Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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ready, in May, 1868, to proceed to the
seat of war in South Carolina, ap-
plication was made in their behalf to
the Chief of Police of New York for
advice as to the propriety of taking
that city in their route, and march-
ing down Broadway. He responded
that they could not be protected
from insult and probable assault if
they did so. They thereupon pro-
ceeded wholly by water to their des-
tination. Within seven or eight
months thereafter, two ^ew York
regiments of Blacks, raised by vol-
untary efforts mainly of the Loyal
League, though discountenanced by
Gov. Seymour, marched proudly
down Broadway and embarked for
the seat of War, amid the cheers of
enthusiastic thousands, and without
eliciting one discordant hiss.

The use of negroes, both fi-ee and
slave, for belligerent purposes, on
the side of the Rebellion, dates from
a period anterior to the outbreak of
actual hostilities. So early as Jan.
1st, 1861, a dispatch from Mr. R. Jl.
Baordan, at Charleston, to Hon. Per-

cy Walker, at Mobile, exultingly

proclaimed that —

"Large gangs of negroes from planta-
tions are at work on the redoubts, which
are substantially made of sand-bags and
ooated with sheet-iron.*'

A Washington dispatch to The

Evening Post (New York), about

this time, set forth that —

"A gentleman from Charleston says that
everything there betokens active prepara-
tions for fight. The thousand negroes busy
in building batteries, so far from inclining
to insurrection, were grinning from ear to
ear at the prospect of shooting the Yan-

The Charleston Mercury of Jan.
8d, said:

"We learn that 160 able-bodied free
colored men, of Cliarleston, yesterday of-
fered their services gratuitously to the
Governor, to hasten forward the important
work of throwing up redoubts wherever
needed along our coast.*'

The Legislature of Tennessee, that

negotiated that. State out of the

Union, by secret treaty with the

Confederate Executive, passed" an

act authorizing the Governor (Isham

G. Harris) —

**to receive into the military service of
the State all male free persons of color,
between the ages of 15 and 50."

These Black soldiers were to re-
ceive $8 per month, with clothing
and rations. The sheriff of each
county was required, under the pen-
alties of misdemeanor, to collect and
report the names of all such per-
sons ; and it was further enacted —

"That, in the event a suflScient num-
ber of free persons of color to meet the
wants of the State shall not tender their
Bervices, the Governor is empowered,
through the sheriffs of the different coun-
ties, to pfe99 such persons until the requi-
site number is obtained."

The Memphis Avalanche joyously
proclaimed *^ that —

" A procession of several hundred stout
negro men, members of the ^ domestic in-

' June 16, 186i.

*June28, 1861.

' Sept 3, 1861.

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Btitatlon,' marched through our streets
yesterday in military order, nnder com-
mand of Oonfederate officers. They were
all armed and equipped with shovels, axes,
blankets, ^. A merrier set were never
seen. They were brimful of patriotism,
shouting for Jeff. Davis and singing war-

And again, fonr days later :

" Upward of 1,000 negroes, armed with
spades and pickaxes, have passed through
the city within the past few days. Their
destination is unknown ; but it is supposed
that they are on their way to the *• other
aide of Jordan.' "

The drafting of Bkcks, and espe-
cially of slaves, by thousands, to
work on Hebel forti^cations, was, in
general, rather ostentatiously para-
ded throughout the earlier stages of
the War. The Oonfederate Congress
was finally constrained to regulate
by law the impressment of property
for military service ; and its general
"Act to regulate Impressments"**
provides —

" Sec. 9. Where slaves are impressed by
the Oonfederate Government, to labor on
fortifications, or other public works, the
impressment shall be made by said (Govern-
ment according to the rules and regula-
tions provided in the laws of the State
wherein they are impressed; and, in the
absence of such law, in accordance with
such rules and regulations, not inconsistent
with the provisions of this act, as the
Secretary of War shall from time to time
prescribe : Provided^ That no impressment
of slaves shall be made when they can be
hired or procured by the consent of the
owner or agent.

*'8ec. 10. That, previous to the Ist day
of December next, no slave laboring on a
farm or plantation, exclusively devoted to
the production of grain and provisions,
shall be taken for the public use, without
the consent of the owner, except in case
of urgent necessity.''

