Tag Archives: Confiscation Act

The Ordeal of Charles P. Stone

February 9, 1862 – Federal troops led by General George Sykes arrested Brigadier General Charles P. Stone in the early morning hours after new “evidence” surfaced confirming Stone’s disloyalty to the Union.

Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

By the end of January, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had been convinced that Stone should not be arrested. However, in the first week of February, General-in-Chief George B. McClellan’s chief intelligence agent, Allan Pinkerton, reported a claim by a resident of Leesburg, Virginia, that Stone was “very popular with the Rebel officers at Leesburg and with all secessionists in that vicinity.”

The resident alleged that many fellow Leesburg residents doubted Stone’s loyalty, and their doubts had been verified by the Ball’s Bluff disaster. Pinkerton also revealed evidence that Stone had violated the Confiscation Act by returning fugitive slaves to their masters in Virginia. To the Radical Republicans on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, this was inexcusable. The Radicals also noted Stone’s angry exchange with Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, who criticized Stone for prohibiting fugitive slaves from finding refuge within the Massachusetts regiments.

McClellan had initially tried protecting Stone, but when Pinkerton uncovered this additional information, he submitted the report to Stanton. Stanton, an ally of the Radicals on the Joint Committee, issued a second order to arrest Stone. This time McClellan complied. He had the provost marshal verbally direct Sykes, Stone’s West Point classmate and friend, to arrest him. Sykes was not informed why this needed to be done.

Around midnight on the early morning of the 9th, Sykes and 18 soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry placed Stone under arrest as he returned to his room at Willard’s Hotel in Washington. Sykes advised Stone to change into civilian clothes because he was being taken to Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor. Stone replied, “Why, Fort Lafayette is where they send secessionists.”

Stone was allowed to say goodbye to his wife before the troops escorted him to a nearby facility for detainment. Later that morning, the Federals took Stone by railroad to New York, and he arrived at the fort two days later. He spent 189 days in confinement at Lafayette and then Fort Hamilton without formal charges filed against him or the right to a trial. Although he eventually returned to service, his career was effectively destroyed. Many considered this an unjust, unconstitutional, and even tyrannical persecution by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

—–

References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 70-72; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 168-69; 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. 362-63; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 720; 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), Q162

The Arrest of Charles P. Stone

January 28, 1862 – Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton issued orders to arrest Brigadier General Charles P. Stone for his role in the Ball’s Bluff fiasco the past October.

Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Stone, who had suspected that certain politicians in Washington sought to blame him for the defeat, had received assurances from General-in-Chief George B. McClellan that he had not been responsible. However, the Radical Republicans on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War were determined to use Stone’s anti-abolition political views against him.

Stone testified before the committee in early January. Following McClellan’s advice, he refused to divulge any information about upcoming army operations. This caused him to provide vague testimony that some construed as trying to hide wrongdoing. He was asked about orders he had issued in September directing his troops “not to incite and encourage insubordination among the colored servants in the neighborhood of the camps,” as well as rumors that he had returned fugitive slaves to their masters.

Stone answered that if he had issued such orders or returned fugitives, he had done so in Maryland, a Unionist state exempt from the Confiscation Act. Stone then described the Ball’s Bluff disaster, including mistakes made by Colonel Edward D. Baker, the former senator with no real military experience, who had been killed. Stone was not informed of any intention to levy charges against him.

Maj Gen G.B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikispaces

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikispaces

Two days later, Stone learned that a congressman accused him of treason in the House of Representatives. He asked McClellan if he should request a “Court of Inquiry” to clear his name. McClellan advised against it, showing him the dispatch that he (McClellan) had sent to President Lincoln absolving Stone of blame in the Ball’s Bluff defeat.

Meanwhile, Joint Committee members continued questioning witnesses, often in confusing and misleading ways, to find evidence of Stone’s supposed unfitness for command. Some of Stone’s subordinates even testified–without proof–that Stone secretly met with Confederates just before the Ball’s Bluff engagement. It seemed that the committee, unable to implicate McClellan in the disaster due to his close relationship with Lincoln, was determined to persecute someone and focused on Stone instead.

