Friday, January 27, 2012

Estimating Civil War Dead? Closer To The Truth?

The new topic of interest across American Civil War blogs is the number of dead which resulted from the American Civil War. The estimated number of 618, 222 has been revised to an estimated 750,000 and may well have been as high as 850,000 dead Union and Confederate soldiers. An article by historian J. David Hacker, an associate professor of history at Binghamton University, SUNY, which appeared in the New York Times “Opinionator” on line column seems to have sparked this renewed interest. I must admit that it is a topic that needs closer scrutiny, but I must disagree with the findings set forth in the article. I must admit also that this is strictly my opinion as I am not familiar with the method of “back projection”, so I can not discount or confirm the veracity of this information. Given this, I will state why I do not agree with the new figure as presented in the article.

I question whether using census data, coupled with (or for that matter, set against) the back projection can lead to a solid, verifiable result. The article shows that census under counts were estimated by using back projection over several different census years. The years 1850 through 1880, and all of these had a shortfall in numbers. They ranged from 6.5 percent in 1870, the year that carries the the most doubt, and 3.6 percent in 1880. The average under count over these 40 years would be 5.4 percent. If we add the shortages back into the total of each census, would that not increase the population figure and thereby decrease the number of estimated civil war deaths? By not counting people that should have been, it seems that would skew the numbers in favor of more deaths. Can we even use these figures as a basis for a more accurate death toll? Can “back projection” be reasonably used when a catastrophic event is involved?

The article goes further in looking at the differences in mortality between the sexes in the 1850's, 1860's and 1870's. The figure presented states that the war was responsible for the deaths of 750,000 men. Based on what? The census, which has already been shown to be flawed. And does the census count the dead? Furthermore, does the census take into account the number of ex-Confederates that fled the country fearing reprisals from the Federal government, who never returned? Does it take account of the former soldiers of both armies that drifted west after the war and may not have been counted due to living in sparsely populated regions of the growing country? The census can give a reasonable figure for the population, but it can't give a figure for the death toll of the Civil War. There are to many variables to contend with and the basis for the new figure is just to weak for me to hang my hat on. What would make me believe the new figure is if the census data used was thoroughly confirmed, not simply speculation. I will concede however that the death toll is probably higher than the accepted 618,222 but until something more definitive and substantial comes along, I will stay with this figure.
The author asks if the difference in figures really matter's and answers yes as it will cause us to look at the war differently. I can't say honestly that it would change the way we look at it. It was a tragic event, yes, and the added 130,000 dead would make it even more tragic, but seeing the war differently I say no. The new figure may influence the way the socio-economic landscape is viewed but I feel that to view it or the war itself differently would lead us into the realm of “what if...”, which will produce nothing but more assumption and bear little in the way of actual fruit that will enhance our understanding of the war or the era. What happened post war occurred in spite of, not because of, the butchers bill.

The true number will never be known. All the documentation available and used in compiling
both estimates is flawed and based on assumption and incomplete information but the fact still remains that the years 1861 to 1865 were the darkest time the United States has ever known.

It has never been my intention to turn this blog into an “Op Ed” column, filled only with my opinions and thoughts about the American Civil War but this article and subsequent posts by other bloggers lent itself well to me for expressing my opinion. This post is in no way meant to disparage their views. I am not refuting the new death toll, nor am I discounting it, yet I am not embracing it either. I merely question it. I never take things at face value and although my thoughts may at times go contrary to the thoughts of others, they do show another viewpoint some may not have considered while searching for a solid answer. That is my hope and intent anyway. If indeed the 750,000 figure holds up, it does need to be recorded. Just give me something a little more substantial than assumptions.

