Infomotions, Inc.The Day of the Confederacy; a chronicle of the embattled South / Stephenson, Nathaniel W. (Nathaniel Wright), 1867-1935

Author: Stephenson, Nathaniel W. (Nathaniel Wright), 1867-1935
Title: The Day of the Confederacy; a chronicle of the embattled South
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): confederate; davis; confederacy; richmond; carolina; conscription; congress; georgia; mercury; government; confederate government; president; lee; administration; virginia; south carolina; stephens; military; habeas corpus; north carolina; southern; south
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Title: The Day of the Confederacy, A Chronicle of the Embattled South

Author: Nathaniel W. Stephenson



New Haven: Yale University Press
Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Co.
London: Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
















Chapter I. The Secession Movement

The secession movement had three distinct stages. The first,
beginning with the news that Lincoln was elected, closed with the
news, sent broadcast over the South from Charleston, that Federal
troops had taken possession of Fort Sumter on the night of the
28th of December. During this period the likelihood of secession
was the topic of discussion in the lower South. What to do in
case the lower South seceded was the question which perplexed the
upper South. In this period no State north of South Carolina
contemplated taking the initiative. In the Southeastern and Gulf
States immediate action of some sort was expected. Whether it
would be secession or some other new course was not certain on
the day of Lincoln's election. Various States earlier in the year
had provided for conventions of their people in the event of a
Republican victory. The first to assemble was the convention of
South Carolina, which organized at Columbia, on December 17,
1860. Two weeks earlier Congress had met. Northerners and
Southerners had at once joined issue on their relation in the
Union. The House had appointed its committee of thirty-three to
consider the condition of the country. So unpromising indeed from
the Southern point of view had been the early discussions of this
committee that a conference of Southern members of Congress had
sent out their famous address To Our Constituents: "The argument
is exhausted. All hope of relief in the Union . . . is
extinguished, and we trust the South will not be deceived by
appearances or the pretense of new guarantees. In our judgment
the Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that
will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor,
safety, and independence of the Southern people require the
organization of a Southern Confederacy--a result to be obtained
only by separate state secession." Among the signers of this
address were the two statesmen who had in native talent no
superiors at Washington--Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana and
Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.

The appeal To Our Constituents was not the only assurance of
support tendered to the convention of South Carolina. To
represent them at this convention the governors of Alabama and
Mississippi had appointed delegates. Mr. Hooker of Mississippi
and Mr. Elmore of Alabama made addresses before the convention on
the night of the 17th of December. Both reiterated views which
during two days of lobbying they had disseminated in Columbia "on
all proper occasions." Their argument, summed up in Elmore's
report to Governor Moore of Alabama, was "that the only course to
unite the Southern States in any plan of cooperation which could
promise safety was for South Carolina to take the lead and secede
at once without delay or hesitation...that the only effective
plan of cooperation must ensue after one State had seceded and
presented the issue when the plain question would be presented to
the other Southern States whether they would stand by the
seceding State engaged in a common cause or abandon her to the
fate of coercion by the arms of the Government of the United

Ten years before, in the unsuccessful secession movement of 1850
and 1851, Andrew Pickens Butler, perhaps the ablest South
Carolinian then living, strove to arrest the movement by exactly
the opposite argument. Though desiring secession, he threw all
his weight against it because the rest of the South was averse.
He charged his opponents, whose leader was Robert Barnwell Rhett,
with aiming to place the other Southern States "in such
circumstances that, having a common destiny, they would be
compelled to be involved in a common sacrifice." He protested
that "to force a sovereign State to take a position against its
consent is to make of it a reluctant associate.... Both
interest and honor must require the Southern States to take
council together."

That acute thinker was now in his grave. The bold enthusiast whom
he defeated in 1851 had now no opponent that was his match. No
great personality resisted the fiery advocates from Alabama and
Mississippi. Their advice was accepted. On December 20, 1860,
the cause that ten years before had failed was successful. The
convention, having adjourned from Columbia to Charleston, passed
an ordinance of secession.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, at a hundred meetings, the secession issue
was being hotly discussed. But there was not yet any certainty
which way the scale would turn. An invitation from South Carolina
to join in a general Southern convention had been declined by the
Governor in November. Governor Brown has left an account
ascribing the comparative coolness and deliberation of the hour
to the prevailing impression that President Buchanan had pledged
himself not to alter the military status at Charleston. In an
interview between South Carolina representatives and the
President, the Carolinians understood that such a pledge was
given. "It was generally understood by the country," says
Governor Brown, "that such an agreement...had been entered
Into...and that Governor Floyd of Virginia, then Secretary of
War, had expressed his determination to resign his position in
the Cabinet in case of the refusal of the President to carry out
the agreement in good faith. The resignation of Governor Floyd
was therefore naturally looked upon, should it occur, as a signal
given to the South that reinforcements were to be sent to
Charleston and that the coercive policy had been adopted by the
Federal Government."