Without allowing Stone the opportunity to examine the evidence against him or defend himself against the allegations, the committee issued a report blaming Stone for sending Baker across the Potomac, which led to the death of Baker and many of his men. This was good enough for Stanton, who was allied with the Radical committee members leading the charge in Stone’s condemnation.

Stanton directed McClellan to arrest Stone. Lincoln did nothing to stop Stanton’s order, only saying that he was thankful he “knew nothing of it until it was done.” McClellan initially refused to carry out the order unless it was in writing. He then summoned Stone to Washington and relieved him of command instead.

McClellan appeared before the Joint Committee and declared that Stone would not be arrested and deserved to confront his accusers. Stone angrily denounced the committee members accusing him of consorting with the enemy. This temporarily satisfied Stanton, but the issue would resurface the following month.

—–

References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 68-71; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 108

President Lincoln’s 1861 Message to Congress

December 3, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln submitted his first annual message to Congress, which described the current state of affairs and reiterated his view that the Union must be preserved by all necessary means.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In accordance with the tradition begun by Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln did not appear in person before Congress, but rather submitted his message for a clerk to read. In it, Lincoln declared: “A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union.”

Lincoln provided a status on all executive departments. In an unprecedented move, Lincoln announced that he supported extending diplomatic recognition to the only two black republics in the world, Haiti and Liberia: “If any good reason exists why we should persevere longer in withholding our recognition of the independence and sovereignty of Hayti and Liberia, I am unable to discern it.”

Regarding the Treasury department, Lincoln wrote, “It is gratifying to know that the expenditures made necessary by the rebellion are not beyond the resources of the loyal people, and to believe that the same patriotism which has thus far sustained the Government will continue to sustain it till peace and union shall again bless the land.” This did not reflect the growing financial difficulties facing the country at that time.

Regarding the navy, Lincoln wrote that “… it may almost be said that a navy has been created and brought into service since our difficulties commenced.” By this time, the two blockading squadrons in the Atlantic and the Gulf had grown so large that they became four. The navy, which had less than 9,000 officers and men before the war, now had 24,000.

Noting that the Supreme Court had three vacancies, Lincoln stated, “I have so far forborne making nominations to fill these vacancies (because)… I have been unwilling to throw all the appointments northward, thus disabling myself from doing justice to the South on the return of peace; although I may remark that to transfer to the North one which has heretofore been in the South would not, with reference to territory and population, be unjust.”

Lincoln reviewed the Confiscation Act, which enabled Federal commanders to seize slaves used “for insurrectionary purposes” and decreed that disloyal slaveholders “forfeited” their rights to own slaves. He expressed hope that the border states would “pass similar enactments,” and if so, Congress should “provide for accepting such persons from such States, according to some mode of valuation.” According to Lincoln, states that voluntarily freed their slaves should be compensated, “in lieu, pro tanto, of direct taxes, or upon some other plan to be agreed on with such States respectively.” And slaves in those states would “be at once deemed free” by the Federal government.

Addressing fears that freed slaves would compete with whites for jobs, Lincoln reiterated his support for black colonization (i.e., deportation) “at some place or places in a climate congenial to them. It might be well to consider, too, whether the free colored people already in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in such colonization.”

Referencing Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln remarked that colonization may “involve the acquiring of territory… If it be said that the only legitimate object of acquiring territory is to furnish homes for white men, this measure effects that object, for the emigration of colored men leaves additional room for white men remaining or coming here.”

Turning to the war, Lincoln contended that “I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle” by making this a war to preserve the Union only. However, Lincoln stated, “The Union must be preserved, and hence, all indispensable means must be employed. We should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme measures, which may reach the loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable.”

Lincoln boasted that Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were now under Unionist control. Those states “have now an aggregate of not less than 40,000 in the field for the Union, while of their citizens certainly not more than a third of that number, and they of doubtful whereabouts and doubtful existence, are in arms against us.” However, Lincoln did not mention that Kentucky and Missouri had dual Unionist and secessionist governments.

Recounting the retirement of Winfield Scott, Lincoln stated, “The retiring chief repeatedly expressed his judgment in favor of General McClellan for the position, and in this the nation seemed to give a unanimous concurrence.” The president then paid a curious compliment to the new general-in-chief:

“It has been said that one bad general is better than two good ones, and the saying is true if taken to mean no more than that an army is better directed by a single mind, though inferior, than by two superior ones at variance and cross-purposes with each other.”

