Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 26, 1863

August 26, 1863

---The bombardment of Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, continues, although the fort is nearly in ruins and yet the garrison has not been significantly weakened thereby, except that none of the fort’s large guns are workable by this point.  The Rebels refuse to concede or evacuate.  The U.S. Navy begins to work at clearing the harbor channels of torpedoes, since Sumter cannot fire on the crews.  Fort Wagner, meanwhile, is the object of interest from Gen. Gillmore, the area’s Federal commander.  He orders an attack that captures the rifle pits in front of the fort, but the fort remains in Confederate hands.  However, both of these projects are postponed due to the advent of a fourth major hurricane of the season on the Carolina coast. 

---George Templeton Strong writes in his journal about the aftermath of the deadly Draft Riots in New York City in the month preceding:

It seems certain that the riot of July has damaged Seymour and his friends seriously in this city.  It has stirred up also a feeling against Irishmen more bitter and proscriptive than was displayed by the most thorough Native American partisans* in former times.  No wonder.  The atrocities those Celtic devils perpetrated can hardly be paralleled in the history of human crime and cruelty, and were without shadow of provocation or excuse.

---Harper’s Weekly publishes an editorial about the use of black troops:

THE magnificent behavior of the Second Louisiana colored regiment at Port Hudson recalls the fact that it is just two years since a warning, uttered in the columns of this journal, that if this war lasted we should arm the negroes, and use them to fight the rebels, was received with shrieks of indignation, not only at the South and in such semi-neutral States as Maryland and Kentucky, but throughout the loyal North and even in the heart of New England. At that time the bulk of the people of the United States entertained a notion that it was unworthy of a civilized or a Christian nation to use in war soldiers whose skin was not white. How so singular a notion could have originated, and how men should have clung to it in the face of the example of foreign nations and our own experience in the wars of 1776 and 1812, can only be explained by referring to the extraordinary manner in which for forty years slavery had been warping the heart and mind of the American people. A generation of men had grown up in awe of slavery, and in unchristian contempt of the blacks. And that generation declared that it would not have negro soldiers. . . .

---Pres. Lincoln, having been invited to a rally back home in Illinois in support of the Union (and against Emancipation), writes a gracious answer for his friend James Conkling to read to the assemblage, stating in return that he is unable to attend, addressing the issues of many Midwesterners’ dissatisfaction with Emancipation and Negroes serving in the army.  Among others, Lincoln makes these arguments:


MY DEAR SIR:—Your letter inviting me to attend a mass meeting of unconditional Union men, to be held at the capital of Illinois, on the 3d day of September, has been received. It would be very agreeable for me thus to meet my old friends at my own home, but I cannot just now be absent from here so long as a visit there would require.

The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion to the Union, and I am sure that my old political friends will thank me for tendering, as I do, the nation's gratitude to those other noble men whom no partisan malice or partisan hope can make false to the nation's life. . . .

A compromise, to be effective, must be made either with those who control the rebel army, or with the people, first liberated from the domination of that army by the success of our own army. Now allow me to assure you that no word or intimation from that rebel army, or from any of the men controlling it, in relation to any peace compromise, has ever come to my knowledge or belief. All charges and insinuations to the contrary are deceptive and groundless. . . .

But, to be plain: You are dissatisfied with me about the negro. Quite likely there is a difference of opinion between you and myself upon that subject. I certainly wish that all men could be free, while you, I suppose, do not. Yet, I have neither adopted nor proposed any measure which is not consistent with even your view, provided you are for the Union. I suggested compensated emancipation; to which you replied you wished not to be taxed to buy negroes. But I had not asked you to be taxed to buy negroes, except in such way as to save you from greater taxation to save the Union exclusively by other means.

You dislike the Emancipation Proclamation, and perhaps would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional. I think differently. I think the Constitution invests its commander-in-chief with the law of war in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there, has there ever been, any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed? And is it not needed whenever it helps us and hurts the enemy?

But the proclamation, as law, either is valid or is not valid. If it is not valid it needs no retraction. If it is valid it cannot be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life. Some of you profess to think its retraction would operate favorably for the Union, why better after the retraction than before the issue? There was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the proclamation was issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless averted by those in revolt returning to their allegiance. The war has certainly progressed as favorably for us since the issue of the proclamation as before. . . .

You say that you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively, to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time then for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes. I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept.

The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea. Thanks to the great Northwest for it; nor yet wholly to them. . . . Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay, and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that among freemen there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost. And there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clinched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have striven to hinder it.

Still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy, final triumph. Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in His own good time, will give us the rightful result.

Yours very truly,


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