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April 9, 1865: Palm Sunday at Appomatox

Sunday, April 9, AD 2017

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

Grant recalled the surrender:

APPOMATTOX C. H., VA.,
Ap l 19th, 1865.

GEN. R. E. LEE,
Comd’g C. S. A.
GEN: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.
Very respectfully,
U. S. GRANT,
Lt. Gen.

When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it. As I wrote on, the thought occurred to me that the officers had their own private horses and effects, which were important to them, but of no value to us; also that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to call upon them to deliver their side arms.

No conversation, not one word, passed between General Lee and myself, either about private property, side arms, or kindred subjects. He appeared to have no objections to the terms first proposed; or if he had a point to make against them he wished to wait until they were in writing to make it. When he read over that part of the terms about side arms, horses and private property of the officers, he remarked, with some feeling, I thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his army.

Then, after a little further conversation, General Lee remarked to me again that their army was organized a little differently from the army of the United States (still maintaining by implication that we were two countries); that in their army the cavalrymen and artillerists owned their own horses; and he asked if he was to understand that the men who so owned their horses were to be permitted to retain them. I told him that as the terms were written they would not; that only the officers were permitted to take their private property. He then, after reading over the terms a second time, remarked that that was clear.

I then said to him that I thought this would be about the last battle of the war—I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.

He then sat down and wrote out the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
April 9, 1865.

GENERAL:—I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th inst., they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.
R. E. LEE, General.

LIEUT.-GENERAL U. S. GRANT.

While duplicates of the two letters were being made, the Union generals present were severally present to General Lee.

The much talked of surrendering of Lee’s sword and my handing it back, this and much more that has been said about it is the purest romance. The word sword or side arms was not mentioned by either of us until I wrote it in the terms. There was no premeditation, and it did not occur to me until the moment I wrote it down. If I had happened to omit it, and General Lee had called my attention to it, I should have put it in the terms precisely as I acceded to the provision about the soldiers retaining their horses.

General Lee, after all was completed and before taking his leave, remarked that his army was in a very bad condition for want of food, and that they were without forage; that his men had been living for some days on parched corn exclusively, and that he would have to ask me for rations and forage. I told him “certainly,” and asked for how many men he wanted rations. His answer was “about twenty-five thousand;” and I authorized him to send his own commissary and quartermaster to Appomattox Station, two or three miles away, where he could have, out of the trains we had stopped, all the provisions wanted. As for forage, we had ourselves depended almost entirely upon the country for that.

 

Grant in his memoirs wrote, When Lee and I separated he went back to his lines and I returned to the house of Mr. McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same flag.”

Lee so appreciated the generosity of the terms of surrender given by Grant, that for the remainder of his life he would never allow a word of denigration about Grant to be spoken in his presence.

 

(Grant) rode on toward his headquarters tent, which had been found at last, along with his baggage, and pitched nearby. He had not gone far before someone asked if he did not consider the news of Lee’s surrender worth passing on to the War Department. Reining his horse in, he dismounted and sat on a large stone by the roadside to compose the telegram Lincoln would receive that night. By the time he remounted to ride on, salutes were beginning to roar from Union batteries roundabout, and he sent word to have them stopped, not only because he feared the warlike racket might cause trouble between the victors and the vanquished, both of them still with weapons in their hands, but also because he considered it unfitting. “The war is over,” he told his staff. “The rebels are our countrymen again.”

Shelby Foote, The Civil War:  A Narrative, volume III

 

 

 

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2 Responses to April 9, 1865: Palm Sunday at Appomatox

  • In World War 2, there was a General Simon Bolivar Buckner who was killed in the invasion of Okinawa. I believe he was the highest ranking officer killed in that war.

    Both Buckners were named for The Liberator, Simon Bolivar, who despite having little military experience, successfully led the war for Independence for Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador against the Spanish Empire. Bolivar was a far better military leader than he was a politician. Having said that, a statue of Bolivar, and San Martin as well, is prominently displayed in Washington, DC. There are assorted little towns and streets named for Bolivar through the US.

  • Correct about Simon Bolivar Buckner being the highest ranking officer killed in WW2. He was also the son of Gen. Buckner who was a pallbearer at Grant’s funeral in 1885.

