Tag Archives: Unionists

The 1862 Federal Elections

November 4, 1862 – Democrats made substantial gains in both the Federal and state elections, which reflected growing dissatisfaction with President Abraham Lincoln’s war policies among northern voters.

1862 U.S. Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Despite not being on the ballot, Lincoln considered these elections the first major political test for him and his administration. The election feature six contested governorships, as well as most state legislative and all U.S. House seats. This was the first U.S. House race conducted according to the 1860 census, which had granted 14 new House seats to western states (Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas) and removed seven seats from the middle states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and Indiana).

Lack of southern opposition enabled the Republicans to keep their majority in the House, but the margin dropped sharply. Republicans had 105 of the 178 House seats in the previous Congress, but the next Congress would have 102 Republicans, 75 Democrats, and nine from other parties. Notable Republicans who lost reelection included House Speaker Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania, John A. Bingham of Ohio, and Roscoe Conkling of New York. Prominent anti-war, anti-Lincoln Democrat Clement L. Vallandigham lost his Ohio seat only due to Republican redistricting.

Democrats gained 23 seats in the middle states while Republicans lost 28. Five states that Lincoln won in 1860 (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois) elected Democratic majorities to the House. However, Republicans remained strong in New England, the Northwest, and California where abolitionism was more popular and voters supported Lincoln’s recent Emancipation Proclamation. And the Federal military occupation of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri assured Republican victories in those states.

In state elections, Democrats won only two of the six governorships, but the Republican governors of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania could have easily been defeated had they been up for reelection. The biggest Democratic win was New York, the North’s largest state. New York Republicans had split between a moderate candidate (backed by Secretary of State William H. Seward and political boss Thurlow Weed) and Radical abolitionist General James Wadsworth, backed by influential newspaper editor Horace Greeley. The split enabled Horatio Seymour, the state’s most talented Democrat, to win the race.

Seymour supported a war to preserve the Union but not to abolish slavery, and he warned that the Emancipation Proclamation would “invoke the interference of civilized Europe.” Seymour also denounced Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus: “Liberty is born in war, it does not die in war.” Upon winning the election, Seymour pledged to adhere to Lincoln’s war policies but resist infringements on personal freedoms.

Republicans enjoyed many victories in the state legislative races, maintaining control of the legislatures in 17 of the 19 free states. Only New Jersey and Lincoln’s home state of Illinois had Democratic majorities in their legislatures. Because the legislatures selected U.S. senators, the Republicans saw a five-seat increase in their Senate majority.

In Illinois, voters rejected a new state constitution but approved two sections by majorities greater than 100,000: 1) “No (person of full or partial African descent) shall migrate or settle in this State”; 2) “No (person of full or partial African descent) shall have the right (to vote) or hold any office in this State.” This reflected the opinion of most Illinoisans that they were fighting the war to preserve the Union, not to free slaves.

In Kentucky, Federal authorities threatened to arrest candidates campaigning against the Lincoln administration, and the military governor called the vote a “kind of Military Census, telling how many loyal men there are in a county.” In Missouri, Federal authorities required voters to swear strict loyalty to the U.S., thus disqualifying many Democrats from voting. Moreover, the Missouri constitutional convention exempted the non-elected provisional state government from facing a popular vote. Consequently, Republicans easily carried both Kentucky and Missouri.

The main reasons for the Democratic victories included war weariness, a struggling economy with soaring prices and taxes, the high cost of shipping, the possibility of a military draft, infringements on civil liberties, and the fear of freed slaves coming north to compete for jobs. Moreover, northern governors resented Federal infringement on their prerogatives, particularly military recruitment.

Republicans were horrified by this “great, sweeping revolution of public sentiment,” calling the elections “a most serious and severe reproof.” Democrats proclaimed that “the verdict of the polls showed clearly that the people of the North were opposed to the Emancipation Proclamation,” and they celebrated “Abolition Slaughtered.”

Lincoln reacted to the results by saying he felt like a boy who stubbed his toe–too big to cry but it hurt too much to laugh. He had alienated conservatives by signing the Confiscation Acts and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. He then alienated Radical Republicans by voicing opposition to the Second Confiscation Act even after approving it. And Lincoln’s silencing of criticism through the suspension of habeas corpus backfired as people went to the polls to voice their opposition to politicians who supported his policies.

In Washington, the general perception was that northerners were dissatisfied with the Lincoln administration. The New York Times opined that the elections showed a “vote of want of confidence” in Lincoln. Republican Senator James W. Grimes of Iowa said, “We are going to destruction as fast as imbecility, corruption, and the wheels of time can carry us.”

