A Virginian, naturally

Anaconda 1861 (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/99447020/; Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

squeeze play: Anaconda 1861 (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

If the North wins the war, the credit/blame goes to General Winfield Scott, a native of Virginia and traitor to his state. The Union generals (and admirals) are tools carrying out General Scott’s war plans.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 25, 1865:

Saturday morning…March 25, 1865.

The plan upon which the war is now carried on by the Federal Government is, undoubtedly, that originally recommended by General Scott, which was the occupation of the Mississippi Valley and the bisection of the remaining portion of the Confederacy through Tennessee and Georgia. We have not before us the letter of General Scott to Lincoln, in which he laid down his plans in detail, but, as far as we can recollect, they correspond substantially with the recent movements of the Federal troops, especially those under General Sherman. The impatience and hot haste of the Federal Government rejected the counsels of General Scott at the beginning, but experience compelled them to adopt, in the end, the programme of Scott, who, they have discovered, is, after all, their greatest general. Vain as a peacock, and an incredible egotist, he has, nevertheless, the most military head in the United States on his tall shoulders.–But though his plan be ever so good, subjugation is by no means certain, for there must be a hand to execute as well as a head to design; and, even with both, the spirit of the country must be subdued before, in such a territory as ours, subjugation is possible.

Statue of Lieutenant General Winfield Scott at Scott Circle, Massachusetts Ave. at 16th Street NW, Washington DC. Statue by Henry Kirke Brown, 1874

Great Scott!

To General Scott, a son of Virginia, belongs the unenviable glory of every efficient movement which the Federal armies have made for the conquest of his native country. Grant, Sherman & Co., who are the prominent actors in the scene, are but the tools with which the designs of the old chieftain are carried out. They are getting great names, but are no more entitled to the honor, if they accomplish their work, than masons and carpenters to the credit of some grand architectural conception which their hands have simply embodied in stone and wood. We recognize in Wingfield Scott, of Virginia, the military master spirit of the Federal War, and are willing he shall enjoy all the satisfaction he can derive from that admission.

We wonder how the old man, now tottering on the confines of the grave, feels as he thinks of the part he has played in this terrible tragedy. We know that he advised Mr. Lincoln, before giving him his plan for the prosecution of the war, to say to the Seceding States, “Wayward sisters, depart in peace”; and, yet, knowing that this was the course which wisdom and humanity alike dictated, he lent his powerful aid to a course opposed to his own sense of policy and of the true interests of the country, and shaped out the way and manner of striking down to the dust the land that had given him birth, that had nourished and cherished him, and delighted to heap honors upon his head.–It must be a dismal sight, even to his eyes, to see the mother that bore him bleeding at every pore from wounds which his hand has inflicted — to behold such a people as he knows the people of the South to be, trampled into the earth by the hoofs of his hirelings. But she will survive him and his schemes for her destruction. She will come out of this contest with no stain upon her ancestral glories, and will try to forget that she ever bore such a son as Wingfield Scott.

civil war map 1917 (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/2009578549/)

off the chalkboard (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

The photo of the Scott statue is licensed by Creative Commons
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“the whole country is ignorant of the impending calamity”

Another plucky Monday morning editorial from the Richmond Daily Dispatch on March 27, 1865:

Monday morning…March 27, 1865.

Portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States government (Between 1860 and 1865; LOC - LC-DIG-cwpb-04948)

his words are weapons

Our sincere condolences are respectfully proffered to Sir Frederick Bruce, the new British Minister to Washington. His predecessor, Lord Lyons, has been literally talked to death by W. H. Seward, in the interminable diplomatic correspondence of the last four years.– …

We are unable to see why the “moral effect” of the fall of Charleston should be greater now than in the first Revolution. …

As to the blockade, we shall, no doubt, suffer considerable inconvenience; but if the Circassian, numbering only three millions of people, could resist Russia, in spite of her blockading fleets, for seventy years, we can hardly be expected to succumb from such a cause during the lifetime of the present generation …

Mr. Lincoln professes, in a late speech, to hail with great delight the employment of negro troops by the Confederacy as the last card of desperation and exhausted resources. What does he think of the employment of them by himself years ago? What was that an indication of? What does the intense eagerness manifested at this moment to enlist negroes in the Federal service mean? –To our minds, it means that the white population of the North will not bear any farther draft for this war, and that the North is practically, for fighting purposes, as much exhausted as the South.

