Uncommon History

An uncommon look at history

The worn out "Slavery not an issue" argument

I believe in a free society that people are allowed (and ought to have) differing opinions. Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading and talking about the US Civil War so much. You would be hard-pressed to find many other topics that drive interesting and oftentimes unresolvable discussions.

Perhaps the greatest part about Civil War discussions is that the discussion does not have to go very deep before a engaging into a clash of wits. All one needs to do is ask the following question, “What started the US Civil War.” You ask that and you’ll be able to hold a conversation for hours.

Why? The answer to that question is yet another interesting conversation and good luck to you finding middle ground if your speaking partners don’t agree with you. These probably aren’t good conversation starters though for people who have done no research and only hold a personal opinion because it was what their daddy or their teacher told them.

I for one love to engage in the “reasons” debate. I don’t hold that my position is infallible, but I do like to challenge those who disagree with me to prove their points with facts rather than emotions. Passion is great and we are a country starving for it, but passion alone won’t settle a debate. It may start a war, but it won’t bring a reasonable end to a heated discussion. Which, in the end, is in large part, the catalyst of the US Civil War.

This all came back to my mind this weekend as my family and I enjoyed a wonderful weekend of warm weather. We ventured into downtown Austin and took in the sites around and within the Texas Capital. A few years have passed since I was last there and a few things have changed.

Those most noticeable changes are the highly secured entrances with their metal detectors and well staffed x-ray machines. The process of entering the Capitol is now much more restricted than it used to be, but unfortunately that is becoming more prevalent wherever one goes in our nation today. Once through the security though, the building itself is as marvelous as ever before.

We all took in the beauty and pride of the workmanship and attention to detail as we walked along the large halls. Then, while waiting for members of our party to take care of some personal business, I meandered down a back hallway that appears to gain little traffic. In that hallway I noticed an obscure plaque that seemed strangely placed out of the main traffic flow. When I read the words, I almost began to laugh out loud. But, in respect for the dead and for the allowed opinions of others, I remained calm.

Right there in the Texas Capitol building was the following plaque:

I can feel the passions stirring already! Before it gets out of control though, let it be known that I am a lover of history and I honor all veterans of the Civil War, Union and Confederate alike. As a reenactor I have lived “in their shoes” as closely as I could and I participated in both sides over the years. But seriously now, I cannot for the life of me understand the continuing argument that the war, the rebellion, the secession, whichever part of it, was not undertaken to further slavery.

I wholeheartedly understand the multitude of grievances filed against the Union when each State of the Confederacy withdrew from that body, but it boggles the mind when people continue to remove slavery as a major (if not THE major) issue of the divide.

I find it rather hypocritical for this plaque to be hanging where it does. Mainly because it was within the very walls of that building the Texas government that composed the following words:

She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.

I say this knowing that doing so will likely burst the passionate bubble that resides within some of our number, but I also stand by my knowledge and understanding of a life spent in study of this time period. I love our nation’s rich history and the Civil War period was fought by people with morals, integrity and valor and I do not hold them to account. I do hold accountable though, those that have come afterward trying to erase the truth.

Further Reading: Texas Secession Convention Records

NOTE OF CORRECTION

The Declarations of Causes of Secession were not composed within the current Texas Capitol. The current Capitol building was not finished until 1888, thus the secession convention was held within the original State House  which was located on adjacent ground south of the current Capitol. The location of the original building can be identified by the location of the Alamo and Texas Rangers monuments.

Victory at the Wilderness Battlefield!

This is not a post about the 1864 battle between Union and Confederate forces. Instead, it is an announcement of victory on the part of all the people who rallied together to get WalMart away from that hallowed ground.

It isn’t very often that WalMart retreats from their purposes, but for many, many reasons they have done the right thing and retreated from their plans to build on the Wilderness Battlefield.

The following is the Press Release from Civil War Trust:

(Orange, Va.) – In an unexpected development, Walmart announced this morning that it has abandoned plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.  The decision came as the trial in a legal challenge seeking to overturn the special use permit was scheduled to begin in Orange County circuit court.

“We are pleased with Walmart’s decision to abandon plans to build a supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield,” remarked James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust.  “We have long believed that Walmart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield.  We applaud Walmart officials for putting the interests of historic preservation first.  Sam Walton would be proud of this decision.”

The Civil War Trust is part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an alliance of local residents and national groups seeking to protect the Wilderness battlefield.  Lighthizer noted that the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition has sought from the very beginning to work with county officials and Walmart to find an alternative location for the proposed superstore away from the battlefield.

