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Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Why America Lost the "Civil War"
contributed by Nat G. Rudulph
"Civil War" is at best a misleading name for that conflict. Many Southerners avoid using it because of the implication that there were factions in every locality. "Civil" means "relating to the people within a community." The term describes only one aspect of the event, and subtly discredits Southerners defending home and country, rather than fomenting a political coup. The typical Southern community was not divided at all. Dixie was that community, and the consensus in Dixie was to defy strangers and meddlers from the North who insisted on ruling and intended to invade. The typical Southerner fought for independence. There were (and still are) more differences between Yankees and Southerners than between Yankees and English-speaking Canadians.
It was a civil war, but not on the battlefield. It was a civil war in New York City when a draft protest turned into a rampaging mob of 70,000. That civil war lasted four days because all the available troops were at Gettysburg, fighting soldiers from another land. It was a civil war when they returned and fired into this New York crowd, killing nearly 2,000 of their own divided "community."
It was a civil war when Illinois' Governor Yates reported an "insurrection in Edgar County. Union men on one side, Copperheads on the other. They have had two battles." It was a civil war for the Union Army when the 109th Illinois had to be disbanded because its men were Southern sympathisers. It was a civil war in Indiana when thousands of draft resisters hid in enclaves. From the governor: "Matters assume grave import. Two hundred mounted armed men in Rush county have today resisted arrest of deserters . . . southern Indiana is ripe for revolution."
The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York reported that they could not enforce the draft without 10-20,000 troops in each state. Violent opposition struck in Wisconsin and Michigan. Four thousand Pennsylvanians refused to march south. Sherman wrote: "Mutiny was common to the whole army, and it was not subdued till several regiments, or parts of regiments had been ordered to Fort Jefferson, Florida, as punishment."
It was not a civil war in those parts of the South removed from the border regions. Had it been a civil war, Lincoln's government could have leveraged local support to subdue those states brutally, as it did in Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia. Union policy was to treat border state combatants as renegades under martial law instead of as legitimate armed forces.
Marylanders were similar to Virginians strongly Southern, but cautious. However, when Lincoln called for troops to coerce the states, Virginia seceded. Immediately, Lincoln moved to secure Maryland. Habeus corpus was suspended and Southern sympathisers arrested in Baltimore. General Banks dissolved the Baltimore police board. Secretary of War Cameron wrote him: "The passage of any act of secession by the legislature of Maryland must be prevented. If necessary all or any part of the members must be arrested." Arrests were sufficient to prevent a vote. The mayor of Baltimore, most of the city government, and newspaper editors were jailed. One of those editors was the grandson of the author of The Star Spangled Banner. Francis Key Howard wrote of his imprisonment:
When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that same day forty-seven years before, my grandfather, Mr Francis Scott Key, then prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular. . . . As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal despotism as modern times have witnessed.
Documents of the period show more than 38,000 political prisoners in northern jails. In The Life of William H. Seward, Bancroft wrote: The person "suspected" of disloyalty was often seized at night, borne off to the nearest fort. . . . Month after month many of them were crowded together in gloomy and damp casemates, where even dangerous pirates captured on privateers ought not to have remained long. Many had committed no overt act. There were among them editors and political leaders of character and honour, but whose freedom would be prejudicial to the prosecution of the war.
Lincoln suspended habeas corpus everywhere, arrested candidates, and banished Ohio congressman Vallandigham from the country. More than 300 newspapers were closed. Secretary of War Stanton told a visitor, "If I tap that little bell, I can send you to a place where you will never again hear the dogs bark." Neither habeas corpus nor freedom of the press were ever suspended in the South, even in the most desperate of times. The Raleigh News and Observer wrote after the war "It is to the honour of the Confederate government that no Confederate secretary could touch a bell and send a citizen to prison."
Yankee power was most unrestrained in Missouri. From its initial defiant movement of troops, the Union routinely escalated hostilities. They encouraged atrocities, insidiously veiled behind a facade of inept negligence. They exhibited arrogance and contempt for law, their own constitution, Southerners, and life itself.
The authorities entered private homes without warrant or provocation, seizing arms and other properties. They required written permits for travel. Random "drive-by" shootings of citizens from trains by soldiers were commonplace. Citizens were fined, jailed, banished, and even executed for as little as expressing dissent, or upon the accusation of a government informer. Authorities called citizens to their door in the middle of the night and shot them or took them away. Amnesty was promised to partisans, but many who attempted to surrender were executed. Men like Frank and Jesse James witnessed these things and vowed never to accept a pardon from such a government.
Senator Jim Lane, known as "the grim chieftain of Kansas," ravaged Missouri. Halleck wrote McClellan: "I receive almost daily complaints of outrages committed by these men in the name of the United States, and the evidence is so conclusive as to leave no doubt of their correctness . . . Lane has been made a brigadier-general. I cannot conceive of a more injudicious appointment . . . offering a premium for rascality and robbing." McClellan gave the letter to Lincoln. After reading it, Lincoln turned it over and wrote on the back, "An excellent letter, though I am sorry General Halleck is so unfavourably impressed with General Lane."
September 1862 brought executions for refusing to swear allegiance to the U.S. In October at Palmyra, Missouri, ten political prisoners and POWs were executed because a Union informer disappeared. Soon afterwards, Lincoln promoted to brigadier-general the man responsible.
