Uncommon History

An uncommon look at history

John Brown's Raid

John Brown

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October 16-18, 1859 – John Brown’s Raid

There is without a doubt considerable politics and manuevering prior to John Brown’s raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. However, because of the actual physical action and public trial and hanging, this event is the most commonly cited action that pointed towards the coming conflict.

Most of us are at least partially familiar with the story. John Brown, considered a fanatic by President Abraham Lincoln, attempted to storm the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in order to obtain weapons and incite an armed revolution on the part of and by slaves.

Much more has been written on this account and you can find suitable background at the following links (and your public library):

For more Civil War History, visit the Civil War Timeline


Uncommon History – Relatively unknown facts about this event

John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement

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(One researcher’s look into John Brown and the people who helped to fund him)

Victory at Davis Bridge Battlefield

Yes, I have been quite absent this summer. It has been a whirlwind of family fun and adventure that is winding down in its final week. I did, however, want to thank any and all of you who have helped the effort to preserve an additional 643 acres of the Davis Bridge Battlefield.

I recieved word today that the goal was reached and the battlefield HAS BEEN SAVED!!!

Victory at Davis Bridge

Charge! Oppose the latest WalMart plans

I am just now getting back up to speed with my blog posts and as I was performing some research for another article, I came across some more startling news from the big-box greed of Wal-Mart. It appears that the corporate executives at Wal-Mart are among those stalwart groups of money-grubbers that would have our hallowed ground that was stained with the blood and bravery of fallen heroes to be trampelled upon for pure economic gain.

Please join me and thousands of other like-minded lovers of the United States of America in opposing the construction of a 138,000 square-foot store upon Wilderness Battlefield!!