The Lynchburg Republican (Va.)
had, so early as April, chronicled the
volunteered enrollment of 70 of the
free negroes of that place, to fight in
defense of their State ; closing with —

'* Three cheers for the patriotic free ne-
groes of Lynchburg I"

The next recorded organization of
negroes, especially as Eebel soldiers,
was at Mobile, toward Autumn ; and,
two or three months later, the follow-
ing telegram was flashed over the
length and breadth of the rejoicing
Confederacy :

" Nbw Obuaks, Nov. 28, 1861.

" Over 28,000 troops were reviewed to-
day by Gov. Moore, Mm. Gen. Lovell, and
Brig.- Gen. Ruggles. The line was over
seven miles long. One re^ment comprised
1,400 free colored men."

The (Rebel) L^lature of Yii^
ginia was engaged, so early as Feb.
4, 1862, on a bill to enroll all the
free negroes in the State, for sOTvice
in the "Rebel forces; which was favor-
ed by all who discussed it ; when it
passed to its engrossment, and pro-
bably became a law.

All these, and many kindred move-
ments in the same direction, preced-
ed Mr. Lincoln's first or premonitory
Proclamation of Freedom,*' and long
preceded any organization of n^ro
troops to fight for the Union. The
credit of having first conquered their
prejudices against the employment
of Bl^ks, even as soldiers, is fiurly
due to the Rebels. Had the negroee
with equal facility overcome iheir
repugnance to fighting for their own
enslavement, the Black contingent
in the Rebel armies might soon have
been very little inferior to the White,
either in numbers or in efficiency.

Yet Mr. Lincoln's initial Procla-
mation aforesaid had hardly been
diffused throughout the Confederacy,
when measures of deadly retaliation
and vengeance were loudly pressed
on every hand. That a Government
struggling against a Rebellion found-
ed on Slavery, should threaten to

'Approved, March 26, 1863.


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fight the consequence through the
cause, was esteemed an 'immeasur-
able stretch of presumption. The
following dispatch aptly embodies
the preyailing sentiment: —

" Ghakleston, S. 0., Oct. 18, 1862.
" How. Wm. p. Milbs, Richmond, Va. :

" Has the hill for the execution of Aboli-
tion prisoners, after January next, been
passed ? Do it ; and England will be stirred
into action. It is high time to proclaim
the black flag after that period. Let the
execution be with the garrote.

(Signed) " G. T. Bba.xtreoabd."

Prior to the issue ** of President
Lincoln's later, xmconditional edict of
emancipation, Jefferson Davis had,
in proclaiming" the outlawry of
Gen. Butler and his oflScers,** decreed
that all slaves captured in arms be
turned over to the Executives of their
several States, to be dealt with ac-
cording to law, and that a similar
disposition be made of their White
officers. So, in his third Annual
Message,** he dealt, of course, very
harshly with President Lincoln's final
Proclamation of Freedom, then re-
cently promulgated, which he stig-
matized as a violation of a solemn
assurance embodied in the author's
Liaugural Address, and in the resolve
of the Chicago Convention therein
quoted.** Mr. Davis hailed the
proclamation as an admission that
the Union could never be restored,
and as a guaranty that such restora-
tion was impossible. Says the C<mi-
federate chief:

'* It has established a state of things which
can lead to but one of three possible con-
sequences — the extermination of the. slaves,
the exile of the whole White population of
the Oonfederacj, or absolute and total sepa-
ration of these States fVom the United
States. This proclamation is also an au-
thentic statement by the Government of
the United States of its Inabilitj to subju-
gate the South by force of arms, and, as
such, most be accepted by neutral nations,

which can no longer find any justification in
withholding our just claims to formal recog-
nition. It is also, in effect, an intimation
to the people of the North that they must
prepare to submit to a separation, now be-
come inevitable; for that people are too
acute not to understand that a restitution
of the Union has been rendered forever im-
possible by the adoption of a measure which,
from its very nature, neither admits of re-
traction nor can oOexbt with union."

