Monday, May 30, 2011

In reading Ernest B. Furguson's Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War I ran across quite an interesting quote from Confederate Congressman Warren Akin. Akin wrote to his wife Mary in Georgia about the possibility of enlisting blacks to join the Confederate army. This was in the fall of 1862, way before most people, especially politicians, seriously considered this extreme measure.

Akin fully understood that, "It is a question of fearful magnitude." He wrote, "To call forth the negroes in the army with the promise of freedom, will it not be giving up the great question involved by doing the very thing Lincoln is now doing?" However, if it assured Confederate success and ultimately independence Akin was for it.

But the thoughts related to this important matter troubled Akin's mind. The logic of it did not seem to make sense to him. Warren asked Mary, 'Have you ever noticed the strange conduct of our people during this war?" How people of the Confederacy could oppose a measure that could help win the war seemed to have a hypocritical twist. Akin continued, "They give up their sons, husbands, brothers & friends, and often without murmuring, to the army; but let one of their negroes be taken, and what a howl you will hear. The love of money had been the greatest difficulty in our way to independence - it is now our chief obstacle...."

Of course, the Confederacy would eventually enlist African Americans. But, not until it was a last resort measure, and not until the last weeks of the war. And, not with much success in numbers or effectiveness. Undoubtedly, more slaves ran away from Richmond homes and farms and served in the Union army than ever were armed and enlisted for the Confederacy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kentuckian Richard T. Jacob at Cooper Union

Most students of the Civil War are aware of Lincoln's emergence as a viable Republican candidate for the presidential nomination after his appearance and speech at New York City's Cooper Union Institute in February 1860. But, I am sure fewer people are cognizant of the irony in that a fervid call was made for a change in administrations in the same building just four years later.

In March 1864 several men spoke at Cooper Union in effort to support former commander of the Army of the Potomac George B. McClellan as a Democratic presidential nominee. Septuagenarian and former Andrew Jackson "kitchen cabinet" member Amos Kendall spoke first and wished that his former boss was still around to correct matters between the North and South. "If the Old Chief was alive he would say to the men of the North, mind your own business [slavery agitation]; to the men of the South, submit to the Constitution and the laws [no secession]."

After Kendall spoke, resolutions were announced, which included one that called the Lincoln administration "imbecile" and ended with the following: "Resolved, That we recognize in Gen. George B. McClellan, qualifications which eminently fit him to be the the deliverer and savior of our country [McClellan's big head must have loved reading this], and we hold it to be the paramount duty of all patriotic citizens and organizations to abandon all disturbing questions [slavery], and rally around him as the destined preserver of our constitutional liberties."

Next up to speak was Kentucky Lt. Governor Richard Taylor Jacob. Jacob was from an influential Kentucky family that had strong political connections. He was a second cousin of former president Zachary Taylor and his sister had married a son of the famous Henry Clay. Jacob himself married a daughter of noted Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, which also made him a brother-in-law to John C. Fremont, who was the first Republican presidential candidate back in 1856. Jacob had served as colonel of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry (U.S.) until he was elected to his public office in 1863.

The following is what was printed in the New York Times on March 18, 1864:
"Hon. R.T. Jacobs [sic], of Kentucky, was next introduced. He said [Andrew] Jackson once declared that the Union must and should be preserved. If he were present there, he would add the Constitution must and shall be preserved. The speaker alluded to the 'miserable Abolitionists,' which the audience construed to be a reflection on the North, and greeted Mr. Jacobs with groans and hisses, making it difficult for him to proceed with his remarks. After quiet was restored, the speaker commented at length on the affairs of the nation. He said Southern traitors had broken up the Democratic party to destroy the Union. He was willing to wait until Mr. Lincoln committed some overt act, and then he would appeal to the people to sustain the Constitution. He believed the Union was indestructible, and he would stand by it. He was willing to receive the rebels as citizens, with all their former rights, when they came under the banner of the country, but not before. Upon the head of the [Lincoln] Administration rested the misery of the Union men of the South. They had been deceived by false promises. He didn't care anything about the negro. If he [the Negro] went down incidentally with the rebellion, let him go. All he cared for was the preservation of the Constitution. He would not give an inch to the rebellion, neither would be allow a violation of the Constitution. He would appeal to the flag - to his country, to stand by the Constitution. If that was treason, make the most of it. The speaker concluded by saying that he looked forward to the next November election with great hope."

