Monday, November 24, 2014

American Reform Trust and Book Society

Well, going 2 weeks since my last post is not something about which I am happy, but the one I post here tonight will lead me to a couple more entries, though I still need to finish up a bit more research and editing on them. I doubt I finish them during this holiday week, but hopefully it won't be much longer until I finish at least the next one, and then I can work on another.

I have an antique book called Walter Browning, Or,  The Slave's Protector. It does not list an author but states it was "revised by the committee of Publication," presumably referring to the committee of the publishing company. The publisherwas the American Reform Tract and Book Society, who published it in Cincinnati in 1856. The title page claims that the book is "founded on fact."

I have not read it yet, though I might. I usually do not read such old books, but this one is in good shape, maybe good enough to be a reading copy, though it appears to be a children's book. Time will tell what I decide to do.

While looking through it, however, two sections caught my eye and I thought they would be worth exploring here. Each of these sections mentions something about the purpose for the book or the reasons for the society's existence, and I thought these ideas deserved attention, especially since this was published in the midst of such a turbulent decade. Anger and violence were becoming almost common responses  to the many controversies that popped up so frequently in this era. In just the year this book was published, Preston Brooks clubbed Charles Sumner over the head in the Senate, leaving Sumner seriously injured, while Kansas was earning the sobriquet "Bleeding Kansas," in part due to events such as the attacks led by John Brown and his family. See one of my early entries on this blog in which I discussed the 1850s a bit.

The 1850s as a Volcano

My eyes opened wider when I noticed that this book listed the society's President as John Rankin, a fascinating man who I believe will make a good subject for a future post or two. His association with this organization should not have surprised me, but I did not expect to see his name listed ther.  I'll start writing a post on his life soon, once I do some more research to gather and organize more details on his long anti-slavery career. 

The first section of this book that I will transcribe is the Preface.

The narrative recorded in the following pages is not without foundation. In the main points at issue, it is little else than the autobiography of one whose childhood was spent in those balmy regions, whose paradise of pleasure, bears, stamped in indelible characters, the impress of broken hearts, and the mournful existence of a race doomed to wander, despised and forgotten, through the dark mazes of a life of ignominious slavery.

With the hope, perchance, of arresting the attentions of some youthful readers, and fixing them upon the reality of that which perhaps they little dream exists in our own land, the scenes, herein depicted, drawn from actual life, are presented. They shadow forth the features  of an institution whose monuments are sundered ties, bleeding wounds, blasted hopes, the lash, the shriek, the groan, the grave.

Ye who rest in the easy lap of fortune, with scarce a wish delayed, or hope deferred, cast not aside these pages with the presumption that an idle breath of fancy gave them birth. Should they create within you sighs of pity for the lowly and oppressed, or arouse you to a sense of your own long forgotten duty, the highest wish of the Author will have been gained.

At the end of the book is a section about the publisher, explaining its reason for being and for creating publications like this book. It seems strange to think they expected a "healthful" agitation on slavery at that time, though on the other hand I suppose that financial troubles being part of their issue is not surprising. Even over 150 years ago, money mattered,even for a company in the publishing industry.

Cincinnati, February 1, 1856
The AMERICAN REFORM TRACT AND BOOK SOCIETY, it is believed, is the offspring of necessity, brought into existence to fill a vacuum left unoccupied by most other Publishing Boards and Institutions - its object being to publish such Tracts and Books as are necessary to awaken a decided, though healthful, agitation on the great questions of Freedom and Slavery. This is its primary object, though its constitution covers the broad ground of "promulgating the doctrines of the Reformation, to point out the application of the principles of Christianity to every known sin, and to show the sufficiency snd adaptation of those principles to remove all the evils of the world and bring on a form of society in accordance with the Gospel of Christ." To spread these principles of the Society broadcast over the land, it was at first thought a weekly newspaper was indispensable and the Christian Press was sent abroad, as on the wings of the wind, and we doubt not has done its mission for good. But, as funds were not furnished in sufficient amount to carry on a weekly issue, and add the number of Tracts and Books demanded, a year since, the Press was reduced in size, and issued only monthly. This change in policy has enabled the Society to relieve itself of a debt which, a year since, threatened its existence, and to add to the number of Tracts and Books, and, at the late annual meeting, to show assets in Stereotype Plates, Books, and Tacts, of over $2,500, including $1,184 in cash on hand, and clear of liabilities. This favorable change in the affairs of the Society, it is hoped will restore confidence, and lead the  active friends of Freedom and Reform to come forward in voluntary co-operation with the Directors, and add largely to our number of Tracts and Books, and to commission Colporteurs.