Lincoln noted the Confederacy’s tendency toward despotism without mentioning his own: “It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government–the rights of the people.” Arguing that only a small minority of southerners actually supported the Confederacy, the president stated, “Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.”

Lincoln then turned attention to labor, and the principle that any free person could rise to prominence in America:

“Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all.”

Lincoln concluded his message with: “The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”

Lincoln did not directly address or defend his suspensions of writs of habeas corpus and other violations of civil liberties. He also made no mention of the Trent affair, which prompted laughs from members of Congress; some even exclaimed, “Mr. Lincoln forgot it!” However, Lincoln did not want to publicly address the matter because the State Department still awaited the official British response.

Lincoln also did not include Simon Cameron’s original report on the War Department, which included the controversial passage: “Those who make war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of property… It is as clearly a right of the Government to arm slaves, when it may become necessary, as it is to use gun-powder taken from the enemy.” Lincoln was not ready to allow slaves to serve in the army in any capacity other than as laborers.

The president disappointed abolitionists by not using slavery as a weapon to destroy the Confederacy. Abolitionist Strubal York wrote to Senator Lyman Trumbull, both from Lincoln’s home state of Illinois:

“Such a Message! Not one single manly, bold, dignified position taking it from beginning to end—No response to the popular feeling—no battlecry to the 500,000 gallant soldiers now in the field, but a tame, timid, timeserving common place sort of an abortion of a Message, cold enough with one breath, to freeze hell over. I have not seen one intelligent man who approves of it. I take it there are none such in the limits of the Free States… Mr. Lincoln must have been facing southward when he wrote this thing.

Criticism and praise for Lincoln’s message to Congress continued throughout the month.

—–

References

Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6731-42; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 160; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 87; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 355 | 406-407; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 146; Time-Life Editors, The Blockade: Runners and Raiders (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 116-19; 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), Q461; Wikipedia: Trent Affair

The Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh U.S. Congress

December 2, 1861 – The second session of the first Republican-dominated Congress opened amid growing discontent with the way the Lincoln administration was prosecuting the war.

U.S. Capitol Building under construction, circa 1861 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

U.S. Capitol Building under construction, circa 1861 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Republican majority in this Congress included an unprecedented number of New Englanders, most of whom belonged to the party’s Radical faction. Of the 22 Senate committees, 16 were chaired by senators either from New England or born in New England but representing other states. The two most powerful members of the House of Representatives, House Speaker Galusha Grow and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Thaddeus Stevens, represented Pennsylvania but had been born and raised in New England.

Debate quickly focused on more effective means to wage the war. For the Radicals, this meant transforming the conflict from preserving the Union by destroying the Confederacy to destroying the southern way of life by crusading against slavery. This was evidenced by the House rejecting a motion to reaffirm the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution of July 25, which had declared that the war was being waged solely to preserve the Union.

Members of Congress introduced several petitions and bills emancipating slaves, especially those belonging to masters “in rebellion.” Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois introduced a bill providing “for the confiscation of the property of rebels, and giving freedom to the persons they hold in slavery.” This would expand the Confiscation Act by seizing and freeing the slaves of anyone supporting the Confederacy (the current act only provided for seizing slaves actively serving the Confederacy and placing them under Federal supervision).

Trumbull had once been a close political ally of President Lincoln, but they had since clashed on the slavery issue, prompting Trumbull to declare that the president lacked “the will necessary in this great emergency.”

Aside from slavery, financing the war dominated debates. It was estimated that by the end of the fiscal year of June 30, 1862, the Federal debt would be $750 million, with only $165 million in revenue generated by taxation. Unprecedented tax increases were proposed, along with other measures such as increasing import tariffs on coffee, tea, sugar, and molasses. More proposals would be forthcoming upon receiving the Treasury Department’s annual report.

Regarding the military, Congress authorized the navy secretary to award the Medal of Honor to enlisted men in the Navy and Marine Corps. Creation of the Medal came about due to pressure from servicemen and the public. This was the highest military award ever granted by the U.S. Congress also approved an official thanks for “the gallant and patriotic services of the late Brig Gen Nathaniel Lyon, and the officers and soldiers under his command at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.”