Anthony Banning Norton, an editor of a Texas Unionist newspaper and who had been exiled from the state earlier in the war spoke next. "He thanked God he was reared in the old Whig school, the school of Henry Clay (cheers), in which he was taught the value of the Union, and to stand by it in every difficulty and every emergency, and it was for this reason that while the mad waves of secession rolled about Texas he stood true to the old Union." Norton too praised "Little Mac."

Last to speak was Colonel Max Langenschwartz who claimed, "We had in four years, run up a national debt double what our citizens had in seventy-two years. George B. McClellan must be our next President; and if Lincoln were to ask him why, he would reply, 'Because it is a military necessity.'" Langenschwartz's rhetoric was well practiced, in a different speech at a different time he called on the Republican party to add to polygamy to their emancipation, confiscation and miscegenation so "a man could have a yellow wife from China, a brown wife from India, a black wife from Africa, and a white wife from his own county, and so have a variegated family..."

The meeting ended with cheers for Amos Kendall, McClellan and others.

Obviously Cooper Union did not hold the same good fortune for McClellan as it did for Lincoln four year earlier. But, that didn't mean there wasn't a significant and strong concerted effort in the North to induce a change in administrations prior to the 1864 elections.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Sunday Stroll in Frankfort's Greenhill Cemetery

With the upcoming Memorial Day on my mind, I decided to take a rather short walk down Versailles Road to the Greenhill Cemetery here in Frankfort.

Several years ago, before I began studying history seriously, I never thought much about segregation and that in the past people felt the need to separate the white and black races on everything from eating and entertainment facilities to where their bodily remains would rest for time immemorial. Of all things segregated, cemeteries to me seem the most ridiculous. But, nonetheless, custom and tradition determined that Greenhill would be the historically African American cemetery here in Kentucky's capital city.

I had previously posted about the Colored Soldiers Monument at Greenhill back on June 8, 2010, and I drive past it twice everyday on my way to and from work, but ashamedly I had never taken the time to make a personal visit. I suppose I should not have been surprised to see the memorialization that vividly shows the local African American population's contributions the United States military over the years, but I was. I saw headstones for African American soldiers that were involved in every major US combat endeavor from Korea back to the Civil War while I was in Greenhill, but the number of Civil War soldiers stood out to me in particular.

A wayside interpretive marker in Greenhill Cemetery

A memorial marker dedicated by Kentucky State University

The Colored Soldiers Monument - erected 1924 (north elevation)

The Colored Soldiers Monument (west elevation)

The Colored Soldiers Monument (south elevation)

The Colored Soldiers Monument (east elevation)

Howard Anderson, Co. E, 119th United States Colored Infantry

Corporal Alexander Rennick, Co. F., 5th United States Colored Cavalry, Born March 4, 1841

Newton Bush, Co. E., 5th United States Colored Cavalry

James Butler, Co. I, 114th United States Colored Infantry

Corporal Morrison Butcher, Co. H, 114th United States Colored Infantry

Lewis Page, Co. F, 5th United States Colored Cavalry

Corporal Lewis A. Smith, Co. G, 117th United States Colored Infantry

Guy Owens, Co. I, 115th United States Colored Infantry

Corporal Frank Johnson, Co. K, 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery

Corporal Benjamin Brightwell, Co. G, 114th United States Colored Infantry

John Roward, Co. I, 114th United States Colored Infantry

Jason Payne, Co. H, 119th United States Colored Infantry

Henry Starks, Co. G, 114th United States Colored Infantry

George Washington, Co. I, 114th United States Colored Infantry

William Pedrick, Co. F, 113th United States Colored Infantry

Sergeant Conway Madison, Co. D, 116th United States Colored Infantry

Merritt Madison, Co. D, 116th United States Colored Infantry

Isaac Frank, Co. F, 116th United States Colored Infantry

Levi Berry, Co. I, 107th United States Colored Infantry

William Streets, Co. K, 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery

Harry Johnson, Co. K, 6th United States Colored Cavalry

Henry Rhodes, Co. C, 114th United States Colored Infantry

Edward Mitchell, Co. H, 8th Regiment, United States Volunteer Infantry, Spanish American War
Willie A. Queen, Kentucky Private First Class, US Army, World War I

Kenneth Childs, US Army, World War II

Howard R. Caldwell, Kentucky Private First Class, US Army, Korea

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shouldn't an Editor Catch These?