While the "canvass in Georgia for members of the State convention
was progressing with much interest on both sides," there came
suddenly the news that Anderson had transferred his garrison from
Fort Moultrie to the island fortress of Sumter. That same day
commissioners from South Carolina, newly arrived at Washington,
sought in vain to persuade the President to order Anderson back
to Moultrie. The Secretary of War made the subject an issue
before the Cabinet. Unable to carry his point, two days later he

* The President had already asked for Floyd's resignation because
of financial irregularities, and Floyd was shrewd enough to use
Anderson's coup as an excuse for resigning. See Rhodes, "History
of the United States," vol. II pp. 225, 236 (note).

The Georgia Governor, who had not hitherto been in the front rank
of the aggressives, now struck a great blow. Senator Toombs had
telegraphed from Washington that Fort Pulaski, guarding the
Savannah River, was "in danger." The Governor had reached the
same conclusion. He mustered the state militia and seized Fort
Pulaski. Early in the morning on January 3,1861, the fort was
occupied by Georgia troops. Shortly afterward, Brown wrote to a
commissioner sent by the Governor of Alabama to confer with him:
"While many of our most patriotic and intelligent citizens in
both States have doubted the propriety of immediate secession, I
feel quite confident that recent events have dispelled those
doubts from the minds of most men who have, till within the past
few days, honestly sustained them." The first stage of the
secession movement was at an end; the second had begun.

A belief that Washington had entered upon a policy of aggression
swept the lower South. The state conventions assembling about
this time passed ordinances of secession--Mississippi, January 9;
Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19;
Louisiana, January 26; Texas, February 1. But this result was not
achieved without considerable opposition. In Georgia the
Unionists put up a stout fight. The issue was not upon the right
to secede--virtually no one denied the right--but upon the wisdom
of invoking the right. Stephens, gloomy and pessimistic, led the
opposition. Toombs came down from Washington to take part with
the secessionists. From South Carolina and Alabama, both
ceaselessly active for secession, commissioners appeared to lobby
at Milledgeville, as commissioners of Alabama and Mississippi had
lobbied at Columbia. Besides the out-and-out Unionists, there
were those who wanted to temporize, to threaten the North, and to
wait for developments. The motion on which these men and the
Unionists made their last stand together went against them 164 to
133. Then at last came the square question: Shall we secede? Even
on this question, the minority was dangerously large. Though the
temporizers came over to the secessionists, and with them came
Stephens, there was still a minority of 89 irreconcilables
against the majority numbering 208.

"My allegiance," said Stephens afterwards, "was, as I considered
it, not due to the United States, or to the people of the United
States, but to Georgia, in her sovereign capacity. Georgia had
never parted with her right to demand the ultimate allegiance of
her citizens."

The attempt in Georgia to restrain impetuosity and advance with
deliberation was paralleled in Alabama, where also the
aggressives were determined not to permit delay. In the Alabama
convention, the conservatives brought forward a plan for a
general Southern convention to be held at Nashville in February.
It was rejected by a vote of 54 to 45. An attempt to delay
secession until after the 4th of March was defeated by the same

The determination of the radicals to precipitate the issue
received interesting criticism from the Governor of Texas, old
Sam Houston. To a commissioner from Alabama who was sent out to
preach the cause in Texas the Governor wrote, in substance, that
since Alabama would not wait to consult the people of Texas he
saw nothing to discuss at that time, and he went on to say:

Recognizing as I do the fact that the sectional tendencies of the
Black Republican party call for determined constitutional
resistance at the hands of the united South, I also feel that the
million and a half of noble-hearted, conservative men who have
stood by the South, even to this hour, deserve some sympathy and
support. Although we have lost the day, we have to recollect that
our conservative Northern friends cast over a quarter of a
million more votes against the Black Republicans than we of the
entire South. I cannot declare myself ready to desert them as
well as our Southern brethren of the border (and such, I believe,
will be the sentiment of Texas) until at least one firm attempt
has been made to preserve our constitutional rights within the