The Picket

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adam Rankin Johnson, An Earlier Incident

Adam Rankin Johnson, born in Henderson, Kentucky February 8th, 1835, had an amazing career as a Confederate soldier and leader and would eventually rise to the rank of Brigadier General. Early in the war he served as a scout with Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry, that officer utilizing Johnson and another scout, Robert Martin, on his personal staff. The exploits of the two would earn them a reputation of daring throughout the Western Theater, so much so that when John C. Breckinridge requested the services of the two scouts, Forrest reportedly told them “ Boys, you've made such a fine reputation I am afraid you will not be allowed to remain with me much longer.” After serving with with Breckinridge and being commissioned as officers on his staff, the pair was sent to Henderson on a recruiting mission, and Johnson bore a memorized, coded message to be delivered to a David Burbank. The message was a series of numbers that Breckinridge insisted Johnson recite back to him. Breckinridge informed young Johnson the information contained in the message was to sensitive for written dispatch, and would ask Johnson to repeat the message, word for word again at a later time before he divulged the name of Burbank. Satisfied, Breckinridge sent the two men on their way.

Adam Rankin Johnson
It was on this trip that an interesting event took place. Humorous actually.
On the way to Henderson the pair stopped on the road several times to obtain food for themselves and their horses from sympathetic citizens. On one occasion the scouts came upon the home of a Confederate soldier who had lost an arm at the recent Battle of Shiloh and was convalescing there. The man was also suffering from a serious case of poison oak, which had covered his face and swollen his eyes and lips terribly. As Johnson was aiding the stricken mans wife in applying ointment to the poison oak, Martin was away from the house tending to the horses. Suddenly the thunder of Union cavalry sounded around the house. Trapped, Johnson told the soldiers wife to wipe off the medicine they had just applied, and rushed out to greet the Yankees. Feigning alarm, Johnson asked the commanding officer for a surgeon.

“What in the world do you want with a surgeon?” , the commander, a major, demanded.
“Why, we have a sick Confederate soldier in the house and we are afraid he has smallpox.”, replied Johnson.
“The thunder you say!” the major cried. “Here, doctor, you had better go in and look at the man.”
The doctor obeyed and entered the house. A guard was set around the house to prevent any of the Union soldiers from entering. After a short time the surgeon emerged from the house and pronounced the case as being “undoubtedly smallpox”. Unwilling to chance even drinking the water on the place, the Federals departed but not before placing a yellow flag on the gate as a sign of warning to the passersby to avoid the home.
When Adam Johnson first met N.B. Forrest, he was impressed by Forrest's “great and prompt decision making”. As this incident shows,these same attributes would also be manifest in Johnson, as well as his friend Robert Martin and serve them well throughout the rest of the war. And in a very short time, Johnson, with the aid of his friend, would gain the nom de guerre of “Stovepipe”, but that is another story.

Source: The Partizan Rangers of the Confederate States Army, Johnson, Adam Rankin, 1904

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Small Thing But...

May I present to you, the twist drill.

A modern day version of what was a relatively new tool developed in the 1860's. A rather unassuming tool, and mostly taken for granted in the 21st century although it is used in manufacturing everything today from the car you drive to the chair you are sitting in now. Yes, the lowly twist drill, so taken for granted, so much ignored, so, so... boring! (pun intended!) But without this little keystone of modern industry, this may not have came to be:

That of course is the very Confederate ironclad ram built in a cornfield along the banks of North Carolina's Roanoke River in 1863 and early 1864. The same ironclad which was largely designed by Gilbert Elliot, a native North Carolinian of 19 or 20 years of age, with the help of John L. Porter who would polish the design and bring it to fruition. She was the monster that aided Major General Robert F. Hoke in re-capturing Plymouth, North Carolina which surrendered on April 20th , 1864. Without the Albemarle that would have been nearly impossible although Hoke's men outnumbered the Federals, they were well entrenched and had five US Navy gunboats in support. The place would be a tough nut to crack indeed. All of this is interesting but what has a drill have to do with all of it?
Gilbert Elliot had difficulty obtaining iron for the “skin” of the ram and would finally get his hands on some in the Autumn of 1863. Framing of Albemarles hull was completed in early October, and on the 6th, Albemarle was launched, sans armor, into the waters of the Roanoke River, which happened to be running high at the time.[1]
With the beast in the water and iron ready to hang, the work to transform her into an engine of war began. The problem was that the armor plates had to be pierced with a number of holes, one and a quarter inch in diameter, so they could be mounted to the hull and to each other. This was not an easy task, and it would be time consuming.
 In the Spring of 1864 the Confederacy did not have time to waste.