However, the results did not necessarily reflect a wholesale Republican repudiation. The Democratic victories were very narrow in some states (for example, 4,000 in Pennsylvania, 6,000 in Ohio, and 10,000 each in New York and Indiana). The Republicans would still have a majority in both houses of Congress. And many, including Lincoln, believed that the results would have been different had soldiers, who generally supported the administration, been allowed to go home to vote.

Moreover, this election introduced the concept of an alliance between Republicans and War Democrats, as several states featured candidates running on a fusion or “Union” ticket to show political solidarity in the war effort. This coalition helped offset the Republican stigma of being the minority party and the Democratic stigma of being identified with the South.

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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 19704; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 230; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8038-70, 8081-93, 8931; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 753-54; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 631; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 228; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 485; Jackson, Donald Dale, Twenty Million Yankees: The Northern Home Front (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 142-46; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 284; 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. 561; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 577-78; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 174; 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), Loc Q462

The New Unionist Maryland

December 3, 1861 – The Maryland legislature assembled with most secessionists removed from office. This ensured that Washington would not be surrounded by Confederate states.

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

In his final message to the legislature, Maryland Governor Thomas H. Hicks noted that legislators in the previous session had considered seceding:

“This continued until the General Government had ample reason to believe it was about to go through the farce of enacting an ordinance of secession, when the treason was summarily stopped by the dispersion of the traitors…”

Hicks stated that in the elections of June 13 and November 6, the people “declared, in the most emphatic tones, what I have never doubted, that Maryland has no sympathy with the rebellion, and desires to do her full share of the duty in suppressing it.” Hicks’s Unionist stance marked a major turnaround considering he had been strongly pro-Confederate before Federal forces entered Maryland.

The Unionist legislators approved a resolution declaring themselves “devoted” to the Federal government and expressing “confidence” in the Lincoln administration. The members repealed prior resolutions absolving Baltimore authorities of blame for the April 19 riot and appropriated $7,000 to compensate the families of those in the 6th Massachusetts who had been killed. They approved a measure to raise troops for the Federal army, to be paid for by a direct tax on the people, and passed a resolution declaring that the war would not interfere with slavery.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5899; 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

Unionist Suppression in Eastern Tennessee

November 30, 1861 – Confederate officials hanged two men as part of an effort to stop Unionists from sabotaging the Confederacy by burning bridges in eastern Tennessee.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: gettysburgdaily.com

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: gettysburgdaily.com

Although Tennessee was a Confederate state, the people of the mountainous eastern region remained largely Unionist. To prevent uprisings within Tennessee, President Jefferson Davis had issued orders for all citizens in the region to swear loyalty to the Confederacy, otherwise they would be considered “alien enemies,” subject to losing their property to Confederate military forces.

Recently, Confederates stationed in eastern Tennessee had observed an increase in Unionist activity. Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer and other regional commanders reported to Richmond that the Unionists were “as hostile to it (Davis’s loyalty oath) as the people of Ohio and will be ready to take up arms as soon as they believe the Lincoln forces are near enough to sustain them.”

On the night of November 8, Presbyterian Minister William Carter led Unionists in burning five railroad bridges. This was part of a larger plan in which Federal forces would enter eastern Tennessee through Cumberland Gap and Confederate troops, deprived of the bridges, could not be reinforced. Unionists began assembling, unaware that Federal commanders had withdrawn their support by shifting their focus to central Tennessee.

Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Confederate authorities seized six of the bridge burners by the next day. With the Confederate supply line threatened by such destruction, East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad President John R. Branner wrote Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin that “unless the Government gives us the necessary aid and protection at once transportation over my road of army supplies will be an utter impossibility; it cannot be done.”

General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding Confederate Department No. 2 (the Western Theater), asserted that the sabotage “cannot be the work of the enemy’s troops but of the disaffected in North Alabama and East Tennessee.” As such, he called on Tennessee Governor Isham Harris “to use every exertion to ascertain the extent, power and organization of this insurrection,” and to “put arms into the hands of your unarmed levies.”

Meanwhile, Unionists continued organizing, primarily in Carter, Johnson, and Sevier counties. Neither they nor the Confederates knew that no Federals were coming to help them. The Unionists openly assembled, confident that they would be liberated, while the Confederates panicked at the thought of a mass uprising in eastern Tennessee.