But the passage which more es-
pecially concerns Negro Soldiership
is the following :

^^ We may well leave it to the instincts
of that common humanity which a bencufi-
cent Creator has implanted in Ihe breasts
of our fdlow-men of all countries to pass
judgment on a measure by which several
millions of human beings of an inferior race
— peaceftil and contented laborers in their
sphere — ^are doomed to extermination, while
at the same time they are encouraged to a
general assassination of their masters by the
insidious reconunendation to abstain from
violence unless in necessary self-defense.
Our own detestation of those who have
attempted the' most execrable measures re-
corded in the history of guilty man is tem-
pered by profound contempt for the impo-
tent rage which it discloses. So far as
regards the action of this Gk>vemment on
such criminals as may attempt its execu-
tion, I confine myself to informing you that
I shaU — ^unless in your wisdom you deem
some other course more expedient— deliver
to the several State authorities all commis-
sioned officers of the United States that
may hereafter be captured by our forces in
any of the States embraced in the procla-
mation, that they may be dealt with in ac-
cordance M'ith the laws of those States
providing for the punishment of criminals
engaged in exciting servile insurrection.
The enlisted soldiers I shall continue to treat
as unwilling instruments in the commission
of these crimes, and shall direct their dis-
charge and return to their homes on the
proper and usual parole.''

The Confederate Congress took up
the subject soon afterward, and, after
protracted consideration, ultimately
disposed of it by passing the following :

^^Beiohedj hy the Congress of the Con-
federate States of America^ In response to
the message of the President, transmitted
to Congress at the commencement of the
present session. That, in the opinion of

• Jan. 1, 1863. " Dea 23, 1862. •• See p. 106. " Jan. 12, 1863. •• See Vd. L, p. 422.

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Congress, the commissioned officers of the
enemj ought not to he delivered to the aa-
thorities of the respective States, as sug-
gested in the said message, but all captives
taken bj the Confederate forces ought to be
dealt with and disposed of bj the Confede-
rate Qovemnient.

**Seo. 2. That, in the judgment of Con-
gress, the proclamations of the President of
the United States, dated respectively Sep-
tember 22d, 1862, and January 1st, 1868,
and the other measures of the Government
of the United States and of its authorities,
commanders, and forces, designed or tending
to emancipate slaves in the Confederate
States, or to abduct sucb^slaves, or to incite
them to insurrection, or to employ negroes
in war against the Confederate States, or
to overthrow the institution of African
Slavery, and bring on a servile war in these
States, would, if successful, produce atro-
cious consequences, and they are inconsist-
ent with the spirit of those usages which,
in modem warfare, prevail among civilized
nations; they may, therefore, be properly
and lawfully repressed by retaliation.

"Seo. 8. That in every case wherein,
during the present war, any violation of the
laws or usages of war among civilized na-
tions shall be, or has been, done and perpe-
trated by those acting under the authority
of the Government of the United States, on
the persons or property of citizens of the
Confederate States, or of those under the
protection or in the land or naval service
of the Confederate States, or of any State
of the Confederacy, the President of the
Confederate States is hereby authorized to
cause full and ample retaliation to be made
for every such violation, in such manner and
to such extent as he may think proper.

** Seo. 4. That every White person, being
a commissioned officer, or acting as such,
who, during the present war, shall com-
mand negroes or mulattoes in arms against
the Confederate States, or who shall arm,
train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulat-
toes for military service against the Con-
federate States, or who shall voluntarily aid
negroes or mulattoes in any military enter-
prise, attack, or conflict, in such service,
shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrec-
tion, and shall, if captured, be put to death,
or be otherwise punished at the discretion
of the court.

" Seo. 5. Every person, being a commis-
sioned officer, or acting as snch in the ser-
vice of the enemy, who shall, during the
present war, excite, attempt to excite, or
cause to be excited, a servile insurrection,
or who shall incite, or cause to be incited,
a slave to rebel, shall, if captured, be put

to death, or be otherwise pmiiflhed at the
discretion of the court.

** Seo. 6. Every person charged with an
offense punishable under the preceding reso-
lutions shall, during the present war, be
tried before the military court attached to
the army or corps by the troops of which
he shall have been captured, or by such
other military court as the President maj
direct, and in such manner and under such
regulations as the President shall prescribe ;
and, after conviction, the Premaent maj
commute the punishment in such manner
and on such terms as he may deem proper.

" Seo. 7. All negroes and mulattoes who
shall be engaged in war, or be taken in arms
against the Confederate States, or shall
give aid or comfort to the enemies of the
Confederate States, shall, when captured
in the Confederate States, be delivered to
the authorities of the State or States in
which they shall be captured, to be dealt
with according to the present or future
laws of such State or States."