Joseph Eggleston Johnston, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left (by frederickDielman, c.1896; LOC: LC-USZ62-91813)

if only he hadn’t backed up to Atlanta last year

There is every inducement for the Confederate people to show a firm countenance, and a determination to hold out, at least during this campaign. In the first place, the Yankees are themselves as tired of the war as we are. But for the unfortunate withdrawal of Johnston last summer, and the consequent defeat of Hood, which led to the invasion of Tennessee and the dispersion of his army, and the invasion of Georgia by Sherman; but for that one error, the cry for peace at the North would have been stronger than it ever has been here. Indeed, it had already commenced, under the influence of Lee’s victories over Grant, and the unparalleled slaughter by which they were attended, when that unfortunate affair occurred, and changed at once the whole current of the Yankee mind.–Intent upon peace on any terms a moment ago, it changed with success, and now nothing less than subjugation would do. That was because subjugation was now believed to be easy. The war is thought there to be almost at an end. They are told so by their newspapers every day, who, at the same time, fail not to represent our affairs in a condition which it requires but little effort, on their part, to render desperate. Let them be convinced that it is not so, and we shall soon see the Yankee mind veer around to peace once more. Mr. Pollard says that the greatest apprehension expressed by them was that we would persevere. That was the fear of everybody, and expressed in all companies. It was so dreadful because it implied a continuance of war, and they are sick of it to death.

Another reason why we should continue the war is, that a year cannot pass without a collision between France and Yankeedom. …

But the most powerful motive of all is to be found in the terms which the enemy offer us. Nothing less than absolute submission will answer their terms. We must lay down our arms, disband our armies, and submit to such terms as they choose to prescribe.–What those terms will be, we are not left to conjecture. They have already passed a law abolishing slavery. They have already passed a law confiscating the entire territory covered by the Confederate States. They have already declared that the States shall, in future, be entitled to no rights greater than those possessed by the counties. They have, in a word, inaugurated for our benefit one of the most stupendous systems of centralized despotism the world ever beheld, and it is to be inaugurated with the proper accompaniments of a general confiscation and an universal spoliation. A Confederate is to own nothing that he can call his own. He is to be judged by Yankee judges and tried by Yankee juries. He is to be the slave of his own negroes and of their Yankee associates. Such a let is offered him as even Katherine or Nicholas never thought of entailing upon the Poles, and such as makes that of the Irish people blessed in the comparison. If these are not motives for fighting on, then there can be none.

Plucky, but an understanding of the dangers of the blockade and Sherman’s army. If they could just hold out for “this campaign” or for another year. Some people saw that it would be impossible for the Confederate capital to hold out at all. In a letter[1] to his girlfriend 150 years ago today Walter Taylor, Lee’s Adjutant, believed that the evacuation of Richmond was imminent and complained that the government was not preparing itself or its citizens for the “foregone conclusion.”

G.W.C. Lee, Robert E. Lee, Walter Taylor (between 1860 and 1870; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-06234)

Walter Taylor on the right with his General and George Washington Custis Lee

Edge Hill

27 March 1865

[Colonel Taylor is overjoyed that Bettie accepted his marriage proposal] I earnestly hope, my precious, that circumstances may be such as to obviate the necessity for our separation. Matters have not improved since my last letter and I can see no cause for hope now which did not exist then. I regard the contingency we have fearfully anticipated as a foregone conclusion. What annoys me is the apathy, the listlessness which appears to have possessed those who control our affairs. Instead of facing the misfortune bravely and preparing for it in anticipation, with folded hands they lament our difficulties and danger and indulge a maudlin, complaining strain, whining & losing temper and doing all manner of things, save the right ones, whilst the whole country is ignorant of the impending calamity & blindly imposes implicit confidence in the sagacity and determination or pluck of him I am here rasping in such an unbecoming manner in the plural number. [A footnote explains Colonel Taylor is complaining about President Jefferson Davis.] But truly it is enough to make a body mad to see such imbecility – there is no other word for it. Well, as I was saying, the emergency must come. I now see no steps towards moving the several departments of the gov’t; when the pressure is upon us it may become impracticable. In other words, the Sgn Genl’s office may not be removed and necessity may compel our temporary separation. Here, in my chair, I have for some time reflected upon this emergency. I have earnestly, prayerfully considered what course it is right to pursue. [Colonel Taylor wants to get married before the possible evacuation of Richmond and may any day show up and “relentlessly claiming that dearest little hand and all prepared (that means very dusty, with heavy top boots, spurs, armed to the teeth) to make you Mrs T, my own, own little w—.” Trust in God and some family matters.] I say nothing of our fight. “Twas gallantly done as far as it went. Between the battle field & the papers on my return, I was kept very busy. Heaven bless you prays yr devoted


The editor explains that this was Walter Taylor’s last wartime letter.

  1. [1] Tower, R. Lockwood with John S. Belmont, eds.Lee’s Adjutant: The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862-1865. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995. Print. page 237-239.
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wheels of fortune

150 years ago this month the Confederacy had enacted a law to enlist slaves in Southern armies and was beginning the law’s implementation. The draft in the North to implement President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more troops was plodding along. The town of Seneca Falls was going as far as Tennessee to recruit bounty-taking volunteers so that Seneca Falls men would be left off the draft hook. At one time it was printed that the town of Waterloo had filled its quota under the December call, but it did have to “go into the wheel” – and 64 names were pulled out.