Harris wrote to President Davis about the “deep seated spirit of rebellion” in the eastern part of his state. He informed Davis that he would dispatch 10,000 men to the region and asked for Davis to send all the Tennessee troops in western Virginia to him. Harris stated, “This rebellion must be crushed out instantly, the leaders arrested, and summarily punished.”

Attorney A.G. Graham also wrote to Davis, declaring, “Civil war has broken out at length in East Tennessee,” and the Unionists “look confidently for the re-establishment of the Federal authority in the South with as much confidence as the Jews look for the coming of the Messiah.” Graham recommended that if Davis deported the Unionists to northern states, “the Southern men can then enter the Army, because they know that their families are safe at home.”

By mid-November, Zollicoffer had sent detachments into the countryside to round up the bands of Unionists, while Colonel Sterling A.M. Wood’s 7th Alabama arrived from General Braxton Bragg’s command at Pensacola as reinforcements.

The Confederates cracked down on the mischief by declaring martial law and arresting several suspected Unionists, including William G. Brownlow, editor of the Unionist Knoxville Whig. Brownlow’s printing offices were converted into an arms factory. However, President Davis ordered Brownlow released, saying that it was better for the “most dangerous enemy” to escape than the honor of the Confederacy be “impugned or even suspected.”

With relative order restored, the question of what to do with the bridge burners in Confederate custody lingered. Wood wrote to Benjamin on the 21st, “Tories (Unionists) now quiet, but not convinced. Executions needed.” Colonel William B. Wood (no relation to Sterling A.M. Wood) also wrote to Benjamin: “It is a mere farce to arrest them and turn them over to the courts… instead of having the effect to intimidate it really gives encouragement and emboldens them in their traitorous conduct.”

Four days later, Benjamin directed that non-violent Unionists be detained as prisoners of war. Those who had taken up arms against the Confederacy would also be detained, even if they had since sworn allegiance. Regarding the bridge burners:

“All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridgeburning are to be tried summarily by drum-head court-martial and if found guilty executed on the spot by hanging. It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges.”

Meanwhile in Kentucky, many eastern Tennesseans in the Federal army deserted when they learned that they would not be marching into their home region as originally planned to help their families and friends. Local officials asked President Lincoln to order the Federal commanders in Kentucky to focus on eastern, not central, Tennessee.

Lincoln forwarded the matter to General-in-Chief George B. McClellan. McClellan reiterated to Major General Don Carlos Buell, the new commander of the Department of the Ohio, that his forces should move immediately into the region. McClellan added, “If there are causes which render this course impossible, we must submit to the necessity; but I still feel sure that a movement on Knoxville is absolutely necessary, if it is possible to effect it.” Buell, who saw no military gain in entering eastern Tennessee, continued resisting urgings from Lincoln and McClellan to do so.

On the 30th, Confederate Colonel Danville Leadbetter wrote to Benjamin: “Two insurgents have to-day been tried for bridge-burning, found guilty and hanged.” The two men were Jacob M. Hensie and Henry Fry, convicted by court-martial for burning the Lick Creek bridge. Although Benjamin had expressed hope that the Confederates hang the offenders at the bridges they burned, the men were hanged from another railroad bridge.

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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. 94; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 132-33; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 81, 85; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 137-38; 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. 305

The Kentucky Sovereign Convention

November 18, 1861 – Delegates assembled for the Kentucky “Sovereign Convention” at the pro-Confederate town of Russellville, near the Tennessee border.

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The convention included representatives from all 68 counties who opposed the Federal military invasion of their state. Henry C. Burnett, a lawyer, state legislator, and new colonel of the 8th Kentucky Infantry (Confederate), presided. The convention’s purpose was to consider declaring independence from what they perceived to be the illegitimate Unionist state government and seceding from the U.S.

Two days later, delegates unanimously approved an ordinance of secession:

“Be it ordained, That we do hereby forever sever our connection with the Government of the United States, and in the name of the people we do hereby declare Kentucky to be a free and independent State, clothed with all power to fix her own destiny and to secure her own rights and liberties.”

The ordinance also declared that “the people are hereby absolved from all allegiance to said government, and that they have the right to establish any government which to them may seem best adapted to the preservation of their lives and liberty.”

A new provisional state constitution was approved; under Section 15, a commission was appointed to negotiate with Confederate officials to have Kentucky join the Confederacy. Delegates selected George W. Johnson, the convention organizer from Scott County, to be provisional governor. Johnson had been a Unionist who opposed abolition. Bowling Green was designated the provisional state capital.

