peace pipe dreams

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 28, 1864:

The interview of the “peace Commissioners.”

The Washington Chronicle, noticing the failure of the late “peace negotiations,” says:

After considerable correspondence between the parties, it was concluded to refer the whole matter back to the two Governments for reconsideration. All negotiations having been terminated Mr Greeley, in company [with] Mr [H]ay, Private Secretary of Mr Lincoln, catted upon the Commissioners at the Clifton House, on the side, where a protracted and pleasant interview was held, and the various questions under consideration were discussed at length. Mr Greeley left the Falls for New York on this afternoon’s train. It is understood that the Commissioners, with Sanders and Jewett, who are both here, are to remain and carry on negotiations with the Democrats.–A letter is to be prepared for the Chicago Convention, in which the Commissioners will hold out strong assurances of a restoration of the Union under Democratic auspices. The whole movement is regarded by many as a mere scheme to entrap the Administration into a false position before the country and the world for the benefit of the disunion Democrats

You can read a lot of the correspondence involving the Confederate peace commissioners at Niagara Fall, Canada and Horace Greeley at the July 22, 1864 issue of The New-York Times

A Dispatch editorial warned that any peace with the Lincoln administration would mean freeing the slaves to live off the whites and/or compete with them for jobs. Mr. Lincoln’s peace would also encourage miscegenation.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 28, 1864:

Lincoln’s peace

We suppose that those persons in North Carolina who have dreamed of the possibility of obtaining peace with Abraham Lincoln upon reasonable terms are satisfied now of what they have to expect. “To whom it may concern” is an address comprehensive enough to embrace the interests of every man who has a dollar’s worth of property in a slave. Not only the “restoration of the Union,” but “the abandonment of slavery,” is a condition precedent of all negotiation. Such a demand “concerns” not only the interests of those who own slaves, but even more vitally those who do not. Consider what the “abandonment of slavery” involves. Not alone the sacrifice to their owners of so much property, but the quartering upon the whole community of an immense population of paupers and thieves. Any North Carolinians who could be willing to purchase peace by the “abandonment of slavery” will see upon reflection that the price is a good deal higher than they can afford to pay. Are they able to support the slaves after they are freed? Do they not know that even a few free negroes are a post to any community? That they will not work, if they can help it, but beg and steal? What would be the effect, then, of emancipating multitudes? No State on earth could bear such a burthen. Lincoln does not propose to remove them. The North would not have them as a gift. After the war is over it, will kick out of its borders all that are already there. If the negroes of the South are emancipated, the Republican idea is to make them remain here, associate with the whites, and compete with white laborers for employment. In fact, all the wealth of the United States could not transport the negroes from the South, even were the United States so disposed. “Abandonment of slavery” means the reduction of the Southern States to the condition of Mexico, to the political and social equality of whites and negroes, and all the atrocities and debasement of miscegenation. The disaffected portion of the North Carolina population have before them the terms upon which Lincoln, as far as he is able, will give them peace. If war has any horrors for them in comparison with such a condition, they must be made of different materials from most white men. We cannot believe that any considerable number of people in any civilized community upon earth would be willing to purchase peace upon such terms.

Mr. Lincoln’s White House discusses the relationship between the president and the newspaperman, including the Niagara Falls negotiations: “In July 1864, Greeley pressured Lincoln to engage in some spurious peace negotiations. Lincoln deftly maneuvered Greeley to take the brunt of the responsibility for the talks, which quickly broke down.”

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hub letter

It seems that this civilian correspondent could relate just about all his topics to the war.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1864:


BOSTON, MASS., July 11, 1864.

Bird's eye view of Boston (New York : Published by John Bachmann, c1850; LOC: LC-DIG-pga-00100)

Boston (c.1850)

FRIEND STOWELL: – Now that our “Russian visitors,” have departed, the “glorious Fourth” been duly celebrated, and the public elation over the capture of the Alabama somewhat subsided, the “hub” has once more settled down to the contemplation of war matters and the various aspects pertaining to the rise and fall in the gold market.

