Until Every Drop of Blood Is Paid: A More Radical American Civil War

Chapter 1: Lincoln and Liberty
  • Until every drop of blood is paid
    A more radical American Civil War

    By: Red_Galiray

    "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
    Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

    Chapter 1: Lincoln and Liberty
    Even though President Pierce was at first opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he caved to the southern pressure and vowed to make it a “test of Party Orthodoxy”. When his party passed the test and he signed the bill into law in May 30th, 1854, he probably believed that it would strengthen the position of his party and deal a fatal blow to the already divided Whig opposition. The Act indeed killed the Whig Party, which was irremediably split between its Northern and Southern factions. This coup de grace, the brainchild of the Illinois democrat Stephen A. Douglas, however also had negative consequences for the Democrat Party, for it did "create a deep-seated, intense, and ineradicable hatred of the institution [slavery] which will crush its political power, at all hazards, and at any cost", like the New York Times predicted.

    Anti-Nebraska meetings sprang up through the North, while Democratic politicians and voters who opposed the Act started to leave their party in favor of new anti-slavery coalitions that would eventually adopt the name of Republicans. This new party was ready to challenge the Slavocrats in the 1854 midterms. During the campaign season they proved to be a powerful opponent to the Democrats, going toe to toe or even defeating them in several pivotal and hard-fought battles. One of the fiercest was fought in Illinois, Douglas’ state.

    One especially eloquent campaigner was a lanky politician and prairie lawyer from the state who still identified as a Whig despite the collapse of the party. Abraham Lincoln had served in the state legislature and been elected for one term to Congress. During his time there, he protested the Mexican War and introduced plans for gradual abolition in the District of Columbia. A declared enemy of slavery but still a moderate with respect for southern rights, Lincoln hoped to be elected to the Senate to replace Senator Shields.

    Lincoln managed to get the support of most of the former Whigs and Free Soilers, but he was unable to convince the Anti-Nebraska Democrats, who wanted to elect one of their own. Lincoln decided that he needed to campaign more vigorously so that some seats of the Legislature could be won by members of the Republican coalition. One of the other contenders for the Senate seat, Lyman Trumbull, saw this with preoccupation. A lawyer like Lincoln, Trumbull was one of the Illinois’ most prominent anti-slavery men, and was now an Anti-Nebraska Democrat. Lincoln was making inroads with Northern Illinoisans through eloquent speeches.

    Abraham Lincoln

    Emulating his example, Trumbull went north and gave a speech in Chicago, where he reminded his audience of his record of defending African Americans from involuntary servitude and his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, harshly attacking the pro-slavery settlers. Unfortunately for Trumbull, his speech was heard by the farmer John J. Walker, a Kentuckian slaveowner who hoped to start anew in Kansas after failing miserably in his business enterprises. A man of no talent or prominence, with nothing but a slave and a small family, Walker went to Chicago hoping to borrow money from an uncle. But when he heard Trumbull’s speech, he was blinded with fury. Walker waited until Trumbull ended his speech and stepped down from the stump. Then he ambushed him with a revolver, and with three shots the Kentucky farmer murdered the Senate candidate.

    The murder of the moderate and respectable Trumbull by a lowly pro-slavery farmer caused fury and horror through the state, possibly deciding the race in favor of the Republican coalition which won 62 seats. The state elected Lincoln to the Senate, with many anti-Nebraska Democrats openly stating that Walker’s horrifying crime and Lincoln’s respectful obituary of his rival led them to decide in favor of ol’ Abe. And thus with his actions the Kentucky farmer helped to elect the Kentucky lawyer to the United States Senate.
    POD: Lyman Trumbull is murdered by a pro-slavery fanatic and Lincoln is elected to the Senate as a result. While in Washington, Lincoln broadens his horizons and his views evolve faster, leading to a more Radical Civil War.

    The Battle Cry of Freedom, the Civil War Era, by James M. McPherson.
    Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, by Eric Foner.
    The Road to Secession II, by William W. Freehling.
    The Fiery Trial, by Eric Foner.
    Team of Rivals, by Doris Goodwin.
    The Civil War, a Narrative, by Shelby Foote.
    McClellan's War, by Ethan S. Rafuse.
    Tried by War and Embattled Rebel, by James M. McPherson.
    What they fought for and For Cause and Comrades, by James M. McPherson.
    The Destructive War, by Charles Royster.
    The Fate of Liberty, by Mark E. Neely.
    Freedom National, by James Oakes.
    Reconstruction, America's unfinished revolution, by Eric Foner.
    Lincoln: A Biography, by David Herbert Donald.
    Grant, by Ron Chernow.
    Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, by William C. Davis.
    Disunion! The Coming of the Civil War, by Elizabeth R. Varon.
    The Impending Crisis, by David Potter.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 2: The Monstrous Injustice
  • Chapter 2: The Monstrous Injustice

    Newly elected Senator Abraham Lincoln travelled from his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, to Washington summed in deep contemplation. The demeanor of the politician was solemn, in fact, almost funeral. Well aware of political realities and facts, Lincoln recognized that Walker played a part in his triumph. Perhaps he wasn’t the main cause, but the point stood: Trumbull’s death had benefited him. Lincoln consequently took no joy on his victory. Instead, he was invaded by melancholy and pessimism. A slave-owner of Kentucky, the state where he was born, resorted to such terrible acts as murder to protect the “peculiar institution” of the South. Lincoln had always maintained his belief in the innate decency of the Southern people. If they engaged in slavery, it was because it was a part of their culture, of the world they knew. Northerners placed in the same reality would most likely also embrace the institution. But Walker’s acts planted a seed of doubt in his heart. Just how far would southerners go to defend slavery?

    The border ruffians of Missouri answered his question. Pouring into the Kansas territory to secure it for slavery, they weren’t above using violence. Free-Soilers responded to this new challenge of the Slavocracy by their own means, often just as violent as those of their enemies. But most of the nation’s interest was focused on the slavers’ desire to corrupt a “virgin territory”. Some were worried because they believed that competition with Blacks degraded White labor. Others, like Lincoln, because they believed in a pro-slavery conspiracy that sought to expand slavery to the entire country. “Bleeding Kansas” was the symbol of slavery’s corrupting influence and the necessity to fight back.

    The midterms had been a disaster for the Democrat Party, especially the Northern Democracy. The Senate was still under Southern control, but the House had an opposition majority. This coalition was formed of Republicans, Know-Nothings (or “Americans”) and Whigs who clung to their old party. This coalition was hardly united in anything except in their opposition to the extension of slavery. This division resulted in a bitter struggle for the position of Speaker of the House. Nathaniel Banks, a Know-Nothing and Free-Soiler, won after 133 ballots and two months, with a razor-thin margin of 3 votes.

    This did not augur well for the battle for Kansas, which became even bloodier. Kansas by that time had effectively two state governments, a pro-slavery one elected by fraudulent means at Lecompton and a free-soil government that reflected the views of the majority at Topeka. Violence continued to increase, with southerners openly demanding the use of force to conquer the territory for slavery. The Lecompton legislature passed laws forbidding criticism of slavery and setting the death penalty for those who defied the institution by instigating slave revolts or escapes. In the Spring of 1856 the Border Ruffians marched on Lawrence, an anti-slavery bastion, under orders to arrest members of the Topeka legislature that lived there for treason. The defenders of the city decided against resistance, and Lawrence was sacked.

    Sacking of Lawrence

    Both parties introduced bills for admitting Kansas, the Republicans under the Topeka convention and the Democrats under the Lecompton one. But neither bill could pass because each Chamber was controlled by a different party. Tensions increased even more after Congressman Preston Brooks brutally attacked Senator Charles Sumner. Sumner, an abolitionist from Massachusetts, had given a passionate if irreverent speech titled “The Crime against Kansas”. Without qualms about offending Southern sensibilities, Sumner attacked and attacked, even singling out individual people and states, such as South Carolina and her Senator Andrew Butler. This outrageous “libel” inspired the fury of Brooks, a cousin of Butler, who waited until after almost everyone had left the chambers of the Senate and then attacked Sumner with his cane. Sumner, trapped under his desk, was unable to defend himself, and was beaten until he passed out, covered in blood.

    Several Senators, including Senator Lincoln, attempted to stop Brooks’ assault, but fellow Congressman from South Carolina Laurence Keitt prevented this by brandishing a revolver. Lincoln, who in his youth had been a wrestler, tried anyway but was stopped when Keitt shot at the roof, threatening to then shot Lincoln himself. Brook’s finally stopped and Sumner was carried away. “Bleeding Sumner” thus joined “Bleeding Kansas”, and the images of Brooks beating Sumner and Keitt stopping Lincoln with his revolver were widely printed, and this horrified northern readers. “Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows and their horrifying threats, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?”, asked the New York Evening Post. More terrible to many was the Southern reaction of universal approval and praise. Brooks was seen as a hero for teaching a lesson to “the vulgar abolitionists”, and many sent him canes asking him to “hit them again”. For his part, Keitt received gifts as well, including a packet with 22 bullets – one for every Republican in the Senate. The packet also contained a note advising him to “not hesitate to shot Lincoln next time”, just like how “Walker didn’t hesitate to shot Trumbull”, for even if Lincoln was a moderate he should be regarded as an enemy for virtue of being a Black Republican Yankee.

    Lincoln was appalled for this call to violence. He had been willing to exclude Walker as an outlet, an extremist who was repudiated by the true moderate Southerners. But the unanimous approval of Brooks and Keitt shook his faith. When they were expulsed from the House by a vote largely opposed by Democrats, they were almost immediately elected back with triumphant majorities. But in Lincoln’s eyes the Northern abolitionist extremists weren’t much better, a case John Brown demonstrated. Furious due to Sumner’s canning, he kidnapped five pro-slavery settlers and killed them with broadswords in his neighborhood of Pottawatomie, Kansas. The massacre, Lincoln wrote a friend, showed that there were extremists on both sides, and that a solution had to be reached by constitutional and legal compromise.

    Canning of Charles Sumner

    The elections of 1856 offered an opportunity to achieve this great reformation. His own state of Illinois was shaping to be a battleground state. The assassination of Trumbull led to a solidification of Illinois’ Republican Party. Lincoln, in a letter to his friend Joshua Speed, said: “I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist…. I now do no more than oppose the extension of slavery.” This shows that Lincoln still considered himself a Whig to a certain point, but he recognized the need for a united anti-slavery front, even if it included people he didn’t agree with or even despised, such as the Know-Nothings. Decided to help the Illinois Republican Party grow, Lincoln assisted to a convention at Bloomington. There he played the role of a bridge between radicals such as Owen Lovejoy and moderates. The convention also appointed delegates to the Republican National Convention of 1856, among them Senator Lincoln.

    The Convention included radicals from New England and other Northern States, and opened to a proclamation that every man who “respects the immortal Declaration of Independence” hoped to see a day when “slavery shall not exist in the world”. The convention refuted the Administration, demanded the admission of Kansas as a free state and pledged to prohibit slavery in the territories. Lincoln and other delegates also drafted part of the plank calling for abolition in the District of Columbia. Lincoln’s original draft called for it to be done gradually, with compensation and with the consent of the residents of the District.

    The Convention proceeded to nominate John C. Frémont for president. Frémont, a romantic figure known as the Pathfinder of the West, was an outspoken slavery critic, but did not have a real political record to defend, which was an advantage in a party that sought to unite so many discordant factions. For his part, Lincoln supported Justice McLean from Ohio. But Frémont was a former democrat, so selecting a former Whig for vice-president was necessary. Lincoln was nominated by his state delegation, but despite being a Senator for almost two years and his participation in the Brooks-Sumner Affair, he was still largely unknown outside of Illinois. Yet Lincoln still received 230 votes to the eventual nominee’s 250. This strong showing cemented Lincoln as the leader of Illinois and a leading Midwest Republican. And the debates of the campaign season increased his national standing even more.

    John C. Frémont
    Last edited:
    Chapter 3: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men
  • Chapter 3: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men

    Lincoln and other Senators took advantage of the closing of the second session in August 30th to stump around with enthusiasm for their candidates and for Frémont. Chants of “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Men, Frémont!” inundated the North. The Republicans went into attack, launching a campaign with greater vigor and fervor than any other ever seen. A meeting in Buffalo declared that a Republican victory was necessary for instating a government of the people, not a government of an oligarchy. This oligarchy, they charged, sought to spread slavery and transform it into a national institution, a shared shame and curse that would forever subjugate the free-men of the North.

    The people responded to Republican oratory will equal enthusiasm. The atmosphere was electric. The election was the most contested and ebullient one since the 1840 election. Passions ran high, but the election wasn’t joyous. Rather, as an Indiana politician said, it was not characterized by effervescence “but a solemn earnestness that is almost painful”. Indeed, the necessity to fight back against the Slave Power was greater than ever, and the Republicans so focused on that sole issue that old positions such as tariffs, internal improvements and banks were forgotten. The Republicans continued their attacks against the Democracy through the entire North, conscious that a Solid North may earn them the Presidency.

    The Democrats counterattacked with equal ferocity and cheaper tactics. They appealed to the inherent racism of the American people, both Southerners and Northerners. The Republicans, they said, were the party of the Negro, of abolitionism, of slave-uprisings, chaos and societal collapse, of miscegenation and radical extremism. If you voted Republican, you would be inviting thousands of Blacks to the North, where they would be free to rape and corrupt the land. Many Republicans, including moderates such as Lincoln and conservatives like the Blairs, were forced onto the defensive. They stated that they were the real White Man’s Party, for they fought to contain slavery, thus preventing the spread of Negros from the South to the North. They fought to keep Kansas and other territories free of slavery, to protect the dignity and future of White labor.

    This message was sour to Abolitionist who considered that the Republicans were no better than the Democracy. The Democracy, for their part, faced internal divisions that threatened to overwhelm it. Pierce and Douglas both tried to obtain the nomination, and while they enjoyed support from Southerners thankful for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the fallout of the act sowed doubts among the Northern Democrats. James Buchanan, a man of political experience who remained apart from the whole debacle, was ultimately selected as the nominee after Pierce and Douglas withdrew. When juxtaposed with the colorful and romantic figure of Frémont, Buchanan seemed boring, but he was still the choice of the South and of Northerners terrified of the prospect of war. Indeed, threats of secession were the Democrats’ greatest weapon next to racism. Electing Frémont, they proclaimed, would be an intolerable insult that would force them out of the Union.

    James Buchanan

    Lincoln reiterated that he and his party had no intention to interfere with slavery where it already existed. The Illinois Senator returned to his state in a sort of tour that saw him giving speeches in many cities, until he finally arrived to Illinois. The State Republican Party wanted Lincoln to campaign for them, and exclusively in Illinois, a pivotal state. Lincoln delivered more than 100 speeches in Northern, Central and Southern Illinois. The northern counties were sure to be carried by Frémont, the southern ones by Buchanan; the decisive battle would be fought in the Center. The main obstacle to Republican hopes was the American Party, made of Know-Nothings who couldn’t embrace the Republican cause and Whigs who wouldn’t. The Party nominated former President Fillmore, and subtracted many votes from the Republicans. Lincoln achieved a significant victory by successfully convincing the Know-Nothings to create a Fusion Ticket, that would allot its votes to whomever gained the popular vote.

    Despite his efforts, carrying Illinois would still be an uphill battle. The Democratic Party enjoyed great power. None other than Stephen A. Douglas, leader of the Northern Democracy, hailed from the State. But this helped Lincoln rather than hinder him, for Douglas served as a natural foil that allowed Lincoln to exalt and build his Party. During the campaign, Lincoln followed Douglas, who also took to the streets for his Party. They eventually agreed to spar in several debates. The debates quickly gained National attention. They were seen as the ultimate battle between the Northern Democracy and the Republican Party.

    Lincoln presented moderate views and at the same time a harsh criticism of slavery as a monstrous injustice that had to be eradicated to allow progress, education and development. Douglas appealed to racism and prejudice, making it clear that the Republican Party threatened White Supremacy. The debates were a source of enthusiasm. Thousands lined to hear the words of two of America’s most celebrated and skilled orators. Many commented that the people seemed more excited to see Lincoln than to campaign for Frémont. Senator Lincoln was quickly becoming a celebrity, and many democrats took note, including Senator Seward, the most prominent Republican in the Upper North.

    Republican delegations poured to Illinois. Illinois was the state were the Republicans campaigned the hardest, next only to Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s strong performance made many believe that the state could be carried by Frémont. And Illinois and Pennsylvania, when added to the Upper North, would give Frémont the presidency. But many still didn’t know where Lincoln stood. Radicals accused him of being a Southern Sympathizer, and Moderates of being a Radical. This frustrated the Prairie Lawyer. Nonetheless, Lincoln was still open to the delegations, including a Radical one led by Owen Lovejoy and attended by Frederick Douglas. They questioned Lincoln on the topic of colonization specifically. To “colonize” the African-American Population was seen as a solution to the Black problem, and Lincoln often expressed affinity for the idea.

    Frederick Douglas

    Douglas and the Radicals, who supported civil rights, tried to convince Lincoln to come over to their side. The US was their home, and Black people weren’t made for tropical climate. To remove them from their home would be inhumane, as monstrous as slavery itself. Lincoln confessed to be surprised by the adamant resistance to the idea by the part of black communities. He always believed that they wanted to immigrate, because the US would always be hostile to them. Lincoln’s lack of contact with Black leaders before his election as Senator had done little to dispel this notion.

    Lovejoy, Douglas and the rest of the delegation left Springfield hopeful. Lovejoy had always defended Lincoln and his anti-slavery record. And though they hadn’t fully succeeded to change the Senator’s views, Lincoln started a gradual change, only advocating for colonization if Black people wanted it. During the debates, he often deflected the question by saying that the issue laid in the far way future. His insistence on gradual, compensated emancipation led credence to this claim.

    The famous debates, four in total, were won by Lincoln. At least so modern historians and voters thought. Lovejoy’s endorsement convinced the radicals, while, despite his shifting views and strong condemn of slavery, he was still seen as a moderate. The Fusion ticket carried Illinois by a thin margin. But this wasn’t enough, for Buchanan carried Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey along with a Solid South. Fillmore only carried Maryland.

    Despite this defeat, the Republicans had reasons to feel hopeful for the next election. The Upper North had chosen and voted for Frémont with a huge margin of 60% of the votes. The electoral victory in Illinois was also cause of celebration, for Illinois had heretofore been a reliably Republican state. Back when Lincoln was a state Senator many declared that they would first see one rise from the death than Illinois being Whig. The State had never elected a Whig Senator, Governor or President. But now, thanks to Lincoln’s effective campaign and political machine, it had elected all three of those. This victory increased Lincoln’s status, and made many consider him as a possible candidate who could carry the Lower North.

    Buchanan - 18 states carried with 45% of the popular vote and 163 electoral votes.
    Frémont - 12 states carried with 34% of the popular vote and 125 electoral votes.
    Fillmore - 1 state carried with 21% of the popular vote and 8 electoral votes.

    It also taught an important lesson: Republicans could win in 1860 if they managed to integrate the Nativists into their fold. The Know-Nothing ideology had been losing ground as slavery became more and more prominent. Democrats were seen as the party of Romanism (Catholicism) and Immigrants, and the party often dominated Irish and other immigrant communities. The exception was a handful of German Protestants who rejected slavery.

    The Know-Nothings had created their own Party, the American Party, and Fillmore was one of the most successful third-party candidates in history. But Fillmore was not a rabid Nativist, and most of his voters were simply moderates who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either main Party. And those were mostly southerners. The Northern Americans wanted to nominate Nathaniel P. Banks, but he withdrew his nomination and endorsed Frémont. In the following years the American Party and Nativism would effectively fade into the background. A subcurrent of nativism still ran through the Republican Party, leading to attacks such as the Republicans being the Party that “says a Negro is better than an Irishman”.

    Another source of hope was the rapid economic development of the mid-west. Illinois and other states were growing at a faster pace each year, becoming more connected with the Eastern States thanks to the railway. And most of that growth was in the northern, Republican counties. During the campaign, Lincoln had helped to build an Illinois Party Machine that would secure the region for the Republican Party in the next election.

    Though they had lost, Republican prospects were never brighter. And events during the next four years would bring about a complete social and political Revolution. The first of these events was the Dredd Scott decision, which once again galvanized the North.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 4: The Crime against Kansas
  • Chapter 4: The Crime Against Kansas

    The situation in Kansas briefly improved before the election of 1856. The Pierce administration, hitherto dormant and ineffectual, had suddenly jumped into action to keep Frémont away from the White House. The Crime against Kansas was a very effective campaign measure that carried the Republicans to their smashing victory in the 1854 mid-terms. Bleeding Kansas had smeared the reputation of the government, and it threatened to bring Buchanan down as well. In August, the territorial governor Wilson Shannon resigned, and Pierce appointed John W. Geary as his replacement. A commanding veteran of the Mexican War who had restored order in a California overwhelmed by the Gold Fever during his tenure as Mayor of San Francisco, Geary came into Kansas “carrying a Presidential candidate in his shoulders”. Using Federal troops, Geary stopped the violence that raged throughout the territory, closing the wound for the time being. The strategy worked, and Buchanan managed to win the presidency. But soon enough the gash opened and started to bleed again.

    The corrupt territorial legislature at Lecompton, which did not represent the free-soil majority in Kansas, ignored Geary’s pleads and called for a constitutional convention. It was clear that the legislators intended to rig the election, appointing pro-slavery sheriffs, commissioners, and judges, who could easily suppress the anti-slavery vote. Furthermore, they specified that the new Constitution would go into effect without a referendum. Geary denounced this “felon legislature” and vetoed the bill to call a convention, to no avail for they almost immediately passed it over the veto. The officials turned against him, and many border ruffians started to send almost daily dead threats. The situation was too much for him, especially because he could find no support on the lame-duck Pierce administration.

    Geary already had strong doubts about the Kansas slaveholders before his appointment, and he was appalled by the Border Ruffians’ intentions to force the territory to accept slavery. He was a Democrat and no friend of abolitionists, but still a firm believer in law and order. To deny the will of the majority would be criminal, unconstitutional and immoral. Geary considered resigning, but he ultimately decided against this, hoping that incoming President Buchanan could offer greater help. But Buchanan was more loyal to the South than to Geary. The President-elect, a Pennsylvania Yankee, believed that all the problems the Union was facing were the result of abolitionist agitation. What’s more, Buchanan felt indebted to the South, and Southerners, both moderates and fire-eaters, weren’t going to let him forget that he won mostly thanks to a Solid South. They demanded admission of Kansas as a Slave State.

    Geary placed himself at the center of the fight, and the increasing violence of the pro-slavery side eventually forced him to the Free-soil faction. These liberty fighters found in him someone to rally around. This only increased Border Ruffian animosity. It seemed that Geary was now only using his Federal Troops against them. Tensions increased until the Battle of Osawatomie. Thousands of Border Ruffians were ready to attack the free-soil city. Decided to not yield to another such humiliation as the Sacking of Lawrence, the Free-Soilers stood ready nearby. Geary declared the actions of the Border Ruffians were illegal, and proclaiming that his duty compelled him to stop them, he directed his troops to defend Osawatomie. The Border Ruffians were defeated and had to retreat, having lost five men. The Anti-Slavery men celebrated, but the celebrations were cut short when the recently inaugurated President Buchanan wired Geary, demanding his resignation.

    John White Geary

    News of the battle had quickly spread throughout the country. Southerners were inflamed by passions, and furious Senator and Congressmen demanded the court-martial of Governor Geary. Geary, they said, had committed a “monstrous injury” on the “honor, property and life of the Southern people”. He was but a “low criminal”, a “Black Republican abolitionist” hell-bent of stealing and murdering together with his rabble of “New-Englander fanatics”. “Blood has been spilt, our rights have been refused. We cannot, we must not accept a Union that sanctions the murderous intentions of that Yankee ruffian”, declared DeBow’s Review, a popular New Orleans newspaper. An outpour of support came from other Yankees. Governor Geary, “was simply enforcing the National laws against the actions of a felon group”, declared the New York Evening Post. Frederick Douglass supported his actions, arguing that “nothing would stop the evil, corrupting actions of the Slavocracy except decisive action”. Senator Lincoln wrote advocating a moderate position as usual, but he denounced Southern attempts to court-martial Geary as illegal obstructionism. Senator Seward decided to court Lincoln, by then a recognized leader of Midwestern Republicans. After a lengthy talk, Lincoln and almost all other Senate Republicans signed a resolution vowing to protect Geary against the action of the “illegitimate” Lecompton Legislature. This was especially necessary because the Legislature wanted to prosecute Geary for treason and anti-slavery agitations, actions punished by execution under their slave plank.

    This threat troubled Lincoln. The Slave Power was once again willing to punish and murder an innocent man to protect their beloved institution. Lincoln took to the stump and delivered a speech where he criticized Stephen A. Douglas’ doctrine of popular sovereignty. Douglas, he argued, was ignoring the vital issue. Slavery in a territory was not a question for the settlers only, it was a national question that had to be faced. Additionally, aside from the national ramifications, the doctrine itself was flawed for there was no consensus on whom decided whether to make the territory free or slave, opening the way for a minority to take control, through fraudulent means if necessary. The speech wasn’t revolutionary, for it only repeated views Lincoln had already expressed in other speeches. The true development was that Lincoln finally embraced the Republican doctrine of Freedom National. This doctrine held that the Federal Government should assail slavery and not allow it to exist in places under Federal control, such as forts, territories, and Washington D.C. The Government, Lincoln explained, had the express duty to advance only freedom and to place slavery in the course to extinction. If the Slave Power used the government to foment and nurture the institution, the government had become corrupt and a complete change was needed. Lincoln was basically articulating his belief that there existed a massive pro-slavery conspiracy. And this belief was strengthened by the actions of Lecompton.

    Buchanan at first intended to allow Geary to resign in peace. He even had his replacement ready: the Mississippian Robert J. Walker, who had served with Buchanan in Polk’s cabinet. But when the South learned of this they rose in uproar. “We are betrayed!”, many cried. “Mr. Buchanan’s administration went into power on southern votes, yet he shields treason and protects murder”, said Robert Toombs. The Border Ruffians who sieged Osawatomie became honest laborers, assaulted by Geary’s abolitionist hordes. They threatened to secede unless the administration prosecuted Geary for his alleged crimes. Buchanan bowed to the pressure and Geary was arrested. Free-Soilers stood ready to defend him, but he accepted his fate. But this wasn’t the end of the matter. An abolitionist mob broke Geary out from his prison in Lecompton and took him to Topeka. The legislators demanded Walker to pursue them using the Federal troops he had at his disposal. He obliged, but when he reached Topeka it was too late: Geary had been speeded away to Canada. Buchanan sought extradition, but it was denied. Furious pro-slavery settlers kidnapped 6 free-soilers and shot them in front of a ditch – one for every man they lost at Osawatomie plus one for Geary.

    Geary rose to the status of National Hero in the North, for facing the Southern slavers and not allowing himself to be swayed by Buchanan’s administration. “A manlier, more honorable act has never been performed”, exulted Salmon P. Chase. “Governor Geary’s actions are those of a true patriot”, said many editorials. “A direct blow against the slave power” wrote William L. Garrison. He was demonized by the South, which quickly found in Buchanan a scapegoat. “Negligent failure... dishonorable old man… double-faced Black Republican”, were some of the insults charged at the President. The situation didn’t improve when Southerners got word that Buchanan and Walker backed a referendum. “The President has appointed yet another traitor to the territory of Kansas, with the evident intention of destroying slave property and southern honor”, exclaimed Jefferson Davis in righteous fury. They once again threatened to secede, while Buchanan’s southern cabinet members turned against him.

    Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.

    Meanwhile, Walker called for another election in Kansas, which resulted in a smashing pro-slavery victory. But fraud was soon uncovered. Walker refused to sanction the Lecompton Convention or their Constitution, which enshrined slave property as sacred and prohibited amendment to repeal the institution. Due to an anti-slavery boycott, the Constitution only represented a fifth of the people of Kansas. It was sent to Congress immediately without a referendum, despite Walker’s pleads. However, Northern Democrat opposition made it impossible to gather enough votes. To appease the consciousness of their colleagues, Southern Democrats promised a referendum. But it was one without substance, for it only allowed voters to choose between a “Constitution with Slavery” and a “Constitution without Slavery”. But the later stated that slave property was inviolable, only forbidding further importation of slaves into the territory, an unenforceable order. Walker tried to sanction an anti-slavery Legislature, and he denounced the “vile fraud” of Lecompton. But he was met with a demand to resign from Buchanan, who was swayed by Southern threats.

    The reaction from Northern Senators and Congressmen was explosive. The South was exerting pression and coercing the President of the United States into doing their bidding. The Slave Power controlled the entire country, and the government was just a sham. Or at least so said Thaddeus Stevens. Even moderates such as Lincoln were appalled by this outreach. “We cannot present weakness in the face of this assault”, Lincoln told his secretary, “we must do something”. But it wasn’t the Republicans who did something. Instead it was the Northern Democrat Leader Stephen A. Douglas, who stormed into the White House. The Lecompton Constitution was but a fraud, a work of trickery that would destroy the Northern wing of the Democratic Party. It was a travesty of popular sovereignty that Douglas would oppose. Buchanan threated the Illinoisan, reminding him of the fate of the anti-Jacksonian congressmen: “"I desire you to remember that no Democrat ever yet differed from an administration of his own choice without being crushed.”. Douglas then reminded Buchanan that he was no Jackson.

    The Lecompton constitution was submitted to the voters. Fraud and free-soil boycotts ensured the victory of the Constitution with Slavery. The rival legislature at Topeka tried to submit its own referendum, but the Lecompton Legislature declared it to be illegal and deputized militia to arrest its members. They appealed to Walker, who decided to help them. “I can’t repudiate the example set by Geary”, he wrote, “he was the only true and brave man in all of Kansas”. A standoff that may well have become a second Osawatomie took place. The Border Ruffians ultimately left, while Walker certified the Topeka Legislature as the rightful law-making body of the Territory, before leaving, the second governor to be run off the state by border ruffians, and the fourth to fail to stop the bleeding in three years.

    The Topeka Legislature held a referendum where the voters rejected the entire Constitution almost unanimously. But it was too late. The Lecompton Constitution had been submitted by Buchanan to Congress. “Kansas is at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia or South Carolina”, the President said. Douglas led the opposition. He knew the South would never forgive him, and that put his presidential ambitions in peril, but approving the constitution would destroy the Northern Democracy. He, his faction and the Republicans joined together, vowing to oppose this to the very end. But they failed. The Senate quickly approved admission of Kansas. The real battle was fought in the House. Many Douglas Democrats joined their leader and voted with the Republicans against admission. But many more absented or fell into line. “We must not cave into the demands of the Black abolitionists”, said one Northern Democrat who bitterly remembered Geary and Osawatomie. “If we don’t act now”, said another, “the Black Republican legions will march and submit our Union into chaos”. By a vote of 118 in favor to 114 against, Kansas was admitted into the Union as a slave state in April, 1858.

    The North blazed with fury. The administration and the Democratic Party had pushed slavery down the throats of the Kansans, against their will. They had snubbed democracy and destroyed popular sovereignty. It was the greatest of insults. “We can no longer tolerate the heavy clutches of slavery!” Seward told a New York crowd. “I could do nothing but weep for our poor nation”, wrote a Massachusetts man. “I am disgusted by this farce. The Democratic Party must be destroyed”, said an Indiana lawyer. Senator Lincoln despaired. The South had used murder, fraud and threats to force the admission of Kansas. But there was a glimmer of hope. “The ballot box is the solution”, he told supporters in Illinois, “we must strike back against the Slave conspiracy that threatens to engulf our nation, so that we can take back the government and restore the ideals of the founders”. But privately he started to doubt if compromise would be enough. They hadn’t stopped at anything to instate slavery in Kansas. Would they stop to instate slavery in the entire nation? “We need action”, he finally told his wife, “we must not allow another fraudulent victory”. He then proceeded to enumerate the victims of the Slavocracy, starting by Dredd Scott, the star of the Supreme Court decision that caused furor in the North and sowed doubt in Lincoln in 1856.