Nevertheless, Houston was not able to control his State.
Delegates from Texas attended the later sessions of a general
Congress of the seceding States which, on the invitation of
Alabama, met at Montgomery on the 4th of February. A contemporary
document of singular interest today is the series of resolutions
adopted by the Legislature of North Carolina, setting forth that,
as the State was a member of the Federal Union, it could not
accept the invitation of Alabama but should send delegates for
the purpose of persuading the South to effect a readjustment on
the basis of the Crittenden Compromise as modified by the
Legislature of Virginia. The commissioners were sent, were
graciously received, were accorded seats in the Congress, but
they exerted no influence on the course of its action.

The Congress speedily organized a provisional Government for the
Confederate States of America. The Constitution of the United
States, rather hastily reconsidered, became with a few inevitable
alterations the Constitution of the Confederacy.* Davis was
unanimously elected President; Stephens, Vice-President.
Provision was made for raising an army. Commissioners were
dispatched to Washington to negotiate a treaty with the United
States; other commissioners were sent to Virginia to attempt to
withdraw that great commonwealth from the Union.

* To the observer of a later age this document appears a thing of
haste. Like the framers of the Constitution of 1787, who omitted
from their document some principles which they took for granted,
the framers of 1861 left unstated their most distinctive views.
The basal idea upon which the revolution proceeded, the right of
secession, is not to be found in the new Constitution. Though the
preamble declares that the States are acting in their sovereign
and independent character, the new Confederation is declared
"permanent." In the body of the document are provisions similar
to those in the Federal Constitution enabling a majority of
two-thirds of the States to amend at their pleasure, thus
imposing their will upon the minority. With three notable
exceptions the new Constitution, subsequent to the preamble, does
little more than restate the Constitution of 1787 rearranged so
as to include those basal principles of the English law added to
the earlier Constitution by the first eight amendments. The three
exceptions are the prohibitions (1) of the payment of bounties,
(2) of the levying of duties to promote any one form of industry,
and (3) of appropriations for internal improvements. Here was a
monument to the battle over these matters in the Federal
Congress. As to the mechanism of the new Government it was the
same as the old except for a few changes of detail. The
presidential term was lengthened to six years and the President
was forbidden to succeed himself. The President was given the
power to veto items in appropriation bills. The African
slave-trade was prohibited.

The upper South was thus placed in a painful situation. Its
sympathies were with the seceding States. Most of its people felt
also that if coercion was attempted, the issue would become for
Virginia and North Carolina, no less than for South Carolina and
Alabama, simply a matter of self-preservation. As early as
January, in the exciting days when Floyd's resignation was being
interpreted as a call to arms, the Virginia Legislature had
resolved that it would not consent to the coercion of a seceding
State. In May the Speaker of the North Carolina Legislature
assured a commissioner from Georgia that North Carolina would
never consent to the movement of troops "from or across" the
State to attack a seceding State. But neither Virginia nor North
Carolina in this second stage of the movement wanted to secede.
They wanted to preserve the Union, but along with the Union they
wanted the principle of local autonomy. It was a period of tense
anxiety in those States of the upper South. The frame of mind of
the men who loved the Union but who loved equally their own
States and were firm for local autonomy is summed up in a letter
in which Mrs. Robert E. Lee describes the anguish of her husband
as he confronted the possibility of a divided country.

The real tragedy of the time lay in the failure of the advocates
of these two great principles--each so necessary to a far-flung
democratic country in a world of great powers!--the failure to
coordinate them so as to insure freedom at home and strength
abroad. The principle for which Lincoln stood has saved Americans
in the Great War from playing such a trembling part as that of
Holland. The principle which seemed to Lee even more essential,
which did not perish at Appomattox but was transformed and not
destroyed, is what has kept us from becoming a western Prussia.
And yet if only it had been possible to coordinate the two
without the price of war! It was not possible because of the
stored up bitterness of a quarter century of recrimination. But
Virginia made a last desperate attempt to preserve the Union by
calling the Peace Convention. It assembled at Washington the day
the Confederate Congress met at Montgomery. Though twenty-one
States sent delegates, it was no more able to effect a working
scheme of compromise than was the House committee of thirty-three
or the Senate committee of thirteen, both of which had striven,
had failed, and had gone their ways to a place in the great
company of historic futilities.