As I have alluded to the Russians, I must here state, for the benefit of your readers who have not already been informed of the fact, that our city government “put them through in big shape.” Rear Admiral Lezsoffski [S.S. Lesovskii] and all of the minor “swabs,” as Jack would call them, of the imperial squadron, expressed themselves intensely satisfied with the way things were done up. As well they might have been; for they were shown around through all our city institutions, including the public schools, the children of which gave a grand entertainment for their benefit. A steamer was chartered, and the city government, the officers of the fleet, and a number of invited guests went down the harbor on a fishing excursion, having a “high old time,” of course. Four or five hundred of the sailors of the fleet, with officers, paraded thro [?] our principal streets one day, agreeable to an invitation of the City fathers, dressed in their nicest clothes. After the parade, a photograph was taken on the Common where they were treated to a substantial dinner. These sailors were really a fine, hardy-looking set of men, whom it was pleasing to look upon in these awful days of conscription, which has developed so much physical disability among the male population of Massachusetts!

But the most noteworthy event attending the visit of the distinguished foreigners was the entertainment given in their honor by the city government, at the Revere House, which was a truly brilliant affair. – Most of our great literary political guns were present, and some very able speeches delivered, while[,] of course, there was considerable other talk got off which didn’t amount to much.

It is hoped that these representatives of the Russian government were really as favorably impressed with our country and our manners, and especially our treatment of themselves, as they pretended to be, and that this visit will have the effect to draw still closer the bonds of friendship which exist between the United States and Russia. For the homage and respect paid to her Royal representative, a few years since, by our people, England has placed on the ocean armed cruisers to destroy our commerce, and is otherwise doing all in her power to assist our enemies to injure and embarass [sic] us. But we have reason to expect far different results from this visit of the Russian officials to our shores.

The fourth was celebrated in this city in the usual spirited manner. There appeared to be more stragglers in town than on former anniversaries, probably owing to the fact that there were no public celebrations in the surrounding towns and cities.

Josiah Quincy, 1772-1864, half-length portrait, seated, facing left (c.1798; LOC:  LC-USZ62-51838)

“his last gaze beholds [the country] in the throes of dismemberment and ruin” (image c.1798)

Another of the distinguished historic men of Massachusetts has departed from the scenes of earth. Hon. Josiah Quincy, Sr., died in his residence in Braintree, on the 1st inst., aged ninety-two years and six months – having been born in the midst of the turmoil and strife which resulted in the separation of the Colonies from the Mother Country, and, after witnessing our country’s growth and prosperity, his last gaze beholds it in the throes of dismemberment and ruin. Mr. QUINCY was a graduate of Harvard College, and studied law under WM. TAILOR of this city. He was first elected to Congress in 1805, and was subsequently re-elected three terms. He served several terms afterwards in the Massachusetts Senate, and two in the House – once as speaker. He was a member of the State Convention in 1820 which revised the Constitution. – In 1822 he became Judge of the Municipal Court of Boston. He was elected Mayor of the city in the following year, which position he held until 1829, when he was chosen President of Harvard College, where he remained till 1845, when he retired from this post, and subsequently principally devoted his time to literary and scientific pursuits.

Several Massachusetts three years’ regiments have already come home, but skeletons of the noble organizations which marched away three years ago one thousand strong. The reception of these veterans in some cases, has been generous and such as their heroic deeds merited; but in others, they have arrived in our city and departed hungry and weary, with no one to say even “Thank you” to them for their services, and only a brief paragraph, penned by some watchful reporter informed the public of their arrival. This neglect is outrageous, and goes to show the narrow-contractedness of human nature – particularly in this “one idea” region! But these heroic remnants will have justice done to their merits yet; for their [sic] is a day of reckoning yet to come!