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Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys

Saturday, March 25, AD 2017

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  A pro-Union song written in 1861 by that tireless writer of Civil War tunes George F. Root.  Sadly its patriotism may seem over the top to modern audiences.  Not so to most of the fighting men on both sides during the Civil War who liked their songs about the War to be lively and very patriotic.

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Kelly’s Irish Brigade

Saturday, March 18, AD 2017

 

(I first posted this in 2010.  Over they years it has proven quite popular judging from the number of hits it has received, so I thought this weekend would be a good one to post it again.)

I have had a few posts, here, here  and here, on the famous Irish Brigade that fought for the Union in the Army of the Potomac.  There were however other Irish units, North and South.  This song celebrates Kelly’s Irish Brigade that fought for the Confederacy in the West.  The Brigade was actually a regiment, the Washington Blues, organized by Joseph Kelly, a grocer in Saint Louis, prior to the Civil War.  Kelly was an Irish immigrant as were most of the men in his regiment.  They provided good service for the Confederacy, and you may read about them here.

Listen all ye that hold communion
With Southern Confederates who are bold,
And I will tell you of some men for the Union
Who in northern ranks were enrolled;
They came to Missouri in their glory
And thought at their might we’d be dismayed;
But they soon had a different story
When they met Kelly’s Irish Brigade.

CHORUS:
When they met with the Irish Brigade me boys
When they met with the Irish Brigade
Didn’t those cowardly Lincolnites tremble
When they met with the Irish Brigade.

They have called us rebels and traitors,
But themselves have thrown off that name of late.
They were called it by the English invaders
At home in the eve of ninety eight
The name to us is not a new one though,
Tis one that shall never degrade
Any true-hearted Irishmen
In the ranks of Kelly’s Irish Brigade.

CHORUS

Well they dare not call us invaders,
‘Tis but state rights and liberty we ask;
And Missouri, we will ever defend her,
No matter how hard may be the task.
Then let true Irishmen assemble,
Let the voice of Missouri be obeyed;
And the northern fanatics will tremble
When again they meet Kelly’s Irish Brigade.

CHORUS

 

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Christmas Bells Ring On

Saturday, December 10, AD 2016

 

Something for the weekend.  One of my favorite Christmas carols has always been I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.   It is based on the poem Christmas Bells written  by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day 1863.  Still devastated by the death of his wife in a fire in 1861, he had been rocked by news that his son Charles, serving as a lieutenant in the Union army, had been severely wounded at the battle of New Hope Church in November of 1863.  In a nation rent by civil war, along with his personal woes, one could perhaps understand if Longfellow had been deaf to the joy of Christmas that year.  Instead, he wrote this magnificent poem of faith in the power of Christmas:

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George Washington’s Vision

Wednesday, September 7, AD 2016

 

I see this piece of fiction floating around the internet:

“The last time I ever saw Anthony Sherman was on the Fourth of July, 1859, in Independence Square. He was then ninety-nine years old, his dimming eyes rekindled as he gazed upon Independence Hall, which he had come to visit once more. “I want to tell you an incident of Washington’s life one which no one alive knows of except myself; and which, if you live, you will before long see verified.”

He said, “From the opening of the Revolution, we experienced all phases of fortune, good and ill. The darkest period we ever had, I think, was when Washington, after several reverses, retreated to Valley Forge, where he resolved to pass the winter of 1777. Ah! I often saw the tears coursing down our dear commander’s careworn cheeks, as he conversed with a confidential officer about the condition of his soldiers. You have doubtless heard the story of Washington’s going to the thicket to pray. Well, he also used to pray to God in secret for aid and comfort.