Down South white officers working with the slave soldiers were enjoined to treat them humanely and justly.

Resumption of the draft - inside the Provost Marshal's office, Sixth District - the wheel goes round (Illus. in: Harper's Weekly, 1863.; LOC: LC-USZ62-88856)

the draft wheel goes round – New York City, 1863

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

The Draft.

By orders of the War Department the draft will commence in the several Congressional districts of the State, where it has not already taken place, on Wednesday next. This district is among the number in which the wheel will be set in motion. But little has been done in Cayuga and Wayne counties towards filling the quota, but our county has furnished nearly all the men required. Seneca Falls is about the only town that is at all backward in the matter. Had our Supervisor been promptly furnished with the money this would not have been the case. However, he has made arrangements to get the men in Tennessee, and there is no doubt but that he will be successful. Col. Johnson, who has just returned from Memphis, assures Mr. Burt that the men will be furnished.

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

The Draft Commenced.

The draft commenced in this district on Wednesday, with the towns of Sodus, Wayne county. and Owasco, Cayuga county. On Thursday Sennett and Waterloo were drawn, and to day (Friday) Varick and a Wayne county [town?] will go into the wheel. The draft for Seneca Falls will not place before next week. The following is r [sic] of the names of those drafted in Waterloo on Thursday in the order in which they were drawn:

[64 names altogether from Wm. Farnham to L.H. Ferguson]

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 25, 1865:

The recruiting of colored troops.

There has been issued from the Adjutant-General’s office an order relative to the mode in which colored troops are to be recruited in the Confederacy. We copy that portion of it showing the working of the system:

… [explaining the bureaucratic procedures to enlist the slaves and form them into companies] …

All officers who may be employed in the recruiting service, under the provisions of this act, or who may be appointed to the command of the troops raised under it, or who may hold any staff appointment in connection with them, are enjoined to a provident, considerate and humane attention to whatever concerns the health, comfort, instruction and discipline of these troops, and to the uniform observance of kindness, forbearance and indulgence in their treatment of them, and especially that they will protect them from injustice and oppression.

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puncture … patched

NY Times 3-26-1865

NY Times 3-26-1865

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

The Progress of the War.

On Saturday morning just before daybreak, three divisions of the enemy made a sudden and determined attack on Fort Steadman, in front of Petersburg, overpowering the garrison and capturing the fort, where they temporarily established themselves, and turned the guns upon our lines. Our troops on either flank maintained their ground. A determined attack on Fort Haskell was gallantly repulsed with considerable loss to the enemy. After several attempts to retake the hill, a charge was made by the Second Brigade, aided by the troops of the Third Division on either flank, and the rebels were driven out of the fort with a reported loss of about 2,700 prisoners, and the whole line was re-occupied, with the guns uninjured. The slaughter of the enemy at the point where they entered our lines, and in front of it, is estimated by Gen. Grant at not less than 3,000. Our own loss in killed, wounded and missing is put down at 2,080.

Gen. Lee in his report of the engagement, published elsewhere, says his loss is not heavy.

Lee's position during attack on Fort Steadman (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/99446547/)

“[Map of defenses of Petersburg, Virginia, showing the position of General Lee and his staff during the attack on Fort Stedman, March 25, 1865].” (Library of Congress)

Later dispatches from Washington say that the losses in the Ninth Corps are much larger than heretofore reported. The First Division have in hospital 160 wounded, and 30 are known to have been killed. In the Third Division Hospital there are 166 wounded, and about 32 killed. The Second Division was not engaged, but in their hospital they have 130 wounded.

We begin to see something like a connected narrative of Sherman’s march thro’ the Carolinas. That march, it would seem, was very far from being a pleasure trip, as many have supposed. Hard fighting has been the order of the day, and the enemy in many instances have achieved substantial successes over Sherman’s columns.

The enemy claim that he is entrenching, and arrested in his march with a loss of 10,000 men. But this we are inclined to think is an exaggeration, as Sherman reports his loss since leaving Savannah at less than half that number. His army is now at Goldsboro, having formed a junction with Schofield, and Gen. Sherman is at City Point in consultation with Gens. Grant, Sheridan and the President.

The National Park Service link has the City Point meeting of President Lincoln, General Grant and Sherman. and Admiral Porter on March 28, 1865. On the 25th President Lincoln’s joy in the Union victory was later tempered when he saw some of the dead and wounded.

And the top link is another interesting report by Civil War Daily Gazette that includes excellent maps that detail the back and fort of the battle.

Federal picket line in front of Fort Steadman (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-32412)

“Federal picket line in front of Fort Steadman” (Library of Congress)

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information please

papers closed and mail disrupted

The success of the Union armies is putting a big crimp in the newspaper business. Even though everything was reported quiet at Petersburg (although “consolidation” was imminent), the Southern mail wasn’t able to leave Richmond because postal workers had to perform guard duty.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 23, 1865:

The Newspaper Press in the Confederacy.