The offer of $100, for the best manuscript for an Anti-Slavery S.S. Book brought to our hands forty-eight competitors, and, although the prize was awarded to but one, there are a number worthy of publication; and thus, many useful books will be added to our list, if the means for publishing are provided. Besides these "competitors," we have other manuscripts for Tracts and Books, which we wish to publish without delay.

It is the aim of the present Directors to use all possible economy, and bring out a larger series of 
Tracts, and especially to increase the number of Sabbath School Books, so that Sabbath Schools may 
be furnished with Christian Anti-Slavery Literature, in connection with other subjects, without unnecessary delay.

At the late annual election, there was some change in the Officers (though not In the Principles) of the Society, it may be satisfactory to give them. They are  as follows:
President: Rev. John Rankin, Ripley, O.
A. A. Guthrie, Esq., Putnam, O.;
Rev. G. G. W. Perkins, Chicago, Ill.;
Rev. E Goodman,        " "          ";
Rev. J. Blanchard, Galesburgh, Ill.;
Rev. J. A. Thome, Cleveland, O.;
Rev. C. B. Boynton, Cincinnati, O.

Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer:
Dr. Geo. L. Weed

Recording Secretary:
A. S. Merrill

Rev. H. M. Stores, Congregational;
Prof. M. Stone, Baptist Theo. Sem'y,
Rev. H. Bushnell, Congregational,
Rev. R. H. Pollock, Associate Prebyt'n,
Rev. J. J. Blaisdell, Presbyterian,
Levi Coffin, Friend
Dr. J. P. Walker,
Wm.  Lee,
A. E. D. Tweed,
A. S. Merrill,
G. S. Stearns,
S. C. Foster.

In this Board of Directors, the active Friends of Freedom and Reform, and all others have a guaranty that the funds contributed will be judiciously expended, and the Society, now in a prosperous condition, will go forward, adding to its Tracts, Books, and Stereotype Plates, and its influence for good spread throughout the land.

This will be accomplished just in accordance with the amount of funds received; and contributors should recollect that the free-will offering, inclosed and sent by mail, will accomplish more than the same sum called for by an Agent.

The "Society Record" will hereafter be published monthly and sent free to all contributors and friends who will send us their address.

Geo. L. Weed,
Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Burning Shame

I certainly do not intend to turn this blog into a review of poems from and/or about the Civil a War ers, but if I find verses that interest me of that I think are worth sharing, I will post them here.

Today's poem comes from the antique Under Both Flags book that I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It is on page 211 and I thought it a bit humorous and amusing. Perhaps "reconciliation" is a theme of these lines too, though in a different format. I don't know if Dixie Wolcott is the suthor or the character in the poem

Dixie Wolcott

That there wasn't a saucier rebel
In all the sunny South,
'Twas easy to tell by the mischievous eyes
And the smile of her roguish mouth.

But how she hated the Yankees
She couldn't bear the name;
"How dared they come and whip us;
It was a burning shame!"

One of those self-same Yankees
Came to her Dixie one day,
And ere the week was over
She'd stolen his heart away.

But how should she treat her captive?
He couldn't be shot you know,
Because the war was ended
Two dozen years ago.

