A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence
PART XI. NORTHERN TYRANNY
In part eleven we briefly examine the often overlooked or ignored issues involving the Union’ governments abuse of power including short -circuiting the balance of power. a review of the Missouri-Kansas border wars and the increased carnage caused by Jayhawkers and Red legs. This section examines the forced enlistments of black Americans and their treatment in the Union army, and several orders issued by key Union commanders against the Southern people.
Objective: To develop an awareness of Union governmental constitutional abuses and the uncivilized orders and action of Union forces during the war.
A. Lincoln’s Tyranny: Abuse of the US Constitution
During the war period, President Abraham Lincoln made himself an enemy to many Northerners due to his disregard for them in the overall scheme of subjugation of the South. Soon after the outbreak of war, Lincoln sought to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. According to the Constitution this action was reserved to an act of Congress. Lincoln disregarded the Constitution and proceeded to arrest innocent citizens of states in the North, simply for speaking sympathetically for the South publicly. These people would never be charged with any crimes.
U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Lincoln had overstepped his power, maintaining that only Congress had the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Taney’s opinion seriously embarrassed Lincoln and his advisers. Southern sympathizers and Northern opponents of the war praised Taney as a partisan of civil liberties standing alone against military tyranny. Taney’s opinion exacerbated the delicate situation in Maryland, a border state yet undecided in its commitment to the Union. Lincoln responded by threatening to arrest Chief Justice Taney. According to Marshal Lamon, “After due consideration the administration determined upon the arrest of the Chief Justice.” Lincoln issued a presidential arrest warrant for Taney, but then arose the question of who should make the arrest and should Taney be imprisoned?” The warrant was produced to arrest Taney, following his opinion in the case of “Ex parte Merryman” in May 1861. It was finally determined to place the order of arrest in the hands of the United States Marshal for the District of Columbia. Lincoln gave the warrant to him, instructing Lamon to “use his own discretion about making the arrest unless he should receive further orders.” All the Merryman decision did, was to require the government to follow the ancient rule of English law which was set forth in the Constitution, that only the Congress could take away the right of habeas corpus. That would have required Lincoln to call Congress into session, and ask Congress to suspend the right to habeas corpus.
The account of the warrant to arrest the Chief Justice cannot be found in any of the innumerable Lincoln biographies or accounts of the early days of the Civil War. Since it only recently surfaced, Lincoln historians and biographers have never mentioned the story, probably because it has been outside the main stream of historical information, and hence has not been known. Once it surfaced, Lincoln apologists and Civil War gatekeepers, have been quick to attack the account as a fabrication, because Lincoln would never have done such a thing; and, it would have set off “a political firestorm,” so they say; and hence, it is just too preposterous to be true. The American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1865 stated that the total number of military arrests in the North, during the War Between the States, had been thirty-eight thousand. (Columbia Law Review, XXI, 527–28, 1921)
This presidential abuse of power and warping of the constitution would rank at the top of the list tyranny conducted in the North. It in effect destroyed the separation of powers; destroyed the place of the Supreme Court in the Constitutional scheme of government. It would have made the executive power supreme, over all others, and put the President, the military, and the executive branch of government, in total control of Northern society and invaded territories it controlled. Lincoln believed that the end justified the means, when the end was to preserve the Union through subjugation of the South and his objective was to be achieved regardless of the Constitution and rulings of the Supreme Court. Lincoln expressed that policy to a Chicago clergyman: “As commander in chief of the army and navy, in time of war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy.”
The records of the Provost Marshal’s office, in Washington, D.C., also show that from June, 1861, until January 1, 1866, the cases of some thirty-eight thousand citizens had been arrested and made prisoner without the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus. Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William H. Seward, allegedly told Lord Lyons, the British minister in Washington, that he “could ring a bell on his desk and arrest a citizen anywhere in the United States. Could even the Queen of England do as much?” Seward asked.
One of the most shocking cases of Lincoln’s actions involved a Mr. Clement Vallandigham, a prominent politician from Dayton, Ohio. Vallandigham opposed preservation of the Union by war. After the Fort Sumter incident he had become the leader and chief spokesman of the Peace Democrats, or “Copperheads,” so called because they wore copper pennies as identifying badges. To meet the Copperhead agitation, Lincoln declared the State of Ohio a military department and placed it under the command of U.S. Maj. General Ambrose T. Burnside. On May 1, 1863, Vallandigham, now running for governor, opposed this measure in a speech at Mount Vernon, Ohio. Burnside considered the speech treasonable and ordered Vallandigham arrested and tried before a military court.