    Dred Scott
    Last edited:
    Chapter 5: A House Divided
  • Chapter 5: A House Divided

    “The Supreme Court kept me from my Freedom”, Dred Scott would say after the dust settled. This dust rose as a result of the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, a notorious judicial case that shook his life and the entire nation.

    Dred Scott was the slave of an army surgeon named John Emerson, who took him to territories made free by the Missouri Compromise, and even Illinois. Scott married and had children in these free lands, before he was returned to Missouri in 1846. There his friends advised him to sue for his freedom. Freedom suits after residency in free territories and states were often presented, and often won. But the feverish atmosphere of sectional tension transformed this common process into a dramatic saga. Eventually, the decision reached the Supreme Court after eleven years of appeals and deliberation. By then Dred Scott the man had been forgotten in favor of Dred Scott, the ideal of freedom and the chance of ending the slavery question once and for all.

    This was Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s main objective. A Jacksonian Democrat who had once been a wealthy lawyer and planter, the old jurist was now eighty years old, and alone, for he had lost his wife and friends. He had liberated his slaves, and privately believed that the total power masters exercised over their slaves was morally wrong. But the Marylander’s love for the South and his hate of Yankee arrogance and meddling superseded these concerns. He and many Democrats believed that the Supreme Court could easily settle this explosive issue. “Judicial statesmanship” would finally put the question to rest under terms favorable to the South. Or at least this was what influential people such as Alexander Stephens expected and hoped. The Court, after all, had a Democratic majority of 7, and a Southern majority of 5.

    Buchanan also hoped to answer the slavery question before it could cripple his administration, like it had crippled Pierce’s. At first, it seemed that the Court would not do so though. The Justices favored upholding a previous decision, Strader v. Graham, which upheld that slaves taken to Free States weren’t freed. This would bypass all the other issues, such as Black citizenship, and Congress’ power to prohibit slavery in the territories. This last one was especially problematic to southerners, and the Court’s weren’t the exception. Aside from the Virginian Peter Daniel, a fiery defender of the institution that threatened secession, the Justices had liberated their slaves or left them to their own devices on a state of pseudo freedom. Alabama’s Campbell committed heresy by pushing for recognition of Black marriage and limiting a master’s control over his property, while Georgia’s Wayne promoted colonization efforts. But they, too, hated Yankee interference. If slavery was to be abolished, it had to be abolished slowly and by the South, not by the Black Republicans in Congress.

    Roger B. Taney

    Still, engaging these questions was dangerous. Thus, they were contented with writing only a limited ruling. The author would be the Democrat Samuel Nelson from New York. But eventually they decided that the questions had to be engaged and tamed, especially after the only non-Democratic justices, two Whig appointees, one of whom had converted to Republicanism and other who would do so in the future, decided to write a dissent. This dissent would be the Court’s only statement, and that statement would uphold Black citizenship and Congress’ power. Taney would not stand by this. Consequently, he wrote his own opinion representing the Southern majority of the Court. But this movement could easily backfire. Republicans, including influential ones such as Senators Lincoln and Seward, already charged that a slave conspiracy existed. These cries would only grow louder if the decision was only backed by Southern Justices. One of the two Northern Democrats, Grier or Nelson, had to be convinced to concur with the majority. Nelson refused, but Grier was more promising. Enter the President-elect, James Buchanan.

    The anxious future Head of State wrote his fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, telling him that an opinion about slavery in the territories would be desirable. Grier at first seemed willing to go along with Taney. But events in Kansas changed his opinion. Grier was no free thinker, and he felt compelled to follow his future president. Nonetheless, he was troubled by Kansas and the action of the Lecompton Legislature, especially the dramatic persecution and flight of Geary after Osawatomie. Justice Grier remained inert during weeks, despite Justice Carron and Buchanan’s pressure. Inauguration day came, and suspicious onlookers such as Seward witnessed “whisperings” between Buchanan and Taney, and then between Buchanan and Grier.

    Grier finally cracked under the pressure, but not in the way his Southern compatriots hoped he would. Instead of joining them, he simply stayed out of the whole affair, omitting no opinion at all. He originally had believed that in the face of Buchanan’s intervention, the President would take the blame if the decision proved unpopular. But events in Kansas convinced Grier that he would be the one that took the blame as the only Northerner who agreed with the decision, and that the negative reaction would be overwhelming. As a result, the majority decision was emitted by five Southern Justices, with two Republicans dissenting, the Northern Democrat Nelson upholding Strader, and Grier not writing an opinion at all.

    Taney wrote the opinion of the majority. He wasn’t the best option for doing this. Taney was respected as an old jurist, but he was not loved. Most Whigs and Republicans saw him as a relic of a bygone era, a fossil in body and mind who presented the greatest challenge to their platform of internal improvements and “national freedom”. The Chief Justice first tackled whether Dred Scott was a citizen, and whether he could sue in national courts at all. He devoted a great amount of ink to this issue, concluding that Blacks had not been included in the “We the people” that formed the US government, and neither were they part of the “all men” that Jefferson declared equal. McLean and Curtis, the Northern dissenters, argued that Black people had voted and taken part in the electoral process that chose the delegates that drafted the Constitution and the state conventions that approved them. Taney in turn asserted that that was a matter of state citizenship, and the question at hand was national citizenship. Directly contradicting Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, he also stated that citizens of one state may not have the same rights in other states.

    Robert C. Grier

    Taney found greater support in the next part of his ruling: that residency in free territories and states did not make Scott free. Nelson joined him this time, and the six Justices claimed that the Constitution did not give Congress the power to ban or limit slavery in the territories. Doing this would be seizure of property without due process. The clauses about “needful rules and regulations” were inconsequential, for rules and regulations were not laws. And precedent was also ignored, including the Northwest Ordinance that made the old Northwest free, an ordinance passed while the great majority of the Founders were alive, and often with their blessing. Furthermore, if Congress could not ban slavery, neither could a Territorial Legislature, which was after all just a creation of Congress. This part of the ruling treated with an especially sore subject for Southerners, who saw Northern attempts to limit slavery as a haughty assertion of superiority that told the South that she was inferior and that her right of property didn’t need to be respected. Now with his ruling Taney had enforced this right, and given popular sovereignty a powerful coup de main. This, however, has often been considered obiter dictum, a ruling outside of the scope of the case.

    Either way, the ruling had been issued and Southerners had cause for celebration. The decision was "the funeral sermon of Black Republicanism… crushing and annihilating... the anti-slavery platform... at a single blow." "Southern opinion upon the subject of Southern slavery... is now the supreme law of the land" gloated others. But the abolitionists weren’t crushed, and they weren’t willing to “cheerfully submit” to the decision, like Buchanan had wanted when he talked about the case in his inaugural address. William Cullen Bryant denounced it as legalizing slavery in the entire nation, transforming it into a common national shame and perverting Old Glory, making her the flag of slavery. Republican State Legislatures passed resolutions declaring that the ruling was not “binding in law and conscience”. It was but a “gross historical perversion” that rested on falsehood. It was entitled to as much recognition as any group of men sitting in a Washington bar, according to the New York Evening Post. The decision was nothing but obiter dictum, which explained Republican refusal to accept it. They promised to reconstitute the Court once they won the White House, so that “1860 will mark an era kindred with that of 1776”.

    Senator Lincoln employed his gift of oratory to attack the decision. He called it a “burlesque upon judicial decisions”, so wrong that it could not be seen as “settled doctrine for the country”. He, much like he did in 1856, confronted his fellow Senator from Illinois Stephen A. Douglas, refuting his position that the Constitution was for white men. Though Republicans did not seek perfect equality as it was often charged, Black men had been part of the political body in 1776, and people who denied this such as Douglas and Taney were willfully misinterpreting the Constitution and leaving it “torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it”. Here Lincoln introduced an important principle: all men were created equal, but they were not equal in all respects. There were differences in intellect and morality, but all men were still entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. These natural rights should not and could not be negated. And though achieving a situation were all men enjoyed them was difficult at the present time if not impossible, the entire nation should always labor to accomplish this ideal. But, Southerners and their allies had worked tirelessly to prevent this, by creating a Slave Power conspiracy that sought to enlarge that injustice known as slavery. Maybe there wasn’t a conspiracy, "But when we see a lot of framed timbers… which we know have been gotten out at different times and places by different workmen—Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance—and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house… we find it impossible to not believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James… all worked upon a common plan".

    Senator Seward made a similar accusation, citing the whisperings he had seen. "the judges, without even exchanging their silken robes for courtiers' gowns, paid their salutations to the President, in the Executive palace. Doubtlessly the President received them as graciously as Charles I did the judges who had, at his instance, subverted the statutes of English liberty". Democrats denounced these accusations by the two “Northern doughfaces” as unfunded libel and slander. But it hit too close to home for Buchanan, who despite many letters had ultimately failed to convince Grier. He was now reaping the bitter fruit of the failure – the North was outraged by the decision, one made by Southerners, for Southerners. Some people said that Northern outrage was self-righteous and insulting, because Southern Judges had as much capacity and right to write opinion and make judgements as Northern Judges did. Nonetheless, it still was powerful fuel for the furious fire that engulfed their section of the country.

    William Cullen Bryant

    The electoral campaign of 1858 was starting, and Lincoln returned to his state to assume the leadership of the Republican party machine that set off to take Douglas’ Senate seat. By then the Kansas debacle had added more fuel to the fire. In one of his first speeches of the season, Lincoln reminded his audience of the Slavocracy’s designs: "We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State". Now was the time for action, the time to give the coup de grace to the weakened Northern Democracy. “A House divided against itself cannot stand”, said Lincoln, "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free”. If the proponents of slavery were fighting with more vigor every day to ensure slavery becomes a national shame, it was time to stand like men and “place it in the course of ultimate extinction”.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 6: The Slavocrat Giant he slew
  • Chapter 6: The Slavocrat Giant he slew

    The 1854 mid-terms were, without a doubt, a disaster for the Northern Democracy, and a great boom for the recently born Republican Party. But the Democrats rebounded in 1856, and now controlled Congress and the White House. But 1858 promised a new disaster. Dred Scott and the Kansas debacle had galvanized the North. Even the most moderate and conservative men of the North weren’t willing to forgive the Democrats for forcing slavery in Kansas. The first sign of their new resolve to fight was in Minnesota. An enabling act had allowed the state to draw a state constitution and petition for statehood. This event had been marked by a fight of its own between Republicans and Democrats who created their own constitutions. But the Kansas struggle had sidelined this. The Republicans of Minnesota, however, saw their chance and took it. By convincing the people of Minnesota that the Democrats would force slavery down their throats if they won, they achieved an electoral victory, for even if the Democrats there hadn’t had anything to do with Kansas, they were still responsible for virtue of their party. Republicans this time forfeited the moral high ground and freely used cheap tactics, such as racial fearmongering and even fraud. Many Republicans in the Northwest and East were worried about this, but ultimately, they decided to uphold the old principle of “an eye for an eye” – if the Democrats were allowed to use fraud to ensure bondage, using fraud to ensure liberty was noble and necessary. The Senate had already passed Minnesota statehood, a move Northern and Southern Democrats thought would help Kansas pass. It then passed the House with Northern Democratic support. This was an attempt to maintain the balance, since there was a new free state and a new slave state. But much to the Democrats’ dismay the Republicans in Minnesota took control and sent two Republican Senators to Congress.

    Oregon would in 1859 gain statehood in a less dramatic fight. The new state sent two Democratic Senators. But this wasn’t so much because Republicans didn’t want to fight than because they were fighting elsewhere, in Kansas. Kansas statehood had affirmed Lecompton as the capital, and its legislature as the rightful territorial government, but the rival legislature at Topeka refused to yield. The Free-Soilers did everything in their power to overcome the Slaver’s voter suppression and fraud. This was a daunting task, because the Lecompton Legislature retained its skill when it came to fraud. But Republicans now had their backs, and investigation after investigation uncovered these attempts. Northern Democrats saw the writing in the wall, and tried to minimize damage by supporting the Republicans, much to the South’s dismay. The result was a brooked legislature that failed to elect anyone to the Senate for almost a year, before it gathered enough strength to send two Democrats there (one of whom, betraying the legislature, would become a Douglas man in 1859). A wave of outrage came from the South, but Republicans stood firm. But the greatest outrage was against Douglas and his “traitor crew”. If the Republicans had managed to “overthrow the legitimate government of Minnesota” and “deny her just rights to the duly approved government of Kansas”, it was because Douglas had helped then.

    Douglas had been greatly troubled when he rallied his men to opposition of Kansas' admission. He had presidential ambitions, and he needed the South's support to win the nomination because the Party required 2/3 of the votes of the Convention. Approving Kansas would destroy the Northern Democracy, thus making a nomination worthless. Consequently, the choice was clear. Many congratulated Douglas. Even former foes now held him in an altar as a man of value and principle. "You have chosen the only rute that can save the Northern Democracy" exulted a constituent. "With your support, the right will triumph", said another. But the right didn't triumph, and Kansas had been admitted as a slave state. Outrage against the Democrats was palpable everywhere in the North, and Douglas was now vilified by Republicans again, and now also by Southern Democrats who saw him as no better than a Black Republican. Perhaps worse, because he was also a traitor. They vowed to annihilate him, to attack him and hang his "rotten political corpse". It was clear that no Democrat could win an election in the North, and Douglas himself was more than vulnerable, for he was up for reelection. The news that Senator Lincoln would head to Illinois to campaign against him further aggravated his fears of losing. Only one course of action seemed possible. He had to create a new Party

    Douglas called for a convention of the Northern Democratic. He held it in Illinois. There the delegates condemned the Kansas’ debacle; upheld the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty while making it clear that whatever happened in the territory was not popular sovereignty at all; and above all presented themselves as the only national party, the only party of Union. The Republicans were abolitionist mobs who would bring ruin, the Southern Democrats were pro-slavery fanatics who didn’t respect the constitution. But Douglas and his men were the answer, the only men who would prevent civil war and the also the disaster of Negro equality. The new National Union Party had been founded. This came as a result of fury against the South by the former Northern Democrats who now envisioned Civil War and political disaster. “The Northern Democracy… are unwilling to submit themselves to assassination or to commit suicide”, reported a newspaper. "We cannot recede from [popular sovereignty] without personal dishonor," said a Douglas Democrat from Ohio, "never, never, never, so help us God”. "I never heard Abolitionists talk more uncharitably and rancorously of the people of the South than the Douglas men," wrote a reporter. "They say they do not care a damn where the South goes…”. The breach that had separated the two sides of the party simple couldn’t be healed.

    William L. Yancey

    The move was both condemned and ridiculed. Douglas’ statement that his was the only national party was ridiculous. The only thing he had done was “hiding the slaver wolf under the guise of a constitutional sheep”. He still could not be trusted, or at least so thought many Northerners. The South reacted with major fury. The "Demagogue of Illinois," explained an Alabama editor, "deserves to perish upon the gibbet of Democratic condemnation”. Douglas was a revolutionary traitor. “At least the Black Republicans charge at you directly”, said Alexander Stevens, “Douglas sneaks behind and buries the black knife on our back”. “We have never infringed the rights of the North!”, claimed the fire-eater Yancey, “Ours is the property at stake! Ours is the honor to lose!”. This led to the start of internecine Democratic warfare between the National Union and pro-Buchanan administration democrats. The fight decimated the Democratic Political Machine in New York, allowing the Seward faction to take over. But another political machine was running like a well-oiled engine: Lincoln’s Republicans in Illinois.

    Senator Lincoln was decided to strike “while the iron is hot”. If they managed to unseat Douglas, the Northern Democracy would perish. And then a Solid North could carry the Republicans to the White House. His Republican Convention, also scheduled to take place in Illinois, upheld moderate Republican principles, such as their intent to “reconstruct” the Courts to reverse the Dred Scott decision; ban slavery from the territories; and enforce political but not social equality. The convention proclaimed views widely held by most Republicans in 1858, but just 4 years earlier those views would have seemed to be radical. Lincoln also endorsed for the first time abolition in the District of Columbia (he still endorsed compensation though) and didn’t make a single mention of colonizing the Black population. The Senator’s views had been evolving just as the views of the entire nation did. And now he prepared to give the coup de grace to Douglas, by challenging him to several debates.

    Back in 1856 Lincoln and Douglas had already sparred in several famous debates, four in total. Lincoln had won, and Frémont carried Illinois. But now the stakes seemed higher. If Douglas lost, he would lose his seat. Furthermore, he would appear weak and Lincoln would be strengthened and glorified as the man who destroyed his National Union before it had even properly started. But refusing to debate would demoralize and destroy the Democratic Party in Illinois. Lincoln had thrown the gauntlet at him, and seeing no other option, Douglas took it and accepted his challenge.

    Matching the rising tensions, the debates were greater in number this time. There were eight debates in total. One politician would open and speak for an hour. The other would then speak an hour and a half. Finally, the first would close with a statement of half an hour. Each opened in four debates. The man who opened would have the advantage, since he could force his opponent to spend his time defending vulnerable positions. "When you see Abe at Freeport, for God's sake tell him to 'Charge Chester! charge!'… We must not be parrying all the while. We want the deadliest thrusts. Let us see blood follow any time he closes a sentence”, said a journalist in a letter to one of Lincoln’s associates. Lincoln’s main argument was that Douglas and his Democrats had departed from the Founders and was trying to perpetuate and nationalize slavery, eradicating the love of reason and liberty. The fact that he had founded a new party was meaningless, it was the same old tired Democratic standard under a new guise, and if elected they would at best allow evil to triumph, and at worst assist it. Then he dropped his most powerful question: Could the settlers of any territory outlaw slavery? “Our David has slew Goliath!” gloated a reporter upon hearing the question. Douglas tried to say “yes”, because without the rules needed to protect slavery it simply couldn’t exist. But this wasn’t enough this time – Kansas had shown that it didn’t matter what the settlers thought, the South would still force slavery down their throats.

    Lincoln-Douglas Debates

    Douglas also attacked, his tactics appealing to racism and prejudice. Lincoln was a Black abolitionist who would liberate the slaves, allow them to submit the South in fire and brimstone and then bring the Negroes to Illinois. He also focused on the differences between the National Union and the Democratic Party, and the fact that unless both were stopped the result would be "warfare between the North and the South, to be carried on with ruthless vengeance, until the one section or the other shall be driven to the wall and become the victim of the rapacity of the other." But his main strategy remained pushing the race issue forward. "The signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro... or any other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of men”, he proclaimed in one debate. In another he asked of the crowd "Are you in favor of conferring upon the negro the rights and privileges of citizenship? ('No, no.') Do you desire to strike out of our State Constitution that clause which keeps slaves and free negroes out of the State… in order that when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred thousand emancipated slaves into Illinois, to become citizens and voters on an equality with yourselves? ('Never,' 'no.')… If you desire to allow them to come into the State and settle with the white man, if you desire them to vote… then support Mr. Lincoln and the Black Republican party, who are in favor of the citizenship of the negro. ('Never, never.')”

    This “demagogism” was exasperating to Lincoln. Nonetheless, he continued to defend the political equality of Black people, while he asserted that he didn’t seek social equality. "I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily have her for a wife. (Cheers and laughter)". He clearly spelled his beliefs later in a more serious statement: "I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social equality of the white and black races, (applause)—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people” [1]. But he maintained his belief that there existed certain natural rights that couldn’t be denied, no matter the race, and that in that respect Black people were equal. For example, whether the Black man was morally or intellectually equal to the White man, "in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. (Great applause.)". Douglas continued to hit him by asserting that Lincoln had no plan to bring slavery to an end. After all, Lincoln had several times states that he would intervene with slavery where it already existed. Consequently, how would he place it in the route to extinction? Lincoln answered that, once it was limited, and in its due time, it would disappear. But the important issue was slavery at the present time, and accepting it as morally wrong and fighting against it.

    "That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles— right and wrong—throughout the world... from the beginning of time... The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings... No matter in what shape it comes, whether from a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle”.

    Most voters, and most historians, concluded that Lincoln had won the debates. His Republicans, aided by state redistricting that reflected the greater growth of the Northern counties, earned a majority in the Legislature. Lincoln, as the Republican leader, was the one who would select the official candidate. The Party had been so focused on Lincoln and his rivalry with Douglas that they had payed little mind to who exactly would replace the Little Giant. Either way, they knew that Lincoln would gather more excitement and votes than anyone they could have put forth, and that Lincoln was the only one skilled enough in oratory to challenge Douglas. Owen Lovejoy, more radical than Lincoln but still not as radical as the Easterners, was selected. He was one of Lincoln’s most loyal and stalwart friends, and had been an essential part of Lincoln’s campaign in 1854. He was quickly accepted and sent to the Senate. Douglas, for his part, returned home to mourn his Party and his nation.

    This mourning was more than justified. The 1858 mid-terms had been an even greater disaster. In the Senate, the Republicans won the two Minnesota seats, and seats in Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Democratic and National Union struggles allowed Know-Nothings to keep their four seats. The two Know-Nothings up for reelection, John Bell and John Breckenridge, were old Whigs who, after initially deciding to retire, remained in the Senate decided to prevent Civil War and disunion, and most closely resembled the National Union men. In total, the Republicans won 7 seats, for a total of 27 seats. The Democrats lost 6 seats, but they kept the majority with 36 seats. But 7 of them were National Union Senators, a Senator from California, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey each, who left the Party together with Douglas. Thus, in practice no Party had the majority but the South controlled the Senate with a plurality,

    Red - Republican, 28 seats.
    Blue - Democrat, 29 seats.
    Purple - American, 4 seats.
    Cyan - National Union, 7 seats.
    The House was the greatest disaster. Despite their attempt at rebranding, the Northern Democratic Party was decimated, going from 49 to 21 seats[2]. The Republicans now had the advantage in the Lower North, having more Congressmen and around 55% of the popular vote. In the White House, President Buchanan dined with some friends when the telegrams came. "We had a merry time of it," wrote the president next day, "laughing among other things over our crushing defeat. It is so great that it is almost absurd”. The National Union seemingly died stillborn. Now it was time to attack the Southern Democracy. But before the Republicans could give them a political hit, John Brown decided to strike.
    [1] IOTL, Lincoln also said he didn't favor "political equality", and ended by saying that he beliefs that the races can never coexist peacefully.
    [2] ITOL, John Bell and John Breckenridge retired and Democrats won their seats. Also, Minnesota appointed two Democrats to the Senate at first. Later one of them was defeated for reelection by a Republican. The seat distribution in the Senate was 38 Democrats, 25 Republicans and 2 Know-Nothings. Finally, in the House IOTL, the Democratic Party went from 52 to 36 seats.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 7: John Brown's Last Raid
  • Chapter 7: John Brown's Last Raid

    John Brown styled himself after the Biblical warriors of old. His God was the one of the Old Testament: unfettered, cruel and merciless with those who offended Him. And in John Brown’s eyes slavery was a sin that had to be cleansed by fire if necessary. And if that fire was to be the fire of slave rebellion and armed uprising, so be it. Unlike most abolitionists who believed in reforming the South slowly and by constitutional means, John Brown wanted to burn it to the ground and build freedom in the ashes. Pacifism and lack of action frustrated him and many others. “Talk! Talk! Talk! That will never free the slaves. What is needed is action—action”, he said after attending an anti-slavery meeting in New England. Frederick Douglass, who had once claimed that he wouldn’t shed a single drop of blood even if it meant slave liberation, advocated violent means after the Fugitive Slave Act was signed into law: "The only way to make the fugitive slave law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers”.

    Kansas proved to be the most effective way of converting pacifist into men of action. When the Slave power "begins to march its conquering bands into [Kansas]… I and ten thousand other peace men are not only ready to have it repulsed with violence, but pursued even unto death with violence”, boldly declared Gerrit Smith, vice-president of the American Peace Society. Governor Geary had himself been a convert: he was originally a Democrat who opposed the abolitionists and when he left, fleeing from the Lecompton Legislature, he had become a fiery Free-Soiler who used force to stop the Border Ruffians. The outrage and humiliation the admission of Kansas as a slave state provoked only led to further bloodshed, as resolved abolitionists decided to strike with vigor and fury. John Brown and his sons led a raid into Missouri, where he kidnapped a slave owner, his two sons and two guests. He executed them all, using broadswords again, perhaps to remind them of his previous massacre. Brown didn’t care that the guests didn’t hold any slaves. The incident unleashed a wave of panic throughout Missouri, which feared incursions by other Yankee murderers, ready to spill their blood. Even people who didn’t care for slavery felt fear – after all, Brown hadn’t spared the men without slaves. He and his Black Republicans, fueled by a terrible hate for the South, would execute them all if they didn’t act.

    John Brown

    But before Missouri or any other state could do anything, John Brown struck. Decided to take the fight to the very heart of slavery, and inspired by the fugitive slaves known as Maroons who could hold out in mountains against professional soldiers, Brown planned to attack the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry. His plan was to take the 10,000 muskets the armory held, and use them to arm the slaves who would flock to his banner. He spent a long time preparing for his raid. He contracted the Englishman Hugh Forbes, a mercenary who had served with Garibaldi in Italy. Forbes demanded more money to train Brown’s “troops”, money Brown eventually supplied after a wealthy donor, horrified by the Dred Scott decision, contacted him. Forbes trained this liberator army in Chatham, a community of freed slaves in Canada. He, 20 white followers and almost 50 blacks, drafted a “provisional constitution” for the Republic he would establish in the mountains and elected Brown as commander in-chief.

    Brown had the help of a group that came to be known as the Secret Six. The group included Samuel Gridley Howe (the donor), Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, George Luther Stearns, Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Gerrit Smith. All were men of standing and reputation, and also fierce abolitionists who agreed with Brown’s attempt to strike against slavery in the very heart of the hated institution. Higginson, for example, believed that slavery "is destined, as it began in blood, so to end. Never in history was there an oppressed people who were set free by others”. These white men were perhaps unconscious of their position as white saviors. Some 32 white men would also join Brown during the fateful day. Their motivations varied, but they all had a common theme: outrage against the Slave Power. Whether the Fugitive Slave Act, Kansas, Dredd Scott, or Lecompton were the cause, slavery was always behind.

    Brown was less successful when it came to recruiting Black people. Harriet Tubman, famous for her daring rescues of slaves as part of the Underground Railroad, helped him recruit men and raise supplies, but was ultimately unable to help him in the raid itself due to sickness. Frederick Douglass plainly refused to help Brown. To attack the Federal Government was nothing but suicide in his eyes. Brown “will never get out alive”, Douglass warned.

    In March 8th, 1859, John Brown attacked. He had around 60 men with him, a mix of 32 whites, 20 free blacks, 5 freed slaves and only 3 fugitives. The party was pathetically small, but most were veterans of Bleeding Kansas that had been trained for months by Forbes. They were based in a little cabin in Maryland, separated from the Armory by the Potomac. After spending several weeks scouting escape routes and getting informants to the nearby plantations, Brown was ready. But an odd kind of defeatism seemed to overcome him. Perhaps it’s because he realized the low chances the enterprise had of succeeding. Most slaves were unwilling to join his ranks. Some even threatened to denounce him to the authorities. And Harpers Ferry would not be easy to defend, being located in a peninsula formed by the Potomac and the Shenandoah, with high ground overlooking it on all sides. He wrote a ”Vindication of the Invasion” in past tense, a sort of funeral sermon for his raid.

    Harriet Tubman

    Brown and his men overwhelmed the single guard who patrolled the Armory, and then sent several scouts to the nearby plantations. Only a couple dozen slaves joined his rebellion. They also brought several white hostages, and stopped the midnight train. By the following morning, Virginia and Maryland militia were already converging in Harpers Ferry. Brown’s men managed to kill only 6 US Marines and Militiamen. His forces suffered more, losing more than 15 men. Another 15 deserted him. Brown and his men escaped to the mountains. Colonel Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Marines, was unable to catch Brown, who led by a fugitive slave who knew his way through the mountains, was able to get to safety. Lee did capture around 19 stragglers and slaves, including Brown’s sons, but the man himself had seemingly vanished.

    Old Virginny trembled for around a week before Brown was captured. He had planned to go south and try again in Tennessee, but he was badly wounded and his men deserted him in droves. He was forced to ask help from a farmer, who called the Militia. It quickly apprehended Brown and the 12 diehards who were still with him. In the meantime, militiamen and mobs patrolled Virginia. The mobs clamored for Brown’s blood. Passions and fear ran high as everyone was gripped by panic. Ten civilians who resided in Harpers Ferry had been killed, ten innocents. Except for two, they didn’t even own slaves. The Black Republican Legions had arrived, and they were as bloodthirsty as thought. And those Black Abolitionists were now in control of Congress.

    The State quickly processed and convicted John Brown, condemning him to execution by hanging for treason, armed rebellion and murder. He was hanged the following month, in April 27th. Eight of his supporters would be hanged in May. The trials of the remaining four took longer than expected, and a mob ended up breaking them out and lynching them in June. The State Militia also captured John Brown’s cabin and found several folders full of documents that implicated the Secret Six. Parker, dying of tuberculosis, and Higginson stood their ground. The others panicked and fled to Canada. The Senate would establish a committee for investigating the matter, a matter that caused self-righteous fury in the South. “The men of the North are always parroting about the supposed Slave Power”, declared a South Carolina newspaper, “but the truth is that the only conspiracy is one by the Northern States to subvert our freedom and make us the slaves of the Negroes”.

    The Raid on Harpers Ferry

    Hostility only increased when some Senate Republicans expressed some concerns about appointing Senator James Mason of Virginia as chair of the committee. Calling back to the example of John Adams, they asked for a fair trial for the Secret Six, and Mason, who after the raid started to denounce a Northern conspiracy, was probably not the man. National Union, American and Democratic Senators joined and appointed Mason, who called several men to testify. But his committee was unskilled and unable to get an indictment. Southern anger only increased, with many denouncing the whole affair as a Northern attempt to shield treason and murder.

    But it was John Brown himself who caused the most controversy, the repercussions of his actions echoing for years to come.
    AN: I wanted to focus on the raid itself on this update. The raid, as you can imagine, had a much greater effect in terms of public opinion, so a whole update will be dedicated to discussing how it impacted the Slavery question. Changes respect to OTL are: 1) an earlier raid because IOTL Forbes didn't get his payment and threatened to denounce Brown to the government. Since he gets paid ITTL, he doesn't and the raid takes place earlier and with more resources. 2) Brown enjoys more success, being able to evade capture for a week instead of being captured in less than 36 hours.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 8: His soul is marching on
  • Chapter 8: His soul is marching on

    Reactions to John Brown’s last raid on Harpers Ferry differed on the North and the South. In both sections the people went through two different faces: terror and then indignation and fury in the South; "baffled reproach" and then the elevation of Brown to martyrdom in the North.

    Indeed, the raid struck a raw nerve in the South. For decades, Southerners had argued that Black slaves were happy in bondage, for it provided security and cradle-to-grave welfare. If slaves fled, or revolted, it was because Yankee fanatics like Brown had come South to implant dangerous notions and ideas in their heads. But at the same time, Southerners lived in constant fear of slave revolts. Images of bloody revolution and nightmares of the fate of Haiti’s white elite plagued them. This was an evident paradox – if slaves were so happy, then why would they revolt? One can turn to the influential Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its Southern response to see how slaveholders attempted to justify and defend this paradox. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel was met with raw fury and harsh rebukes in the form of Southern novels such as Uncle Robin in his cabin in Virginia and Tom without one in Boston. Their authors paraded the thesis of happiness in bondage.

    But that thesis seemed shattered in the wake of Brown’s actions. Slaves had joined Brown. They had been timid, quick to desert and their numbers were small, but many slaves did escape their plantations to join that Yankee agitator. This struck fear and paranoia throughout the entire South. Brown had been a madman, a low Yankee ruffian who acted with barely any support or men (notwithstanding the loud cries of Northern conspiracies). But what if the Black Republicans lend more support next time? Those brigands were now in Control of the House, and their Senate presence was almost as big as the Democrat’s. The fact that the balance was held by National Union men was cause of more distrust – after all, their leader Douglas was a traitor, painted as black as the blackest of Republicans. The 1858 midterms had seen the complete collapse of the Northern Democratic Party and the failure of the National Union to take its place. A Solid North may well carry a Black Republican into the White House come 1860.