“We stand ready to work with Walmart to put this controversy behind us and protect the battlefield from further encroachment,” Lighthizer stated.  “We firmly believe that preservation and progress need not be mutually exclusive, and welcome Walmart as a thoughtful partner in efforts to protect the Wilderness Battlefield.”

In August 2009, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial special use permit to allow construction of the Walmart Supercenter and associated commercial development on the Wilderness Battlefield.  A wide range of prominent individuals and organizations publicly opposed the store’s location, including more than 250 American historians led by Pulitzer Prize-winners James McPherson and David McCullough.  One month after the decision, a group of concerned citizens and the local Friends of Wilderness Battlefield filed a legal challenge to overturn the decision.

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–6, 1864, was one of the most significant engagements of the American Civil War.  Of the 185,000 soldiers who entered combat amid the tangled mass of second-growth trees and scrub in Virginia’s Orange and Spotsylvania counties, some 30,000 became casualties.  The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, composed of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Civil War Trust, seeks to protect this irreplaceable local and national treasure.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.  To date, the Trust has preserved nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states.  Learn more at www.civilwar.org.

Louisiana secedes

Signing the Ordinance of Secession of Louisiana“The vote on submitting the ordinance to the people was taken this morning—ayes 45, nays 84. John Perkins addressed the Convention on the passage of the secession ordinance. The debate closed, and a vote was ordered. The galleries and lobbies were intensely crowded, and a deathlike silence prevailed. On the call of the roll many members were in tears. The Clerk announced the vote—ayes 113, nays 17—and the President declared Louisiana a free and sovereign republic.” -Harper’s Weekly, February 9, 1861

Ordinance of Secession

AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of Louisiana and other States united with her under the compact entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

We, the people of the State of Louisiana, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance passed by us in convention on the 22d day of November, in the year eighteen hundred and eleven, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America and the amendments of the said Constitution were adopted, and all laws and ordinances by which the State of Louisiana became a member of the Federal Union, be, and the same are hereby, repealed and abrogated; and that the union now subsisting between Louisiana and other States under the name of “The United States of America” is hereby dissolved.

We do further declare and ordain, That the State of Louisiana hereby resumes all rights and powers heretofore delegated to the Government of the United States of America; that her citizens are absolved from all allegiance to said Government; and that she is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which appertain to a free and independent State.

We do further declare and ordain, That all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or any act of Congress, or treaty, or under any law of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.

Adopted in convention at Baton Rouge this 26th day of January, 1861.

53d Illinois Company I

Company I

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53d Illinois Infantry Rosters

OrganizationMuster LocationRemarks
Field and Staff
Non-Commissioned Staff
Band
Unassigned Recruits
Company ALaSalle County(Also known as Cogswell's Battery, Ford's Cavalry Company)
Company BLaSalle & Grundy counties
Company CLaSalle County
Company DLaSalle County
Company EKankakee & Mason counties
Company FLaSalle County
Company GLivingston & Shelby counties
Company HMarshall & Peoria counties
Company ILaSalle County
New Company ILaSalle County
Company KLaSalle County

Confederate flag controversy in Marshall, Arkansas

Confederate FlagsOn Monday night, January 24, 2011, the city council of Marshall, Arkansas passed an ordinance prohibiting the flying of any flag other than U.S. flag and Arkansas flag on city property.

The ordinance, passed in an emergency session, was a response to numerous complaints against the flying of the Confederate flag over City Hall. The flag had reportedly been waving over the public building from January from January 14th until January 17th in remembrance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

Mayor Jim Smithson, was reported to say that he didn’t regret the decision to honor the memory of Robert E. Lee with the flag. Another member of the council, Kenneth Daniel, also supported the decision and was quoted as saying, “It just should be freedom of speech. If you want to fly the confederate flag for Robert E. Lee Day, fly it.”

The Confederate Flag has been an object of controversy for many years and will likely to continue to divide public opinion. Many people see it as a sign of hatred and bigotry that should be put away while others see it as a memorial to ancestors who gave their lives fighting for a cause they believed in.

The debate is one that is worthy of civil discourse.

The Angel of Marye’s Heights is NOW on DVD!

Press Release:
It is with great pleasure that Right Stripe Media announces the immediate availability of “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” on DVD. This long-anticipated release commemorates the beginning of the Sesquicentennial (150th) of the American Civil War.

In addition to the 30-minute documentary, 7 additional Bonus Features (1+ hour) are included: Dramatic Mercy-Scene, Richard Warren’s “Portrayal of a Hero” Monologue, “Living History” with Kathleen Warren, Cast and Crew Outtakes and Behind the Scenes Slideshow with Will White’s ‘Fredericksburg 1862’ title song, Director and Producer Premiere Comments and Scans of Richard Kirkland Letters.