Matters are at a stand still here in political circles. Everyone is too busily engaged in procuring a living, at the starvation prices which are now ruling the markets, to give much attention to politics. While all articles of food and wearing apparel have doubled from what they were formerly, the wages of mechanics and laborers have increased but a few per cent. over what they were in good times. This is a wrong state of things, and must sooner or later, if the present war continues, culminate in difficulty between employers and employees. – Where a man formerly received $12 per week, he should now obtain $24, which would be really hardly as much as $12 under the old state of things. But instead of that, where a mechanic once got $12, he now gets $15, with a fair prospect of being obliged to let his family freeze or starve to death next winter, unless an over-ruling Providence takes the matter in hand and gives relief.

The late call of the President for one hundred days men, is not meeting with quite as ready response in this neighborhood as the call for three months’ men in ’61 did. Somehow or other those very good men who are so fierce about “sustaining the Administration” don’t seem to consider it their duty to take a musket in hand, even to guard Washington – although some of them express a willingness to go if they “can have a commission!” “Bully boys,” ain’t they though? The “vets” who have just got home, after a three years’ rough-and-tumble “can’t see it;” consequently recruits are coming in slowly. But as Uncle Abe threatens the country with another five hundred thousand soon, for only two or three years, as the case may be, it is quite likely that somebody will have to go whether he wants to or not.

There has been no rain to speak of thro’-out this section of country for some weeks, consequently the crops and vegetation are in a very dry condition. The roads are horribly dusty, and even the streets of our city need a good washing down. More anon.

Fraternally Yours,


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pardon from the pres


Battle Flag (NY Military History Museum)

Here’s a bit more about the New York First Veteran Cavalry from 150 years ago today. The commander-in-chief telegraphed Colonel Platner.

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:


Thomas Connor, a private in the First Veteran New York Cavalry, is now imprisoned at hard labor for desertion. If the Colonel of said Regiment will say in writing on this sheets that he is willing to receive him back to the Regiment, I will pardon, and send him.


Apparently Private Connor was pardoned:

Thomas Connor

Thomas Connor


Also from 150 years ago today, a photo of the United States Military Railroad at Petersburg:

Railroad mortar at Petersburg, Va., July 25, 1864 (By Andrew J. Russell; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-0827)

Railroad mortar at Petersburg, Va., July 25, 1864


love war madly …

100 years ago frenzied “mobs” were throwing their hats in the air and “shouts of ‘War! War!’ reverberated up and down the street.” And it isn’t even August yet. (here are photos)

NYT 7-26-1914

NY Times 7-26-1914

… like we’ve done a thousand times before

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bureaucratic nightmare

Wages in DC for lower level federal clerks weren’t keeping up with prices. The civil servants were heading home.

From The New-York Times July 24, 1864:


Special Dispatches to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Saturday, July 23.

Before the adjournment of Congress a movement was started by Government employes in Washington, to secure an increase of pay commensurate with the rapid and unprecedented advance in the cost of living. The project, though largely supported in departments, was not favorably received in Congress, and no legislation was had on the subject. Many of the lower grade clerkships are now in consequence vacant. Clerks with families, finding their salaries inadequate to their comfortable support, are leaving for their homes in different sections of the country. …

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“undermining Petersburg”

Rich-Pete 1864 (Boston, [Mass.] : J.H. Bufford, [1864] ; LOC:

“all is quiet along the lines”

A Southern correspondent reported that Grant was going to be leaving Petersburg any time soon; if he dug tunnels for mines at Vicksburg, you could expect the same in his latest siege. Price controls were making it impossible for First Lieutenants in the Army of Northern Virginia to keep a (paid) servant.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 23, 1864:

The War news.

Yesterday passed unrippled by a rumor. At Petersburg, also, all was quiet, though there had been some shelling Thursday night, which did no damage. A letter from our army correspondent shows that all is quiet along the lines:

[from our own correspondent.]

Petersburg, July 21, 1864.