In the middle of the night of May 5, 1863, one day after the crushing Union defeat at Chancellorsville, Virginia, a company of U.S. troops barged into Vallandigham’s home, broke down the door, and dragged him from his bed. He was hurried off to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be tried for sedition. As news of his arrest spread, a group of Vallandigham’s friends gathered at 110 Main Street, the office of the Dayton Journal. The paper had made itself obnoxious to those who opposed the war. The crowd became unruly, and the worried mayor of Dayton called out the fire department and extra policemen.
Rioters cut the fire hose and threw rocks and blazing pitch-balls through the windows. One ball landed inside in a collection of newspapers, and soon the entire building was aflame. The fire spread to adjacent buildings and destroyed nearly half a downtown business block, doing some $90,000 damage. In addition, the mob hindered the efforts of firefighters.
Republicans had feared a riot and earlier had asked General Burnside to detail troops to Dayton. These troops quickly brought the riot under control, and Dayton was placed under martial law. Burnside also suspended publication of the Empire, whose inflammatory editorials had fanned the flames of the riot, and arrested editor John. T. Logan.
At a farcical trial in Cincinnati, Vallandigham was put before eight U.S. officers for violation of Burnside’s Order No. 38, which stated, “GENERAL ORDERS, No. 38. HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 13, 1863. The commanding general publishes, for the information of all concerned, that hereafter all persons found within our lines who commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country will be tried as spies or traitors, and, if convicted, will suffer death. This order includes the following class of persons: Carriers of secret mails; writers of letters sent by secret mails; secret recruiting officers within the lines; persons who have entered into an agreement to pass our lines for the purpose of joining the enemy; persons found concealed within our lines belonging to the service of the enemy, and, in fact, all persons found improperly within our lines who could give private information to the enemy, and all persons within our lines who harbor, protect, conceal, feed, clothe, or in any way aid the enemies of our country. The habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested, with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends. It must be distinctly understood that treason, expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this department. All officers and soldiers are strictly charged with the execution of this order. By command of Major-General Burnside”
Vallandigham refused to enter a plea in the sham proceedings, noting that “I am here in a military Bastille for no other offense than my political opinions.” Regardless, Vallandigham was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment at Fort Wagner in Boston Harbor. In reply to New York protesters, Lincoln said simply, “The imprisonment of Mr. Vallandigham’s case was to prevent injury to the military service.” Protests against this arrest continued. Lincoln faced a major political embarrassment. If he undercut the court’s findings, he would look soft on Copperheads; the last thing he wanted on the eve of a vital election. On the other hand, if he allowed the sentence to stand, Vallandigham would continue to be an obvious martyr to despotic injustice. Finally, faced by continued protests, Lincoln took action, commuting Vallandigham’s prison sentence and having him conveyed, under a flag of truce, across Confederate lines at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on May 25, 1863.
Vallandigham went on to North Carolina and then took passage to Bermuda and then left there to settle in Windsor, Ontario. While in Canada, the Ohio Democratic Party nominated him for governor. A 20-1 vote against Vallandigham by U.S. soldiers tipped the election in Republican John Brough’s favor and Vallandigham’s moment of political fame was over.
Traveling secretly, he unexpectedly appeared at the state Democratic convention in Hamilton, Ohio, later that summer, “by his own act and pleasure.” Many Northerners protested Lincoln’s actions with Vallandigham. The Lacrosse, Wisconsin Democrat said that Lincoln, “is the fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism…a worse tyrant and more inhuman butcher than existed since the day of Nero.”
Even a longtime Lincoln supporter, New York diarist George Templeton Strong, was dismayed by Lincoln’s policy of arresting innocent civilians. He said, “Not one of the many hundreds illegally arrested and locked up for months has been publicly charged with any crime. All this is very bad – imbecile, dangerous, unjustifiable.” Information from various sources received in August and September, 1861, convinced the U.S. government that there was a serious threat of the secession of Maryland. The secessionists of that state possessed about two-thirds of each branch of the state legislature, and the U.S. government had what it regarded as good reasons for believing that a secession convention of the legislature was about to be convened at Frederick on the 17th of September in order to pass an ordinance of secession.