 As Gilbert Elliot puts it , in an article in “The Century” magazine:
“But one small engine and drill could be had, and it required, at the best, 20 minutes to drill an inch and a quarter hole through the plates, and it looked as if we would never accomplish the task.” Discouraging yes, but work continued. Now enter our subject, just now being devised. Elliot continues:
“But 'necessity is the mother of invention', one of my associates in the enterprise, Peter E. Smith, of Scotland Neck, North Carolina, invented and made a twist drill with which the work of drilling a hole could be done in four minutes, the drill cutting out the iron in shavings instead of fine powder.” [2] Thus the Albemarle was completed in the ensuing five and a half months, and be ready for the fight at Plymouth. This is not to say that the twist drill altered the course of the Civil War, but it did make one episode brighter for the Confederacy at a time when brightness was quickly fading into memory.
It is also said that this twist drill was the first twist drill devised but that honor goes to the Northerner, Stephen A. Morse of Massachusetts, who invented a twist drill in 1861 and patented his design in 1863. But he was not operating in a cornfield. Be that as it may, the twist drill is yet another invention that came out of the “First modern war”, and still has a place in society today even if it is in the shadows.
1) The CSS Albemarle and Peter Cushing: The Remarkable Confederate Ironclad and the Union Officer Who Sank It, page 82, Stemple, Jim 2011 McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers retrieved from Google books
2) Ibid, page 83
Albemarle image from the National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Booming Business

The area around White House on the Pamunkey River was already hot and disease was running rampantly through the troops of the Army of the Potomac that June 10th, 1862. Major General George B. McClellan was in the later stages of his Peninsular Campaign, readying to move on Richmond, and the division of Brigadier General George A. McCall had just begun to arrive. Late of Irwin McDowell's I Corps they would attach themselves to the V corps of Fitz-John Porter.

As if the anticipation of battle was not enough to fray the nerves of these Pennsylvanians, the sight that greeted them on the wharves upon landing, was. A number of undertakers had set up shop there, and one sign in particular would have stood out, a sign of ominous portent. It read:

Undertakers and Embalmers of the Dead – Particular Attention payed to Deceased Soldiers.”

 That would set a man to thinking he should cast away his playing cards and dice, perhaps even his pipe, and begin a new regimen of prayer to Almighty God. And even more so these men, for they were the Pennsylvania Reserves and the fighting down on the Peninsula would be their first real taste of the war.

My question though, has always been this: What other kind of soldier, other than a deceased one, would need the “Particular Attention” offered by these fellows?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bad Water

It is always interesting for me to research the American Civil War, and sometimes I find some of the neatest stuff. Take for example the following anecdotes, taken from “Reminiscences of the Civil War” compiled from diaries of men from the 103rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, about the scarcity of drinking water:

The water of the Yazoo River is supposed to be the most unhealthy water in the United States. A steamboat captain has been heard to say; “If a man drinks the river water a week, he will have a sandbar in him half a mile long.” The inhabitants of that section of the country will under no circumstances drink or use in any way the well or spring water that may be found, but depend entirely on rainwater.

 The regiment had been attached to the IX Army Corps* of John G. Parke and sent to Haynes' (Haines') Bluff and Snyder's Bluff during the Vicksburg campaign, arriving at that place on the 11th of June, 1863. After fortifying the bluffs, the regiment moved to Oak Ridge and fortified that place. It was here that the writer of this particular segment of reminiscences wrote:

The trials and tribulations of the troops while in this part of the world can not be described.”

