Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Temper of the Southern Mind, as the 1860 Election Aporoached

As the pundits currently ponder what the results of the upcoming Presidential election will mean, it is  noteworthy that this is nothing new for Americans, as people were wondering the same thing about the contest of 1860, though perhaps with more dire consequences in mind.

Here is an article from the Covington Journal of October 27, 1860 with some discussion of possible meanings of potential outcomes of the race then taking place. (This story does quote the Charleston Mercury, though some questioned that paper's credibility.)

The  Temper of the Southern Mind

The following we copy from the Charleston Mercury of the 15th:

The Minute Men - We are glad to see the people of our State everywhere preparing for the crisis which is at hand. As an offset to the "Wide Awakes" of the North, "Minute Men" are organizing in the principal districts of South Carolina. Their object is to form an armed body of men, and to join with our fellow-citizens, now forming in this and our sister States as "Minute Men," whose duty it is to arm, equip and drill, and be ready for any emergency that may arise in the present perilous position of the Southern States. The badge adopted is a blue rosette - two and a half inches in diameter, with a military button in the centre, to be worn on the side of the hat. Let the important work go bravely on, and let every son of Carolina prepare to mount the blue cockade.

The Richmond Enquirer, in an article on the contingency of Lincoln's election, uses the following language:

"Virginia can no more prevent the dissolution of the Union after Lincoln's election than she can prevent that election. She will be powerless to prevent civil war, with all its attendant horrors. Any of the Southern States can, and some of them will involve the whole country, North as well as South, in the internecine strife of bloody and desolating civil war. Virginia will, by a majority of her people, decide upon resistance, while a large minority may desire to postpone resistance for the 'overt act;' but, hitched as she is to the Southern States, she will be dragged into a common destiny with them, no matter what may be the decree of her people. We believe that a large majority of the people of Virginia, if the opportunity of a State Convention was allowed them, would vote for immediate resistance and for a common destiny with the Southern State; and with this belief we would advise the slave States not to hesitate to strike an early blow from fear that Virginia may hesitate in her duty to the South."

The Lynchburg Virginian (Breckenridge,) says:

"They who suppose that the election of Lincoln will not result in the dissolution of the Union are entirely deluded. The Cotton States will go out, and Virginia will be compelled to go along with them. Besides - discarding all party feeling, as our people will do after this election - a large and determined majority of the people of Virginia will be for dissolution, rather than submit to the humiliation and disgrace which the election of Lincoln will entail upon the country."

We copy the following from the Vicksburg Whig:

"The Yazoo Banner reports Gov. Pettus as having said upon the streets of Yazoo City, that he had not only drawn from the State Treasury the two hundred thousand dollars appropriated by the last Legislature to purchase arms and ammunition, but he had ordered more than they could purchase, giving his receipts as Governor of the State for the amount overdrawn. Will any body with these facts before them, maintain that the Government of Mississippi is not preparing to go out of the Union?"


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Noble Stand of the Union Men

Students of the Civil War generally associate the term "Union Men" with those who supported the United States government against the Confederacy, including those who joined the "Union" army, but in the days before the war that term had a different meaning, at least to some people.

This brief article comes from the Covington Journal of October 27, 1860, shortly before the Presidential election of that year took place. This newspaper supported the John Bell - Edward Everett ticket, the "Constitutional Union Party" and used the term "Union" with that meaning in mind.

The Noble Stand of the Union Men

Whilst the leaders of the Republican party frantically appeal to Northern prejudices in behalf of "Northern men with Northern principles," and the Secessionists loudly call for a "united South" to resist the North, the Union men of the South make no idle threats, appeal to no national prejudices.

They repel with indignity the unjust assaults that are made upon their section, and earnestly demand their constitutional rights. In conjunction with their friends in the North they present as a candidate for the Presidency a man of great experience in public affairs and of undoubted conservative national opinions - a man who if elected will labor to repress sectional agitation and restore the administration of the general government to the broad basis of the Constitution.

If, after all, the Union men fail, if the majority no longer heed appeals to their sense of justice and love of country, and the dark days come upon us, when the collision of sectional opinion shall be "quickly followed by the clash of arms," they will  have the consolation of knowing that they labored to the last and did their utmost to prevent the dire result.

