Category Archives: Politics

Slavery Abolished in the Territories

June 19, 1862 – The Republican Party upheld a campaign pledge to stop the expansion of slavery by banning the institution in U.S. territories.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law for present and future, which stated in part:

“There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the United States now existing, or which may at any time hereafter be formed or acquired by the United States, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes…”

This law renounced the Supreme Court ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) stating that Congress had no right to regulate slavery anywhere in the U.S. It also rejected the Democratic concept of “popular sovereignty,” under which the people of each territory had the right to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery. In effect, this law took the administration of territories from the states and placed it into the hands of the Federal government.

More importantly, the law paved the way toward ending slavery in the South, as some Republicans argued that those states, by seceding from the Union, no longer held statehood status but should instead be considered conquered territories that could be regulated by Congress.

In another step toward racial equality this month, Lincoln signed a bill into law formally recognizing the nations of Haiti and Liberia, and authorizing the president to appoint diplomatic envoys to those nations. This marked the first time the U.S. extended diplomatic recognition to predominantly black nations.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 14820-28; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 184; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 536; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 163, 170; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 222, 228; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 150; 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), Q262

Bragg Replaces Beauregard

June 17, 1862 – General P.G.T. Beauregard left his Confederate Army of Mississippi due to illness, causing controversy over whether he had gone absent without leave.

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

President Jefferson Davis had struggled to get along with Beauregard ever since the general had been stationed in Virginia. These difficulties intensified when Davis learned that Beauregard had given up Corinth without a fight; Davis disagreed with Beauregard’s assessment that Corinth’s evacuation had been necessary. Just over a week after losing that town, the Confederacy lost both Fort Pillow and Memphis as well.

During this time, Davis was dealing with another problem, as South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens expressed dissatisfaction with the department commander in his state, General John C. Pemberton. Davis tried solving both problems at once by asking Pickens if he would be willing to allow Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter, to replace Pemberton. Knowing Beauregard had been ill for several months, Davis explained that the sea air might help him recover.

Pickens agreed and wrote to Beauregard asking him to come east, enjoy the sea air, and “fight our batteries again.” Beauregard initially resisted, replying from his Tupelo, Mississippi, headquarters, “Would be happy to do so, but my presence absolutely required here at present. My health still bad. No doubt sea-air would restore it, but have no time to restore it.”

Beauregard’s deterioration began accelerating, and when doctors urged him to take a rest, he finally consented. Meanwhile, Davis dispatched Colonel William P. Johnston, son of the late General Albert Sidney Johnston, to ask Beauregard a series of questions about the health of his army, his plans to regain Nashville, why he hadn’t done more to save Memphis, and what resources he had lost during his retreat.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Davis also sidestepped military protocol by directly ordering Major General Braxton Bragg, Beauregard’s subordinate, to report to Jackson, Mississippi, and take command of the military department under General Mansfield Lovell. This included the former New Orleans garrison and the Vicksburg defenses. Davis wrote, “After General (John B.) Magruder joins, your further services there may be dispensed with. The necessity is urgent and absolute.”

Bragg, adhering to the chain of command, forwarded the message to Beauregard, who replied to Davis that Bragg’s “presence here I consider indispensable at this moment, especially as I am leaving for a while on surgeon’s certificate… My health does not permit me to remain in charge alone here… I must have a short rest.” Beauregard then sent the endorsement of two physicians:

“We certify that, after attendance on General Beauregard for the past four months, and treatment of his case, in our professional opinion he is incapacitated physically for the arduous duties of his present command, and we urgently recommend rest and recreation.”

Without authorization from Richmond, Beauregard transferred his command to Bragg and left Tupelo for the health spas at Bladen Springs near Mobile, Alabama. Beauregard felt he had done everything possible to notify his superiors that he was leaving, and they knew where to find him. Davis felt that Beauregard was absent without permission.

Beauregard had once been hailed as the hero of Fort Sumter and Bull Run. But after questionable performances at Shiloh and Corinth, Davis was fed up with him, and now Davis had the chance he needed to get rid of him permanently.

