Category Archives: Politics

Johnston and the Army of Tennessee

February 19, 1863 – President Jefferson Davis tried one last time to convince General Joseph E. Johnston to take personal command of the Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma.

Confederate General J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Johnston, commanding all Confederate forces between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River, had gone to Tullahoma to investigate rumors that officers and men of the Army of Tennessee had lost confidence in their commander, General Braxton Bragg. Johnston arrived in late January and inspected the 42,000-man force for a week before sending his findings to Davis.

Johnston reported that even though “incessant rain has permitted me to see but a fourth of the troops as of yet,” they were generally “in high spirits, and as ready as ever for fight.” Johnston found the troops “well clothed, healthy, and in good spirits,” which was “positive evidence of General Bragg’s capacity to command…”

Any lack of confidence in Bragg had been restored and “confirmed by his recent operations, which, in my opinion, evince great vigor and skill. It would be very unfortunate to remove him at this juncture, when he has just earned, if not won, the gratitude of the country.”

In closing, Johnston advised Davis that if he still insisted on removing Bragg, he should not replace Bragg with anyone who took part in the inspection. This was intended to deflect the possibility that Davis might replace Bragg with Johnston. Johnston resented his role as Western Theater commander and wanted to return to field command, but he considered it an affront to his “personal honor” to replace Bragg. Johnston still privately hoped to regain command of the Army of Northern Virginia, but Robert E. Lee’s performance assured him that he would not get that back.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

When Davis received the report, he still had doubts about Bragg’s leadership, and he still leaned toward replacing him with Johnston. However, Johnston made it clear that he would not accept such an assignment. On the 19th, Davis tried convincing him once again that the army officers’ dissatisfaction with Bragg would eventually filter down to the troops.

“It is not given to all men of ability to excite enthusiasm and to win affection of their troops,” Davis wrote, “and it is only the few who are thus endowed who can overcome the distrust and alienation of their principal officers.” If Bragg knew that he did more harm than good by staying on as army commander, he “would surrender a desirable position to promote the public interest…”

Davis complimented Bragg’s “confidence… and zeal,” and then told Johnston, “You limit the selection (of a new commander) to a new man, and, in terms very embarrassing to me, object to being yourself the immediate commander. I had felt the importance of keeping you free to pass from army to army in your department, so as to be present wherever most needed, and to command in person wherever present.” Davis continued:

“When you went to Tullahoma, I considered your arrival placed you for as long a period as you should remain there in the immediate command of that army, and that your judgment would determine the duration of your stay. I do not think that your personal honor is involved, as you could have nothing to gain by the removal of General Bragg. You shall not be urged by me to any course which would wound your sensibility or views of professional propriety, though you will perceive how small is the field of selection if a new man is to be sought whose rank is superior to that of the lieutenant-generals now in Tennessee.”

For now, Johnston refused to be Bragg’s replacement, so Bragg remained in charge of the Army of Tennessee as it remained in winter quarters at Tullahoma.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 172-73; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 264; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 322; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 583; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 161

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Foreign Affairs: Seward Rejects Mediation

February 6, 1863 – Secretary of State William H. Seward unilaterally declined an offer by French Emperor Napoleon III to mediate the conflict between the U.S. and the Confederacy.

Horace Greeley, the influential editor of the New York Tribune, had been publishing editorials in his newspaper calling for an armistice to negotiate a peace that would restore “the Union as it was.” William C. “Colorado” Jewett, a mining speculator with a questionable reputation, informed Greeley after returning from France that Napoleon had offered to mediate a peace between the warring factions.

Greeley responded by going to Washington to try getting the French minister to the U.S., Henri Mercier, to mediate on Napoleon’s behalf. Mercier offered his services on February 3, proposing that officials of the U.S. and the Confederacy come together in a neutral country to discuss a possible peace, and that Mercier would “chair” the meeting.

President Abraham Lincoln neither accepted nor declined the offer. Senator Charles Sumner, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, wanted to continue the war until the Federals achieved total victory. Seward considered arresting Greeley for violating the Logan Act, which barred American citizens from negotiating with a foreign nation on behalf of the U.S. government.

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Three days later, Seward officially turned down Mercier’s request, explaining that the Lincoln administration would not under any circumstances abandon the effort to preserve the Union, and would also not relinquish any authority to France as the proposal seemed to have implied. Lincoln endorsed Seward’s rejection. Seward took offense to “interference by a foreign power in a family dispute.” Many Republicans in Congress also expressed anger toward the French trying to involve themselves in what they considered to be a domestic insurrection.