Civil War Preservation Trust: Wilderness Walmart

Tuesday Tract #5

The Death of Freedom – Part 3

Page 39

Even then the proposition that has just been successfully carried would have been rejected with abhorrence. Great and little politicians declare’s that these concessions were made only because the Constitution demanded it. Their sacrifice was Jephtha’s, but so was their necessity, and their lamentation. But any attempt to remove an ancient landmark, any disturbance of ancient settlements, will never be allowed. No concessions to slavery. 0, no! Onily a painful fulfillment of agreements which our fathers made, only a declining to exasperate our brethren of the South by a useless proviso; and so, by soft words and a flattering tongue, by a heart that deceived itself; the governmnent became the bloodhound of the slaveholder, to track and catch his God-like property. So our vast possessiolns, acquired by our blood and treasure, became an Aceldama, a field of blood unto this day. And great men and good men shouted loud hlosannas over these peaceful measures, and declared that Ie who lioldeth the winds in Ilis fists would bind these contending breezes, and that there should be a great calm. Ah! the anaconda was only resting from his bloody feasts. Now and then he opes his ponderous jaws, and swallows dow-n, as a sweet morsel, the body and the soul of a Long, or a Sims, some poor Christian free man or free -Noman. But its fell hunIger does not yet gliaw within. And we only said, ” It is the price of the Uiiion, this precious Union. It is the condition of our couitry’s existence. Throw the slave Daniel into the Southern den of lions. Our farms, our stores, our schlools, must flourish even if a few negroes suffer slightly. They arc half brutes. They cannot feel tire chains, the whip, the auctionblock, the breaking of heart-strings, thle fiery stake of a death. What are they compared with our great and glorious Union?’Off with thleir heads! “‘ And on we marclhed, and boasted, and declared ourselves the standard-bearers of the race, and called onl Europe to witness our glory, to fall at our feet, and follow our illustrious leadership to universal democracy. But that great serpent awoke; nay, rather, lie never slept. IIe bided his time; and when our boasts were loudest, and political calm thle deepest, he said, ” Give up that useless Missouri Compromise. It aggravates the South. It does you no good. It will make no difference in thle end. Slavery can never flourish in those territories. Don’t woulid our feClings by adhlering to its punctilios. You very generously abandoned the WAVilmot Proviso, because of our sensitiveness. Do thle gelnerous thing once more.” We were struck aghast. “‘Give up the Compromise’? Open the gates of the Eden of the continent to this river of’ death, that has burned and blackened so many fair fields? Never! The Thirteen States fought eight years rather than submit to foreign tyranny. We will fight as long rather than surrender a domain twice as large as the Colonies embraced to a domestic tyralnny imimeasurably worse.” Loud rose the cry: “It is ours. It shall remain ours.” And behold, while we cry, our represeuItatives hold it out to the greedy clutch of the slaveliolder. It is grasped. It is swallowed, and to-day the arch tempter is the sole ruler in that Paradise. Freedom, intelligence, and enterprise, art, civilization, and Christianity, every grace and strength of humanity, have fled, as the angels that frequented the holy Eden, and Satan, sin, and death revel in its desecrated forests and prairies, their unquestioned possession. Thus these things are. Not by one step, nor two, have we reached this goal,Obut by a practical inmbruting of the conscience, by yieldi.ng to the demands of this awful iniquity, by violently opposing and abusing its earnest enemies. Had not these members of Congress fought against the anti-slavery movement with fiurious passion, they would not be found to-day enacting this bill. The lilght that was in them is darkness; and how great is that darkness! What an awful depth upon depth of darkness! Great men in the pulpit and the forum set the bad example of mocking at the higher law, and now their bayers on deride the very law which they so idolatrously worship. So comes Pandemonium, no law, but Chaos and old Night. ” Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shline; Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine! Lo, thy dread empire, Chlaos, is restored; Light dies before thy uncreating word: Thy hand, great Anarcib, lets the curtain fall, And universal darkness buries all.” Verily as we have sown, so do we reap this day. Saul is conseliting to the martyr of this first-born of Christianity. Saul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, we, who titlie mint and aniiise and cummin, and neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and truth, we stand by while the murderous rocks are being hurled at its head; we share in the robber’s spoils -its sacred lands, with all their hidden but real wealth of happiness and prosperity. You and I, my brethren, have too much to do with this dire act. Have you not said, “Party first, liberty afterward”? Have you not cried, “Union, Union, Union, now and forever,” carefully omitting the word “Liberty,” which alone makes that Union an honor or a blessing? Have you not filled your ears with the shouts, “Our Nation, however bounded, and however ruled,” so that you could not and would not hear the wail of your oppressed fellow-citizens, that heart-broken entreaty fi’om the depths of that vast dungeon, covering a half million of square miles – ” Am I not a man and a brother?” Have you not said, “The slave belongs to his master; how can I interfere?” Hlave you not acknowledged the right of man to say to his brother, his sister, “Thou art my property, to be worked, whipped, starved, sold, ravished, killed, as I will?” IIave you not forgotten often in your daily prayers to pray for those in bonds as bound with them? Iin insolence of heart have you not despised “God’s image cut in ebony; ” ay, cut in ivory too, if that seems to you the more precious? for the blueeyed, yellowv-haired Saxon, no less than his swarthier brother, groans to-day inii that prison-liouse. lIave you not joined in jeers and slanders against the abolitionists, and given ground for the remark of a senator from Georgia, MIr. Toombs, but last Thursday, that “the governmenlt has but little to fear from thle abolitionists. Their greatest achievements have beenI to raise mobs of fugitives and free negroes, and to incite them to murder and other crimes, and their exploits generally end in subornation of perjury, to escape the criminal courts. The whole concern is not worth anI ounce of powder.” lIave you not apologized for, defended, and even applauded the system of slavery, commendilng the graces of the masters, the submission, contentrnent, and even happiness of the slave? IIave you not cherished a pride of caste, declared complexion a IIeaven-appoiiited barrier of separation between the children of Adam, a great gulf, across which no white and wealthy Dives could pass to mingle in perfect unity of feeling and life with a black or tawny Lazarus, barbarous, beggarly, and sore-smitten, as you saw and said, albeit he was even then lying in Abrahlam’s bosom, the best beloved of all his children? Have you not thus declared the diversity of the human race, and given yotr sinful aversion the authority of a divine decree?’ Let him that is without sin among us cast the first stone at those lofty in position and power, who but give the logical and inevitable conclusion to these feelings; who say, ” The negro has no identity of rights with the white,” as you say hlie has none of blood; ” the abolitionist is a madnmaii, scatterinug firebrands, arrows, and death. Money is everything. Alake money. Extend slavery. Crush out abolitionism! ” Anrd it is done. In their grand if gloomy palace of hell sit these slave masters of the people, all of whom are their slaves, and most of whom, if of white faces, hug their chains and kiss their conquerors’ feet. They exult, as did the Pandemonium chiefs over their mragnificent structure. They exclaim witlh the Babylonian monarch, “Is not this great Babylon that I have builded? ” “Surely a

ll the principalities and powers, all the offices and honor of the American continent, shall be ours, and ours forever.” They heed not the footstep of the descending God; they hear not that avenging voice whispering in their heart of hearts, “Tlhou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; ” then what becomes of thy stores of power, pomp, and pride? “An answer sweeps through the troubled night With a shout for the slave and a shout for the right. Hear ye not, hear ye not, through your marble arch, The iron tramp of the millions marlch? The earthquake awakes in a giant start, And breaks the clhain whichl has bound his heart.” By such slow and steady approaches the citadel of liberty has been enclosed, undermined, taken. America is no loinger a free nation. No longer can she boast that in ller borders the rights of man are inviolable. Icrlec may the oppressed find liberty, and the heavy laden rest. Not in obedience to constitutional scruples, not by a sudden surprise, temptation, or fall,tas this destruction come upon her. This act is against all constitutional statements or suggestions. She gives her hand, if not her heart, to the vote. So far from being the first triumph of the Tempter, it is the autumnal fruit of seeds sown by our fathers’ hands, and nurtured and enriched by the assiduous culture of three genlerations. From the ordinance of 1787, which admitted slavery to all our country south of the Ohio, by forbidding it north of that line, and which built up the enormous power of this crime in four of the largest and most influential of our Slave States, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabamna, and Mississippi, we have descended to tlhe ordinance of 1854, which prohibits freedom in all tlhe territory that had been pledged sacredly to liberty, which practically and intentionally forbids any restrictions on the march of this demon over any part of tlhe national domain. Thlere is no national life in us. Beftore the world, before God, wve stand to-day in a bl)acker infamy than rests upon any other power. We have become the basest of kin,gdoms. The lowest of tlhe nations of the earth look down upon us. France has liberated its slaves in Algiers and thle WAVest Indies. Russia has emancipated its serfs, Mexico its citizens. Brazil discourages slavery and encourages its extirpation. Turkey represses this accursed trade. AWe alone, of all Christian, of all heathen lands, avow the div-inc origin of slavery, and accord it unlimnited life. WQ alone tear down thle wvall of separation our fathers had built, and say to tlhe sea of unspeakable crime and agony, “N o longer sh-all it be said to thee, by man or God,’ iere shlall thy proud \waves be stayed;’ but dash, roar, roll onward and onward, engulfing all those vast and blessed regions with an arkless deluge of death.” If Jefferson could say, in his day, ” I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just,” what must we say, \who have seen that country descend from one point of baseness to another, until now African cruelty, Egyptian degradation, or Romanii corruption, in the heig,hts of their excesses, were hardly more vile, were far less guilty? There should be no more Fourth of July, its celebration is a mockery; no more reading of the Declaration of Indepen dence, – we are independent no longer: the slave’s collar and manacles burden our neck and arms; no more boast of our Christianity as a nation, wlhen our President and Con gress exceed Nero and his selate in pagan edicts and crimes; no more vaunts of our greatnless among the nations of the earth. They have heard of our sliameni, they have seeI it, and they rejoice in it. We, raised to heaven by free institutions and all the culture that has ever yet been giveln to man, have voluntarily cast ourselves dowjn to hell. Before God and all the world, America stands to-day the propagandist of slavery, the advocate and practicler of the dogma that man can, and should, and shall own his fellow lman; that we are endowed by the Creator, not with iualien able rights of life, liberty, and thel-c pursuit of happiiess, but of murder, bondage, and the destruction of haplpiness; that there is no sacredness in the miarriage tie, nlo duty to believe in or regard the affections of father or mother, husbaid or wife, brother or sister; thlat the “peculitar ” and very domestic ” institution ” of home life and love is coIifined exclusively to those who have not a drop of Afieican blood in their veiis; that the lhuman auction-block, the wNlhipping-post, the branding-iron, the bloodhound, the gallows-tree, and the stake —in a w-ord, every barbarisnmare the true elements of a nation’s grovwth and glory. Thlese are the doctrines enacted by tlhe prescot CoIigress of thle United States, approved by our present President, atld published to the w-orld as tlhe coinsummate flower of Christian civilization in this land of the Puritan, Ilugucieot, alnd Qualker, in the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Cllrist, the cighteen hundred and fifty-fourthl. The pei that put tlhe figlures of that date of c redemption upon this satanic bill must have sllrunk Trol.the profianity, if the heart and hand that it served were so depraved as to be unconscious of the horrible sin. The deepest depth is reached. There may be a tableland of darkness upon which future legislators and executives shall erect other trophies of their wickedness, the abolition of all laws which tow prevent the bringing or keeping and trading of slaves in the Free States; the reinstatement of the African slave trade- a trade far less cruel than that which is regularly carried on under the protection of our government between Baltinmore and New Orleans; tile enslaving of white laborers as well as those of tie darker hue, who now pine in chains; the acquisition of Cuba by robbery or by open war with Spainl, as we fought with Mexico, to win a new region for this crime; and, at last, and not improbably, a war’ith Great Britain, to prevent Canada’s harborilngl the fugitives from our oppression. Then cometh the end – a return to violence, ignorance, idleness, and bestiality surpassed only by those in that “outer darkness,” the “dogs, sorcerers, whoremonigers, murderers, idolaters, and whosoever lovetli and maketh a lie.” Is this our filture? M\ust our star be hurled from the heavens up whose steeps it was marching with such a rapid, vigorous, and lustrous step? Shall our fiine gold become dimr, our name, long the terror of tyrants, become their byword, our strength for thlie oppressed of all lands change to a rotten reed whichl pierceth the hand that leans upon it, and snaps while it stings? This we are! It is no shall be. The eclipse is on the sun. Darkness is now over all the land. The glow is faded from the heavens, and all isles and continents, even to distant most Asia and Africa, gaze with awe and sadness at the pale, cold light which we shed upon their dreary realms. But yesterday the nation  “Stood against the world; now lies she here, And none so poor to do her reverence.

Help Save Davis Bridge Battlefield

Many of you know that I am in the midst of writing a Civil War era historical fiction novel. Much of the novel follows a particular Illinois infantry unit that I have become intimately familiar with through much study.

One of the major plot points in the story involves a rather obscure, rarely spoken of battle that occurred at a location known as either Hatchie’s Bridge or Davis’ Bridge.

This “small” encounter between opposing armies essentially closed the doors to Confederate attempts to recapture Corinth, Mississippi.

I spent many long hours researching this battle and due to my distant location from the site, have only been able to do so through the internet and magazine articles. I had hoped one day to visit the site in person, but because of urban sprawl and other issues, the battlefield is becoming “endangered” of being gobbled up as real estate just as has happened to many other hallowed battlegrounds.

Let me be clear. 900 men (500 Union and 400 Confederate) gave their lives at this location. Regardless of anyone’s North and South passions, this is hallowed ground and I believe it is worth protecting, preserving and educating.

Yesterday I learned that the Civil War Preservation trust has launched an effort to purchase and preserve this precious piece of our history. They have discovered an opportunity to transform $166,400 into $1,812,600 in matching grant money to purchase 643 acres of the battlefield.

What they (and I) are asking for is for your help. Rarely in Civil War Preservation has it been possible to turn $1 in donations into $12 in matching grants. That means if you can help with a donation of $50, in essence you are “donating” $600 to this worthy mission. Donations in excess of $50 are a wonderful gift indeed and increase incrementally the size of available preservation dollars.

If you are able, and have a desire to help save this piece of hallowed American History, please visit their website and donate to this wonderful opportunity today!

link —> Help Save Davis Bridge Battlefield today

More information on the battle and battlefield:



Memorial Day

The origin of Memorial Day:

Grand Army of the Republic

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hinds slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

—General Orders No. 11, Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters

More information on Memorial Day: US Memorial Day History

Multimedia Presentation:
Columbia Workshop Presents – Private Throgg (1939)
Includes interviews with surviving Civil War Veterans

Further Reading

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Tuesday Tract #4

The Death of Freedom – Part 2

Though the letter of the Constitution does not use the word ” slave,” yet in its representative basis, if not in its fugitive clause, there is a recognition of its existence, a bowing to its behests, Two small States, by their firmness and vehemence, brought the other eleven to their feet, made them surrender their convictions, and obey the soft voice, but nailed arm, of Belial. AlViat though Franklin and Jay organize abolition societies, and Washington and Jefferson favor emancipation, and Madison gets the word ” slavery excluded from the Constitution? What though every cliinen-t tnan of the age is hostile to the iniquity? Still they let it find entrance into their Constitution. It is there, entrenched in the national fortress; it knocks at all objections and objectors, and commences its march to universal dominion.

When the sons of God came together for their sublime deliberations, Satan came also; and though, as in the days of Job, he gained not every point, yet, more than with him, he gained the chief, and, with the gleefulness of perdition, he snatched at his success, and plotted and waited, waited and plotted, year and year, for larger prizes. He won them.

A law to execute more perfectly the Fugitive Slave clause followed within six years. A law which never could have passed the First Congress passed the Third. A law which would have been pronounced unconstitutional by the founders of the Constitution triumphed under the very eyes of those founders. And the hand of Washington signed his name as president to an edict which five years before he would have abhorred himself for approving.

New territory is sought. Louisiana is purchased. She seeks erection into States. The strife commences afresh. Again the slave power gains all it wants by asking for more; and Missouiri, Louisiana, Arkansas wheel into line under its pirate flag, while the desert lands, which will not be needed for a generation, are professedly abandoned to freedom, then, as of old, driven into the wilderness thence, also as of old, to be driven out when its enemy would make this desert his dwelling-place. In that controversy slavery triumphed. Many then saw that when those remoter regions became the seat of population, it would claim them as its own, would make them its owni. But then it could not have been done. The spirit of the fathers was not yet utterly lost. One half only of the fair acres was given up to this ravenous beast. One half alone of its pure soil was to be wet with the blood of God’s persecuted saints. One half of its air was to be filled with shrieks under the scourge, with moans over sold and stolen children, with the unutterable agony of that prison-house of humanity. The anaconda rested content with its gorged appetite, which two hundred thousand square miles had momentarily satisfied, assured that thlose who had granted him so much would bestow the balance when his appetite returned. His assurance was well grounded.

But before that hour came, the old religious and philanthropic anti-slavery sentiment, which had glowed in the souls that burned with the revolutionary fires, was kindled afresh. A little, despised sect, their name a stench in the nostrils of the country and the Church, cast out of men as evil, lifted up their voice like a trumpet, and told the house of Israel its transgressions, and the house of Judah its sins. They started from the only Christian, the only true basis – sympathy with the slave as a son of man and a son of God, an heir of heaven, a joint heir with Jesus Christ. This was new doctrine to our degenerate fears – a doctrine no Church in this land had ever fully and faithfully preached. We mocked at and reviled them. We drove them from our churches, halls, and homes. We hauled them before our judgment-seats. We issued edicts against them from State and National Congresses, and executive speeches from the chairs of governors and presidents. What the Madisons and Jeffersons, the Hancocks and Storys, would have approved was denounced and proscribed by the Van Burens and Everetts of this generation.

Still they fought for the right. It may be with lack of discretion, yet how shall you and I in our idleness dare to take up a railing accusation against them? How dare you say that William Lloyd Garrison, George Thompson, Orange Scott, and their compeers were not the wisest of their generation in action, as they certainly were in their fears, their prophecies, and their entreaties? Their errors will yet be lost in the splendor of their daring, sincerity, and zeal. If ever freedom becomes the possession, as it is the birthright, of every man in this land, he who will be honored with the loftiest monument a monument built by every hand that has been raised against him – will be that yet hated and proscribed, that somewhat error-led, but for more truth-led, man, William Lloyd Garrison.

This stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, rolled by few but tireless arms, grew, and grew, until, when the slave power set up its claim to national domain, a new voice mingled in the tumults of the hour, and made its triumphs Bunker Hill victories, that betokened an ultimate destruction.

Again the anaconda stirs. It demands Texas – Texas with a war; and it wins. It claims that the new regions acquired by war should be his, and they are given it. Maddened with lust and success, it says, ” Return to me my fugitives hiding in your own Free States; give me that nurse and playmate of your children; that industrious citizen whose family looks up to him for protection; the minister from the altar. They are mine.” And all the people hasten to give them up. No, not all. Among the faithless, faithful stood a few. Seven thousand were found who bent not the knee to this Baal of America. May they soon become seventy times seven, and deliver the land from this idolatry and the Jezreel abominations which so fiercely flourish under its dominion.


Source: University of Michigan, Making of America, National Sermons, The Death of Freedom

Further Reading

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So why is this all so fascinating to me, the author?

It all started in 1991, shortly after joining with a group of reenactors I met at a gun show in Norfolk, Virginia.  Why I went to a guns how, I’ll never know as I really wasn’t interested in guns. Perhaps it was just something to do as a single 20 year old, new to a city with no friends.

Anyway, a few weeks into my newfound reenacting hobby, I packed into the back of a truck one Thursday with a half dozen weekend warriors and headed off to the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was what is termed a “tactical” reenactment and there were no spectators until the big battle on Saturday afternoon.

We arrived in the cold, damp valley, transferred the gear from the truck to our backs and headed down to join the gathering army. I noticed a man wearing black, wandering around the officer tent then in and around the infantrymen. He carried a leather bible and knelt to pray with a few of the men. I was rather non-participatory in things Christian at the time and I pretty much blew it off.

The day went as planned and a raucus battle was capped off with music, song. During that time, more than a few bottles of whiskey were dispersed into various tin cups and enjoyed by all.

The next morning was the big public battle. Cannons volleyed across the high hills as spectators gathered to take in the sights, sounds and smell of nineteenth century warfare. Our brigade lined up behind a tall rise and received some wonderful words of encouragement from our commander. At the completion of his pep-talk, the commander introduced a man he called a chaplain. It was the fellow in black I had noticed the day before.

The words of the chaplain were wrought with out-of-date religious cliche’ and needless to say, it was more pitiful in my sight than the three-hundred pound general I watched trying to mount his horse that morning. The battle was superb, fulfilling everything I had ever imagined.  Once the crowds had gone and a quick dinner of hard-tack crakers and bacon, the festivities of the previous night continued.

Sunday morning was cold, damp and gray. I tried to sleep, but as the sun tried its best to reveal itself from behind the curtain of clouds, I shivered beneath my single, wool blanket. Before long, a drummer began to beat some repetitive tune. Being new to the scene, I asked my tentmate what was going on. He told me it was a call to Church. Ugh…how mundane.

I got up from my losing battle with sleep to warm myself by the fire. While I sat trying to rekindle dying embers, I watched a number of men file by towards the sound of the repeating drum. One man looked my way and motioned for me to come along. My comrades were still sawing logs and there wasn’t much else to do, so I complied.

The Church scene I took in was antiquated and out of touch with everything my enlightened mind knew was right about God and His children. When the service was over, I confronted the chaplain with my plethora of knowledge. He got an earfull from me about how unrealistic it would have been for a man of God to be following unruly soldiers from camp to camp. He challenged my advice and suggested I do some reading of my own. Fine with me, I was up for the challenge.

When I returned home, I went straight to the local library. What ensued was a several week mental marathon. I spent almost every evening unlearning what I thought was true about 1860’s religion. That marathon continues to this very day, with the exception that I submit to the fact that I was incredibly wrong in my assumptions. I learned from that experience to never take anything for granted and to read, read, read. I will forever be grateful to that anonymous chaplain who pointed me towards Jesus Christ.

Tuesday Tract #3

Today’s tract is, well, not a tract. I am still finding it a challenge to locate online transcriptions of Union tracts. I have, however, located several sermons pronounced before, during and after the war.  In place of Union tracts, I am pleased to bring sermons by Northern preachers for your perusal.

(Most of these sermons will need to be broken into several Tuesdays due to their length)


A sermon preached at Wilbraham, Mass., May 28, 1854, on the occasion of the passage of the Nebraska Bill, by the Senate of the United States, on the midnight of Thursday,  May 25, 1854


We gather to-day around the corpse of Freedom. Our nation has given up the ghost. Her deadly sickness has met with but feeble resistance to its progress; and today it waves its black banner in acknowledged triumph over her prostrate, corrupting form. The beauty of Israel is slain upon her high-places. As we bend over this fallen glory and strength, I shall try to speak of that vanished strength and glory, of the means and the foe that murdered it:

“Show you sweet” Freedom’s “wounds, poor, poor, dumb mouths! And bid them speak for me.”

I ask you to consider your duty as Christians in this dreadful hour, and to see with the eye of prophecy either her resurrection in a greatness never before displayed, like that of her Divine Author on His reappearance from the grave – a resurrection that shall send despair and ruin through the ranks of her murderers, or, if we are permanently stupefied by the dragon that has triumphed over us, behold with the same clear vision the still more fearful spectacle of a contending, ruined, obliterated nation.

“A curse shall light upon the limbs of men, Domestic fury and fierce civil strife Will cumber all the parts of this fair land.”

You may say “This is a sick man’s dream.” “Is not this a free land? Has it not been consecrated by the prayers and sacred sufferings of the Pilgrims, honored by the patriotic valor of the revolutionary fathers, made illustrious by the wisdom of Washington and Jefferson, of Hamilton and Adams? Is it not a land whose institutions are based on the broadest principles of liberty – a land of wealth and enterprise, comfort and culture, churches and piety? And can this land be wrapped in its grave clothes, and be even now an offense and a loathing among the nations of the earth? Impossible! Does not trade rush through its crowded channels? Does not the earth bring forth abundantly, laughing ever with its munificent harvests? Does not labor’ strike with its hundred hands at the golden gates of the morning’? Does not steam toil in our factories, and whirl its products over all the land? Do not sweet bells call to church? Are we not the greatest, freest, happiest of nations? ” Alas! ” Gray hairs were on him, and he knew it not.” “When ye say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon him, and he cannot escape.” Material life flows on after the spiritual has gone. Chemical laws keep the atoms of a dead body for a while as compact as when it tented a soul.

There is no national life. What exists, exists in obstruction, weakness, obscury. Last Thursday we surrendered all our glorious heritage. We gave up the Declaration of Independence, the revolutionary speeches, and battles of fire and blood, the Constitution of our country, the names of our Pilgrim and Puritan ancestry, our hopes and prospects, our morals and religion. We have laid them all at the feet of Slavery. We confess ourselves her slaves. We open our gates for her triumphal march to unquestioned, universal power.

I ask no pardon for bringing this subject before you on this sacred day. I have waited till the strife raging at the seat of government should end, feeling that I had no need to stimulate you to your duty to pray for those there and then engaged in the contest, and that this word should be spoken when that battle was decided. I had hoped against hope that the right would triumph, and that I could have congratulated you on the first national step that liberty had taken towards a final victory. But that day is not yet, if ever. A far different task awaits me, and by God’s grace I hope to discharge it. Let us, with sackcloth and ashes upon our souls, sit around this corpse of American Freedom deliver its funeral serm-non, and gather, if we can, some reasons for its resurrection, and of our part and lot in bringing about the glory of that distant hour. Let us try to answer the question, how can these things be?

Five years ago, or fifty, — any previous year since we became a nation, such a deed could not have happened. Southerner and Northerner would have responded in burning indignation to a charge of his devotion to such a crime, Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing? Does not my belief that slavery is an evil, my sensitiveness to the honor of the country through its pledge faithfully made in the compromise agreement of 1820, show the injustice of your imputations? ” And yet this act is a necessary result of all previous acts. It is the perfect fruit of germs long since planted, and constantly nurtured. It is a link in an iron chain of our whole national history. In the first Concession made to the slave powers, this monster was born.


Source: University of Michigan, Making of America, National Sermons, The Death of Freedom

Further Reading

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Jews and the Civil War

As Civil War scholarship continues to grow and gain momentum in these few short months leading up to the sesquicentennial memorials, one field of study remains largely neglected. While there is some renewed interest in the role and influence of religion and spirituality before, during, and after the Civil War; this subject remains vastly uncovered in popular discussions.

Even so, the rising number of publications pertaining to religious histories and views of the 1850′s and 1860′s continue to minimize at least two distinct groups: Catholics and Jews. These may not have been the prevailing wind of spiritual doctrine in those days, but they did play a role in shaping the history of the war and the United States of America.

So far my search for more information on this topic has yielded little fruit. Stephen Woodward made some mention of the Jewish influence of the Civil War in his book, While God is Marching On, but the broadest portion of his work centers upon Protestant Christianity.

I did find one great source on the internet regarding the Jewish influence throughout all of history, including the Civil War:

Jews in the Civil War

Further Reading

Antisemitism from the Top

Jewish-Americans in the Civil War

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