Davis temporarily placed Bragg in command of the Confederate “Western Department,” or Department No. 2. This included the area from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi River, but it mostly pertained to the Army of Mississippi at Tupelo. Major General Earl Van Dorn was assigned to the command at Jackson and Vicksburg instead of Bragg. Davis made the moves permanent in a message to Bragg on June 20:

“You are assigned permanently to the command of the department, as will be more formally notified to you by the Secretary of War. You will correspond directly and receive orders and instructions from the Government in relation to your future operations.”

This was Bragg’s first assignment to full army command. He was an excellent strategist and logistician, but he lacked decisiveness, and his nasty disposition alienated everyone around him. Many of his officers and men openly detested him.

Meanwhile, W.P. Johnston met with Beauregard at Mobile and learned of the army’s condition as Davis had requested. Beauregard rejected rumors that he had lost large amounts of men and supplies. He also did not know that he had been permanently replaced by Bragg; he only thought he was going to the spa for a week to 10 days before returning to command. But Davis did not want him back.

Davis left it to Bragg to tell Beauregard that he had been removed from army command. On the 21st, Bragg wrote him, “I have a dispatch, from the President direct, to relieve you permanently in command of this department… I envy you, and am almost in despair.”

Beauregard, knowing that the decision had been Davis’s and not Bragg’s, replied, “I cannot congratulate you, but am happy for the change. It will take me some time to recuperate. I will leave my Staff with you until required by me. You will find it very useful.”

Part of the reason Beauregard could not congratulate Bragg was because Federal forces were slowly closing in on the army at Tupelo. In spite of this, Davis directed Bragg to regain the initiative by moving north, breaking through Major General Henry W. Halleck’s spread-out army, and liberating Nashville.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 13260-73; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 183-84; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 390; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 169-70; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 227-28; 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. 416, 515; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 17; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 814

The Mumford Hanging

June 7, 1862 – Major General Benjamin F. Butler, commanding Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, used dubious legal proceedings to make an example of a citizen for dishonoring the U.S. flag.

When Admiral David G. Farragut unofficially captured New Orleans in late April, he directed Federal forces to raise the U.S. flag over the Mint on the lower end of the French Quarter. Soon after, locals ripped the flag down, tore it to shreds, and wore pieces of it on their lapels as badges of honor. A city newspaper published the names of these men and hailed them as heroes. Farragut informed Butler upon the general’s arrival, and Butler vowed to hang the alleged ringleader, a 42-year-old noncombatant named William B. Mumford.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Major General Benjamin F. Butler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By this month, Butler had already been condemned by the people of New Orleans for his tyrannical rule over the city. His curtailment of civil liberties and his infamous “Woman Order” allowing for the treatment of women as prostitutes if they insulted Federal soldiers earned him the nickname “Beast.” Ordering the arrest of Mumford would only add to his notoriety.

In late May, Federal troops seized Mumford and put him on “trial” before a drumhead court of Butler’s officers. The Federals alleged that Mumford “wickedly and traitorously rebelled against the Government of the United States to which he owed allegiance, and has given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof, and especially has sworn allegiance to a pretended Government called the Confederate States of America…”

The officers declared that Mumford, with “his treasonable and wicked purposes… did maliciously and willfully tear down said flag from said building and trail it ignominiously through the public streets, and there afterwards did destroy said flag.” They did not acknowledge that the flag had been raised before New Orleans officially surrendered, which technically violated the rules of war and gave citizens the right to haul it down.

After several witnesses testified to seeing Mumford participate in the crime, the court found him guilty and Butler issued a proclamation: “Let an order be made, and Mumford be informed that he will be executed between the hours of 8 A.M. & 12 M. June 7th 1862.”

Butler notified the War Department, “They have insulted our flag–torn it down with indignity. This outrage will be punished in such manner as in my judgment will caution both the perpetrators and abettors of the act, so that they shall fear the stripes if they do not reverence the stars in our banner.”

City residents expressed outrage when they learned about the scheduled execution, with some calling for Butler’s head in exchange. Butler calmed their fury somewhat by releasing six Confederate soldiers who had violated their parole; many thought that since their offenses were worse than Mumford’s, this would set the stage for his release as well. Butler also agreed to meet with Mumford’s wife and child, who begged the general to spare his life. But Butler disappointed them:

“I hear Mumford believes he will not be executed, and I am told he is making no preparations for his death. Now, I think the greatest kindness you can do him is to let me ring for my carriage and send you to the jail. I will give an order for your admission to his room, or that you and your family may meet him in any room in the jail that will be most convenient for you. I wish you to convince him that he is mistaken and that he will be executed.”