On the 10th of September Hon. Simeon Cameron, Secretary of War, instructed U.S. General Banks to prevent the passage of any act of secession by the Maryland legislature, directing him to arrest all or any number of the members, if necessary, but in any event to do the work effectively.
On the same day the Secretary of War instructed U.S. General Dix to arrest six conspicuous and active secessionists of Baltimore, three of whom were members of the legislature. General Dix sent to Secretary Seward and General George B. McClellan marked lists of the legislature. In his letters he strongly approved of the intended arrests, and advised that those arrested should be sent to New York harbor by a special steamer. The total number of arrests made was about sixteen, and the result was the thorough upsetting of whatever plans the secessionists of Maryland may have entertained. Francis Key Howard, the grandson of Francis Scott Key, had been among many Baltimoreans arrested in September of 1861. By December 1862, he had finished a manuscript about his prison experiences, and the book made its appearance in print early in 1863. Howard’s work made a special point “to show how men who were guiltless were treated in this age, and in this country” and stressed the crowded conditions and Spartan hardships of prison life.
Howard was arrested on the morning of September 13, 1861, at about 1 o’clock, by order of U.S. General Banks, and taken to Fort McHenry. Howard said of his condition, “When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that day forty-seven years before my grandfather, Mr. Francis Scott Key, then prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the Star-Spangled Banner. As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”
Missouri was the unhappy birthplace of trials by military commission in the United States. For a four-year period, then, Congress indulged the military establishment’s view that it must be able to deal with its direct suppliers by the methods of military discipline and justice. Thus the trials of contractors listed in the judge advocate general’s register of courts-martial were technically courts-martial and not trials by military commission. The congressional act of July 17, 1862, made some army contractors triable by courts-martial. Congress went further in 1863 and made defaulting contractors a part of the army, subject to the articles of war.
More than half (55.5%) of the trials of military commission of civilians occurred in the strife-torn border states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. By far the largest number from any single state occurred in Missouri. Dozens of British, Irish, or Canadian citizens were arrested and still more prisoners claimed foreign citizenship in hopes of being released. For such persons, the State Department was the logical place to inquire, but other distressed relatives and lawyers must have been puzzled about whom to approach. Lincoln never issued a public proclamation giving authority over these matters to the State Department. The War and Navy departments also made arrests on their own, and State’s authority over civilian prisoners was never certain or clear, nor necessarily effective. Generals made arrests, and state officials ordered them as well.
At a Democratic mass meeting in Lima, Ohio, in the fall of 1863, the central theme of the elaborate floats in the giant parade was “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That particular slogan appeared on a wagon holding sixty-four ladies pulled by a sixteen-horse team. “Peace, and no Dictator!” proclaimed another float, while six four-horse teams pulled wagons with girls aged five to nine chanting “Vallandigham and Liberty.” Over five hundred women rode horseback in the parade, and there were over three hundred wagons. Eight horses pulled a float called the “Lincoln Bastille,” with eight old men representing prisoners in Ohio’s different military prisons.
References and Details:
“The South Was Right” by James R. Kennedy and Walter D. Kennedy, Chapter 1 & 4
“The Truths of History” by Mildred L. Rutherford, Chapter 6, 12, 14
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates”, by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 10 & 29
“When in the Course of Human Events”, by Charles Adams
“The Lawmen: United States Marshals and their Deputies, 1789–1989”, by Fredrick Calhoun
“Military And Political Activity” Confederate Military History, Vol. 1 The Civil History Of The Confederate States Chapter XIV
“Officers Of Civil And Military Organizations”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 1
“Maryland’s First Patriotic Movement in 1861”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 2 CHAPTER II
“Maryland’s Overthrow”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 2 CHAPTER III
“Marylanders in the Campaigns of 1861”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 2 CHAPTER V
“Maryland Under Federal Military Power “,Confederate Military History, Vol. 2 CHAPTER VIII
“The South Since the War”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 12
Southern Historical Society Papers Vol. I. Richmond, Virginia, June, 1876. No. 6. Attack On Fort Gilmer, September 29th, 1865
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXVI. Richmond, Va., January -December. 1898. The Confederate Cause And Its Defenders
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXIX. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1901. Report Of The History Committee
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXVII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1899. President Lincoln Further Arraigned. His Autocratic Sway and “Want of Principle.”