And so the Peace Convention came and went, and there was no
consolation for the troubled men of the upper South who did not
want to secede but were resolved not to abandon local autonomy.
Virginia was the key to the situation. If Virginia could be
forced into secession, the rest of the upper South would
inevitably follow. Therefore a Virginia hothead, Roger A. Pryor,
being in Charleston in those wavering days, poured out his heart
in fiery words, urging a Charleston crowd to precipitate war, in
the certainty that Virginia would then have to come to their aid.
When at last Sumter was fired upon and Lincoln called for
volunteers, the second stage of the secession movement ended in a
thunderclap. The third period was occupied by the second group of
secessions: Virginia on the 17th of April, North Carolina and
Arkansas during May, Tennessee early in June.

Sumter was the turning-point. The boom of the first cannon
trained on the island fortress deserves all the rhetoric it has
inspired. Who was immediately responsible for that firing which
was destiny? Ultimate responsibility is not upon any person. War
had to be. If Sumter had not been the starting-point, some other
would have been found. Nevertheless the question of immediate
responsibility, of whose word it was that served as the signal to
begin, has produced an historic controversy.

When it was known at Charleston that Lincoln would attempt to
provision the fort, the South Carolina authorities referred the
matter to the Confederate authorities. The Cabinet, in a fateful
session at Montgomery, hesitated--drawn between the wish to keep
their hold upon the moderates of the North, who were trying to
stave off war, and the desire to precipitate Virginia into the
lists. Toombs, Secretary of State in the new Government, wavered;
then seemed to find his resolution and came out strong against a
demand for surrender. "It is suicide, murder, and will lose us
every friend at the North.... It is unnecessary; it puts us
in the wrong; it is fatal," said he. But the Cabinet and the
President decided to take the risk. To General Pierre Beauregard,
recently placed in command of the militia assembled at
Charleston, word was sent to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter.

On Thursday, the 7th of April, besides his instructions from
Montgomery, Beauregard was in receipt of a telegram from the
Confederate commissioners at Washington, repeating newspaper
statements that the Federal relief expedition intended to land a
force "which will overcome all opposition." There seems no doubt
that Beauregard did not believe that the expedition was intended
merely to provision Sumter. Probably every one in Charleston
thought that the Federal authorities were trying to deceive them,
that Lincoln's promise not to do more than provision Sumter was a
mere blind. Fearfulness that delay might render Sumter
impregnable lay back of Beauregard's formal demand, on the 11th
of April, for the surrender of the fort. Anderson refused but
"made some verbal observations" to the aides who brought him the
demand. In effect he said that lack of supplies would compel him
to surrender by the fifteenth. When this information was taken
back to the city, eager crowds were in the streets of Charleston
discussing the report that a bombardment would soon begin. But
the afternoon passed; night fell; and nothing was done. On the
beautiful terrace along the sea known as East Battery, people
congregated, watching the silent fortress whose brick walls rose
sheer from the midst of the harbor. The early hours of the night
went by and as midnight approached and still there was no flash
from either the fortress or the shore batteries which threatened
it, the crowds broke up.

Meanwhile there was anxious consultation at the hotel where
Beauregard had fixed his headquarters. Pilots came in from the
sea to report to the General that a Federal vessel had appeared
off the mouth of the harbor. This news may well explain the hasty
dispatch of a second expedition to Sumter in the middle of the
night. At half after one, Friday morning, four young men, aides
of Beauregard, entered the fort. Anderson repeated his refusal to
surrender at once but admitted that he would have to surrender
within three days. Thereupon the aides held a council of war.
They decided that the reply was unsatisfactory and wrote out a
brief note which they handed to Anderson informing him that the
Confederates would open "fire upon Fort Sumter in one hour from
this time." The note was dated 3:20 A.M. The aides then proceeded
to Fort Johnston on the south side of the harbor and gave the
order to fire.