    Fear and anger only increased in the face of the almost universal canonization of Brown by the North. Even those abolitionists who had converted to the gospel of emancipation by violent overthrow characterized his raid as a terrible, stupid mistake. The Worcester Spy, an anti-slavery paper, called it "one of the rashest and maddest enterprises ever." William Lloyd Garrison said that "though disinterested and well-intended", the raid had been “misguided, wild, and apparently insane." A Northern diarist who had once advocated for "firm, decisive action" in Kansas was now condemning "the murderer and traitor who defiles our cause with his actions."

    But soon enough John Brown became a martyr for freedom. Brown himself recognized that he could transcend his existence as a treasonous rebel and become a symbol for a great cause. "I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose", he said. Thus, Brown started to cultivate an image as a martyr, as the hero of a noble but doomed ideal. He was not afraid of lying or twisting information to achieve this goal. For example, he insisted that he was arming slaves in self-defense, and that he didn’t plan to revolt. His dramatic persecution through the Appalachians was actually an attempt to led the Black slaves who were with him to freedom. Then he planned to turn himself in. The loss of civilian lives had been a grave mistake, for he would never harm innocents.

    John Brown's last moments.

    All these statements were disingenuous, and they did nothing to placate Southern anger. Instead, they increased it for Northern men seemed to believe them blindly, even in the face of evidence such as Brown’s route and maps, or his previous massacres. Brown’s last speech before he was sentenced to hang was far more eloquent, its words resounding throughout history:

    I deny everything but what I have all along admitted: of a design on my part to free slaves... Had I interfered in the manner which I admit... in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great... every man in this Court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.​
    This Court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction... Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done​

    Theodore Parker felt such a great emotional connection with Brown and his ideals that he declared the Emancipationist to be “not only a martyr, but a saint”, while Ralph Waldo Emmerson said that Brown would “make the gallows as glorious as the cross”. Northern newspapers lionized him, saying that the blood Brown had shed and would shed in the future would lay the basis "upon which a better nation will be built." Indeed, Brown seemed to cultivate an image of a Christ-like figure, who sacrificed himself for the salvation of others. Like a Yankee poet would say years into the future, “as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

    Here’s historian James M. McPherson’s relate of the execution, and the astounding events that took place in that day.

    Church bells tolled; minute guns fired solemn salutes; ministers preached sermons of commemoration; thousands bowed in silent reverence for the martyr to liberty. "I have seen nothing like it," wrote Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard. More than a thousand miles away in Lawrence, Kansas, the editor of the Republican wrote that "the death of no man in America has ever produced so profound a sensation. A feeling of deep and sorrowful indignation seems to possess the masses." A clergyman in Roxbury, Massachusetts, declared that Brown had made the word Treason "holy in the American language"; young William Dean Howells said that "Brown has become an idea, a thousand times purer and better and loftier than the Republican idea"; Henry David Thoreau pronounced Brown "a crucified hero".​

    The main reason behind Northern admiration for Brown was the fact that Brown had dared to strike the Slave Power at its very heartland. For years, even decades, the Slavocracy had held complete control of the government. In the view of many disillusioned Northerners, the grip of the Slave-owners was unbreakable – the president was a puppet, the Supreme Court was under their control, and Congress was powerless. This enraged many and led to the massive Republican victory in 1858. But that wasn’t enough. Brown had done more, Brown had actually stood up to the South and made it tremble. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow considered Brown’s hanging the start of a Second American Revolution, while William Lloyd Garrison wished "‘success to every slave insurrection at the South and in every slave country."

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Moreover, amid humiliations such as the Dred Scott case and the admission of Kansas, Brown had risen as a beacon that for once drew his sword in the name of freedom. Even if his methods were misguided, his goals were noble. This distinction between Brown’s motives and his actions became important, and many emphasized it. "History, forgetting the errors of his judgment in the contemplation of his unfaltering course… and of the nobleness of his aims, will record his name among those of its martyrs and heroes”, according to William Cullen Bryant. Horace Greeley similarly praised the “grandeur and nobility” of Brown, even as he condemned him as a madman.

    The South was outraged. “The North has sanctioned murder, treason, and rebellion”, cried DeBow’s review. “The South can no longer afford to co-exist with a section that applauds such horrible acts”, said a Baltimore newspaper. From Richmond it was reported that the raid "wrought almost a complete revolution in the sentiments... of the oldest and steadiest conservatives… Thousands of men… who, a month ago, scoffed at the idea of a dissolution of the Union… now hold the opinion that its days are numbered”. An old and staunch unionist from Missouri wrote that the “Northern crowning of Brown as a martyr and Christian hero” had shaken his beliefs to their core. Another Unionist, this time from North Carolina, wrote that “the endorsement of the Harper's Ferry outrage… has shaken my fidelity and… I am willing to take the chances of every possible evil that may arise from disunion, sooner than submit any longer to Northern insolence.” They were joined by another Unionist, this time a Virginian who believed that John Brown's raid had done more “to bring about the catastrophe of disunion, than all the other events of our past history put together.”

    Northern conservatives tried to reassure the South, but the National Union still carried the baggage of Lecompton. As a result, their apologies to their compatriots and their condemnation of Brown was seen as being not enough at best or straight falsehood at worst. The conservative Northern reaction ended up being feeble, and it barely made a ripple. Never mind their attempts to shift the blame to Seward and other Republicans, the South wouldn’t listen.

    Republican leaders also tried to minimize the damage by disavowing Brown and approving of his execution. But even moderates such as Senator Lincoln still stressed that Brown’s actions were different due to his motives. Lincoln, for example, said that Brown "agreed with us in thinking slavery is wrong”, and one of the reasons he had for condemning the raid was that it was a useless attempt against a “great evil”. He praised Brown’s courage and unselfishness, and also warned secessionists that Brown had been executed for treason against the nation. If the secessionists rebelled, they would have to deal with them like “they dealt with Brown.” Likewise, Governor Samuel Kirkwood of Iowa compared Brown’s raid with the filibuster invasions of Central America and Cuba, and said that he was relieved of some guilt because he had struck a blow for freedom, not for slavery. Seward and Chase both condemned Brown's raid as "criminal" and "inhumane", yet they reaffirmed their commitment to ultimate abolition.

    This simply wasn’t enough for the South. "We regard every man, " declared an Atlanta newspaper, "who does not boldly declare that he believes African slavery to be a social, moral, and political blessing" as "an enemy to the institutions of the South." Many newspapers brushed off Northern conservative support, considering it meaningless and instead condemning the dominance of the Republican Party in the North. Southern Senators vowed to never allow the Black Republicans to take control of the government. Robert Toombs issued a call for action: “The enemy is at your door, wait not to meet him at your hearthstone, meet him at the doorsill, and drive him from the temple of liberty, or pull down its pillars and involve him in a common ruin." Jefferson Davis warned of "a conspiracy against a portion of the United States, a rebellion against the constitutional government of the nation" that was being carried off by the Republicans. Yancey in Alabama talked of a “bloody and vengeful revolution” that would destroy the South if she didn’t defend herself. "It will the wildest and most radical event ever seen since Paris in 1789", he concluded.

    Robert Toombs

    Fear and hostility were palpable in the air. The situation, James McPherson says, was similar to the Great Fear that gripped the French countryside before the Revolution – many yeoman farmers believed that the Black Republican brigades were coming. States raised militia companies, and thousands of young men rushed to join them. Yankees in the South were lynched. The lucky ones were tarred and feathered and then exiled. Committees of Public Safety were formed and held kangaroo trials against people even suspected of being Yankees. Mobs in Kentucky drove away the members of an anti-slavery Church. In Missouri, abolitionist German protestants were beaten and murdered. The streets of Baltimore grew more and more dangerous with each passing day due to the increase in violence.

    The elections of 1860 approached, and John Brown’s figure still loomed over the South. Southerners were submerged in fear, uncertainty and panic as the Democratic National Convention opened in Charleston. There Douglas and his men were ready to make their final attempt to heal the branch and prevent the election of a Republican. If they failed, the choices for the South were clear: submission or secession.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 9: Hurrah for the choice of the Nation
  • Chapter 9: Hurrah for the choice of the Nation

    The ambient at Charleston during the Democratic National Convention of 1860 can only de described as feverish. The city was indeed under a grave fever, a fever of secession provoked by fear and paranoia. The tired and heartsick Yankees that arrived there to try and mend the divide met hostility, feeling themselves strangers in a strange land. The target of most hate was Stephen A. Douglas, a traitor who had cleaved the Democratic Party in two according to many of the Southern Democrats who met that fateful day.

    The decision to come to Charleston hadn’t been easy for Douglas. The Southern Democrats hated him as much as they hated Seward or Sumner, and more than they hated moderates such as Lincoln. Their main goal had been destroying Douglas. They were joined by some pro-administration Northern Democrats who had cast their lot with President Buchanan and the South. Douglas’ attempt at creating another party had failed: his National Union lost dozens of seats to the Republicans. Douglas himself had been vanquished by Lincoln, losing his Senate seat and with it a major part of his influence in the government and his clout within the Party. It was painfully clear that the Southern Democrats had succeeded in their avowed objective to make him perish and hang his “rotten political corpse”. Douglas’ presidential ambitions were all but dead.

    But Douglas refused to yield. He knew that no candidate put forth by the Southern Democrats would be able to gather any kind of support from the North. If the choice was between a Republican and a Southern Democrat, even the most moderate and conservative Northerners would cast their vote for the Republican. The prospects of other candidates were similarly bleak. Some Southern Whigs who still didn’t feel comfortable allying with either faction grouped together in the Constitutional Union Party, a sort of reincarnation of the old Whig Party. But the Constitutional Unionists, who nominated wealthy slaveholder John Bell from Tennessee, felt compelled to stump as enthusiastically for Southern rights as the Democrats, which further pushed Conservative Northern Whigs into the Republican fold. Consequently, the odds of Bell winning anything but Border States were low; if Douglas and his National Union made a run their odds of taking any Southern state were unfavorable. Either way, the Republican candidate didn’t need the Border South or the South itself. A solid North was enough to carry them to victory.

    In Douglas’ eyes the best Democratic option was mending their differences and running a fusion ticket which could sweep the South, the Border states and perhaps take a couple of Lower North states. If they managed to keep the Republicans from a majority in the electoral college the election would go to the House, where every state had a vote. There a conservative coalition could take the Presidency.

    But Douglas’ prospects were hopeless. The Party refused to even let Douglas attend. The crafty former Senator had organized rival delegations formed of Southern moderates and the surviving Northern Democrats, but the South instead admitted Southern delegations made of Fire Eaters and Northern ones made of pro-administration men. The National Convention quickly passed a plank pledging to grant federal protection to slavery in all territories, while spurning any and all attempts by Douglas and his supporters to create a fusion ticket.

    Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi presented the substance of the South’s demands, which were for Douglas to support their chosen candidate, John Breckinridge, and the slave code. This was to much for Douglas and his men to swallow, for it would constitute an unconditional surrender to Southern domination of the party, and the country. His attempts to reason with the Southerners and to find common ground or compromise failed. And finally, after six weeks of being ignored and vilified, Douglas decided to give up trying to reunite the party. William L. Yancey, the overzealous Fire Eater, led a group of people into giving cheers “For an independent Southern Republic!” while Douglas and his men left Charleston. Yancey’s parting words surely resonated in Douglas’ ears as he left the harbor: "Perhaps even now, the pen of the historian is nibbled to write the story of a new revolution.”

    John Breckinridge

    Douglas had lost, but he hadn’t been defeated. Decided to do all he could to prevent the election of a Black Republican and the start of a Civil War, Douglas organized a National Union Convention which quickly nominated him. But unlike him, many had been defeated. The National Union Convention and its efforts were feeble and half-hearted, many tired delegated having resigned themselves to their fate. In this they contrasted with the energy and enthusiasm that dominated the Republican National Convention.

    Meeting in Chicago, the Republican National Convention was characterized by adroit action and theretofore unseen popular enthusiasm. The favorite for the nomination was William H. Seward. A prominent Republican, leader in the east and an important player in the Senate for many years, Seward seemed like the natural choice for the Party. But many powerful men and interests weren’t convinced that he was the best choice. The Party needed to carry a Solid North to win, and contrary to the opinions of the South, the North was not entirely united in its opposition to slavery. Large segments of the north did not care, or, led by racism and prejudice, even supported it to an extent.

    The Republicans just needed to add Pennsylvania to the states they won in 1856 in order to win. But Seward was seen as a radical, and he alienated nativists. Furthermore, he had made numerous enemies such as Horace Greeley, and his political machine in New York was seen as a shady and corrupt organization. Though Seward remained strong in the Upper North, any Republican would be able to easily sweep the region. Pragmatists and his enemies united and denied him his coveted first-ballot nomination. They then turned to find another candidate among a trio of favorite sons from different states: Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.

    Some other Republicans had tried to get the nomination, the most prominent of them being Edward Bates of Missouri, who commanded the support of the Blairs, a political family active in Maryland and Missouri. But Bates and the Blairs had been pushed towards the fringe corners of the party, being some of the most conservative Republicans out there. They championed a strategy of building up the party in the Border South by taking in people who had lukewarm commitment to slavery. But this strategy lost ground as the Slavocrats became brasher and bolder. Instead, most Republicans favored a strategy of action from the top, crystalized in the Freedom National doctrine that turned the Federal Government into a weapon to assail slavery wherever it existed.

    Chase had many of Seward’s weaknesses and didn’t carry the same level of support; Cameron had a bad reputation as a flip-flopper who had been a Democrat, a Know-Nothing and a Whig. Lincoln, on the other hand, was a successful and respected moderate. Honest Abe had a reputation for moderation, compromise and respect, but he was also a shrewd politician who had built up a political machine in Illinois, a state the Republicans needed to win in 1860. He embodied ideals of integrity and hard-work, with Republicans being able to tout his raise from a humble rail-splitter to a prairie lawyer to one of the nation’s most prominent Senators as a living proof of the superiority of free labor and the promise of the American dream. His debates with Stephen A. Douglas in both 1856 and 1858 were legendary by then. And he had vanquished the feared Democratic leader.

    Salmon P. Chase

    Lincoln had always considered himself a party man. When he was just a Whig state legislator in Illinois, he dreamed of creating a party machine that would elect Whigs to all offices, from the Senate and the Governorship to local officials. After being elected to the Senate, he worked tirelessly to make that dream a political reality, and he had succeeded. His state was also his most fervent supporter. Many clamored for him to run for president, and although Lincoln did position himself for a run by touring the West and building bridges with constituencies the Republicans needed such as nativists and moderates, he also wrote this to a newspaper: “I must, in candor, say I do not think myself fit for the Presidency.” Similarly, he stated that he would prefer to have another term in the Senate rather than one in the White House. But his opinions started to change after his stunning victory in 1858 against Douglas.

    Despite the fact that Douglas was an Illinois Yankee born in Vermont, he was seen as a living symbol of the Slave Power’s grip in National Politics and the North more specifically. As leader of the Northern Democrats, he was a prime target for Republicans. And at the end Lincoln was the David who slew the Little Giant, thus building a national reputation as a powerful and able statesman. Douglas’ attacks and his appeals to racism had failed. Lincoln still recommended focusing in slavery as an institution that had to be contained instead of focusing on its immediate abolition. But after 1858 he took a decidedly more radical turn, also talking of social issues and the future of black people. His speeches still exhibited customary moderation, with Lincoln reiterating that he opposed miscegenation and black suffrage, but like in his debates against Douglas he talked of unalienable rights that black should and must also enjoy. Lincoln also focused on uniting the Republican Party behind a single objective: putting slavery on the road to extinction. And he was remarkably good at reconciling different factions of the Party.

    His speech at the Cooper Institute, in New York, was a mark of this. There he assured his audience of his command of the slavery question, his viability as a candidate, and his credentials as a Republican. The Senator attacked the South for trying to “destroy the government unless it prevailed in all points of dispute”, and also singled Buchanan and Chief Justice Taney for attacks. He repeated that he wouldn’t interfere with slavery where it already existed, but also called for Republicans to stand firm and continue steady in the face of threats of secession. He concluded with the following statement: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” This speech and others gained him favor with Easterners who rejected Seward, and he already had the support of Midwesterners, who believed their turn had come.

    The 1860 Republican National Convention

    Enthusiastic supporters lined the “Wigwarn” while the votes of the first ballot were tallied. Seward achieved 153 votes; Lincoln had 136. Neither had the required 233. Lincoln’s team of capable politicos worked tirelessly to gain second ballot support for their candidate. Because many believed that Lincoln could be elected while Seward could not, Lincoln was able to get the support of many delegations who chose him as their second option after their preferred candidates failed or after symbolic gestures to one politician or another. As the votes of the second ballot were counted, the Wigwarn lit with great energy that gave "the appearance of irresistible momentum". Finally, the results came: Lincoln had 239 ½ votes. The convention exploded with enthusiastic furor, the yells, cheering and music overwhelming. No one would ever forget that day, where they had chosen not only the best candidate for the election, but also "the best man for the grim task" ahead of them. “Let the new Revolution begin”, wrote Charles Francis Adams in the wake of Lincoln’s nomination. And indeed, the campaign season of 1860 would mark a new era in American politics and history. With Lincoln’s nomination, the Revolution of 1860 began.

    Last edited:
    Chapter 10: The Revolution of 1860
  • Hurrah, for the choice of the Nation!
    Our chieftain so brave and so true
    We'll go for the great Reformation
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!

    We'll go for the Son of Kentucky
    The Hero of Hoosierdom through
    The Pride of the Suckers so lucky
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!

    They'll find what by felling and mauling
    Our rail-maker statesman can do
    For the People are everywhere calling
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!

    Then up with the banner so glorious
    Our Star-Spangled Red, White and Blue
    We'll fight till our banner's victorious
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!

    Our David's good sling is unerring
    The Slavocrat Giant he slew
    Then shout for the freedom preferring
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!

    We'll go for the Son of Kentucky
    The Hero of Hoosierdom through
    The Pride of the Suckers so lucky
    For Lincoln and Liberty too!
    -Lincoln and Liberty


    Chapter 10: The Revolution of 1860

    The Republican National Convention was an event of unprecedented energy, which was carried into the campaign season. Following Senator Lincoln’s nomination, the Party drafted the Plank, which outlined the ideals they would fight for. The Party Plank maintained the strong anti-slavery convictions of the 1856 Plank, but to appeal to moderates it denounced the John Brown raid as the “gravest of crimes”. Most importantly, the Plank pledged to abolish the Fugitive Slave Act and replace it with an “humane” measure which would recognize the right of a fair jury trial and the habeas corpus principle; to protect all territories from the attacks of the Slave Power (a direct rebuke to the admission of Kansas as a slave state); and to “reconstitute” the Supreme Court, setting the path for an overturn of Dred Scott v. Sandford. The biggest sign of this intent was how Lincoln selected former Justice John McLean as his running mate.

    McLean was famous for his strong-willed dissent in the Dred Scott case, which basically became the basis of the Republican position on the issue. Another notable action of his was convincing Justice Curtis, the other dissenter, to remain in the Court, after Curtis considered resigning in protest. Curtis and McLean were basically both waiting for Lincoln’s election, so as to deny Buchanan the chance to appoint yet another Southern Democratic Justice.

    Aside from those points, the Republican Platform focused on economic issues as a way of uniting the different factions of the Party. Its Whig-Progressive origins, and their ideology of Free Labor showed on their pledges in favor of internal improvements, a Homestead Act, a Transcontinental Railway, and a “readjustment” of the tariff to encourage and protect industry. These measures were in part a response to the Panic of 1857, an economic downturn caused by massive speculation on western lands, lower levels of European investment, and a bubble that formed around the price of bonds and bank notes. They were also designed to appeal to Lower North voters who didn’t care for slavery but would be attracted by the economic potential of these pledges, such as Pennsylvanians who would benefit from a greater tariff or Midwesterners who wanted a Transcontinental Railway.

    Most of these points were however eclipsed by a single sentence that vowed to “limit slavery like the Founders intended”, and take all necessary measures to “prevent its expansion”, while at the same time promising to not “interfere in places where slavery already existed” unless it was “by means of constitutional compromise”. This single point was hotly debated. Radicals insisted on leaving out “by means of constitutional compromise”, likening it to a surrender to conservatives, slavers and “other doughfaces”. Moderates were dismayed that such a point was even added. The Blairs of Missouri threatened to leave the party, lamenting a “Jacobin take-over”, while some moderates denounced it as a point that “would hand the national government to the Democrats”.

    John McLean

    Some historians have agreed with them. Many Northerners expressed their disgust with the Plank in editorials and diaries. “I will not stand for a government controlled by the Negro”, wrote a New York man, while an Indiana Republican confessed to his diary that he “felt threatened by the Radicals who have taken over the Party”. From Ohio, a voter said that though he personally didn’t “give a damn” about the “N---ers”, such a sentence was paramount to “Civil War”. Democrats and National Unionists ran away with the Plank, telling every Northerner that a vote for Lincoln was a vote for “pestilence, war and famine.” Southern Democrats were likewise terrified by the implication, and the already existing fear and hostility that dominated the section before the election seemed to increase even more. “Should Lincoln win the election”, a Missouri Democrat said, “we would have no other option but to risk disunion.” A similar opinion was shared by a Virginia lawyer, who wrote to a diary announcing that “the whole South ought to stand up to this blatant act of aggression.”

    But perhaps these historians are overstating their points. This point probably did more to scare the South away than to scare moderates away. Republican moderates were mollified enough by the specification that the measures would only be adopted through compromise. Most did agree with the vital points that slavery was seen as an evil by the Founders, and that it should be put on the road to extinction. And a very significant part of voters was more attracted to the economic measures adopted than the slavery question.

    Other voters found themselves back into the Republican folds, even if reluctantly, for there was no other option. Douglas had tried to nominate himself as a desperate last measure, but the Little Giant was unable to mount a campaign, and his whipped men did only a feeble effort. Breckinridge, the Southern Democrat, was anathema to every northerner, as a New York Democrat said: “A vote for the Southern candidate would mean four more years of humiliation. I will not accept that, even if it means risking treason.” The other option, the Constitutional Unionist, had revealed themselves to be as pro-South as Breckinridge, so they weren’t even considered by most. Even those who contemplated Black equality with disgust settled on Lincoln as the lesser of two evils. “At least he’s not Seward”, commented wryly a disappointed Pennsylvania voter who nonetheless voted Republican in the election.

    The Republicans carried energy and enthusiasm h into the election, bringing with them youth, dynamism, and new ideas. Thousands of young men joined “Wide Awake” clubs, which were magnified by the South into a red of militias ready to take over their land. Songs and campaign pamphlets filled the presses. From every corner of the North, the popular song “Lincoln and Liberty” seemed to echo. The Republicans represented change, high expectations and a new future, which contrasted with the old and tired Democratic banner, sullied more than ever by corruption.

    The Buchanan administration was revealed in several House investigations to have siphoned money into Party coffers by means of graft, bribery and contracts awarded without competitive bidding. This sorry record caused even more outrage when it was revealed that Buchanan had bribed congressmen to vote in favor of Kansas’ admission as a Slave State. Secretary of War John Floyd was singled out due to his corrupt business deals, such as padded government payments, and an infamous order that transferred 125 cannons from Pittsburg to the South, an order Buchanan refused to countermand when the Southern members of his Cabinet convinced him that they were needed to defend against slave uprisings.

    “The old sinner”, an Iowa newspaper proclaimed, “had proven himself to be yet again a hireling of the Slave Power.” Republicans stumped about these issues, demanding a “complete change of administration”. Charles Francis Adams denounced this as proof that the Slavocrats were bribing “the people of the Free States with their own money”, while Horace Greeley wrote of "not one merely but two Irrepressible Conflicts—the first between… Free Labor… and aggressive, all-grasping Slavery propagandism… [the second] between honest administration on one side, and wholesale executive corruption, legislative bribery, and speculative jobbery on the other; and we recognize in Honest Abe Lincoln the right man to lead us in both."

    Wide Awake Clubs

    But slavery remained the focus of the election. Some moderates took pains to describe themselves as the true Party of the White Man, in response to attacks by moderates and Democrats, especially over that contentious part of the Plank, and other events such as a ballot measure in New York that would enfranchise Blacks. The New York measure would manage to pass, even if barely, due to united Republican support and disarray in the conservative ranks. But before that it provided abundant fodder for race-baiting attacks.

    Still, radicals and abolitionists stumped fervently for the Republicans, believing them to be a step into the right direction, and an “anti-slavery triumph”, according to Frederick Douglass. Southern despondency and fear only increased as election day approached. Lincoln, in their eyes, was "a relentless, dogged, free-soil border ruffian… a vulgar mobocrat and a Southern hater… an illiterate partisan… possessed only of his inveterate hatred of slavery and his openly avowed predilections of negro equality." Odd feelings of disappointment and excitement mixed as both Union men and secessionist anticipated Southern Independency.

    A drought that withered several corps and rumors of Yankee ruffians attacking plantations and inciting slave uprising created panic. R. S. Holt, a prominent planter, reported the “discovery of poison, knives & pistols distributed among our slaves by emissaries sent out for that purpose”, and Lawrence Keitt, infamous for his role in the canning of Charles Summer, wrote: " I see poison in the wells in Texas—and fire for the houses in Alabama. How can we stand it?" Most of these reports were grossly exaggerated, if not outright falsehood. But they helped to fan a flame of fury and fear that resulted in vigilante lynch mobs: "It is better for us to hang ninety-nine innocent (suspicious) men than to let one guilty one pass."

    Conservatives and the few surviving Douglas democrats seemed to capitulate, instead warning that a Lincoln victory would mean secession. "Let the consequences be what they may—whether the Potomac is crimsoned in human gore, and Pennsylvania Avenue is paved ten fathoms deep with mangled bodies… the South will never submit to such humiliation and degradation as the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln", declared a Georgia newspaper. In Louisville an editor claimed he received thousands of letters "all informing us of a settled and widely-extended purpose to break up the Union" if Lincoln was elected. John J. Crittenden, denounced the "profound fanaticism" of Republicans who "think it their duty to destroy… the white man, in order that the black might be free… [The South] has come to the conclusion that in case Lincoln should be elected… she could not submit to the consequences, and therefore, to avoid her fate, will secede from the Union." Even Breckinridge himself talked of an "endless, aimless, devastating war, at the end of which I see the grave of public liberty and of personal freedom." Nonetheless, he said that if the North forced the Deep South to secede, he would “exchange six years in the US Senate for the musket of a soldier.”

    Northerners refused to listen to these proclamations. They had listened to them time and time again, and every time they proved fruitless. Furthermore, there was nothing Lincoln or the Republicans could do to mollify the South, for the very existence of the Republican Party was considered an insult by them.

    When the fateful day came, Lincoln had not only carried a Solid North, he had also managed to take California and Oregon. Breckinridge won a Solid South, the only state he failed to carry being Missouri, carried by Bell instead. Lincoln had not only won a majority of the popular vote, but also 180 electoral votes, a comfortable margin. In the Upper North, Lincoln won more than 70% of the popular vote, losing less than two dozen counties. In the North as a whole Lincoln won almost 60% of the vote, which handily overcame Breckinridge's 52% of the Southern vote.

    Furthermore, Republicans won 133 of the House's 238 seats, annihilating the Northern Democracy and the National Union, who would hold only 14 Northern seats. Of the Democrats' 105 seats, 91 were in the South. In the Senate, the Republicans also had a net gain of 5 seats, taking the plurality. The Democrats only won one seat, at the expense of a Douglas man in Kansas. They lost their plurality, having only 28 seats.

    Red - Republican, 33 seats.
    Blue - Democrat, 28 seats.
    Purple - American, 4 seats.
    Cyan - National Union, 2 seats.

    This landslide victory proved ominous for the South, which saw the North as a united force against them. “The die has been cast”, declared a Virginia newspaper, “we must act now against this revolutionary party, or else we risk the destruction of everything we hold dear”. In the North, many were overjoyed. Charles Francis Adams declared that "The great revolution has actually taken place… The country has once and for all thrown off the domination of the Slaveholders." In Springfield, joyful celebrations "went off like one immense cannon report, with shouting from houses, shouting from stores, shouting from house tops, and shouting everywhere." "We live in Revolutionary Times", wrote a Northern man, "and I say, God bless the Revolution!".

    Lincoln - 187 electoral votes, and around 2,410,000 votes (49.8%).
    Breckenridge - 111 electoral votes, and around 1,300,000 votes (26.9%)
    Bell - 9 electoral votes, and around 930,000 votes (19.2%)
    Douglas - no electoral votes, and around 200,000 votes (4.1%)

    However, while the Revolution of 1860 was being celebrated in the North, down at Columbia, South Carolina, a Counterrevolution was being planned.

    AN: The title "The Revolution of 1860", is taken from the title to one of the chapters of McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. All credit goes to McPherson.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 11: The Counterrevolution of 1861
  • Chapter 11: The Counterrevolution of 1861

    Thousands would forever remember that balmy Monday of 1860, when the tensions, fear, hostility and ambitions of the past decade were finally left out in a cathartic spectacle of fireworks, parades and fiery rhetoric. Moderates looked on apprehensively while secessionists stood proudly in Columbia, South Carolina, amid immense displays of popular excitement. Palmetto flags waved in the air, and bands poured patriotic music. Cannons and rifles sounded through the air, a martial call that echoed throughout the city. Militia marched, shouting and singing excitedly. Some even were calling themselves “Minutemen”. Dancing women with flowing skirts and flag-waving children completed the celebration of South Carolina’s secession.

    Indeed, a state convention, called by the Legislature even before Lincoln’s election supposedly to answer to the threat of a slave uprising, had just voted unanimously to secede from the Union on November 25th, 1860. “Nothing on earth shall ever induce us to submit to any union with the brutal, bigoted blackguards of the New England States!", declared these revolutionaries. Such statements, reflecting defiance or uncertainty, were commonly heard ever since Lincoln was elected. Mary Boykin Chesnut remembered a man who despondently said “Now that the black radical Republicans have the power, I suppose they will Brown us all” immediately after hearing of Lincoln’s triumph. Others were overjoyed by the same news, William L. Yancey among them.

    A known fire-eater, Yancey had worked tirelessly for Southern secession for years. He wrote the famous Alabama platform at the 1848 Democratic National Convention, which demanded support for slavery from any National Candidate. When his platform was rejected, Yancey walked out, joined only by a single delegate. The Alabamian would remain out of the party for 7 years, returning in 1855. Declaring that he would “endeavor to be entirely conciliatory” because that “gains the ears of the opposition and opens the way to their hearts”, Yancey set out to work, acting as a moderate so that he could slowly push real moderates towards the edge. From there only a small tremor was needed to plunge the South into secession, and Lincoln’s election had been more than that – it had been an earthquake.

    The North had overwhelmingly thrown its support behind a Black Republican, rejecting Bell and Breckinridge, two moderate, conservative men. Yancey had supported Breckinridge during the nomination process, and most of the Deep South followed him. By the time of the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party had become a thoroughly Southern Party, and thus the contest was at first between Deep South men who supported Senator Hunter of Virginia, and Upper South delegates who preferred Breckinridge. Ultimately, the convention settled on moderation, choosing Breckinridge and demanding only Federal protection for slavery on the territories, not other outrageous demands such as conquering Cuba or repealing Personal Liberty Laws. But this moderate ploy played right into the hands of radicals and fire-eaters. If the North rejected even the most moderate man of the South, then many would come to their side and accept secession as necessary. The dominoes were set.

    Then when Lincoln was elected by a landslide, the dominos were set in motion by South Carolina’s actions. Before Christmas, similar resolutions were adopted by Mississippi and Alabama. After the New Year, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas had seceded as well, Texas being the last to secede in January 23rd. The average vote in favor of secession was 90%.

    South Carolina secedes from the Union

    South Carolina had acted so promptly because they feared that previous cooperation would dissolve into inaction. Previous attempts at secession and cooperation between the Cotton states had ended in fiascos. A state legislator expressed that South Carolina “must make the move & force them to follow. This is the way of all revolutions & all great achievements.” Another faction known as cooperationists asked them to wait. Though they were accused of disloyalty, they were ardent supporters of Southern Rights – what they were against was reckless action. They wanted to first have a convention of southern states, then a united South could go out of the Union in a stronger position. But by daring to go out first, South Carolina provoked an avalanche as an emergency mentality set off over the Deep South.

