whose ballots would at once do the work and save the expense of an army of occupation.


NJ Platforms 1865 (The two platforms. Look on this picture. Union platform, adopted at Trenton, July 20, 1865. And then on this! Democratic platform, adopted at Trenton, August 30, 1865. Jersey City. From the Times" Printing House, 43 Montgomery Street [1865].; LOC:

platforms for New Jersey state elections in the fall of 1865

This image of the side-by-side New Jersey state platforms from 150 years ago this month have a couple planks about slavery and voting rights. The Republicans didn’t specifically mention black suffrage; the Democrats were opposed. You can find it at the Library of Congress

The Republicans: “pledge the unanimous support of the Union men of New Jersey to the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, and we feel deeply humiliated by the position of our State as the only free State which has refused to ratify that amendment; [even many rebels acknowledge the necessity of freeing the slaves, but New Jersey Democrats] still strives against the spirit of the age, the conscience of the people and the irresistible tendencies of freedom, by thwarting a policy plainly essential to the future security and welfare of the nation.” The next Republican plank puts new emphasis on the words of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” and governments were set up to secure the principles of the Declaration.

The Democrats resolved “that we are most emphatically opposed to negro suffrage, and entirely agree with President Johnson, that the people of each State have the right to control that subject as they deem best.”

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“city of the dead.”

Union soldiers in Andersonville prison / The rebel leader, Jeff Davis, at Fortress Monroe / Th. Nast.  (1865; LOC:

“Union soldiers in Andersonville prison / The rebel leader, Jeff Davis, at Fortress Monroe / Th. Nast. ” (Library of Congress)

From The New-York Times August 25, 1865:

WASHINGTON NEWS.; Return of the Andersonville Burial Party. Their Report Upon the Condition of that Earthly Hell. The Graves of Thirteen Thousand Martyrs Identified. Monuments Erected and the Cemetery Put in Order. The Old Prison Pen Carefully Preserved as the Rebels Left It. OUR DEAD AT ANDERSONVILLE. A VISIT TO RICHMOND. ABOUT GEN. BUTLER’S RESIGNATION. FROM WASHINGTON. A RUFFLAN FOILED. DISFRANCISED. A HERO COMING. COLORED TROOPS. SOUTHERN MAILS.

WASHINGTON, Thursday, Aug. 24.

As a fit commentary on the trial of the Andersonville prison-keeper now taking place in this city, Capt. JAMES M. MOORE, Assistant Quartermaster, and party to-day returned from Andersonville, where they have been engaged for the past month in identifying the graves and giving honored sepulture to the fourteen thousand victims of rebel barbarity who suffered all manner of torture and death in that notorious prison-pen. Capt. MOORE and party, consisting of clerks, painters, letterers, carpenters, &c., to the number of forty-two, including Miss CLARA BARTON, left here on the 8th of July, and proceeded to Andersonville by way of Savannah, up the river by steamer to Augusta, thence by rail to Atlanta, Macon and Andersonville. The railroad between Augusta and Atlanta is the only one of the routes destroyed by SHERMAN in his march across Georgia, that is yet in operation. The Georgia Central road from Savannah to Macon is yet a wreck in many places, and will not be repaired for months to come. At Macon Gen. WILSON, who took a deep interest in Capt. MOORE’s work, detailed a small force to assist him, and on the 26th of July the party began their labors. The dead were found buried in trenches on a site selected by the rebels about 300 yards from the stockade. The trenches were from three to four feet deep, and in a clayey soil. It is rather remarkable that it is the only clay soil in nll that vicinity, and it is, therefore, inferred that the rebels selected it to prevent the exhumation of bodies by the action of the elements, thereby adding to the effluvia from the vicinity, which the people for miles around in that section loudly complained of.

By means of a stake at the head of each grave, which bore a number corresponding with a similar numbered name upon the Andersonville Hospital records, most fortunately captured by Gen. WILSON last Spring, Capt. MOORE rejoices to say that he was enabled to identify, mark and honor the graves of thirteen thousand of the dead. To all but 500 of those buried in that vast cemetery, a neat tablet, about two feet I high, painted white, and lettered in black with the number, name, company and regiment of each, was placed at the head of each grave.

Relics of Andersonville Prison from the collection brought from there by Miss Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater, August, 1865, and photographed by Brady & Co. for the great National Fair, Washington, June, 1866. (LOC:

“Relics of Andersonville Prison from the collection brought from there by Miss Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater, August, 1865, and photographed by Brady & Co. for the great National Fair, Washington, June, 1866. ” (Library of Congress)

Nearly eighty thousand feet of pine lumber were used in these tablets alone. The cemetery has been divided by one main avenue running through the centre, and subdivided into blocks and sections in such a manner that with the aid of the numbers a visitor can go to any particular grave without difficulty. A force of men is now engaged in laying out walks, clearing the cemetery of stumps, stones, &c., and will this Fall beautify by setting out trees, &c. A neat board fence incloses the entire area, about 50 acres, and a flagstaff in the centre, with colors at half-mast, marks the honored “city of the dead.” In a circle on a large board over the gate are the words, “National Cemetery, Andersonville.” In the grounds at various places Capt. MOORE caused appropriate inscriptions to be placed, and endeavored, so far as his facilities would permit, to do whatever was possible to transform the wild, unmarked, unhonored graveyard into a fit place of entombment for the nation’s gallant dead. Capt. MOORE found the prison, pen in a perfect state of preservation, just as the rebels left it, buildings, stockade and ground huts, and the veritable dead-line as palpable as ever. That the controversy about the existence of this line may be settled, Capt. MOORE brought a piece of it away with him. One of the first things Gen. WILSON did after the capture of Macon, was to send a force to Andersonville, take possession of and preserve everything about the place. Nothing has been destroyed, and as, our exhausted, emaciated and enfeebled soldiers left it, so it stands to-day, a monument to an inhumanity unparalleled in the annals of war Andersonville itself consists of but one solitary house aside from the buildings erected by the rebels for their use.