In addition, the Senate held a memorial service for Edward D. Baker of Oregon, a fellow senator-turned-colonel, killed at Ball’s Bluff in October. In an unusual occurrence, President Lincoln visited the Senate chamber to attend the service.

The Senate addressed the defection of John C. Breckinridge to the Confederacy by approving a motion: “Whereas John C. Breckinridge, a member of this body from the State of Kentucky, has joined the enemies of his country, and is now in arms against the Government he had sworn to support,” it was resolved “that said John C. Breckinridge, the traitor, be, and he hereby is, expelled from the Senate.”

Breckinridge, the former U.S. vice president under James Buchanan, had attended the special congressional session the previous summer but had since disavowed the Union and accepted a military commission as a Confederate brigadier general. Senators unanimously voted to expel him from the chamber, 36 to 0.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 99; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6818-29; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 88, 92; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 145-48, 151; 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. 358, 495-96; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 267-68; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 751-52; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 213-14; Sylvia, Stephen W., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 484; 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), Q461

Kentucky Disorder Continues

October 6, 1861 – Military and political turmoil continued in Kentucky, both within and among the various opposing factions.

Confederates continued building their defensive line through this important border state with divided loyalties. This line centered on three points: Columbus on the Mississippi River, Bowling Green in the center, and Cumberland Gap in the east. For the Federals to invade the South west of the Alleghenies, they had to go through Kentucky.

President Abraham Lincoln, a native Kentuckian himself, was aware of the volatile situation in the state. As such, he promoted Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter and a fellow Kentuckian, to brigadier general and gave him command of the Federal Department of the Cumberland, which focused on operations in Kentucky.

Anderson worried that Federal military forces were inciting further unrest by arresting allegedly disloyal Kentuckians “on the slightest and most trivial grounds.” He received intelligence that Unionist Home Guards had “gone into adjoining counties and arrested and carried off parties who have been quietly remaining at home under the expectation that they would not be interfered with.”

In response, Anderson issued orders “not to make any arrests except where the parties are attempting to join the rebels or are engaged in giving aid or information to them,” and arrest only those who could be convicted in a court of law. Anderson believed that “many of those who at one time sympathized with rebellion are desirous of returning to their allegiance and wish to remain quietly at home attending to their business.” Leaving them alone “will join them to our cause,” while harassing them “may force them into the ranks of our enemies.”

The strain of trying to prevent his home state from tearing apart quickly affected Anderson’s health to the point that he requested to be removed. Lieutenant General Winfield Scott complied on October 6: “To give you rest necessary to restoration of health, call Brigadier-General (William T.) Sherman to command the Department of the Cumberland. Turn over to him your instructions, and report here in person as soon as you may without retarding your recovery.”

Federal Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Federal Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Under General Orders No. 6, Anderson announced that Sherman would replace him as department commander. Anderson expressed hope that Sherman “may be the means of delivering this department from the marauding bands, who, under the guise of relieving and benefiting Kentucky, are doing all the injury they can to those who will not join them in their accursed warfare.”

Sherman eagerly accepted the assignment and took up headquarters at Louisville. He initially worked to ensure that his commanders followed the Confiscation Act, writing to a colonel who allegedly sheltered fugitive slaves: “The laws of the United States and of Kentucky, all of which are binding on us, compel us to surrender a runaway negro on application of negro’s owner or agent. I believe you have not been instrumental in this, but my orders are that all negroes shall be delivered up on claim of the owner or agent. Better keep the negroes out of your camp altogether, unless you brought them along with the regiment.”

The stress that Anderson had endured while commander transferred to Sherman almost immediately as he worried that Confederate forces would attack with superior numbers at any moment. He confided in Senator Garret Davis: “I am forced into the command of this department against my will, and it would take 300,000 men to fill half the calls for troops.” Sherman wrote to another general within the department: “We are moving heaven and earth to get the arms, clothing, and money necessary in Kentucky, but McClellan and Fremont have made such heavy drafts that the supply is scant.”