The council of the aides at Sumter is the dramatic detail that
has caught the imagination of historians and has led them, at
least in some cases, to yield to a literary temptation. It is so
dramatic--that scene of the four young men holding in their
hands, during a moment of absolute destiny, the fate of a people;
four young men, in the irresponsible ardor of youth, refusing to
wait three days and forcing war at the instant! It is so dramatic
that one cannot judge harshly the artistic temper which is unable
to reject it. But is the incident historic? Did the four young
men come to Sumter without definite instructions? Was their
conference really anything more than a careful comparing of notes
to make sure they were doing what they were intended to do? Is
not the real clue to the event a message from Beauregard to the
Secretary of War telling of his interview with the pilots? *

*A chief authority for the dramatic version of the council of the
aides is that fiery Virginian, Roger A. Pryor. He and another
accompanied the official messengers, the signers of the note to
Anderson, James Chestnut and Stephen Lee. Years afterwards Pryor
told the story of the council in a way to establish its dramatic
significance. But would there be anything strange if a veteran
survivor, looking back to his youth, as all of us do through more
or less of mirage yielded to the unconscious artist that is in us
all and dramatized this event unaware?

Dawn was breaking gray, with a faint rain in the air, when the
first boom of the cannon awakened the city. Other detonations
followed in quick succession. Shells rose into the night from
both sides of the harbor and from floating batteries. How lightly
Charleston slept that night may be inferred from the accounts in
the newspapers. "At the report of the first gun," says the
Courier, "the city was nearly emptied of its inhabitants who
crowded the Battery and the wharves to witness the conflict."

The East Battery and the lower harbor of the lovely city of
Charleston have been preserved almost without alteration. What
they are today they were in the breaking dawn on April 12, 1861.
Business has gone up the rivers between which Charleston lies and
has left the point of the city's peninsula, where East Battery
looks outward to the Atlantic, in its perfect charm. There large
houses, pillared, with high piazzas, stand apart one from another
among gardens. With few exceptions they were built before the
middle of the century and all, with one exception, show the
classical taste of those days. The mariner, entering the spacious
inner sea that is Charleston Harbor, sights this row of stately
mansions even before he crosses the bar seven miles distant.
Holding straight onward up into the land he heads first for the
famous little island where, nowadays, in their halo of thrilling
recollection, the walls of Sumter, rising sheer from the bosom of
the water, drowse idle. Close under the lee of Sumter, the
incoming steersman brings his ship about and chooses, probably,
the eastward of two huge tentacles of the sea between which lies
the city's long but narrow peninsula. To the steersman it shows a
skyline serrated by steeples, fronted by sea, flanked southward
by sea, backgrounded by an estuary, and looped about by a sickle
of wooded islands.  This same scene, so far as city and nature
go, was beheld by the crowds that swarmed East Battery, a
flagstone marine parade along the seaward side of the boulevard
that faces Sumter; that filled the windows and even the
housetops; that watched the bombardment with the eagerness of an
audience in an amphitheater; that applauded every telling shot
with clapping of hands and waving of shawls and handkerchiefs.
The fort lay distant from them about three miles, but only some
fifteen hundred yards from Fort Johnston on one side and about a
mile from Fort Moultrie on the other. From both of these latter,
the cannon of those days were equal to the task of harassing
Sumter. Early in the morning of the 12th of April, though not
until broad day had come, did Anderson make reply. All that day,
at first under heavily rolling cloud and later through curiously
misty sunshine, the fire and counterfire continued. "The
enthusiasm and fearlessness of the spectators," says the
Charleston Mercury, "knew no bounds." Reckless observers even put
out in small boats and roamed about the harbor almost under the
guns of the fort. Outside the bar, vessels of the relieving
squadron were now visible, and to these Anderson signaled for
aid. They made an attempt to reach the fort, but only part of the
squadron had arrived; and the vessels necessary to raise the
siege were not there. The attempt ended in failure. When night
came, a string of rowboats each carrying a huge torch kept watch
along the bar to guard against surprise from the sea.

On that Friday night the harbor was swept by storm. But in spite
of torrents of rain East Battery and the rooftops were thronged.
"The wind was inshore and the booming was startlingly distinct."
At the height of the bombardment, the sky above Sumter seemed to
be filled with the flashes of bursting shells. But during this
wild night Sumter itself was both dark and silent. Its casements
did not have adequate lamps and the guns could not be used except
by day. When morning broke, clear and bright after the night's
storm, the duel was resumed.