Bell - Everett poster courtesy

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Period Article on Lincoln's Nomination

As we enter another election season, I thought I would share this story I found. It comes from the Covington Journal  of May 26,1860. It is a bit more complimentary of the new party's selection than I expected, as the Journal had been a supporter of John Bell and opposed any idea of abolishing slavery, a trait then associated with the Republican Party, as the final sentence shows.

The selection of ABRAHAM LINCOLN and HANNIBAL HAMLIN as candidates for President and Vice President by the Republican Convention at Chicago is hailed with considerable enthusiasm by the adherents of the party of the North. The nomination of Lincoln is perhaps as strong of one as could be made. With talents of no mean order and some rather rare elements of personal popularity, he will undoubtedly unite the Republicans of the North-west, at least, and command their hearty support. New England, too, appears to be satisfied with the nomination, though we have seen no indication of unwonted enthusiasm in that quarter. But this is not enough. The Republicans must carry, in addition, both New York and Pennsylvania and the probabilities now are that they will carry neither of these States. We are not ignorant of the fact that a hundred guns have been fired in honor of the Chicago nominations at Albany, and at some points in Pennsylvania there have been similar manifestations of popular approval. All this, however, is very inconclusive. A dozen men may manage to have a hundred guns fired and fifty man hold a very enthusiastic ratification meeting. SEWARD, as the founder and law-giver of the party, was entitled to the nomination, and expected it. It is evident that he and his devoted followers in the State of New York, are sorely disappointed, and it cannot be supposed they will give a very hearty support to a candidate the selection of whom has dashed to the ground their long cherished hopes. At the late State elections in New York the Republicans were beaten on a part of their ticket, and we see no reason to conclude they are stronger now than then. Indeed, we believe they have been steadily losing strength ever since the last Presidential election. Pennsylvania is essentially a conservative State, and if the Republicans succeed there, the fact will doubtless be owing to the inexcusable failure of the Opposition to unite against them.

The following is the main plank of the Chicago platform: 
"That the normal condition of all the Territory of the United States is that of freedom; that as our Republican fathers when they had abolished Slavery in all our national Territory had ordained that "no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law," it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain thus provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress or a Territorial Legislature or any individuals to give local distance to Slavery in any Territory in the United States."

It will be noted that the idea of "no more Slave States" is embodied in unmistakeable language in this declaration. In fact the platform is identical in spirit with that of '56, while the candidates of '60 are, if possible, more sectional than those of '56.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review of Battery Hooper Civil War Days 2016

Sorry for the lack of content lately, but my new job has turned things around for me, leaving me much less time for research and writing, specially as overtime has become mandatory lately. I have been surprised and disappointed by how little time I have spent here or on any other Civil War reading and writing, and need to reverse that trend, hopefully starting now.

I have also had some issues with the Blogger app not saving everything I type. That is frustrating as I have redone this post multiple times.

I do want to take some time to review the Ramage Museum's Battery Hooper Civil War a Days from this year, the thirteenth incarnation of the event and the ninth(!) with which I have been involved.
We facedsome new and interesting challenges this year, but still put on a successful event.

On Saturday morning, we had some issues with our museum building, but got them resolved well before any visitors arrived. That was certainly an interesting hour or two we had, though.

Saturday featured the worst weather I have ever witnessed at for any BHD event. We had a few downpours of rain, and when it did not rain, it looked like it would at any moment. It was a fairly unpleasant day overall, but our presenters put on goodshows. We even moved a couple inside, though maybe we should have done do earlier. The Belle Boyd presentation was new and very interesting, even in a fairly small room.The weather certainly impacted attendance and left us feeling a bit frustrated over events we could not control.

Sunday was a much better day, perhaps even perfect from a weather perspective. Attendance  rebounded quite nicely, bringing us a feeling if relief.nWe had more guests in the first two hours than we did all day Saturday, send we ended up with over 500 attendees for the day. It seemed like the beauty of Sunday was a gift to make up for the struggles of Saturday.