Butler considered the Mumford case a test of his rule over New Orleans. If he spared Mumford, the mob would succeed in shaping his policies. Despite the protests over the illegality of such an action, Mumford’s fate was sealed.

Federals erected a scaffold in front of the Mint, where the “crime” had been committed. A large crowd gathered on the morning of the 7th as troops escorted Mumford to the site. He looked at the U.S. flag over the Mint and announced that he had fought for that flag twice, but it had become hateful to him. He added that his actions had been “committed under excitement.”

Mumford asked the people “to act justly to all men; to rear their children properly; and when they met death, they would meet it firmly.” He said, “I consider that the manner of my death will be no disgrace to my wife and child; my country will honor them.”

The hangmen secured Mumford’s arms and legs, blindfolded his eyes, and put the noose around his neck. The trap door opened and Mumford dropped, convulsing before dying. Prior to the execution, the U.S. flag had flown over just the Mint and the Custom House. Now, in a symbolic gesture, Butler ordered it raised over City Hall as well.

Many of Butler’s supporters believed that he had gone too far this time, and his opponents now openly called for his death as a war criminal. Southerners took note of how Butler handled the people of New Orleans and resolved to destroy their cities before allowing them to fall into Federal hands.

By around the time of Mumford’s hanging, news of Butler’s “Woman Order” reached Europe. In Great Britain, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston protested Butler’s actions against civilians to U.S. Minister Charles F. Adams. An editorial appeared in the Saturday Review regarding the order:

“Unless the author of this infamous proclamation is promptly recalled let us hear no more of the ‘ties that bind us to our transatlantic kinsmen.’ No Englishman ought to own as kinsmen who attempt to protect themselves from a handful of women by official and authoritative threats of rape.”

The French were also outraged, as Henri Mercier, French minister to the U.S., demanded Butler’s removal as occupation commander. President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward began the process of removing Butler, which proved delicate because of his immense popularity in the North, especially in his home region of New England.

The backlash over Mumford’s execution did nothing to restrain Butler’s iron rule. Soon afterward, Federals arrested Mrs. Philip Philips for allegedly laughing at a Federal officer’s funeral procession as it passed her home. She was confined on Ship Island, Mississippi, for nearly three months.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (7 Jun 1862); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 16648-54; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 181; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 840; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 533; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 164, 166; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 223; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 352, 371; 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), Q262

Federals Vulnerable on the Peninsula

May 26, 1862 – Confederate victories in the Shenandoah Valley prevented Federal reinforcements from reaching Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. This left McClellan in a vulnerable position on the Peninsula.

Gens G.B. McClellan and J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Gens G.B. McClellan and J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The right flank of General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army stood about five miles from Richmond across the Charles City road. The Confederate defense line ran northward to the Chickahominy River, with the left flank near the capital’s northeastern outskirts. There were scattered Confederate outposts north of the Chickahominy, but none farther north than Mechanicsville. Johnston officially reported having 53,688 officers and men, which was less than half the approaching Federal Army of the Potomac.

President Jefferson Davis wrote Johnston that he was alarmed to see he had made no defensive preparations along the Mechanicsville turnpike in case the Federals decided to move “toward if not to Richmond” from that road. Davis and his top advisor, General Robert E. Lee, rode out to Johnston’s headquarters at Mechanicsville, just six miles northeast of Richmond, to discuss the matter.

Johnston explained that he had fallen back across the Chickahominy to put the river in his front rather than his rear. He also moved the troops closer to Richmond because that area provided more adequate drinking water. Davis expressed concern that if the Federals broke Johnston’s line, they could march into Richmond within two hours. Davis was also annoyed that Johnston seemed to have no plan other than just trying to hold the Federals back.

Meanwhile, McClellan continued arguing with President Abraham Lincoln over the conditions that Lincoln had placed on Major General Irvin McDowell’s Federals joining McClellan on the Peninsula. McClellan wrote:

“I desire that the extent of my authority over McDowell may be clearly defined, lest misunderstandings and conflicting views may produce some of those injurious results which a divided command has so often caused. I would respectfully suggest that this danger can only be surely guarded against by explicitly placing General McDowell under my orders in the ordinary way, and holding me strictly responsible for the closest observance of your instructions.”