Great Britain would not go so far as to offer mediation services. In an address to the British Parliament, Queen Victoria declared that Britain had not tried to “induce a cessation of the conflict between the contending parties in the North American States, because it has not yet seemed to Her Majesty that any such overtures could be attended with a probability of success.”

James Mason, the Confederate envoy in Britain, continued working to gain Confederate recognition. This included delivering a prominent speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London calling for the British to recognize Confederate independence. However, Commander James H. North of the Confederate navy wrote to Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory from Glasgow, Scotland:

“I can see no prospect of recognition from this country… If they will let us get our ships out when they are ready, we shall feel ourselves most fortunate. It is now almost impossible to make the slightest move or do the smallest thing, that the Lincoln spies do not know of it.”

Part of the reason the British government was so reluctant to recognize Confederate independence was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which proved very popular among the British people. Mass meetings took place on the 19th at Liverpool and Carlisle in support of Lincoln’s decree. Therefore, recognizing the Confederacy would defy the will of many British subjects.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 253; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 259, 261-62; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8767-78; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 157; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 261-63; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 318-20, 322

The Army of the Potomac: Hooker Takes Command

January 26, 1863 – Major General Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Federal Army of the Potomac, and he received a stern letter of advice from President Abraham Lincoln.

Nobody in the army seemed surprised about Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s removal and Hooker’s appointment as army commander. Unlike Burnside, Hooker had openly campaigned for the job, and he was as brash as Burnside was modest. As Lincoln predicted, northerners reacted positively to Hooker’s promotion, despite his past insubordination. Lincoln hoped that giving command to Hooker would allow the president to tend to other pressing matters besides the Army of the Potomac.

When Burnside returned to his headquarters to pack and leave, several visitors came to bid him farewell, including Hooker, despite their dislike for each other. Burnside confided to an officer, “There are no pleasant reminiscences for me connected with the Army of the Potomac.” He issued a farewell address to the troops, assuring them that they “under more favorable circumstances would have accomplished great results.” He urged them to be loyal to Hooker, a “brave and skillful general.”

Maj Gen Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Hooker’s promotion, along with the removal of Major Generals Edwin V. Sumner and William B. Franklin, left all three of the army’s Grand Divisions without commanders. On the day that Hooker took command, Lincoln authorized the appointment of Major Generals Darius N. Couch, George G. Meade, and Oliver O. Howard to head the Right, Center, and Left Grand Divisions respectively. Lincoln then summoned Hooker to the White House and handed him a long letter of advice:

“General, I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you.

“I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer.

“I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

“The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing their commander, and withholding confidences from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

“And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.”

While most officers in the army felt that Hooker had the fighting spirit needed to destroy the enemy, some doubted his ability to lead such a massive force. Some noted Hooker’s reputation for immorality; Charles Francis Adams, Jr. wrote that Hooker’s headquarters was “a place which no self-respecting man liked to go, and no decent woman could go. It was a combination of barroom and brothel.” Prostitutes became known as “Hooker” girls, or “hookers,” due to their frequent visits to his headquarters.

Couch had no confidence in Hooker’s abilities. William “Baldy” Smith, who had condemned Burnside, also did not trust Hooker. The new commander was described as “inordinately vain,” “entirely unscrupulous,” and a “doubtful chief.” Hooker quickly set about trying to quiet the criticisms by placing Smith at the head of Burnside’s old IX Corps, which was still loyal to Burnside, and detaching it from his command.

In dealing with his superiors, Hooker insisted on bypassing the chain of command and communicating directly with Lincoln. This did not sit well with General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, who already despised Hooker because he had borrowed money from Halleck before the war and never paid it back.

Hooker immediately set about reorganizing the army for a spring offensive. This included improving army discipline, sanitation, ration distribution, and seeing that soldiers received their back pay. Hooker recalled soldiers on furlough and offered amnesty to those absent without leave if they returned voluntarily. He also oversaw the issuance of new uniforms, equipment, and supplies, all of which worked to improve army morale.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 125; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8712-23, 9308; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 132; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 258; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 101; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 482-83; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 315-16; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 585; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598-99

Dissension in the Army of the Potomac

January 23, 1863 – The defeat at Fredericksburg and the failed “Mud March” sparked recriminations among the Federal army command, leading to wholesale changes.