The walls of Sumter were now crumbling. At eight o'clock Saturday
morning the barracks took fire. Soon after it was perceived from
the shore that the flag was down. Beauregard at once sent offers
of assistance. With Sumter in flames above his head, Anderson
replied that he had not surrendered; he declined assistance; and
he hauled up his flag. Later in the day the flagstaff was shot in
two and again the flag fell, and again it was raised. Flames had
been kindled anew by red-hot shot, and now the magazine was in
danger. Quantities of powder were thrown into the sea. Still the
rain of red-hot shot continued. About noon, Saturday, says the
Courier, "flames burst out from every quarter of Sumter and
poured from many of its portholes...the wind was from the
west driving the smoke across the fort into the embrasures where
the gunners were at work." Nevertheless, "as if served with a new
impulse," the guns of Sumter redoubled their fire. But it was not
in human endurance to keep on in the midst of the burning fort.
This splendid last effort was short. At a quarter after one,
Anderson ceased firing and raised a white flag. Negotiations
followed ending in terms of surrender--Anderson to be allowed to
remove his garrison to the fleet lying idle beyond the bar and to
salute the flag of the United States before taking it down. The
bombardment had lasted thirty-two hours without a death on either
side. The evacuation of the fort was to take place next day.

The afternoon of Sunday, the 14th of April, was a gala day in the
harbor of Charleston. The sunlight slanted across the roofs of
the city, sparkled upon the sea. Deep and rich the harbor always
looks in the spring sunshine on bright afternoons. The filmy
atmosphere of these latitudes, at that time of year, makes the
sky above the darkling, afternoon sea a pale but luminous
turquoise. There is a wonderful soft strength in the peaceful
brightness of the sun. In such an atmosphere the harbor was
flecked with brilliantly decked craft of every description, all
in a flutter of flags and carrying a host of passengers in gala
dress. The city swarmed across the water to witness the ceremony
of evacuation. Wherry men did a thriving business carrying
passengers to the fort.

Anderson withdrew from Sumter shortly after two o'clock amid a
salute of fifty guns. The Confederates took possession. At half
after four a new flag was raised above the battered and
fire-swept walls.

Chapter II. The Davis Government

It has never been explained why Jefferson Davis was chosen
President of the Confederacy. He did not seek the office and did
not wish it. He dreamed of high military command. As a study in
the irony of fate, Davis's career is made to the hand of the
dramatist. An instinctive soldier, he was driven by circumstances
three times to renounce the profession of arms for a less
congenial civilian life. His final renunciation, which proved to
be of the nature of tragedy, was his acceptance of the office of
President. Indeed, why the office was given to him seems a
mystery. Rhett was a more logical candidate. And when Rhett,
early in the lobbying at Montgomery, was set aside as too much of
a radical, Toombs seemed for a time the certain choice of the
majority. The change to Davis came suddenly at the last moment.
It was puzzling at the time; it is puzzling still.

Rhett, though doubtless bitterly disappointed, bore himself with
the savoir faire of a great gentleman. At the inauguration, it
was on Rhett's arm that Davis leaned as he entered the hall of
the Confederate Congress. The night before, in a public address,
Yancey had said that the man and the hour were met. The story of
the Confederacy is filled with dramatic moments, but to the
thoughtful observer few are more dramatic than the conjunction of
these three men in the inauguration of the Confederate President.
Beneath a surface of apparent unanimity they carried, like
concealed weapons, points of view that were in deadly antagonism.
This antagonism had not revealed itself hitherto. It was destined
to reveal itself almost immediately. It went so deep and spread
so far that unless we understand it, the Confederate story will
be unintelligible.

A strange fatality destined all three of these great men to
despair. Yancey, who was perhaps most directly answerable of the
three for the existence of the Confederacy, lost influence almost
from the moment when his dream became established. Davis was
partly responsible, for he promptly sent him out of the country
on the bootless English mission. Thereafter, until his death in
1863, Yancey was a waning, overshadowed figure, steadily lapsing
into the background. It may be that those critics are right who
say he was only an agitator. The day of the mere agitator was
gone. Yancey passed rapidly into futile but bitter antagonism to
Davis. In this attitude he was soon to be matched by Rhett.

The discontent of the Rhett faction because their leader was not
given the portfolio of the State Department found immediate
voice. But the conclusion drawn by some that Rhett's subsequent
course sprang from personal vindictiveness is trifling. He was
too large a personality, too well defined an intellect, to be
thus explained. Very probably Davis made his first great blunder
in failing to propitiate the Rhett faction. And yet few things
are more certain than that the two men, the two factions which
they symbolized, could not have formed a permanent alliance. Had
Rhett entered the Cabinet he could not have remained in it
consistently for any considerable time. The measures in which,
presently, the Administration showed its hand were measures in
which Rhett could not acquiesce. From the start he was
predestined to his eventual position--the great, unavailing
genius of the opposition.