    This mentality demanded swift action. We must “cut loose” from the Union “through fire and blood if necessary, less our foes get access to our negroes to advise poison and the torch”, said an Alabamian. Cooperation between Southern states could come later after secession was a fait accompli. And thus, the fire-eaters swept the cooperationists along with them. A Georgia cooperationist admitted that three states “have already seceded... In order to act with them, we must secede with them." Louisiana’s Judah P. Benjamin, who considered himself a prudent man and opposed immediate secession, still joined this Southern revolution when his state went out. He ruefully regretted that the “conservative men of the South” were not "able to stem the wild torrent of passion which is carrying everything before it… It is a revolution… of the most intense character… and it can no more be checked by human effort, for the time, than a prairie fire by a gardener's watering pot.”

    Other faction was the conditional unionists, who wanted to draw a list of demands for the Lincoln administration, or wait until he committed some sort of “overt act” against Southern rights before seceding. This position was ridiculed by many. The Charleston Mercury thundered that “although you see your enemy load his rifle with the direct purpose of taking your life, you are to wait... until he shoots you.” Congressman James L. Orr declared that the protection of the South’s “honor and safety… will require prompt secession.” “After the Lincoln party is elected… you will be called to show your love by preparing your rifles”, added Yancey. "We will go for revolution, and if you… oppose us… we will brand you as traitors, and chop off your heads", warned a Georgia secessionist.

    They were exposing a common-held view throughout the South: the election of Lincoln could already be considered an overt act. They must not give Lincoln any chance to prove his moderate tendencies, for even if Lincoln himself didn’t act, the influence of his victory would plunge the South into ruin. South Carolina’s J. Foster Marshall declared that “the poisoning and murdering of [South Carolina’s] men, women, and children will be contemplated after Lincoln takes the helm… If the Abolitionists can thus destroy our property and excite our people by merely sending their agents and money in our midst, what can they not do when they take control of the legislative and executive branches?” “What mischief may you... expect when Lincoln gets into power, even if they do not legislate at all?”, asked a North Carolina fire-eater.

    Hate against Lincoln and his party was extremely strong. Previous to the election, newspapers declared that every vote cast for a Republican was a cold-blooded insult against the South. A Mississippi man denounced Lincoln as a “wretched backwoodsman,” with “cleverness indeed but no cultivation.” Lawrence Keitt’s wife called the Black Republicans “a motley throng of Sans culottes and Dame des Halles, Infidels, and freelovers, interspersed by Bloomer women, fugitive slaves, and [racial] amalgamationists.”

    Similar statements can easily be found. The South could not submit to Republican rule, because that would create a dangerous precedent that would allow the Black Republicans to destroy them eventually. “The South must either secede,” said the British consul in Charleston, “or expose herself to the ridicule of the world.” Moreover, many more feared that Lincoln was nothing but the first step to something worse. As President, he could appoint thousands of Federal officers, thus building a Southern Republican Party. This strategy had been championed by the Blairs of Missouri, who, through German Protestant support, had managed to elected a Republican congressman from that slave state. Hinton Rowan Helper, in his book “The Impeding Crisis of the South” had said that non-slaveholding whites could be swayed by anti-slavery rhetoric. The Governor of Georgia concurred that the allurement of office could draw many to “treachery against their section”. Yancey shared his fear: “There is no denying that there is a large emancipating interest in Virginia and Kentucky and Maryland and Missouri.” If the South didn’t act soon, a Southern Republican Party would be born and eventually these Yankee brigands would be able to set the Negroes free.

    South Carolina’s secession ignited a fire that spread throughout the entire Deep South very quickly. But the Upper South proved more resistant to this wildfire. Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina organized referendums on whether there should be a convention at all. All states approved conventions, some only barely such as North Carolina and Tennessee, where the secessionists only triumphed by 4% and 1% respectively. In almost all these states Unionists had a 2/3 majority. But unlike what Lincoln and many Northerners hoped, these Unionists were conditional ones. For some of them, the North had already destroyed the Union by electing Lincoln. For others, any “overt act” would be enough to push them into secession. Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland all declined conventions; Delaware hadn’t even considered one. The other states voted against secession, but their conventions remained open to watch all future developments. All seemed to be firmly in the Union camp for the time being, except for one.

    The exception was Virginia. The South’s most populated and richest state had been driven into a frenzy due to John Brown. The ghost of the abolitionist still plagued them when Lincoln was elected. Before that, many measures were taken. For one, the Legislature amended the Constitution, allowing Governors to serve two consecutive terms, which gave way for the re-election of the secessionist Henry Wise. Furthermore, they proceeded to gerrymander mountainous West Virginia, an area usually hostile to slavery. When a convention was called, the gerrymander remained in place, allowing secessionists to take almost half of the convention. The convention still voted against secession, but only barely. Instead, the conditional unionist majority called for a Congressional Committee to be organized and solve the crisis.

    This Committee of 13 was composed of powerful men such as Seward, Toombs, Davis, Crittenden, Vice-president Breckinridge, and President-elect Lincoln. Breckinridge and Crittenden, both from Kentucky, tried to take the mantle of Henry Clay and craft a compromise. But the final compromise amounted to little more than an unconditional surrender from the North: slavery was to be allowed and protected in all territories held or acquired after the compromise, slavery could never be abolished in the District of Columbia or Federal properties, and the Federal government was stripped of all power to interfere with slavery in the states.

    Lincoln and Seward decried these measures immediately. They wanted to save the Union, but such a dishonorable surrender would be a repudiation of the majority that had just voted for them. It would motivate filibusters, who would “invade every nation holding a foot of land in the Americas”, and destroy all the hard-earned fruits of the 1860 election. Lincoln declared that this compromise "acknowledges that slavery has equal rights with liberty, and surrenders all we have contended for… We have just carried an election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten… If we surrender, it is the end of us. They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum. A year will not pass, till we shall have to take Cuba as a condition upon which they will stay in the Union."

    Southern Senators despaired. Crittenden attempted to put the compromise to a vote in the Senate, which failed due to united Republican opposition. The House also rejected it, adding some fiery and vengeful speeches for good measure. The Republicans "swore by everything in the Heavens above and the Earth beneath that they would convert the rebel States into a wilderness”, reported a National Union Representative. From the Midwest, many threatened to “blot Louisiana out of the map” if the rebels dared to prevent them from accessing the Mississippi. The stakes rose higher when a report came from Kansas: free-soil militia and border ruffians had clashed again, and the Topeka legislature had just declared itself the legitimate government, anticipating treason from the Lecompton legislature. From Ohio and Illinois came reports of Wide-Awake militias, marching and drilling. Lincoln also announced that he would do his duty and “put down treason” by force of arms if necessary, also ordering General in-chief Winfield Scott to stand ready to defend or reclaim Federal property.

    The Virginia Convention

    This pushed nerves in Virginia to the breaking point. Lincoln and his army of John Browns intended to coerce the South. Would Virginia stand with her sister states or aid in their destruction? Passions flamed in the Old Dominion as the Conditional Unionists changed opinion and endorsed secession. Directed by Wise, militia began to seize armories and shipyards, capturing Norfolk and Harpers Ferry. Virginia had not seceded officially yet, but mobs in Richmond and other cities threatened armed revolution if a political one was not effectuated soon. Pushed by popular fears and pressure, and galvanized by an attempt to impeach President Buchanan, Virginia seceded in February 15th.

    Buchanan and Lincoln could not see eye to eye on many issues, but they agreed that secession was unconstitutional. The President took a stump to deliver a passionate speech against treason. “The Union is not a mere voluntary association of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties," he declared, warning that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land, and that National sovereignty trumped the state sovereignty the South professed to defend. But he also declared that he had no power to coerce the states back into the Union.

    The Republicans denounced this position. “The President has the obligation to enforce the law until someone opposes him”, said Seward in a sardonic reply. Lincoln, on the other hand, considered that the President has “the power, the right, and the obligation to enforce the supremacy of the National government”. Outraged Congressional Republicans demanded explanations, especially after Secretary of War John Floyd was allowed to resign despite his acts of corruption and his order to send cannons and arms down South. Congress, now under complete Republican control due to the resignations of several Southern Senators and Representatives, asked Buchanan to send troops to Virginia to capture Floyd, who had declared himself a secessionist. Buchanan refused.

    “The President has approved of treason”, declared Salmon P. Chase. Charles Sumner agreed. “This old hireling of tyrants and slavers has now again sided with the Slave Power over his country”. In the House, a furious Thaddeus Stevens asserted that Buchanan “had failed every man of this great Republic” with his refusal to “commit to his constitutional obligations and protect our government”. If Buchanan refused to enforce the law and allow the South to go out of the Union, the government would be destroyed. One of the principles of democracy was that the minority has to accept the electoral victory of the majority. With almost 50% of the nationwide popular vote, Lincoln had a clear mandate. If the South didn’t recognize it, and their treason wasn’t stopped, the US would soon descend into “many petty republics” fighting between themselves, for every state would secede as soon as they lost an election. The power of the Federal government had to be enforced, and to do that Buchanan had to be taken out of the way. Thus, the House decided to impeach him.

    The resignation of the representatives of these Deep South states had given House Republicans a thin supermajority. The motion to impeach Buchanan and Breckinridge was introduced in late January, and it came to a vote in early February. There wasn't enough time to actually remove both officials; rather the main idea was exercising pressure on the President and force him to act against treason. Conservative Republicans managed to prevent it from passing, but this attempt was seen as the “overt act” many Conditional Unionists were waiting for. “A coup against the government has taken place”, Wise asserted, “can you not see the dangers of remaining in the Union?”. The convention saw these dangers, and voted for secession.

    Henry A. Wise

    North Carolina was next. They had also organized regiments of militia, and allowed the troops of other states to enter. Their convention had remained open, and now the 2/3rds majority of conditional unionists were ready to risk disunion. The status and prestige of Virginia convinced many that waiting or adopting neutrality was no longer possible in light of Lincoln’s approaching inauguration and the fact that North Carolina was in the middle of two seceded states. Her governor, John Ellis, said in a speech that he “could not be part of the violation of the country’s laws, and the repudiation of its principles by a radical faction”. In March 15th, 11 days after Lincoln’s inauguration, North Carolina seceded from the Union.

    Lincoln’s inaugural speech probably played a part, for the President pledged to “use all the powers” under his disposal to "reclaim the public property and places which have fallen; to hold, occupy, and possess these, and all other property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties on imports." The South interpreted this pledge as deadly coercion, and vowed to never submit to his rule.

    The whole debacle also propelled Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland into calling for conventions, which remained open alongside Tennessee’s and Arkansas'. Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky passed resolutions declaring their neutrality, unless the incoming government attempted to force them into war. Similar resolutions were barely defeated in Maryland, Kansas and Missouri. The tide of revolution continued, as thousands of Southerners rallied to their flag to defend their homes, their families, and white supremacy.

    Much secessionist rhetoric played variations on this theme. The election of Lincoln, declared an Alabama newspaper, "shows that the North [intends] to free the negroes and force amalgamation between them and the children of the poor men of the South." “Do you love your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter?" a Georgia secessionist asked non-slaveholders. If Georgia remained in a Union "ruled by Lincoln and his crew… in ten years or less our children will be the slaves of negroes." "If you are tame enough to submit," declaimed South Carolina's Baptist clergyman James Furman, "Abolition preachers will be at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands." No! No! came an answering shout from Alabama. "Submit to have our wives and daughters choose between death and gratifying the hellish lust of the negro!! . . . Better ten thousand deaths than submission to Black Republicanism.”​

    These revolutionaries could be better characterized as counterrevolutionaries. Pre-emptive ones to be exact. Counterrevolutionaries seek to restore the ancien regime, or to prevent its fall in the first place by acting before a revolution could take place, or before it could be consolidated. Jefferson Davis insisted that they were not revolutionaries, but conservatives, while Southern newspapers claimed that they had been forced to act against a radical revolution. Southerners fought for the principles of ‘76, as they understood them: freedom from a coercive national government, and freedom to own slaves.

    Northerners disagreed. To assert that the South fought for the same cause as the Founding Fathers was libel. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams had fought for liberty, for self-determination and the rights of man. The South was fighting for despotism and slavery. This last point perplexed many who simply didn’t understand why poor whites would join the slavers in rebellion. Some rationalized that there was a silent Unionist majority, but the answer is that white supremacy also benefitted poor whites, who felt secure because there would always be someone under them. "Among us the poor white laborer . . . does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal… He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men”, said Governor Brown of Georgia.

    For these principles, and under these circumstances, secession took place in the winter of 1860-1861. Lincoln assumed office in March 4th, 1861. The new president had an enormous weight thrown on his shoulders. The country seemed to be disintegrating around him, and rebellion threatened to overwhelm the government. Lincoln had reached a pivotal point, and now he needed to choose what to do. With conventions still open in several states, and many of them ready to join the new Confederate States of America, action was needed. But what could Lincoln do to save the country?

    The situation in March, 1861

    AN: The title "The Counterrevolution of 1861", is taken from the title to one of the chapters of McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. All credit goes to McPherson.​
    Last edited:
    Chapter 12: The Southern Rebellion
  • Chapter 12: The Southern Rebellion

    President Abraham Lincoln found himself at the crossroads of destiny. The fate of the United States was now in his hands. In his eyes, the very fate of democracy and the free world depended on whether he could rise up to the situation. The fall of the US would embolden the enemies of freedom. Already there were Britons gloating about the failure of democracy, and New Yorkers whispering about joining the rebels. He had to make a decision, and save the Nation.

    Lincoln’s first task was organizing his cabinet, the team which would help him fulfill his duties as president and manage the executive. To build a competent cabinet Lincoln would have to satisfy several powerful interests, ranging from Republican leaders in the east to up-and-coming western politicians, and even moderates from the nascent Southern Republican Party. Lincoln appointed Seward as Secretary of State, a magnanimous gesture for Seward had been his main rival in the National Convention. As a gesture towards Kentucky and the Border South, Lincoln appointed James Speed, the brother of his intimate friend Joshua, as Attorney General. Chase got the Treasury, leaving the War Department as the only one left of the top four departments. After much deliberation and inter-party tensions, Lincoln settled of Simon Cameron, as a way of paying back a debt towards Pennsylvania Republicans.

    Caleb Smith received the Interior Department as a payment of another debt, this time towards Indiana, while Gideon Welles was appointed as Navy Secretary and Montgomery Blair as Postmaster General, but only after Blair had showed his credentials as an “Iron-Back” a Republican who refused to surrender to the South. Another Iron-Back was Chase, who strongly contrasted with Seward who went from being the champion of the “irrepressible conflict” to the hero of reconciliation.

    This change astounded many Republicans, who had before seen Seward as the radical and Lincoln as the moderate. Old Whigs had rejoiced when Lincoln won the nominations instead of Seward, reportedly saying that Lincoln was a “sound moderate man” who shared nothing with the “irrepressible, higher-law, abolitionist men”. Lincoln’s moderation was such that radicals like Wendell Philipps called him “the slave-hound of Illinois”, remembering when Lincoln introduced a measure for gradual abolition in the District of Columbia that also required strict enforcement of the Constitution’s Fugitive Slave Act.

    Now Lincoln was the one calling people to stand firm in the face of Southern aggression, while Seward was trying every trick to, first, prevent secession, and later keep the Border South in the Union. Some dismayed Republicans declared that Seward had now “bowed down to the slave power”. “How the mighty have fallen!”, exclaimed Chase upon hearing about this. Not helping matters was that Seward still had strong ambitions and a hearty desire for power. If he couldn’t be President, he would be the Premier of the administration and assume control of the Party as its self-appointed leader.

    “Lincoln lacks will and purpose, and I greatly fear he has no power to command”, wrote Edward Bates to Seward, perhaps still bitter after being denied the position of Attorney General. Seward secretly shared this belief, and due to that he endeavored to take matters upon his own hands, and snuffing Lincoln’s instructions, he proposed several solutions, including the disastrous Committee of Thirteen that only increased suspicion and fear within the Border South and was unable to prevent Virginia’s secession.

    Secretary of State, William H. Seward

    This later event so alarmed Seward that he went behind Lincoln’s back and promised to Virginia delegated that there would be no attempts to hold by force of arms Federal property, which they willfully interpreted as a pledge to evacuate the two forts still under Federal control: Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens. When Lincoln learned of this, he was backed into a corner for he could not publicly declare his intention of possessing and retaking Federal property without being seen as an aggressor.

    Pressure from multiple fronts build up as many men looked up to Lincoln for guidance in that trying hour. “We elected Lincoln, and we are ready to fight for him if necessary”, declared an Illinoisan. From Ohio, a man said that “Lincoln must enforce the laws of the United States against rebellion, no matter the consequences”. Lincoln needed to appear as a firm leader. Despite his 6 successful years as a Senator, many still distrusted him and doubted the prairie lawyer who liked to tell funny stories would be the man of the hour.

    This necessity to appear firm and in command made Lincoln more resistant than ever to Seward’s attempts at taking command. After an embarrassing incident when a threat of assassination forced Lincoln to sneak into Washington “like a thief of the night”, Lincoln wrote a polite but stern letter to Seward. Whatever the course the administration was to take, “I must decide it”, said the President. It’s undoubtable that the whole incident steered Lincoln towards not heeding Seward’s advice regarding his inaugural address. When Lincoln made clear his intent of defending Federal property, including the Forts, many Southerners felt betrayed, and that probably played a role in Virginia’s secession.

    Later, when Lincoln actually assumed the Presidency, Seward still tried to take command by forcing Lincoln to not appoint Chase. “I can’t let Seward make the first move”, said Lincoln to his private secretary. Lincoln this time was firmer, arranging a private meeting with Seward and getting him to back down from this attempt to force Lincoln’s hand and also other projects such as declaring war on both Spain and France to supposedly unite the country. After that, Seward served as one of Lincoln’s most able and useful allies.

    While Lincoln busied himself building a Cabinet, Confederate lawmakers close by at Richmond were trying to build a nation. A first convention had been scheduled to meet at Montgomery, Alabama, but switched places to Richmond, Virginia, soon after the secession of the Old Dominion. This was convenient for several Senators, who now despairing of the Union, were giving teary, solemn, or contemptuous goodbyes to their colleagues.

    One of them was John Breckinridge of Kentucky, who fulfilling his promise of taking up a soldier’s musket if his country demanded it, resigned and went South. Breckinridge’s difficult decision had been taken when the Republicans almost unanimously rejected the Compromise he had so carefully crafted. If he couldn’t take the mantle of Clay, he would take the mantle of the Founders and fight for liberty, as he envisioned it. In Breckinridge’s mind, whether Lincoln would coerce or not the South was no longer a question. He had to decide, and he chose the South. Predicting a Civil War which would probably involve his state, he and several Democrats started working towards making Kentucky secede. Meanwhile, Breckinridge himself attended the Constitutional Convention.

    Howell Cobb, President of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America

    The Confederate Constitution Convention worked quickly and efficiently. Using the US constitution as a frame-work, they quickly drafted a Provisional Constitution. Most changes were related to state rights and the power of the Central government. Removing the “general welfare clause” and “a more perfect Union”, and adding "each State acting in its sovereign and independent character" after “We the People”, served as a way of claiming the true legacy of 1776. The Slave Trade was still forbidden despite some noise from the Lower South, this to calm the economic and social sensibilities of Virginia, North Carolina, and the not-yet seceded states, which were more moderate and depended on selling their slave surplus down South for extra revenue. The Constitution empowered states to impeach Confederate officials whose duties lay only in the state, and forbade a tariff to protect domestic industries or aid to internal improvements.

    The powers of the executive were a matter of more interest. The President was weakened by being given just a single 6-year term, without re-election. Then he was strengthened with an item-line veto on appropriations. Members of the Cabinet would also have a non-voting seat in Congress. The matter of most interest, however, was who would be the President.

    Several candidates were floated. Yancey and Rhett, some of the more prominent and famous original secessionists were seen as natural choices at first. But North Carolina and Virginia especially carried an enormous weight, and these two Upper South states plus Deep South moderates united to stop the Fire-Eaters. In their view, they shared the guilt of the painful separation with the blackest of Republicans.

    Three Georgians seemed the next best option: Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs. The Georgia delegation could not unite behind one of them, and both Stephens and Toombs suffered handicaps that disqualified them. Stephens had resisted secession until the last minute, being a conditional unionist. Toombs was a former Whig and his temperament, including drunkenness, made him suspect. Moreover, the Upper South preferred one of their own, which they believed would help establish a moderate image before the world and the other Slave States. For this reason, and mindful that Jefferson Davis preferred a military command, the Convention turned to John Breckinridge.

    A moderate Democrat, an experienced Senator, Buchanan’s Vice-president and an able statesman, Breckinridge was the chosen candidate of the Democratic Party in 1860, sweeping the South. Electing Breckinridge as President would help give legitimacy to the new government, and he was already popular in the South. Furthermore, he was from Kentucky, a state the new Confederacy had to secure. Protected by the Ohio, and with abundant horses and industry, Kentucky would be a valuable asset that would help push Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas into the Confederacy. Breckinridge would probably convince many that compromise was impossible, for if even he had joined the Confederacy there was no salvation for the Union. This last point caused some contention from people who suspected Breckinridge’s loyalties, but his prestige and experience pushed many to support him.

    Though Breckinridge was only a reluctant secessionist, a sense of duty and destiny compelled him to accept the Convention’s call. To balance his administration, the Deep South Alexander Stephens was selected as Vice-president. A former Whig with more legislative experience, Stephens contrasted with the Democratic and Executive-oriented Breckinridge, while also complementing him as a fellow moderate. The Convention thus intended to emphasize that they were being forced to start a revolution, instead of rebelling by caprice as Lincoln had said. Besides, it constituted a gesture towards Georgia, which allowed Breckinridge to pass over the still bitter Toombs.

    Breckinridge had recognized in Toombs a powerful ambition, which had driven him to not accept the vice-presidency. At first, he had considered appointing him as Secretary of State, but Breckinridge firmly believed that Confederate foreign policy would be one of the most important policies of the new nation. Thus, he appointed him instead to a position in the new Army of Virginia, which was being organized under the command of Robert E. Lee. This was enough for Toombs, who saw a military position as a better way of fulfilling his hunger for glory. For Secretary of State, Breckinridge instead chose Robert M. T. Hunter.

    The position of Secretary of War was given to Jefferson Davis, who was an experienced soldier, a West Point graduate who had served with distinction in the Mexican War and later was chosen as Buchanan’s Secretary of War. He would have to work with General-in-chief Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston, another West Point graduate, had served for many years in the US Army, serving in the staff of Winfield Scott at Veracruz, and attaining the rank of Brigadier General. In 1860 he had been appointed US Quartermaster General. For his experience and seniority, Breckinridge decided to appoint him as General-in-chief of the new Confederacy, after having to fight with the Convention to even create such a position.

    John C. Breckinridge, President of the Confederate States of America

    Breckinridge and his new administration adopted mostly a position of inaction for the first weeks. As a Kentuckian, he recognized that the Border South had conflicting loyalties. If the Confederacy acted as the aggressor, moderates and the people still on the face would be pushed towards Unionism. The need to appear firm pushed him towards some bellicose first speeches, declaring that the South was ready to defend themselves from Yankee aggression with cannon, powder, and shot; but most of his speeches and declarations were more peaceful, emphasizing that the South only wanted to be left alone, to go on peace.

    This “go on peace” approach was favored by some Yankees. Coercion would inevitably start a Civil War, so they didn’t saw it as an option. If the South was allowed to secede, either secession fever would run its course and they would return to the Union, or the catastrophe of war would be averted. But this position commanded little support, since many, Lincoln included, saw that as the start of the unraveling of the United States: if the rebel states were allowed to secede without consequences, they would be repudiating the supremacy of democracy and of the National government, and soon many more would join them in rebellion.

    Others demanded blood. “Have we got a government!?”, exclaimed exasperated newspapers that wanted action, and wanted it now. The Lincoln administration, they said, was comatose and useless. A point of special worry was how the National capital was now wedged between a seceded state (Virginia) and a slave state (Maryland). Lincoln could not give up Washington, but calling for the necessary troops to defend it would be seen as coercion.

    Breckinridge faced similar problems. “The ardor of the people is cooling off”, warned a Louisianan. “If we want this revolution to triumph”, added a Virginian, “we must demonstrate our intent to stand firm before the Washington tyrant.” These demands had pushed Breckinridge towards allowing the organization of an army, approving the enlistments of one-year volunteers, and the creation of two armies: The Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee, and the First Confederate Army, under the command of P. T. G. Beauregard.

    Beauregard’s volunteers had become Southern heroes by forcing the surrender of Forts Moultrie and Sumter, in the final days of the Buchanan administration and the first days of Lincoln’s. Major Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Moultrie, had moved his troops from this outdated fort to the powerful and modern, if undermanned, Fort Sumter. The South interpreted this as a betrayal in Buchanan’s part, who had promised to not change the military situation around the Forts for the time being. Succumbing to Southern pressure and desperate to avoid a Civil War before Lincoln took over, Buchanan ordered Anderson back to Fort Moultrie. There, Confederate cannons obtained thanks to former Secretary of War John Floyd allowed Beauregard to threaten Anderson, and prevent him from moving back to Sumter. Lincoln tried to organize a rescue mission, but he lacked the resources. General in-chief Winfield Scott was advising against such an attempt, for it would be seen as an act of aggression, and the Army’s resources had to be concentrated around Washington.

    When a single, unarmed ship approached, Beauregard drove it away and bombarded Fort Moultrie, thus obtaining Anderson’s surrender. The Confederate flag rose above both Forts, Lincoln unable to do anything. This was a fatal blow against his new administration.

    But Lincoln’s focus and that of the nation turned to Richmond, where an attack was being supposedly organized by the rebels. Breckinridge had no intention to start a war, but the widespread opinion through Washington and the entire Union was that the rebels were coming. To evacuate Washington without a fight would completely destroy Lincoln’s government before it had even started, especially after the humiliation of Fort Moultrie. Considering this, Lincoln decided that he had no option, and ordered Scott to prepare to defend the capital no matter what. The President made it clear that he had no intention to attack Richmond or start a war, but that in the face of Confederate aggression he had no option.

    The Union cheered the decision. “The President has shown that he has the power and the intention to govern”, said a Massachusetts man. “As long as the sacred capital of the greatest government on earth stands, I shall not despair of our glorious Union”, added a Pennsylvanian. Horace Greeley congratulated Lincoln for “showing firmness before the aggression of the Slavocracy.” Indeed, for many this was the first sign that the Lincoln administration, hitherto comatose, intended to do something. “The Federal government has been assailed”, a supporter wrote to Lincoln, “it’s your duty to defend it, and me and millions more expect you to fulfill it.”

    But the South didn’t see this as a defensive act, but an aggressive one. Rumors started to circulate widely that the North intended to build up an Army and march South. The Panic was greatest in Baltimore, where some regiments of the regular army were finally arriving from the west to protect the Capital. Anti-Union riots started and culminated with Washington isolated, the railways that connected it with other cities destroyed, and its telegraph lines cut. And from the South, an Army was reportedly coming.

    Washington D.C.

    A desolate and forlorn Lincoln stared out the windows of the White House while General Scott desperately organized clerks and shop owners into militia for a desperate last stand. For all he knew, Lincoln would be the last President of the United States. But from every corner of the North echoed a call, as thousands vowed to fight their way to Washington and save the nation
    Last edited:
    Mini-updates 1: "Give us factories, and we will assert our rights."
  • Mini-updates 1: "Give us factories, and we will assert our rights."

    In the decade of 1850, there were two main movements that dominated the southern mindset. Both movements were based around the future of the South, both also placing slavery at the center. The crux of the issue was whether the future of the South laid in expansion or modernization.

    The later view was especially popular at the start of the decade. It envisioned a South that modernized and adopted the industrial technologies of the north. Proponents argued that the South had languished behind the other section in several key economical aspects. For example, the Southern share of canals was a measly 14%; their share of railroad mileage had dropped from 44% to 26%; their population grew much slower than the Northern one due to immigration both internal and external boosting Northern growth; and they only had 18% of the nation’s industry.

    Overreliance on cotton had defined the economy and society of the South. Cotton was immensely profitable thanks to slave labor and the cotton gin. As trade increased, so did the price and demand of cotton. Due to this, becoming a planter became the Southern version of the American dream. Southerners ditched the development of industry or cities, dedicating themselves to agriculture. “To sell cotton in order to buy Negroes, to make more cotton to buy more Negroes, etc., is the aim of all the operations of the cotton planter”, commented Joseph H. Ingraham, a New England Yankee who authored a book about the Midwest, published in 1835. Ingraham commented that the ambition to possess a plantation and slaves drove many. Those who studied trades or educated themselves to be doctors or lawyers, would abandon their profession as soon as they obtained enough to start a plantation of their own: “As soon as the young lawyer makes enough to purchase a few hundred acres of rich land and a few slaves, he quits his profession at once, though perhaps just rising into prominence, and turns cotton planter. The legal profession at Natchez is composed entirely of young men.”

    Statistic further emphasized this point. In 1840, 86.3% of the people in the South were plantation owners, farmers, slaves, or dedicated themselves to agriculture. Just 0.8% were learned professionals. Despite Southern claims that slavery allowed them to “cultivate the arts and the sciences”, while the greasy mechanics of the North labored in the mud, the truth is that slavery stunted Southern grow. The English traveler Robert Russell wrote: “Traveling through a fertile district in any of the southern states, the appearance of things is very different than that in the Free States. During two days’ sail on the Alabama River from Mobile to Montgomery, I did not see enough houses in any one spot to call it a village.” Unlike the North, the South was no land of opportunity. In fact, three times as many people migrated from the South to the North than the other way around.

    Erosion resulted in exhausted soils as well. “Our small planters, after taking the best off their lands, are unable to restore them with rest, fertilizer, or otherwise. So, they are moving further west and south, in search of other fresh lands which they will also ruin”, said an Alabama state legislator who denounced this practice, which eradicated small farmers in favor of great plantations. Frederick Law Olmstead, a Yankee travelled, reported a similar phenomenon in Louisiana: “The hillsides were worn, cracked, and channeled like icebergs; the stables and Negro quarters were all abandoned— everything was given up to nature and decay.”

    J. D. B. De Bow

    But the greatest source of Southern preoccupation wasn’t erosion or lack of development; it was honor, and standing firm in the face of Northern insolence. The country was faced with several important choices, as the debates about the Mexican cession and the Compromise of 1850 dominated the nation, and president Zachary Taylor threatened to march South and hang every traitor. Tensions were increasing, and talks of secession started. But the South was painfully aware of its economic inferiority, and what aggravated Southerners the most, their dependency on the North.

    Most plantations relied on Northern and British banks for loans and credit; most Southern ports relied on Northern and British firms for shipping their cotton; most Southerners bought their products, including textiles, from the North. As an Alabamian explained, “our whole commerce except a small fraction is in the hands of Northern men.” This was a form of “degrading vassalage” that irritated him to no end; “financially, we are more enslaved than our Negroes”, he also added. A newspaper concurred, “The slaveholder dresses in Northern goods, rides in a Northern saddle… reads Northern books… In Northern vessels his products are carried to market… and on Northern-made paper, with a Northern pen, with Northern ink, he resolves and re-resolves in regard to his rights.” DeBow’s Review, a popular New Orleans newspaper, was the greatest denouncer of this vassalage, and the greater proponent for the solution of modernization.

    “Does Ireland sustain a more degrading relation to Great Britain? Will we not throw off this humiliating dependence?”, DeBow cried, signaling to statistics that showed a stark trade deficit. He further demanded “Action! ACTION!! ACTION!!!—not in the rhetoric of Congress, but in the busy hum of mechanism, and in the thrifty operations of the hammer and anvil.” His objective was clear: maintaining Southern dominance over the Federal Government, a dominance that could be lost if they didn’t take the necessary measures, because "the North grows rich and powerful whilst we [Southerners] at best are stationary."