The Indian word “Yazoo”is said to mean “the river of death” or its equivalent. A camp kettle of water from what was thought to be a good spring from the bluffs would, if allowed to stand in the sun for an hour, have a deposit of some kind quite half an inch deep. We have since been astonished that the entire Command was not swept off the earth.

Many generals of both sides, in particular those that had served in the Mexican War, would take steps to insure good water supplies and keep those supplies untainted. They did not always succeed, but some at least made an effort. These instances do not point to poor camp placement or policing, but the men suffered from stomach problems while in the area of their operations which they would leave after the fall of Vicksburg. Of their time there the writer wrote:

 At Oak Ridge we had lived much better than while at the Bluffs, as wild blackberries were quite thick, and of the finest quality. Still many of the men were taken down with stomach troubles.

I wonder...

 One last story relating to water, at least for this post. After the 103rd Illinois left Oak Ridge they went to the Black River (where they found more blackberries) and after a lightly contested crossing marched toward Jackson, Mississippi. Of the march on the 8th of July the writer relates this story:

On this march we suffered greatly from want of water. Wells and cisterns having failed, we were compelled to use water from pools, (a great thunderstorm had drenched the area the night of the 6th) in nearly all of which the Rebs had killed a mule or some other animal, so
that to use the water was victuals as well as drink.

I certainly hope this entry was made in jest!
The 103rd Illinois was a part of the 2nd brigade, 1st division, XVIth Army Corps prior to being attached to the IX Corps at the time of these incidents. They were brigaded with the 6th Iowa, 40th Illinois, 46th Ohio, and 15th Michigan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Aurora Borealis

This is not exactly where I intended to take this post but as often happens when I look at subjects related to the American Civil War, my direction changes. I was originally looking for eyewitness accounts of the Auroral display at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 14, 1862. I was hoping to find something beyond what we have all read about the the phenomenon, its appearance so far south and what not. I was able to find some things, including accounts by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, which for pretty prose is hard to beat, even though the particular passage has been used in some very recent works. Feeling discouraged in my pursuit and about ready to pack it in and start looking for something else, I did indeed find something a little fresher, although it was not at Fredricksburg nor was it in 1862.

The years between 1840 and 1865 were grand times for regular viewing of the Northern Lights, and the occurrence at Fredricksburg was just one of several that occurred during the war. Two other appearances of the lights would spark the imaginations of two of the 19th century's artistic and literary giants.

The first happened on December 23, 1864, a little over two years beyond the more famous 1862 display and was witnessed by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), who would render the painting titled, fittingly, “Aurora Borealis”. [1]

It is said that Church, as did many people of the North, believed this particular display was of good portent, and signaled the end of the Civil War, and he was trying to convey this hope through the bleakness of the foreground contrasted with the bright beauty of the background. The painting is rendered from sketches Church had drawn in 1860 from his trips to

Labrador and Newfoundland, and from a water color by his friend, arctic explorer Dr. Issac Hayes. The pointed peak near the center of the painting is Church's Peak, so named by Hayes.[2]
Herman Melville (1819-1891) used words for his pallet, no less stirring or vivid as the paints used by Church. In May, 1865 he penned the poem “Aurora Borealis.” The poem is subtitled: Commemorative of the Dissolution of the Armies at the Peace, May, 1865. Melville was also inspired by an auroral display, perhaps the very one that moved Church.
What power disbands the Northern Lights
After their steely play?
The lonely watcher feels an awe
Of Nature's sway,
As when appearing,
He marked their flashed uprearing
In the cold gloom--
Retreatings and advancings,
(Like dallyings of doom),
Transitions and enhancings,
And bloody ray.