While McClellan awaited Lincoln’s response, he received a dispatch from McDowell: “I have received the orders of the President to move with the army under my command and co-operate with yours in the reduction of Richmond.” McDowell could not move until reinforced by Brigadier General James Shields’s 9,000-man division. He expected Shields to arrive soon, enabling his army to begin moving toward McClellan on the 24th. McDowell also asked if McClellan could help block the retreat of the small Confederate force opposing him along the Fredericksburg & Richmond Railroad.

On the 22nd, Lincoln left Washington to confer with McDowell on the Rappahannock River. Admiral John A. Dahlgren and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton joined the president. McDowell showed the Lincoln party an 80-foot-long trestle bridge standing 100 feet above a wide ravine of Potomac Creek.

The bridge had been built from felled trees by engineer Herman Haupt’s Construction Corps. Working around the clock, it took them just 21 days to complete it. The bridge enabled trains to deliver supplies from the mouth of Aquia Creek on the Potomac River to Falmouth, 13 miles away, every hour. Lincoln walked across the bridge, but Stanton became dizzy halfway across and had to be helped back to land by Dahlgren.

Back on the Peninsula, McClellan arrayed his army along a line meant to attack Johnston’s Confederates. The new Federal V Corps under General Fitz John Porter advanced near Mechanicsville, with II and VI corps under Generals Edwin V. Sumner and William B. Franklin northwest of the Chickahominy. General Erasmus D. Keyes’s IV Corps was south of the Chickahominy at Seven Pines, about six miles east of Richmond, with General Samuel P. Heintzelman’s III Corps five miles behind Keyes. Federals on the far left and right of the line were so close to Richmond they could hear church bells ringing.

As Davis had feared, the Federals took Mechanicsville, which would enable McClellan to link his right with McDowell’s left. Johnston met with Davis in Richmond but still had no plan of action. It seemed that the capital could be saved only if either Johnston attacked preemptively or McDowell failed to join with McClellan. McClellan, still believing he was outnumbered, opted to wait for more troops before pushing forward.

To the Confederates’ good fortune, Lincoln decided to suspend McDowell’s march to join McClellan in response to the Federal defeat at Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley. Instead, McDowell’s “object will be to capture the forces of Jackson & Ewell” by sending 20,000 Federals to support the armies of Major Generals Nathaniel P. Banks and John C. Fremont in the Valley.

Knowing that such a decision would cause great resentment among the Federal high command, Lincoln asked Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to help explain to McDowell why this was being done. Lincoln wrote, “It will be a very valuable and very honorable service for General McDowell to cut them off. I hope he will put all possible energy and speed into the effort.” Chase replied, “General McDowell appreciates, as you do, the importance of the service he is called on to perform. All possible exertion is being made by him and the officers under him to expedite the movement.”

Lincoln then wrote McClellan explaining the necessity of withholding McDowell yet again: “In consequence of Gen. Banks’ critical position I have been compelled to suspend Gen. McDowell’s movement to join you…” Lincoln elaborated in a second message:

“Apprehensions of something like this (defeat in the Shenandoah), and no unwillingness to sustain you, have always been my reason for withholding McDowell from you. Please understand this, and do the best you can with the force you have.”

Panic swept Washington when news of the Federal defeat at Winchester arrived. Lincoln, caught up in the frenzy, urgently wrote McClellan, “I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond or give up the job and come to the defence of Washington.” Noting the “general and concerted” crisis in the Valley, Lincoln pledged to send as many “such regiments and dribs” as he could to the Peninsula.

McClellan responded, “Telegram received. Independently of it, the time is very near when I shall attack Richmond.” But McClellan disagreed with Lincoln’s fear that the Confederates in the Valley intended to threaten Washington:

“The object of the movement is probably to prevent reinforcements being sent to me. All the information from balloons, deserters, prisoners, and contrabands agrees in the statement that the mass of the rebel troops are still in the immediate vicinity of Richmond, ready to defend it.”

McClellan then wrote his wife that Lincoln was “terribly scared. Heaven help a country governed by such counsels… A scare will do them good, and may bring them to their senses.”