In 1863 General Ewing imprisoned as many wives, mothers, and sisters of Quantrill's Confederate partisan band as could be found. The building housing most of them collapsed in August, killing many. Ewing had been warned that the building was in danger of collapse, and the guerrillas believed that it had been deliberate. In retaliation Quantrill sacked and burned Lawrence, Kansas. Ewing then issued an order forcing all persons in four counties of western Missouri living more than a mile from a military base to leave the state. They were forced from their homes at gunpoint and escorted away. Then all property was destroyed. Cass County, which had a population of 10,000 was reduced to 600 by this "ethnic cleansing." Union Colonel Lazear wrote his wife that the ensuing arson was so thorough that only stone chimneys could be seen for hundreds of miles. "It is heart sickening to see what I have seen since I have been back here. A desolated country, men, women, and children, some of them almost naked. Some on foot and some in wagons. Oh God."
Loyalty oaths and bonds were required of all citizens. If guerrillas attacked, property in the area was confiscated and sold at auction. Suspects were imprisoned and by 1864 the mortality rate of Union-held prisoners had reached fifty percent. Union Surgeon George Rex reported: Undergoing the confinement in these crowded and insufficiently ventilated quarters are many citizen prisoners, against whom the charges are of a very trivial character, or perhaps upon investigation . . . no charges at all are sustained.
The Union implemented Sherman's philosophy of war against civilians. He wrote: "To the petulant and persistent secessionist, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. . . . There is a class of people . . . who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order." To General Sheridan, Sherman wrote: ". . . the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in conquest of territory. . . a great deal of it yet remains to be done, therefore, I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results." To General Kilpatrick he wrote: "It is petty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes." In a moment of candour he wrote Grant: "You and I and every commander must go through the war justly chargeable with crimes."
While ransacking Georgia, Sherman removed two thousand women, children, and elderly to Ohio where they were forced to work in Union war factories. Families were separated, property confiscated, and even wedding bands taken from their hands. The U.S. never tried to reunite them.
Crimes were committed on both sides, but the Confederate offenses were a fraction of the Federals'.
The Southern leadership spoke and acted against abuses, while Lincoln ran a "loose ship" of administration, under which authorities could tacitly countenance abuses while professing to be against them. Lincoln once asked McClellan if he could get close enough to Richmond to shell the civilian population of the city. When Jefferson Davis was urged to retaliate in kind, and adopt a cruel war policy like the U.S., cabinet member Judah P. Benjamin said "he was immovable in resistance to such counsels, insisting that it was repugnant to every sentiment of justice and humanity that the innocent should be made victims for the crimes of such monsters."
America lost the "civil war" because she lost her soul. You opine that those were necessary war measures? Then why were they never employed by the Confederacy even in the dark days of imminent defeat? It was because the South still adhered to the transcendence of principle. The South did not believe that the end justified the means. Most Southerners believed that right and wrong and truth were God-given, and not man's creation. Therefore, man had to submit to them. It was not man's place to decide that principles could be abandoned when expedient. Robert E. Lee said it best: "There is a true glory and a true honour; the glory of duty done the honour of the integrity of principle."
Transcendence means "above and independent of, and supreme." To recognise the transcendence of principle is to recognise that there are absolutes, and that absolutes must come from a Creator. It is to acknowledge that these absolutes are not social constructs that have evolved over time or situational posits that can be altered when fashionable. This humility leads men to respect authority, honour their heritage, and submit to the wisdom that has preceded them, acknowledging their own dependence, and not imagining that they are autonomous, without accountability.
It is chiefly social and familial accountability, enabled by the presence of law written in the conscience of humanity, which restrains the evil that is present within man, thereby establishing civilisation. The reality of evil within humanity is evident in the corrupting effect of power, since power is of itself neither good nor evil. Power, in its simplest form, is the lack of restraint, while restraint is accountability in some form. Enduring and benevolent civilisations have recognised this and embraced restraints to ensure that human power would not be concentrated to their detriment. The Constitution was a codified restraint of this kind.
Restraints on the central government are as necessary to protect us from tyranny as the balance between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The limits are proportional to the power retained by the states, because the states are the only entities capable of enforcing meaningful restraint upon the federal government. Although they originally delegated limited power to that government, it has usurped all the power. That usurpation became unstoppable after the South lost, because the tenth amendment became a dead letter, and all the states lost. The possibility of secession was the only deterrent sufficient to guarantee states the sovereignty necessary to hold the central power accountable.
The victors justified themselves to the world and history by brute force and sly obfuscation. The elimination of slavery was trumpeted as the justifying crown of victory. As to saving the Union, is that not like preserving a marriage by beating the wife into submission?
The result is the humanist monster-state, and activist judges who reinvent what the constitution means. They have lost the ability to understand and receive it, since they have abandoned the transcendence of principle. They will always find a way to make themselves the final authority. New amendments designed to strengthen the plain intent of the Founding Fathers will eventually fail, because no loophole can be drawn so tight as to eliminate a scoundrel.
Both sides lost. The U.S. lost its character and began the abandonment of transcendent foundations. Dixie lost its will to live. Yet where principles remain- under cold ashes, deeply buried remains an ember of hope. And where there is a smouldering hope, the fire may yet burn again.
Mr Rudulph is the SL Southwest Alabama District Chairman.
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