As to the comparative ignoring of these leaders of secession by
the Government which secession had created, it is often said that
the explanation is to be found in a generous as well as politic
desire to put in office the moderates and even the conservatives.
Davis, relatively, was a moderate. Stephens was a conservative.
Many of the most pronounced opponents of secession were given
places in the public service. Toombs, who received the portfolio
of State, though a secessionist, was conspicuously a moderate
when compared with Rhett and Yancey. The adroit Benjamin, who
became Attorney-General, had few points in common with the great
extremists of Alabama and South Carolina.

However, the dictum that the personnel of the new Government was
a triumph for conservatism over radicalism signifies little.
There was a division among Southerners which scarcely any of them
had realized except briefly in the premature battle over
secession in 1851. It was the division between those who were
conscious of the region as a whole and those who were not.
Explain it as you will, there was a moment just after the
secession movement succeeded when the South seemed to realize
itself as a whole, when it turned intuitively to those men who,
as time was to demonstrate, shared this realization. For the
moment it turned away from those others, however great their part
in secession, who lacked this sense of unity.

At this point, geography becomes essential. The South fell,
institutionally, into two grand divisions: one, with an old and
firmly established social order, where consciousness of the
locality went back to remote times; another, newly settled, where
conditions were still fluid, where that sense of the sacredness
of local institutions had not yet formed.

A typical community of the first-named class was South Carolina.
Her people had to a remarkable degree been rendered
state-conscious partly by their geographical neighbors, and
partly by their long and illustrious history, which had been
interwoven with great European interests during the colonial era
and with great national interests under the Republic. It is
possible also that the Huguenots, though few in numbers, had
exercised upon the State a subtle and pervasive influence through
their intellectual power and their Latin sense for institutions.

In South Carolina, too, a wealthy leisure class with a passion
for affairs had cultivated enthusiastically that fine art which
is the pride of all aristocratic societies, the service of the
State as a profession high and exclusive, free from vulgar taint.
In South Carolina all things conspired to uphold and strengthen
the sense of the State as an object of veneration, as something
over and above the mere social order, as the sacred embodiment of
the ideals of the community. Thus it is fair to say that what has
animated the heroic little countries of the Old World Switzerland
and Serbia and ever-glorious Belgium--with their passion to
remain themselves, animated South Carolina in 1861. Just as
Serbia was willing to fight to the death rather than merge her
identity in the mosaic of the Austrian Empire, so this little
American community saw nothing of happiness in any future that
did not secure its virtual independence.

Typical of the newer order in the South was the community that
formed the President of the Confederacy. In the history of
Mississippi previous to the war there are six great names--Jacob
Thompson, John A. Quitman, Henry S. Foote, Robert J. Walker,
Sergeant S. Prentiss, and Jefferson Davis. Not one of them was
born in the State. Thompson was born in North Carolina; Quitman
in New York; Foote in Virginia; Walker in Pennsylvania; Prentiss
in Maine; Davis in Kentucky. In 1861 the State was but forty-four
years old, younger than its most illustrious sons--if the paradox
may be permitted. How could they think of it as an entity
existing in itself, antedating not only themselves but their
traditions, circumscribing them with its all-embracing,
indisputable reality? These men spoke the language of state
rights. It is true that in politics, combating the North, they
used the political philosophy taught them by South Carolina. But
it was a mental weapon in political debate; it was not for them
an emotional fact.

And yet these men of the Southwest had an ideal of their own as
vivid and as binding as the state ideal of the men of the eastern
coast. Though half their leaders were born in the North, the
people themselves were overwhelmingly Southern. From all the
older States, all round the huge crescent which swung around from
Kentucky coastwise to Florida, immigration in the twenties and
thirties had poured into Mississippi. Consequently the new
community presented a composite picture of the whole South, and
like all composite pictures it emphasized only the factors common
to all its parts. What all the South had in common, what made a
man a Southerner in the general sense--in distinction from a
Northerner on the one hand, or a Virginian, Carolinian, Georgian,
on the other--could have been observed with clearness in
Mississippi, just before the war, as nowhere else. Therefore, the
fulfillment of the ideal of Southern life in general terms was
the vision of things hoped for by the new men of the Southwest.
The features of that vision were common to them all--country
life, broad acres, generous hospitality, an aristocratic system.
The temperaments of these men were sufficiently buoyant to enable
them to apprehend this ideal even before it had materialized.
Their romantic minds could see the gold at the end of the
rainbow. Theirs was not the pride of administering a
well-ordered, inherited system, but the joy of building a new
system, in their minds wholly elastic, to be sure, but still
inspired by that old system.