Kentucky, like Missouri, now had two opposing governments. But the new pro-Confederate state government had little chance of conducting any business with much of the state under Federal occupation.

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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. 96; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 712; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 83; 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. 296; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 211; 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 Missouri Secession

October 28, 1861 – Remnants of the popularly elected Missouri legislature gathered at Neosho to consider leaving the Union, even though a new Unionist government claimed to be the legitimate governing body over Missouri.

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

A group of ousted legislators met in the Masonic Hall at Neosho, 70 miles southwest of Major General John C. Fremont’s Federal Army of the West at Springfield. One of the few Unionist legislators in attendance claimed that only 10 senators and 39 representatives were present, short of the required 17 senators and 67 representatives for a quorum under Missouri law. Nevertheless, exiled pro-secession Governor Claiborne F. Jackson addressed the body:

“It is in vain to hope for a restoration of amicable relations between Missouri and the other United States of America under the same government, and it is not desirable if it could be accomplished… Men, women and children, in open day and in the public thoroughfares, were shot down and murdered by a brutal soldiery with the connivance of Government officers. Our citizen soldiers were arrested and imprisoned, State property was seized and confiscated without warrant of law, private citizens were insecure in their persons and property; the writ of Habeas Corpus had been nullified and the brave Judges who had attempted to protect by it, the liberties of the citizens had been insulted and threatened and a tyrant president revealing in unencumbered powers had crowned all these acts of unconstitutional aggression by declaring war against a number of the States comprising the former Union.”

Both houses approved an “Act Declaring the Political Ties Heretofore Existing Between the State of Missouri and the United States of America Dissolved.” Jackson signed the Ordinance of Secession into law three days later, officially taking Missouri out of the Union.

Since the legislators had been popularly elected, the Confederacy joined the U.S. in claiming that Missouri was one of its states. Anticipating admission into the Confederacy, the exiled legislature approved a motion appointing two senators and seven representatives to the Confederate Congress.

However, a second state government also operated in Missouri, having been created by Unionist delegates to the Missouri constitutional convention in July. The convention reassembled this month to approve further measures to ensure that the provisional government remained loyal to the U.S.

Delegates approved a measure suspending the upcoming popular elections until the following August. This gave provisional Governor Hamilton R. Gamble time to replace elected officials suspected of favoring secession with Unionists. Another measure permitted administering “test oaths” to disqualify anti-Unionist voters or elected officials.

The delegates also approved organizing a provisional state militia, with men between the ages of 18 and 45 who passed the “test oath” eligible for duty; the Federal government would fund this new militia. In addition, delegates adopted measures to raise revenue by issuing bonds, and they voted to cut the salaries of state employees by 20 percent.

For the time being, Missouri would operate with two governing bodies, with the U.S. recognizing the provisional government at Jefferson City and the Confederacy recognizing the elected government at Neosho.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 77; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 133; Robbins, Peggy, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 501-02; 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

Federals Threaten Kentucky’s Neutrality

August 19, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln received a letter from Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin urging the removal of Federal troops from the state to in an effort to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Federal military presence in Kentucky continued to threaten that state’s tenuous neutrality. It also helped Unionists get elected to the Kentucky legislature, as Unionists won majorities in the August 5 elections of 76-24 in the House of Representatives and 27-11 in the Senate. This was a greater Unionist victory than the June 20 election. Prior to this contest, Lincoln had resisted banning trade with the Confederacy through Kentucky in fear of forcing that state to go Confederate. But this election emboldened Lincoln to issue a proclamation banning trade with all “rebellious” states.

Meanwhile, Unionists established Camp “Dick Robinson” near Lexington. The camp attracted recruits from Ohio, as well as mountaineers from eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Although they declared that they were simply “Home Guards” organizing only for defense, secessionists and neutralists argued that the camp blatantly violated Kentucky’s neutrality.

Soon afterward Brigadier General Robert Anderson, the Federal commander at Fort Sumter who had been in command of Federals in Kentucky, was given command of the Department of the Cumberland. This encompassed not only Kentucky but also Tennessee, except for the part of Kentucky bordering Cincinnati belonging to the Department of the Ohio and a part of western Tennessee along the Mississippi River belonging to the Department of the West.

As a native Kentuckian, Anderson set up headquarters in Cincinnati to avoid embarrassing his “neutral” home state. The growing tensions between the Unionists and the neutralists and secessionists ultimately afflicted Anderson, already in frail health, with nervous exhaustion.