Gen. Ambrose Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

By the 22nd, nearly everyone in the Army of the Potomac acknowledged that Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s second offensive had failed, just as many of his subordinates had predicted. Army morale plummeted to new depths. The desertion rate continued rising, along with the number of men on the sick list due to lack of adequate rations or sanitary living conditions.

Some loudly condemned Burnside, especially Major General Joseph Hooker. Possibly drunk (along with many other commanders), Hooker raged to a New York Times reporter that Burnside was incompetent, and President Abraham Lincoln was an imbecile for keeping Burnside in command. Calling the administration “all played out,” Hooker declared that the country needed a dictator to win the war.

All this finally caused Burnside’s frustration to boil over. His extraordinary General Order No. 8 charged Hooker with:

“… unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking in disparaging terms of other officers.”

Federal Major General Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: Sonofthesouth.net

Consequently, Hooker was “hereby dismissed from the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, confidence, consideration and patriotism are due from every soldier in the field.”

Burnside also dismissed division commanders W.T.H. Brooks and John Newton, and brigade commander John Cochrane. Burnside had learned that Newton and Cochrane were the ones who went to Washington in late December to complain about him by verifying which officers had passes to leave during that time.

Six other officers were ordered relieved of their command but not dismissed from the army: Grand Division commander William B. Franklin, VI Corps commander William “Baldy” Smith, division commander Samuel Sturgis, brigade commander Edward Ferrero, and Right Grand Division assistant adjutant general Lieutenant Colonel John H. Taylor. For some reason, Burnside added Cochrane to this list as well.

Burnside’s aides persuaded him to discuss the order with Lincoln before issuing it, especially since dismissing an officer from the army required a court-martial. Burnside wrote Lincoln on the night of the 23rd, “I have prepared some very important orders, and I want to see you before issuing them. Can I see you alone if I am at the White House after midnight?” Lincoln replied, “Will see you any moment when you come.” Burnside left his headquarters at 9 p.m. and took a train to a steamer at Aquia Creek.

Burnside met Lincoln at the White House in mid-morning on the 24th and presented him with both General Order No. 8 and his resignation. Lincoln would have to approve one or the other. Burnside reminded Lincoln that he had not wanted the army command in the first place, having turned it down twice before finally accepting.

When Burnside explained the officers’ duplicity, Lincoln said, “I think you are right, but I must consult with some of my advisers about this.” He told Burnside he needed a day to think it over. Burnside said, “If you consult with anybody, you will not do it, in my opinion.” But Lincoln consulted with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck nonetheless.

At a White House levee that night, Lincoln met with Henry J. Raymond, a New York Republican who had discussed the matter with Burnside earlier that day. Raymond said he thought the main problem was Hooker’s insubordinate rhetoric. Lincoln said, “This is all true, Hooker does talk badly; but the trouble is stronger with the country to-day than any other man.” When Raymond asked how the public might react when they learn about what Hooker said, Lincoln replied, “The country would not believe it; they would say it is all a lie.”

Burnside met with Lincoln again on Sunday morning the 25th, where Lincoln informed him that he would be replaced as commander. Burnside said, “I suppose you accept my resignation, and all I have to do is go to my home.” Lincoln replied, “General, I cannot accept your resignation. We need you, and I cannot accept your resignation.”

Burnside argued that he had private business to handle, and Lincoln said, “You can have as much time as you please for your private business, but we cannot accept your resignation.” Burnside would instead await reassignment; in the meantime, Lincoln told him, “General, make your application for a leave of absence, and we will give it to you.”

After Burnside left, Lincoln directed Halleck to issue orders relieving Burnside from command. Major General Edwin V. Sumner, one of Burnside’s Grand Division commanders, was also relieved at his own request, along with Franklin. The order concluded “that Maj. Gen. J. Hooker be assigned to command the Army of the Potomac.”

Lincoln had weighed several options except the most popular one: reinstating George B. McClellan. Lincoln considered bringing Major Generals William S. Rosecrans or Ulysses S. Grant from the west to command. He also considered officers within the army, but he believed Sumner was too old, and both Franklin and “Baldy” Smith were too loyal to McClellan. So Lincoln reluctantly picked Hooker.