“One day, I remember well, the chilly winds whistled through the leafless trees. Though the sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly, he remained alone in his quarters nearly all afternoon. When he came out, I noticed that his face was a shade paler than usual, and there seemed to be something on his mind of more than ordinary importance. Returning just after dusk, he dispatched an orderly to the quarters of the officer I mentioned who was in attendance at the time. After preliminary conversation of about half an hour, Washington, gazing upon his companion with that strange look of dignity that he alone could command, said to the latter:

“I do not know whether it is due to the anxiety of my mind, or what, but this afternoon, as I was preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturbed me. Looking up, I beheld, standing opposite me, a singularly beautiful being. So astonished was I, for I had given strict orders not to be disturbed, that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of the visit. A second, a third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor, except a slight raising of the eyes. By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me, and I would have risen, but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition impossible. I assayed once more to speak, but my tongue had become useless, as though it had become paralyzed. A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession. All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor. Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed to become filled with sensations, and grew luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarefy, including the mysterious visitor.

“I began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible. I was only conscious of gazing fixedly, vacantly at my companion.

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Good-bye Old Glory

Saturday, August 6, AD 2016

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Good-bye Old Glory.  Published on September 29, 1865 with music by the most prolific song writers of the Civil War era, George Frederick Root and lyrics by L.J. Bates.  This song was popular at Union Army reunions and at meeting halls of the Grand Army of the Republic.  This rendition is performed by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War era music to contemporary audiences.

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Fortnight For Freedom: Battle Cries of Freedom

Saturday, July 2, AD 2016

fortnight for freedom 2016

Something for a Fourth of July weekend.  The Battle Cry of Freedom was a popular song North and South during the Civil War.  Of course they sang different lyrics to the song.  The Union version was such a favorite among the Union troops, that President Lincoln, in a letter to George F. Root, the composer, wrote:  “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand  orators. If you could not shoulder a musket in defense of your country, you certainly have served her through your songs.”

Here is the Southern version sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences:

 

Here is the version from the Lincoln (2012) movie:

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Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago

Sunday, March 20, AD 2016

 

 

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

 

 

 

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

Grant in his memoirs wrote, “When Lee and I separated he went back to his lines and I returned to the house of Mr. McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same flag.”

Lee so appreciated the generosity of the terms of surrender given by Grant, that for the remainder of his life he would never allow a word of denigration about Grant to be spoken in his presence.

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3 Responses to Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago

  • Interesting find, Don… so this method of vivid documentary story-telling did not originate with Ken Burns, as I sometimes hear.

    Haven’t watched it all yet, but so far, pretty balanced presentation, with a slight bent in the direction of the victors! Even Vallandigham gets a mention, the Democrat congressman who amazingly was imprisoned for giving speeches critical of the war and of Lincoln, whom he called “King Lincoln.”

    Definitely love seeing Hal Holbrook at Appomattox, just an hour down the road from my house.

  • “Haven’t watched it all yet, but so far, pretty balanced presentation, with a slight bent in the direction of the victors! Even Vallandigham gets a mention, the Democrat congressman who amazingly was imprisoned for giving speeches critical of the war and of Lincoln, whom he called “King Lincoln.””
    Vallandigham was ultimately exiled to the Confederacy. He made his way back into the Union through Canada, after seeking money from Confederate representatives in Canada to buy weapons to set up a Northwest Confederacy, with Lincoln turning a blind eye to his reappearance. He was the moving force behind the peace plank of the Democrat platform in 1864 and was listed by the Democrats as Secretary of War in a McClellan administration. After McClellan repudiated the peace plank Vallandigham withdrew for a time in campaigning for him.

    Vallandigham had a shadowy relationship with the undercover Southern spy group, the Knights of the Golden Circle, later renamed the American Knights. He testified at the trial of several of them in April 1865. While denying that he had joined that organization, he admitted to talking with representatives of the Confederacy in Canada.

    His death in 1871 is a caution to all defense attorneys:

    “Vallandigham died in 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio, at the age of 50, after accidentally shooting himself in the abdomen with a pistol. He was representing a defendant (Thomas McGehan)[citation needed] in a murder case for killing a man in a barroom brawl at the Golden Lamb Inn. Vallandigham attempted to prove the victim, Tom Myers, had in fact accidentally shot himself while drawing his pistol from a pocket while rising from a kneeling position. As Vallandigham conferred with fellow defense attorneys in his hotel room at the Golden Lamb, he showed them how he would demonstrate this to the jury. Selecting a pistol he believed to be unloaded, he put it in his pocket and enacted the events as they might have happened, snagging the loaded gun on his clothing and unintentionally causing it to discharge into his belly. Although he was fatally wounded, Vallandigham’s demonstration proved his point, and the defendant, Thomas McGehan, was acquitted and released from custody (to be shot to death four years later in his saloon).”