The phantom-host has faded quite,
Splendor and Terror gone
Portent or promise--and gives way
To pale, meek Dawn;
The coming, going,
Alike in wonder showing--
Alike the God,
Decreeing and commanding
The million blades that glowed,
The muster and disbanding--
Midnight and Morn. [3]

When comparing his words to the image of Church, one can imagine what he saw as he wrote this poem. The aurora is not a static thing, painted across the horizon. It moves and changes, in color and in shape. Melville captures the essence of it with the lines from the first stanza:
Reatreatings and advancings, transitions and enhancings” are to me obvious reference to battle, comparing the movements of lines of battle to the moving of the aurora.
The final line is also sounding a weary, yet hopeful note. “The muster” and “Midnight” is the beginning of the war and formation of the armies. All is dark, the future shrouded in mystery.
Disbanding” and “Morn”, is the end of the war, and a new morn full of promise begins. Sorry, I did not mean to turn this into an English Literature class!
When the two “Aurora” (aurorii???) are taken together we get a sense of what the American, of both sections, may have been hoping for, dreaming of for four long years.
They also remind us that there were other things going on besides the war between 1861 and 1865. Although the war influenced much of life at its periphery and devastated many lives at its core, it did not consume all aspects of life. There was still art, literature, science, church, love, and laughter. These things would be needed in a post war United States and thankfully they survived.

1) Aurora Borealis, Church, Frederic Edwin, PD-US
This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the
copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.
2) Rally Round The Flag: Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War, Avery, Kevin J. April 20, 2011, Retrieved from

3) Retrieved from
Written by Herman Melville and appears in “Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War” first published in 1866.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

In the meantime...

While I am gathering information for future posts I thought I would share this link to keep you occupied while you wait.

Impediments of War: The Civil War Talk Radio Companion is a site dedicated to archiving the program "Civil War Talk Radio" hosted by Gerald Prokopowicz, Professor and Chair of the history department of East Carolina University.
I include the web address for Impediments of War due to its ease of use as compared to the home of Civil War Talk Radio.
Professor Prokopowicz has been doing his show since 2004, and the archive contains over 200 hours of interviews with many noted historians and authors including, Edwin Bearss, David Blight, Gary Gallagher, Caroline Janney, and James McPherson. It is well worth listening to, and you are not nailed down to one spot while you are listening. If you have not found the site yet, check it out. You wont be disappointed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Maryland, 1862. A Campaign for Peace

In the late Summer of 1862 the Army of Northern Virginia was riding the crest of a wave of victory that was seemingly about to engulf the Federal capital itself.

General Robert E. Lee and his army, although victorious, was somewhat worse for wear. They had been marching and fighting since May, from down on the Peninsula withstanding McClellan's attempts to capture Richmond, to the latest battle at Manassas and his men were tired, ill clad and hungry. It would take some time to get them back into shape. But Lee had no intention of taking time. In a letter to President Jefferson Davis
dated September 3rd , Lee expresses his desire to move north into Maryland, but:

The army is not properly for an invasion of an enemy's territory.It lacks much of the
 material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being much reduced,
 and the men are poorly provided with clothes, and in thousands of instances
are destitute of shoes. Still, we cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our
opponents in men and military equipments, must endeavor to harass if we
cannot destroy them. [1] (partial text)

He had no desire to attack the Federals in their works about Washington for the reasons he stated in the above passage. He planned to provision and rest his army while threatening Washington and Federal troops in the Shenandoah Valley but he was intent on Maryland if it proved to be a feasible venture, and if not, the close proximity of the Confederate army to Washington would keep that city in turmoil and McClellans army occupied. Of necessity he could not wait long and on September 4th the Army of Northern Virginia began its crossing of the Potomac at Leesburg, Virginia. The relief of the citizens of Virginia was underway and the liberation of the good people of Maryland was at hand.