Sherman warned President Lincoln that the Confederates would “make a more desperate effort to gain Kentucky than they have for Missouri,” and the “force now here or expected is entirely inadequate.” Even worse, Kentuckians, “instead of assisting, call from every quarter for protection against local secessionists.” Troops in Ohio and Indiana were “ready to come to Kentucky, but they have no arms, and we cannot supply them arms, clothing, or anything. Answer.”

Secretary of War Simon Cameron traveled to Kentucky to inspect Sherman’s department and reported to Lincoln: “Matters are in a much worse condition than I expected to find them. A large number of Troops & arms are needed here immediately.” He then telegraphed the War Department: “Arms and re-enforcements needed here immediately. How many muskets, pistols, and sabers can be had? Is (General James S.) Negley’s brigade ready to march, and where is it?” Cameron issued orders for Negley to lead 10,000 Federals from Pittsburgh to Louisville via the Ohio River.

During a troop inspection at Lexington, Sherman “gave a gloomy picture of affairs in Kentucky, stating that the young men were generally secessionists and had joined the Confederates, while the Union men, the aged and conservatives, would not enroll themselves to engage in conflict with their relations on the other side.”

Sherman, who had 20,000 men in his department, told Cameron that 200,000 were needed to hold Kentucky. In spite of this seemingly excessive request, Cameron began working to transfer all available troops to Sherman’s command so he could “assume the offensive and carry the war to the firesides of the enemy.”

In addition to summoning Negley’s troops, Cameron looked into pulling troops from western Virginia. He also directed General Ormsby M. Mitchel in eastern Kentucky to report to Sherman and “be governed by such further orders as he may give.” Mitchel was to go to Camp Dick Robinson near Lancaster, and “prepare the troops for an outward movement, the object being to take possession of Cumberland Ford and Cumberland Gap, and ultimately seize the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad and attack and drive the rebels from that region of country.”

By that time, General Felix Zollicollifer’s 5,400 Confederates had advanced 60 miles on the Wilderness Road from Cumberland Gap. This advance was stopped by 7,000 Federals led by General Albin Scheopf, who repelled an attack at an outpost called Camp Wildcat. After Zollicoffer withdraw back to Laurel Bridge, Schoepf requested permission to seize Cumberland Gap and the railroad connecting Manassas to Memphis. Sherman replied that he could spare no reinforcements for such an operation.

Meanwhile, the press began reporting what Cameron called Sherman’s “insane request” for 200,000 more troops. The story quickly became distorted to the point that Sherman was labeled insane himself, with various newspapers calling him a “visionary lunatic” and a “military imbecile.” Sherman resented Cameron for not clarifying his statement to the press, calling the secretary “simply unbearable.” Sherman’s relations with his department and the administration deteriorated as the strain of the job took its toll.

Politically, Kentucky continued being pulled in several directions. The Unionist Kentucky legislature approved various anti-secessionist measures, including imposing penalties for encouraging enlistment in the Confederate army, prohibiting display of the Confederate flag, and requiring teachers and court officials to swear allegiance to the U.S.

On the secessionist side, John C. Breckinridge, former U.S. vice president and current U.S. senator, issued a proclamation to his fellow Kentuckians in response to Unionist infringements on their rights:

“Fellow citizens, you have to deal now, not with this fragment of a Legislature, with its treason bills and its tax bills, with its woeful subservience to every demand of the Federal despotism, and its woeful neglect of every right of the Kentucky citizen; but you have to deal with a power which respects neither the Constitution nor laws, and which, if successful, will reduce you to the condition of prostrate and bleeding Maryland

“In obedience, as I supposed, to your wishes, I proceeded to Washington, and at the special session of Congress, in July, spoke and voted against the whole war policy of the President and Congress; demanding, in addition, for Kentucky, the right to refuse, not men only, but money also, to the war, for I would have blushed to meet you with the confession that I had purchased for you exemption from the perils of the battle-field, and the shame of waging war against your Southern brethren, by hiring others to do the work you shrunk from performing.