The connection between the prem-
ises here allied and the action based
thereon is by no means obvious. For
more than two years, negroes had
been extensively employed in bellige-
rent operations by the Oonfedera<^,
They had been embodied and drilled
as Eebel soldiers, and had paraded
with" White troops at a time when
this wonld not have been tolerated in
the armies of the Union. Yet, in
the face of these notorious facts, it
is here provided that " every White
person, being a conmiissioned officer,
or acting as such, who, during the
present war, shall command negroes
or miclaUoes [whether ever slaves or
not] in arms against the Confederate
States, shall, ^ captured, he jnU to
deathj or otherwise punished at the
discretion of the court."

Sobfie of the leading and most
thorough Kebel journals, on reflec-
tion, admitted that this was unjusti-
fiable — ^that the Confederacy could
not prescribe the color of citizens of
the Free States, never in bondage at

** At New Orleaos, see p. 522.

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the South, whom our Government
might justifiably employ as soldiers.
But the resolve nevertheless stood for
years, if not to the last, unrepealed
and unmodified, and was the primary,
fundamental impediment whereby
the exchange of prisoners between
the belligerents was first interrupted ;
so that tens of thousands languished
for weary months in prison-camps,
where many thousands died of expo-
sure and starvation, who might else
have been living to this day.

Secretary Stanton, having learned
that three of our Black soldiers cap-
tured with the gunboat Isaac Smith,
in Stono river, had been placed in
close confinement, ordered three of
our prisoners (South Carolinhms) to
be treated likewise, and the fact to be
communicated to the Confederate
leaders. The Richmond Examiner ^
commenting on this relation, said :

^*It is not merely the pretension of a
reg^olar Government affeotmg to deal with
* Rebels,' but it is a deadly stab which they
are aiming at oar institutions themselves
— because they know that, if we were in-
sane enough to yield this point, to treat
Black men as the equals of White, and in-
surgent slaves as equivalent to our brave
soldiers, the very foundation of Slavery
would be fatally wounded."

After one of the confiicts before

Charleston, an immediate exchange

of prisoners was agreed on ; but,

when ours came to be received, only

the Whites made their appearance*

A remonstrance against this breach

of faith was met by a plea of want

of power to surrender Blacks taken

in arms, because of the resolve just

quoted and orders based thereon;

and this was probably the immediate

impulse to the issue of the following

General Order :

"Executive Mansioit, )
"Washington, July 80, 1863. (

" It is the duty of every Government to
give protection to its citizens, of whatever
class, color, or condition, and especially to
those who are duly organized as soldiers in
the public service. The law of nations^ and
the usages and customs of war, as carried
on by civilized powers, permit no distinction
as to color in the treatment of prisoners of
war as public enemies. To sell or enslave
any captured person, on account of his col-
or, and for no offense against the laws of
war, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime
against the civilization of the age.

" The Government of the United States
will give the same protection to alUits sol-
diers ; and if the enemy shall sell or enslave
any one because of his color, the offense
shall be punished by retaliation upon the
enemy^s prisoners in our possession.

" It is therefore ordered that, for every
soldier of the United States killed in viola-
tion of the laws of war, a Rebel soldier shall
be executed ; and for every one enslaved by
the enemy or sold into Slavery, a Rebel sol-
dier shall be placed at hard labor on public
works, and continued at such labor until
the other shall be released and receive the
treatment due to a prisoner of war.

"Abraham LraooLN.
" By order of the Secretary of War,

" K D. TowNSEND, Assist Adj't.-Gen."

It must not be presumed that, be-
cause either belligerent had decided
to make all possible use of Blacks in
the prosecution of the "War, the op-
position to this policy in Congress or
in the Democratic journals and pop-
ular harangues was foregone. Far

** In discnssliig the first bill that came before
the Senate involving directly the policy of. arm-
ing negroes to fight for the Union, Mr. Preston
Kmg — ^who very rarely spoke, and never with
bitterness — said:

" I have done talking in such a manner as to
•void giving offense to our enemies in this mat-
ter. I think it was the captain of the watch
here at the Capitol who came and consulted me
about getting permission to omit, during the ses-
sions of the Senate, to hoist the flag on the top

of the Capitol ; and, when he was asked what he
wanted to omit that for, he said he feared it
might be supposed that he desired to save labor
and trouble, but he really suggested it because
it hurt these people about here to look at it — ^to
see the flag on the top of the Capitol I had not
done much ; but I wrote a letter very promptly
to the Secretary of the Interior, stating the fact,
and saying that I did not care whom he appoint-
ed, but I wanted that man removed. He vxu
removed; and, within ten days, was with the
enemy at Manassas.*'

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The Army Appropriation bill be-
ing before the Senate, Mr. Garrett
Davis, of Kjr., moved " to add :

" Provided^ That no part of the sums ap-
propriated by this act shall be disbareed for
the pay, snbsistence, or any other sappliesi
of any negro, free or slave, in the armed
military service of the United States."