Get your copy today!

Angelina Emily Grimke

Georgia Secedes

Among those States that seceded from the Union, perhaps one of the most contested (internally) was that of Georgia. Th prevailing sentiment at the outset was one of solidarity with the Union. During the first meeting of secession delegates on January 16, 1861, the future vice-president of the Confederacy provided a strikingly prophetic, pro-Union statement.

“The secession of Georgia, once taken can never be recalled; and all the baleful and withering consequences that must follow will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war which this act of yours will inevitably invite and call forth; when our green fields of waving harvests shall be trodden down by the murderous soldiery and fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes; all the horrors and desolation of war upon us–who but this Convention will be held responsible for it?”

Deep and emotional calls both for and against secession continued throughout the convention, but on January 19th, 1861, the final vote was cast. The outcome was a 208 to 89 decision in favor of secession.

Georgia Ordinance of Secession

Georgia Scession Delegates

Georgia Scession Delegates

An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of Georgia and other States united with her under a compact of government, entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America:

We, the people of the State of Georgia, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the ordinance adopted by the people of the State of Georgia, in Convention on the Second Day of January in the Year of Our Lord Seventeen Hundred and Eight-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was assented to, ratified, and adopted; and also, all acts, and parts of acts, of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying and adopting amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby Repealed, Rescinded, and Abrogated.

“We do further Declare and Ordain, that the Union now subsisting between the State of Georgia and other States, under the name of the United States of America, Is Hereby Dissolved, and that the State of Georgia is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of Sovereignty which belong and appertain to a Free and Independent State.”

George W. Crawford, of Richmond, President

Georgia Declaration of Causes of Secession

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation.

For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.

They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. Our people, still attached to the Union from habit and national traditions, and averse to change, hoped that time, reason, and argument would bring, if not redress, at least exemption from further insults, injuries, and dangers. Recent events have fully dissipated all such hopes and demonstrated the necessity of separation. Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia, after an equally full and fair and deliberate hearing of the case, have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them. A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution. While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen. The opposition to slavery was then, as now, general in those States and the Constitution was made with direct reference to that fact. But a distinct abolition party was not formed in the United States for more than half a century after the Government went into operation. The main reason was that the North, even if united, could not control both branches of the Legislature during any portion of that time. Therefore such an organization must have resulted either in utter failure or in the total overthrow of the Government. The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency. The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country.

But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded– the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all.

All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. An anti-slavery party must necessarily look to the North alone for support, but a united North was now strong enough to control the Government in all of its departments, and a sectional party was therefore determined upon. Time and issues upon slavery were necessary to its completion and final triumph. The feeling of anti-slavery, which it was well known was very general among the people of the North, had been long dormant or passive; it needed only a question to arouse it into aggressive activity. This question was before us. We had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it. These propositions were refused, the agitation became general, and the public danger was great. The case of the South was impregnable. The price of the acquisition was the blood and treasure of both sections– of all, and, therefore, it belonged to all upon the principles of equity and justice.

The Constitution delegated no power to Congress to excluded either party from its free enjoyment; therefore our right was good under the Constitution. Our rights were further fortified by the practice of the Government from the beginning. Slavery was forbidden in the country northwest of the Ohio River by what is called the ordinance of 1787. That ordinance was adopted under the old confederation and by the assent of Virginia, who owned and ceded the country, and therefore this case must stand on its own special circumstances. The Government of the United States claimed territory by virtue of the treaty of 1783 with Great Britain, acquired territory by cession from Georgia and North Carolina, by treaty from France, and by treaty from Spain. These acquisitions largely exceeded the original limits of the Republic. In all of these acquisitions the policy of the Government was uniform. It opened them to the settlement of all the citizens of all the States of the Union. They emigrated thither with their property of every kind (including slaves). All were equally protected by public authority in their persons and property until the inhabitants became sufficiently numerous and otherwise capable of bearing the burdens and performing the duties of self-government, when they were admitted into the Union upon equal terms with the other States, with whatever republican constitution they might adopt for themselves.

