Tag Archives: Stephen R. Mallory

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

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The Fall of Fort Donelson

February 16, 1862 – Federals scored their greatest victory of the war up to this time, generating a new northern military hero.

Late on the 15th, the Confederate commanders surrounded in Fort Donelson had agreed to surrender their force. As the two ranking generals, John B. Floyd and Gideon Pillow, escaped across the Cumberland River, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner sent a message to the Federal commander, his old friend Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant:

“Sir: In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of Commissioners to agree upon the terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in that view suggest an armistice until 12 o’clock to-day.”

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Grant shared Buckner’s message with Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, a division commander in Grant’s army and a senior officer whom Grant admired. Smith advised, “No terms with traitors, by God!” Grant directed his men to prepare for an attack as he sent a messenger to Buckner with his reply:

“Sir: Yours of this date, proposing armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

This response shocked Buckner, considering his relationship with Grant before the war; he had even loaned Grant money when he fell on hard times. Compared to the liberal terms that General P.G.T. Beauregard had offered to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter, Buckner considered this insulting. But having no choice in the matter, he responded:

“Sir: The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.”

Grant and Buckner met to discuss the surrender, where they soon rekindled their pre-war friendship. Grant ordered rations distributed to the Confederates and allowed their burial details to enter Federal lines to inter their dead comrades. After the terms were settled, Grant offered to repay Buckner’s old loan to him; Buckner politely declined.

Toward the day’s end, Grant dispatched Brigadier General Lew Wallace’s division to return to Fort Henry and guard against any possible Confederate attack from Columbus, Kentucky. Grant then directed his remaining troops to occupy Fort Donelson. The troops ignored orders against looting and pillaging.

Fort Donelson was a tremendous victory that included the largest capture in American history: 12 to 15,000 Confederate troops, 20,000 stands of arms, 48 cannon, 17 heavy guns, around 4,000 draft animals, and vast amounts of supplies and provisions. The Federals had sustained 2,691 casualties (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, and 208 missing) in the operations in and around Fort Donelson, while the Confederates lost an estimated 1,454 (327 killed and 1,127 wounded) in addition to the prisoners taken. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 700 Confederate cavalry were not part of the surrender; they had slipped through the Federal lines during the night and escaped by crossing an icy swamp too deep for infantry.

The dual victories at Forts Henry and Donelson permanently destroyed the Confederates’ defensive line across Kentucky by punching a hole between Confederate forces at Bowling Green and Columbus, and opening Tennessee for a Federal invasion. The wins also gave the Federals control of the important Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The gunboat fleet soon continued up the Cumberland to Dover, where it destroyed the important Tennessee Iron Works before continuing on toward Clarksville.

With Nashville and the Deep South now vulnerable to Federal advances, General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Confederate Western Theater, withdrew the Army of Central Kentucky from Bowling Green to Murfreesboro. This meant that it was only a matter of time before the Confederates at Columbus would have to fall back as well.

Confederate officials quickly began looking for someone to blame for the devastating loss. Some blamed Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory for failing to develop a naval squadron that could match the Federal gunboats. However, while Fort Henry had been won by the navy, Fort Donelson was won by Grant and his army. Grant’s victory, along with his unequivocal message, made him an instant hero throughout the northern states, as some newspapermen quipped that the “U.S.” in his name now stood for “Unconditional Surrender.”

Mass celebrations swept the northern states when news first arrived on the 17th that Fort Donelson had fallen. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune noted that the city “reeled mad with joy.” A Cincinnati correspondent reported, “Everybody was shaking hands with everybody else, and bewhiskered men embraced each other as if they were lovers.” Some pundits even began predicting that these victories would soon end the war.

At Washington, officials planned to hold a grand celebration to commemorate the victories alongside George Washington’s Birthday. At St. Louis, the Union Merchants Exchange closed temporarily as speculators sang patriotic songs and cheered Major General Henry W. Halleck at his headquarters.

President Lincoln quickly promoted Grant to major general of volunteers. In signing the commission, Lincoln explained that while he could not adequately judge the fighting ability of eastern men, the fighting spirit of Grant and other fellow Illinoisans proved that “if the Southerners think that man for man they are better than our… western men generally, they will discover themselves in a grievous mistake.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 70-71; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (16 Feb 1862); Cochran, Michael T., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 694-95; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73 | 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 129-30; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7055; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 211-14, 315; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 111; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417-18; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 158-59; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 106-07; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 171-72; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 735; 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. 401-02; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95-97; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 251; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 98, 267

The Inauguration of Jefferson Davis

February 18, 1861 – Jefferson Davis of Mississippi became the provisional president of the new Confederate States of America.

The Davis Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Davis Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The day was mild and sunny as a carriage conveyed Davis up the hill to the steps of the Alabama state capitol at Montgomery. Davis took the oath of office on the capitol steps, and the large crowd cheered when he became the Confederacy’s first president. Davis then delivered his inaugural address. He proclaimed:

“Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established… Obstacles may retard, but they can not long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people…”

The new president asserted that forming this nation was not a “revolution,” but rather a movement of states that “formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, and the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent, through whom they communicated with foreign nations, is changed; but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.”

Davis stressed that the new nation only wanted to live in peace, and any other states that “may seek to unite their fortunes to ours” were welcome to do so. Davis also noted that the U.S. may someday ally with the new Confederacy since the new nation’s Constitution was like that of the U.S. besides being more explicit about the original founders’ intent.