So in order to keep him prisoner
The rest of his life instead
She reckoned she'd have to marry him, tho'
"'Twas a burin shame," she said.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Volunteer day at Perryville November 22

 Here is a good opportunity to help a beautiful battlefield become even prettier.

Attention Volunteer Day Rescheduled
We rescheduled the volunteer day for Nov. 22nd  starting at 10:00 a.m..  We have three major projects.
1 – Building the rail fence at the Dixville Crossroads
2- Cleaning up the old barn site on the Russell Farm including burning all the debris left over from Park Days fence removal.
3 – Removing the roof shingles and cleaning out the barn on the Lester property.

We need bodies for all three of these projects.  We also need men who own chainsaws and can run them for work on the Dixville Crossroads.  Small trees need to be taken out so we can get the fence built.  We will use the small trees for the post and rider fence to be constructed in the spring on the HP Bottom farm.

The Friends of Perryville will provide hot soup lunch and drinks for our volunteers.  Plus we are gibing a 25% discount in the museum shop – Christmas is coming!  We really really really need your help for these projects. 

Unless it is a blizzard or torrential rain the projects the volunteer day is set in stone.  

If you need further information please email  or call the park at 859-332-8631.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October 31, 1864: "Sheridan's Ride" Makes its Debut

Sheridan's Ride is a poem that Thomas Buchanan Read wrote in late October 1864 in Cincinnati at the request of well-known  actor and performer James Murdoch, who was looking for fresh material to perform on stage. General Phil Sheridan had just become the hero of the fight at Cedar Creek in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He had left the area for a meeting in Washington D.C. As he was returning on the morning of October 19, he received reports of a battle going on and son found many of his men fleeing from the enemy. He rallied his troops, yelling "Give 'em hell boys! We'll sleep in our old camps tonight!"

The union troops did rally and earned one of the more spectacular victories - snatching victory from the jaws of defeat - of the late war. This victory gave the Union control of "the Valley" and earned great fame for Sheridan. It also inspired Murdoch with an idea for the new material he needed and Reed wrote it in quick fashion. Manty different artistic renditions of the charge, featuring Sheridan riding his horse, waving his hat or sword as he rallied his troops, also appeared.

Murdoch performed this poem on October 31 at the Pike Opera House in Cincinnati, and it became a quick national sensation, with newspaper coverage across the north telling the story of an aggressive leader on his heroic horse. Of course, Winchester is actually 12 miles from Cedar Creek, not 20 as the poem says, which I guess is an example of poetic license.

It may have even created additional enthusiasm for Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause as the 1864 Presidential election approached, though the short span of time before the November 8 election probably limited its potential influence, even as technology like railroads and the telegraph sped up the spread of information throughout the land.

Sheridan reputedly noted that the poem made his horse Rienzi (later renamed Winchester) the real hero, and laughed at his fairly accurate observation.

I have copied the verses from this site.  Here is another, more thorough  report on this campaign and poem and more information about Cincinnati's role in the creation of the poem.

Up from the South, at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door,
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.

And wider still those billows of war
Thundered along the horizon's bar;
And louder yet into Winchester rolled
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
With Sheridan twenty miles away.

But there is a road from Winchester town,
A good, broad highway leading down:
And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

Still sprang from those swift hoofs, thundering south,
The dust like smoke from the cannon's mouth,
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.
The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
With Sheridan only ten miles away.

Under his spurning feet, the road
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind
Like an ocean flying before the wind;
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,
Swept on, with his wild eye full of fire;
But, lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,
With Sheridan only five miles away.

The first that the general saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops;
What was to be done? what to do?--a glance told him both.
Then striking his spurs with a terrible oath,
He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because

The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play,
He seemed to the whole great army to say:
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day."

Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!
Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!
And when their statues are placed on high
Under the dome of the Union sky,
The American soldier's Temple of Fame,
There, with the glorious general's name,
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright:
"Here is the steed that saved the day
By carrying Sheridan into the fight,
From Winchester--twenty miles away!"

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"