Lincoln was well aware of Hooker’s disparaging comments about his superiors, including the president himself. However, Lincoln wanted a fighter to lead the army, and his combat record on the Peninsula and at Antietam was excellent. And nobody seemed more confident in his own ability to bring the fight to the Confederates than “Fighting Joe.”

Burnside, who had managed the Federal debacles at Fredericksburg and the “Mud March,” was out. Having offered to resign several times before, Burnside could have very well welcomed this move. But he could not have been pleased to learn that Hooker, a man whom he despised, would replace him.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 125; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 257; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8701-11; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 129-32; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 257; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95-98; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 314-15; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 583-85; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 127-29

Vallandigham’s Constitution-Peace-Reunion Speech

January 14, 1863 – Outgoing Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio delivered a speech excoriating President Abraham Lincoln’s war policies and calling for peaceful coexistence with the Confederacy.

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Vallandigham had been one of the Lincoln administration’s most vocal critics since the war began. He led the “Copperheads,” or anti-war northerners who denounced the administration’s abuse of civil liberties and called for negotiating peace with the Confederacy.

He narrowly lost reelection for his U.S. House seat when Republicans re-zoned his district to exclude many of those who had voted for him two years before. Vallandigham delivered a farewell speech in the lame duck session of Congress on the 14th, titled “Constitution-Peace-Reunion.”

Vallandigham declared, “You have not conquered the South. You never will.” The Confederacy could not be forced back into the Union just as someone could not “force the wife to sleep with the husband.” Lincoln “confessed it on September 22 (when he issued his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation), war for the Union was abandoned; war for the Negro openly begun and with stronger battalions than before. With what success? Let the dead at Fredericksburg and Vicksburg answer… But ought this war to continue? I answer no–not a day, not an hour.”

Vallandigham next attacked the business and financial leaders who backed the war in the North:

“And let not Wall street, or any other great interest, mercantile, manufacturing, or commercial, imagine that it shall have power enough or wealth enough to stand in the way of reunion through peace. Money you have expended without limit, and blood poured out like water. Defeat, debt, taxation, and sepulchers–these are your only trophies. The war for the Union is… a most bloody and costly failure.”

Vallandigham then turned to the unconstitutional measures the administration had employed to wage war. He referred to “repeated and persistent arbitrary arrests, the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of freedom of the mails, of the private house, of the press and of speech, and all the other multiplied wrongs and outrages upon public liberty and private right.” To Vallandigham, all this “have made this country one of the worst despotisms on earth for the past 20 months.”

He argued that the only sensible solution to the crisis was to “Stop fighting. Make an armistice… Withdraw your army from the seceded States.” Vallandigham urged the administration to invoke the aid of a foreign nation to mediate “an informal, practical recognition of the Confederacy.”

Denouncing the “fanaticism and hypocrisy” of the notion that ending the war would preserve slavery, Vallandigham said, “I see more of barbarism and sin, a thousand times, in the continuance of this war… and the enslavement of the white race by debt and taxes and arbitrary power.” He closed by declaring, “In considering terms of settlement we (should) look only to the welfare, peace, and safety of the white race, without reference to the effect that settlement may have on the African.”

Vallandigham soon became a key figure in the growing anti-war movement, as more and more northerners became disenchanted with the mounting costs of war in both men and money.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 497; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 107; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 591-92; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, “The Constitution – Peace – Reunion,” Appendix to the Congressional Globe: Containing the Speeches, Important State Papers and the Laws of the Third Session Thirty-seventh Congress (Washington, DC: Globe Office, 1863), edited by John C. Rives, 52-60; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q163

President Davis’s 1863 Message to Congress

January 12, 1863 – President Jefferson Davis submitted his message on the state of the Confederacy to the Confederate Congress as it assembled for its third session at Richmond.

By this time, inflation plagued the South, as the printing of paper money without backing by precious metals sent the cost of living skyrocketing. The Confederate military still held firm against the Federals, but resources were dwindling and there was little hope for foreign aid.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Davis declared that the first two years of the new nation “affords ample cause for congratulation and demands the most fervent expression of our thankfulness to the Almighty Father, who has blessed our cause.” He cited recent Confederate military successes as “another example of the impossibility of subjugating a people determined to be free; and have demonstrated that no superiority of numbers or available resources can overcome the resistance offered by such valor in combat, such constancy under suffering, and such cheerful endurance of privation as have been conspicuously displayed by this people in the defense of their rights and liberties.”