To stop any further Federal encroachment on Kentucky neutrality, two commissioners delivered a letter from Governor Magoffin to President Lincoln on the 19th. Magoffin wrote:

“From the commencement of the unhappy hostilities now pending in this country, the people of Kentucky have indicated an earnest desire and purpose, as far as lay in their power, while maintaining their original political status, to do nothing by which to involve themselves in the war. Up to this time they have succeeded in securing to themselves and to the State peace and tranquillity as the fruits of the policy they adopted. My single object now is to promote the continuance of these blessings to this State…

“Now, therefore, as Governor of the State of Kentucky, and in the name of the people I have the honor to represent, and with the single and earnest desire to avert from their peaceful homes the horrors of war, I urge the removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military force now organized and in camp within the State. If such action as is here urged be promptly taken, I firmly believe the peace of the people of Kentucky will be preserved, and the horrors of a bloody war will be averted from a people now peaceful and tranquil.”

Lincoln responded five days later:

“I may not possess full and precisely accurate knowledge upon this subject; but I believe it is true that there is a military force in camp within Kentucky, acting by authority of the United States, which force is not very large, and is not now being augmented… In all I have done in the premises, I have acted upon the urgent solicitation of many Kentuckians, and in accordance with what I believed, and still believe, to be the wish of a majority of all the Union-loving people of Kentucky…”

Lincoln asserted that “While I have conversed on this subject with many eminent men of Kentucky, including a large majority of her Members of Congress, I do not remember that any one of them, or any other person, except your Excellency and the bearers of your Excellency’s letter, has urged me to remove the military force from Kentucky, or to disband it.” Lincoln went on:

“Taking all the means within my reach to form a judgment, I do not believe it is the popular wish of Kentucky that this force shall be removed beyond her limits; and, with this impression, I must respectfully decline to so remove it. I most cordially sympathize with your Excellency in the wish to preserve the peace of my own native State, Kentucky. It is with regret I search for, and can not find, in your not very short letter, any declaration or intimation that you entertain any desire for the preservation of the Federal Union.”

That same day, George W. Johnson delivered a letter from Magoffin to President Jefferson Davis:

“Recently a military force has been enlisted and quartered by the United States authorities within this State… Although I have no reason to presume that the Government of the Confederate States contemplate or have ever proposed any violation of the neutral attitude thus assumed by Kentucky, there seems to be some uneasiness felt among the people of some portion of the State, occasioned by the collection of bodies of troops along their southern frontier. In order to quiet this apprehension, and to secure to the people their cherished object of peace, this communication is to present these facts and elicit an authoritative assurance that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect and observe the position indicated as assumed by Kentucky.”

Davis responded to Magoffin on the 28th:

“In reply to this request, I lose no time in assuring you that the Government of the Confederate States neither desires nor intends to disturb the neutrality of Kentucky… The Government of the Confederate States has not only respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but has continued to maintain the friendly relations of trade and intercourse which it has suspended with the United States generally.

“In view of the history of the past, it can scarcely be necessary to assure your Excellency that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect the neutrality of Kentucky so long as her people will maintain it themselves. But neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained between both parties; or, if the door be opened on the one side for the aggressions of one of the belligerent parties upon the other, it ought not to be shut to the assailed when they seek to enter it for purposes of self-defense. I do not, however, for a moment believe that your gallant State will suffer its soil to be used for the purpose of giving an advantage to those who violate its neutrality and disregard its rights, over others who respect both.”

It would be only a matter of time before the two warring factions brought their conflict onto Kentucky soil. A prelude to that clash came on August 22, when U.S.S. Lexington, a Federal side-wheeled steamboat-turned-timberclad gunboat, captured the Confederate steamer W.B. Terry at Paducah. Confederates fled aboard the steamer Samuel Orr up the Tennessee River.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 6790-873; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 64, 67-68, 70; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 397-98; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 54, 56, 58; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 105-06, 109, 111; 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. 294-95; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 70-71; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 199; 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), Q361

Scrutiny of Northern Anti-War Sentiment is Heightened

August 17, 1861 – In the North, both the government and the public stepped up scrutiny of anti-war sentiment this month, as wartime demands threatened constitutional guarantees.

On August 12, the New York Daily News published a list of 154 newspapers throughout the northern states that opposed President Lincoln’s war policies. Other newspapers quickly picked up the list and printed it themselves. Four days later, a grand jury indicted the Daily News along with the Day Book, Freeman’s Journal, Journal of Commerce, and Brooklyn Eagle on charges of disloyalty.