–The Danville Register remarks that the recent movements of Sherman and Sheridan have greatly decreased the number of newspapers published in the country. In Virginia, we have daily papers issued from four points — Richmond, Lynchburg. Danville and Petersburg — and one weekly at Clarksville. The number has been largely curtailed in North Carolina. Wilmington, Fayetteville, Newbern, etc., are in the hands of the enemy. The Yankees now publish a paper at Wilmington. Some think that Raleigh, too, may go by, then Goldsboro’ and Charlotte, and some smaller places will be alone left. In South Carolina, it is even worse. The Mercury was removed from Charleston some time before the occupation of the city by the enemy; and the Courier, which remained, was taken in charge by the Yankees, notwithstanding it opposed nullification in and is now issued as a Yankee newspaper. All the papers in Columbia have been discontinued.

In Georgia, the number of public journals has proportionally diminished, and the same may be said of the remaining Southern States.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 24, 1865:

From the Petersburg lines.
[Correspondence of the Richmond Daily Dispatch.]

Petersburg, Va., March 22, 1865.

All is now quiet along the lines. Yesterday evening for a while there was quite an artillery duel, in which, however, but little damage was done. Only one or two shots were fired into the city, and they without effect.

Consolidation is about to prove a reality with us, and no longer a subject of doubtful discussion.

Great doubt is entertained as to the justness of the treatment of those efficient officers who have been so fortunate as to fall into the hands of the enemy, and who are not yet exchanged.

I see from the papers that recruiting offices are already open for the reception of “colored volunteers” in your city. Not to discuss the subject of placing in service the negro, I desire to state the fact that even now, after all the arrangements that have been “talked of,” but not “acted upon,” by Congress, there are connected with every division of this army numbers of stout, able bodied men, detailed as teamsters, blacksmiths, etc., etc., whose places might easily be supplied by negroes. This is a fact worthy the consideration of those who desire to place the negro where he can most successfully aid in prosecuting the war. I only advert the fact.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 24, 1865:

Pretty State of affairs.

–We were informed last evening that the mails for the South, which should have been forwarded this morning, were not prepared for transmission in consequence of the clerks being ordered out to perform guard duty. Will not the Secretary of War prevent such interruptions for the future?

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“pride & patriotism”

The South needed patriotic and heroic farmers to cultivate the land despite Yankee plunder and destruction. Refugees crowded into Richmond ought to move back to the country. Even as more and more cities were evacuated to the Union armies, the Confederacy would survive as long as the Army was not overthrown.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 23, 1865:

Thursday morning…March 23, 1865.

We need scarcely impress upon the farmers the importance of cultivating, with the most energetic industry, every inch of the soil. There is no questioning the food-producing capacity of such a territory as ours to supply our armies and our people, if those at home will devote their whole energies to the task. A vast portion of our land, once employed in the production of cotton, tobacco and other exports, is now devoted almost exclusively to the raising of breads. stuffs, and, notwithstanding the devastation of raids, there will be more than enough, if the cultivators of the soil are diligent and Heaven blesses their labors, to feed themselves and half a dozen such armies as that of General Lee. No man should be detained from cultivation by the possibility of raids any more than by the possibility of rust and chinch bugs. It is the duty of the farmer, in the one case as in the other, to sow his seed and trust to God to give the increase. Let those who are exempt from the peril and privation of battle struggle to support those who are exposed to both. Whilst the soldiers are fighting against the bayonets of the enemy, let the farmers fight against the starvation tactics, which are the main dependence of the Federal Government for our subjugation.

The practice of refugees abandoning the country and crowding into the large cities is one which would be more honored in the breach than in the observance. It would be wiser for many who are now in the city to look about for homes in the rural districts. Living is cheaper in the country, and not a few of them may become producers instead of consumers. If they can get even an humble cabin, and a small garden, and produce a little, if it is only for their own use, it is better than to remain here, where their presence can only add to their own sufferings and those of others. We warn refugees to keep away from Richmond, and advise those who are here, and can find homes in the country, to select some spot where they can avoid the enormous expense of the necessaries of life. Our charitable citizens and relief committees have their liberality exerted to the utmost to provide for many who, if in the rural districts, might not only be more comfortable themselves, but greatly aid the farmers in the cultivation of the soil.

The soldiers of the Confederacy have won the admiration of the world, not less by their splendid valor than their heroic endurance. The world has no such army as that of the Confederate States. It is not composed of mercenaries, who fight for their monthly pay, and have no interest in the cause which they support. It is made up of the valor, the pith, the intellect and the soul of the country. It is fighting for home, for wife and children, for freedom, for honor, for religion, for all that is dear in memory and precious in hope. The young men who compose that army need not be told that their mothers, their sisters, their aged fathers, are looking to them for deliverance from slavery; nor that there is no future for themselves but exile or bondage, if they fail. We are not surprised to hear that there is no such word as fail in their hearts or their thoughts. We wish that some of the croakers at home could have heard the cheers of a certain division, lately, as it confronted the enemy. It was heard for miles; and no band of music that ever played sent forth such blasts of defiance and inspiration.