“During that memorable session a very small body of Senators and Representatives, even beneath the shadow of a military despotism, resisted the usurpations of the Executive, and, with what degree of dignity and firmness, they willingly submit to the judgment of the world. Their efforts were unavailing, yet they may prove valuable hereafter, as another added to former examples of many protest against the progress of tyranny…

“General Anderson, the military dictator of Kentucky, announces in one of his proclamations that he will arrest no one who does not act, write, or speak in opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s Government. It would have completed the idea if he had added, or think in opposition to it.

“Look at the condition of our State under the rule of our new protectors. They have suppressed the freedom of speech and of the press. They seize people by military force upon mere suspicion, and impose on them oaths unknown to the laws. Other citizens they imprison without warrant, and carry them out of the State, so that the writ of habeas corpus can not reach them…

“The Constitution of the United States, which these invaders unconstitutionally swear every citizen whom they unconstitutionally seize to support, has been wholly abolished. It is as much forgotten as if it lay away back in the twilight of history. The facts I have enumerated show that the very rights most carefully reserved by it to the States and to individuals have been most conspicuously violated…”

Taking Breckinridge’s words to heart, States’ Rights Party leaders from 32 Kentucky counties met at Russellville on October 29. Denouncing the Unionist legislature, they declared that the state constitution gave the people “at all times an inalienable and indefensible right to alter, reform, or abolish their (state) government, in such a manner as they may think proper.”

Delegates also condemned the Republican Party: “Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty, and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic—not even in the largest majority.” The leaders approved a motion to assemble a Kentucky Sovereign Convention on November 18.

Kentucky would remain in military and political turmoil for the time being.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 142-43; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7023-68; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 86; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 71, 75; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 125, 130-31; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 196; 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), Q461

The Controversial Fremont Proclamation

August 30, 1861 – Major General John C. Fremont, commanding the Federal Military Department of the West, issued orders imposing martial law throughout Missouri and authorizing Federal troops to confiscate the property of disloyal Missourians, including slaves.

Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Fremont had been struggling to maintain control in Missouri ever since he had taken department command in late July. St. Louis had been a hotbed of resentment against Federal rule ever since the riots in May, and Fremont’s lavish headquarters within that city did not help matters. Defeats at Carthage in July and Wilson’s Creek in early August weakened Fremont’s military authority. Efforts to install an unelected Unionist state government, internal feuding with the politically influential Blair family (staunch Lincoln allies), and reports of corruption and mismanagement further damaged Fremont’s credibility and invited more anti-Unionist activity in his department.

After Wilson’s Creek, Fremont responded to growing resistance to his authority by declaring martial law in the city and county of St. Louis. A Federal provost marshal was assigned to enforce the decree upon residents. Fremont then desperately called upon Secretary of War Simon Cameron to provide reinforcements against the growing Confederate military presence in eastern Missouri: “Let the governor of Ohio be ordered forthwith to send me what disposable force he has; also governors of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Order the utmost promptitude.”

In response to unfavorable reports about him in the St. Louis press, Fremont issued orders closing the Missourian and the War Bulletin, two allegedly pro-Confederate newspapers. Fremont accused them of being “shamelessly devoted to the publication of transparently false statements respecting military movements in Missouri.”

As the military situation worsened, on August 30 Fremont resolved to “demand the severest measures to repress the daily crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and ruining the State.” Without seeking approval from superiors, he expanded his St. Louis martial law declaration to the rest of Missouri under Federal control. This consisted of the zone extending “from Leavenworth, by way of the posts of Jefferson City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River.”

Fremont’s order stated that any Missourians suspected of having Confederate or secessionist sympathies “taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and if found guilty will be shot” by firing squad. This contradicted military tradition, under which captured suspects would be held as prisoners of war, not summarily executed.

But the second part of Fremont’s proclamation went even further. It declared that “those who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field,” would have their property “confiscated to the public use. And their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared freemen.”

Fremont claimed that this order was needed to combat the “disorganized condition, helplessness of civil authority and total insecurity of life” in Missouri. However, it quickly had the odd effect of uniting both Unionists and secessionists in opposition and outrage.

To Unionists, freeing slaves contradicted the policy that President Abraham Lincoln had pledged in his inaugural address (i.e., he would not interfere with slavery where it already existed). It also contradicted the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution, under which Congress declared that the war was being fought to preserve the Union, not to free slaves. And perhaps most importantly, it far exceeded the Confiscation Act, which authorized Federal commanders to confiscate slaves only when directly aiding the Confederate war effort, and then to place them under Federal supervision, not free them.