    This fear was very real, and it combined with fears of the creation of an anti-slavery party in the South. “The fight will not be between North and South, but it will be fought in the South, between Southerners”, warned some. Hinton Rowan Helper, in his book The Impending Crisis, denounced Southern backwardness, and urged non-slaveholders to overthrow the Slavocracy. As the decade advanced, and hostilities increased, the fear of non-slaveholders constituting the “ply through which the North can extirpate slavery” from the South also increased. Through its use of statistics taken from the 1850 census that sought to prove that Free Labor was superior, The Impending Crisis also struck a raw nerve on Southerners who believed their section was being left behind.

    The modernization the South sought was to be achieved through industry. They wanted railroads that crossed the entire South; Southern steam ships that traded with Europe without Yankee interference; a Southern route to the Pacific; they wanted to “throw off the degrading shackles of commercial dependence” throughout economic development. "Give us factories, machine shops, workshops, and we will be able to assert our rights”, said several editors.

    Textiles and railroads seemed the natural choices. “With cotton and spinners, and with industrious labor”, the South could achieve a flourishing industry, said an investor. As for railroads, “the railroad is the path through which civilization and progress is achieved”, declared various newspapers; a Southern Whig agreed: “This railroad business is the dispensation of the present era.”

    But their efforts failed, and they did so miserably. The South did grow in the decade of 1850; its railroad mileage increased by a factor of 4, ahead of the Northern threefold increase, and both per capita and absolute investment in industry and business increased. But the North simply grew too fast for the South to catch on. As a result, the Southern industrial share actually decreased to 16%. Single cities in Massachusetts continued to operate more industry than the entire South. Southerners "are destitute of every feature which characterizes an industrious people”, said the frustrated textile industrialist William Gregg. He blamed slavery, calling it a “blight” that destroyed Southern ambition and growth.

    Hinton Rowan Helper

    Gregg was, perhaps unwittingly, echoing a common Republican theme: free labor was vastly superior to slave labor. Horace Greeley had declared that when you slave a man "you destroy his ambition, his enterprise, his capacity. In the constitution of human nature, the desire of bettering one's condition is the mainspring of effort." This itself echoed the words of Adam Smith: “a slave can have no other interest but to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible.” Free Labor defined the Republican ideology and mindset. To them, Northern Free Labor defined an ideal society, by allowing free enterprise, economic development, social mobility, and democracy. Southerners betrayed these values. For Republicans more focused on economic rather than social issues, the main sin slavery committed was preventing development. “An exhausted soil, old and decaying towns, wretchedly-neglected roads, and, in every respect, an absence of enterprise and improvement, distinguish the region through which we have come, in contrast to that in which we live. Such has been the effect of slavery”, wrote William H. Seward. Other Republicans agreed, and added their own observations, “Slavery withers and blights all it touches... slavery is a foul political curse upon the institutions of our country; it is a curse upon the soil of the country, and worse than that, it is a curse upon the poor, free, laboring white man."

    Why did these Southern efforts to industrialize fail? Some economists have concurred with Republicans and blamed slavery, either because Southerners lacked the labor base and consumer market necessary to kickstart industry, or because they lacked the drive to do so. Use of slaves in industrial enterprises during the Civil War seem to dispel the first notion. Thus, Southerners must have lacked the capital necessary. But the South had plenty of capital in the form of farms, plantations, and trade. However, that capital was used to acquire more slaves, and more land, instead of being invested. “All spare cash is sunk here in purchasing negroes”, complained a British investor.

    Southern hostility to the idea of industry can also be blamed. Industry, working manually to produce goods was a lowly profession, fit for Yankees but not for Southern gentlemen. Many Southerners denounced the “filthy, crowded, licentious factories,” of the North, or the “hireling labor, pauperism, rowdyism, mobism, and anti-rentism," of the society of the Free States. They rejoiced and took pride in their agricultural society. “Ours is an agricultural people, and God grant that we may continue so. It is the freest, happiest, most independent, and with us, the most powerful condition on earth”, said an Alabamian. James Hammond mocked Northerners as “mudsills” who had to labor so that Southern gentlemen could dedicate themselves to noble pursuits.

    The failure to industrialize in the early 1850’s gave way to shift in Southern aptitudes. Instead of going after industry and development, Southerners started to crave land and territories. Commercial conventions that had once cheered industry, now dedicated their pages to agriculture and Southern nationalism. The industrializing desire of the early decade was forgotten, and the South instead moved its eyes further south, where Mexico, Cuba, and Central America were, and where the promise of a Southern Empire laid.
    AN: As promised, the first of the mini-updates! Of course, it's not really a "mini-update", being of the same length as the regular updates, but as you can see it doesn't form part of the regular narrative I've build, but rather provides additional information. This first mini-update deals with Southern attempts to industrialize at the start of the 1850's. Regular updates will continue as usual, with Chapter 13 being posted next week.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 13: Down with the Traitors, Up with the Stars!
  • Chapter 13: Down with the Traitors, Up with the Stars!

    President Breckinridge was sitting in his office in Richmond, Virginia. He had a gigantic task ahead of him. He had to create an army, build a navy, and consolidate a nation. All tasks more difficult that those Washington had faced, for Washington had been able to build up his country after winning militarily. Breckinridge, on the other hand, had to do both at the same time. This created a series of strange contradictions – he was assuring diplomats that he only wanted peace, while at the same time he was building an army; he was proclaiming that the South only wanted to be alone, while his army was marching on to Washington D.C.

    The fact was, Lincoln had outmaneuvered him this time. The prairie lawyer turned statesman showed the Counterrevolutionaries what he could do by maneuvering them into being the aggressors. If the Confederacy was the first to draw blood, the North would be united against them. Just the rumors of a Southern army heading to D.C. was enough to ignite the spirit of the Northern people. From the East and from the West, thousands cheered the stars and stripes and vowed to defend the capital no matter what. The Baltimore riots plus the isolation of Washington was the last drop. People who had before advised caution and reconciliation now clamored for bloody vengeance.

    Lincoln’s plan hadn’t been executed perfectly. For one, there truly were no troops to protect Washington, leaving the city defenseless. For how long, neither Head of State was sure. This window of opportunity was priceless, and Breckinridge and many Southerners recognized that it was their best shot at conquering peace for Dixie. But Breckinridge wasn’t sure whether he wanted to “conquer” a peace, or simply negotiate one. Another flaw in Lincoln’s plan was that he overestimated the loyalty of Maryland and its people. But still, Breckinridge told his secretary that Lincoln’s plan “exhibited a perplexing brilliancy.”

    The brilliance of Lincoln’s decisions wasn’t apparent to many Southerners, and a lot of Northerners as well. But the fact was that, through his actions, Lincoln had basically told Breckinridge “heads I win, tails you lose”, per the words of historian James M. McPherson. If Breckinridge attacked the North, he would be branded as the aggressor in the eyes of the world, solidify the Northern will to go to war and to win it, and, worst of all, he would start a war in the first place. Breckinridge was painfully aware of the South’s weaknesses and the immense power of the North. “I trust I have the courage to lead a forlorn hope”, said the President whilst under an especially despondent mood.

    Indeed, when the South and the North were compared in the basis of men, resources, and industry, or in other words, when you pitied the war resources of both sections, it was clear that the North had an immense advantage. Though Breckinridge wasn’t present when the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Military Academy, William T. Sherman, gave a fiery condemnation of the Southern Rebellion, it’s clear that Sherman’s words would have added to his conclusions.

    “You people of the South don’t know what you are doing”, the red-bearded West Pointer said, "This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing!" Other Southerners shared Breckinridge’s feelings. Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, had given up his US Army commission, declaring that he could not raise his hand against “my birthplace, my home, my children.” Lee exhibit great resolve and skill as a commander, and his high sense of dignity prevented him from expressing much emotion. Nonetheless, he also dreaded war: “I foresee that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for our national sins.”

    William T. Sherman

    Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who had wanted to fight as a general in the Army of the Mississippi but was compelled by a strong sense of duty to answer Breckinridge’s call, was also aware of this disparity. Having being Buchanan’s Secretary of War, he had a good idea of the resources of the US. Commander in-chief Johnston also was aware of their disadvantage, but he was a proponent of seizing Washington at once before the North was able to build an army. He was joined in this by General Beauregard, the commander of the Army that was marching on to the Yankee Capital. Both Generals believed the Lincoln government could be brought to its knees by "the crushing victory the fall of the Yankee capital would constitute."

    Many people opposed a direct attack. Although his hunger for glory had not yet been sated, Toombs argued against attacking, because that would “inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen”. He continued, adding that “it is suicide, murder, and it would lose us every friend at the North. It would wantonly strike a hornets’ nest which extends from mountains to ocean. Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.” Breckinridge tended to agree with such sentiments. But pro-war Confederates expressed a counterpoint: not attacking would lose Breckinridge his Southern friends; it would allow the Lincoln administration to consolidate and prepare; it would lose the momentary advantage the South enjoyed; and it would discredit the entire Revolution.

    Peace could not be negotiated, it had to be asserted, it had to be conquered. That was at least the point many Confederates made. Lincoln had barely 15,000 men, of whom only a faction was in Washington. The Confederacy already had hundreds of thousands of young men. Many had no shoes, no uniform, no arms, and no training. But for all intents and purposes Breckinridge had an army while Lincoln didn’t – but that could change, and it could change soon. If Breckinridge took Washington, that could potentially constitute a fatal blow towards the Lincoln administration, shattering Northern unity and their faith on Lincoln, and showing that the Confederacy was independent and had the means to enforce this independence. But it could also have the opposite effect and unite the North.

    What pushed Breckinridge the most was the potential effects on the South. If he didn’t attack, he would be seen as a weak figure, not fit for commanding a new nation in its hour of need. Yancey had introduced him to cheering Richmond crowds with these words: “The man and the hour have met!”. Many were already doubting whether the Alabamian was right. Was Breckinridge truly the man of the hour? “Our new President does nothing at all for our cause. The armies of the Lincolnites will soon come!”, complained an exasperated Richmond clerk. Newspapers demanded action. “Let us take the Yankee capital, and our independence will be secured”, said one, while the Richmond Examiner printed a column asking for "one wild shout of fierce resolve to capture Washington City, at all and every human hazard. That filthy cage of unclean birds must and will be purified by fire." Many expressed similar rhetoric – “we are willing to pledge our hands and hearts for this most holy crusade, but we need to act now”, declared a Virginia officer, while a North Carolinian wrote home that "the defense and survival of our country, of our very lives, depends on whether we can take the Federal city."

    Striking the North would unite the South behind Breckinridge, keeping the martial spirit of the people, and it would force Lincoln to either surrender or call for troops. The first option was simply not possible; the second would reek of coercion, and push the Border States towards the Confederacy. These Border States would be all more eager to join their Southern brethren after it was shown that the Confederacy was able to conquer a peace. Britain, France, and other Great Powers would likewise be impressed. Already the London Times was expressing that the North couldn’t win:

    It is one thing to drive the rebels from the south bank of the Potomac, or even to occupy Richmond, but another to reduce and hold in permanent subjection a tract of country nearly as large as Russia in Europe. . . . No war of independence ever terminated unsuccessfully except where the disparity of force was far greater than it is in this case. . . . Just as England during the revolution had to give up conquering the colonies so the North will have to give up conquering the South.​

    With each passing day, the resolve of the Southern people weakened, and Lincoln’s hold over the Border South strengthened. Due to this, Breckinridge decided that he had no option. Attacking would start a war, but at the moment it seemed like one would start anyway, and it would start soon. The best option was to start it under favorable terms. Breckinridge would lose, but Lincoln wouldn’t win. The Southern President was finally pushed forward when the Maryland Convention declared secession from the Union. In April 18th, 1861, the order was given and Beauregard marched on to Washington.

    General P. G. T. Beauregard

    The capital was submitted under panic. Under the direction of General Scott, the Treasury Building was being fortified for a last stand. Only militias and a couple of regiments were available to defend the city. In April 16th, Lincoln had issued a call for 25,000 volunteers to protect the National Capital from “a hostile rebellion” which means "to direct an attack towards the seat of the government". The Northern President had been greatly troubled. He needed troops to defend his capital, but issuing a general call would start the war in the worst possible moment. He needed to paint Breckenridge as the aggressor, but also maintain the image of his own government as strong enough to lead. Furthermore, he had to threat carefully around the not-yet seceded states, especially Maryland and Kentucky.

    Events surrounding Kentucky will be discussed later. For the moment, Maryland was a more pressing issue. The capital had been cut off the rest of the nation in April 10th, but in April 13th General Benjamin Butler was able to reopen a railway line through Annapolis, and arrive with 2 regiments: the 7th New York and the 6th Massachusetts. Now able to communicate with the states and the rest of the Federal government, Lincoln issued two proclamations: the first calling for the 25,000 volunteers, and the second asking Congress to meet in Philadelphia.

    The first proclamation was carefully crafted as to not offend the sensibilities of the Border South. It made it clear that the troops would only be used to defend Washington and not to go on the offensive. The small numbers of troops called was another reassurance of that. Furthermore, it did not call for troops from the Border South, though some newspapers felt the need to make it clear that “the President has the power and the right to call for the men of any state.” The proclamation was mild enough to not provoke Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, or Arkansas, all of which had conventions in session, to secede. But Maryland was different.

    The governor of Maryland, George William Brown, was a pro-Confederate, pro-Slavery man. Unhappily for Lincoln, panic regarding the admission of Kansas as a slave state had provoked a pro-slavery reaction in Maryland, which pushed Brown to run for the governorship as a Democrat against the Know-Nothing Thomas Hicks. Brown had wanted to run for mayor of Baltimore, but he was convinced that he needed to protect his state against the Black Republicans. When South Carolina seceded, Brown had called the legislature into session. A convention was rejected, but after Virginia seceded one was finally elected. It returned a strong Conditional Unionist majority, which frustrated Brown and other secessionists. The convention voted down an ordinance of secession, after which Brown took action. He was the one who ordered Maryland militia and rioters to prevent the passing of Union troops no matter what. “A tyrant’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland!”, he thundered, “it’s time to raise our swords and, with a manly thrust repeal him from our sacred home!”

    Confederate flags were flown in seemingly every window in Baltimore, and effigies of Lincoln and other Republicans were burned. Militia companies were raised, the so called “State Guard” regiments. But the Unionists of Maryland were also spurred into action. Rival “Home Guard” Unionist regiments were also raised, and Unionist organized an election for a new state assembly, an effort that received the approval and support of Lincoln. Denouncing this “appropriation” of his legal duties, Brown asked the Convention to consider an ordinance of secession. Lincoln considered sending troops to stop the Convention, but decided against it.

    This proved to be the right choice. Though some members still talked about Southern rights and called Lincoln a tyrant, Brown’s actions had solidified the Unionism of the Convention. Even the location was telling – the pro-Union city of Frederick. Brown decided to not recognize the Convention, instead turning to the Legislature. Dominated through gerrymandering by pro-Slavery Southern Democrats who represented Southern Maryland and the shores of the Chesapeake, the Legislature was ripe for secession. When news came of a clash of arms in Brotherton, a small town just off the Annapolis railway, in April 16th, the Legislature acted and passed the ordinance of secession, fearing that the troops encountered were the abolitionist, ready to “John Brown” them.

    The Union regiment was the 8th Massachusetts, which had had to dismount the train near Brotherton. There the soldiers started to repair the damaged rail, when State Guard regiments appeared. Calling themselves minutemen and swearing that they would not allow the Union to pass through, they charged. “Remember the stern example of the Minutemen of Lexington! Remember the immortal courage of the Maryland militia at Guilford! Stand firm, and attack!” yelled the Rebel commander.

    The Battle of Brotherton was anti-climactic, with the rebels scampering to Baltimore and the Union soldiers to Washington after a futile exchange of shots that only produced a dozen casualties. Still, these were some of the first casualties of the Civil War. Lincoln received the regiment in Washington, while in Baltimore the Legislature denounced the “wicked, inhumane, despotic” acts of the Lincoln government. It promptly passed the ordinance of secession. The Convention at Frederick then declared itself the new government of Maryland, electing Hicks, now a National Unionist, as interim governor. Maryland thus was divided between two governments. However, for the moment Brown’s rebel government held more power. Brown quickly asked for admission into the Confederacy, and for Breckinridge to send troops to protect Maryland from the expected Union military buildup. He also offered to attack Washington from the North with his militias.

    George William Brown

    Something like that had been expected by Lincoln, who had arranged for a quick evacuation of Washington should his small army be unable to hold off the Confederates. His second proclamation, not made public directly, also anticipated the need to evacuate the capital. After the end of the March special session, he asked Congress to reconvene not in Washington, but in Philadelphia. The proclamation found its way into the press, where the opposition ran away with the story, something that weakened the Lincoln administration and most likely slowed down significantly the flow of volunteers. Some even reported that the Capital had already been surrendered! But Lincoln was able to turn the news around and make it clear that the Rebels were coming, but that they could be stopped. His call for volunteers plus the announcement that Lincoln would remain in Washington until the last moment served to galvanize the North. More tragic and admirable for many was the fact that Lincoln had sent Vice-President McLean and some key members of his cabinet to Philadelphia, most likely so that they could assume control should Lincoln be captured or killed.

    The strategic choice of Philadelphia as the new capital had not taken long. Besides its prime location which allowed it to easily receive foreign diplomats and communicate with the east and the west, Philadelphia was protected by several rivers, dismissing the threat of the Confederate army. Furthermore, the large and cosmopolitan city was firmly Unionist, and it enjoyed great prestige and historical significance as the place where the First and Second Continental Congresses plus the Constitutional Convention met. Choosing the birthplace of the nation sent a firm message to the rebels who were trying to destroy that nation. Other options like New York and Boston were ruled out because the former’s loyalty was suspect while the later would probably alienate moderates and was too far away from the battlefield. With Philadelphia thus selected as the new seat of government, a lot of the apparatus was moved there by sea in the weeks following Virginia's secession.

    Still, despite all his preparations, when the rebel flag was spotted outside Washington in April 19th, Lincoln almost gave in to despair. Breckinridge had finally given Beauregard the go ahead in April 18th, after receiving news of Maryland’s secession. The event had put him in a critical spot. If he couldn’t show other states’ secessionists that the Confederacy would and could protect them if the seceded, he would basically lose all hope he had for welcoming the Border South into his new nation. Without these critical states, the Confederacy’s hope for survival was dim at best. Feeling himself trapped, he approved Beauregard’s plans.

    The South had around 40,000 men under arms in Virginia, facing the around 15,000 Lincoln had managed to scrape out of incomplete regiments and militia. Of this 40,000, Beauregard could use only 25,000. The others lacked equipment, were unorganized, or had fallen sick. Still, his troops were superior to the ragtag bunch of militia of Lincoln. Some were not even soldiers, but civilians organized in volunteer companies. Feeling confident, Beauregard forded the Potomac through the Chain Bridge, some two miles to the Northeast of the city. The Federals had failed to destroy it, and when they saw him approaching they quickly withdrew to the city. Beauregard started his advance at the Rock Creek Road, but received intelligence that informed him of the existence of makeshift Fort Saratoga. To circumvent them, Beauregard swerved east to the Rockville Road, and started to advance again.

    There, he received a petition of the commander of the Maryland Militia. The Marylanders had been advancing by the Road to Baltimore, but they didn't feel confident on their own strength after their embarrassing performance at Brotherton. They asked Beauregard to send Confederate regulars to meet with them at the halfway point of Seventh Street Road, just north of another makeshift fort. Knowing that he needed to successfully protect the Marylanders from defeat, however unlikely it was, and the optics of them fighting alongside other Confederates mere days after succeeding would help the Southern cause in the Border, Beauregard accepted and sent the Virginia Colonel Thomas J. Jackson. Showing the skill that would make him famous in the future, Jackson marched his men to the meeting point at an astounding velocity. There were now two Confederate columns: Beauregard with 20,000 men and Jackson with 8,000.

    The Union soldiers bravely held off the rebels at the Rock Creek and the still not completed but appropriately named Fort Bunker Hill. Despite their strong defenses and their artillery, the Union men were “green” troops, which even Winfield Scott considered useless. The Rebels, to be fair, were also “green”, but they enjoyed several advantages. For one, Beauregard possessed a skilled net of spies within Washington; Maryland rebels also made sure to ax trees, destroy roads and railways, and do everything to slow down the already slow Union regiments. They also enjoyed a psychological edge over their adversaries.

    But the Union soldiers showed a resilience and bravery that would characterize them in later years. Despite being outnumbered, despite their inexperience and the general sense of hopelessness that gripped them, they fought on, decided to not give up their capital unless every man had fallen. They made good of their promise – at the end of the day, the sun fell over 4,000 rebels, more than double the Union casualties. Still, the sheer force of numbers and the ferocity of the Confederates pushed the Union soldiers to the breaking point, and a rout took place. Lincoln was forced to evacuate, taking a boat down the Potomac together with Scott, many important archives and art pieces, and whatever and whoever else he could take with him. He implored the surviving soldiers to go with him, but they solemnly answered that they would stay until the end. With tears in his eyes, the President thanked them profusely, and set forth to the Chesapeake, where heavily armed boats were, ready to protect him as he traveled north to Philadelphia.

    By the next day, April 20th, Washington had fallen. Many civilians had been evacuated towards the Unionist parts of Maryland after the Legislature approved the ordinance of secession. Only clerks and militias remained, some fortified within the Senate chambers and the Treasury. The rebels looted and burned buildings and homes, including the Capitol and the White House, which blazed for the second time. This time, the fire was more destructive. The Statue of Freedom, built to crown the dome of the unfinished Capitol, was also destroyed. The significance of the Slavers destroying it was not lost. Finally, the last defenders of Washington surrendered, and the Confederate Stars and Bars rose over the smoking capital.

    Washington burns

    Far from destroying the Northern will, this attack pushed the North towards fury and outrage, and a desire to crush out treason no matter what. From his new desk in Philadelphia, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 150,000 volunteers for three years of service to quell a “rebellion too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings”. The reaction was overwhelming. From all corners of the nation came a giant scream, as millions swore allegiance to the nation and clamored for the blood of traitors.

    In New York, known for its Southern sympathies, half a million people turned out for a Union rally. "I look with awe on the national movement here in New York and all through the Free States," said a lawyer, while a New York woman added that “it seems as if we never were alive till now; never had a country till now." From Boston, a woman wrote that “The whole North stood up as one man… I have never seen anything like this before. I had never dreamed that New England... could be fired with so warlike a spirit.” The West was alight with the same electric energy: "In every city, in every village and house you can hear the cheers. I've never seen such popular excitement!" wrote a Michigan man, while in Springfield, Illinois, thousands met to cheer the President and "declare that whatever sacrifice it takes, they will not stop until every single rebel is hanged, and every city of the South is ablaze", per one spectator. "All squeamish sentimentality should be discarded, and bloody vengeance wreaked upon the heads of the contemptible traitors who have provoked it by their dastardly impertinence and rebellious acts", clamored a newspaper. “Let our enemies perish by the sword, let them die in the fire of condemnation!”, said others. None other than Stephen A. Douglas issued a fiery declaration: "There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots—or traitors."

    The American Civil War had begun.

    Last edited:
    Mini-updates 2: "We have a Manifest Destiny to perform."
  • Mini-updates 2: "We have a Manifest Destiny to perform."

    The dream of a Southern industrial nation faded away after several failures at the start of the decade. Instead, a new vision arose, one that envisioned a Southern empire stretching from Dixie to the Patagonia, with control of every foot of land in between, where slavery could grow and thrive.

    Southerners started to dream of this Southern Empire. If they could not equal the North through industry, they could do so through expansion. In their eyes, slavery was not the corrupting force abolitionists claimed it was. It was benign, a social and political blessing that elevated whites and allowed progress and prosperity, social order and morality. White Supremacy made even poor whites feel secure, for no matter how low they were, they were still better than the Negroes. And such a sacred institution needed to expand. Otherwise, it would ultimately suffer the fate moderate Republicans thought it deserved: ultimate extinction.

    The battle for expanding slavery to the western territories was a dramatic one that occupied the attention of most of the nation during the 1850’s. From the Compromise of 1850 to Bleeding Kansas, this battle defined the anti-slavery and pro-slavery movements, and is one of the direct causes of the Civil War. Southerners did achieve a major victory by admitting Kansas as a Slave State. But the prospects for getting more slaves out of the Mexican cession were dim. Territories like Arizona and New Mexico were not promising. Further south, however, laid fertile tropical territories.

    The riches of Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico; the tropical wonders of Central America; and the little developed but ripe for taking Mexican provinces. A delegate to a Commercial Convention toasted "To the Southern republic bounded on the north by the Mason and Dixon line and on the south by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, including Cuba and all other lands on our southern shore”, while the Yankee John L. O’Sullivan, an unlikely filibuster, expressed that the South wanted “more, more, more!”, until “the entire boundless continent is ours.” To Yankees that opposed further expansion, a Louisiana newspaper answered that no more territories for slavery “is almost as senseless as ‘No More Sun.’ . . . The Negro in a hot clime, where white men can with difficulty labor in the broiling sun, is an agricultural and commercial necessity.” A Virginian agreed, expressing that he saw a “nobler destiny for the South . . . than awaits any other people” in the development of “the labor of the African under the direction of the intelligent Southerner” in the Caribbean and South America.

    The South and some expansionists Democrats who believed in Manifest Destiny cast lusty eyes over these territories, which they wanted to take, either through official means, or through bloodshed and rebellion. First, they tried diplomacy.

    Just after finishing the Mexican War, President Polk said that he was “decidedly in favour of purchasing Cuba & making it one of the States of [the] Union.” Southerners expressed great excitement for the idea. Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis, who would later become the Confederacy’s Secretary of War, declared that the Gulf of Mexico was “a basin of water belonging to the United States”, and for that reason Cuba “must be ours.” His fellow Mississippi Senator Albert Gallatin Brown declared: “I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it", while newspapers printed columns detailing how control of Cuba would give the US control of “the commerce of the world, and with that, the power of the world."

    Some Southerners also wanted Cuba because they believed Spain was going to enact emancipation at the bequest of Lord Palmerston. If the Cuban slaves were liberated, the island would become another “Santo Domingo”. An overseer said that he would rather conquer Cuba than see it become “a howling desert”, while Alexander Stephens exclaimed that Americans should do everything to prevent Cuba from becoming “a Negro State”. The presence of such a State so close to the Union would be an existential threat to the South. And so, despite some misgivings by planters who feared competition by Cuban planters, the South set off in a mission to take the Pearl of the West Indies.

    Polk’s official efforts were frustrated by the clumsiness of his Minister to Spain, who offered 100 million USD but was rebuked by the Spaniards, who declared that they would rather see Cuba sink to the bottom of the ocean than sell it to the US. Stephens described it as a peddler going to the Palace and asking the Queen “Madame, have you got any islands for sale today?” Even if Polk’s ambassador has succeeded, it’s unlikely that Congress would have approved any treaty, especially after the debate the Wilmot Proviso and the fate of the Mexican cession had caused. The election of Zachary Taylor as a Whig ended official efforts for the time being.

    Southerners were undaunted. They meant to pull of a “Texas” by liberating Cuba, reversing the Spanish efforts to “Africanize” the island, and then asking for annexation to the United States. For that purpose, they organized regiments of “filibusters” (from the Spanish filibustero), armed bands that sought to conquer more land by armed forces. Though illegal due to the Neutrality Act, filibusters received wide support by the public and sometimes by elected officials such as Senators and Governors. In the years following the Mexican War, most interest focused in Cuba, and in the South’s dashing champion, Narciso Lopez.

    Narciso Lopez

    His first two expeditions ended stillborn and in disaster respectively. The first was stopped by the Taylor administration, after which Lopez went South and appealed to Governor Quitman of Mississippi, who couldn’t lead the expedition but helped Lopez raise arms and money. Lopez parted from New Orleans, and landed in Cuba, managing to capture the small town of Cardenas, before being driven off by the Spaniards. The Taylor administration’s efforts to indict Quitman and Lopez for violating the Neutrality Act also ended in farce – no Southern jury could be convinced to convict them.

    Lopez’s romantic adventured met a grim end with his last expedition in 1851. He landed with 420 men, including John J. Crittenden’s nephew, William. The Spanish authorities quickly subdued them, killing some 200 in several battles and capturing both Lopez and Crittenden. They executed the first by garrote in La Habana, while the second died in front of a shooting squad, together with 50 of his compatriots. These actions awakened the anger of the Americans, who rioted and destroyed Spanish newspapers and business. More insulting for the Spanish government was an attack on the Spanish consulate at New Orleans, where Americans destroyed the installations, shredded the Rojigualda and defaced a painting of the Queen.

    The Minister of Spain to the US, Calderón de la Barca, warned Secretary of State Daniel Webster that Spain “could do no less than sustain, at all hazards, the honor of the Castilian flag.” Spain demanded compensation to her citizens and an end to filibustering. The whole affair profoundly embarrassed President Fillmore, who had only taken the helm after Taylor’s death. Despite hawkish calls for war by several officials who wanted to “seize Cuba at once!”, Fillmore and Webster limited themselves to friendly overtures towards Spain. Weakening the Americans’ position was the fact that the State Department had several times insisted on the right of any country to try foreign filibusters, and also the fact that Spain had 173 prisoners. The Fillmore administration finally managed to calm down the furious Spaniards, and the Queen pardoned the prisoners.

    Shortly after this drama, another soldier of fortune made headlines through similar efforts. William Walker was a short man, known for his piercing green-gray eyes and his thirst for glory and adventure. In 1853, Walker and his band of Californians invaded Baja California. Their objective was Sonora and its mineral riches, but the ill-fated expedition ended up in failure. Mexican attacks plus desertions finally compelled Walker to return to the US. This was but the start of his career, which would reach new highs and also new lows in the following years, when a friendlier administration took office.

    The election of Franklin Pierce had revived official efforts. Though the Democratic Party would end up splitting over the Slavery question, most Democrats could agree that Manifest Destiny was a positive good that ought to be enacted. Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas was, for instance, a champion of the nationalistic Young America movement that sought to expand the nation. Pushing against these efforts were Northerners who were conscious that expansion would augment the South’s political and economical power.

    Manifest Destiny was still popular among Americans, including Republicans who envisioned a different version of it. For Republicans, expansion should bring light and civilization to forgotten and decaying regions, besides also generate profits for White Americans. The Blairs believed in colonization of liberated slaves because that would create "rich colonies under our protection” which could be used “likely in the end, to appropriate the whole region to our use." They firmly believed that Central America had to be the US’ “India”, but also that establishing colonies of Freedmen would prevent the South from establishing slave colonies.

    Pierce was not shy about his objectives. “The policy of my Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion," he declared. “Our position on the globe, render the acquisition of certain possessions . . . eminently important for our protection.” Despite this, Pierce’s efforts to purchase Cuba proved to be as fruitless as Polk’s, and his Minister just as or perhaps more incompetent. A violent man very conscious of his honor, Pierre Soulé was a firebrand who lacked the tact or subtlety to work the intricate paths of diplomacy. His initial efforts bordered on comical, and included ignored ultimatums and pointless duels. Yet the administration continued its efforts, instructing Soulé by saying that Cuba had to “be released from its present Colonial subjection."

    For this objective, Pierce recruited Quitman, who joyfully declared that it was time "to strike with effect, after the fashion of Texas.” Weapons and men were raised, and Senator Slidell of Louisiana introduced a motion to suspend the Neutrality Act. But just like Lopez’s expedition, Quitman’s ended in disappointment, this time not because of the Spaniards but of Pierce, who, having spent all his political capital on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and following the disastrous 1854 midterms, could not risk another disaster. The Nebraska act had “deprived the administration of the strength which was needed & could have been much more profitably used for the acquisition of Cuba,” reported the Secretary of State.

    John A. Quitman​

    Still, Soulé would continue bringing up the issue with his blunders. The gravest and most consequential of them was the Ostend Manifesto. Signed by Soulé, the Minister to Britain James Buchanan and the Minister to France John Mason, the Manifesto declared that Cuba was an “essential part” of the “family of states” that formed the US, and that the American nation would never allow Cuba “to be Africanized and become a second St. Domingo (Haiti), with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our own neighboring shores.” If Spain still refused to sell, then "by every law, human and Divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain."