I have not written you for upwards of a week, simply because I had nothing worth recording. There is no change in the situation, the conformation of the lines of the two armies being identically in every respect as they were on the first day of this month. The question very naturally arises as to what Grant it doing. This is more than I can tell you. My impression, however, is that Grant is just now without any plan or definite ideas in regard to the future. The presence of a “Confederate force” in front of Washington has doubtless, to a large degree, interfered with his original designs, and for the present he is without any definite plan of campaign. The impression in unofficial circles is that he is busy with the shovel and the pick with a view of undermining Petersburg, as he was about to do at Vicksburg. This, however, is purely speculative. It is, however, by no means impossible, but on the contrary is quite probable.

Siege of Petersburg (by Alfred R. Waud, July 1864; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-21048 )

Petersburg’s besiegers July 1864

One fact, however, is quite well established, and that is, that Grant does not mean to “give it up so.” He has no idea, none the most distant, of abandoning this line until forced to do so by inexorable necessity. At present he is busily strengthening his works and mounting new (and some of them very heavy) guns. The shelling of the city meantime continues — sometimes very slightly, and then again with considerable fury. It is, however, consoling to know that thus far but little comparative damage has been done to life, limb or property.

The new schedule of prices adopted by the Virginia Commissioners is generally — indeed, I might say universally — regarded by the army as ruinous to the cause. On all hands there is a demand that it shall be rescinded. It is not believed that the good people of this State, who have given so many and repeated proofs of patriotism and self-sacrifice, will make necessary a scheme for their own aggrandizement which must result in the utter and entire depreciation and repudiation of the currency of the country. High prices swell the volume of the currency, which in the ratio of inflation is the measure of its depreciation. It is objected to in the army because many first lieutenants find it necessary to keep a servant. Their pay is $90 per month; whilst the east [cost?] of a ration to feed the servant on is just $95 by the new schedule, or $4 more per month than his pay.

The news of the removal of Gen. Johnston and the appointment of Gen. Hood to the command of the Western army created great surprise and considerable comment. There is great contrariety of opinion on the question.

The refreshing shower of Tuesday refreshed both animal and vegetable life, and made everything wear a new aspect.

The soldiers are being well fed, and the animals are still getting bountiful supplies of forage. In a word, the situation in this army never was more hopeful, and I can truly sound the sentinel’s “All well.” X. …

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halt the juggernaut

crushing the rebellion crushing the Union?

A publication in upstate New York called for the end of the war and its great costs in terms of the dead and maimed, the public debt, and the loss of Constitutional liberty.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in July 1864:

What War has Accomplished.

More than three years of incessant war have elapsed. More than two millions of men have been called out to swell the ranks of our armies – thirty times the number of men which was at first deemed to be an extravagant force have entered the service; thirteen times three months have elapsed and where are we to-day, and what have we done? At least half a million of the strongest, healthiest, ablest producers of the North have been slain – needlessly and wickedly slain – making widows, orphans and mourning in every neighborhood in the North.


three serfs and a reeve

We have incurred a debt of four thousand millions. If any man can demonstrate how at the end of the war the current expenses and interest can be paid without crushing the industry of the country and reducing every laboring man and his family to the condition of serfs, we should rejoice to see the figures. But supposing this to be done, we still have the principal debt larger than the monstrous debt of Great Britain resting upon us for all time. Owned by the rich, it will be the foundation of a monied aristocracy, who will keep the masses forever toiling to pay the interest – the poor continually growing poorer, and the richer, richer.

We have imperilled our liberties. The great bulwarks of liberty, habeas corpus, freedom from arrest except upon due process of law; the right of trial by jury; freedom of speech and the press – rights which our ancestors fought hundreds of years to secure, and which we thought were firmly established, have all been repeatedly violated. This is due to the war, for its only attempted justification is – military necessity. Reflecting men of all parties are becoming justly alarmed at the fearful encroachments upon Constitutional liberty. They were first tolerated because we were assured that they were only temporary, and not to grow into precedents; they have already lasted for years.

In view of all the sad lessons of the past and all our hopes for the future, let us demand in thunder tones a stoppage of this most wicked war. Why sacrifice another 500,000 men to the juggernaut of this unholy strife?