Overall, we faced some challenges, but put on a successful event. We had good sales in our gift shop and used book sale, and visitors were kind with their donations. As usual, it was a lot of work, but, again as usual, as soon as it ended, I started looking forward to next year, wondering what new presentations, displays and ideas we might try then. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Informal Online Civil War Learning

Television features a lot of commercials about various online learning opportunities, usually for-profit institutions, though not always, but formalized schooling is not the only way the wonderful world wide web can help a person increase his or her knowledge.

I have been blogging for almost 7 years now (started in 2009, but took a break in 2013-14) and part of my blogging has been reading other blogs and sites. The development and growth of Facebook and Twitter in this same time frame has help me with that.

In the past, I had often heard about the many Civil War fanatics out there, but did not really meet many or see this phenomenon for myself. Volunteering at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in 2006 helped me start to see some of this, but it wasn't until I got more involved in reading online sources that I realized how true it was.

Personally, I have always felt slavery was the unquestioned main cause of the war - perhaps the only one that mattered. I still strongly feel that slavery was the key issue, but in the past few years, I have seen stories of others who disagree with that. Completely. Some deny slavery had any role in the coming of the war, while others say it was only one piece of the puzzle and they include other pieces like "taxes," "big government," 'states' rights" and other subjects that they believe contributed to the war as much or more than slavery did. I have, of course, found many others who do emphasize slavery's role in the coming of the war, but the debate is bigger than I had known. The web has opened my eyes to this and helped me better understand how much passion for the war exists.

I've also seen arguments over other topics such as "Black Confederate," a topic that likely would never have crossed my mind if not for the information superhighway (there's a term you don't hear much anymore. Maybe I show my age by using it. :)  )

Of course, a very common and popular topic online, especially in the last year, has been the Confederate Battle Flag and other symbols of the Confederacy. When I was young, I attended a middle school called "South Campbell County" Middle School and the nickname was the Confederates. When you walked into the school, you walked over a large, rubber welcome mat, with a large CBF surrounded by gray. The school sold buttons, at least once, saying "the South will rise again" and at least one of my yearbooks had a drawing of a Confederate soldier holding a CBF on the cover. None of this was a big deal then, but I was just 13 or 14 years old and not paying attention to stuff like that. As I left the school to go to high school, the county renamed the school for a long-time superintendent. That is the explanation I heard and I never did hear anything about the mascot or any Confederate controversy. Of course, the school was (and still is) located in an area not especially diverse in terms of demographics, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened in the last year around here if it still had the same name and mascot as when I attended it.

Sorry for getting off topic there, but that is my main background with the CBF. I did not grow up in a  major Confederate are or with Confederate family heritage. It was just a school I attended, so when the recent controversies around this symbol popped up, I had a lot to think about (as did many Civil War enthusiasts, I suppose.) I don't like seeing statues and other objects destroyed or removed, but I understand why they may bother some people. It's a very complicated topic, but I think the flag does belong in museums, at re-enactments, in historical places, even cemeteries. The recent story about a Washington D.C. travel magazine refusing to publish an ad for a Civil War museum because the logo featured a CBF in it bothered me. That is an appropriate use for the flag, and helps show the museum's mission.

Of course, I do recognize misuses of the flag as well. Anyone who tries to intimidate others with it is a fool, and only reinforcing stereotypes of those who like the flag. Denying how it has Bernie used in that way is also a mistake. Of course, this online experience has shown me that there are more than a few people who love that flag but do not see how their own behavior hurts their cause, while others do not recognize any negative connotations with its past usage. That is one of the things that my online experience has shown me. People who say they support and love the Confederacy are real, not just some story or theory I have heard, and I see that more than ever now, thanks to the access the Internet provides. This is a bigger world than I had previously realized.

Anyway, it is obvious there is a lot of bad information online, but there is also good information and even the bad information can be enlightening. People who post incorrect information do exist and that is important to remember. Why do they do that? Do they really believe what they say? Do they honestly. Percy others to believe it?