  • Oddly coincidental, I just received this post, also dated Palm Sunday.
    ..http://vaflaggers.blogspot.com/2016/03/va-flaggers-re-lee-statue-in.html
    .
    Fascinating stuff on Vallandigham too, Mr. Mac.

March 11, 1861: Confederate Constitution Adopted

Friday, March 11, AD 2016

confconst_copy

It has always been intriguing to me that, as microscopically studied as the Civil War has been over the years, more attention has not been paid to the Confederate Constitution. It is a fascinating document.  Crafted by men who had lived their entire lives under the United States Constitution and who had served in the Federal government, its similarities and differences illuminate what these men thought was good with the old Constitution and what needed improvement.  This Constitution took the place of the Provisional Constitution of the Confederacy, go here to read it, a document that by its own terms was meant to be temporary and had a hurried, improvised feel to it.  The permanent Confederate Constitution was the product of more mature reflection and the additional time that the drafters had to think about this new government and nation they were helping to midwife.  Here are some observations on this document:

  1.  The Preamble of the Constitution invokes God, 1861 being a more religious time than 1787.
  2. The preamble states that this is to be a permanent federal government, the Founding Fathers of the Confederacy obviously being eager that secession not be repeated against the Confederacy.  This is underlined by the fact that the representatives from South Carolina proposed that a right to secession be explicit in the Constitution.  Only the South Carolinians voted in favor of this proposal.
  3. Article I dealing with Congress is quite similar to that Article in the US Constitution with some significant changes:  State legislatures were given the power to impeach their members of Congress on a two/thirds vote.  Each House of the Confederate Congress could allocate seats to the heads of Executive Departments, in order to allow them to discuss the activities of their Departments, which seems to be an attempt to adopt the practice of the British Parliament.  The President of the Confederacy was granted a line item veto, but any bill on which he exercised such a veto would be resubmitted to Congress with such a veto being overridden by a two-thirds vote.  Congress was forbidden to allocate funds for internal improvements not set forth explicitly in the Constitution, such improvements being limited to waterways and coastal navigation improvements.  The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution was set forth in Article I, except for the ninth and tenth amendments which were set forth in Article VI.  All appropriations had to pass by a two-thirds vote, except as otherwise enumerated in the Confederate Constitution.  All bills appropriating money had to list the exact amount being appropriated and the purpose for which the funds were to be appropriate.  All bills had to have a single subject which was to be set out in the title to the bill.
  4. Under Article II Presidents were to be limited to a single six year term.  The only two  term President during the adult lives of the men involved in drafting the Confederate Constitution would have been Andrew Jackson, and even his most ardent partisans would have admitted that his second term had been rocky.  The frustrated desires of many Presidents following Jackson for a second term might have been regarded as a source of friction best avoided altogether under the new government.  Confederate Presidents had to have resided within the bounds of the Confederacy for 14 years.  If strictly construed this provision would have rendered every man in the Confederacy ineligible for the office.
  5. Article III dictated that no State could be sued in the Confederate court system by a citizen or a subject of any foreign State.
  6. Article IV made a two-thirds vote necessary for a State to be admitted to the Confederacy.
  7. Article V required only a two-thirds vote of the States to amend the Confederate Constitution.
  8. The most significant differences with the Federal Constitution were on the various issues arising on the question of slavery.  The Confederate document used the terms slaves and slavery.  The international slave trade is banned, except with the United States.  Congress is given the power to ban the importation of slaves from any State not a member of the Confederacy.  Congress is denied any power to pass a law impairing the right to own slaves.  No State could pass a law impairing the right of a citizen of the Confederacy to own slaves.  Slavery in Confederate territories was mandated.