Which was rejected: Yeas 8;

Nays 28 :

Yeas — ^Messrs. Oarlile, G. Davis, Ken-
nedy, Latham, Nesmith, Powell, Tnrpie,
and Wall (all Democrats).

At the next session — ^the Deficien-
cy bill being before the House — ^Mr.
Harding, of Ky., moved " to insert —

" Providedy That no part of the moneys
aforesaid shall be applied to the raising,
arminff, equipping, or paying of negro sol-

Which was likewise beaten : Yeas
41 J Nays 106— the Teas (all Demo-
crats) being

Messrs. Ancona, Bliss, James S. Brown,
Ooffroth, Cox, Dawson, Dennison, £Men,
Edgerton, Eldridge, Finck, Grider, Hall,
Harding, Harrington, Benjamin G. Harris,
Charles M. Harris, Philip Johnson, William
Johnson, King, Knapp, Law, Long, Marcy,
McEinney, William H. Miller, James B.
Morris, Morrison, Noble, John O'Neill, Pen-
dleton, Samnel J. Bandall, Rogers, Ross,
Scott, Stiles, Stronse, Stnart, Chilton A.
White, Joseph W. White, Yeaman.

No other War measure was so
• strenuously, unitedly, persistently,
vehemently resisted by the Opposi-
tion, whether Democratic or Border-
State Unionists, as was the proposal
to arm Blacks to uphold the Na-
tional cause. Said Mr. S. S. Cox, of

"I believe the object of gentlemen, in
forcing this bill here, is to bring abont— or,
rather, to make final and forever — a disso-
lution of the Union. ♦ * ♦ Every man along
the border [Ohio] will tell you that the Union
is for ever rendered hopeless if yon pursue
this policy of taking the slaves from the mas-
ters and arming them in this civil strife."

The regular, authorized, avowed

employment of Blacks in the Union

armies — ^not as menials, but as sol-
diers — ^may be said to have begun
with the year 1863 — that is, with the
issue of the President's absolute Pro-
clamation of FreedouL 3Cr. Stan-
ton's first order to raise in the loyal
States three years' men, with express
permission **to include persons of
African descent,'' was that issued to
Gov. Andrew, Jan, 20th of this year ;
which was promptly and heartily re-
sponded to. In March, Gen. Lorenzo
Thomas, Adjutant-General of our
Army, was dispatched from Wash-
ington to the Mississippi Valley,
there to initiate and supervise the
recruiting and officering of Black re-
giments — a duty which he discharged
with eminent zeal and efficiency ;
visiting and laboring at Memphis,
Helena, and other points, where
Blacks were congr^ated, addressing
them in exposition of the Emancipa-
tion policy, and urging them to re-
spond to it by rallying to the flag of
their country. To our officers and
soldiers, in a speech at Lake Provi-
dence, La.,** he forcibly said :

" Yon know fbll well — for yon have been
over this conntry — ^that the Rebels have
sent into the field all their avidlable fighting -
men— every man capable of beairing arms :
and yon know they have kept at home all
their slaves for the raising of subsistence for
their armies in the field. In this way, they
can bring to bear against ns all the strength
of their so-called Confederate States ; while
we at the North can only send a portion of
our fighting force, being compeUed to leave
behind another portion to cultivate our
fields and snpply the wants of an immense
army. The Administration has determined
to take from the Rebels this source of snpply
— to take their negroes and compel them to
send back a portion of their Whites to col*
tlvate their deserted plantations— and very
poor persons they would be to fill the place
of the dark-hued laborer. They most do
this, or their armies will starve. ♦ ♦ ♦

*^ All of yon will some day be on picket-
duty ; and I charge yon all, if any of this

*^ Jan. 28, 1863.

••Dea21, 1868.


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nnfortnnate race come within your lines,
that you do not turn them away, bat re-
ceive them kindly and oordiaUy. They are

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 75 of 113)