    The Manifesto caused a great reaction throughout the North. It was denounced as a “Manifesto of the Brigands”, a plea “to grasp, to rob, to murder”. The New York Evening Post called it atrocious, while newly elected Illinois Senator Abraham Lincoln expressed disgust at the idea of more territory being taken for “the unjust expansion of slave labor.” His fellow Republican, Senator Seward, was more imperialistic, but while he supported the right of the US to the Caribbean and “distant islands on either ocean”, he expressed that such expansion had to be for the benefit of “civilization and the rights of man.” Following the disaster of 1854, Pierce had lost so much prestige and power that he could simply not afford to undertake more filibustering enterprises. Soulé was pressured to resign, and official efforts ended. The next president, Buchanan, was a fellow Democrat who exposed similar rhetoric. “The destiny of our race is to . . . flow South,” he said, “nothing can eventually arrest its progress.” Yet the events that plagued and crippled his government would prevent all but feeble efforts that were energetically rejected by most lawmakers.

    Paralegal efforts would continue. After the dramatic standoff between Governor Geary and the Kansas Border Ruffians, Quitman was emboldened again. Denouncing the Northern abolitionist and concluding that the only route of expansion and thus survival for the South was in Cuba, Quitman organized yet another expedition in 1856. Having just angered the South with his support for Geary and his failure to arrest him, Buchanan threaded with caution and did not interfere with Quitman, who landed in Cuba in 1856, trying to link up with several revolutionaries. Spanish troops would end up trapping the Cubans and the Americans. Quitman and some of his men tried a desperate race to an American schooner, but they were captured. The former Mississippi governor was subsequently executed by garrote.

    The South blazed with fury. Buchanan had failed to punish a Yankee brigand, and had allowed a Southern hero to be executed. Calls for war started again, as well as riots. Nowhere was the reaction stronger than in New Orleans, which wanted to become “the great commercial focus for Mexico, Central America, and the western states of South America.” In their view, “the Yankees’ railroads” had been destroying New Orleans’ “lifeblood commerce”, and it was a nccesity to conquer more lands so that the Delta City could retake its place as the center of American commerce. For this reason, they had supported Lopez, and then Quitman. And even though Quitman was from Mississippi, Louisiana treated him and mourned him as if he were one of her sons.

    In this she was joined by the South. From the Rio Grande to the Potomac came cries against Buchanan and the Yankees. These Yankees, for their part, denounced Quitman as a “brigand… a ruffian and a pirate”. A furious Senator Robert M. T. Hunter said that he was “appalled by the monstrous lack of respect” the Yankees showed, while New Orleans and Virginia newspapers denounced “Yankee insolence, which applauds the crimes of Osawatomie but disrespects an exemplar gentleman.” Quitman’s death ultimately faded into the background due to the Dredd Scott decision and the conflict regarding the admission of Kansas, but it remained in the back of the people’s minds. “Should Kansas be sullied by the chains of the Slavocracy,” an Illinois newspaper reported, “we can expect a thousand more brigands such as Quitman to attack and pillage.”

    With two of her champions dead, the South turned to her new favorite soon: William Walker. “The Green-eyed man of Destiny”, as he was called by newspapers, was now ready for a new adventure, this time further to the South. He and several American investors eyed Central America. Submerged in political chaos and instability, with fertile land fit for tropical production that couldn’t be developed by the sparse Mestizo population, Central America seemed ready for Southern civilization and institutions.

    Walker decided to intervene in Nicaragua’s civil war, allying himself with the rebels who opposed the government’s Legitimists. Walker’s filibusters triumphed, and he and his faction assumed control of Nicaragua, with Walker as commander of chief. By 1856 he had around 2,000 Americans with him, and Pierce had offered diplomatic recognition. Besides the South’s dreams of empire, Walker intervention benefitted American geopolitical goals. The US and Britain were in a constant struggle to establish dominance over the Caribbean, and the Britons had supported the Legitimists. With Walker’s victory, Nicaragua would fall into the US’ sphere of influence and be opened to American investment, travel, and maybe other projects such as a canal. The last was especially of interest to Cornelius Vanderbilt, the owner of the Accessory Transit Company that sought to establish a route between New York and San Francisco.

    Thousands of people took the grants offered by Walker. The South had taken interest in the enterprise. The failures at Cuba and Mexico convinced them that Nicaragua was their best bet for expansion. "A barbarous people can never become civilized without the salutary apprenticeship which slavery secured," declared a New Orleans newspaper, while others insisted that slavery would secure “the safe development of the mineral and agricultural riches of Nicaragua.” Walker intended to bind Nicaragua to the South, and in the aftermath of Dredd Scott, that angered the North. The Pierce administration had already withdrawn support, and the Buchanan administration didn’t seem likely to give it again.

    In 1856, Walker decided to gamble by legalizing slavery in Nicaragua. The gamble worked, and thousands of Southerners rallied to his banners. But it was too late. The other countries of Central America united against Walker. Even the President of Nicaragua deserted him, upon which Walker took over as President, a movement that never was quite recognized – he was known as “the Usurper.” His army succumbed, and Walker fled to the US. After a year, he was ready to try again, but was stopped by Commodore Hiram Paulding. Paulding’s actions created a national debate. Happening in 1857, just when Kansas was taking a bloodier turn, the affair drew criticism from Northerners who considered Walker a pirate, and Southerners who viewed him as a hero.

    A second tour of the South raised enough resources for a third attempt. Like the Spaniards, the Central Americans had learned how to deal with filibusters. It was 1858, and Yankees had also lost their patience following the admission of Kansas as a slave state. “The Slave Power has extended its hands over Kansas,” wrote a Free-Soiler, “we cannot, we must not allow it to take another inch of land.” For that reason, Republicans, who had taken the House and denied the Democrats’ a majority in the Senate, refused to prosecute Paulding’s “high handed outrage” (as the South described it), and also to rescue Walker again. A British ship finally took him in, but instead of going to the US, it handed him over to Honduras, which summarily executed him.

    William Walker

    “The blood of Walker is in the hands of the North”, declared a Georgia newspaper. Throughout the South many protested. In their view, Walker’s “noble goals” had been frustrated by Yankee interference, and his life had been ended by Republicans. A popular caricature depicted Lincoln (fresh from his victory over Douglas) and Seward as his executioners. The outrage died down towards the end of the year, but it reappeared after John Brown’s execution, next year. “The North stands up in open ovation of a traitor,” said a Virginia legislator, “yet it carries off the execution of noble men like Walker and Quitman.”

    Filibustering had major effects on several people’s perception of the United States, leaving behind a legacy of hostility and mistrust. But more importantly, it increased the sectional tensions that engulfed the Union and contributed to the start of the Civil War. The shadow of the filibusters would influence Seward and Lincoln, and harden their resolve not to yield to Southern demands and “compromises.” It especially had an influence in the failure of the Crittenden compromise, which through its language of protecting slavery in any territory invited filibustering. In the grand schemes of thing, filibuster expeditions played second fiddle to the great domestic question that the US faced, yet they deserve attention and study for their role in augmenting the tensions that led to the Civil War.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 14: Dark and Bloody Ground
  • Chapter 14: Dark and Bloody Ground

    The news of the burning of Washington D.C. plus Lincoln’s call for troops had a galvanizing effect on the Border States. The flag-waving and cheerful crowds that celebrated the victory in Richmond, Raleigh and New Orleans were joined by crowds in Little Rock, Lexington and Nashville. A Tennessee secessionist marveled: “The change of opinion is wondrous. Whereas timidity dominated not a week ago, now everybody is looking forward to secession!”

    Others like him were likewise encouraged by the responses of Border South governors to Lincoln’s appeal. From Tennessee, Governor Harris wired that his state would “furnish not a single man for the purpose of coercion, but fifty thousand if necessary, for the defense of our rights and those of our Southern brothers.” Governor Rector of Arkansas joined him by declaring that “The people of this Commonwealth are freemen, not slaves, and will defend to the last extremity their honor, lives, and property, against Northern mendacity and usurpation.” Kentucky’s governor asserted that his state would “furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States,” while Missouri’s denounced Lincoln’s appeal as “illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman... Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade.” Nearby Kansas quickly sent a similar message, calling Lincoln’s appeal “an unconstitutional and intolerable act of war that Kansas will take no part in.”

    Unlike his previous call for troops, Lincoln hadn’t excluded the remaining Slave States. To do so would “be an admission of weakness”, something he couldn’t allow after the fall of the capital. From his new capital at Philadelphia, Lincoln gave a rousing call to his people:

    “The fall of our Capital is a terrible blow. I can only hope it hasn't shattered the trust of the people in eventual victory. But the day will come, when I will return to this sacred city, hallowed by the great statesmen that built our nation, and now hallowed again by the patriot blood paid in its defense. That sacrifice cannot be in vain. We will return to our capital, with the single determination a Nation and a people united behind the same goal possess, and we shall fulfill the mission they have left us. We will save the Union.”

    Even as the response of the Slave States disheartened Lincoln, the overwhelming enthusiasm and spirit of the Free States gave him hope. Hundreds of thousands of men rallied to the flag to defend their nation, the Constitution, the government, and democracy. “We fight for the blessings bought by the blood and treasure of our Fathers,” declared one of the volunteers, while another added that it was sacred duty to punish the “traitors who tore down and set ablaze the glorious temple that our forefathers reared with blood and tears.” An officer, horrified and furious due to the fall of Washington, boldly said that he fought “to assert the strength, supremacy, and dignity of the government”; others similarly expressed that they had to crush the “infernal rebellion to support the best government on God’s footstool.”

    As a result, Yankees mobilized for a war to uphold their government and crush treason. To be sure, thousands of Yankees felt despondent over the defeat at D.C. Losing their capital was a terrible blow, like Lincoln said, especially in matters of foreign relations. Yet this created a drive towards retaking the capital as soon as possible. Something that aided Lincoln was the fact that his political opponents were simply disorganized and weak. Having become a completely Southern Party, the Democrats were now reviled and hated all over the North. A newspaper editorial from Boston claimed that the “Slavocrat rebellion” owed its existence to the “treasonous and malign practices of this so-called Democratic party”, while several Union meetings passed resolutions condemning them as the party “of treason, of rebellion, of slavery, of the terrible war that has befallen us.”

    Union Soldiers

    Even among those who recognized that Southern and Northern Democrats were two separate groups, the Democrats were still loathed as the party of James Buchanan and all his controversial actions such as Lecompton, his failure to stop the South, and his infamous neglect to stop John B. Floyd from sending cannons down South. When a newspaper published a story allegedly demonstrating that some of the cannons used in the Siege of Washington were those same cannons Floyd had transferred, calls for Buchanan’s head rose sharply. Sometimes even literally, with a radical newspaper claiming that it was time to “dust off the old guillotine” and use it to “chop off the head of that senile tool of slavers and tyrants!”

    The Democratic Party thus effectively stopped to exist as a political force in the North. But its ashes provided the perfect nest for the revival of one phoenix – the National Union. Douglas’ party, which ranged in effectiveness and influence from a true contender in 1858 to a desperate last measure in 1860, still existed, and their founder’s fiery resolve in the days following the fall of Washington injected it with new life. Douglas’ last 3 years, filled only with failure and illness, were now forgotten in favor of his old glories. Now hailed as a visionary who had stood with far more vigor and bravery to the Slavocrats than anyone else, Douglas became the symbol of principled, constitutional resistance as opposed to “radical and vengeful pursuit of abolitionist and fanatical goals,” as described by an Ohio newspaper. People who opposed the Republicans and blamed them for the war naturally rallied to Douglas’ banner.

    The number was significant, though for the moment there was no great opposition to the war. The desire to protect the United States and its government from destruction turned everyone into a patriot. A Democratic newspaper firmly stated that when the country is attacked, their loyalty went to anyone holding the flag high in the air, whether that man is “a Democrat of a Republican.” George B. McClellan, until then a staunch “Democrat of the Douglas school” would say that it was time to leave “all questions as to the past - the Govt is in danger, our flag insulted & we must stand by it, no matter what party leads us.” Douglas’ famous Chicago speech became a rallying cry for Democrats and National Unionists who would not fight for abolition, but would gladly give their lives for the Union. “There are no Democrats, no Republicans, no National or Constitutional Union anymore. We are all Americans, we are all patriots, and we must do our duty and save the Union”, resolved a Union meeting in heavily Democratic New York.

    A widely held belief was that a successful rebellion would result in the undoing of the country. "The Nation has been defied. The National Government has been assailed. If either can be done with impunity . . . we are not a Nation, and our Government is a sham,” declared an Indianapolis newspaper. Years later, William T. Sherman would recall his fears of the US going the “way of Mexico”, of constant war and power vacuums, of devastation and destruction. The common notion of American exceptionalism also helped to form this notion. The US, in the minds of many, had the great destiny and duty of being the beacon of light and liberty, of spreading freedom far and wide. Should the US fall, the hopes and dreams of the lovers of liberty all over the world would be crushed, while tyrants and despots would be emboldened.

    Soldiers understood these motives, and it served as the motivation of many. "Our glorious institutions are likely to be destroyed. . . . We will be held responsible before God if we don't do our part in helping to transmit this boon of civil & religious liberty down to succeeding generations,” said one, while an Irishman added that should they be defeated “then the hopes of millions would fall and the designs and wishes of all tyrants will succeed; the old cry will be sent forth from the aristocrats of Europe that such is the common lot of all republics.” Lincoln himself, a master of oratory and expressing great ideals in a way that anyone could understand, was probably the one who embodied this idea more clearly. He expressed that the war was not only a simply domestic dispute, or a minor rebellion, but that it “embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether liberty, democracy, and constitutional rule . . . can or cannot survive when faced against a powerful domestic insurrection.”

    The war spirit of the Union was alight, and from every state in the North men rallied round the flag. The governor of Maine reported that Mainers of “all parties will rally with alacrity” to the President’s call; Ohio’s governor offered almost 40 regiments instead of the 26 Lincoln had asked for; Massachusetts almost immediately sent some three regiments and prepared to send five more. War fever had overtaken the North.

    Union meetings

    The situation was different in the South. Previous to the fall of Washington, most Southerners believed that the cowardly Yankees would not fight. Now that they had lost their capital, their rendition and the nationhood of the Confederacy were both secured. An Atlanta newspaper printed that “so far as Civil War is concerned, we have no fear of that in Atlanta,” while Senator Chesnut offered to drink all the blood that resulted from the war. In Virginia, a newspaper sardonically reported that “women and children with sticks and rocks” would be enough to defeat the “gallant Yankee army.” To cheer up his men, an officer told them that if war ever befell them, it would be just a “90 days war,” and that they would make Lincoln surrender far before that. “Though we are willing to give up everything for our country,” a soldier wrote, “I reckon not a single drop of blood will be necessary to whip those Yankees.”

    But now that war had been inaugurated, and it turned out that the North would fight after all, the same war fever overtook the Confederacy as well. L. Q. C. Lamar joyfully exclaimed "thank God! we have a country at last, a country to live for, to pray for, to fight for, and if necessary, to die for." Other Southerners expressed great happiness at the prospect of finally being independent from the “Yankee despots” who had sought to “bring ruin and devastation to our Sunny South.” The most common theme among soldiers was the defense of their home. “We fight for our country, for our mothers, our sisters and our wives,” explained one soldier to his little brother, “we fight for everything we hold dear, to protect it from the invader.” A Southern diarist joined him by writing that "Our men must prevail in combat, or lose their property, country, freedom, everything." From Virginia, a soldier wrote that he was “willing that my bones shall bleach the sacred soil of Virginia in driving the envading host of tyrants from our soil.”

    Not many soldiers mentioned slavery as a cause for fighting. Yet the institution was still at the center of the war, and most people recognized it. The reason they needed to defend their country against the Black Republicans was slavery; and it was slavery that gave the South a unique character and made it distinct from the North. Those states that issued declarations explaining why they seceded explicitly mentioned slavery as the cause. Vice-President Stephens gave an infamous cornerstone speech, where he declared that the Confederacy “is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” Soldiers often vowed to “to fight forever, rather than submit to freeing negroes among us. . . . [We are fighting for] rights and property bequeathed to us by our ancestors.”

    Just like Northerners looked up to Lincoln for guidance, Southerners expected firm leadership from their elected officials. Southern leaders hastened to issue rallying calls to their people. Vice-President Stephens defiantly clamored that Lincoln could send his 150,000, for “we can call out a million of peoples if need be, and when they are cut down we can call another, and still another, until the last man of the South finds a bloody grave.” Secretary of War Jefferson Davis declared that the Confederacy would meet Lincoln and his army and fight them "at any sacrifice, save that of honor and independence.” President Breckinridge addressed several officers and soldiers with these words: “Upon you, the hopes of our country rest. I will never consent to the sacrifice of the principles of freedom, liberty, and equality. Let us pledge our swords and our hearts, to uphold the liberty of our nation, and to defend from the invader. Let the Yankees come, for we are ready to meet their challenge!”

    Jefferson Davis

    In the Border South, secessionist equaled this martial spirit. “We are faced with a choice,” an Arkansas newspaper declared, “between subjugation, and liberty and honor. The decision is as certain as the laws of gravity.” “Lincoln has made us a unit to resist until we repel our invaders or die,” added a Kentuckian who had until then considered himself a Union man. John Bell Hood told a Nashville crowd to stand ready to defend themselves against "the unnecessary, aggressive, cruel, unjust wanton war which is being forced upon us."

    Arkansas and Tennessee quickly moved to back their words with action. Their conventions passed ordinances of secession with high margins. It should be noted, however, that there was significant opposition to secession in mountainous East Tennessee. The governors of both states also seized federal arsenals and property, and asked for troops to defend themselves against any attack by the Union. By June, 1861, both states were already part of the Confederacy.

    Events in the three remaining border states of Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas were far more dramatic. There, Unionists disagreed with the notion that Lincoln had forced a war upon them. From their point of view, Breckinridge and his Confederacy were the ones that started the war, forcing them into a painful decision. Kentuckians were the ones who hated choosing the more. Considering themselves the heirs of Henry Clay, Kentuckians favored above everything a sectional compromise to save the Union. None other than Robert Breckinridge, the son of the President of the Confederacy, talked of the “inestimable blessings of the Union” before the war. And although the failure of the Crittenden Compromise was enough to make John Breckinridge deflect to the Confederacy, many still held out the hope that the Union could be saved through compromise, and tried various efforts to that end such as calling a convention of states. Baring that, they attempted to “occupy a position of firm neutrality,” as a resolution by the Legislature stated.

    Neutrality was very popular in Kentucky because it allowed them to remain aloof from the fighting. This despite the dismay some Unionists expressed, such as one who declared that neutrality was a “declaration of State Sovereignty,” the principle that had “impelled South Carolina and other states to secede.” A radical newspaper took no time to print a column condemning neutrality “as an act of treason”, while Union meetings in nearby Ohio and Indiana declared that “everybody that does not stand under this sacred flag, and swears to protect it with all his might, is no better than the lowest of traitors”.

    Breckinridge and Lincoln both also supported neutrality out of political necessity. Both were born in Kentucky, though Lincoln would come to identify more with Illinois while Breckinridge was a firm Kentuckian who hated to leave his state out of the Confederacy. The two Presidents also recognized the enormous importance of the state, not only in resources such as horses and iron, but also in strategy, for the Ohio river provided an easily defensible line, and a point from where the Confederacy could go on the attack. Lincoln expressed so in a letter: “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we can not hold Missouri or Kansas. We have already lost Maryland and our capital; we can not afford another defeat.” Lincoln had to thread carefully around the Bluegrass state, especially as Breckinridge unleashed a full-on propaganda machine to sway it towards the South. His speakers talked endlessly of Southern rights, unity, honor, and the need to stand together in the face of Yankee aggression. Some Unionists were swayed – one stated that should Lincoln harass Kentucky, she “should promptly unsheath her sword in behalf of what will then have become her common cause."

    And so, neutrality was adopted as the official policy. Lincoln’s lack of resources was a factor, but he undoubtably recognized that any attempt at aggression would push Kentucky into Breckinridge’s waiting arms. The fall of the capital had made the situation even more critical, for it emboldened the secessionists. They pointed out to the example of the Marylander militia, which was fighting alongside Jackson’s Virginians mere days after secession. Yet many Kentuckians were not convinced entirely. Baltimore was still contested, and most of western Maryland plus Annapolis were under Union control. Knowing that secession would put Kentucky at the frontlines, Kentuckians decided to wait until they could be assured that Breckinridge would be actually able to protect them. Until then, they continued to assert their neutrality and profit from smuggling and other forms of illegal trade begrudgingly tolerated by Lincoln. This refusal to “come forward to the aid of her sister states” frustrated many to no end, no one more than the pro-Confederacy governor, Beriah Magoffin.

    Beriah Magoffin

    Emboldened by the examples set by South Carolina and Maryland, Magoffin was tired of waiting, and wanted action. From South Carolina he learned that secessionists had to drag conservatives kicking and screaming into “the world’s grandest revolution”; and from Maryland that Confederate militias would be able to seize control of the state. He looked warily at the Union camps that were being established in the north side of the Ohio. He took action by sending all that he could to Tennessee, and organizing regiments of pro-Confederate State Militia. A water blockade was organized by the Midwestern states, but Lincoln decided against a land blockade, because it could be construed as a violation of Kentucky’s neutrality. Magoffin, however, had no such qualms, and despite pretensions of neutrality he used the militia to harass and arrest people who showed Unionism or even wavering pro-Southern sentiments. He also imposed a land blockade to prevent men and supplies from reaching the Union camps. Magoffin’s aggression and Lincoln’s tolerance helped the cause of Unionism, as Kentuckians started to believe that it was the Confederacy that was going to attack to annex them by force, despite Breckinridge’s attempts to convince them otherwise.

    Magoffin didn’t help matters. When the congressional elections of June gave Unionists 4 of 6 seats, he panicked and directed his militia to start seizing Federal propriety and prepare to join the Confederacy. Unionists were galvanized, and people who hadn’t made a decision yet were pushed into their camp because the Confederates were the aggressors again. When the elections of August returned a firm Unionist majority, Magoffin decided that the time to wait was over. He re-opened the Convention, which had been closed after the declaration of neutrality, and asked it to pass an ordinance of secession in September. Events then developed similarly to Maryland, with the Legislature denouncing the “terrible usurpation” and threatening to elect another governor unless Magoffin allowed the elections and neutrality to continue. Normally, Magoffin would have backed down, but he believed that the Confederate troops across the border would back him just like they backed the Marylanders. The convention passed the ordinance of secession in October and invited the Confederate troops to come and secure the state.

    The Legislature responded by declaring itself the proper government of Kentucky, and passing a resolution declaring that “the so-called Confederate States of America, having invaded Kentucky . . . the invaders must be expulsed.” They quickly appealed for help from the Union commander. Ulysses S. Grant was an elusive man who had led a somewhat tragic life. The son of an Ohio tanner who loathed drinking, Grant had been a West Pointer and served in the army during the Mexican War, but had to resign in disgrace due to alcoholism. Abject failure at business and farming left him depressed and reliant on the help of his father-in law, a Missouri planter who owned several slaves. The coming of the war gave him an opportunity, and Grant probably saw it as a way to escape the lowest point of his life. Unsure of himself and his capacity, Grant still made an effort to be appointed as commander; the Adjutant General ignored him. Thanks to his Congressman and the Governor of Illinois, Grant finally was appointed as a Brigadier General. Described as a “man of no reputation and little promise,” Grant would eventually become the premier general of the Union.

    Facing Grant was Leonidas Polk, who outwardly seemed to have better prospects. A distinguished West Pointer who had left the army to serve as a Bishop, Polk would never find the success his reputation seemed to prep him for. Despite Breckinridge's strict orders not to invade Kentucky under any circumstance, the appeal of the rebel convention made him disobey. Polk considered that his hand had been forced, and the need to take the strategically important heights around Columbus made him move mere hours after receiving the invitation. Despite the similarity to the events of Maryland, Polk's invassion did more to damped secessionist spirit than anything. It seemed like a non-representative body had seized control of the state in a coup, and invited an hostile foe to invade. Fierce Unionism took hold of Kentuckians who were not willing to allow such an act to succeed.

    Consequently, Polk seized Columbus and fortified it despite Breckinridge’s and his superiors’ protests. Breckinridge would end begrudgingly approving the order because he could not leave the Kentucky secessionist alone, but the fact that Polk invaded first helped to solidify the Unionism of Kentucky. Like Maryland, Kentucky now had two different, rival governments: A Unionist one that controlled most of the state and was supported by Grant’s 50,000 men, and a Confederate one supported by Polk’s 35,000.

    Ulysses S. Grant

    Further to the west, equal drama took place in Missouri and Kansas. The old and still unhealed scars of bleeding Kansas started to throb again when two of its warriors met once more. The Border Ruffian Claiborne Fox Jackson, now Governor of Missouri, and the Free-Soiler Nathaniel Lyon, now Captain of the Federal soldiers stationed at the St. Louis Arsenal, thanks to the influence of Congressman Blair. They had once faced each other in a battle for the control of Kansas; now, they fought again for the control of Missouri.

    Fox equaled Magoffin in rhetoric, and surpassed him in aggressiveness. "Common origin, pursuits, tastes, manners and customs . . . bind together in one brotherhood the States of the South,” he said in his Inaugural Address, and asked Missouri for “a timely declaration of her determination to stand by her sister slave-holding States.” He had called for a convention, but it was firmly Unionist, preventing secession even in the days following the fall of Washington. No matter, Fox still did everything he could to propel Missouri into the Confederacy. He wasted no time declaring neutrality or bidding his time; he immediately directed the militia to seize the arsenal of Liberty (near Kansas City) and prepared to take the very important St. Louis Arsenal. He appealed to Breckinridge for help, and soon several pieces of artillery arrived.

    Lyon and Blair didn’t remain idle. With the help of the German population of the city, they quickly gathered most of the modern muskets of the armory and intended to ferry them to Illinois. But a mob gathered in the city. Shouting “Damn the Dutch!” and “Hurrah for Johnny Breck!” they attacked. Lyon was forced to direct his militia and Regulars to fire, which drew the pro-Southern militia of Camp Jackson into the battle. The Battle ended with the deaths of several soldiers and many more civilians. St. Louis was submerged into panic and bloodshed, with armed bands murdering Germans and Unionists. The Legislature at Jefferson City, a city inflamed by the news, moved to pass an ordinance of secession in July, but they were interrupted by Lyon’s militia.

    The Legislature quickly fled, together with the pro-Southern militia commanded by the Mexican-war veteran Sterling Price. Lyon declared that "rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to commit treason and murder and go unpunished . . . I would see every man, woman, and child in the State, dead and buried. This means war.” He and his forces continued to pursue the Secessionists relentlessly until they were confined to the South of Missouri. The Legislature obtained admission to the Confederacy in November, while the Convention declared itself the legitimate government. Lyon’s victory did much to raise moral in the Northwest, but it also inaugurated a bloody civil war within Missouri, as thousands of guerrillas from Unionist “Jayhawkers” to Confederate “Bushwhackers” started to swarm. This war seemed poised to take an even bloodier turn as Union troops started to pour into the Northern half controlled by the North, while Southern troops marched into the Southern half.

    Nathaniel Lyon

    Lyon also tipped the scales in favor of the Topeka government of Kansas. While the Civil War divided Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, leaving all three with divided governments, Kansas was already in such a state even before South Carolina seceded. Though it is true that violence calmed after Kansas was admitted as a slave state, Kansas had never ceased to bleed, and the Topeka government, aided by Republicans in Congress, stood defiantly in the face of the Lecompton Legislature. When South Carolina seceded from the Union, the Free-Soilers saw their chance and declared themselves the legitimate government, as a way to “anticipate the contemplated treason of an illegitimate government.”

    Lecompton decided to wait before acting. Without Missouri, they would be cut off from the Confederacy. Their attempt to call a convention once again backfired, and the majority was Unionist, and not even conditional ones, but rabid pro-Union men. Decided to end the threat before it could materialize, they accused Topeka of being the treasonous ones, they raised an army and marched off to the city. But this time the defenders counted with more than political support. Knowing that Unionists were a majority in the state, and that Kansas seceding would do much to help Missouri secede too, the Lincoln administration directed materiel to the state, even when he had no troops to spare.

    Lawrence and Topeka raised several regiments of Union Guards, most drawn from veterans of Bleeding Kansas. They resisted the first assault, and then went on to counterattack. Without Missouri Border Ruffians to aid them, the Kansan Slavers found themselves at a disadvantage, and soon the militia was able to drive them back. Forced to choose, the Lecompton Legislature appealed for help from Breckinridge, who was able to send only some munitions and arms. This prompted Lincoln into recognizing the Topeka Legislature as the legitimate government.

    The overwhelming Union majority and the timidity of the few pro-Confederates helped along the cause for a Free Kansas. In August, a new Legislature was elected, with Republicans taking a three-to-one majority in both chambers. Lecompton had been reduced in importance and power, and their appeals to both Breckinridge and Missouri proved fruitless as they could spare nothing in the face of Lyon’s attacks. The Topeka government, however, also lacked resources, and so although they captured Lecompton in November, they were unable to penetrate into the Southern half of the state, where the pro-Confederate Legislature met to pass an ordinance of secession. Like in Missouri, a civil war had started, though this time it could be better characterized as simply the continuation of one that had already existed. Kansas would now bleed more than ever.

    The final border state, Delaware, did not have to worry about an internal threat, but rather an external foe. Only 3% of its population were slaves, and 90% of its African-American population was free. The Legislature rejected a Convention, and the fall of Washington simply arouse war-like Unionism, especially because now that Maryland had seceded, they feared conquest. The Free Black population was especially afraid.

    The Guerrilla War

    The call for war, and the dramatic events in the Border South left their mark in the struggle to save the Union. Bitterness and hate would take every one of these states, and submerge them into civil wars of their own which were carried in their first months in a far more vengeful and bloody manner than the overall war was. The Confederate failure to welcome these states in their entirety helps in large part to explain their ultimate failure, and most of the men in the Border would fight in the Union Army. But the large pro-Secession section that remained in them, and which would in some cases even manage to come close to total control, provided a constant headache for Union commanders. The Border South remained dark and bloody ground throughout the entire Civil War.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 15: We're coming Father Abraham!
  • Chapter 15: We're coming Father Abraham!

    The Civil War needed the Union to make a mighty effort, bigger than any other ever done. The United States were naturally averse to maintaining large standing armies, and the lack of nearby strong foes meant that there was no practical need to do so. The militia of citizen-soldiers was the preferred institution for the defense of national sovereignty, but it was clear that it would not be up to the task at hand. Though Lincoln did call for 75,000 militiamen, those men were to serve alongside his 150,000 regulars. In any case, it was evident that a small army of 90 days volunteers could not subdue the Southern rebels. Gone were the days of the Mexican War, when Winfield Scott could simply march and take the enemy capital with 8,500 men. Now, the Union would have to build an army from scratch to wage a war, a war bloodier and more modern than anyone could have forethought. The Union forces would eventually grow to more than one million, one of the finest armies of the world. But its first steps were tentative and clumsy.

    The first step was the call for volunteers. Lincoln, reportedly, had begun to draft it while in the ship that took him to Philadelphia. His cabinet was already there, ready to meet with him in an emergency session. The war having been inaugurated, it was time to create an army. The Militia Act of 1795 authorized the president to call 75,000 militiamen for Federal service for a maximum of 90 days. But that wouldn’t be enough. The Union had just lost its capital, and to take it back overwhelming force would be needed. For that reason, Lincoln decided to also call for 150,000 three-year volunteers, who would form the backbone of the army. In May, he called for a further 63,000 volunteers.

    Lincoln did all this on his own authority, but he also needed the approval and backing of Congress because, from a constitutional viewpoint, the Legislative branch was the only one allowed to raise and support armies. His cabinet advised him not to call the Legislature into session just yet, because that would forestall action - “to wait for ‘many men of many minds’ to shape a war policy would be to invite disaster.” The fall of D.C. also ensured that there would be fiery discussions and panic within Congress, and calling it for an immediate emergency session could probably feed into this emergency mentality and increase the people’s despondency. More than anything, Lincoln wanted to maintain a free hand and be unhindered by legislative debates and bickering until he could form a military line at Maryland and take measures against secession in the Border South. Seward supported the decision, telling the President that “history tells us that kings who call extra parliaments lose their heads.” Lincoln called for Congress to open its new session in July 4th.