Andersonville List (Library of Congress)

“list of the dead” Library of Congress)

The people who live in that locality assert that it is notorious for its unhealthinese; that it is known to be the most unhealthy part of Georgia. Malarious fevers constantly prevail, and one of Capt. MOORE’s party, a, young man named EDWARD WATTS, fell a victim to typhoid fever just before the party left. Two soldiers of the force, detailed by Gen. WILSON, also died, and one was murdered by a guerrilla. At a station named Montezuma, just outside the stockade, stands pine timber enough to build hundreds of miles of log huts, had our prisoners been allowed to use it. Near the inclosure is also the veritable dog kennels where were kept the leash of bloodhounds which the rebel Col. GIBBS to-day testified, in the Wirz trial, were regularly mustered into the service, received regular rations, and were used for recapturing escaped fugitives. While Capt. MOORE and party were engaged in their work they were obliged to camp out in regular army style, the accommodations of Andersonville consisting of but one house. The people of that vicinity are a lazy, sallow-faced, haggard, ignorant class. Their ignorance was especially astonishing. One man was found who had not heard of President LINCOLN’s death, and another who refused greenbacks because his government would not allow him to take those things. He absolutely did not know that the Southern Confederacy had gone up. At present Andersonville is guarded by a small force from Macon. A superintendent of the grounds and buildings was appointed by Capt. MOORE, and everything pertaining to the place will be carefully preserved. A list of the dead was brought back, and as soon as it can be prepared it will probably be published. It will be a vast and solemn “Roll of Honor.” Miss CLARA BARTON, who accompanied the party, has also returned. She took a deep interest in the noble work, submitted cheerfully to all the sacrifices and privations, and rendered very efficient aid. The entire party deserve the thanks of the country for their services. …

Grounds at Andersonville, Georgia, where are buried fourteen thousand Union soldiers, who died in Andersonville Prison / sketched by I.C. Schotel.(harper's Weekly, 10-7-1865; LOC:

“city of the dead.”

James Miles Moore helped develop Arlington Natioanl Cemetery, where he was eventually buried.

The trial of Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz did indeed make several front pages of The New-York Times 150 years ago this month.

The struggle to complete a more durable Transatlantic telegraph cable was also front page news that August. Those headlines brought back memories of one of my most enduring images of the Civil War’s 150th – the steam-tug in the cold March waters off Newfoundland trying to intercept the next ship for Europe with the telegraphed synopsis of President Lincoln’s first inaugural address

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A more northern North Carolina

Eastern portion of the military department of North Carolina (1862; LOC:

Newbern on the Neuse and Trent rivers

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in August 1865:

A large number of Union soldiers in North Carolina have made up their minds to stay in that vicinity and are marrying the widows and girls and settling on the abandoned plantations.

The population of Newbern, N.C., before the war was only 6,000; it is now 30,000 – the largest in the State. The health of the city was never better than at present.

A Gotham newspaper published a similar statement about the health of Newbern, but said the northern influx was due to a new emigration. Also, Newbern- New York commerce was going to get faster. From The New-York Times August 17, 1865:

From North Carolina.

NEWBERN, Saturday, Aug. 12.

The Northern emigration to North Carolina has already set in. People are arriving by the thousands from all quarters.

The health of Newbern and the rest of the State was never better. In point of health, North Carolina has always been the second State in the Union, which position she is destined to keep.

The Murray line of steamers which run from this point to New-York, and also the Goodspeed line, are each building a number of first-class packet steamships, to run on this route, which will make a trip two hours sooner.

HOUGH & Co., of this city, intend to build a similar class of steamers for the Newbern and New-York trade.

These steamers are to be constructed with the view of speed, and a rivalry is being excited that will test the skill of the first mechanics in the country.

The arriving Yankees found that children in North Carolina had been taught a biased view of the world. Earlier in August the Times front-paged an article about the Old North State, including some lessons from a Confederate schoolbook. Published in 1863, Marinda Branson Moore’s The Geographical Reader, for the Dixie Children covered the world. Here are a couple of the excerpts published in The New-York Times August 13, 1865:

Private W.T. Harbison of Company B, 11th North Carolina Infantry Regiment (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:

‘train up a child’ (“Private W.T. Harbison of Company B, 11th North Carolina Infantry Regiment” Library of Congress)

Confederate School Books What They Contain Their Influence on the Uprising Generation.; THE UNITED STATES. SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY.

RALEIGH, N.C., Sunday, Aug. 6, 1865.

The effects of the revolution, which has swept from the South the vestige of barbarism, so long a disgrace to our flag, are quieting down, and, so far as possible, the people are returning to their old customs and habits. But the prejudices, which exhibited themselves so freely before the war, are not dead yet — in fact, they have in many instances been increased. Time was when children were taught to love the United States; but during the war the little Confeds learned lessons filled with hate against their Northern brethren. In proof of this statement I extract the following sweet little morsels of rebellious teachings from the Geographical Reader for Dixie Children; Mrs. M.B. MOORE, Authoress. Second edition: BRONSON & FARROR, Publishers, Raliegh, N.C., 1864: …