Here is the text of the Confederate Constitution:

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3 Responses to March 11, 1861: Confederate Constitution Adopted

  • I’m reading Jefferson Davis’ monumental “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” and in regard to the Constitution he makes this interesting argument:

    With regard to slavery and the slave-trade, the provisions of this Constitution furnish an effectual answer to the assertion, so often made, that the Confederacy was founded on slavery, that slavery was its “corner-stone,” etc. Property in slaves, already existing, was recognized and guaranteed, just as it was by the Constitution of the United States; and the rights of such property in the common Territories were protected against any such hostile discrimination as had been attempted in the Union. But the “extension of slavery,” in the only practical sense of that phrase, was more distinctly and effectually precluded by the Confederate than by the Federal Constitution. This will be manifest on a comparison of the provisions of the two relative to the slave-trade. These are found at the beginning of the ninth section of the first article of each instrument. The Constitution of the United States has the following:

    “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importations, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.”

    The Confederate Constitution, on the other hand, ordained as follows:

    “1. The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

    “2. Congress shall also have the power to prohibit the introduction [pg 262] of slaves from any state not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.”

    In the case of the United States, the only prohibition is against any interference by Congress with the slave-trade for a term of years, and it was further legitimized by the authority given to impose a duty upon it. The term of years, it is true, had long since expired, but there was still no prohibition of the trade by the Constitution; it was after 1808 entirely within the discretion of Congress either to encourage, tolerate, or prohibit it.

    Under the Confederate Constitution, on the contrary, the African slave-trade was “hereby forbidden,” positively and unconditionally, from the beginning. Neither the Confederate Government nor that of any of the States could permit it, and the Congress was expressly “required” to enforce the prohibition. The only discretion in the matter intrusted to the Congress was, whether or not to permit the introduction of slaves from any of the United States or their Territories.

    Mr. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, had said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Now, if there was no purpose on the part of the Government of the United States to interfere with the institution of slavery within its already existing limits—a proposition which permitted its propagation within those limits by natural increase—and inasmuch as the Confederate Constitution precluded any other than the same natural increase, we may plainly perceive the disingenuousness and absurdity of the pretension by which a factitious sympathy has been obtained in certain quarters for the war upon the South, on the ground that it was a war in behalf of freedom against slavery

  • “The preamble states that this is to be a permanent federal government, the Founding Fathers of the Confederacy obviously being eager that secession not be repeated against the Confederacy.”

    If I remember right, Shelby Foote says the argument that persuaded Confederates not to include a secession option was that it would have implied their own secession from the USA was illegal, not being explicitly permitted in the US Constitution.

  • Holy Cow, Mac!
    .
    Are you clairvoyant? Or, do the writers at “Jeopardy” also link dates in History in their productions?
    .
    Tonight’s Final Jeopardy answer was the Preamble to the Confederate Constitution, which I knew because of this post. The issue was the Confederate Constit. replaced “a more perfect Union” in the US Constit. with a “permanent Federal government.” The winner knew it.
    .
    Good one, Mac.

Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

Monday, February 15, AD 2016

Hattip for the above video to commenter Greg Mockeridge.

I have never liked Presidents’ Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? However, most presidents, for good and ill, have shaped the story of America.

To say that presidents have had a large impact on our history is to merely recite a truism. Presidential assassins, regrettably, have also had a large impact on our history.

On this President’s day we will look at the murderer of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. The rest of the week we will look at other successful assasins of presidents.

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson. Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed. The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances. However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol. I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk. De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy. Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men. De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson. In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson. De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung. Go here for the details of the piracy trial.

And what happened to Booth? Nothing apparently. I assume that Jackson probably laughed off the letter, assuming that his friend was drunk when he wrote it, and in any case threatening to assassinate the president was not a crime in 1835. One fervently wishes that Booth’s son, John Wilkes Booth had merely written a letter threatening to assassinate Lincoln.

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4 Responses to Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

  • Thank you, Sir. This was a fascinating read on a subject with which I had only passing familiarity.

  • Interesting stuff… I agree about President’s Day; in Virginia it is officially “Washington’s Day”.

    Lincoln’s assassination was one of the most immoral, tragic events in our history. I’ve often wondered how Lincoln would have handled Reconstruction, and if he would in fact have “let them up easy.” Andrew Johnson pretty much agreed but the radical Republicans rolled over him. I suspect Lincoln would have had much firmer control of the party. Fascinating to imagine what his actual steps would have been in the aftermath of the war.