To be sure transferring the seat of war from Virginia had advantages, some of them very much worth the venture with a worn army, and Lee judged the risk beneficial to the Southern cause. There was always the possibility of moving beyond Maryland and into Pennsylvania.[2] The movement of Lee's army would bring the Federal army North of the Potomac, and men of Maryland would flock to the colors of the Confederacy. The Confederate leadership had reason to believe the latter case was a real prospect. To the minds of the Confederate leaders the arrest of that states legislators and other citizens of high standing, the rioting in Baltimore in April 1861, and having several Maryland regiments serving in the Confederate armies was proof enough that Marylanders were very sympathetic to them and would eagerly join themselves to Lee's army. They believed that the citizens of Maryland needed a chance to freely express their will. [3] (They did, but not in a way hoped for, or in the numbers believed to be available.) All very good reasons to go North. The prospects looked very bright for such a move that late summer of 1862 and, back of it all, another prospect began to grow in Lee's mind. This new campaign was at its core a campaign for peace. No other reason would induce a general like Lee to risk losing his worn army across the Potomac other than that shining prospect. So Lee moved North.

On September 8th Lee issued a proclamation, over his own name, to the people of Maryland. In it he gives the reasons why the Confederate army had entered their state.
This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No constraint upon your free will is intended; no intimidation will be allowed within the limit of this army, at least. Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.
R. E. LEE,
General, Commanding. [4] (Partial text)

These words indicate that Lee acknowledged the right of Maryland's citizens to make their own choice in the matter. Up to this point the Confederacy had been waging a war of self defense, now they were in Union territory. The wording also is suited to the political situation as a whole, and to the sensibilities of European observers, who, it was hoped, would perceive the Confederate army as liberators rather than invaders. Although the proclamation was written by Lee it conveyed the sentiments of a proclamation written by Jefferson Davis on September 7th. That proclamation was forwarded to Lee but it did not find him until several days after Lee had issued his own.

The Davis document is interesting in itself, but in its seventh item (it was written in bullet points) Davis declares that the state of Maryland could, if it chose, conclude a separate peace with the Confederacy, whereas Lee's document seems to reveal his feeling that Maryland rightfully belonged in the Confederate States and would be welcomed as if they had been held prisoners of the Union. The Davis Proclamation appears to be written in a way that appears to have foreign readers in mind, once again listing causes of the war and justification for entering Maryland.

It follows in its entirety:
RICHMOND, VA., September 7 [?], 1862
SIR: It is deemed proper that you should,in accordance with established usage, announce, by proclamation to the people of Maryland, the motives and purpose of your presence among them at the head of an invading army, and you are instructed in such proclamation to make known-
1st. That the Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defense; that it has no design of conquest, or any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of their pretensions to govern a people who have never been their subjects, and who prefer self-government to a union with them.
2d. That this Government, at the very moment of its inauguration sent commissioners to Washington to treat for a peaceful adjustment of all differences, but that these commissioners were not received, nor even allowed to communicate the object of their mission; and that, on a subsequent occasion, a communication from the President of the Confederacy to President Lincoln remained without answer, although a reply was promised by General Scott, into whose hands the communication was delivered.
3d. That among the pretexts urged for continuance of the war, is the assertion that the Confederate Government desires to deprive the United States of the free navigation of the Western rivers, although the truth is that the Confederate Congress,by public act, prior to the commencement of the war, enacted that "the peaceful navigation of the Mississippi River is hereby declared free to the citizens of any of the States upon its boundaries, or upon the borders of its navigable tributaries, " a declaration to which this Government has always been, and is still, ready to adhere.
4th. That now, at a juncture when our arms have been successful, we restrict ourselves to the same just and moderate demand that we made at the darkest period of our reverses, the simple demand that the people of the United States should cease to war upon us, and permit us to pursue our own path to happiness, while they in peace pursue theirs.
5th. That we are debarred from the renewal of formal proposals for peace by having no reason to expect that they would be received with the respect, mutually due by nations in their intercourse whether in peace or in war.
6th. That, under these circumstances, we are driven to protect our own country by transferring the seat of war to that of an enemy, who pursues us with a relentless and, apparently, aimless hostility; that our fields have been laid waste, our people killed,many homes made desolate, and that rapine and murder have ravaged our frontiers; that the sacred right of self-defense demands that, if such a war is to continue, its consequences shall fall on those who persist in their refusal to make peace.
7th. That the Confederate army, therefore, comes to occupy to territory of their enemies, and to make it the theater of hostilities; that with the people themselves rests the power to put an end to this invasion of their homes, for, if unable to prevail on the Government of the United States to conclude a general peace, their own State government in the exercise of its sovereignty, can secure immunity from the desolating effects of warfare on the soil of the State by a separate treaty of peace, which this Government will ever be ready to conclude on the most just and liberal basis.
8th. That the responsibility thus rests on the people of --- of continuing an unjust and oppressive warfare upon the Confederate States--a warfare which can never end in any other manner than that now proposed. With them is the option of preserving the blessings of peace by the simple abandonment of the design of subjugating a people over whom no right of dominion has ever been conferred, either by God or man.