In the year 1860, the Abolitionists became strong enough to elect one of their men for President. ABRAHAM LINCOLN was a weak man, and the South believed he would allow laws to be made which would deprive them of their rights. So the Southern States seceded, and elected JEFFERSON DAVIS for their President. This so outraged President LINCOLN that he declared war, and exhausted nearly all of the strength of the nation in a vain attempt to whip the South back into the Union. Thousands of lives have been lost, and the earth has been drenched with blood; but still ABRAHAM is unable to conquer the ‘rebels,’ as he calls the South. The South only asked to be let alone, and to divide the public property equally. It would have been wise in the North to have said to her Southern sisters: ‘If you are not content to dwell with us longer, depart in peace. We will divide the inheritance with you, and may be a great nation.'” …

The Southern people are noted for being high-minded and courteous. A stranger seldom lacks friends in this country. Much of the field work is done by slaves. They are generally will used, and often have as much pocket-money as their mistresses. They are contented and happy, and many of them are Christians. The sin of the South lies not in holding slaves, but that they are sometimes mistreated. Let all little boys and girls remember that slaves are human, and that God will hold them accountable for treating them with injustice. …


U.S. History Images provides the drawings of reading and auction
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From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in August 1865:

ANOTHER ROBBERY. – A soldier named Robert Sherman, a member of the Veteran Reserve Corps, and a resident of Rose Valley, Wayne Co., was robbed of some $800 in Albany, on Monday last, by two confidence men of that city. He had just been mustered out of the service and paid off, and the money taken from him was about all he had on hand, when he fell in with sharpers.

The following photos seem to reflect the reserve corps’ uniform change: ” Ridicule influenced the corps to exchange its sky blue uniform for one similar to those worn by the other soldiers.”

Unidentified soldier in Union Veteran Reserve Corps uniform (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:

“Unidentified soldier in Union Veteran Reserve Corps uniform” (Library of Congress)

Veteran Reserve Corps. Wash., D.C. Apr. 1865  (LOC:

some members of the “Veteran Reserve Corps. Wash., D.C. Apr. 1865 ” (Library of Congress)

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Appomattox Court House, Virginia. McLean house  (by Timoth H. O'Sulllivan, April 1865; LOC:

where everything changed (McLean House, April 1865, Library of Congress)

150 years ago this week a Northern newspaper reprinted a report it found in a Petersburg, Virginia newspaper. A city that began the year under siege was trying to adjust to the huge change in the economic-social system caused by losing the war and the abolition of slavery. There was a large influx of former slaves into Virginia’s towns and cities, which would be an especial cause of concern with the inevitable return of winter. The former slaves did not seem to be sticking to one job for long. Black churches and schools seemed to be training former slaves in such a way as to “create irritation and sow discord between the two races.” Slavery was a mutually beneficial system, but postbellum there would be more obvious lines of demarcation between the races leading eventually to “the great separation.” The schools seemed to be spending more time instigating blacks to harm whites than in teaching reading and writing. The paper concluded by saying that the time was right to colonize Africa with the freed slaves.

From The New-York Times August 6, 1865:

SOME OF WAR’S CHANGES.; Effects of the Abolition of Slavery from a Southern Point of View. The Old Song of the Benefits of Slavery and the Hardships of Freedom.

The following article from the Petersburgh Daily Index shows how hard it is for the South to give up its old idea in regard to slavery, and the determination of a certain class to make freedom a curse to both races:

Dead Confederate soldier in trenches of Fort Mahone in front of Petersburg, Va., April 3, 1865  (LOC:

“Dead Confederate soldier in trenches of Fort Mahone in front of Petersburg, Va., April 3, 1865 ” (Library of Congress)

“By the operation of war — a more potent agency than laws or ordinances — slavery ceased to exist among us four months ago this day. The time has, of course, been too short, and our experience too restricted, to warrant any generalization of the facts and results of this radical revolution in an institution whose age is numbered by centuries, but since the reports of many observers will be required to enable the world to make a right estimate of the results of this forcible destruction of the labor system, and by consequence of the social system of the South, we offer our contribution to the common stock. We have to speak only of what falls under our own eye, and therefore only of the effects in a city.

The first, and perhaps the most conspicuous result, was the immediate and very considerable increase of the numbers of the negroes among us.

Petersburg Courthouse 1865 (

“Petersburg, Va. Courthouse” (1865, Library of Congress)

Animated by curiosity, by a wish for change, by the hope of more abundant and regular contributions of food from the Federal hand, by the natural desire for the association, sympathy and converse of as large a number of their fellows as possible, by the larger opportunities of making money through the greater diversity of pursuits, probably in some instances by the greater profits of vice, as well as the greater impunity which the opportunities of city life insure, by the distaste for the regular labor of the farm, by the love of a holiday — by all these and perhaps other motives, there arose, immediately after the surrender of Gen. LEE, a steady influx of negroes into the towns and cities of the State. As soon as the attention of the military authorities in immediate command, was called to the certain evil that threatened both town and country, as a result of this, they adopted stringent rules to prevent the further spread of the evil, and compelled hundreds who were living exclusively on the bounty of the government, to return to their homes, where they would be useful, and could be fed.

Still the remedy was necessarily partial, and the result of the census now being taken will show that the colored population of Petersburgh has doubled in four months. During the Summer, when food is cheap, when no fire is needed, save for cooking, when little clothing is required and the cheapest material suffices, when it is easy to supply the limited needs of the body by the few cents which can be gained by retailing lemonade, hawking fruit about the streets, blacking boots, vending newspapers, holding officers’ horses, acting as porters at the railway stations, huckstering, fishing and other light employments of the long Summer day, and when, finally, the presence of the military ensures labor to many and food to many more who will one day have to provide for themselves — during the Summer, we say, this great increase of population is a matter which concerns us no otherwise than as it affects public order; but in the Winter, such an increase of a population that will not, because they cannot, produce as much as they consume, will be a serious, indeed an intolerable tax upon the charity, public and private, of our people.