  • “Initially Booth and his co-conspirators had planned to kidnap Lincoln and smuggle him South…”
    One recalls King Charles I’s prescient remark, “I know that there are but a few steps between the prison and the grave of princes.”

  • Well, the Union had similar plans for a hit and run strike on Richmond whereby they could kill Jeff Davis and the Confederate cabinet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahlgren_Affair

The Free State of Jones?

Thursday, February 11, AD 2016

The film The Free State of Jones, is being released in May.  Surprisingly, it is the second Hollywood film to depict alleged events in Jones County Mississippi during the Civil War, the first being the forgotten film Tap Roots (1948) which was based on the novel Tap Roots (1942) by James Street.

James Street noted that his novel was a heavily fictionalized account of local legends in Jones County of events that occurred in the Civil War.  That of course is the usual problem when Hollywood attempts to depict history:  legends and myths come to the forefront with history being a rear guard.

In regard to the events in Jones County in Mississippi during the Civil War, history is handicapped by the fact that the events were regarded as fairly minor at the time, and thus contemporary documentation is light.  No adequate scholarly examination of the history of Jones County during the War has yet been undertaken, although in the past few decades some pioneering studies have been undertaken.

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One Response to The Free State of Jones?

  • Short on history, but filled to the brim with the ideological dregs that Hollywood and the Left have brought to the Civil War for years.

    It happens for all wars, I suppose. Vietnam, anyone? And remember how Spielberg used “Saving Private Ryan” to transform WWII from a war against National Socialism and Hitler’s aggression into a crusade to save Jews from Nazi persecution. At the same time, he portrayed the war in the Pacific as a racist American war against Asians. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tom-hanks-wwii-comments-spark-controversy/

    Lesson: only idiots get their history from Hollywood, TV, or the film industry.

But We Have Forgotten God

Sunday, February 7, AD 2016

As we approach Lent in this Year of Mercy it is striking to me how most who call themselves Christians have lost any sense of sin.  Christ seems to be perceived as a divine Pal, with a dog like eagerness to embrace us just the way we are.  Such a deity would seem to resemble Barney the Dinosaur more than the God of the Bible.  Forgotten is the need for sorrow for sins, repentance for sins and amendment of life.  Our ancestors tended to think much differently.  Consider Proclamation 97 of Abraham Lincoln calling for a national day of prayer and humiliation to pray for forgiveness of national sins.  Here is the text of the proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

 

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8 Responses to But We Have Forgotten God

  • “No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.” President Obama 2/5/16. National Prayer Breakfast.

    Until abortion is classified as an act of terror, innocent lives, weaker and fewer in number, will continue to be slaughtered under the nose of an arrogant hypocritical President who continues to use God for his purposes… not asking God how he might do his will.

  • And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon…”

    Why is it that I sense a far stronger “Catholic” view of the essential need for man to actually have sorrow and “repentance” for sins, from this non-Catholic man, than I do from most of the modernists at the “Kasper show,” or for that matter, (in this “year of mercy”) from the Vatican?

  • Confess sins?
    Receive Mercy?

    How about that!

    Abe has it down pat.
    Go figure.

    Canon 915 is merciful.
    It reinforces the stance the Catholic Church has taken regarding abortion, and mercifully instructs as to the consequences instore for those who disobediently refuse the direction.

    Stop the sin of protecting abortion rights or do not present yourself for Holy Communion.
    Seek forgiveness, confess and receive Mercy!

  • How often does the Sunday Mass homily discuss sin? For more than 50 years, I dare say not much.

  • (I just noticed this gem.)
    “Jefferson Davis issued similar proclamations during the War. ”

    As this nation heads south for primaries and a leader which will determine our direction, the one remaining sin, according to our modern sophisticated liberalized nation, appears to be that Jefferson Davis’ people largely still believe in sin and the need to repent.