Secessionists asserted that Fremont had revealed the Republican Party’s true purpose for waging war–to free slaves. And Fremont’s threat to shoot anyone suspected of disloyalty prompted anti-Unionist guerrillas operating throughout the state to issue threats of their own to retaliate against any actions that Fremont may take. This had the potential to turn Missouri into a state of unending violence and terror.

Only the Radical faction of the Republican Party applauded Fremont’s move, but they still comprised a minority voice in the Federal government. Many Radicals (and even some moderates) maintained greater loyalty to Fremont than Lincoln, as Fremont was an avowed abolitionist and had been the Republicans’ first-ever presidential candidate in 1856.

But the critics far exceeded the supporters, with many in both North and South calling Fremont’s order “dictatorial.” At the very least, the order crept beyond the military realm in which Fremont belonged and encroached upon Lincoln’s political prerogative as commander in chief. However, Fremont’s popularity within the party, which rivaled Lincoln’s, made this a delicate issue for Lincoln to handle.

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 49-50; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12265; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 67, 71; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6608; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 291-92; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 95-96; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 56, 60; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 389-90; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 108-09, 112-13; 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. 352; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 30-32; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 814-15; 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), Q361

Cameron Defines Federal Fugitive Slave Policy

August 8, 1861 – Secretary of War Simon Cameron responded to Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s request to clarify the administration’s policy on fugitive slaves escaping into Federal military lines, one day after Confederates burned a refuge for escapees.

U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Major General Benjamin F. Butler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Major General Benjamin F. Butler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Butler commanded Federals at Fort Monroe on the tip of the Virginia peninsula between the York and James rivers. His forces had moved inland to occupy various points, including the town of Hampton. However, after the Federal defeat at Bull Run, Butler was compelled to send many of his men north to help defend Washington. This prompted him to withdraw much of his remaining force back to the fort, abandoning Hampton and other points.

Meanwhile, Confederate Brigadier General John B. Magruder had read a copy of Butler’s July 30 letter to Cameron stating that Hampton had become a refuge for “runaway slaves” (or what Butler called “contraband”) seeking Federal protection. Magruder responded by moving some 2,000 Confederates near the town “to capture and send up to the works at Williamsburg all the Negroes” there.

On August 7, two Confederate companies drove the Federals out of Hampton and allegedly gave residents just 15 minutes to evacuate; “the town was then fired in many places and burned to the ground.” Butler reported that not only did the Confederates seize the slaves there, but they also “took away with them most of the able-bodied white men.” Butler, who had refrained from firing on Hampton from Fort Monroe to avoid civilian casualties, charged Magruder with committing a “wanton act” by leaving the town in ruins.

The next day, Butler allowed many of the newly homeless elderly and infirmed into his lines and wrote once again to Cameron for clarification on the fugitive slave issue. Cameron responded that he had conferred with President Lincoln, who decided that the Fugitive Slave Act had no authority in states rebelling against the U.S. because enforcing that law relied on cooperation between Federal and state officials. Slaves should be returned to owners in loyal slave states (i.e., Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and the District of Columbia), but Federal officers were not obligated to return fugitives to slaveholders in Confederate states.

Regarding slaveholders in Confederate states who remained loyal to the U.S., Lincoln instructed Cameron to tell Butler that it was “quite clear that the substantial rights of loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such fugitives, as well as fugitives from disloyal masters, into the service of the United States, and employing them under such organizations and in such occupations as circumstances may suggest or require.” In other words, loyal masters should not mind surrendering their slaves to the Federal government if they would be used to help put down the rebellion.

Cameron wrote that after the war, “Congress will, doubtless, properly provide for all the persons thus received into the service of the Union, and for just compensation to loyal masters.” He directed Butler to refrain from molesting peaceful slaveholders or from encouraging slaves to escape.

While this answered the legal question of what to do with fugitives, it did not establish that those fugitives would be freed. It also led to the next question of how to care for all those coming into the Federal lines.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 106