In the next place, it is discouraging to observe — and the observation is very general — the unfaithfulness of the hired servants to their obligations. In the majority of cases which have fallen under our observation, the domestic servants cannot be relied on to stay in any one employment a week at a time. This is not due to the inadequacy of wages, because the labor performed is better paid than that of any servant in the country, North or South. Nor is it due to the impositions of employers, for as our readers, especially our colored ones, if we are so fortunate to have any, very well know, speedy, certain and complete redress is afforded by the Provost-Marshal to any negro who has cause of complaint. Neither is it attributable to a corresponding infidelity of the employer to perform his part of the contract, for the enforcement against him is always easy. It is due to (what we hope for the mutual interest of both races, it may not be found to be) an incurable aversion of the negro to regular, continuous, persevering labor. If further experience should prove this to be a result of slavery, of the want of that stimulus which a direct and disposable return for labor occasions, then the evil will soon wear off, as the necessities and interests of the negro become clearer to himself. At present the trouble is a most serious and annoying one. Hardly a housekeeper can be certain on Sunday night that his Monday breakfast will be cooked for him.

A third result is the violence and insolence which seems suddenly to have sprung up, especially among the young. This was, of course, to be expected, and we are agreeably disappointed in finding comparatively so little of it. The majority of the enfranchised slaves behave with a degree of good manners and respect which, considering the influences to which they are subjected in their churches and schools, is very creditable to them.

John Brown. Origin, Fort Warren. Music arranged by C. B. Marsh. Published by C. S. Hall, 256 Main Street, Charleston, Mass. Entered, according to the act of Congress. in the year 1861, By C. S. Hall, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts (1861; LOC: v)

school song (Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets.)

From the time of the advent of the Federal troops, their churches have been open almost, if not quite, daily, and some very silly and other very wicked people have been availing themselves of the opportunities that afforded to instill into their minds very loose notions of the supremacy of law, and the sacredness the right of property. In addition, some schools are open whose teachers find it easier to train the voices than the brains of their charges; and thoughts, who cannot compass the alphabet, know every inflection of “Hang Jeff. Davis on a Sour Apple Tree,” “Down with the Traitors and up with the Flag,” “John Brown’s Body,” and the other national melodies which the war has substituted for the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle.”

The result, and of course the design of all this, as well as of the training of the urchins in the manual of arms under officers of their own color, armed with United States sabres, is to create irritation and sow discord between the two races, and we are less surprised that the attempt should have been made, than that it should have met with such trifling success.

Many, indeed most of the older and more respectable of the colored population, are as orderly and polite as ever, and some, who at first wore their new honors somewhat obtrusively, have, under the wholesome counsel and restraints of the military authority, had their eyes open to the imposing fact that Fourth of July is not food, nor “Hail Columbia” raiment.

America / E.W.C.  (1841; LOC: v)

Utopia – 1841

Another result, and one that will inevitably and forever attend the substitution of freedom for slavery, where different races are the subjects, is the deepening of the lines of demarcation, social and industrial, between the whites and the blacks. The jealousy of race is the most difficult of all jealousies to eradicate, because it is an instinct. Hitherto in the South that jealousy has been softened by the mutual interchange of useful offices, and by the union of families for generations. In thousands of cases in the South, the nurse, or “mammy” of the child, was the granddaughter of the nurse of that child’s grandfather, and the servants who waited in the house or tilled the farm, were the descendants of those who performed the like offices for the ancestors of their masters for generations. The result was an attachment which long habits of association in the practical relations of service and protection, never fails to originate, even when a brute renders the one and receives the other. Every one who knows anything of slavery in Virginia, knows the depth and universality of these attachments, how the family servant was an object of family pride, how the young were defended for their parent’s sakes, and the old cherished for the services they had rendered, and the fondness with which they remembered those who were “loved and lost” — how frequently, in a word, the question of economy, of what was best for the balance sheet was postponed to the ties of traditional and inherited affection.

Thus it was that despite the most persistent efforts to excite insurrection by the evil disposed during the secession, the unparalleled spectacle was witnessed of a four years war for the enfranchisement of the slave, fought out to success without a single outbreak among the slaves themselves, in any single quarter or corner of the whole South — an imperishable monument of the humanity of Southern slavery, and a triumphant and unanswerable refutation of the abuse that for forty years has been heaped on Southern masters.

This mollifying influence is now gone, and the races are left to the operation of the hard laws of selfishness and interest, and the results are as might have been anticipated.

Formerly a white drayman or cartman or back-driver was a sight unknown to our streets, now they share these employments with the blacks, and eventually will monopolize them, except in cases — and there are many among us — where, under the brutalizing effects of slavery, colored men heretofore carrying on these employments have won enviable characters for trustworthiness, politeness and honesty.

Formerly, most, if not all, of our bars were tended by colored men, though owned by whites; now, the cobblers and juleps are mixed, as well as the rent paid, and the stock kept up by white men in many instances. Formerly, the restaurants of Petersburgh were almost exclusively in the hands of the colored people; now, we believe, there is but one establishment of the sort in the city. Formerly, we had only colored barbers; now, the native whites seek, generally, barbers of their own color, and eventually, they will do so exclusively. Formerly, both colors purchased their groceries of white men; now, there are at least two family groceries of respectable size, managed and sustained exclusively by the blacks. And this will infallibly go on until the great separation, which God has for some wise purpose indicated with such signal and ineffaceable distinctness, will be recognized and maintained in all the walks of life, as rigidly as it is everywhere observed in social intercourse, and the familiarity of acquaintanceship and friendship.