Meanwhile, Keyes’s Federals, supported by Heintzelman’s corps, advanced to within five miles of Richmond on the Williamsburg road. But this put McClellan in a vulnerable position. He had two corps isolated south of the Chickahominy and three corps north of it, and now McDowell’s 40,000 men would not be joining him.

The next day, Lincoln asked McClellan, “What impression have you, as to intrenchments–works–for you to contend with in front of Richmond? Can you get near enough to throw shells into the city?” Meanwhile, Lee visited Johnston and learned that he was planning to attack and destroy McClellan’s right flank on the north side of the Chickahominy. Johnston hoped to permanently separate him from McDowell and isolate the rest of his army on the Peninsula.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 130-31; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (22 May 1862); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 146-47; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 13722, 13749-58, 13765, 13995; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 174; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7441-52; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 437, 440-42; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 156-57; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 3430-42; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 14; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 215-17; 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), Q262

The Homestead Act

May 20, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law giving away 160-acre plots to settlers who agreed to tend to the land for five years.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Politicians had debated whether to give free land to settlers since before the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787. Southerners had generally opposed free land grants because they would expand the farm base and undercut the value of goods harvested on southern farms. Northerners, particularly Republicans, favored land grants because they encouraged immigration and westward expansion. Now that southern opposition in Congress was gone, the Republican majority approved “An Act to secure Homesteads to actual Settlers on the Public Domain.”

This law allowed U.S. citizens or immigrants, male or female, who were at least 21 years old to claim 160 acres if they pledged to live on it, improve upon it, and cultivate it for at least five years. The claimants could be under 21 if they were heads of households or had served at least two weeks in the military. The available land ranged from Michigan to the Dakota Territory (present-day North and South Dakota, and most of Montana and Wyoming).

Confederates or northerners who had “given aid or comfort” to the Confederates were not eligible to claim a homestead. Some argued that southerners should be included because the land being given away had been secured, at least partly, by southern efforts. Others saw it as a missed opportunity to encourage soldiers to desert the Confederate army in exchange for free land.

The claimants, or homesteaders, had to pay an $18 filing fee, or $10 to temporarily hold a plot. They were allowed to sell the land at $1.25 per acre if they fulfilled a six-month residency that included making some improvements. The terms would go into effect on January 1, 1863.

The Homestead Act fulfilled a key plank in the Republican Party’s platform, and it was strongly supported by Lincoln. It also received some support from key Democrats such as Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who saw it as a way for poor southern whites to escape from the rigid class structure in the South. Horace Greeley, prominent editor of the New York Tribune, praised the measure because he believed it would “give every poor man a home.”

Opponents argued that giving land away deprived the Federal Treasury of what could have been a large source of revenue to pay for war. Republicans opted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising taxes and import tariffs. Anti-war politicians contended that the law aimed to entice immigrants into coming to the U.S. primarily so they could be unwittingly recruited into military service.

Within two years, homesteaders had claimed 1,261,000 acres under this law. This increased to three million acres by the war’s end, and 80 million acres claimed by nearly 600,000 homesteaders overall. This led to the agricultural and industrial development of future states west of the Mississippi River, and it helped encourage the great westward expansion (and large-scale immigration) after the war.

However, 420 of the 500 million acres given away went to speculators, cattlemen, miners, lumbermen, and railroad tycoons. Most urban laborers lacked the agricultural knowledge or the money to either pay the $10 temporary hold fee or buy farm equipment. Long-term military enlistees tried claiming homesteads after being discharged but found that the best land was already gone.

The children of homesteaders often claimed plots of their own and connected them to create large plantation-like farms like those in the South, at the expense of the small farmers. Ignorance of the landscape on the Great Plains also hindered settlement, as it was later discovered that at least 1,500 acres were often needed to successfully farm the arid region.

In the short-term, the Homestead Act increased the popularity of Lincoln and the Republicans, which had waned due to military setbacks and questionable war policies.