  • I’ve seen an uptick in various non-Catholics taking up Lent– as with when they take on other Catholic observations, they’re learning it from the ancient Jews.
    Kind of like explaining that of course we honor Mary, she’s Jesus’s mom, Lent can reach them by framing it as following in Christ’s steps, rather than “Oh, that CATHOLIC thing.”
    A rose by any other name does smell as sweet, but if you call it sinus destroying stinkbomb folks are unlikely to find out. 😀

  • Penguin Fan – I always wonder when I read comments like this. Our homily today was about sin, how each sinful act we commit is a decision we make to put ourselves above God. Awareness of sin isn’t the final goal, of course. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were made aware of their unworthiness, but God moved them past that into a relationship with Him. Lent is a time for giving things up – not to some inanimate object, but to the God who is worthy of our adoration. We were urged to offer up this Lent for the people we have wronged, the people we have led into sin over our lives.

  • “….designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.”

    Yes we have a lot to be humiliated about especially for a number of Godless Supreme Court decisions made over the many years. The court has taken liberties with the law that were never intended by the founders. Let us, during this lent, set aside a day of prayer for the Supreme Court that a solution can be found to overturn their evil decisions.

Shelby Foote and His Short History

Thursday, January 14, AD 2016

The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.

Shelby Foote

In 1954 Bennett Cerf, the President of Random House, decided that with the coming Civil War Centennial his company needed to publish a short history of the War, not longer than 200,000 words. Wanting the history to be entertaining he hit upon the idea of having Shelby Foote, author of a novel on the battle of Shiloh in 1952, undertake the task.  Foote, 37, accepted a $400.00 advance and assumed that he could pound out the history quickly and get back to writing fiction.  Nineteen years, and a million and half words later, Foote completed the final volume of his immortal three volume history of the War.

Foote wrote his books during the years of the fight over segregation in the South.  Although far from being a political liberal, in his bibliographical note to the second volume published in 1963 Foote made clear where he stood:  In a quite different sense , I am obligated also to the governors of my native state and the adjoining states of Arkansas and Alabama for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing, in their actions during several of the years that went into the writing of this volume,  much that was least admirable in the postition my forebears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln. I suppose, or in any case hope, it is true that history never repeats itself, but I know from watching these three gentlemen that it can be terrifying in its approximations, even when the reproduction–deriving, as it does, its scale from the performers–is in miniature.

Foote in his 19 years of studying, thinking and writing about the Civil War, became convinced that it was impossible to understand America without understanding the Civil War:

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2 Responses to Shelby Foote and His Short History

  • If Ken Burns were to go through the raw footage of his The Civil War interviews and release direct to DVD The Shelby Foote Interviews or something of that nature, I’d be all over it.

  • I recall Burn’s interviews with Foote and two things really stuck in my mind: Foote’s characterization of Stonewall Jackson as a “psychopath” and his apt description of how the war changed us from “the United State are” to “the United States is”.
    I’ve read only the first volume of his magnus opus (just need the time for the other two), and found it interesting that the ‘Stonewall’ description may not have been intended as a compliment.

Glory Music

Saturday, January 9, AD 2016

We bide our chance,
Unhappy, and make terms with Fate
A little more to let us wait;
He leads for aye the advance,
Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good
For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;

James Russell Lowell, Memoriae Positum

Selections from the score of the movie Glory (1989), the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Union black regiments, up to their valiant assault on Fort Wagner in 1863.  A prime example of historical movies should be made, Glory performs the epic feat of bringing to life again the days of the Civil War when the fate of the nation was decided.

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Red Tape

Sunday, January 3, AD 2016

med_res

A good object lesson to those under the mistaken belief that government red tape was an invention of the last century.  Hamilton K. Redway was born in 1829 and died in 1888.  During the Civil War he served in the 24th New York Volunteers and as a Captain in the 1rst New York Veteran Cavalry.  After the war he served as a Second Lieutenant with the 1rst Colored Cavalry until April 15, 1866.  It is interesting that his widow was fighting with the Federal government over his pay during the Civil War with this claim not being settled until May 7, 1891, three decades after the start of the Civil War.  Wars come and go, but the red tape of governments is eternal.

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One Response to Red Tape

  • Here is a curious thing. Lawyers really do use red tape to tie up their papers (but green tape to sew deeds) However, it is always referred to as “pink tape,” a bit like “hunting pink.”

    Then again, we talk of “white grapes” not green ones and “white wine” rather than yellow, or “white people” for that matter.

    Just a whimsical thought.