Well may the enemy concede at last that it is not the capture of this or that city which will achieve the triumph of their cause, but the overthrow of the Army. It is the Army that is the sheet anchor of the great ship in this mighty tempest. And nobly is it performing its duty. It has learned how to suffer and endure as well as to do and dare. –It indulges no vain threats, but it has calmly and firmly resolved to choose death rather than degradation. There is not a high-souled patriot in its ranks who would not rather sleep in a hero’s grave than live to be a slave. All honor to these heroes — these hopeful, these glorious men! Who can doubt that, with the aid of God, they will yet achieve their country’s independence and walk the earth as freemen? And what a reward will be theirs! History and Poetry will embalm their names; their ransomed country will clasp them to her breast as her deliverers; mothers will point them out to their children; old men will rise up to do them honor; women will look at no one else; their example will blaze up like a beacon fire to encourage the oppressed and suffering of every clime. No patent of nobility will convey such a distinction as the record:–“This man was a soldier of the Confederacy.  …”

A letter written 150 years ago today echoed some of the themes in the Dispatch editorial. People might want to move back to the country because Richmond would probably soon be abandoned. Walter Taylor, Lee’s Adjutant, admitted in a letter [1] to his girlfriend that he believed General Lee’s army would soon have to retreat from the Richmond – Petersburg line and allow the Yankees to occupy those cities. Bettie and many of Colonel Taylor’s other loved ones would be under Union control. Yet he will still bravely fight the North and sees a happier time in the future.

Edge Hill

23 Mch ’65

[Bettie’s brother is going to get married soon, but Colonel Taylor will be unable to attend.] Let me whisper to you a little while. I think the dread contingency we have been recently been discussing is approaching. … I cannot say what the next week will bring forth though the calamity may be deferred for a month. … I shall make one great effort to get to Richmond again. Indeed, Bettie, these are trying times, and now is the hour when we must show of what we are made. [He has come to grips with leaving his family abandoned but hopes that he and Bettie can eventually be kept on the same side of the lines] … Nothing shall abate my determination to resist Yankee tyranny to the last extremity. Separation from you will be the most severe test to which I can be subjected, but with every principle of honor to support me, with pride & patriotism as my incentives I shall endeavor to live and if need be to die a good soldier and citizen. You shall never blush on my account. Even to one of my sanguine temperament, it is difficult to discern anything bright in our immediate future; but sooner or later the end with success must come. Then, my precious Bettie, we shall be repaid for all these trials. We shall have a home, Bettie, and be spared the pain of cruel separation. I desire to look beyond the clouds that now envelope us, to that bright haven. What happiness it will be to have you with me always. So with submissive hearts but ever hopeful, we will each pursue the path of duty, confident of God’s blessing in the end. It is my constant prayer to Him that He will guard and keep you. Your own


  1. [1] Tower, R. Lockwood with John S. Belmont, eds.Lee’s Adjutant: The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862-1865. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995. Print. page 236-237.
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time passages

“a time for war …”

It has been almost four long years since Fort Sumter was surrendered to the Confederates. If you look back at April 1861 without considering the monotonous and/or agonizing day-by-day operations, it doesn’t seem that long a time. But that view ignores the daily grind of uncertainty, fear and pain. Time has seen to expand for those with countrymen and friends fighting the war.

Now Fort Sumter is back in Union hands, and there are plans to have Robert Anderson ceremonially re-hoist the old flag over the pummeled fort.

In a hundred years Yankees and Rebels will all have departed from the face of the earth. What’s it all good for? – “the glory of the patriot will last forever.”

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 21 1865:

Tuesday, morning…March 21, 1865.

Horace Walpole, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann, written during the Seven Years War, expresses himself wearied with the slow process of military events. He says that no doubt the occurrences of Cæsar’s day seemed to drag themselves along quite as tediously, although the conquests of Cæsar are proverbial for their rapidity. We read the commentaries, or the campaigns of Frederick, all in the bulk. We do not go through the tedious details of military operations in the newspapers, catching the news of a moment one day, and resting upon our information thus picked up for several others to come. The newspapers, and the dispatches and bulletins of the generals, only let us see a little at a time. A six months campaign gathered this way, in detail, is wearisome enough. We must wait for the historian if we wish to read operations in the mass.

In addition to other causes of uneasiness, the great anxiety necessarily felt by contemporaries — especially by that portion of them whose countrymen and friends are engaged in the conflict — renders delay still more painful. Every moment is protracted into an hour — every hour apparently grows into a week — weeks become years, and years seem expanded to ages. Every man who looks back to the beginning of a war in which he is immediately interested, and which has already lasted four or five years, without looking at the intermediate events, will feel that he is contemplating the events of yesterday. It is like looking across a tremendous precipice, directly to the other side. He sees what is on the opposite cliff, but he sees nothing of the obstacles that lie between him and it. Let him look down, however, and he will find his brain reel and his eye sink. Even so is it with the man who looks, not merely at the starting point of a bloody war, but at the incidents which lie between him and it.–When he breaks the great whole into separate parts, for analysis and contemplation, he becomes overwhelmed and stupefied with the scene.