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References

“About the Homestead Act,” National Park Service (retrieved June 29, 2012); “AMERICAN HISTORY The Homestead Act – Creating Prosperity in America,” (Legends of America, retrieved June 29, 2012); Bolton, Charles C., Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi (1993), p. 67; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 173; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 367-68; Foner, Eric, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War, 1970; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 154-55; Hansen, Zeynep K., and Libecap, Gary D., “Small Farms, Externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” Journal of Political Economy (Volume: 112(3), November 21, 2003), p. 665-94; “Homesteader,” The Free Dictionary By Farlex (retrieved June 29, 2012 ); “Horace Greeley,” (Tulane University, August 13, 1999, retrieved 11-22-2007); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 214; McElroy, Wendy, “The Free-Soil Movement, Part 1,” (The Future of Freedom Foundation, 2001), p. 1; 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. 450-51; Phillips, Sarah T., “Antebellum Agricultural Reform, Republican Ideology, and Sectional Tension,” Agricultural History (74[4], 2000), p. 799–822; “The Florida Homestead Act of 1862,” Florida Homestead Services (2006, retrieved November 22, 2007), paragraphs 3, 6 and 13 (Includes data on the U.S. Homestead Act ); Trefousse, Hans L., Andrew Johnson: A Biography (Norton, 1989), p. 42; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 127; 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), Q262

Lincoln Revokes Slave Emancipation

May 19, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln revoked Major General David Hunter’s order freeing all slaves in his military department. Lincoln also announced for the first time that he had the wartime power to free slaves if necessary.

Gen David Hunter | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Gen David Hunter | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Hunter, commanding the Federal Department of the South (i.e., South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida), occupied a section of the Atlantic coast between Charleston and Savannah. About 12,000 fugitive slaves had gathered in that area for Federal protection. Fearing that the Confederates were planning a massive effort to take the region back, Hunter declared martial law on April 25 and then set about recruiting the fugitives into the army.

Hunter informed a Treasury agent handling the fugitive slaves that he planned “to organize in squads and companies, and perhaps into a regiment, a portion of the negroes that have escaped bondage and have come into our lines… (and) to have them paid, fed, and clothed, as well as drilled, in the same manner with our other troops.” Hunter assured the agent that the War Department had granted him permission to do this.

When slaves still in bondage learned of Hunter’s plan, their masters told them that the Federals planned to ship them to Cuba. Consequently, few slaves risked escaping their plantations to volunteer for the army. In response, Hunter modified his plan by making army service for slaves mandatory. He notified General Isaac Stevens, commanding the Federals at Port Royal, South Carolina:

“I am authorized by the War Department to form the negroes into ‘squads, companies, or otherwise,’ as I may deem most beneficial to the public service. I have concluded to enlist two regiments to be officered from the most intelligent and energetic of our non-commissioned officers; men who will go into it with all their hearts.”

Hunter asserted that he was acting in accordance with President Lincoln’s order to General Thomas W. Sherman, Hunter’s predecessor, authorizing the department command to organize freed slaves into “squads, companies, or otherwise.” But Hunter ignored the condition Lincoln had placed on the order: “This, however, not to mean a general arming of them for military service.”

On May 9, Hunter issued General Orders No. 11:

“Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina — heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.”

To force slaves off the plantations and into the army, Hunter ordered his six district commanders “to send immediately to these headquarters, under a guard, all the able-bodied negroes capable of bearing arms within the limits of their several commands.”

Thus, Hunter became the first military commander of the war to not only free slaves and but to draft men into the army as well. Federal troops quickly set about seizing slaves from nearby plantations and forcing them into Federal service. Many slaves fled from the troops, prompting Hunter to relent and allow slaves not wanting to join the army to stay on their plantations.

Meanwhile, news of Hunter’s order made its way to Washington, where Hunter’s superiors had not authorized him to issue such a directive. Treasury agent Edward L. Pierce in Hunter’s department wrote to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase informing him of Hunter’s decree. Chase notified Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who tacitly approved Hunter’s order by ignoring it.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln learned about the order from the newspapers. This was the third time that a subordinate had tried issuing an emancipation edict without first consulting him (Major General John C. Fremont and former Secretary of War Simon Cameron had done so in 1861). Lincoln objected because Hunter had not asked for approval beforehand. And even though Hunter enjoyed political support from the influential Radical Republicans in Congress, they would not back his order because he had not sought their permission beforehand either.