When Davis’s address concluded, 100 cannon fired in salute as fireworks cracked and banners blazed. Herman Arnold’s band played “Dixie’s Land.” Celebrations raged throughout Montgomery as participants cheered, wept, and sang songs like “Farewell to the Star-Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, Davis took up residence at a Montgomery hotel where a note on the door marked his office.

President Davis wrote to his wife Varina, who had stayed behind at their home, about the inauguration:

“The audience was large and brilliant. Upon my weary heart were showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers; but beyond them, I saw troubles and thorns innumerable… We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by a powerful opposition; but I do not despond, and will not shrink from the task imposed upon me… As soon as I can call an hour my own, I will look for a house and write you more fully.”

On the 19th, Davis began appointing officials for the six cabinet posts (the Confederacy had no Interior Department):

  • Robert Toombs of Georgia was named secretary of state.
  • Christopher G. Memminger of South Carolina was named treasury secretary. His financial knowledge prompted his state’s delegation to recommend him for the position.
  • Leroy P. Walker of Alabama was named secretary of war. Walker was a distinguished attorney recommended by his state’s officials.
  • Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was named attorney general. Benjamin’s reputation as a lawyer had impressed Davis when they both served in the U.S. Senate; Benjamin became known as “the brains of the Confederacy.”
  • John Reagan of Texas was named postmaster general. Reagan’s extensive knowledge of Confederate territory suited him for this post.
  • Stephen R. Mallory of Florida was named navy secretary when the Provisional Congress created the Navy Department two days later. Mallory had been chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs in the U.S. Senate who had extensive knowledge of Federal naval intelligence.

Davis balanced his cabinet by selecting one man from each Confederate state except Mississippi (his home state). Three members were foreign-born, and most had initially opposed secession. After the Montgomery Convention confirmed all of Davis’s appointments, the first cabinet meeting took place in a Montgomery hotel room. Memminger had to buy his own desk and chair.

The Confederate government quickly began addressing national defense, as the Provisional Congress authorized Davis to approve contracts to buy and manufacture war supplies. Expecting that the U.S. would not allow the Confederate states to secede without a fight, Davis made three appointments on the 21st:

  • General Josias Gorgas was named the Confederate chief of ordnance.
  • Major Caleb Huse was dispatched to Europe to negotiate contracts for weapons purchases.
  • Captain Raphael Semmes was sent to the U.S. with instructions: “As agent of the Confederate States, you are authorized to proceed, as hereinafter set forth, to make purchases, and contracts for machinery and munitions, or for the manufacture of arms and munitions of war…”

Four days later, Davis appointed three commissioners to travel to Washington and negotiate peaceful relations with the U.S.:

  • Former Louisiana Governor A.B. Roman, who had been a Whig and Constitutional Unionist;
  • Former U.S. Congressman Martin J. Crawford of Georgia, a States’ Rights Democrat;
  • John Forsyth of Alabama, an influential journalist and former minister to Mexico who supported the northern Democrats.

The commissioners received authorization “in the name of the Confederate States, to meet and confer with any person or persons duly authorized by the Government of the United States, being furnished with like power and authority, and with him or them to agree, treat, consult, and negotiate treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation” in the best interests of both nations.

These instructions, written by Secretary of State Robert Toombs, included a dissertation on the right of states to secede and an objective to effect “the speedy adjustment of all questions growing out of separation, as the respective interests, geographical contiguity, and future welfare of the two nations may render necessary.”

Davis also appointed three commissioners to establish diplomatic relations with Europe:

  • Dudley Mann of Virginia
  • William L. Yancey of Alabama
  • Pierre Rost of Louisiana

Davis tasked these men with seeking foreign recognition for the Confederacy, particularly from the world powers of Great Britain and France.

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Sources

  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 5-6
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 4259-70, 4328-39, 5473-83
  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 134
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 41, 45
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 14
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 38-41
  • 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. 259
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 45
  • Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 222-23
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 27, 28-30
  • 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), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Trent Affair

Southern Senators’ Farewell

January 21, 1861 – Five U.S. senators from three southern states resigned their seats after delivering emotional farewell speeches on the Senate floor.

The five men were Stephen R. Mallory and David L. Yulee of Florida, Clement C. Clay, Jr. and Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama, and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. Mallory tearfully urged reason over passion, Yulee declared he had to leave the Union with his state, Clay noted the years of mounting tension leading up to this separation, and Fitzpatrick said his first loyalty was with Alabama.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: gettysburgdaily.com

Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: gettysburgdaily.com

Davis spoke last. He reminded fellow senators that when Massachusetts had threatened to secede, he had honored their right to choose without fear of Federal invasion. He asserted that the Republicans’ claim that the phrase “all men are created equal” did not augment the Constitution because the Constitution came afterward and was the only law of the land defining the limited powers of the Federal government. Moreover, the word “men” was not intended to include slaves because they were not regarded as citizens at that time.

Davis said: “It is known to senators who have served with me here, that I have for many years advocated, as an essential attribute of State sovereignty, the right of a state to secede from the Union… If I had thought that Mississippi was acting without sufficient provocation… I should still, under my theory of government, because of my allegiance to the State of which I am a citizen, have been bound by her action.”

Davis pointed out that southerners “tread but in the paths of our fathers when we proclaim our independence and take the hazard… not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit, but from the high and solemn motive of defending the rights we inherited, and which it is our duty to transmit unshorn to our children… I am sure I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been between us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well.”

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Sources

  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 5
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 301
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 28-29
  • 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), Q161