Reading as much as I do I often come across references in books that I know are incorrect. It is a pet peeve of mine to see errors, especially when they are in books published by some of the most reputable printers of scholarly works.

For example, I recently just finished reading A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel Sutherland, a professor at the University of Arkansas. I had read a number of other works by Sutherland and had heard great reviews on this new book, so I was excited to get started.

The book did not disappoint. It is one of the best books that I have read this year. And, the author makes a great case for his thesis that guerrilla warfare severely weakened support for the Confederate cause by showing that the southern government could not protect its citizens from retaliations by Unionist guerrillas and the Union army.

But, something that also caught my attention, was the couple of errors that I discovered in my reading. The first, one which I found glaring was on page 81. I quote: "Colonel John A. Garfield, future president of the United States, believed Unionists in parts of eastern Kentucky were determined enough by March 1862 to resist the 'small bands of reckless men' who still endangered them." Whaaaaa? I thought it was James A. Garfield. Surely, this must have been a typographical error! Well, maybe it was, but when I checked the index it too listed, "Garfield, John A., 81." Sure, it is only a difference of a few little letters, but isn't this something that an editor should catch before the book is printed?; especially when it is being published by probably the best publisher of scholarly Civil War works around, the University of North Carolina Press?

I found another small error later, toward the end of book. On page 267, it mentions Robert E. Lee's effort to combine forces with Joseph E. Johnston after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond, but in the next paragraph it stated, "Only the combined forces of Lee and Johnson, not scattered partisan bands, could halt the enemy's advance." Uh, it's Johnston, you just said it was Johnston; why now say Johnson?

Not too long ago I came across a reference that was clearly intended to be about Braxton Bragg, one time commander of the Army of Tennessee, but incorrectly named him as Thomas Bragg. Thomas was Braxton's older brother, and for a short time Attorney General of the Confedearcy, but was not a Confederate general.

It is not only names that are often printed incorrectly. Another book I recently read stated in error that the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky occurred on October 16 and 17, 1862. The battle actually occurred on October 8, 1862. Who is proofreading these books?

I am sure that I make my fair share of typos and grammatical errors in writing my blog posts, but I hope that if I do ever find myself fortunate enough to get an article or book published, my editor catches those little mistakes that can prove to be so embarrassing, because, after all, a blog post can be edited once published online, but once something's in print, it's there forever.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Kentucky Union Soldier in January 1863

Writing to his sister Jennie on January 15, 1863, while aboard the steamboat War Eagle, on the Mississippi River, Kentucky Union soldier John T. Harrington provided some interesting opinions on the Confederates that were his supposed enemies and his service in Mr. Lincoln's army.

Harrington opened his missive with a description of the horrors of a recent battle, where "one poor fellow received a ball full in the forehead which was right in front of me[.] he turned over, gave a rattling groan and expired." He saw this as fateful providential intervention, "for had he not been perfectly in front of me my head would have received the fatal shot." He continued, "I have seen war in all its horrors." He explained that he had been part of the victorious forces during his service and he had been routed by the enemy because of political generals that should not have been in command.

Harrington's thoughts on combat give us a small glimpse of what combat must have been like, and surely his sentiments were shared by almost all of his comrades, but his comments in the next paragraph caught me off guard and probably caught his sister off guard too. And, they make me wonder if others in the 22nd Kentucky Infantry felt likewise.

"At Arkansas Post I witnessed another kind of fight in which our side triumphed in every particular and finally planted the colors on the works of the vanquished foe, amidst the deafening shouts of a victorious army. Jennie bear in mind these men [Confederates] were overpowered but not conquered. I spent over an hour among them that night and on the word of a soldier they are men and men of the of the days of [17]76 men who have their hearts enlisted in their cause who believe God is with them and even willing to favor and defend them from the hand of oppression."

Some interesting compliments to give to the enemy who just tried to kill him, right? Well, possibly the next paragraph gives some insight into why he bestowed the favors on his foes and considered them patriots similar to those of the Revolutionary War.

"Sister you may think the above a singular expression for a Federal soldier but it is true. I enlisted to fight for the Union and the Constitution but Lincoln puts a different construction on things and and now has us Union men fighting for his Abolition Platform and thus making us a hord of Subjugators, house burners, negro thieves and devestators of private property." Harrington closed with a declaration of faith. "The Lord is with those who love him and I doubt not he will protect in the hour of danger and in time make a breech by which I will escape this thralldom [servitude]."

This letter, as previously mentioned, was written on January 15, 1863. President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1. Could Harrington's views on race and slavery have changed his opinion of his enemies. Did he now find more similarity between his own beliefs ant that of the Confederates rather than those commanding his army? Did the Emancipation Proclamation cause him to reconsider not only what he was fighting for, but what he thought his enemies were fighting for? And, in writinging "in time make a breech by which I will escape this thralldom" did he mean he wished to exit the service now that the Union aims included abolition?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One Woman's Take

It doesn't surprise me anymore to find letters from Civil War era people to their elected officials. I think that people back then thought that their sentiments would be listened to more than we do today.

Writing from Logan County in southern Kentucky Sue H. Burbridge wanted President Lincoln to hear her concerns even before he officially took office. On January 20, 1861 she wrote:

Dear Sir

The negros have taken up the notion, or rather it has been taught them by beggers and Gipsies, that as soon as you were elected they would all be free. They have commence their work of poisining and Incendiaryism. Now all I want to know is make them know it, so that they may go to work and wait until the next presidential Election to cut up again. I wish you would ask your Estimable Lady how she would like, "just as she gets a good cook for some stragling begger, peddler or fortune teller to come along and pursuade her that some one would give her higher wages on the other side of town. For God sake Dear Sir give us women some assurance that you will protect us, for we are the greatest Slaves in the South.


Sue H Burbridge

It is not known if Abraham Lincoln responded to this woman's fears or even if he read her letter. Knowing Lincoln I would not be surprised if he did both. Letters like this might be one of several reasons he treated the border slave states with kid gloves early in the war.

Her mention of gypsies and peddlers as the cause of trouble with slaves was a common concern among citizens of the slave states. Whether these traveling salesmen and wandering performers were responsible or not, they often drew the wrath of community members concerned with personal safety and maintaining their slaves as property. Peddlers were particularly targeted for vigilante harassment. Treatments of tar and feathers or a ride out of town on a rail were not rare. For the citizens of the slave states the law of self preservation remained primary to any rights bestowed by government and written laws.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Threat?

I found the above short note at the Library of Congress. It was sent to President Abraham Lincoln's friend, Kentuckian Joshua Speed, by Kentuckians Joshua F. Bullitt, Charles Ripley and W. E. Hughes and apparently was intended for both Speed and Lincoln, as it says "Care The Prest.," and appears in the Lincoln papers. It goes against my previous thinking that Kentuckians were not contemplating the possibility of emancipation in 1861. It reads:
"There is not a day to lose in disavowing emancipation or Kentucky is gone over the mill dam -"

This appears to be referring to the need for Lincoln and the Republican Party to proclaim that they did not plan to emancipate the slaves of the South and Border slave states in order to keep Kentucky from seceding. Was this a threat? It was sent on September 13, 1861, just days before Kentucky's brief attempt at neutrality ended. Lincoln had clearly stated in his first inaugural address that previous March that, "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." So, I am not so sure. Maybe they wanted another confirmation. It's not real clear to me.

I do know that Bullitt was later arrested by order of the Lincoln administration for conspiring to overthrow the government, so possibly it was a threat.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CW 150 at

The more I see the less I like the programming on History (formerly the History Channel). With shows like Ice Road Truckers and Swamp People, which have almost nothing to do with History per say, I have little reason to spend time on channel 46 of my basic expanded cable.

However, History has somewhat redeemed themselves in my eyes. Last week a teacher on our educator advisory board for the Kentucky Historical Society sent me a link that I had not previously seen on (History's web presence).

This website's designers have developed an excellent and interactive tool that I think both experts and novices, the young or the old, can learn from and enjoy.

On the homepage there are seven choices to learn about; Who They (soldiers) Were, Weapons of War, How They Died, 5 Deadliest Battles, Paying for the War, West Point Warriors, and Civil War topics, which offers another six sets of choices; Technology, Union, Confederate, Battles, Places/Events, and Culture. In these "topics" a number of options are available. For example, in Place/Events topics from Andersonville to West Virginia Statehood are covered; while in Culture, topics from Black Codes to Uncle Tom's Cabin are examined.