You can see a graphical representation of U.S. war debt at The Atlantic and read one take on the economic costs of the Civil War at the Freeman

Columbia demands her children! (Published in: American political prints, 1766-1876 / Bernard F. Reilly. Boston : G.K. Hall, 1991, entry 1864-34.; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-15768)

who gets the kids?

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foolish federalism

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 21, 1864:

An inevitable fate.

One of the favorite bugbears kept by the United States press before the people, to stimulate their energies in support of the invasion, is the dread of future internal convulsions and civil wars if this revolution is successful. It is an appeal to the fears of the masses, as well as to all the interests involved in law and order, and has no doubt exerted great influence in keeping the whole North resolute and persevering at its work.

But there never was a more shallow fallacy. War is the inevitable lot of humanity — civil as well as foreign war. Both have been the fate of every country of the world, and of democracies more than by other forms of government. Probably Prussia enjoys more internal stability than any other nation; because Prussia possesses the remarkable combination of a despotism controlled by public opinion, which public opinion is sustained by a citizen soldiery, who, in organization and military efficiency, are fully equal to her regular army, and vastly superior to it in numbers. If the North can adopt such a government, it may enjoy its immunities from civil convulsions; but, to do this, it must wade, for this generation, through a sea of blood which we hardly expect such a self-indulgent generation to encounter for the benefit of posterity. A wild democracy cannot be converted into a despotism, and the State Rights peculiarity of the United States Constitution exchanged for a formal consolidation, without scenes of strife and carnage, compared with which the horrors of this contest are mere child’s play.

The Constitution of the old United States, which theoretically was the essence of human wisdom, has proved practically the climax of human absurdity. Never before was there a Constitution which left the citizens in doubt to whom supreme allegiance was due.–This Constitution calls upon its people to serve two masters, the General Government and the States, and to serve two masters is as impossible for a nation as an individual. In addition to this seed of civil convulsions, sown in the very heart of the organic law, the democratic institutions of every State contain in themselves the prolific germs of everlasting faction and blood. The experience of universal history is uniform to that effect. No Democracy was ever permanent, and the United States, as it has fully proved during this war, are no wiser and no better than those who have before tried the same experiment. …

Their only hope, indeed, is to accept the separation of the old Union as an accomplished fact, to withdraw their invading armies, to moderate their inordinate ambition and vanity, and to consent event to a peaceful division of the Northwest and New England, rather than seek to compel the adhesion of such incongruous elements. Such a gigantic territory as that they seek to control, and such a dissimilar population, cannot be held together by anything but a gigantic despotism, and even that will not ensure permanent order and quiet. Three Republics are not too many for the area and numbers of the old United States. The balance of power could be preserved, and internal affairs more harmoniously directed by three than by two. That result will have to come some day, and it offers the only mitigation of the evils that are in store for the United States.

Alas, the Confederate Constitution also divvied up power between the central government and the states.

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raise ya 200,000

I kinda felt like I was at a card table with the most vigorous prosecutors of the war.

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:

EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, July 20, 1864. 4.30 p.m.


Yours of yesterday, about a call for three hundred thousand, is received. I suppose you had not seen the call for five hundred thousand, made the day before, and which, I suppose, covers the case. Always glad to have your suggestions.


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strength and peace

The twin sisters liberty and union (Entered . . . 1863 by C.S. Allen & Co. Segar Manrs.; LOC: LC-USZ62-90679)

A. Lincoln: for all

150 years ago today President Lincoln called for 500,000 more troops – volunteers to be supplemented by a draft to fill quotas. He also seemed to be encouraging peace missions – as long as the terms were restoration of the Union and the extermination of slavery:

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:


WASHINGTON, July 18, 1864.


Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States, will be received and considered by the Executive Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on other substantial and collateral points; and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.


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A ward in hospital at convalescent camp near Alexandria, Va. (photographed July, 1864, printed between 1880 and 1889; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-33646)

“A ward in hospital at convalescent camp near Alexandria, Va.” (July 1864)

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