The events of this war have, no doubt, succeeded each other with sufficient rapidity, yet they are tedious to us, whatever they may be to the future historian. It seems to us like an age since Major Anderson was upturned at Fort Sumter; and when we read, the other day, that Mr. Dudley Field proposed to carry him back, and make him hoist his flag there again, we involuntarily asked whether he was still alive, or had not died of old age.

Xerxes is reported, by Herodotus, to have wept when he beheld his mighty comprehending five millions of the human race drawn out in the vast plain of Abydos, because the thought suddenly struck him that in one hundred years not a man of them would be left alive. In much less time than that the combatants in the present war will all have disappeared from the face of the earth, and then we may repeat Montaigne’s standing question–Au bono? What is it all for? Oppressed and oppressors, so far as the vile integuments of humanity are concerned, will all have shared a common fate. Yet the glory of the patriot will last forever.

We write the above by way of experiment. We wish to see whether the public will tolerate anything not appertaining directly to the war.

This Dispatch editorial reminded me of the great job the Daily News sites over to the right are doing, putting up interesting posts day-by-day as this war marches on and on. Much appreciated!

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blame “universal” suffrage

Monday morning 150 years ago a Richmond paper seemed to blame the war on universal suffrage (free white men did not need property to have the right to vote). Abolitionists were tame before universal suffrage. The newspaper feared a second “violent convulsion” to teach people the folly of expanding voting rights.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 20, 1865:

Monday morning…March 20, 1865.

The little village of Ashland has been favored with frequent calls from the enemy during the war. Not less than eight times has it enjoyed the exhilarating excitement of a raid, varied occasionally by skirmishes and battles.–Ashland was, of course, not forgotten during the recent visitation of General Custar [Custer]. Some of its citizens had to pay a higher price than usual for a fine equestrian spectacle, which hitherto they have enjoyed free of expense. Corn and fodder, knives and forks, and coffee-pots, were laid involuntarily upon the altar of the glorious Union. It is due to the officers to say that they endeavored to prevent these robberies, and gave orders that no private house should be entered. It is believed that they desired to enforce those orders, but found it impossible in every case to lay hold of the offenders.

It was the opinion of Mr. Sam Slick that “nothin’ on this side of the water makes so big a fool of a man as goin’ to the legislature (or Congress) without bein’ fit for it. If mankind only knew what fools they were, and how they helped folks themselves to fool them, there would be some hope of them, for they would have larn’t the first lesson of wisdom.”

Mr. Sam Slick had been to the “legislature” himself. He fancied he had a great “card,” as he called it, in “universal suffrage,” which he proposed to introduce in a State where there existed a freehold qualification. He broke down in his first speech, but he consoled himself by declaring to his friends that, though he had made himself ridiculous, “universal suffrage” was, nevertheless, “a great card. ” “I am ashamed to death of myself,” said he to a sensible old man, the minister of Slickville,–“but it was a great card I had though, if I had only played it right; a very great card indeed. In fact, it was more than a card–it was high, low, Juck [Jack?], and the game.” “What was it?” said the minister “Univarsal suffrage,” says Sam. “Do you know what that means?” said the minister. “To be sure I do,” says Sam, “it’s every man havin’ a vote and voice in makin’ those laws that is to govern him; and it comports with reason and stands to common sense.”–“Well,” says the minister, “it amounts to this, and nothing more nor less: Now men of property and character make laws to govern rogues and vagabonds; but, under your beautiful scheme, rogues and vagabonds will make laws to govern men of property and character. It is reversing the order of things; it is worse than nonsense; it is downright madness. We are fast approaching this state, without your aid, Sam, I can tell you; and when we do arrive at it, we shall be an object of scorn to point at from Europe. We shall then have wound up the fearful tragedy of our revolution with as precious a farce as folly and licentiousness ever produced.”–“Minister, ” says Slick, “I don’t know how it is, but you have such a shorthand way of puttin’ things that there is no contradictin’ you. How the plague is it that you seem always right”?–“Because I never play a card,Sam; I never consider what is expedient, but what is right; never study what will tickle the ears of people, but what will promote their welfare. You would have been all straight, too, if you had only looked to the right and wrong of the measure; but you looked to popularity, and that set you to playing a card.–Now, the upshot of this popular grumbling, or card-playing, is patriotism; and, mark my words, Sam — mark my words, my boy, for I am an old man now, and have read the human heart well — in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred patriotism is the trump card of a scoundrel.”

Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833 (1833; LOC:  LC-USZ62-40758)

blame universal suufrage? – “Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833″ (Library of Congress)

These are shocking sentiments, of course, and no one can be expected to indorse such heresies. But it is a singular coincidence, that events should seem to sustain the minister’s prediction. –Before the introduction of that excellent card, universal suffrage, the American population was as orderly and contented a population as could be found under the sun. Judges were independent, defaulting sheriffs a rarity, and abolitionism impotent for mischief, But, from the moment that the inestimable gift of universal suffrage was bestowed upon the people, things took a downward turn, and the popular madness ended at last, not in a “farce, ” but in such a tragedy as the world has rarely seen.

What the future has in store for the people of this continent it is difficult to determine. It will take more than one violent convulsion, we fear, to enable Americans to realize that men are not so infallible in wisdom and immaculate in virtue as to be safely endowed with universal suffrage.

During the Civil War voting rights were expanded to allow Union white soldiers to vote in the field:

"Pennsylvania soldiers voting, Army of the James" - Published in: Harpers's Weekly, October 29, 1864, p. 692. (Library of Congress)

“Pennsylvania soldiers voting, Army of the James” – Published in: Harpers’s Weekly, October 29, 1864, p. 692. (Library of Congress)

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foreign matter

150 years ago today on March 19, 1865 The New-York Times disagreed with foreigners who believed that the defeat of the main Southern armies would only mean the beginning of a protracted guerrilla war. The Times confidently predicted the breaking up of General Lee’s army would be the end of the Confederacy and Lee’s army would soon be broken up.

Foreign Views of the Length of the War.

Our foreign critics still argue that even if the large armies of the Confederates be broken up, the country will still be filled with guerrilla bands, and that then our real difficulties will only begin, in the large spaces of the Southern States, and the impossibility of holding such vast tracts and such a scattered population, in subjection. These views produce no impression here, from our better understanding of the true problems to be solved, and our more accurate knowledge of the constitution and temper of Southern society. If the South were united in their desire for independence, and if their cause were based on immutable principles, we, of the North, would admit the impossibility of subjugating such a country. We might occupy all the strong strategic points with garrisons, and close and hold all the ports; but the people and country would be practically unconquered, and all the immense wealth and the best blood of the United States would be poured out without avail, in the effort to subdue the Confederate States.

But more than one-half of the Southern population are uncompromisingly loyal — the laboring class of blacks, which must number some two and a half millions, and the mountain population of whites, besides great numbers sprinkled about here and there among the disloyal. Large numbers of others are indifferent. They know perfectly that the South never suffered a wrong from the General Government; that submission in North Carolina, for instance, merely means enjoying the same rights and privileges as in Massachusetts, beside bringing after it great comfort and a chance for wealth.

Even if possessed of slaves, they see that the war has made a vast revolution at the South, as well as at the North, and that slavery, after arming the negroes, will be a dead institution everywhere. It is not in human nature to keep on fighting, offering lives, property and comfort, merely for an intangible notion of honor or consistency. Not having been leaders, they have no pride to sacrifice, and they are quite willing to yield, as soon as they are secured of protection.

Accordingly such persons, though having fought long and bravely for the Confederacy, are deserting every day. It is estimated in high quarters that the desertions the past two weeks, from all the armies of the Confederacy, have avenged one thousand per diem.

The masses already feel that they have done enough for honor, and the cause being hopeless, they are ready to submit, when LEE is once defeated. The very sparseness of the population, over such immense spaces, prevents them from uniting for defence, as the people, for instance, in Switzerland or the Caucasus might do, even against an overwhelming force.

But why should they not resort to a guerrilla warfare? We answer that, after the large armies are broken up, nine-tenths of the remaining population will be bitterly opposed to such a horrible and chaotic condition as guerrilla war would bring upon the whole South. Some of their States already have a taste of it, and the “ruthless Yankees” were never denounced half so bitterly as were their own roving bands of plunderers, by Gov. BROWN, of Georgia, or as are the present guerrillas of Mississippi by the rebel press. The truth is, the whole Southern people, black and white, loyal and disloyal, who had a dollar to lose, would rise up to exterminate — to shoot, hang, and burn out such gangs of ruffians, robbers, outcasts and murderers as guerrilla war would create.

Their own people would show no mercy; our Government would execute them by drum-head court-martial, wherever caught, without fear of retaliation. They would be hunted down like wild beasts. Desperate as is the South, she would prefer the Yankee domination to the pandemonium which the guerrillas would spread abroad.

Moreover, when organized opposition was broken down, the Federal Government could afford to leave many of the disaffected districts to their own devices, only protecting our Northern settlers and the loyal from public injury. Society would thus gradually settle itself; and immigration would take the place of armed conquest. The sudden and immense increase of wealth in the South would cause many of the wounds of war to be forgotten, and peace inaugurate itself more easily than many now expect.