Under this equally just and beneficent policy law and order, stability and progress, peace and prosperity marked every step of the progress of these new communities until they entered as great and prosperous commonwealths into the sisterhood of American States. In 1820 the North endeavored to overturn this wise and successful policy and demanded that the State of Missouri should not be admitted into the Union unless she first prohibited slavery within her limits by her constitution. After a bitter and protracted struggle the North was defeated in her special object, but her policy and position led to the adoption of a section in the law for the admission of Missouri, prohibiting slavery in all that portion of the territory acquired from France lying North of 36 [degrees] 30 [minutes] north latitude and outside of Missouri. The venerable Madison at the time of its adoption declared it unconstitutional. Mr. Jefferson condemned the restriction and foresaw its consequences and predicted that it would result in the dissolution of the Union. His prediction is now history. The North demanded the application of the principle of prohibition of slavery to all of the territory acquired from Mexico and all other parts of the public domain then and in all future time. It was the announcement of her purpose to appropriate to herself all the public domain then owned and thereafter to be acquired by the United States. The claim itself was less arrogant and insulting than the reason with which she supported it. That reason was her fixed purpose to limit, restrain, and finally abolish slavery in the States where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity. This particular question, in connection with a series of questions affecting the same subject, was finally disposed of by the defeat of prohibitory legislation.

The Presidential election of 1852 resulted in the total overthrow of the advocates of restriction and their party friends. Immediately after this result the anti-slavery portion of the defeated party resolved to unite all the elements in the North opposed to slavery an to stake their future political fortunes upon their hostility to slavery everywhere. This is the party two whom the people of the North have committed the Government. They raised their standard in 1856 and were barely defeated. They entered the Presidential contest again in 1860 and succeeded.

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.

With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers.

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.

For forty years this question has been considered and debated in the halls of Congress, before the people, by the press, and before the tribunals of justice. The majority of the people of the North in 1860 decided it in their own favor. We refuse to submit to that judgment, and in vindication of our refusal we offer the Constitution of our country and point to the total absence of any express power to exclude us. We offer the practice of our Government for the first thirty years of its existence in complete refutation of the position that any such power is either necessary or proper to the execution of any other power in relation to the Territories. We offer the judgment of a large minority of the people of the North, amounting to more than one-third, who united with the unanimous voice of the South against this usurpation; and, finally, we offer the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial tribunal of our country, in our favor. This evidence ought to be conclusive that we have never surrendered this right. The conduct of our adversaries admonishes us that if we had surrendered it, it is time to resume it.

The faithless conduct of our adversaries is not confined to such acts as might aggrandize themselves or their section of the Union. They are content if they can only injure us. The Constitution declares that persons charged with crimes in one State and fleeing to another shall be delivered up on the demand of the executive authority of the State from which they may flee, to be tried in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. It would appear difficult to employ language freer from ambiguity, yet for above twenty years the non-slave-holding States generally have wholly refused to deliver up to us persons charged with crimes affecting slave property. Our confederates, with punic faith, shield and give sanctuary to all criminals who seek to deprive us of this property or who use it to destroy us. This clause of the Constitution has no other sanction than their good faith; that is withheld from us; we are remediless in the Union; out of it we are remitted to the laws of nations.

A similar provision of the Constitution requires them to surrender fugitives from labor. This provision and the one last referred to were our main inducements for confederating with the Northern States. Without them it is historically true that we would have rejected the Constitution. In the fourth year of the Republic Congress passed a law to give full vigor and efficiency to this important provision. This act depended to a considerable degree upon the local magistrates in the several States for its efficiency. The non-slave-holding States generally repealed all laws intended to aid the execution of that act, and imposed penalties upon those citizens whose loyalty to the Constitution and their oaths might induce them to discharge their duty. Congress then passed the act of 1850, providing for the complete execution of this duty by Federal officers. This law, which their own bad faith rendered absolutely indispensible for the protection of constitutional rights, was instantly met with ferocious revilings and all conceivable modes of hostility. The Supreme Court unanimously, and their own local courts with equal unanimity (with the single and temporary exception of the supreme court of Wisconsin), sustained its constitutionality in all of its provisions. Yet it stands to-day a dead letter for all practicable purposes in every non-slave-holding State in the Union. We have their convenants, we have their oaths to keep and observe it, but the unfortunate claimant, even accompanied by a Federal officer with the mandate of the highest judicial authority in his hands, is everywhere met with fraud, with force, and with legislative enactments to elude, to resist, and defeat him. Claimants are murdered with impunity; officers of the law are beaten by frantic mobs instigated by inflammatory appeals from persons holding the highest public employment in these States, and supported by legislation in conflict with the clearest provisions of the Constitution, and even the ordinary principles of humanity. In several of our confederate States a citizen cannot travel the highway with his servant who may voluntarily accompany him, without being declared by law a felon and being subjected to infamous punishments. It is difficult to perceive how we could suffer more by the hostility than by the fraternity of such brethren.