Note the [?] in the date. Did Davis write this on the 7th or at a later date? One can speculate that it might have been written after the 8th, the date Lee issued his proclamation and after he wrote a letter to Davis encouraging the government to treat for peace with the Lincoln government. Item 4 of this document contains its sole demand; the independence of the Confederacy. This point appears out of place in a document supposedly tailored for the liberation of one state.

When looked at next to a letter written by Lee to Davis on September 8th, one may also speculate that the Davis Proclamation may in fact have had a broader implication and that Davis had received this letter before he wrote his own document to be issued in Maryland:

MR. PRESIDENT: The present position of affairs, in my opinion, places it in the power of the Government of the Confederate States to propose with propriety to that of the United States the recognition of our independence. For more than a year both sections of the country have been devastated by hostilities which have brought sorrow and suffering upon thousands of homes, without advancing the objects which our enemies proposed to themselves in beginning the contest. Such a proposition, coming from us at this time, could in no way be regarded as suing for peace; but, being made when it is in our power to inflict injury upon our adversary, would show conclusively to the world that our sole object is the establishment of our independence and the attainment of an honorable peace. The rejection of this offer would prove to the country that the responsibility of the continuance of the war does not rest upon us, but that the party in power in the United States elect to prosecute it for purpose of their own. The proposal of peace would enable the people of the United States to determine at their coming elections whether they will support, those who favor a prolongation of the war, or those who wish to bring it to a termination, which can but be productive of good to both parties without affecting the honor of either.

R.E. Lee [6]

It is my belief that the Davis document was in fact written after the 7th of September, and after he had received Lee's letter and it was intended to be a document to use for securing terms of peace between the two countries. Note two glaring points in both documents that point to this. The first is from Lee's letter to Davis dated the 8th regarding the prospect of a peace settlement:

Such a proposition, coming from us at this time, could in no way be regarded as suing for peace; but, being made when it is in our power to inflict injury upon our adversary, would show conclusively to the world that our sole object is the establishment of our independence and the attainment of an honorable peace. (Lee letter)

Comparing it to this from the Davis document:

That now, at a juncture when our arms have been successful, we restrict ourselves to the same just and moderate demand that we made at the darkest period of our reverses, the simple demand that the people of the United States should cease to war upon us, and permit us to pursue our own path to happiness, while they in peace pursue theirs. (Point 4)

They are very similar in wording and intent, so much so that it seems Davis wrote his proclamation using it as a basis. It is worded broadly enough to encompass the end of hostilities and assumes that the Confederate armies had reached “a juncture when our arms have been successful” in Maryland and beyond what they had already achieved that summer.

Another point worth noting in similarity:

The rejection of this offer would prove to the country that the responsibility of the continuance of the war does not rest upon us, but that the party in power in the United States elect to prosecute it for purpose of their own. (Lee letter)

...if such a war is to continue, its consequences shall fall on those who persist in their refusal to make peace. (Davis document, point 6, last line)

Again they are strikingly similar.

In an effort to solidify my theory that the main goal perhaps the only goal of the Maryland Campaign was a final peace, I looked at several other letters between the two men during the same time frame.