Stanton and Chase remained on Hunter’s side. Chase wrote Lincoln on the 16th that it was “of the highest importance… that this Order not be revoked. It has been made as a military measure, to meet a military exigency…” Stanton worried that with major military campaigns looming, black recruitment may become a necessity. When he asked Massachusetts Governor John Andrew for four new regiments, Andrew replied that he could not persuade men to volunteer who had not already done so. He added:

“But, if the President will sustain General Hunter, recognize all men, even black men, as legally capable of that loyalty the blacks are waiting to manifest, and let them fight, with God and human nature on their side, the roads will swarm if need be with multitudes whom New England would pour out to obey your call.”

Despite the political pressure, Lincoln responded to Chase, “No commanding general shall do such a thing, upon my responsibility, without consulting me.” Lincoln feared that northern sentiment would quickly turn against the war if its cause changed from preserving the Union to freeing slaves. However, he reserved the right as commander in chief to liberate slaves as a war measure.

On the 19th, Lincoln publicly ordered Hunter to rescind his proclamation, calling it “altogether void.” Lincoln stated that he had no prior “knowledge, information, or belief of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation,” and no military officer could “make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free.” He explained:

“I further make known that, whether it be competent for me as commander-in-chief of the army and navy to declare the slaves of any State or States free, and whether at any time or in any case it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to examine such supposed power, are questions which under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field.”

This marked a significant change from Lincoln’s first year in office, in which he consistently maintained that he had no authority as president to free slaves. Now Lincoln asserted that he may have the power if it would “become a necessity indispensable.” Lincoln told Hunter that the general “would employ all colored men as laborers, but would not promise to make soldiers of them.”

As Lincoln voided Hunter’s edict, he issued another call for the border states to voluntarily free their slaves. This included an even stronger warning that the time may come when Lincoln would free their slaves whether they liked it or not:

“I do not argue–I beseech you to make arguments for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as in the providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.”

Border state politicians continued ignoring Lincoln’s pleas to voluntarily accept gradual, compensated emancipation. Some argued that the Federal government had no constitutional authority to invoke such a program. Others gambled on George B. McClellan capturing Richmond and ending the war before freeing the slaves became a military necessity.

Still, Hunter believed that Lincoln had privately supported the proclamation, even if he had to publicly repudiate it. Hunter later wrote, “I believe he rejoined in my action.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 14942; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 168; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7657-69, 9117; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 703; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 535-56; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 150, 154; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 435; Keefer, Kimberly A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 376; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 209, 213-14; 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. 499; 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), Q262

The Partisan Ranger Act

April 21, 1862 – The Confederate Congress approved a measure authorizing the organization of guerrilla forces to help combat the Federal invasion.

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

Since the war began, partisan rangers (i.e., guerrillas) had operated throughout the Confederacy, but the Confederate government did not officially consider them to be legitimate military units. According to Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, “Guerrilla companies are not recognized as part of the military organization of the Confederate States, and cannot be authorized by this department.”

However, the tremendous Federal manpower advantage, along with the deepening Federal thrusts into Confederate territory, prompted the government to look for new ways to motivate military enrollment. Virginia had taken the lead the previous month by approving a law creating at least 10 companies of “rangers and scouts” to operate against Federal occupation forces within the state and “give the greatest annoyance to the enemy.”

The Confederate Congress finally approved the Partisan Ranger Act, which consisted of three provisions:

  1. The president could grant commissions to officers to recruit men for partisan companies, battalions, and regiments; those recruited would be subject to presidential approval
  2. The partisans would receive the same uniforms and pay as regular soldiers, and they would be granted rations and other allowances in the same allotments as regular soldiers
  3. The partisans would be compensated by the government for any Federal arms or ammunition that they captured and delivered to the Confederate quartermaster

Within five months of this law’s passage, the Confederate War Department reported that six partisan regiments, nine battalions, and 24 companies had begun operations in various areas of the Confederacy under Federal occupation, including Virginia and the coastal regions. John H. McNeill and John S. Mosby were among the most prominent of the partisan leaders.

This law did stimulate recruitment as hoped. But it encouraged more men to join the irregular units and not the armies, thus ensuring that the armies would continue experiencing manpower shortages.

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References

Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 141; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 561; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 107-08; Wikipedia: Partisan Ranger Act