Portrait of two unidentified African American children (between 1865 and 1870; LOC: v

need a “true education” (between 1865 and 1870, Library of Congress)

We have only space this morning to add one more of the effects of freedom — the extension of the rudiments of education. The little we know of the system by which this end is sought here, does not impress us favorably as to the final result, for if we are rightly informed, the teachers are, in some cases, much more solicitous to persuade their pupils that their late masters are their natural enemies, whom it would be an acceptable service to God to rob and injure, much after the fashion that the subjects of Pharoah were treated by their freedmen, than to lead them through the mysteries of the spelling book. Nevertheless, we unhesitatingly bid God-speed to all who offer them a true education — an education of conscience and heart, as well as mind. No greater calamity could befall this State than the cur[s]e of a population of four hundred thousand beings growing up, living, acting and dying in ignorance, and with no restrain but their own wills.

Perhaps here will be found the realization of that vision which, for generations, reconciled many to slavery, who otherwise esteemed it a great evil — the regeneration and civilization and christianizing of Africa.

Language map of Africa 1883 (LOC: v)

back to Africa? (Language map of Africa 1883. Library of Congres)

Sixty-five years ago this matter engaged the serious attention of the Virginia Legislature. Mr. JEFFERSON extenuated slavery on the ground that one day the slaves might “carry back to the country of their origin the seeds of civilization.” Fifty years ago, the General Assembly, with but ten dissenting voices in both houses, urged the plan of colonization on the attention of Congress, for “persons of color now free, and such as may be hereafter emancipated.” The first names in Virginia history have been the first names in the history of colonization — JEFFERSON, MONROE, JOHN RANDOLPH, MARSHALL, MADISON, MERCER, Bishop MEADE, TYLER. The dream of all these men was to redeem Africa from degradation and wretchedness, through the Africans. They seem never to have been discouraged by the thought that they were trying to dissolve a polar iceberg with a burning glass. Here, at last, is a means adequate to the task, and the performance of that task is at once the regeneration of Africa, and the redemption of America: and here, at last, is the prospect of fruition for the prophecy of a distinguished son of the Commonwealth: “Africa gave to Virginia a savage and a slave; Virginia gives back to Africa a citizen and a Christian.”

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, but even he considered sending them back to Africa.

In the blink of an eye, or when General Lee signed the surrender agreement at Appomattox Courthouse, the white South went from trying to defend the Confederate States of America and its way of life to a whole new world. Former slaves also faced a whole new world. In 1901’s Up From Slavery: An Autobiography (at the end of Chapter 1) Booker T. Washington looked back to 1865 when, as a child of probably eight or nine, he and the rest of the slaves on his master’s plantation in Franklin County, Virginia were proclaimed free:

Booker T. Washington, half-length portrait, seated (ca. 1895; LOC:

Booker T. Washington looked back on the day of liberation (ca. 1865, Library of Congress)

Finally the war closed, and the day of freedom came. It was a momentous and eventful day to all upon our plantation. We had been expecting it. Freedom was in the air, and had been for months. Deserting soldiers returning to their homes were to be seen every day. Others who had been discharged, or whose regiments had been paroled, were constantly passing near our place. The “grape-vine telegraph” was kept busy night and day. The news and mutterings of great events were swiftly carried from one plantation to another. In the fear of “Yankee” invasions, the silverware and other valuables were taken from the “big house,” buried in the woods, and guarded by trusted slaves. Woe be to any one who would have attempted to disturb the buried treasure. The slaves would give the Yankee soldiers food, drink, clothing—anything but that which had been specifically intrusted to their care and honour. As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world. The night before the eventful day, word was sent to the slave quarters to the effect that something unusual was going to take place at the “big house” the next morning. There was little, if any, sleep that night. All as excitement and expectancy. Early the next morning word was sent to all the slaves, old and young, to gather at the house. In company with my mother, brother, and sister, and a large number of other slaves, I went to the master’s house. All of our master’s family were either standing or seated on the veranda of the house, where they could see what was to take place and hear what was said. There was a feeling of deep interest, or perhaps sadness, on their faces, but not bitterness. As I now recall the impression they made upon me, they did not at the moment seem to be sad because of the loss of property, but rather because of parting with those whom they had reared and who were in many ways very close to them. The most distinct thing that I now recall in connection with the scene was that some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.

Free!  (c. 1863, Stephens, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1824-1882, artist; LOC:

‘rejoicing, thanksgiving, ecstasy’

For some minutes there was great rejoicing, and thanksgiving, and wild scenes of ecstasy. But there was no feeling of bitterness. In fact, there was pity among the slaves for our former owners. The wild rejoicing on the part of the emancipated coloured people lasted but for a brief period, for I noticed that by the time they returned to their cabins there was a change in their feelings. The great responsibility of being free, of having charge of themselves, of having to think and plan for themselves and their children, seemed to take possession of them. It was very much like suddenly turning a youth of ten or twelve years out into the world to provide for himself. In a few hours the great questions with which the Anglo-Saxon race had been grappling for centuries had been thrown upon these people to be solved. These were the questions of a home, a living, the rearing of children, education, citizenship, and the establishment and support of churches. Was it any wonder that within a few hours the wild rejoicing ceased and a feeling of deep gloom seemed to pervade the slave quarters? To some it seemed that, now that they were in actual possession of it, freedom was a more serious thing than they had expected to find it. Some of the slaves were seventy or eighty years old; their best days were gone. They had no strength with which to earn a living in a strange place and among strange people, even if they had been sure where to find a new place of abode. To this class the problem seemed especially hard. Besides, deep down in their hearts there was a strange and peculiar attachment to “old Marster” and “old Missus,” and to their children, which they found it hard to think of breaking off. With these they had spent in some cases nearly a half-century, and it was no light thing to think of parting. Gradually, one by one, stealthily at first, the older slaves began to wander from the slave quarters back to the “big house” to have a whispered conversation with their former owners as to the future.