In a letter to Davis dated September 9th , Lee acknowledges receipt of a letter from Davis, written on the 7th ,which states Davis' plan to go to Leesburg and meet with Lee. Lee states that he would be happy to see the president and consult with him “upon all subjects of interest but makes no mention of the Davis document. In fact Lee sends Major Walter Herron Taylor back to prevent Davis from coming up.

On the 12th, Lee writes another letter to the president apprising him of the affairs of the army, and only late in the letter does he tell Davis that he is forwarding to him a copy of his own address to the citizens of Maryland.

Finally, in a letter dated the 13th, Lee make mention of the Davis document, and says of his own. “I have not gone contrary to the views expressed by you on the subject.” [7]

So why, then, did it take so long for Lee to acknowledge the receipt of the Davis plan? The Army of Northern Virginia was rather busy at the time and Lee can be excused for not acknowledging the receipt of Davis' proposals sooner but there were other letters from Lee to Davis between the 8th and 13th (as far as the O.R.'s show) but none make mention of the presidents document. Given this, I believe Davis wrote his proclamation after receiving Lee's letter of the 8th, that he worded it broadly so as to encompass a peace proposal to the United States, and that the campaign itself was intended to place the Confederacy on the strongest footing possible to offer such a proposal. After looking at these documents I believe this to be the main reason Lee moved north. Hopes of political advantage to come from the Fall elections, destruction of McClellan's army, or even foreign recognition were only hopes, the other benefits although much needed and modestly gained were of secondary concern to Lee and Davis. Both men intended the Maryland Campaign to be the final campaign of the war, with peace and Southern independence gained. Lee and Davis were willing to risk all to achieve it and confident of the end result. Lee's letter shows that he wanted it to be sooner before more blood was shed, rather than later with political change and pressure. He was willing to accept either course, but as the events would develop, he would not gain the desired result. The dream died on Marylands bloody fields.


  1. War of the Rebellion, Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series1, Volume 19, part 2, pages 590-591 (Noted from here as O.R.)
  2. Ibid page 592. Letter of September 4th, 1862, Lee to Jefferson Davis
  3. R.E. Lee, Volume 2, Freeman, Douglas S., page 351
  4. O.R. Vol 19, Part 2, page 601-602
  5. Ibid. Page 598-599
  6. Ibid, Page 600
  7. Ibid, Pages 602, 605

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my loyal reader (I think I have one) A Joyous and Healthy 2012.
 I would also like to apologize to those that wander through this blog for the lack of postings. Unlike some bloggers who are able to post coherent content daily, I have difficulty doing it. I am a perfectionist and if I can not get something to suit me, I really hate to offer it to you as reading fare. Rest assured though that I am trying and will keep posting. My goal is to at least post a couple of times a week, hopefully more, and that the content will be worth the time you spend reading it. So bear with me!
I also want to let you know about some things I hope to post on:
1) The Ragged Rebel "Myth" A lot has been said over the years on this subject and can be a point of contention for some. I plan to do some exploring here.
2)Army Chaplains of the Civil War,What were they thinking?
3)The pre- ruination of General Fitz John Porter. Good general torn down by superiors.
4)Harriet Lane
5)Book reviews of the older favorites. Yes there are lots of blogs with book reviews, but they tend to look at whats new. There is nothing wrong with that, but in an effort to keep newcomers from spending hundreds of dollars buying the "latest and greatest book", I see a need to get them started in more affordable books they can pick up in yard sales, eBay, Alibris or ABE books. Introducing new generations to the likes of Bruce Catton and Burke Davis, and others seems to be something that needs to be done.
6) I am hesitating with this one. Posting general, random thoughts of mine. I don't know how well it would be received, or if it would benefit anyone in the long run. I don't know. Maybe if that one loyal reader of mine would offer some thoughts on this?
That's about all for this post. I just wanted to let you know what is going on here. Again, A BLESSED NEW YEAR TO ALL!