Another point is how modern political belief can affect a person's interpretation of history. It seems like some people interpret the past in a way that attempts to validate their current views, especially of politics. Or maybe they go the opposite - take modern views that match what they see as their heritage. I do not personally understand why something that happened so long ego should determine what I believe is right in the present. Some of my ancestors owned slaves, for instance, but that has no nfluence in my political views. Other people take different approaches, perhaps not always consciously, and that is something else this "online classroom" had shown me,. 

I still enjoy reading books, and need to do more of that, but the online world certainly has given me new perspectives on the Civil War and the people who study and/or enjoy it. There are a lot of people and beliefs in this world and the past few years has made that obvious to me. My small personal world has certainly grown in the past few years. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

1861 Poem: The First Guns of Sumter

This is from the Covington Journal of April 20, 1861, its first edition that mentioned the start of the Civil War. (Its editers apparently did not receive the news of Fort Sumter in time for the April 13th issue.)

This was certainly a pro-southern piece, written in the northern tip of Kentucky, a state of both Union and Confederate sympathies. I also noted the different references to "slaves," "Abolition's horde," "Abolitionsm," and "slavish myrmidons," indicating its author had a belief in a key issue in the war. 

By J.A. Hart 

Hark! the sound O, Southern brothers, that comes booming o'er the waves;
Sumter's deep-mouthed cannon, loud proclaiming you are slaves,
'Tis the thundering announcement of vile Abolition's horde,
That Southern Rights can be sustained but by the crimsoned sword.

How have we truly hoped for peace, have treated and have prayed,
Have trusted Abolitionism and meetly been betrayed!
Now through the banner of the breeze - draw the fulchion of the free,
And swear that while we trust in God, we'll bend no supplicant's knees.

Our wives, loves, sisters call on us - our mothers urge us too,
To seize our swords and take the field against our haughty foe;
With more than Spartan heroism they bid us to go forth,
And meet the slavish myrmidons thrown on us by the North.

We'll meet them, too - and that like men - though numerous as the sands,
With Right to lead and rifles in our steady, true right hands,
The God of Battles shall decide in this our last appeal,
If Liberty shall still be crushed beneath Oppression's heel.

Be our cities desolated, and our rvers stained with blood,
Be our best and bravest hidden 'neath their verdant native sod;
But never let a Southerner, who bows alone to God,
Debase his mother's teaching e'er or kiss a tyrant's rod.

Sweet Liberty! can men resign or tamely give thee up, 
Or listen to the siren's song, or taste the poisoned cup,
Of proffered peace, when purchased by what's dear to every heart -
The right to think, and feel and speak and set a manly part?

No! Spurn the siren, scorn the cup, and strike oppression down,
And peace shall yet triumphant'y your brows with laurel crown!
Fear not - our God when pleases Him, will give you his reward,
And still remain, throughout all time, your anchor staff and guard.
Covington, Ky., April 17, 1861

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

1862 Letter from the Siege of Cincinnati: Private William G.Johnson, 97th Ohio

Several months ago, I posted about an envelope I had acquired along with the letter inside. My intent was to follow that post up quickly with the transcription of the letter and some research on it. I clearly failed to follow up on that intention, for no one particular reason, but now I have fixed that and here is the text of the three-page letter as followed by my research and thoughts on it. (I have left the spelling and grammatical errors as they appear on the original, as they make it feel more genuine and do not hurt its readability. I did not add the distracting "sic" either, but did, however, break it up into paragraphs.)

Page 1 of letter

Covington, Kentucky
September 8, 1862

My dear wife. I sit down this after noon in the enemy country to write you a few lines to let you no how I am getting along. I am well and hope these few lines will find you injoing the same blessing.  

We left Zanesville yesterday morning and arrived here about three o’clock last night. Sabers were left in Zanesville and Walter Barnett allso Matt left camp with out leave and has not been heard of since. 

I do not no how long we will be here. We may leave in one hour’s time and we may not leave for one week. I heard that the 85th Ohio was here and I have been out looking for James and the rest of the (illegible - army?)  but I could not find any of them nor hear from them. 

Dear Mary. I suppose you have got my likeness. I sent it you you by CAS last  Saturday. Mary, I told CAS to tell you to give mother three dollars. Do so if you have not. 