This instant freedom is hard for me to imagine. I had over twenty years to gradually learn the skills necessary to become relatively self-reliant.

The following photograph of Richmond between April and June 1865 also seems to give some idea of the postbellum disruption:

Richmond, Va. Barges with African Americans on the Canal; ruined buildings beyond (by Alexander Gardner, April-June 1865; LOC:

boat people

You can read about the image of the contented plantation at the Library of Congress, which also provides more information about the Petersburg Courthouse: “During the 1864-1865 siege of Petersburg, Union troops used the tower for a sighting mark and both Confederates and Federals relied upon the clock in the tower as a timepiece.”

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This Thomas Nast cartoon was published in the August 5, 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly. You can read more about it at the Library of Congress: “Centerfold prints show Columbia considering why she should pardon Confederate troops who are begging for forgiveness when an African American Union soldier with an amputated leg does not have the right to vote.”

John C. Breckinridge, former United States Vice President and former rebel general, might be peering between the two columns in the left-hand pane.


Nine years later Thomas Nast applied the obeisance theme to himself:

Nast asks Pardon (Harper's Weekly, June 6, 1874, p. 480.)

Nast asks Pardon from U.S. Senate (Harper’s Weekly, June 6, 1874, p. 480.)

*There sure has been a lot of progress in the last 150 years. The 1865 Nast cartoon portrayed Columbia having to decide about African-American suffrage – at a time when Columbia herself couldn’t vote in the United States. … make that African-American man suffrage.
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clique politics

A war widow was passed over in the appointment of a Post Master in Penn Yan, New York. A Democrat paper showed that even a Republican paper disagreed with the decision.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in July 1865:

The War against returned Soldiers by the Republican Politicians.

Muskets for the Soldiers – Offices for the Loyal Leaguers.


The struggle in regard to the Penn Yan Post Office is over, and Mr. Samuel H. Wells has received the commission as Post Master. Mr. Wells is competent to make a good Post Master, and we have no doubt, will strive to make a good one. He is appointed against the wishes of a very large majority of the people interested, and there will therefore, be the more need of his doing his best to give satisfaction.

Col. Sherer is rudely kicked out of the office by the same parties who moved heaven and earth, and resorted to all sorts of strategy, four years ago to get him appointed. While they endeavor to retain others, they prosribe the Colonel, and yet do not dare to make any open complaint against him. Col. Sherer has been strictly upright in his management of the office, and no man could be more zealous than he has been to give complete satisfaction to the public. As long as these removals do not extend to other places, and he is removed to give place to a civilian, the Colonel can but deem himself basely and shabbily treated.

Mr. Wells, the new Post Master belongs to a lucky line. His father has been Justice of the Supreme Court for nearly twenty years, and has received about $50,000 for his services. By far the best office in the county is now conferred upon the son. This would seem to be paying off one family pretty well, for whatever they may be worth in either a public or partizan sense.

Civil War envelope showing a soldier waving goodbye to people on a porch with message "Soldier's farewell" and verses from a song (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:

A Civil War envelope (Library of Congress)

Our candidate for this appointment was Mrs. Mary Sloan, the Soldier’s widow, and we did what we could, honorably, to secure her the position. She had a very strong, and respectable popular support, and ought to have been appointed. Had Mr. Lincoln lived, she probably would have been. – President Johnson was very favorably disposed, but left the matter to the Post Master General, who felt himself bound by the rule so much abused, of permitting Members of Congress to control appointments within their Districts. The rule is a bad one and should be set aside, unless the department quits the ridiculous pretension of making appointments at Washington, and remits the power directly to the Members of their respective districts. Why should people be encouraged to trot to Washington, to be heard in regard to these things, if after all they are of no account? Besides, it is a rule, which we see as in this instance, gives to the Congressman the power to give all the offices to his immediate personal favorites, without regard to the public wishes.

What chance had Mrs. Sloan under such circumstances? with the determined hostility of the M.C., of what avail was the public sympathy and support? or the petition of the regiment of officers and men, to which her husband belonged, when he fell fighting for the Republic? She is poor, and cannot command official favor so long as the little clique, of which Mr. Morris is the industrious factotum decided otherwise. She must toil on, and support herself and little ones, as best she can, while all the official positions they can grasp, go to swell the luxuries and emoluments of the close corporation of small politicians constituting the clique aforesaid.

How sadly the selfishness of these voracious politicians subverts the good wishes of the people. When we asked the young men to go to the war, what generous promises we made of protection and support to their wives and children if they fell in the bloody strife. When these promises were made the people said, Amen! The people are true to those promises now, with the exception of a few flunkies, who always bend the knee with the hope that thrift may follow fawning.

We have but another word to offer on the subject now. During the progress of the war much has been patiently borne which cannot be quietly tolerated any longer. National perils, of course, dominate merely local interests, and rather than weaken the Union cause by political squabbles, those who feel that the country is dishonored by the selfish and one sided action of the managing clique who at present exercise political control among us, have quietly acquiesed [sic]. Their self respect will permit them to do so no longer. We cannot believe that fidelity to Union principles require us to applaud political cheating, lobby peculation, and unmeasured corruptions for the aggrandizement of a few men unworthy of special respect, morally or socially. The time has come to speak plainly, and we shall do so, regardless of merely personal consequences. – Yates Co. Chronicle.