On the whole, though the war may drag out a year or more in Texas, or isolated places in the South, we still hold that the breaking up of LEE’s army (soon to take place) will be the end of the Confederacy, and that we have little to fear, either from the vast spaces of the Southern States, or the robbing bands which may survive the main struggle.

Speaking of foreigners, 150 years ago yesterday a Richmond paper stated that the Civil War had changed the relative power of the United States and Great Britain. There might be some grudging admiration for the Yankee war machine as the editorial likened John Bull to a bully. From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 18, 1865:

Richmond Dispatch.
Saturday Morning…march 18, 1865.

The altered tone of both the English and Yankee newspapers, when they speak of each others respective country, is the most remarkable incident connected with journalism in these latter days. Before this war had revealed the strength of the United States–while they were still entire — the language held by the London Times with regard to them was always slight, often sneering, and, on some occasions, absolutely insulting. On one occasion, it spoke of the ease with which Britain had throttled “the Northern gains, ” Russia, and intimated that it could, at the same time, with all the ease imaginable, administer castigation to Jonathan. Even after the war had actually commenced on this side of the Atlantic, while the parties were marshaling their forces and preparing for the mighty conflict that was so shortly to ensue, the Times indulged its satirical vein, without stint, at the expense of the combatants. After the battle of Manassas it told the Yankees that they had mistaken their calling; that they never could be a great military nation, how great soever might be their aspirations after military fame; that “war was not in their line of business,” and that, to excel, they must take to something else. When Messrs. Mason and Slidell were piratically seized on a British vessel upon the high seas, by a ship belonging to the United States, the tone of the Times was, beyond measure, bold, insolent and defiant.

The dangerous playmate--A singular instance of fascination (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 5, no. 259 (1861 Dec. 14), p. 800.; LOC:  LC-USZ62-127605)

1861 no longer

At the same time, the Yankee press was as obsequious and cringing as the British press was arrogant and domineering. Both are wonderfully altered since that time. The Yankee is now as loud and insulting as he was formerly meek and submissive. The change has not taken by surprise any person who has been accustomed to study the policy of the British. That Government has always been famous for dealing out what it calls exemplary justice upon culprits whom it believes unable to help themselves. Let not such hope to escape the lash of British vengeance. Greece, or Brazil, or any of the little States on the Continent — such as Denmark, for instance,–cannot hope to escape upon any conceivable pretext whenever it may be so unfortunate as to incur the wrath of the British lion. It is only strength that secures impunity from that magnanimous animal. Even now the New York Herald is calling upon the British Queen to revoke her proclamation of neutrality — that is, we suppose, to take part with the Yankees in their war upon this country. We do not see why this should not be done. It would be perfectly consistent with the whole conduct of Great Britain throughout the war. Should Ambassador Adams choose to demand it, a good-natured, easy soul like Russell could hardly refuse so small a favor to his amiable ally, after having already granted him so many others. He has already placed Canada at his disposal; he has but to stretch out his hand to grasp it. Why refuse anything, when so much has already been given, we ask again?

We sometimes feel disposed to be a little astonished at the facility with which Great Britain has been brought to play second fiddle in this concert of the nations. Who that lived a century, or even a half century ago, would have believed it possible that such a thing could ever happen. But we suppose it is with governments as with individuals: the greatest bullies are always the first to succumb when real danger presents itself.

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From the Richmond Daily Dispatch March 18, 1865:

Saturday Morning…march 18, 1865.
The news.

As regards military matters, there is no news. All is quiet at Petersburg and in front of Richmond.

The enlistment of negroes in Richmond goes bravely on.

The Confederate Senate, on yesterday, concurred in the resolution of the House relative to an address to the country.

Observations in the North:Eight Months in Prison and on Parole. By Edward A. Pollard. Published by E. W. Ayres. This book, which has been looked for with interest, not only by the friends of the writer, who felt interested in his personal experience, but by the public at large, has been brought out in very good style by Mr. Ayres, the publisher. The work is entertaining, both in the personal narrative and general reflections of the writer, and will be, we think, largely sought after. The vicissitudes and uncertainty of a prison-life, in an enemy’s country, are graphically described. The book is for sale at all the bookstores.

The paper then reviwed a poem – Betchenbrook.A Rhyme of the War. By Mrs. Margaret J. Preston. One of the excerpts honored the relatively anonymous bravery of privates:

Then follow other scenes of the war, ending in another battle scene, nearer home, where a young soldier falls, whose dying thoughts are given in a song that will no doubt be set to suitable music, of which we give the two last verses:

“Only a private;–and yet I know,
When I heard the rallying call,
I was one of the very first to go,
And…I’m one of the many who fall:
But as here I lie, it is sweet to feel,
That my honor’s without a stain;–
That I only fought for my Country’s weal,
And never for glory or gain.
“Only a private;–Yet he who reads
Through the guises of the heart,
Looks not at the splendor of the deeds,
But the way we do our part;
And when He shall take us by the hand,
And our small service own,
There’ll a glorious band of privates stand,
And victors, around the throne!”

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