The grand jury, headed by Charles Gould, had been called to decide how to suppress pro-Confederate newspapers because they were “encouraging the rebels now in arms against the Federal Government by expressing sympathy and agreement with them, the duty of acceding to their demands, and dissatisfaction with the employment of force to overcome them.”

The U.S. Constitution | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The U.S. Constitution | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Jury members acknowledged that “free governments allow liberty of speech and of the press to their utmost limit,” but they contended that these newspapers exceeded that limit. The members stated, “If the utterance of such language in the streets or through the press is not a crime, then there is a great defect in our laws, or they were not made for such an emergency… the conduct of these disloyal presses is, of course, condemned and abhorred by all loyal men,” but the grand jury sought “to learn from the Court that it is also subject to indictment and condign punishment.”

Postmaster General Montgomery Blair issued orders declaring that “none of the newspapers published in New York city which were lately presented by the grand jury as dangerous, from their disloyalty, shall be forwarded in the mails.” Federal marshals at Philadelphia awaited the arrival of the New York train and seized all copies of the New York Daily News bound not only for Philadelphia but also for Washington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Baltimore, and Louisville.

Other newspapers suppressed by government decree included the Christian Observer for publishing an article calling the conflict an “unholy war.” Several newspapers in Canton, Ohio were also closed down for alleged disloyalty. Democratic newspapers became prime targets for government scrutiny.

Northerners seemed to support this suppression, as many people took action when government officials did not. Around 12:45 p.m. on August 12, an angry mob broke into the offices of the Bangor (Maine) Democrat, destroyed the printing presses, and burned the remaining office equipment in the street. The Democrat did not resume publication until 1863.

In Pennsylvania, Unionists invaded the offices of the Democratic Jeffersonian in West Chester and destroyed the printing presses, office equipment, and business records. Nobody was arrested or charged with the crime. A mob also attacked the Sentinel’s offices in Easton for allegedly expressing Confederate sympathies. The crowd threw the printing presses and other office equipment into the street and destroyed it.

In Massachusetts, a mob dragged the editor of the Essex County Democrat out of his Haverhill home. When he refused to cooperate with his kidnappers, “he was covered with a coat of tar and feathers, and ridden on a rail through the town.” He was forced to swear that he would “never again write or publish articles against the North and in favor of secession.”

On August 24, Unionists led by showman P.T. Barnum disrupted a “peace meeting” in Stepney, Connecticut. Both sides brandished pistols until Barnum invited any “secessionist” to speak out and be “given a fair hearing, provided they say nothing treasonable.” Since the term “treasonable” was left open for varying interpretations, no secessionists or Democrats accepted Barnum’s offer.

After the meeting, some 1,500 people stormed the offices of the Bridgeport (Connecticut) Advertiser & Farmer, which had printed editorials calling Lincoln a “despot” and accusing him of exceeding his constitutional authority, much like Republican newspapers had done when President James Buchanan was in office. No arrests were made for destroying the printing presses and business records; the newspaper went out of business.

People became targets along with newspapers. Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered the arrest of Pierce Butler in Philadelphia for allegedly corresponding with Confederates. Federal marshals seized Butler and illegally searched his trunks, drawers, and papers. Butler was immediately sent without due process to confinement at Fort Lafayette, New York under armed guard. No formal charges were filed against him until he was eventually freed five weeks later.

Federal authorities also arrested several people in Washington for supposedly consorting with the enemy, including Mrs. Philip Phillips and Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow. Prominent Detective Allan Pinkerton apprehended Mrs. Greenhow. Meanwhile, Unionists broke up a meeting of alleged secessionists in Saybrook, Connecticut, and peace meetings at Middletown, New Jersey and Newton, Long Island, New York, were cancelled.

Unionist articles published in various newspapers helped to incite the masses against any opposition to the war. An example was an issue of Harper’s Weekly that contained a sketch of Confederate troops bayoneting wounded Federals on the Bull Run battlefield. This was the war’s first atrocity article, which alleged that “the savages who fought under the Confederate Flag systematically butchered the wounded, and this not only in obedience to their own fiendish instincts, but by order of their officers.”

The passions on both sides, along with enhanced government and public scrutiny of those who opposed the war, would continue to intensify in the coming months.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 498; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19648; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 69-70; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 57; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 110-12; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 23-30