“Morgan’s Men In Ohio-Curious Union Damage Claims”, Southern Historical Society Papers. Richmond, Va., April, 1914. New Series, Vol. 1, Old Series, Vol. XXXIX
“The Critical Situation”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 1 The Civil History Of The Confederate States Chapter XXIII
B. Terror in Missouri, The Jayhawkers, Red Legs, Lane, and Jennison.
James H. Lane was known as the “Grim Chieftain” for the death and destruction he brought on the people of Missouri. As a United States Senator from Kansas , Lane returned to his home state in the summer of 1861 to organize what was called “Lane’s Brigade or Lane’s frontier Guard”. It was the first military organization to reach Washington in 1861 from the west. His brigade was composed of Kansas infantry and cavalry. This force was, in fact, a ruthless band of Jayhawkers (plundering marauders) wearing United States uniforms. Lane was to retain his Senate seat while occasionally rampaging through Missouri. In western Missouri, the conflicting sentiments of Missouri residents were further complicated by proximity to Kansas and an almost decade long conflict between the residents of the two states. Many Kansans regarded Missourians as crude Southerners, devoid of education and culture. Many Missourians, conversely, regarded Kansans as fanatical busy bodies who threatened to disrupt order with their wild abolitionist schemes. When war came, many prominent Kansas agitators of the 1850s saw the war as an opportunity to punish backward and disloyal Missourians. “Assuming all Missourians to be enemies,” writes Michael Fellman, “Kansas regiments believed it was their task to suppress them, to strip them of the means of resistance to Union authority as systematically as possible.”
From the first the local authorities, civil and military, had regarded the brigade with apprehension. Kansas Governor Robinson wrote “We are in no danger of invasion,” General Fremont, commander of the Western Department, September 1st, “provided the government stores at Fort Scott are sent back to Leavenworth, and the Lane brigade is removed from the border. It is true small parties of secessionists are to be found in Missouri, but we have good reason to know that they do not intend to molest Kansas” He further stated “when a guerrilla party came over and stole some property from our citizens, the officers in command of the Confederates compelled a return of the property, and offered to give up the leader of the gang to our people for punishment. But what we have to fear, and do fear, is, that Lane’s brigade will get up a war by going over the line, committing depredations, and then returning into our state. This course will force the secessionists to retaliation] and in this they will be joined by nearly all the Union men of Missouri. If you will remove the supplies at Fort Scott to the interior, and relieve us of the Lane brigade, I will guaranty Kansas from invasion”
Charles Jennison, a Kansas Militia leader was sent by Lane to restore peace to the border. Missourian, Russell Hinds made the mistake of crossing the Kansas line to visit his mother. Hinds was accused of having caught a fugitive slave and hauling him back to Missouri. Jennison held a vigilante trial. Hinds was found guilty and hanged. A week later, Jennison held another vigilante trial for a named Samuel Scott of Linn County, Kansas who was accused of participating in the lynching of two free-state men. He was found guilty and hanged. Another man named Lester D Moore was also accused of the lynching and knowing the fate of Hinds and Scott, refused to surrender and was killed. Jennison and his company of Redlegs, attacked Morristown in July of 1861, plundering the village. They took seven men as prisoners. They were court-martialed and sentenced to death. Their graves were dug and they were forced to kneel down beside them. They were blindfolded and shot. The graves were covered and Jennison and his men rode off. In September 1861, Jennison raided Independence, Missouri. The male residents were herded to the Town Square where they were prodded with points of sabers and bayonets while Jennison’s Redlegs threatened to kill them. Jennison’s routes were marked with burning buildings, pillage and death. Many citizens were murdered by Union troops. Men were called to their doors at night by militia and shot dead or were taken from their homes and hung.
Union Captain Prince, in command at Fort Leavenworth, wrote Lane September 9th: “I hope you will adopt active and early measures to crush out this marauding which is being enacted in Captain Jennison’s name, as also in yours, by a band of men representing themselves as belonging to your command.”