Dear Mary I would love to have seen you once more before I left but I could not. Now Mary cheer up and keep in good spirits for I will take good care of my self and I do want you to do the same.

I must close for my time is limited. You need not write to me untill you here from me again. May God bless you Mary. 

Fare well, from your true and affectionate husband,

W.G. Johnson 

William Johnson had been born in Ohio in 1840, probably in Guernsey County. He enlisted as a private in Company B of the 97th Ohio Infantry regiment, on August 1, 1862, for a three-year term. (The company mustered in on September 1, 1862 at Camp Zanesville, Ohio.) He did not serve the entire term however as he was discharged on January 15, 1863 in Gallatin, Tennessee on a surgeon's certificate of disability, just a couple weeks after the Battle of Stone's River. Records do not indicate what caused the disability.

The Walter Barnett mentioned in the letter was a sergeant in the same company and a neighbor of the Johnson family. He was wounded at Kenesaw Mountain in 1864 and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, so he obviously did not desert as the letter indicated he may have done. 

"James" was likely William’s younger brother. He was a private in company I of the 85th Ohio, a three-month regiment that was also involved in the defense of Cincinnati.  

The identities of "Matt" and "CAS" are unknown. A search of the 1860 census showed one "Mathew Lennon" as a neighbor of the Johnson household. The only military record for him, however, shows he joined the 122nd Ohio Infantry.  It was also organized in Zanesville, but not until September 30, after this letter was written. Might Mathew have joined a three-month regiment like the 85th Ohio and then changed to the 122nd somehow? Perhaps his paperwork was incomplete or lost? Or, probably, "Matt" was someone else. 

No candidate for "CAS" seems obvious. (I capitalized it in my transcription, but it was in small letters in the document. My assumption is they are a person's initials, based on the context.)

I also wonder about the "likeness" he sent home. Did it make it there? How long did it survive? Perhaps it is still in someone's collection, stuck in a pile of old photographs of unidentified men and women. Or maybe one of his descendants still has it.

Anyway, Ohio Civil War Central tells the story of how Johnson and his comrades in the 97th Ohio ended up in Covington and its actions following this scare to Cincinnati, then the country's sixth largest city.

"On September 7, 1862, officials dispatched the 97th via railroad to Covington, Kentucky, where, the following day, the regiment took up a position near Fort Mitchel. Confederate General Kirby Smith was currently leading a raid in northern Kentucky, and authorities believed his goal was to capture Cincinnati, Ohio, which was located just north of Covington and across the Ohio River. The attack never materialized, and on September 20, 1862, the 97th boarded the steamer Emma Duncan and sailed for Louisville, Kentucky, arriving two days later. The regiment immediately joined the Army of the Ohio, which was preparing to pursue Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s army.  The Army of the Ohio departed Louisville on October 2, 1862 and engaged a portion of Bragg’s command on October 4, 1862 in a small skirmish at Bardstown, Kentucky. On October 8, 1862, the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky occurred. The 97th fought well in this engagement."
Fort Mitchel, courtesy
It is noteworthy that he referred to Covington as "enemy country." It is part of Kentucky, which was a slave state, but also remained in the United States. Covington lies along the northernmost border of Kentucky, on the south side of the Ohio River, the unofficial border between north and south at the time, at least west of the Mason-Dixon Line. Underground Railroad stations existed throughout the region, but, on the other hand, when John Hunt Morgan escaped from prison in Columbus, Ohio, he supposedly found a safe house one night in the Covington/Fort Mitchel area. Both sides of the war enjoyed support in the area, so it was not unreasonable for a northerner, even one from a state bordering Kentucky, to think of it as "enemy country," though it certainly caught my attention.

William married Mary Harper in 1865. They had eight or nine children, as records I found varied. He spent much of his life in Ohio, but by 1895 lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was in Minneapolis in 1905 and in the Minnesota Soldier's Home in the same city by 1910.

MN Soldier's Home, courtesy

Mary passed away in 1916 and William lived until January 5, 1921 when he died at the soldier's home. He is buried in section C, lot 204 at Hillside Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Rest in peace, private William Johnson.