The above article from the Yates Co. Chronicle, the organ of the disinterested and purely patriotic Republican party, is one single illustration of their “superior love” for their country’s defenders, and is a glorious fulfillment of their respected pledges and promises to “take care of the families of soldiers.” This is the “exclusively loyal and patriotic party” which now so nobly exhibit their self-sacrificing devotion to their country by giving up to the unquestionably competent, most worthy and deserving widows of brave men fallen in battle, the offices which they are well adapted to fill with entire satisfaction. All honor to the republican party, which has acted so nobly in fulfilling its pledges to the widows of the gallant soldiers who gave their lives in the cause of Freedom! Oh! excuse us! We are writing as if we were living when pledges and plighted faith meant something, – when Congressmen and statesmen regarded honor as something sacred.

But, apologizing for our stupidity, we find, after reading the above article from the Chronicle again, that the Post Office in this place has been secured for – who? The widow of the brave Major Sloan, whose husband, after having served his full term for which he enlisted, being wounded several times, and narrowly escaping with his life, recruited a regiment, was promoted to Major, and with his raw recruits sent directly to the front, where he fell in the very first engagement, leaving a widow and two little children? Was it to his wife, whose application was sent to Washington and received with favor by the President, that the Post Office at Penn Yan was given? No! But it was snatched from her hands by wire-pullers at home and bestowed upon a lawyer of ample means. – Penn Yan Dem.

This piece made me nostalgic for the early days of Mr. Lincoln’s first administration.  A friendly newspaper warned the novice president that he might be spending a bit too much time doling out the patronage appointments while his beloved Union was falling apart.

I was surprised that there wasn’t any noticeable questioning of Mary Sloan’s ability to do the job because she was a woman.

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Banned in Charleston

165th Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry National Color

165th Regiment
NY Volunteer Infantry
National Color

DURYEA’s ZOUAVES, the white regiment stationed at Charleston which refused to allow the negro soldiers full swing, was ordered from the city for this heinous offence. Afterwards their colors were demanded of them. The Colonel refused to give them up, and was put under arrest. The Lieut. Col. gave up the flag staff and rubber cover, but the colors could not be found. The regiment was thereupon disarmed and sent to Fort Sumter to “expiate their crime,” the telegraph informs us. Their chief crime consisted in protecting white men and women from the insults and lawless conduct of newly freed slaves.

You can read a more complete and probably less biased account from The New-York Times at Seven Score and Ten. The Times had the Zouaves being sent to Morris Island instead of Fort Sumter. Apparently the same regiment, the 165th New York Volunteer Infantry (Second Battalion Duryea’s Zouaves) had a similar experience in Savannah in June, and members of the regiment were sent to Fort Pulaski. From the New York State Military Museum:

Mutiny in the One Hundred and Sixty-Fifth New York – Loss of the Savannah War Steamer Leesburg–General Woodford Regulating the Public Schools of Savannah—Repairing the Railroads and Canals of Georgia, &c.
SAVANNAH, Ga., June 23, 1865
On Wednesday some of the enlisted men of the One Hundred and Sixty-fifth New York Zouaves refused to do duty with the colored troops. It was at first reported that the whole regiment had mutinied, but this was incorrect. The matter was reported to Brevet Brigdier General Woodford, commanding the post, who, with much decision, at once arrested forth-three mutineers. Under orders from Brevet Major General Birge, they were at once sent to Fort Pulaski, to repent, in confinement, on bread and water, their attempt to dictate to the United States how its armies should be composed or troops classified. In justice to the officers of the One Hundred and Sixty-fifth, I must state that they had no knowledge of and gave no approval to the plot, and that they used all their efforts in bringing the real offenders to punishment. The balance of the regiment went to their duty without objection, and no further trouble has occurred or will occur.

"Marching on!"--The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment singing John Brown's March in the streets of Charleston, February 21, 1865  (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 9, 1865 March 18, p. 165. ; LOC:

“Marching on!”–The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment singing John Brown’s March in the streets of Charleston, February 21, 1865 (Library of Congress)

The New York State Military Museum provides the image of the 165th’s National Color.

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A street contrast (by Alfred R. Waud, between 1860 and 1865; LOC:

peerless plowmen?

Couldn’t folks have been a little more bipartisan 150 years ago?

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in July 1865:

Employment for Soldiers.

The Auburn Advertiser days the scarcity of help among the farmers, should induce the returned soldiers to seek work in the rural districts. This is cool advice, certainly. The veterans who have periled their lives in the field and in so many instances returned wounded and disabled, are told by the mock patriots that they can find work among the farmers! All the offices in Cayuga county are filled with stay-at-home leaguers, not one of whom will resign in order to give the veterans places. There are some fifty or sixty places in the Prison that might be filled by returning soldiers, but we venture the prediction that not an appointment of this kind will be made. The excessively loyal office-holders of Auburn ought to imitate the “patriots” of our village, by immediately organizing themselves into an association for the erection of a Soldiers’ Monument. That might in a measure relieve them from the charge of inconsistency and hypocrisy.

Why Don’t they Resign?

Taking the census / after sketch by Thomas Worth (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1870 Nov. 19, p. 749. ; LOC:

work returning soldiers would do

The report that certain government officials of our county had resigned their places in favor of returned soldiers, it seems has no foundation whatever in fact. They still refuse to give way to the veterans, for whom they profess so much love and admiration. Many of these men were induced to go to war through the promises and solicitations of the Republican officials, here and elsewhere. If they would only enlist, they and their families should be amply provided for in the future. How well do they keep their promises? Of the large number of Census Enumerators recently appointed in our county by a Republican Secretary of State, not a single returned soldier was among the favored. The men who have fought so bravely and periled their lives in the defence of the government, come home to find thousands of new and lucrative offices filled by a class of “exclusive stay-at-home patriots,” whose friendship for the soldier manifests itself only in erecting monuments to his fallen associates – lip-servers who seek to adulate the dead by robbing the living.