Davis still held out hope that foreign nations would recognize Confederate independence, but he acknowledged that such an opportunity was quickly vanishing due to increased Federal aggression, both on land and at sea.

He denounced the Emancipation Proclamation:

“We may well leave it to the instincts of common humanity which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellowmen of all countries to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race, peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere, are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation ‘to abstain from violence unless in necessary self-defense.’”

To Davis, the proclamation was “complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the (Republican) party which elevated to power the present occupant of the Presidential chair at Washington.” He cited President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address of March 1861 (in which Lincoln pledged not to interfere with slavery where it already existed) as evidence that the party had lied about its intentions all along.

Calling the proclamation “the most execrable measure in the history of guilty man,” Davis announced that he would turn over any commissioned Federal officers enforcing it to the appropriate state government for punishment as “criminals engaged in inciting servile insurrection.” In most southern states, that punishment was death.

Davis asserted that Lincoln’s decree proved his “inability to subjugate the South by force of arms,” and its appeal to morality provided foreign nations the “justification in withholding our just claims to formal recognition.” Ultimately, the proclamation meant that “restoration of the Union has been rendered forever impossible by the adoption of a measure which from its very nature neither admits of retraction nor can coexist with union.”

Regarding the Treasury Department, Davis asked members of Congress to approve legislation improving the Confederacy’s financial structure to pay down the national debt:

“Among the subjects to which your attention will be specially devoted during the present session you will no doubt deem the adoption of some comprehensive system of finance as being of paramount importance.”

Regarding the War Department, Davis requested “some revision of the exemption law (i.e., the amended Conscription Act) of last session. Serious complaints have reached me of the inequality of its operation,” and Davis recommended exempting enough men to form local police squads that would keep law and order at home while the rest of the men fought the war.

Davis also stated:

“I recommend to the Congress to devise a proper mode of relief to those of our citizens whose property has been destroyed by order of the Government, in pursuance of a policy adopted as a means of national defense. It is true that full indemnity cannot now be made, but some measure of relief is due to those patriotic citizens who have borne private loss for the public good, whose property in effect has been taken for public use, though not directly appropriated.”

Davis reminded Congress:

“Our Government, born of the spirit of freedom and of the equality and independence of the States, could not have survived a selfish or jealous disposition, making each only careful of its own interest or safety. The fate of the Confederacy, under the blessing of Divine Providence, depends upon the harmony, energy, and unity of the States.”

He concluded, “With hearts swelling with gratitude let us, then, join in returning thanks to God, and in beseeching the continuance of his protecting care over our cause and the restoration of peace with its manifold blessings to our beloved country.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 165; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 253-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 311; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 565; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 576-77, 583; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q163

The Jewish Exclusion Order Rescinded

January 4, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln directed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to order Major General Ulysses S. Grant to rescind his controversial General Order No. 11.

Gen U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Cesar Kaskel, a prominent Jewish Unionist from Paducah, Kentucky, traveled to Washington to protest Grant’s order expelling all Jews from his military department. As he traveled, Kaskel collected letters from rabbis and Jewish leaders along the way supporting the protest. He arrived at the capital to find that many other Jews had come to demand the order be revoked as well.

Kaskel connected with former congressman and current lobbyist John A. Gurley of Ohio, who arranged for him to meet Lincoln on the 4th. At the meeting, Kaskel explained that the order called for all Jews, not just those accused of illegally trading with Confederates, to leave. This forced him and thousands of other Jewish Unionists from their homes. Lincoln claimed he did not know that Grant had issued such an order, and he quickly directed him, though Halleck, to revoke it.

Halleck wrote Grant that day, “A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms it expels all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.” Grant complied three days later: “By direction of General-in-Chief of the Army, at Washington, the general order from these headquarters expelling Jews from the department is hereby revoked.”

But by that time, the order had generated great controversy in the press and among both Jews and Gentiles. Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, editor of the Cincinnati Israelite, urged Jews to go to Washington to protest the order and demand a formal apology from Grant. An editorial in the New York Times lamented that “it remained for the freest Government on earth to witness a momentary revival of the spirit of the medieval ages.”

Halleck explained the situation more fully to Grant in a letter endorsed by Lincoln on the 21st:

“The President has no objection to your expelling traitors and Jew peddlers, which, I suppose, was the object of your order; but, as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 243-44, 253; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 251, 256; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 308-09, 313-14; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 320-21