Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Horsing Around: Some Thoughts on the Democratic Party Before the 1864 Election

With the 150th anniversary of the historic 1864 Presidential election approaching quickly, I have recently discovered some information I did not know before, and also confirmed some understanding of the Democratic Part issues that I had not thought about lately.

One tidbit that especially intrigued me was that the chairman of the 1864 Democratic Convention was August Belmont, who owned successful horse breeding farms in New York and Kentucky. Horse racing fans know that the third race of the sport's "Triple Crown" is the Belmont Stakes, now held at Belmont Park in New York. This race was named for August Belmont. Those interested in his career in the horse industry and the vast influence he wielded in it should read How Kentucky Became Southern by MaryJean Wall. It is a fine book about Kentucky history and memory, and frequently discusses Belmont's horse breeding business, which shifted between Kentucky and New York.

More information on the history of Belmont Stakes, though not with a lot of details of its namesake can also be found right here as well as on other links on that page. A longer, more detailed article, including information on his financial career and actions during the war years is at this link.

In the political arena, Belmont favored prosecuting the war before any reunion with the Confederate states, while the most vocal, and perhaps best-known, Democrat, Clement Vallandigham, preferred to end the war and reunite the nation immediately. This was the "peace without victory" philosophy that Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate George Pendleton also shared.

The party's Presidential nominee, General George B. McClellan, opposed this concept and his letter accepting the party's nomination repudiated the party's "peace plank" that was a key part of the party's platform. This led Vallindigham to refuse to campaign for McClellan.  This fissure was not as severe as the one the party faced in 1860 when it divided into two factions that each nominated its own candidate, but it does show that 4 years of time had only shifted the internal argument from one between Northern and Southern Democrats to one between War and Peace Democrats, and from how government should or could handle slavery to whether or not to continue the war effort.

August Belmont, courtesy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Feminine Wrath

Today's entry is a  story from Frank Moore's  The Civil War in Song and Story. This is from page 431 of this antique work.

Feminine Wrath

"In the fall of 1863, after the great national successes at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Gettysburg, the President of the United States appointed a day if Thanksgiving to God for the victories that had crowned the national arms.

The Bulletin, a Union paper published in Memphis, Tennessee, made a simple announcement of the fact, and remarked that there were many, no doubt, in that city who would heartily join in celebrating the day. This suggestion drew upon the editor's head the following blowing and defiant philippic from the pen of one of the fair citizens of Memphis:

EDITOR BULLETIN: You call attention to Lincoln's appointment of a day of Thanksgiving for the successes which have blessed our cause, and you hope the day will be properly observed. By 'our cause' you mean the Union cause. I wonder how you think the people of Memphis can thank God for the successes of the Union Abolition cause. You pretend to think that a great Union sentiment has sprung up in Memphis, because you say that upwards of eleven thousand persons have taken the oath of allegiance. Let me tell you, if they have taken it, they did not do it of their own free will, and they don't feel bound by it; they had to take it under a military despotism, and don't feel bound to regard any oath forced upon them in that way. Do you believe that any preacher in Memphis will appoint services in his church at Lincoln's dictation? Let one dare to try it and see how his congregation will stand it. They know better. They know full well that the people of Memphis give thanks over Union disasters with sincere hearts, but don't rejoice at Union victories as they call them. The women of Memphis will stick to the Confederate cause, like Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, and say to it 'Where thou goest, I will go, where thou livest I will live, where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried.' But where are your great successes? Your own papers say that Lee brought off a train of captured spoils twelve miles long, and that Morgan destroyed seven or eight millions of dollars' worth before all of Ohio and Indiana could stop him. Pretty dear success, this. Still I won't rejoice over it at Lincoln's dictation. But wait till President Davis' day comes round. Perhaps by that time Meade may get another whipping, and if you don't see rejoicing and thanksgiving then, you may well believe that you and your officious local fail to see half that exists in Memphis. Now you won't publish this, perhaps, because it don't suit you. You can say the reason is, because I don't put my real name to it. You can do as you please about it. I choose to sign it,

Mary Lee Thorne

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Female Bushwhackers

Here is another story I found in an old book, this time Frank Moore's The Civil War in Song and Story 1860-1865, which I have used in the past. This tale comes from page 423 and offers a few interesting, even brash,  comments on some of the southern women the author had encountered.