If these Republican officials are sincere in their professions of exclusive love for the soldier, why don’t they resign in their favor? The Courier exclaims “God bless the soldier,” and yet refuses to obey the instructions of the Postmaster General in not giving him employment in his post-office! But the people understand – the soldiers realize – how false and transparent are the professions of the intriguing politicians of the “loyal league” order. Their love for the soldier is a farce; their loyalty simply means public place and public plunder. Let them resign or stand convicted as self-seeking hypocrites.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some returning soldiers were healthy young bucks willing and able to work on farms.

According to National Public Radio the United States Sanitary Commission advocated policies to re-integrate disabled veterans into society. The disabled who could return to family farms could probably help out as tasks were re-arranged according to ability. Satisfactory jobs for other disabled actually included postmen, in addition to cigar makers, newspaper vendors, whip makers, etc.

Two unidentified soldiers in Union private's uniforms sitting next to table with cannon ball on top; one soldier has an amputated leg and holds crutches (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:

“Two unidentified soldiers in Union private’s uniforms sitting next to table with cannon ball on top; one soldier has an amputated leg and holds crutches”

The photograph, Alfred R. Waud’s drawing, and the image of the census taker in 1870 were found at the Library of Congress.

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new American revolution?

In a long 1777 letter to the Committee of Secret Correspondence Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, American Commissioners in Paris, wrote the following optimistic assessment of Europe’s regard for America and its rebel cause:

Tyranny is so generally established in the rest of the world that the prospect of an asylum in America for those who love liberty gives general joy, and our case is esteemed the cause of all mankind. Slaves naturally become base as well as wretched. We are fighting for the dignity and happiness of human nature. Glorious it is for the Americans to be called by providence to this post of honor.[1]

Those words seem very ironic 238 years later; especially after we just re-witnessed almost four and a half years of disunion and the agony of the American Civil War. I’m pretty sure no one was fighting the American Revolution for the real slaves held in bondage in the Colonies. 150 years ago this week a Northern editorial acknowledged that the cause of furthering American liberty would require a change in racial attitudes and predicted a period of “social persecution.” “To undertake to exalt the Southern blacks by dragging down the Southern whites would only strengthen the animosities of the two races, and fit them for internecine war.”

From The New-York Times July 22, 1865:

The Magnitude and Importance of the Revolution at the South.

The revolution in the South involves a prodigious change, and it will require, at the very least, a generation to complete it. We never expect to see the South entirely clear of the old theories of the subordination of the races, and of the doctrines of State sovereignty, until those who are now upon the stage give place to those born in the new era. Meantime there will be, as in every transitional period, a great deal of irregularity. The new relations of the white and black races of the South will not adjust themselves without much rough collision, and not a little hardship to the weaker race. We may lament this. We may and should do our utmost to avert and to check it. Yet to some extent it will be inevitable, and altogether beyond our control. It will come from impulses of human nature which it is quite beyond the power of any government perfectly to restrain or regulate. We ought to regard it as the price we must pay for the new promises of the future, and like wise, practical men, make the best of it.

The qualities that we shall have most need to cultivate are docility and patience. The experiences we have had in the last four years show the folly of undertaking to fix developments according to a predetermined plan. No man four years ago had any conception of such results as now confront us. The unforeseen had far more to do in guiding us through the war than the foreseen. We are bound to suppose that this baffling of antecedent theories and calculations will continue, to a greater or less extent, in the reorganization of the South. We must content ourselves to be still taught in no small measure, by events, to get our best ideas of the real needs and remedies by an observance of actual developments. It is true of all human affairs on a large scale that the springs which control them are too manifold, too complex, and too variable to make it possible for the human intellect, even in its best estate, surely to determine in advance their combined operation. More than ever is this true after such civil and social shocks as the South has lately experienced. The great success of President LINCOLN’s administration came from his willingness and his aptitude to draw instruction and guidance from facts rather than theories. It is this disposition and habit in President JOHNSON that gives the best promise that he will, in like manner, be successful.

But we may have even greater need of patience than ever during the war — at least may have to exercise it for a longer period, though not perhaps under such bitter trials. For many years yet Southern patriotism will fall short of the Northern standard, and this will show itself in a thousand vexatious and harassing ways. The treatment of the freedmen too will not be in accordance with our own highest ideas of justice and equity, in spite of any national laws or regulations. Even the grant of the suffrage would furnish little or no security against social persecution, as is proved distinctly enough by the experience of the black race in the North. These things may greatly grieve us, but they will never be remedied by contumelious words or individual acts. To inveigh against the South can only deepen its sectional bitterness, and alienate it all the more from the government. To undertake to exalt the Southern blacks by dragging down the Southern whites would only strengthen the animosities of the two races, and fit them for internecine war. To yield to impatience would be to defeat our own ends, and run the hazard of most fearful consequences.

If we will but take wise counsel of developments as they arise, and shape our practical policy accordingly, always keeping sound principles and right ends in view, and if we will steadily exercise forbearance and kindness, we shall sooner or later see the South as instinct with the national life as any part of the Union. We shall see its vital forces reviving under their new conditions, and playing with a healthfulness and freedom never before known. We shall see new duties recognized, new standards adopted, a new character formed. Every material interest, every industrial law, every moral influence, will work together to effect this change now that the iron barriers of slavery are leveled forever — if we patiently give them time, and allow them their own just scope. We have but to take good heed to our own ways to insure, in due time, a complete restoration of the South, body and spirit, to the Union.

  1. [1] Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005. Print. page 64 and note on page 426.
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