In September of 1861 Lane and his men descended on the boarder town of Osceola, Missouri. This community of 2,000 was the county seat of St. Clair County, Missouri. It was here that Lane and his “Red Legs” established their criminal reputation. His troops wore red leather leggings thus giving them their unique name. James Montgomery was colonel of the Third regiment and Jennison of the Seventh. These two men, as well as Lane, were anxious to wreak vengeance upon the Missourians. When Lane’s troops found a cache of Confederate military supplies in the town, Lane decided to wipe Osceola from the map. First, Osceola was stripped of all of its valuable goods which were loaded into wagons taken from the townspeople. Then, nine citizens were given a farcical trial and shot. Then Lane’s men went on a wild drinking spree. Finally, his men brought their frenzy of pillaging, murder and drunkenness to a close by burning the entire town, a senseless act of terror providing no military advantage to the Union. Over $ 1,000,000 worth of property damage was done including that belonging to pro-Union citizens. Lane’s brigade is noted in stealing 360 horses, 400 head of cattle, and 200 slaves. The brigade left the destruction heavily encumbered with plunder. said Lane, “Everything disloyal must be cleaned out,” and never were orders more literally or cheerfully obeyed. Even the chaplain succumbed to the rampant spirit of thievery, and plundered Confederate altars in the interest of his unfinished church at home. Among the spoils that fell to Lane personally there was a fine carriage, which he brought to Lawrence for the use of his household. Later, in November 1861, Kansas troops led by Jennsion came across the border into Jackson County Missouri, where they terrorized suspected secession residents.
At intervals Lane’s Red-legs gangs would dash into Missouri, seize horses and cattle, not omitting other and worse outrages on occasion, then return with their booty to Lawrence, where it was defiantly sold at auction. Red-legs were accustomed to brag in Lawrence that nobody dared to interfere with them. They did not hesitate to shoot inquisitive and troublesome people. At Lawrence the livery stables were full of their stolen horses. One day three or four Red-legs attack a Missourian who was in town searching for lost property. They gathered about him with drawn revolvers and drove him off very unceremoniously. The gang contained men of the most desperate and hardened character, and a full recital of their deeds would sound like the biography of devils. Either the people of Lawrence could not drive out the freebooters, or they thought it mattered little what might happen to Missouri disloyalists. Governor Robinson made a determined, but unsuccessful effort to break up the organization. The Red-legs repaid the interference by plots for his assassination, which barely miscarried.
After complaints were received over and over about Jennison and his company of Redlegs the 7th Volunteer Regiment, they were ordered to go to New Mexico. Upon receiving the orders, Jennison gave a speech to incite desertion; he was arrested and jailed. Powerful abolitionists in Washington DC secured his release and he and his regiment were sent to Kentucky instead.
Lane made a furious harangue at Leavenworth October 8th in defense of his campaign. He wrote President Lincoln the next day: “I succeeded in raising and marching against the enemy as gallant and effective an army, in proportion to its numbers, as ever entered the field. Its operations are a part of the history of the country. Governor Charles Robinson has constantly, in season and out of season, vilified myself and abused the men under my command as marauders and thieves.” When Union General Hunter took charge of the department in November, Lane’s brigade, according to the report of Assistant Adjutant-General C. G. Halpine, was “a ragged, half-armed, diseased, mutinous rabble, taking votes whether any troublesome or distasteful order should be obeyed or defied. Had the department, as previously, been without troops from other states, there is every probability that a general mutiny would have taken place instead of the partial mutinies which have been suppressed.” The thieving, foot-pad, devastating expedition of Lane’s brigade did much to incite animosities and reprisals, whose ghastly work sent horror through the country.
Lane unfolded his plans for further raids shaped evidently by the recent experiences of his brigade, to General McClellan. He proposed to extirpate disloyalty in Missouri and Arkansas. If conciliatory methods should not be successful, he would employ the most violent. “Sir, if I can’t do better I will kill the white rebels, and give their lands to the loyal blacks!”
Rumors reached General Halleck that Lane would be commissioned brigadier-general, and he immediately forwarded a remonstrance to headquarters. “I cannot conceive a more injudicious appointment,” he wrote General McClellan. “It will take twenty thousand men to counteract its effect in this state, and, moreover, is offering a premium for rascality and robbery.” President Lincoln indorsed upon Halleck’s communication, which was of considerable length, and touched various topics — “an excellent letter; though I am sorry General Halleck is so unfavorably impressed with General Lane.” Concerning the “expedition” Halleck said “I protest against any of his