Female Bushwhackers 

The women of the South are the goads that prick the men to action. I should have said first that there are female as well as male bushwhackers. When a woman takes one of these creatures to her home or heart, as the case may be, she becomes a partner to his guilt, according to the common law. She thus recognizes his vocation, and applauds him in his robberies. She is the receiver, and the receiver is as bad as the thief. All the country is infested by these guerrillas and bushwhackers; they have certain haunts, where they make their headquarters and store away their plunder. These haunts are invariably presided over by that creature (God help her, after all) of modern growth and the off-spring of the miseries of war - the "war widow." They are, without exception, bitter and inveterate secesh. Usually, indeed in all cases, ignorant and wholly uneducated, they are entirely controlled by passion. Being in destitute circumstances, and lonely, they gladly become the accomplices of this herd of robbers prowling about. I am not to be understood as saying that all the women of the South who unfortunately have lost their husbands in this war, are of this class known as "war widows." Far be it from me. I have found many such women as intelligent, refined and pure as any I have ever known. But everybody knows, or is supposed to know, what the real "war widow" is, and it is of her I write. She makes a good home bushwhacker; aids and abets freely and voluntarily in all the depredations of her  accomplice. She feeds and clothes him, secretes him when hunted down, encourages him in his bad work,  and does all she can (and women are all-powerful for good or evil) to make him a reckless and depraved outlaw. There is a certain sort of superstitious poetry of innocence stitched to woman's being, which has been handed down to us since the time Adam beheld the beautiful image of Eve in the clear, crystal water. While I would regret to despoil woman any of the romance of her nature, I must say that, as far as regards women  bushwhackers, there is nothing in their natures except poetical depravity - a license in licentious liberty, which mars and blackens her nature. As liars, they cannot be excelled in the universe. Actually, they would lie anything or anybody out of existence. And they do it with such brazen impudence - such a shameless air of innocence. Their little hearts are awfully corrupt. While out with scouting parties,  I have repeatedly asked for various kinds of information from these frail creatures, and, looking into my face as innocent as an unwooed maiden, they have told lie upon lie, yes, mountains of them. Their moral perception of right and wrong is very blunt, while their perceptive faculties are quite acute in judging of the relative value of a ring, a blanket, a watch, or other article brought them by their bushwhacking lords." - "Dr. Adonis, in the Louisville Journal"

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Few Book Summaries

Here are a few other books I read in spring and summer. I enjoyed them all, but didn't take notes to do full reviews, but will add a few thoughts on each.

Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins
This book, made famous by Ken Burns' PBS series on the Civil War, was recommended to me when I was on a public hike at Perryville and imam glad I finally read it. It is a fun read, with good descriptions of what Watkins saw at many battles, including Perryville, where some of his lines are on museum displays and are commonly repeated in other books about that battle. It is Watkins' story, written tests after the war, so keep in mind how human memory works when writing so long after an event, but it is still an enjoyable read and a good look at what private soldiers in that wsr witnessed.

The Battle of Mill Springs Kentucky by Stuart Sanders
I still have not visited this battlefield, and am almost ashamed by that. This is a good book from the History Press and gave me a lot of good information on this early Union victory. I like how the author writes, as I also enjoyed his works on Perryville as well as this one. It is a good read

Lincoln's Melancholy:  How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness
By Joshua Wolf Schenk
I had heard about this work years who, but never got around to reading it. I am glad I finally did. I found it to be a fascinating look at another side of  Lincoln's life and personality. His moodiness was not a new revelation to me, but it's depth and how often Lincoln struggled with it did add to my knowledge and perspective of this man. The Sutton seemed to have a good grade of psychological concepts and explained them in easy to understand ways.

Morgan's Great Raid: the Remarkable Expedition from Kentucky to Ohio by David Mowery
This is not a long look at the details of every confrontation during this 1863 raid, but is a good overview of the emtire raid and provides a nice look at how much ground Morgan, his men and his pursuers covered during these weeks. Mowery's writing is easy yo follow and I enjoyed how he described the challenges that those in and against the raid faced. 

Liddell's  Record by St. John Richardson Liddell, edited by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr.
If you like honest and blunt assessments from soldiers, this is a book you should read. Hughes Jr. cobbled together Liddell's records and molded them into a fine story in Liddell's own words. Like the Watkins book, this was written after the war, but is still a valuable read due to Liddell's honest accounts of battles and Confederate leaders he experienced or encountered during the war? He was not afraid to offer criticism of his superiors. He was another fascinating character I am glad I discovered. He may not be in the same class as Daniel Sickles in terms of being a "different" personality,, but is still another interesting individual, though not very well-known.