    Transferring the national capital caused many troubles. For one, Philadelphia did not have any suitable buildings. It was decided that Congress would meet in Congress Hall, the Supreme Court at the Old City Hall, and the President, his family and cabinet at Independence Hall. All the buildings were in a state of disrepair, and all needed to be expanded and rebuilt in order to fulfill their new functions. Ironically enough, the resignation or expulsion of many Southern senators and congressmen made it easier for Congress to accommodate to its new location, and cosmopolitan Philadelphia could offer lodgings easily. Still, moving the capital had caused inefficiency and chaos, which didn’t help along for the mobilization of the country and its resources. Especially troublesome was the disruption the different Departments, including the Treasury which had to reestablish its communications and logistics chain, and the War Department which lost many records and archives. At least Philadelphia’s status as a center of banking and industry aided them.

    Mobilizing promised to be a difficult task. The Regular army was tiny and woefully unprepared to deal with the crisis – it counted only 16,000 men, most of them in the West. Worse, a third of its officers had resigned and cast their lot with the South, and the fall of the capital meant that most clerks and experienced bureaucrats had been lost, either because they were Southerners who would not serve the Union, or citizens of D.C. who had stayed there or in the evacuation areas established in the Unionist section of Maryland. The tired and old bureaucracy that did remain in the War Department didn’t seem prepared to meet the emergency. A majority of them were veterans of the War of 1812, including General in-chief Winfield Scott. Once a gallant soldier known as the Grand Man of the Army, age had dismissed his capacity to work and lead. He sometimes fell asleep during meetings, and suffered from dropsy and vertigo. His other nickname, Old Fuss and Feathers, was now modified and used to mock him – he was called “Old Fat and Bloated.” Despite these complaints, General Scott would be able to help with build an army, and he was behind one of the strategies that won the war, the Anaconda Plan. Naval warfare and the blockade must be considered later, however, for what preoccupied Lincoln the most was recruiting, outfitting and training soldiers.

    Winfield Scott

    Adding to the woes of the Union was the inadequacy of the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. Called the “Winnebago Chief” by detractors who remembered an infamous incident where he took advantage of his position as commissioner before the Winnebago tribe. Denounced as an “odious character” and a corrupt man by many, Lincoln had felt compelled to appoint him as Secretary of War to pay a debt owed to Pennsylvania. The moving of the capital further strengthened Cameron, who was described as the most influential man in the state, even being called the “Czar of Pennsylvania.” There were some anti-Cameron Republicans in the state, but political expediency had forced Lincoln’s hand. As his former law partner Herndon said, if Lincoln did not appoint Cameron he would get “a quarrel deep, abiding and lasting.”

    Despite his political clout, Cameron had no great talent for administration, admitting that the Administration was “entirely unprepared for such a conflict”, and that it didn’t have “even the simplest instruments with which to engage in war. We had no guns, and even if we had, they would have been of but little use, for we had no ammunition to put in them—no powder, no saltpetre, no bullets, no anything.” He appealed to Chase and Seward for help. Chase was particularly tasked by the President with the duty of selecting a few private citizens to make the necessary commissions and contracts for the manufacture of arms and supplies. The supplies needed included uniforms, boots, blankets, food, medicine, horses, and much more.

    The Confederacy was also scrambling to mobilize its own resources. The key differences were two: first, the South, for all practical purposes, already had an army in 1861; and second, the South’s capacity to raise an army and support it was tiny when compared with the North’s. The new Confederate government had to organize a War Department from the ground up, but possessed the prowess and ability of Jefferson Davis as an administrator and military man, and had also a leg up the North when it came to time. As States seceded, they consolidated the Militias under their command, and called for more volunteers. This process had actually started even before the election of 1860, the panic and distrust towards those Yankee Black Republicans having pushed thousands of young men to join militia companies. The Confederate Congress approved 150,000 one-year volunteers in March; in May, in response to Lincoln’s own appeal, it empowered Breckinridge to call for 500,000 three year men, and extended the service of the 100,000 previously called.

    However, the Confederate government didn’t lead the mobilization of the country, mostly because it did not posses the logistical capacity to do so. Instead, town, states, and even individuals took up the task of creating and equipping companies. Rich planters or lawyers often recruited whole regiments and armed them at their expense, in exchange being commissioned as officers. Southerners were as jealous of their rights as citizen soldiers as Northerners, and thus they claimed the right to elect their officials. Legally, this only extended to captains and lieutenants, while the Governors appointed the regimental officers. In practice, voting only ratified the positions of these influential individuals, and sometimes regiments chose their colonels too. Accustomed to a more rigid social order than the Northerners, Dixie boys still chaffed when they perceived this social order as broken. For instance, people who perceived themselves as high-born did not tolerate orders from their inferiors. And despite Southern claims that a Southron could whip 10 Yankees easily, it couldn’t be denied that the discipline and training of these troops was dreadful. Supply problems further aggravated the situation, and they were caused by the weak and agrarian Southern economy:

    The Confederacy had only one-ninth the industrial capacity of the Union. Northern states had manufactured 97 percent of the country's firearms in i860, 94 percent of its cloth, 93 percent of its pig iron, and more than 90 percent of its boots and shoes. The Union had more than twice the density of railroads per square mile as the Confederacy, and several times the mileage of canals and macadamized roads. The South could produce enough food to feed itself, but the transport network, adequate at the beginning of the war to distribute this food, soon began to deteriorate because of a lack of replacement capacity.​

    Nonetheless, this kind of mobilization, described by historians such as McPherson as “do-it-yourself” proved somewhat effective. The South had almost 100,000 men under arms before the Fall of Washington. Of course, these troops were stretched thin, and many were untrained or had fallen sick. But they were an army.

    The Confederate Army had chosen cadet gray as its official color for uniforms, but in practice most soldiers used whatever uniforms were available, including captured Union uniforms.

    Besides the martial capacity of Jefferson Davis, the South also enjoyed great human resources in the form of Chief of Ordinance Josiah Gorgas. Gorgas performed miracles of improvisation and crash industrialization that managed to maintain the Confederacy’s armies supplied with small arms, gunpowder and cannons. Through smuggling, careful use of the available resources and steady development of the workshops and factories necessary to produce more, Gorgas and his associates were able to rise up to the task. "Where three years ago we were not making a gun, a pistol nor a sabre, no shot nor shell (except at the Tredegar Works)—a pound of powder—we now make all these in quantities to meet the demands of our large armies,” would say a triumphant Gorgas three years later. Unfortunately, his colleagues were unable to match him. Quartermaster General Abraham Myers was unable to produce the tents, shoes and uniforms the men needed; the first Commissary-General, Lucius Northrop, was overwhelmed by the logistics demands of his job, and though the South produced enough food for itself, Northrop never could transport it to the front, causing shortages.

    The soldiers and officers who had just taken Washington were painfully aware of these issues, even if they didn’t understand their causes. The breakdown of discipline following the victory was disastrous, and despite strict orders to respect civilian property, the soldiers had looted and burned the Yankee capital. Breckinridge was horrified by the news, knowing full well the fury it would awake in the North and the distaste it would cause within foreign functionaries. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Commander in-chief Joe Johnston, and General Beauregard all pointed fingers at each other when Breckinridge demanded an explanation. Not wanting to create a riff between the three men, Breckinridge let the issue drop. But the egos and prides of all of them would cause yet further disputes. Johnston in special was miffed because he believed he wasn’t receiving the glory and gratitude he deserved. Most of the laurels went instead to Beauregard, who was hailed as the Conqueror of Washington. Moreover, Johnston had opposed moving against Washington, yet Beauregard had disregarded him and asked Breckinridge directly for authorization. The fact that Breckinridge had granted it again without consulting with Johnston was taken as a deadly insult by the later.

    Breckinridge was willing to overlook Johnston’s airs of importance, and to heal his wounded pride he made sure to put Johnston at the top of the list of Commissioned Confederate generals. But Secretary Davis wasn’t as forgiving. Proud, sensitive of honor and incapable of forgetting personal slights, Davis could not tolerate what he saw as practical insubordination. When Johnston started to send increasingly irate letters complaining of Davis’ performance as Secretary of War, Davis wrote back, angrily chastising the General for his “unbecoming and unfounded” words and actions.

    It was true that the army in Washington was suffering from many problems. The South’s already weak logistics were strained by the need to ferry supplies across the Potomac, and Beauregard increasingly demanded more and more materiel so that he could build the necessary fortifications to protect Maryland. Newspapers and politicians were also asking why the Army was not marching forward to “liberate” the rest of Maryland. The fact that the Confederacy had been unable to establish complete control of Baltimore was especially embarrassing, for Fort McHenry was still standing and the militia that controlled most of the city could not siege it. It seemed that the Fall of Washington did no matter anymore; the people now demanded the fall of Frederick, of Harrisburg, even of Philadelphia! Annapolis was also still under Union control, and Confederate control of the Chesapeake counties could not be established – most of those counties, with a high slave population, were secessionist, but had no land connection to the rest of the Confederacy and were devoid of rebel troops. The inadequacy of the Army –described by Beauregard as more “disorganized by victory than that of the United States by defeat”– and the relatively short amount of time at their disposal made the situation more critical.

    Joseph E. Johnston

    Beauregard and Johnston’s bickering didn’t help the cause of the Confederacy. After the President intervened, they were able to reach a compromise. The lack of big rivers or mountains to provide a defensive line was concerning, and there were fears the Army could be routed and then pinned against the Potomac. The farther from the river, the greater the danger. An advance along the Northern Central Railroad, or the Philadelphia-Wilmington Railroad was also anticipated. To prevent this, the two generals made the controversial decision to not garrison Baltimore directly, instead moving their troops behind the Patapsco River, and units were placed at Ellicott Mills and the Relay House. Plans were drawn for units to be posted at Govanstown, Herring's Run, and Hookstown, but were delayed for the time being. The movement angered Brown’s Confederate government, which was forced to leave Baltimore and go instead to the little town of Waterloo. At Annapolis, prospects seemed bleaker because the Annapolis railway provided an easy path of invasion that did not have to cross any rivers, and it was obvious that the Confederates would not be able to cut it off from the sea. The rebels had already destroyed the railroad, and now they planted troops in a hilly area appropriately known as the Rolling Hills. In the West of the State, the rebels entrenched behind the Bush Creek and the Monocacy, then roughly followed the Ohio and Baltimore Railroad until Sykesville. From there, Confederate control extended north along the Patapsco, then east through Reistertown and Cockeyville and down the Great Gunpowden Falls.

    The Federals for their part had established their base of operations in Havre de Grace in the East, and Frederick in the West. Their choices were either advancing along the rails by land, or assaulting Baltimore from the sea. Should they be able to enter the city and plant artillery at the commanding Federal Hill, Baltimore would be rendered indefensible and the rebels would then be forced to evacuate. By the end of the 1861, they had more than 700,000 men under arms. Organizing them was difficult; similarly to the Confederacy, the states and localities took the initiative. The lack of competent commanders was an obvious problem. Valuing experience more than anything, Lincoln decided to appoint Irvin McDowell as commander of Union forces in Maryland. He was to be aided by Robert Patterson, while George B. McClellan, a young and handsome officer who carried himself in a Napoleonic manner, was recruited for the campaign in West Virginia. Yet Union efforts were crippled by administrative chaos and delays.

    The Governor of Indiana demanded arms, while the Governor of Ohio had more men than he could equip; at Cairo, Illinois, Ulysses S. Grant complained of a “great deficiency in transportation. I have no ambulances. The clothing received has been almost universally of an inferior quality and deficient in quantity. The arms in the hands of the men are mostly the old flint-lock repaired. . . . The Quartermaster's Department has been carried on with so little funds that Government credit has become exhausted.” Military contracts, either due to incompetence or corruption, only resulted in low-quality materiel such as blankets, shoes and uniforms that fell apart rather easily. Either that, or old materiel sold at outrageous prices. The only figure that could impose some order and honesty was Quartermaster General Meigs, who was experienced, efficient and incorruptible. He introduced new systems to the army, such as sizes for uniforms or a new model of portable tents.

    Montgomery C. Meigs

    Like its Southern counterpart, the Union Army was afflicted by lack of discipline. The citizen soldiers were less willing to tolerate the rigid system of an army, and demanded to elect their officers. Many officers also obtained their command through political influence. Indeed, Lincoln and Breckinridge had to consider many factors before nominating Generals. Regiments also maintained close relations with their towns and communities – fathers and sons, brothers and neighbors often served together. This increased morale, but affected discipline because neighbors hesitated to order their men around, while the men didn’t see why they should respect them even if they were technically their superiors. Due to this, new recruits often formed new regiments instead of joining ones that already existed, resulting in veteran regiments at half-strength that could not teach anything to the green volunteers, who were bled white.

    As for strategy, there were several problems as well. General Scott generally favored what he called the Anaconda Plan - a blockade of the Southern coast, which would destroy the economy of the rebel government. He would couple this with an advance down the Mississippi, cutting the Confederacy in two. Scott believed this would end the rebellion with speed and without bloodshed. Yet Scott also recognized the need to retake D.C., if not for strategic reasons for political ones. The rebels could not be allowed to retain it for too long, lest the government be permanently discredited. After several talks with the President, Scott decided to separate the Regular Army, sending the professional soldiers to each regiment to train and drill the new recruits, and providing experienced officers. He had originally wanted to keep the Regular Army as a concise force, but circumstance had forced his hand. By then, Congress had already reconvened, give its retroactive approval to Lincoln's appeal for troops and then authorized him to call for up to a million more volunteers.

    The Star represents Waterloo, while the Rectangle is Ft. McHenry. The dots represent the Union Forces (blue) and Confederate (red).

    By July, the Union had enough men to actually take action. And action was urgently needed, for yet another split government had formed. West Virginia, a staunchly Unionist area, had formed a Convention at Wheeling to address the secession of the state and the start of hostilities. The Convention quickly turned towards separatism, wanting a separate state. However, the Constitution prohibited carving new states out of existing ones unless the state legislature gave its consent. Emulating the example of other conventions, the Wheeling Convention declared itself the legitimate government of Virginia and approved the separation. Lincoln recognized this government, despite the fact that it represented only a fifth of Virginia. Either way, the ordinance had been approved, and now it had to be ratified by the people, who would also elect delegates to a constitutional convention. But this new state could only survive if it obtained the support of victorious Union troops, and the invasion of Robert E. Lee's small army was a direct threat. Wheeling appealed for help, and Governor Dennison of Ohio came to the rescue, sending several regiments commanded by McClellan.

    Despite all these problems, the Union was still able to build an army, numbering some 45,000 men by August, 1861. Other armies were also being formed elsewhere to combat treason in the Border South states. The Army of the Susquehanna was to face Beauregard’s 30,000. Their objective was clear: drive off the rebels, retake the National Capital, and then march on to Richmond and victory. But whether they could do that remained to be seen.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 16: The Baltimore Campaign
  • Chapter 16: The Baltimore Campaign

    In August 1861, the Army of the Susquehanna set forth in its invasion of Confederate Maryland. 45,000 strong and led by the experienced Irvin McDowell, the Federals expected a glorious victory over Beauregard’s 30,000 rebels. They were emboldened by the success George B. McClellan had found in West Virginia a month earlier, and hoped to emulate and surpass it.

    McClellan was a young and promising officer. Second in his West Point class, he had served in the Mexican War and then gone to a successful career as the President of a railway company. McClellan believed he was destined for great things, and accordingly carried himself in a Napoleonic manner, issuing declarations and dispatches in the style of the Little Corporal and even thrusting his right hand into his coat pocket for portraits, in imitation of the Frenchman. He did not feel that command of Ohio militiamen was enough for him, so he endeavored to travel to Harrisburg and assume command of the Pennsylvania volunteer regiments there, but stopped at Columbus by request of Governor Dennison.

    Dennison was overwhelmed by the outpouring of patriotic fury that followed the Fall of Washington. Soon, he had more than twice the men Lincoln had requested, but he had no way of organizing or equipping them. The actual officers were unable to help him, and the politicians he appointed as commanders were not able either. Dennison decided to request help from a professional military man, in this case McClellan, who was living at Cincinnati at the time. McClellan prepared a careful report that foreshadowed his future tendencies for brilliant organization and cautious command. He advised Dennison to build up the defenses of Cincinnati, telling him that the only safe rule in war was “to decide what is the very worst thing that can happen to you and prepare to meet it.” Dennison was impressed by McClellan, and pleaded with him to assume command of Ohio’s troops as Major General. Expressing his “confidence that if a few weeks’ time for preparation were given he would be able to put the Ohio division into reasonable form for taking the field,” McClellan accepted.

    McClellan quickly wrote dispatches to Philadelphia, asking for materiel and for Scott to place some officers under his command, such as Fitz John Porter. General Scott could not afford McClellan much equipment, due to the chaos that dominated the War Department and the need to supply the Army of the Susquehanna first, but he complied with McClellan’s request for officers. Porter was joined by officers Cox and Rosecrans, and together they set out to make an army out of the mobs that had gathered in Columbus. McClellan gave instructions for the construction of a camp, which he baptized Camp Dennison, and then started to drill his men, instilling discipline and pride in them. By his second week, journalists were already saying that they had never seen “more orderly soldiers, than those at Camp Dennison.”

    George B. McClellan

    While McClellan trained his troops, an activity he found very enjoyable, Lincoln, his cabinet, and General Scott were all debating how to form a rational war policy. Scott believed that a hard war would be disastrous, for the South would resist it to the last man. Scott warned that attacking would hurt the Union cause more than help it. He started to formulate what would come to be known as the Anaconda Plan. Under this plan, the Navy would blockade the Southern coast, while the Army would advance down the Mississippi and cut the Confederacy in half, thus surrounding the rebels on all sides. “Cut off from the luxuries to which the people are accustomed; and . . . not having been exasperated by attacks made on them,” the Confederates would come back into the folds of the Union, without the massive societal, economic and material destruction a prolonged war would have brought. McClellan, who was keeping a close eye in Kentucky and West Virginia, favored this approach for the time being, even if he advised more decisive action to aid the Unionists of those territories. McClellan’s ability was praised by Scott, and he also obtained the confidence of Secretary Chase, who played a part in McClellan’s appointment as commander of the Department of the Ohio. McClellan expressed his gratitude towards “the General under whom I first learned the art of war,” even as he grew frustrated with Philadelphia’s inability to supply his army.

    When the Wheeling Convention proclaimed the new state of Kanawha, it became necessary to intercept the rebel advance towards the important rail junction at Grafton. McClellan and his worthy Army of the Ohio were up to the task. The Ohio and Baltimore Railway passed through Grafton, and though the Southerners at Harpers Ferry had already cut that railway, the Union expected to take back the Armory and then reestablish the line. More importantly, there were political considerations regarding the Kanawhean Unionists. They were already complaining that the Union had left them alone with the Secessionist wolves; since Lincoln firmly believed that a Unionist majority existed in the South, and because he wanted to cultivate such sentiments in Kentucky and Tennessee, coming to their aid was a priority. The 3,000 Confederates at Grafton entrenched themselves against the attack of 6,000 Federals. The outnumbered rebels decided to flee instead of face battle, and the Federals pursued through pouring rain and mud roads, an event gained the derisive name of the “Philippi races.” After this, both main commanders arrived at the scene.

    The first was McClellan, who met his men at Grafton in late June. He issued a Napoleonic address: “Soldiers! I have heard that there was danger here. I have come to place myself at your head and to share it with you. I fear now but one thing—that you will not find foemen worthy of your steel.” Opposite of him was the Virginian Robert E. Lee. A refined and educated gentleman who came from one of the First Families of Virginia, Lee was characterized by a sense of dignity and duty that compelled him to take arms in defense of his state and family. After Virginia’s secession, Lee had resigned from the Army and accepted command of Virginia’s forces. After organizing them, he was sent to Annapolis, where he tried to dislodge General Butler’s forces. Lee’s attempt failed, and his subsequent emphasis on building fortifications earned him the disparaging nickname of “King of Spades.” Know he was sent to retake control of West Virginia, but the men at his disposal were not worthy of McClellan’s steel. Robert S. Garnett, the commander at Beverly, said that they were “in a most miserable condition as to arms, clothing, equipment, and discipline.” Indeed, most of the men lacked equipment and uniforms, using instead old homespun clothes and smoothbore rifles. A third of them were in the sick list.

    Still, by late July Lee had managed to scrape together some 20,000 men, almost equal to McClellan’s 25,000. Lee’s reinforcements arrived in the nick of time, saving Garnett from an attack by Rosecrans in his flank. McClellan had decided against attacking Garnett’s trenched head on, confiding in Rosecrans flank maneuver; he would then exploit whatever weakness arose. Rosecrans managed to successfully turn up the rebel flank, but McClellan hesitated, and Lee exploited this. He drove back Rosecrans and then attacked McClellan. But his complicated scheme was fumbled by the inexperienced generals and sick soldiers. McClellan, for his part, panicked and started to talk of overwhelming Confederate numbers in the Alleghany passes. For a moment it seemed that the Confederates would succeed, but Lee's officers again failed him, and Rosecrans successfully counterattacked. Bickering between John B. Floyd and Henry A. Wise, two political generals who effectively hated each other, didn’t help the Confederates. An advance by them against Cox ended in disaster.

    Soon enough Rosecrans tried another flanking attack, with the help of a Unionist man who led his troops through the difficult terrain. The rebels were routed and had to flee south, abandoning most of the mountain passes. By the time Lee had managed to take back control, supply problems and the stronger Federal position meant that there was no chance of counterattack, and he finally decided to give up, evacuating Kanawha, and yielding control of the Alleghany passes to the Union. Lee’s forces had not suffered many casualties, but they were incapable of launching any kind of attack, instead remaining in the Kanawha Valley. Consequently, Kanawha was effectively free of Southern troops.

    John B. Floyd

    McClellan was quick to claim this as a great victory, and newspapers anxious for success backed him up, even calling him the Young Napoleon. “Soldiers of the Army of the Ohio! . . . You have annihilated two armies, and defeated our foe in combat,” he proclaimed, “I have confidence in you, and I trust you have learned to confide in me.” For his part, Lee suffered the disappointment of his people, who added “Granny Lee” and “Evacuating Lee” to their repertoire of insults. Breckinridge himself couldn’t hide certain disappointment, because he and many others had expected great things of Lee. The Virginian was sent South to defend South Carolina, Beauregard’s old post, and while the Conqueror of Washington was still being hailed and exulted by the newspapers, Lee was declared to have been “outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outgeneraled.” Rosecrans failure to drive the rebels out of the Kanawha Valley (an area of strong pro-Confederate sentiment) did nothing to eclipse McClellan’s laurels.

    The victory allowed Kanawha to establish itself as a true state, and ask for admission to Congress. The Republicans however were unwilling to admit the state unless it abolished Slavery first. The convention voted to enact a plan for gradual emancipation in early 1862, but by then aptitudes and policies regarding slavery had been evolving. Kanawha, together with Kansas, became models for future Reconstruction plans, and radicals in Congress felt the need to take a stronger stand against slavery. Kanawha was admitted as a state in 1863 after it approved a constitution that effectively emancipated all slaves. At the same time, Kanawha suffered from the consequences of internecine warfare, which devastated the areas around the Valley and led to brutal counterinsurgency policies by the Union.

    The Confederacy also was forced to adopt anti-insurgent measures, mainly in East Tennessee and Texas. In the first, strong Unionist sentiment was harnessed by Senator Andrew Johnson and William G. Brownlow, a Methodist preacher who vowed to fight secession and treason “till Hell freezes over, and then fight them on the ice.” But bad terrain and lack of roads prevented action, much to Lincoln’s chagrin. Unionist attempts to form militias and resist Confederate authority resulted in the proclamation of martial law and the execution of several Unionists. Down in Texas, German settlers rallied to the Union banner. Many important leaders, including Sam Houston, opposed secession. Houston, in fact, had been removed by the Legislature due to his refusal to pledge allegiance to the Confederacy. Many Unionists would suffer under Confederate rule, even to the point of being massacred for their pro-Union activities.

    However, the eyes of the nation were in Maryland. McDowell planned to advance along the Philadelphia-Wilmington Railroad towards Baltimore, and attack the city from the North. Union control of Fort McHenry would trap the Confederates in the city. He would follow this with an attack on Beauregard across the Patapsco. Meanwhile, Patterson would make a feint against the Confederates near Frederick. Should the rebels be sent to aid Beauregard, Patterson was to start a real attack and drive his forces towards Rockville. If the Southerners at the Rolling Hills were withdrawn, or Beauregard was successfully occupied by McDowell, Butler would then stage a breakthrough and go north to Beauregard’s rear. If successful, the attack would encircle the Army of Maryland and force the remaining Confederates to evacuate.

    Irvin McDowell

    But McDowell’s plan was marred by inefficiency and the inadequacy of his “green troops.” Though Lincoln assured his general that the Confederates were just as green, the fact was that they enjoyed a psychological edge over the Federals because of the Fall of Washington. Furthermore, in the time it took to build an army, Beauregard had built strong defenses in the Patapsco, and the Federals had little idea of the strength or extension of these fortifications. Still, McDowell attacked in August 14th, 1861, a flurry of reporters and onlookers behind him.

    His army advanced to the outside of Baltimore, where they found Beauregard’s men in a small stream known as Herrings Run. To the North, Confederate artillery and infantry was placed at Townstown, near where two railroad tracks met. In the west, the first great failure of the campaign took place. Patterson, confused by diverging orders from Philadelphia and McDowell, just maneuvered in front of Jackson’s Brigade, and never launched an attack or took any part in the rest of the campaign. Realizing his chance, Johnston ordered Jackson to Annapolis, where the impatient Butler had launched an attack before McDowell had started his. Jackson, an eccentric man who combined strict discipline with a profound faith and used both to push his men to the limit, had acquired certain fame and respect during the Siege of Washington, but it was in Annapolis that he became a legend. Arriving at the last minute, his brigade resisted the attack. Butler’s own mismanagement can also be blamed, for the political general had talent as an administrator and politician but not as a military commander. Still, Jackson’s staunch resistance against Butler’s attacks earned him his famous nickname – Stonewall Jackson.

    The Federals found greater success around Baltimore. There were mainly two paths: a road to Baltimore and the railroad to the South. The rebels had, of course, cut off the railroad, but it still served as an easy venue of invasion. McDowell decided to make feints through both paths. When Colonel Evans noticed the feint against the Northern road, he took his 6,000 rebels there, and slugged it out against 10,000 Union soldiers. In the meantime, McDowell directed his men to the railroad bridge. They forded the river and attacked the rebels north of them, forcing Evans to retreat. The river crossing, however, had been fumbled and McDowell was unable to bring out his full force against Beauregard. Still, the onlookers were feeling joyful, and too optimistic reports were reaching Philadelphia talking of great victory and the total defeat of Beauregard’s forces.

    Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

    For hours, exhausted Federals pushed against the Confederates, who suffered from the same lack of munitions, equipment and medicine that brought down Lee’s campaign. Finally, the Confederate line broke and scared soldiers started to retreat towards Baltimore. While a steady flow of Union reinforcements was arriving, even if slowly, there were no Confederate reinforcements to be seen. They were either North, where William T. Sherman’s regiment was able to pin then in their place, or behind the Patapsco, kept there by Johnston who was not willing to commit the whole of his force to the battle. Johnston’s cautious demeanor was in clear display here, and like McClellan’s actions in Kanawha, it was a preview of things to come. Johnston would rather take the safe route of waiting until the bluebacks reached the river, where any attack would come to grief. Moreover, there was still the possibility of Butler breaking out of Annapolis, and Johnston wanted to be able to reinforce Jackson if that happened, because a successful breakthrough would put a large Union force in Beauregard’s rear. Johnston’s actions were sound in theory, and lack of communications and the inexperience of his officers meant that he did not know that Jackson had successfully contained Butler, or how disorganized Beauregard’s men were. Nonetheless, Beauregard hotly contested the decision and sent increasingly irate demands for more men. When they were answered, the rebels were already retreating in a disastrous rout.

    McDowell was astonished by his success. Discipline and morale were starting to crumble behind the frontlines, so he was unable to completely capitalize in this victory. Still, he was excited and ordered the men in Fort McHenry to go forward into the city in August 15th, expecting the final showdown to take place there. But a strange spectacle took place, as many Confederates ignored Baltimore, flanking it and going directly to the Patapsco. Baltimore, in their minds, was a dead trap that would end with them surrounded and sieged. Union supremacy at seas and especially the imposing Fort McHenry would ensure eventual defeat. Others were decided to fight to the end, and entered Baltimore to face the Marines and other troops that were now marching towards Federal Hill. In scenes of pitched urban fighting like none the world had ever seen, militia, soldiers and even citizens resisted with everything they had, making the Federals pay every step with liters of blood.

    The soldiers were ill-equipped to fight like that, and most of them found themselves lost in the sprawling city. But they received help from an unlikely source: The Black community of Baltimore. The few months under Confederate control had been an effective terror reign over them. There are many tales of Free Blacks being chained and hauled down South, for even the mere existence of a Free Black community was a threat to the White Supremacy the South championed. This abnormality had to be corrected, and as a result many suffered under the hands of Confederates. The Union was seen as a Liberating Army, and with Baltimore descending into chaos, concerns regarding race were forgotten in the heat of battle. It helped that the soldiers who assaulted Baltimore that day were from some of the most Republican states, such as Massachusetts. They were committed men who wanted to exterminate treason and slavery, “in the most literal sense.” Fighting between pro-Confederate and pro-Union mobs was bloody and brutal, but by the end of the day the Federals had the clear upper hand over the exhausted Southerners, most of whom had been fighting since the previous day. Naval support proved to a key to victory, the cannons of nearby Union ships destroying large sections of the city and maiming the Confederates. At sunset, the Union soldiers achieved their objective, taking the Federal Hill in a charge of fixed bayonets that broke the defenders.

    Battle of Baltimore

    While these bloody and appalling scenes were taking place in the city, McDowell pursued his foes. Now that Butler’s failure was clear, Beauregard had finally received reinforcements and he had gone to the frontlines to rally his troops to battle. He also received the troops that Sherman had pinned at Townstown. For his part, Sherman’s mostly fresh men joined McDowell. By that time, forced marches and sheer exhaustion had caused thousands to simply drop to the ground. Realizing that he couldn’t keep up this pace, and confident that the Confederates were almost beaten, McDowell set down behind a stream called Gwinn’s Falls. But suddenly a chilling scream came from the other side of the river, an “unearthly wail” that filled the Northern hearts with dread. "The peculiar corkscrew sensation that it sends down your backbone under these circumstances can never be told. You have to feel it," said a veteran after the war. Thousands of rebels went forward, led personally by Beauregard. The tired Union soldiers were unable to do much, with the exception of Sherman’s brigade. The Union line broke, and the Federal soldiers simply threw their arms away and ran to Baltimore in a frantic display. Some officers even made better time than their men.

    After that, it was all anti-climax. Beauregard was unable to press this victory; McDowell could not retake control of his men nor did he have any other reserves. Thousands of wounded and agonizing rebels fled Baltimore, followed by pro-Confederate citizens who feared the wrath of the Black Republicans and their Negro mobs. The Federals returned to the city, which had finally calmed down by the 16th. They had achieved a victory, but it came at a high cost.