Take a few minutes to check it out at the link below:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Union War

It seems that Dr. Gary Gallagher's new book, The Union War is causing quite a stir among Civil War scholars. In the book Gallagher calls into question several historians' recent interpretations of the main motivation for the North fighting the war.

Naturally, my curiosity was peaked when I started seeing the reviews and comments, so I ordered a copy and made a quick read of it, which wasn't difficult in that, as with most of Gallagher's books, it is well written, and this one was relatively short (162 pages of text).

Here is the work's description that the book jacket provides:
"Even one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War - by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgement.

In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against the slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world's best hope for democracy.

Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union - goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won."

First, let me say that I think Gallagher is largely spot-on. Numerous relatively recent histories place emancipation as a motivation for the North fighting the war primary to union. I think to do this, is like Gallagher explains, anachronistic. Union was such a strong idea to most of the people of the United States before the war that the firing on Fort Sumter didn't cause the remaining four states to break away and join the Confederacy; it took Lincoln's call for 75,000 northern volunteers, and thus an expected invasion of the South by federal troops for Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee to sever their cherished bonds of union. And, still after secession, many people in those four states remained sympathetic to the Union cause.

The ideal that the Union offered to Northerners and the Border States brought forth a type of jihad - if that is not too strong of a word - that would not be complete until the Union was restored. The North was going to do everything it had to do in order to keep the country from splitting, and it had the men and means to do it.

All of this is not to say that slavery wasn't the precipitating factor that caused the war. The southern states seceded because they felt threated by a Republican president and thought their best chances of preserving the institution that was the backbone of their society and economy was to leave the Union. If the South had not seceded then the North would not have had reason to fight to keep the Union together; thus no war. It is my opinion that the majority of northern soldiers had little interest in ending slavery other than as a means of helping the Union win the war and restore the Union.

Where I think Gallagher maybe missed in his interpretation (unless I missed it) is at least mentioning that African Americans were active agents in causing the war. Largely it was not the slaves from the states that first seceded who ran away in the antebellum years, but rather those from the slave states that seceded last or not at all (Border States). But it was those Deep South states that cried foul when runaways were not returned, or when caught, put up a fight. Most of the famous rescues and publicized runaway episodes such as Anthony Burns (Virginia), Henry Box Brown (Virginia), John Price (Kentucky), Margaret Garner (Kentucky), Jermain Loguen (Tennessee), the Cynthiana Riot (Maryland), as well as the famous Frederick Douglass (Maryland), came from the upper-South states. But, it was South Carolina, Mississippi and others of the Deep South that claimed that the North was not holding up their part of the Constitution by returning fugitive slaves as a significant reason for breaking the bonds of union. So, in my opinion, the runaway African American slave was an active agent in bringing on the war, and thus an active agent in restoring the Union and ending his bondage.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Let Justice Be Done!"

To say the least 1864 was a difficult year for white Kentuckians. Their physical world was being torn apart by raiding guerrillas and their social world was being turned upside down as African Americans flocked to the Union army to enlist.

Not only was the Union army recruiting blacks to join their forces, they were also impressing slaves from both Unionist and Confederate owners. Often making those that didn't want to enlist serve anyway.

A short article appeared in the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth on March 4, 1864 under the headline, "Let Justice be Done!" explained the unfair treatment Unionist slaveholders felt they were receiving at the hands of the federal government.

"General [Stephen G.] Burbridge has issued an order extending to the impressment of negroes to other counties than those included in the order heretofore. Now, General, we think it decidedly wrong that the order includes the negroes of loyal as well as disloyal persons. Let the negroes of loyal persons remain with their owners, and impress only the negroes of the rebels and their sympathizers. The necessity of impressing negroes and other property alone rises from the rebellion, and the aiders and abettors of the rebellion are the ones from which the impressments should be made. Let justice be done the Union people, by letting their property alone. Let justice be done the rebels and those who give them aid and comfort, by taking their negroes and property for Government use."

This perceived injustice and hard-handedness toward the loyal people of Kentucky was one of several reasons that the commonwealth came to identify itself more with the Confederate cause after the shooting stopped. Like the people of the Confederate states that seceded over the Union's threats to slavery, those in the slaveholding border states too associated liberty with property, only they felt their best chances to remain slave owners was to stay in the Union, not leave it. The Emancipation Proclamation, although it technically did not effect them, started the slippery slope that ended the institution with the 13th amendment to the Constitution. Enlisting and impressing former slaves were just more nails in the institution's coffin.