1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood
I found this book when looking for additional sources for my upcoming(January 8, 2015) talk on Abraham Lincoln, and I am fortunate to have found it. It offers a terrific account of what proved to be perhaps the most important year of the Civil War, and how Lincoln dealt with the many issues, including his re-election, that popped up throughout these 12 months. I found several new ideas and thoughts to incorporate into my talk, and a few details as well. It is a well-written, easy-to-read book about a crucial year.

Decided  on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and the Election of 1864 by David Alan Johnson
This is another book I found to help me understand the happenings of 1864 and it was another valuable reference. It focuses on the presidential election of 1864 and how battlefield events influenced the results of that voting. It is another well-written narrative and look at the last full calendar year of the war. This is another fine book.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Soldier's Offering

I recently posted an entry with a  poem called The Palmetto and the Pine from the introduction of an old book Under Both Flags.

In the same section of that book is another brief poem, A Soldier's Offering that I had overlooked but that I do think is worth posting since it continues the theme of reconciliation and seems to explain the title of the previous piece of verse I shared here. George M. Vickers is listed as the author of the following lines

The laurel wreath of glory,
That decks the soldier's grave,
Is but the finished story,
The record of the brave;
And he who dared the danger,
Who battled well and true,
To honor was no stranger,
Though garbed in gray or blue.

Go, strip your choicest bowers,
Where blossoms sweet abound,
Then scatter free your flowers,
Upon each moss-grown mound;
Though shaded by the North's tall pine
Or south's palmetto tree,
Let sprays that soldiers' graves entwine,
A soldier's tribute be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Perryville Commemoration Event October 4-5

The 152nd anniversary of the battle of Perryville is coming up soon and the state historic site will be having a commemoration for it this weekend. I probably will not be able to mpattend, though I hope that changes, but I encourage others to go.

Please see the following link for more information on the event. It s a beautiful park and imam sure it will be another well-run event

Perryville Battlefield

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Palmetto and the Pine

I just acquired an old book Under Both Flags  edited by C. R. Graham, published in 1896. It's title page describes it as an "unprejudiced representation of the issues that divided our country, as told in the personal recollections of those who participated in the campaigns, marches, sufferings, anecdotes, and instances of dauntless heroism which glorified send ennobled this gigantic struggle for the supremacy of the Union."

Of course, it does not note that such recollections rarely, if ever, are "unprejudiced" but that at least was the object of this oversized book or at least its editor. I have not looked through it all to judge its success at meeting that lofty  ambitionbut the book's introduction certainly claims a theme of reconciliation and togetherness as its goal.

Included in this section is a poem called The  Palmetto and the Pine which I am publishing below. It's pulse obviously matches what the book itself wished to accomplish and I thought it was worth reading.

While the months to years are fleeting like a river's ceaseless flow,
And the landmarks old grow dimmer in the distant long ago,
Let us glance once more behind us, where our battle days were seen, 
Where our blood, like holly berries, sprinkled thick the grassy green.

There, in rifle pit, on rampart, or upon the open field,
Come the visions of battalions that would rather die than yield - 
Come the stately forms of vessels with their crews of sailors brave,
Whose memorial crests of glory are the white caps of the wave.

Once these men were happy, peaceful, till that bloody war, and then -
When it ended they returned homeward from their dead to peace again.
Why the fought, why lost, who triumphed, who was wrong, or who was right,
Matters not ; there our brothers, and we're not afraid to fight.

'Neath the fairest flag that flutters under Heaven's azure dome
Dwell these warriors and their children in sweet Freedom's chosen home.
In his heart each holds a welcome for the soldier at his door,
And he never stops to question which the uniform he wore.

We were soldiers, only soldiers of the nation let us be.
Let us meet and greet as comrades though we fought with Grant or Lee;
Let us form a noble order with sweet Freedom for our shrine,
And for each enwreathe a token - the Palmetto and the Pine.

After these verses, the introduction continues: 

The sons and daughters of the North and South will always honor the gallantry of their American sires. No moral attainder should dim the path of a soldier's child; and it is to bind together fraternally the millions yet unborn that these truths be recognized and held aloft now.

In this spirit it is hoped that Tales of the Civil War as Told by the Veterans will be accepted and read, never forgetting that the proudest tribute we can pay to the memory of the brave men of both armies, is they were Americans.