The public law of civilized nations requires every State to restrain its citizens or subjects from committing acts injurious to the peace and security of any other State and from attempting to excite insurrection, or to lessen the security, or to disturb the tranquillity of their neighbors, and our Constitution wisely gives Congress the power to punish all offenses against the laws of nations.

These are sound and just principles which have received the approbation of just men in all countries and all centuries; but they are wholly disregarded by the people of the Northern States, and the Federal Government is impotent to maintain them. For twenty years past the abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions and to excite insurrection and servile war among us. They have sent emissaries among us for the accomplishment of these purposes. Some of these efforts have received the public sanction of a majority of the leading men of the Republican party in the national councils, the same men who are now proposed as our rulers. These efforts have in one instance led to the actual invasion of one of the slave-holding States, and those of the murderers and incendiaries who escaped public justice by flight have found fraternal protection among our Northern confederates.

These are the same men who say the Union shall be preserved.

Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican party, who have been called by their own votes to administer the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States. We know their treachery; we know the shallow pretenses under which they daily disregard its plainest obligations. If we submit to them it will be our fault and not theirs. The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquility.

Cushman’s Brigade 31st Reunion

I always get excited when I come across historical memorabilia that is related to the 53d Illinois Infantry. Yesterday, while scanning the internet as I sometimes do, I came across a great find!

Veterans of all wars will tell you that the experiences and hardships they face with their “brothers” form a permanent bond. The Grand Army of the Republic was a manifestation of this post-war experience. At a lower level still were reunions of individual brigades. An artifact of one such event is what I found.

Attached is the program and roster of the 31st Annual reunion of Cushman’s brigade, aka the 53d Illinois Infantry. One item of note that really excited me was to find further evidence of my great-great grandfather’s membership of that unit. On page 18, you will find his name listed (O’leary, John) and his residence of Fonda, Iowa. Such genealogical clues can be hard to find, but it is one more dot in my family’s history.

Cushmans Brigade 31st Reunion

Click on the image for the file

No more of your Yankee tomfoolery

Here is an interesting anecdote, told by Doctor William H. Watson, of Company B, 53d Illinois:

On the 24th of February, 1864, sixteen men and myself were detailed to go out foraging to procure meat, meal and flour for our regiment. At this time, we had a large foraging party detailed from each regiment in the corps, as we had started from the rear of Vicksburg for Meridian, Mississippi, with quarter rations for ten days, and had been out some twenty-five days; so that we had to subsist off the country. Subsequently we were detailed from the foraging party to act as alarm guard, with orders to join the main squad at Willis’ plantation, near Katley’s Ferry, on Pearl River.

At 4 o’clcock in the afternoon, after staying on post, and running around over the surrounding country all day, we started to join the main squad at the appointed rendezvous. On coming-out from some timber to the main Canton road, we were twelve miles from Canton, Mississippi, and looking up the road toward Willis’ place, we saw a body of men.

We supposed, of course, that they were our own squad, when behold! they ran up their colors (detailed foraging parties never carry colors), and so we saw at once that we were facing the Johnnies, the first we had seen on our trip, and now were nearly back to Vicksburg, after going to Meridian, Miss., and accomplishing that for which we went, tearing up railroads. It seemed to me, as I sat on my horse there,
and looked at those Johnnies, as if there were a whole division of them.

While we remained in the timber, looking at the Johnnies and debating what to do, another regiment went by us on the road, not over twenty rods from where we were. We concluded that the regiment that had passed us were our own men, and decided to give the enemy the best we had, and then vamoose ; so we rode up to the fence and fired all at once. I tell you we shook them up terribly.

We kept up a lively fire for a time ; and then became bold. With a dash we rode up to the Johnnies, about four or five regiments, and demanded their surrender, telling them that our troops were just coming out of the woods. One of our boys, Dan Buckley, of the I4th Iowa, was especially bold. Riding up to an Alabama colonel, he placed a revolver to the colonel’s head, and said:

“Surrender, you rascal! ”

Of course the colonel accepted the inevitable and surrendered. We were just thinking what we would do with our prey until we could get assistance, sixteen men against 6,000, when to our mortification the supposed Federal troops which passed us in the woods came up, proving to be the 56th Alabama Johnnies.

“Now, then,” said our Alabama colonel, whom we had just taken prisoner, “who has the trump card ? No more of your Yankee tomfoolery, give us your guns.”

“I beg your pardon, colonel,” said Buckley.

“Not much; there’s no pardon for audacity of your kind,” returned the colonel. “I guess you’re destined for Andersonville,” where, sure enough, we did go, and thence to Florence, where we remained over nine months.

This excerpt was taken from: Campfire Chats of the Civil War, Washington Davis, 1884

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