    Battle of Herrings Run

    The cost of the Baltimore campaign was indeed high. McDowell himself was sickened and appalled by the fighting and its brutality. The two days of fighting had seen three different but equally terrible battles; the Union had won the Battle of Baltimore and the Battle of Herrings Run, but lost the Battle of Gwinn’s Run. More than that, they had lost almost a 1000 dead and 2000 wounded. The Southerners, for their part, had lost 1300 dead, 1500 wounded and 1200 captured. More than that, the Baltimore campaign set the pace for the war that was to come, a cruel and terrible war that would leave many more men dead. For the moment, the Union could at least rejoice in its victory over the Southern forces and the successful capture of Baltimore, a hit that tarnished the reputation and prestige of the Confederate government. But Washington was still in the hands of the enemy. It was becoming increasingly clear that this was not going to be a limited and short war, but a fiery and difficult struggle. The reports of the battle may have horrified both Lincoln and Breckinridge, but the guerrillas that swarmed in Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky; the guerrillas that were rallying in Kanawha, East Tennessee and Texas; and the savage fighting at Baltimore and throughout Maryland; all pointed that the worse was yet to come.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 17: The War at the Courts and at the Sea
  • Chapter 17: The War at the Courts and at the Sea

    The bloody Battle of Baltimore caused wide celebrations through the Union, as thousands rushed to cheer the flag and the “gallant soldiers that so nobly upheld it.” President Lincoln was greatly pleased with the victory, and so were many politicians and important men. Among the people, it did a lot to soothe the still open wounds of the Fall of Washington; at the very least, it managed to restore a little of the Yankees’ confidence, and instill a certain pride in the men. General McDowell went from a little-known military man to a celebrated war hero in slightly more than a week. But while the people cheered, the full magnitude of how much the victory had cost started to dawn on the leaders of the Union.

    The around 7,000 casualties already exceeded the total of the entire Mexican-American War. And the chaotic situation in Baltimore created ghastly scenes of violence that horrified people throughout the nation. When McDowell’s exhausted men wearily trudged back to their camps at Havre de Grace after a rather miserable welcome at Baltimore, civilians saw not jubilant conquerors but tired, almost broken soldiers. Lack of preparation and training, and the wholly inadequate Army Medical Bureau meant that the men were green as grass when they marched off to battle, thinking it would be a glorious but brief endeavor. In fact, there were some boys who hastily joined the Army because they thought the war may end before they had the chance to see fighting.

    To be sure, enthusiasm among both the people and the ranks was still high, but the leadership started to realize the simple fact that defeating the South would be more than a simple question of marching. The first to realize so seemed to be Lincoln himself. Though discerning the man’s thoughts is somewhat hard, we do know that he felt mixed emotions upon learning all the details of the campaign. For one, he took joy in having achieved a victory, something that undoubtedly strengthened his government at a critical point. Yet the weight of those dead boys heavily hung on his shoulders. Always a man who looked forward rather than dwelling in failures and successes alike, the President was also somewhat disappointed by the fact that the rebel army hadn’t been destroyed. He was willing to overlook it this time, for he recognized that McDowell was doing the best he could with green troops and green officers. Nonetheless, the bitter taste of missed opportunities would unfortunately become a common one for Lincoln.

    The rebels, for their part, had suffered as big a psychological hit as a material one. President Breckinridge saw it in person. He, at the bequest of Secretary Davis, travelled to Waterloo, the Confederate center of operations. But as he approached the small village, he saw a “terrible scene of human misery.” Indeed, the Confederate leader saw scores of stragglers, and hundreds of wounded men. There were but a few who could still stand, and even then, just barely. All the soldiers had little to say, except for one who told Breckinridge to “go back! We’re whipped!” The hearts of both Breckinridge and Davis sank. “Is this the end? Is my country going to end like this?” Breckinridge muttered to himself.

    Confederate Infantry at the Battle of Baltimore

    At one point, a soldier in a lathered horse came. “All is lost!” he cried, “the Yankees will cross the river. Leave sir, please!” Of course, soon after that Beauregard and his yelling rebels rushed forward and managed to finally halt the Federal advance for good, but for a moment Breckinridge probably really believed his Confederacy was going to end right there and then. His new nation secured for the moment, the Kentuckian showered lavish praise upon General Beauregard, though he made sure to do it discreetly, knowing how that would incense Johnston. His efforts were to no avail, for Johnston again complained that not many laurels were coming his way despite his “laborious and prominent role” in the campaign.

    This proved to be an important factor in Breckinridge’s growing disenchantment with his General in-chief. For the moment, he decided that shuffling the military chain of command would be more demoralizing than anything, and he thought that the defense-oriented Johnston would be a good counterpart to the aggressive Beauregard. It’s obvious that Breckinridge underestimated the egos of both. Still, Breckinridge decided to focus for the moment on defending the Confederacy. Though losing Baltimore had been a tough hit, he recognized that it allowed them to retreat behind the more defensible Patapsco. He ordered his Generals to stand ready to defend against another Yankee attack during the autumn; after winter arrived, they could get a respite. In the meantime, Breckinridge would deal with the political and diplomatic ramifications of the war.

    His counterpart at Philadelphia was also dealing with such matters. Now that he had taken back control of Baltimore, Lincoln set out to finally bring it under control. The President’s directive called for “a gentle, but firm and certain hand”, though he did concede that perhaps the government would have “to first employ the stick, and leave the carrot for later.” After Maryland seceded, Lincoln declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, measures he now was able to enforce in Baltimore. Army officers and Maryland Unionists combed the city and its surrounding areas, not allowing evidence to stop their quest to stamp out treason. Many men were thrown into prison cells at Fort McHenry for supposed cooperation with the rebels. It’s not hard to suppose that many were innocent, and many did allege that the brief Confederate reign of terror had forced them to hide their true Unionist leanings, but some of the arrested men were people who had actively taken part on that reign.

    Several of these men filled for writs of habeas corpus, thus starting a political and judicial battle against the Administration. Since the case was being held in Maryland, the petitions reached the senior judge of the Federal district court, Roger B. Taney. He and president Lincoln had been old enemies, and though the Head of State did not feel any personal animosity towards the Chief Justice, he had often and harshly criticized his decision in the Dred Scott case. Taney, for his part, detested Lincoln as a “vulgar abolitionist”, although he did respect Lincoln more than he respected other men, like Seward. Still, Taney actually refused to administer the oath of office; consequently, Lincoln was sworn in by Justice James Wayne, the second most senior member of the court (McLean, Lincoln’s vice-president and the most senior member, resigned shortly before the inauguration). Taney at least attended the ceremony, reportedly looking like a “galvanized corpse” the entire time. His constitution turned particularly ashen when Lincoln declared that the people couldn’t “resign their government into the hands” of judges.

    Justice James Moore Wayne

    Naturally, Taney issued the writs, but the officers refused, citing that: first, Maryland was under military government, and thus a civilian court couldn’t interfere; and second, Lincoln had suspended the writ. For Taney and the district court, he interrogatives were two: did Lincoln have the power to suspend the writ? And could a military administration be put in place in Maryland, even though Lincoln had recognized the legitimacy of the Frederick government? The writ, Taney said, could indeed be suspended “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it,” as detailed in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution. However, that provision is part of the article that details the powers of Congress. Thus, suspending the writ is an attribution of Congress, and the President couldn’t do it himself. Furthermore, the Constitution did not authorize the arrest of civilians by military officers, or them being held indefinitely. Lincoln simply ignored Taney’s opinion. "Are all the laws, but one to go unexecuted and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?”, he asked.

    Pro-administration lawyers immediately took up the pen to defend the President’s policies. They argued that the suspension of the writ was intended as an emergency measure, that could only be taken by the President, especially when Congress was not in session. No matter Taney’s muddled arguments, its place in the constitution was irrelevant. Stopping treason was far more important, and since Maryland was a war theater, and its courts were probably compromised by treasonous civilians, using military courts was justified. Some even argued that since the act in question was treason against the nation, using American citizens was enough to fulfill the constitutional requirement to be judged by one’s peers. Others, not entirely comfortable with this argument, advanced the idea that treasonous individuals or people whose loyalty was suspect could not judge treason the same as a thief could not judge robbery. Consequently, the government had to use only Unionists in jury trials of suspected rebels.

    Lincoln ignored these discussions of theory as mere abstractions, and instead focused on the very real threat of further rebellion in Baltimore. At least, it was real in some cases. People, who ranged from actual supporters of the Confederacy to lukewarm unionists, were rounded up first by army officers and later by Seward’s ruthless corps of military police. Despite being Secretary of State, Seward was tasked with internal security due to Lincoln’s distrust of Cameron. With rebels just behind the Patapsco, and McDowell unable or unwilling to launch an autumn campaign, Lincoln believed that he could not put Baltimore under the administration of the Frederick government. Many people were arrested. Among them were some of the Frederick government, secessionists elected to the original convention that remained there even after secession. Lincoln said that he had conclusive proof of their disloyalty, yet the government never indicted or tried them. Perhaps it was because the proof didn’t exist, but another reason was that the administration knew a Maryland jury would not convict them, and the Supreme Court hadn’t established whether military tribunals could be used.

    Indeed, the case Ex parte Kane, named after Police Chief George Proctor Kane, was making its way through the judicial system. It reached the highest court in the land in 1863. Taney was joined by Justices Grier, Catron and Nelson in his opinion, which just reiterated what he had already said in the District Court: Lincoln had no authority to unilaterally suspend the writ, and could not try civilians in military courts if there were civilian courts available. Unhappily for Taney, Lincoln had been able to appoint as many as four Justices. He replaced Justice McLean, his vice-president; Justice Daniel, who had died in May 1860, the replacement appointed by Buchanan rejected by the Republicans; Justice Curtis, who had remained in the Court despite his disgust with the Dred Scott decision only at the bequest of McLean; and Justice Campbell, who had deflected to the Confederacy.

    Noah Hayne Swayne, one of the new Lincoln-appointed Justices.

    These four new Justices were strongly anti-slavery nationalists, who supported Lincoln’s efforts by declaring that the President could suspend the writ, but Congress would have to give its consent or disapproval as soon as possible. Since Congress had quickly given retroactive approval to all of Lincoln’s actions after convening in July, 1861, the President had acted legally. Moreover, Congress could authorize the use of military tribunals even in areas where civilian courts were working, if it was convinced that it was necessary for public safety.

    This split left the balance on the hands of Justice Wayne. A Georgian, Wayne remained steadfast in his Unionism despite the scorn of his home state and the fact that his son had gone South to fight for the Confederacy. Decided to fight against treason no matter what, Wayne underwent a personal and professional transformation as a result of the war. The opinion of the Unionist Governor of Maryland Thomas Hicks in favor of suspending the writ and declaring martial law, helped Wayne arrive to his conclusion. He joined the 4 Lincoln Justices, and thus upheld the right of the President to declare Martial Law and receive Congress’ consent after the fact, and also the government’s right to create and use military tribunals to try treasonous civilians.

    Earlier in the same year, another decision was reached regarding whether Lincoln had the ability to impose a blockade on the South without a formal declaration of war, the so-called Prize Cases. In a 6-3 decision, the Court declared that even without the Senate declaring war, Lincoln’s actions had been constitutional. The decision conformed to the President’s view of the war as an insurrection, and his absolute refusal to recognize the Confederacy as another nation. Yet declaring a blockade had implicitly recognized the Confederacy as a belligerent. The decision was also influenced by the actions of the rebel government.

    Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, nicknamed Father Neptune by Lincoln.

    The Navy Department was little more prepared than the War Department had been, but it enjoyed advantages in leadership and existing resources, aside from the North’s usual industrial advantage. Gideon Welles and Gustavus V. Fox carried capable administration and dynamism respectively into the Navy. Soon, the Navy chartered or bought dozens of ships to supply the fewer than 12 they had at the start. They set off in the difficult task to blockade “the Confederacy's 3,500 miles of coastline” which “included ten major ports and another 180 inlets, bays, and river mouths navigable by smaller vessels” (McPherson, 369). Though the South could not hope to rival the North in material resources, Welles and Fox had their equals in Stephen R. Mallory, and commanders like Raphael Semmes and James D. Bulloch.

    Mallory employed his country’s resources in small commerce raiders, and innovations such as mines or torpedo boats. At one point, the Confederacy even developed an experimental submarine. Bulloch was sent to Britain, where he managed to build several ships, and Mallory also approved the construction of an ironclad from the captured USS Merrimack. In the first months of the war, he focused on commerce raiding. President Breckinridge issued letters of marque to many privateers, who soon were roaming the oceans, capturing merchant ships and terrorizing shipowners.

    Lincoln counterattacked by declaring these privateers to be pirates, and threatening to hang them as such. When a Philadelphia court convicted and hanged around 7 privateers, Breckinridge retaliated by executing 7 Union prisoners of war, including a grandson of Paul Revere. After that, Lincoln refused to continue such a bloody tic for tac, and directed the Navy to treat captured privateers as prisoners of war. The Confederacy had already changed strategy, shifting from privateering to commerce raiding. Here, Semmes achieved notoriety and infamy, guiding his CSS Beauregard into several victories over the Yankee blockaders.

    These Union sailors faced exhausting monotony as often as they faced the rebels. Historian James M. McPherson estimated that blockade ships sighted a ship once every month or so, and took part in just one or two captures every year. However, when ships were sighted the emotion of the chase and the possibility of victory revitalized the sailors. Common sailors could earn as much as 3,500 USD if the ships they captured had particularly valuable prizes. On the other hand, blockade runners experienced these emotions and earned similar profits more often. The glory and adventure of running a blockade attracted scores, perhaps even hundreds of foreign officers, who wanted new and exciting experiences and also cherished the possibility of earning a profit without the danger of being held as prisoners. A British officer, for example, explained that "Hunting, pig-sticking, steeple-chasing, big-game hunting, polo—I have done a little of each— all have their thrilling moments, but none can approach running a blockade.”

    Secretary Stephen R. Mallory

    Both emotion and danger arose as the time passed and the blockade became stronger. To the Union’s system of two “cordons” and using light signals to converge on a spotted ship, the Confederacy answered by using specialized ships. Small, painted in grey and sailing only in foggy and dark nights, these ships were able to elude blockade runners. The Southerners’ home advantage also worked in their favor, for the captains knew “every inch of the coastline” and used this knowledge to scape the blockade and go to Habana, Nassau or Bermuda, where they interchanged cotton for salt, munitions, medicine, or clothes. Patriotism battled against pure greed here; many reserved their space for their own cotton or for luxury goods they then sold at auctions. Recognizing the extreme need for supplies, Breckinridge early on pushed for regulations that prohibited such goods and forced blockade runners to reserve half their space for the government. Naturally, it was hard to enforce. Richmond also commissioned its own ships.

    Breckinridge and Confederate agents insisted that the blockade was nothing but a “paper blockade”, which other nations did not have to respect. Some 5 out of every 6 ships evaded the blockade successfully, and they brought in literals tons of war materiel. Yet, the Confederacy’s volume of trade was reduced to less than a third of its antebellum levels, and the people and army did feel its terrible effects. Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote, for instance, that the blockade “hems us in with only the sky open to us”; others complained that “every article of consumption particularly in the way of groceries are getting very high.”

    The Union blockade

    Confederate blockade runners and Judicial challengers were enemies Lincoln and his persecution of war had, and they both did their best to hamper his efforts. The Administration's efforts to counterattack were mostly successful, but many of those policies were long-term ones that had to be followed throughout the entire war. In the autumn and winter of 1861, Lincoln also had to focus on the problems at hand, namely the rebel presence behind the Patapsco, and the rebel reaction in the West. The Maryland theater may have commanded the lion’s share of attention in the press and the public consciousness, but studying and understanding the development of the war in the west is also important. As McDowell settled down, his army too broken and inexperienced to act again in his opinion, the rebels launched attacks in Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky, attacks which would highly influence the course of the war.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 18: From the Mississippi's winding stream
  • Chapter 18: From the Mississippi's winding Stream

    When he assumed the office of President of the United States, Lincoln was already a savvy political leader, experienced Senator, able lawyer, and recognized statesman. Yet like all other people, Lincoln was not perfect. He was flawed, and could make mistakes, something that may be hard to comprehend due to the near canonization he has gone through. His views evolved through the war, and he became more proficient in the game of politics and war. Not a military man by any standard, Lincoln still wanted to weight in when it came to military strategy. He recognized that war was simply another way to achieve political aims, and as such he always had to take into political factors in order to take decisions. This was what pushed him towards ordering a perhaps hasty assault on Baltimore.

    The President well knew that the fall of Washington gave a lot of legitimacy to the Confederacy, and was a hard blow against his administration. He had managed to spin the event into an advantageous situation, maintaining the North united behind him and alighting their war spirit. Yet Lincoln was also continually harassed by the opposition, popular opinion, and the press. They all expected a quick and glorious victory, and at first it seemed that McDowell had achieved it, driving the rebels back and taking Baltimore. But both the press and the President were disappointed when they learned that, first, McDowell would not attack again but go into winter quarters, and second, just how hard-fought that victory had been. The Baltimore campaign spell an end to the conception of the war as an affair of 90 days.

    A long and prolongated campaign in the South was feared by everyone. General in-chief Winfield Scott always disapproved of it, and that’s why he favored his Anaconda Plan as a way to strangle the South into submission without having to invade every inch of their soil, something that would cause untold devastation. For his part, Quartermaster General Meigs believed that “It was better to whip them here than to go far into an unhealthy country to fight them”, and Lincoln tended to agree with him, feeling that a decisive blow that shattered the rebels and took Washington and then Richmond would be enough to end the Confederacy. With newspapers loudly proclaiming that “the rebels cannot be allowed to continue their occupation of our capital for a single more day” and that “Richmond must be taken before the end of the year”, Lincoln’s resolve stiffened.

    The Baltimore Campaign caused mixed feelings in both combatants. There were people who gave into despair, grim determination or enthusiasm, Yankees and Dixie boys alike. A New York newspaper claimed that the “Battle for Baltimore will be engraved in the annals of history as one of the most important battles of the world” but Horace Greeley on the other hand was so sickened by the ghastly scenes of combat and long lists of casualties that he wrote to Lincoln an apology for his “onward to Washington” editorial. “If it is best for the country and for mankind that we make peace with the rebels, and on their own terms, do not shrink even from that, lest we have to subdue them at the price of millions”, Greeley wrote.

    Horace Greeley

    As for the South, many more despaired. “A month ago, we believed the fall of the Federal city had secured our independence,” wrote a War Department clerk, “but it seems like the Yankees will not stop at anything except our complete destruction.” Others tried to spin the news differently, for example saying that “the gallant defense provided by General Beauregard proves once and for all that the Yankees will never again advance beyond cannon shot of Baltimore.” Breckinridge used the news as a rousing call to his people: “After a series of successes and victories, we have met with a serious disaster. Yet we must not despair. Adversity is the great fire that tries men and nations, and the blood we have shed is the great price for liberty and freedom. Let us continue forward, working with more eagerness than before, with trust in eventual victory and faith in the right.”

    Both Heads of State decided to change their strategies following Baltimore. Lincoln decided to embrace the Anaconda Plan and set a plan for expanding and reorganizing the armies in Maryland, and selected Washington, Memphis and Knoxville as main objectives. He also reshuffled his generals, replacing Patterson with Nathaniel P. Banks, appointing the Pathfinder of the West John C. Frémont to Missouri, and sending William T. Sherman, who had performed admirably at Townstown, to Kentucky. Butler was too influential to be disregarded, so he was sent to Baltimore to administer the temporary military government, being the one who conducted the arrests that caused so much controversy. Lincoln’s secretary John Nicolay wrote that “the fat is all in the fire now, and we shall have to work harder to finish the rebellion. The preparations for the war will be continued with increased vigor by the government.”

    Butler and Frémont were both examples of “political generals.” As commander in-chief, Lincoln had the right to appoint generals, but these appointments were subjected to confirmation by the Senate, which turned them into highly politicized contests. Lincoln and Breckinridge had to consider “factors of party, faction, and state as carefully in appointing generals as in naming cabinet officers or postmasters.” The electoral disarray of former Democrats and the National Union gave Lincoln more strength in this regard, but he still sought to cultivate the loyalty and support of them by appointing Democratic politicians such as Butler, and leaders of immigrant communities, like Carl Schultz. For his part, Breckinridge was practically forced to appoint such men as Toombs, Wise and Floyd, to get their support and satisfy their ego and thirst for glory.

    The appointment of such “Political generals” to important posts was decried by professional military men. Major General Henry W. Halleck complained that “it seems but little better than murder to give important commands to such men as Banks and Butler”, but recognized that it was a political necessity, even if it sometimes resulted in the commissioning of incompetent men. On the other hand, two thirds of the almost 600 generals commissioned by the Union had some kind of previous military experience, and officers who had had to ascend through the ranks often bitterly complained of the existence of a “West Point clique” that controlled the Army and promotions. Some of the very best officers, like Grant and Sherman, owed their appointments to politicians; conversely, some professional generals also showed incompetence. Nonetheless, most people saw “political generals” as incompetent.

    When it came to the rebels, Breckinridge faced increasing difficulties. Though losing Baltimore was hard, now Beauregard had a more defensible position behind the Patapsco. However, the Federals retained their positions in Frederik and Annapolis, and it didn’t seem like he had the strength to dislodge them. Breckinridge also faced broader strategic difficulties. Like their American forefathers, Confederates sought to defend a new nation from conquest. The large size of the Confederacy made “Lincoln's task as difficult as Napoleon's in 1812 or George III's in 1776.” Breckinridge tended to agree with defensive oriented men such as Davis and Johnston over aggressive but dynamic generals like Beauregard or later Lee. He did not wish for military victory, but rather to win by not losing, to force the North to give up in the face of stern Southern resistance that would render the war too costly in blood and gold to continue.

    Benjamin Butler

    To achieve this, Breckinridge and Davis created what would come to be known as an “offensive-defensive” strategy. By limiting themselves to defense unless the opportunity for attack presented itself, the South sought to concentrate its forces against invaders but retain the capacity to shatter the Yankees’ armies and morale. But the Confederacy’s main advantage was also its mortal enemy – while Washington had been willing to give up territory so as to gain time and maintain his army intact, the zealous and fearful Confederates were not willing to give up even an inch to the Lincolnites. Scared of the “abolition hordes and monstrous Black Republicans”, Southerners demanded troops to protect themselves and their property from Yankees. In several occasions, Governors prevented their militias from joining the main Army so as to protect their states. This further aggravated the Confederacy’s situation, for the Yankees not only had more men, but they could concentrate them while small rebel armies sat idly on border areas.

    Like Lincoln, Breckinridge had to fight against the criticism of the press and the senses of destiny and dignity of his officers. The President already confessed frustration with the press’ demands for attacks, such as the Richmond Examiner’s declaration that "The idea of waiting for blows, instead of inflicting them, is altogether unsuited to the genius of our people," or Tennessee’s demands “for a column to march, and drive the Yankee despots from their strongholds to the Ohio’s mighty waters. Only by attacking can we secure liberty.” Similarly, he had to content with frequent fights between Beauregard, Johnston and Davis. This “Triumvirate of Petticoats”, as he referred to them when especially annoyed, would often cause problems for him and his Confederacy.

    In any case, Breckinridge welcomed McDowell’s decision as an opportunity for Beauregard to rest and reinforce. In the meantime, he had to deal with Yankee attacks from the sea and at the west. Dealing with the Yankee navy was the hardest, since Breckinridge had no navy to speak of and his brief flirting with privateers and his newfound focus in commerce raiding hadn’t had much success yet. The Union retained control of Point West in Florida and also of Hampton Roads through Fort Monroe, opposite of Norfolk, which the Confederates had captured intact after secession, scoring the ship USS Merrimack too. Needing more supply bases to maintain their blockade, the Union attacked many smaller ports and inlets in the South. The first action took place at Hatteras Inlet, in North Carolina. A “nest of pirates” formed by a treacherous coast often attacked by even more treacherous storms, Hatteras Inlet was the only one navigable by large ships. It protected the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, and served as Richmond’s main sea access.

    In August, 1861, a flotilla of Union ships and some 900 men led by Ambrose Burnside approached. An Indiana-born West Pointer, Burnside had seen action at Baltimore. His performance and that of the volunteers of his beloved Rhode Island was good enough, but it did not gain notoriety for him. He would later accept a promotion to brigadier, and be assigned to North Carolina. Tall and energetic, Burnside was characterized by his friendly and affable personality, which won the affections of men like McClellan (who called him “Dear Burn”) and also by his impressive whiskers, to the point that an anagram of his name would be created to designate such a style of facial hair – sideburns.

    Despite the widespread belief that ships alone couldn’t subdue a fort, the flotilla was able to easily overcome the undermanned and undersupplied forts, forcing their surrender. Burnside didn’t see much action after all. The Yankees managed another easy victory by taking Ship Island, just off the coast of Mississippi, a fine prize which opened the possibility of taking New Orleans. Their next big objective was Port Royal, South Carolina. The massive fleet of 17 ships and 12,000 infantry. The infantry was unable to take the forts, being bloodied in a frontal assault. Such a failure motivated Flag Officer Samuel du Pont to try a hitherto unheard strategy. Naval doctrine dictated that “a gun in land is equal to four in a ship”, but steam technology allowed Du Pont’s battleships to fire into the forts while moving in an oval pattern that made it hard to hit them. The Federals prevailed, and the Confederate defenders and white civilians fled inland. Together with the sea islands, the Federals obtained rich cotton and plantations and 10,000 black slaves – now known as “contrabands”. The policies regarding contrabands and African-American participation in the war must be considered separately, however.

    Ambrose Burnside

    The glorious victory at Baltimore was joined by naval triumphs that did not have the bitter aftertaste of missed opportunities and a high human cost to sully them. The Navy’s successes in the later half of 1861 and early 1862 helped to bring Yankee morale to the highest levels yet – and Southern morale to new lows. Robert E. Lee disappointed Southerners again by his failure to retake or defend the South Atlantic Coast. To be fair to the “King of Spades”, he did not have the necessary resources, lacking men, artillery and ammunitions. He was right when he regarded the whole enterprise as “another forlorn hope – worse than West Virginia.” He stared impotently as the Union took Saint Augustine, Florida, and Fort Pulaski, thus closing Savanah. Without a navy to stop them, Lee could do nothing but concentrate his meager forces in some strategic strongpoints.

    The Navy achieved another victory, and this time Burnside shared the triumph and the resulting glory. After a battle with the unruly weather in February 1862, Burnside and his dashing Rhode Islanders arrived to Roanoke Island, the key to control of the North Carolina sounds. The rebel commander was John B. Floyd, the former secretary of war. His quest for military recognition had floundered in West Virginia due to his feud with former governor of Virginia Henry A. Wise, who had resigned his governorship, all in the search of military glory. Both were “political generals”, and as such Breckinridge hadn’t been able to dismiss them completely, but Wise’s pivotal role in Virginia’s secession gave him more cloud.

    Similarly to Lee, Floyd was exiled to a coastal position. At least his experience allowed him to recognize just how unsuitable his “mosquito fleet” was, and to see that taking Roanoke was th natural follow-up to the victory at Hatteras Inlet. Breckinridge answered his pleads for men and guns in December, knowing that losing North Carolina’s coast would strengthen the blockade and that losing “Richmond’s backdoor” would complicate operations in Virginia and Maryland. On recommendation by Johnston, Breckinridge chose the Virginian James Longstreet to lead these reinforcements. Brave, compassionate and smart, Longstreet was also known as a fun and loyal man, who often partied and played poker in his headquarters. He left Richmond just before an outbreak of scarlet fever. His three sons caught mild cases, but his one-year old daughter Mary Anne fell gravely sick. She managed to recuperate eventually, but the experienced chastened Longstreet. He retained his affable personality, but became more disciplined – the poker games stopped.

    The Yankees predictably won at sea, landing in Roanoke Island. Fighting through difficult and often fetid swamps, the Federals managed reached the entrenched rebel lines. However, instead of smashing through them, they were bombarded by Longstreet’s guns. Many of those guns had come South thanks to Floyd. Longstreet and his men resisted admirably, and forced the Yankee to conquer the island at the price of their blood, in a situation that reminded many of the hard-fought battle for Federal Hill at Baltimore. However, no matter their bravery, the rebels could simply not contest Burnside’s dominance at sea. After almost two weeks of fighting, Longstreet evacuated Roanoke, without losing a single gun. Elizabeth City and other ports were similarly indefensible – Burnside’s fleet simply destroyed the mosquito fleet, and took control of the North Carolina sounds. But the price was the heavy toll of 3,500 men, compared to the Confederacy’s 2,000 losses. Still, it was a big victory. Longstreet, for his part, earned a place in the pantheon of Southern heroes, and he would remain there to face Burnside, should the newly minted major general try to continue an invasion.

    Longstreet’s resistance took a bit out of the sting of losing the North Carolina sounds, but the Southern people were still appalled. A Congressional Committee was formed to investigate the disaster, and it ultimately exonerated all involved parties – Floyd, Longstreet, Breckinridge, and Davis. However, it recognized that losing North Carolina meant a tighter blockade and also opened the possibility of Burnside invading the state and taking Richmond from the rear. In account of his bravery and skill, Longstreet was retained in North Carolina to face such as threat.

    James Longstreet

    Another newly appointed Departmental Commander fared much worse. John C. Frémont, the commander of the Western Department, carried a good clout with the Republican party, having been their nominee in 1856. Naïve, ambitious and eager for adventure and victory, Frémont was appointed mostly because the Radical wing of the Party favored him, but he also carried experience in the topographical corps of the pre-war army. Lincoln had told him "I have given you carte blanche. You must use your own judgment, and do the best you can”, but perhaps that wasn’t the best idea. He was showy and bombastic, prone to accepting inflated contracts that caused controversy in the press, and taking actions with reckless speed. Believing that whoever held the Mississippi “would hold the country by the heart,” Frémont prepared for an incursion down the mighty river.

    Fortunately for the Union and Missouri, Frémont’s subordinate was the able and rough but extremely popular Nathaniel Lyon. Lyon still felt his failure to prevent the rebels from taking the guns of the St. Louis arsenal, both personally and militarily. Decided to finish what he had started and crush treason in Missouri, Lyon set forth with 6,000 men to face Sterling Price and his new commander, Ben McCulloh. McCulloh had brought with him 5,000 Confederate reinforcements. He did not trust Price’s 8,000 Missourians, because even if they were now armed adequately, they lacked training and discipline. This numerical superiority did not faze Lyon, who took Springfield and prepared to attack. Despite Frémont’s confusing orders and lack of support, Lyon was not willing to give up Missouri.

    In what could be either madness or genius, Lyon divided his numerically inferior force, sending some “Dutch” troops under Franz Siegel to attack the southern rebel flank at Wilson’s Creek. Siegel did this successfully, but his attack disintegrated after a Confederate regiment wearing grey uniforms similar to those of his Iowans attacked. Mistaking them for friends for far too long, the Federals exposed themselves and were driven back. Price then focused on Lyon’s main force, and finally forced him to retreat after the red bearded Federal had had his horse shot from under him. Each side lost some 1,500 men, but obviously Lyon’s force lost a greater proportion. Lyon retreated all the way back to Lexington, where Price surrounded him with 18,000 men. But Lyon again would not surrender his 5,000 men. Lyon managed to resist the siege, hoping that Frémont would break the Confederate ring. Frémont only managed to punctuate it briefly, and once again Lyon was forced to retreat, something that filled him with rage and shame. Thanks to Frémont, he thought, the Confederates had taken half of Missouri.

    Sterling Price

    The whole debacle destroyed Frémont’s reputation with the Administration and the soldiers, mainly Lyon. He may have been able to survive the event, hadn’t he acted rashly and issued an expansive and controversial proclamation that, among other things, liberated all the slaves of pro-Confederate activists or guerrillas in Missouri. Military failure was one thing, but through his actions Frémont also complicated Lincoln’s effort in Kentucky and added to mounting controversies regarding emancipation in Kansas and contrabands in Maryland. Though Lincoln could take solace in Burnside’s victories at North Carolina and Ulysses S. Grant’s successes in Kentucky, the new year dawned with increasing political, military and social complications as the Administration grappled with the questions of how to follow the Baltimore campaign and how to deal with the slavery. But the broader question was becoming clear: was this a war for the Union? Or a war for Union and Liberty?
    AN: I meant to write an update dealing only with the West, but somehow ended up writing about broader strategy and explaining the war at sea. Crazy how that happens, huh? Anyway, in the next update Grant will finally see some action, and I'll also talk of the controversies regarding contrabands and slavery. Also, OTL Longstreet's daughter and two of his sons died of scarlet fever, something that affected him profoundly. Longstreet is the only Confederate for whom I feel any sympathy, so I decided to butterfly that away. And just in case any of you are wondering, no, this is not the end of Lee.
    Last edited: