Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

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The pleasure of good storytelling: A review of City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War

When was the last time you simply enjoyed a history of a city – or any book about the Civil War?  For me, it happened over Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house in rural Iowa.

The writer in me reveled in John Strausbaugh’s City of Sedition:  The History of New York City During the Civil War.

city-of-sedition-cover-image

This book is a joy to read.  The exception is the barbarity of the 1863 Draft Riots.  But even here, the author puts events in context, portraying a simmering pot, stoked hotter and hotter, that erupts, scalding everyone nearby.

Peopled with leading characters from politics, history, and literature, New York City comes to life in Strausbaugh’s engaging book.   In a nice touch, detailed biographical sketches advance the narrative.

Contradictions abound

The paradox of New York City is trotted out in all its glory.  The author states:

No city would be more of a help to Lincoln and the war effort, or more of a hindrance.  No city raised more men, money, and material for the war, and no city raised more hell against it …

The same New York banks that funded the spread of plantation slavery across the Cotton South would provide the start-up capital for the Union war machine that ended slavery.  New York merchants outfitted both.

Port of slavers

I caught my breath as I read this shocking claim:

By the 1850s, it was an open secret that New York was the North’s major slaving port.  New Yorkers owned and invested in slave ships and financed their voyages.  New York shipyards fitted them out.

New York’s corrupt and easily bribed port authorities turned a blind eye.  In 1865, the Evening Post published a list of 85 slave ships that had sailed from New York bound for Africa in 1859 and 1860.

Skillful writing

The author tries to present and describe things as the characters saw and experienced them.  Strausbaugh paints characters with warts and all.

The author includes excellent quotes.  For example, Jesuit chaplain Joseph O’Hagan described the Excelsior or Sickles’ Brigade in this way:

Most of them were the scum of New York society, reeking with vice and spreading a moral malaria around them.

With a novelist’s eye for details and tension, Strausbaugh describes John Wilkes Booth’s older brother Edwin Booth:

Even with his second sight, Edwin had no inkling of the bizarre and shattering turns it [life] was going to take.

I wrote in the book margin, “Builds anticipation.  My gosh, the author’s good.”

Negative critiques

I have two minor beefs about this book:

  1. The quality of the paper doesn’t match the high quality of the writing.
  2. There are so many interesting nuggets that I frequently flipped back to the endnotes. Unfortunately, the endnotes are rather cursory, and that made it hard to pinpoint some good quotes.

Overall recommendation

Strausbaugh’s 367-page book was well worth my time.  I highly recommend it.

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From my home to yours: Robert E. Lee’s Christmas wish

Amid the crowded holidays, after a contentious election, Robert E. Lee offers us these thoughts:

But what a cruel thing is war:  to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.”

General Robert E. Lee to his wife, December 25, 1862[1]

Robert E. Lee (Currier & Ives, Library of Congress)

Robert E. Lee (Library of Congress)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

I’ll be back with a new blog post in two weeks.

 

[1] Thomas Nelson Page, Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier (New York:  1912), 330-331.

 

 

Split-screen history: A review of From Blue Mills to Columbia: Cedar Falls and the Civil War

Iowa during the Civil War offers drama:  Noble leaders, scoundrels, bright hopes, and bitter disappointment. In short, we see a reflection of our common humanity.

A respected colleague suggested that I read more books about home-front Iowa.  Kenneth L. Lyftogt’s From Blue Mills to Columbia:  Cedar Falls and the Civil War is a good addition to my library.

from-blue-mills-to-columbia

Lyftogt reminds me of a seasoned trail guide, who enlivens the journey with stories.  Published by the University of Iowa Press in 1993, From Blue Mills to Columbia gives a split-screen view of the Civil War.

In one frame, we follow residents of Cedar Falls and Black Hawk County, Iowa who served in the Union Army.  In the other frame, we see how townspeople experienced the war from afar.

The story gathers steam with the full-throated uproar over Fort Sumter and the rush to arms.  As the war dragged on, hope-filled soldiers and civilians were frustrated and deeply disappointed.

Firing upon Ft. Sumter

Firing upon Ft. Sumter

An interesting phenomenon occurred in Cedar Falls:  Business boomed during the war, and at the same time, residents grew increasingly anxious over the safety of soldiers.

Against this backdrop, Lyftogt describes a grieving father (whose son had died at Andersonville Prison).  This father smashed the windows of a hotel, run by a lady who said she supported McClellan for president in 1864.  It’s unlikely that the father was prosecuted in heavily Republican Cedar Falls.

Pendulum-swing of emotions

Cedar Falls residents had a frenzy of celebration after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.  One handbill crowed, “Bad Luck on the Man who is Sober Tonight!”

Less than a week later, President Lincoln was assassinated.  Ashen grief, despair, and bitter anger ruled the day.  A leading resident, Peter Melendy, wrote:

Would to God that the hot wrath of the people might swing every man that rejoices in this calamity.  Revenge is my motto.

Peter Melendy

Peter Melendy

My recommendation

I appreciate the way Lyftogt provides context, using just enough explanation but not too much.  He excels at including excerpts of letters that enrich his narrative.

For a snapshot of home-front Iowa, and an overview of Iowa regiments at war, I recommend Lyftogt’s readable book.

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From Iowa Wesleyan to the battle lines: An old friend says “Thank you”

We never know where friendships will lead us.  A Methodist preacher’s son from Mississippi, George Carson Leavell, was to discover that friendship “gladdens the heart, and makes the face to shine.”

George came to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in early 1861 to attend Iowa Wesleyan University’s prep school.  He reportedly had Iowa relatives.

Iowa Wesleyan University

Iowa Wesleyan University

Sometime after the firing upon Ft. Sumter, he returned south.  George enlisted in late June 1863 – midway through the war – in the 60th North Carolina Infantry.  He served as aide-de-camp to Col. James M. Ray at the fierce Battle of Chickamauga.

leavellgeorgec-cropped-enlarged

George Carson Leavell

During the Atlanta campaign, less than a year later, Confederates captured a number of Union soldiers.  George discovered among the POWs an old friend from Iowa Wesleyan.  His friend, Hiram Thornton Bird, tells the story:

On our arrival at Atlanta, we, with other prisoners, were drawn up in line in the woods at East Point …  After the [Confederate] officer had taken our names and regiment and what valuables we had in our pockets … a Confederate soldier stepped up and said, ‘I heard you say you are from Iowa.  Do you know anybody in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa?’

I at once recognized the voice and features of my old college chum George Leavel.  But he was so thin and wan … that it took a second look to recognize him.  But here in War Country was my chum sure enough, though it seemed like a fairy story to find him.

When the Civil War broke out, George Leavell was a student at our Iowa Wesleyan University from Jackson, Mississippi. …

At the breaking out of the war, he had called his friends together and had told them he would have to return to the south and go with his people.  We all shed tears and bade him good bye, hoping that ‘when the cruel was over,’ he would return to Iowa Wesleyan University.

My meeting with him was the only time he was ever heard from.  The first question he asked me was concerning his sweetheart at Wesleyan.  It was indeed hard for me to tell him that she had been married a short time before.   He looked very sad …

Hiram Thornton Bird continued:

He put question upon question to me, all about his College life; the war was not mentioned — his heart yearned for his College friends at the old school.

Then he said, ‘Now Thornt, we are on the battle line, and they will become suspicious if we talk too long.  What can I do for you?  Would you like something to eat?’

He was in charge of some supplies for the sick and wounded, and he took my haversack and filled it full of good things, and as I had had nothing to eat for more than a day, it showed his good will as nothing else could have done at that time. And then we said good bye forever …

My friend looked very ill, almost like death, for he had been on the sick list for some time …

Through the years, since that day in Atlanta, I have held in sacred memory the meeting with George Leavell.  I draw from it the lesson of the bigness of College Friendship, of the trueness of those ties formed in youth.  We met as friends, not as enemies of war, the ties of friendship were first and dearest — all else was small, insignificant, and forgotten.

Soon after their meeting, George was discharged from the Confederate Army for “paralysis.”

After the war ended, George moved to Ocala, Florida, and became a Methodist minister.  He died on Feb. 14, 1879.

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I am indebted to Iowa Wesleyan University archivist Lynn Ellsworth and librarian Joy Conwell, and descendant-genealogist Jane A. Leavell for their assistance.  I  drew upon Hiram Thornton Bird’s Memories of the Civil War, published in 1925.

Thank you for reading my blog!  Please leave any comments below.

You can’t outrun the long arm of the law

Governments on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line had an insatiable desire for military recruits.  Pennsylvania native Samuel H. Bulger found this out during the Civil War.

Samuel had moved to Clinton, Iowa, when he was 12.  At age 18, in 1857, he and his family moved to Texas, where Samuel worked as a laborer, and his father raised stock.

Texas seceded in 1861.  A year later, 22-year-old Samuel enlisted as a private in Company E, 6th Texas Infantry.

The infantry was an unpopular choice.  A Confederate recruiter wrote:

[I] find it hard to get Texans to go into infantry companies.  They say they will go mounted, but no other way.  That is, a majority say so.

bulgersamuelh-narrow-escape-of-general-meade-loc-cropped

Years later, Samuel said he had been “pressed into the rebel service.”  He wasn’t drafted, but he may have felt pressured to enlist by his Texas peers, his neighbors, or his employer.

His younger brother, Philip, enlisted in the same company a few months later.

Samuel’s troubles began to mount.  For starters, he received no pay for eight months.

Their regiment was sent to Fort Hindman, also called Arkansas Post, on the Arkansas River. Union commanders considered Fort Hindman a stepping-stone to Vicksburg.

bulgersamuelb-plan-of-fort-hindman-jan-1863-battle-of-arkansas-post-historyofwar-dot-org

In early January 1863, Union troops and gunboats moved in, outnumbering Confederate troops 6 to 1.  Admiral David D. Porter’s gunboats began shelling the Confederate positions.

(Currier and Ives)

Battle of Fort Hindman (Currier and Ives)

The Confederate infantrymen retreated to rifle pits outside of Fort Hindman.   Intense shelling lasted for a day, and the Confederates surrendered on January 11.

They were hustled on to steamboats.  Soaking wet from rain and snow, Sam, his brother, and other POWs suffered terribly, heading up the Mississippi.

The Bulger brothers and their fellow POWs went to Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois.  After a month-and-a-half of captivity, in March 1863, Sam took the oath of allegiance to the U.S.  Dozens of his comrades did, too, including his brother, Philip.

Historian James M. McCaffrey notes:

Other prisoners referred to this oath taking as ‘swallowing the puppy,’ and called those who took the oath ‘razorbacks’.

Samuel returned to Clinton, but he couldn’t escape the war.  He was enumerated for the draft that summer.

Conflicting information creeps into the story.  Samuel claimed to have served the Union Army for three months, which would have made him a 100 Day Man.  However, I haven’t found any record of this.

His brother, Philip, was a different story.  Philip was a 100 Day Man.

Samuel claimed to have been drafted the following year, in 1864, so he scraped up enough money to hire a substitute to take his place.  He also married Alice D. Stockwell.  They later had four children and moved to Appanoose County, Iowa.

In 1890, Samuel and his wife moved to Guadalupe County, Texas.  Samuel died on August 28, 1893.

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Announcement: Speaking engagements in the next two weeks (November 2016)

I would like to invite you to come to one of my presentations.  I’m scheduled to speak six times in the next two weeks.  Below is a list of dates and times, places, and topics.

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Wed., Nov. 2, 7:15 p.m., “The Propaganda campaign in Iowa,” at the Des Moines Civil War Round Table, meeting at the Machine Shed Restaurant, 11151 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, IA 50322 (near Living History Farms).

Thurs., Nov. 3, 7 p.m., “Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad,” at Kirkendall Public Library, 1210 NW Prairie Ridge Dr., Ankeny, IA 50021.

Sat., Nov. 5, 10:05 a.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa during the Civil War,” at History Camp Iowa 2016, meeting at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines, IA 50309.  (An admission fee is required.)

Wed., Nov. 9, 7 p.m., “Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad,” at Musser Public Library, 304 Iowa Ave, Muscatine, IA 52761.

Thurs., Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa” and “A Couple of Stories about Confederate from Iowa,” at the Civil War Round Table of Milwaukee, meeting at the Wisconsin Club, 900 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233.

Fri., Nov. 11, 7:15 p.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa” and “A Confederate from Iowa,” at the Civil War Round Table of Chicago, meeting at Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5615 N. Cumberland, Chicago, IL 60631.

The politics of pain: An 1871-style Iowa stump speech

Six years after Appomattox, the Civil War was an emotional “live wire” in Iowa.  Republican candidates for office tapped into the continuing agony, and they condemned Democrats with great vigor (just as they had done during the war).

I recently portrayed Livingston G. Parker, a Union Army veteran and candidate for the Iowa State Senate in 1871, at the Historic Livingston Foundation. I wrote the following stump speech (drawing upon Parker’s letters and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) to capture the spirit of Iowa Republicans.

david-connon-portraying-livingston-g-parker-1871-candidate-for-ia-senate-4

Please read this speech in this context. I am not recommending any candidate in the current election.  To help get the flavor of this speech, I would suggest that you listen to my reading of the text.

My friends, I stand here on this august occasion to remember the price our boys paid, often in blood, to put down the great Rebellion.

My fellow soldiers, some of you were also in Springfield, Missouri in late 1861.  Gen. Fremont was there, Sigel and Sturgis also.  There were some 40,000 men already there and more arriving daily …  Who can forget the sight — white tents everywhere about the town … The drums were beating and the bugles sounding the evening calls and still the camp fires burned brightly.  It was a scene of rare beauty, and as they stretched far away over the plain and up the hillsides, reminded us of the quiet village where bright lights reflect the peace and felicity within.

We yearned for the day when the rebels would repent their great wickedness, return to the fellowship of kindly brotherhood, fall into the line of duty and forward march to the music of the Union.  We longed for “the banner of the free to float proudly over our land from lake to gulf and from ocean to ocean.”

But while we fought and bled, back home in Iowa, an enemy slithered through the cornstalks.  Copperheads!  Copperheads, those Democrats, said to be treacherous, cowardly, and venomous “above all other beasts of the field.”  Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Copperheads seduced many citizens.  Those Democrats proclaimed loyalty to the Union, but they actually worked against President Lincoln and our nation as we engaged in a life-and-death struggle.

Disloyal Democrats used newspaper editors to spread their poison.  They used congressmen, too.  Clement C. Vallandigham of Ohio, Democratic Congressman, proclaimed that he was an Apostle of Peace.  My friends, Scripture teaches that Satan can appear as an Angel of Light, and that the time will come when even the very Elect may be deceived.  Fellow citizens, do not be deceived.  The Democratic Party is still the party of disloyalty!

Far, far away from our fair state, many of our valiant comrades fell on the field of battle or succumbed to disease.  The Good Book says their bodies lie sleeping, until the Final Trump.  Many of you know all too well the empty chair at the table that will never be occupied, the wise voice of counsel that will never again be heard, the hopes and dreams of marriage, forever sundered by death.

Out of the anguish that doesn’t stop, let us resolve, along with the martyred President Lincoln, “that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

My friends, this election, vote for the party of Grant and Lincoln!

david-connon-portraying-livingston-g-parker-1871-candidate-for-ia-senate-2-cropped

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Dig a little deeper in the well: A review of Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates who joined the Army after 1861

For the past six years, I’ve asked myself, “Why would someone leave a nice state like Iowa and serve the Confederacy?”  Seeking insights, I read James M. McPherson’s masterful book, For Cause and Comrades:  Why Men Fought in the Civil War.

McPherson and other historians have focused on men who enlisted in 1861.   Historian Kenneth W. Noe gives a richer, fuller, and more nuanced picture in Reluctant Rebels:  The Confederates who joined the Army after 1861.

reluctant-rebels-by-kenneth-noe-cover-photo

When Noe looked at the body of Civil War literature, he asked the following questions:

Where were the conscripts? … Where were the deserters?  Where were the men who broke and ran away?  Where were the garrison troops and backwater outfits?  For that matter, where were the reluctant Rebels, the men who waited months or years before enlisting?

Noe added:

Scholars and general readers alike would never truly understand the full range of the soldier experience, I suggested, until all those men found their historians, too.

Almost one-fourth (22.5%) of all Confederate troops enlisted after 1861.  If you add conscripts (15%) and substitutes (9%), almost half of all Confederate soldiers entered the Confederate service after 1861.

Defying stereotypes

Noe states in his introduction:

While they were not so different than other soldiers – and those similarities as well as differences will be delineated in the pages that follow – later-enlisting Confederates ultimately defy stereotyping and must be met on their own ground.  Doing so offers a fuller portrait of them and all Confederate soldiers.

In Reluctant Rebels, Noe explores “the reasons that compelled most of those ‘later enlisters’ … to stay at home initially only to join up later on.”  He also considers “the factors that kept them in the ranks and emboldened them in combat.”

Noe draws upon a sample of 320 later-enlisting Confederate soldiers.   He interweaves his analysis with the positions of Civil War scholars, including Bell Wiley, James M. McPherson, Gerald Linderman, Randall Jimerson, and Chandra Manning.

A sampling of surprises

Author Noe surprised me several times in Reluctant Rebels.  For instance, regarding slavery, he states the following:

 Later scholars maintain in sum that Johnny Rebs enlisted, remained in the ranks, and fought battles to preserve legal slavery.  They also admit that such an interpretation requires a degree of historical interpretation and literary deconstruction, for relatively few of the soldiers they studied wrote blatantly about fighting to preserve slavery.

On the subject of substitute soldiers, the author writes:

Despite the expected public shame associated with hiring a substitute, the market for such proxies in the Confederacy exploded overnight as men swallowed both the vaunted Southern honor historians wax eloquently about and their reputations.

Ultimate problem

I found the following insight to be compelling:

Part of the Confederacy’s ultimate problem was that the thin gray line of white men the South called up in the war’s second year and beyond always were too few in number, too old, too divided in heart and soul, and physically not always up to the task before them.  Later enlisters could and would fill the ranks and kill in combat, but many of them could not always march and fight as well as their new nation needed them to do.

As the Gospels surely reminded some of them during their trials, ‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Lacking sufficient manpower both in terms of quality and quantity, the thin gray line of later enlisters proved insufficient, and the Confederacy yielded at last.

My recommendation

Reluctant Rebels is insightful, persuasive, and peppered with captivating quotes.   To his credit, author Noe admits the limitations of his research, and he gives solid reasoning to support his conclusions.

In short, I found Noe’s book to be well worth reading.

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If you help my child, you help me: Jefferson Davis’s 11th-hour mission

Pressing on through severe facial pain and “unutterable griefs,” Jefferson Davis wrote his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate.  His personal struggles in January 1861 (after Mississippi seceded) foreshadowed the nation’s trial by fire.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

He also wrapped up loose ends in Washington, D.C.  That included writing his college friend (and former U.S. senator from Iowa) George Wallace Jones.

Helping the son of a friend

A few years earlier, George Wallace Jones’s second son, William A.B. Jones, was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the First Regiment, U.S. Cavalry.  William rode a “wild spirited horse … without bridle or saddle,” resulting in a rupture.

(Library of Congress)

(Library of Congress)

William resigned his commission (based on a doctor’s diagnosis).  Surprisingly, William recovered, and he wanted his old job back.    Davis asked Secretary of War John B. Floyd to reinstate William’s commission, but there were no vacancies.

Letter to a friend

On January 20, 1861, the day before his farewell speech, Davis wrote George Wallace Jones that William wouldn’t be reappointed.   Davis also shared his thoughts about secession with his old friend and political ally.

Davis wrote that Jones wouldn’t be surprised that he was leaving the Senate.  He continued:

I am sorry to be separated from many true friends at the North, whose inability to secure an observance of the Constitution does not diminish our gratitude to them for the efforts they have made.  The progress has been steady towards a transfer of the government into the hands of the abolitionists.

Many states like Iowa have denied our rights, disregarded their obligations, and have sacrificed their true representatives.

Jones recognized himself in Davis’s description.  Two years earlier, Jones was not re-elected the U.S. Senate because he had voted for the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution.

Davis continued:

To us, it has become a necessity to transfer our domestic institutions from hostile to friendly hands … There seems to be but little prospect that we will be permitted to do so peacefully …

I know you will sympathize with us although you cannot act with us, that we shall never find you or yours in the ranks of our enemies.

I am as ever very truly your friend,

Jeffn Davis

After the speech

About three months after Jefferson Davis said goodbye to the Senate, Confederate artillerists fired upon Fort Sumter.

William A.B. Jones headed to Colorado Territory, and he never served either side during the Civil War.  In contrast, both of his brothers served the Confederacy.   (If you’d like to read more about William’s brothers, please click here, here, and here.)

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“When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail”: A review of Lincoln’s Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stanton

Many Americans can picture the “devoted patriot” Edwin Stanton, close to Lincoln’s bedside as the president lay dying.  After Lincoln breathed his last, a stoic Stanton reportedly said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Historian William Marvel has written Lincoln’s Autocrat:  The Life of Edwin W. Stanton (Civil War America series, University of North Carolina Press).  This engaging, well-documented book tells how Stanton, an able lawyer, came to serve Presidents James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson.

lincolns-autocrat-the-life-of-edwin-stanton-by-william-marvel-book-cover

This book reveals Stanton’s duplicitous, self-serving character.  The author describes Stanton’s “deep insecurity,” a condition suggested by his “sycophancy, double-dealing, and self-congratulatory storytelling.”

Sources

Marvel preferred to use “the most contemporary primary sources – diaries, letters, official documents, and newspaper observations from the period in question.”  He explains:  “All those sources suffer from personal and political prejudices, but those are usually easier biases to detect than those absorbed unconsciously, over the passage of decades.”

The author does a good job of setting events in context, while maintaining the thread of a story.  I was fascinated to learn about Stanton’s role in suppressing and violating civil liberties in the North during the Civil War.

The power to arrest and imprison

After Fort Sumter, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the North.  This meant that federal authorities could arrest and imprison civilians, without any charges.

Secretary of State William H. Seward was, at first, in charge of arresting civilians.  Secretary of War Stanton assumed this authority in early 1862.

Lincoln signed into law the first draft in U.S. history on July 17, 1862.  Marvel describes what happened less than a month later:

Stanton quickly … nullified much of the Bill of Rights.  Citing no authority but his own, on August 8 he ‘authorized and directed’ all U.S. marshals and chiefs of police – over whom he could claim no constitutional authority whatever – to arrest and imprison anyone who ‘may be engaged, by act, speech, or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States.’

Stanton’s orders were significant, from a civil liberties perspective.  Marvel states:

In a single sentence, Stanton abolished the First Amendment, overrode the Fourth, ignored the Fifth, and eviscerated the Sixth.  He essentially criminalized every citizen’s right to criticize the government.

Republican officials would quickly embrace his order as an opportunity to treat criticism of the Lincoln administration and its political supporters as a form of treason, and to punish Democrats – almost exclusively – for daring to voice disagreement.

Bringing it home to Iowa

Shortly after Stanton issued his orders, federal and state authorities arrested and imprisoned about 36 Iowans in August 1862, according to historian Hubert H. Wubben.  Arrestees included Dennis Mahony, editor of the Dubuque Herald, and David Sheward, editor of the Constitution and Union (in Fairfield, Iowa).

Dennis Mahony, editor of the Dubuque Herald (Loras College)

Dennis Mahony, editor of the Dubuque Herald (Loras College)

The arrestees were imprisoned without any formal charges and without a jury trial.  They were held in prison for as little as two months.  Mahony, “like most of his fellow prisoners,” was forced to sign a pledge that he wouldn’t sue Stanton or other officials for false arrest.

The arrests and imprisonments violated the following civil liberties:

  1. Freedom of speech;
  2. Freedom from criminal punishment except upon indictment and trial;
  3. The right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury;
  4. The right to be informed of the nature of an accusation; and
  5. The right to confront contrary witnesses.

Marvel comments:

Suddenly it was impossible to utter any effective criticism of the war, or the administration, without at least the threat of arrest.

Republicans faced a backlash during state elections in October and November 1862.  Nonetheless, Marvel writes that Stanton “kept jailing critics, painting all who disagreed as traitors, and the president allowed him free rein.”

Recommendation

I have focused on only one part of Marvel’s lucid and thought-provoking book.  I highly recommend Lincoln’s Autocrat:  The Life of Edwin Stanton.

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What about you?

Have you read any books on these topics that are well-documented and have compelling arguments?  Please leave a comment!  Thank you for reading my blog.

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