What may be called the sense of Southern nationality as opposed
to the sense of state rights, strictly speaking, distinguished
this brilliant young community of the Southwest. In that
community Davis spent the years that appear to have been the most
impressionable of his life. Belonging to a "new" family just
emerging into wealth, he began life as a West Pointer and saw
gallant service as a youth on the frontier; resigned from the
army to pursue a romantic attachment; came home to lead the life
of a wealthy planter and receive the impress of Mississippi; made
his entry into politics, still a soldier at heart, with the
philosophy of state rights on his lips, but in his heart that
sense of the Southern people as a new nation, which needed only
the occasion to make it the relentless enemy of the rights of the
individual Southern States. Add together the instinctive military
point of view and this Southern nationalism that even in 1861 had
scarcely revealed itself; join with these a fearless and haughty
spirit, proud to the verge of arrogance, but perfectly devoted,
perfectly sincere; and you have the main lines of the political
character of Davis when he became President. It may be that as he
went forward in his great undertaking, as antagonisms developed,
as Rhett and others turned against him, Davis hardened. He lost
whatever comprehension he once had of the Rhett type. Seeking to
weld into one irresistible unit all the military power of the
South, he became at last in the eyes of his opponents a monster,
while to him, more and more positively, the others became mere

It took about a year for this irrepressible conflict within the 
Confederacy to reveal itself. During the twelve months following
Davis's election as provisional President, he dominated the
situation, though the Charleston Mercury, the Rhett organ, found
opportunities to be sharply critical of the President. He
assembled armies; he initiated heroic efforts to make up for the
handicap of the South in the manufacture of munitions and
succeeded in starting a number of munition plants; though
powerless to prevent the establishment of the blockade, he was
able during that first year to keep in touch with Europe, to
start out Confederate privateers upon the high seas, and to
import a considerable quantity of arms and supplies. At the
close of the year the Confederate armies were approaching
general efficiency, for all their enormous handicap, almost if
not quite as rapidly as were the Union armies. And the one great 
event of the year on land, the first battle of Manassas, or Bull
Run, was a signal Confederate victory.

To be sure Davis was severely criticized in some quarters for
not adopting an aggressive policy. The Confederate Government,
whether wisely or foolishly, had not taken the people into its
confidence and the lack of munitions was not generally
appreciated. The easy popular cries were all sounded: "We are
standing still!" "The country is being invaded!" "The President
is a do-nothing!" From the coast regions especially, where the
blockade was felt in all its severity, the outcry was loud.

Nevertheless, the South in the main was content with the
Administration during most of the first year. In November, when
the general elections were held, Davis was chosen without
opposition as the first regular Confederate President for six
years, and Stephens became the Vice-President. The election was
followed by an important change in the Southern Cabinet. Benjamin
became Secretary of War, in succession to the first War
Secretary, Leroy P. Walker. Toombs had already left the
Confederate Cabinet. Complaining that Davis degraded him to the
level of a mere clerk, he had withdrawn the previous July. His
successor in the State Department was R. M. T. Hunter of
Virginia, who remained in office until February, 1862, when his
removal to the Confederate Senate opened the way for a further
advancement of Benjamin.

Richmond, which had been designated as the capital soon after the
secession of Virginia, was the scene of the inauguration, on
February 22, 1862. Although the weather proved bleak and rainy,
an immense crowd gathered around the Washington monument, in
Capitol Square, to listen to the inaugural address. By this time
the confidence in the Government, which was felt generally at the
time of the election, had suffered a shock. Foreign affairs were
not progressing satisfactorily. Though England had accorded to
the Confederacy the status of a belligerent, this was poor
consolation for her refusal to make full recognition of the new
Government as an independent power. Dread of internal distress
was increasing. Gold commanded a premium of fifty percent.
Disorder was a feature of the life in the cities. It was known
that several recent military events had been victories for the
Federals. A rumor was abroad that some great disaster had taken
place in Tennessee. The crowd listened anxiously to hear the
rumor denied by the President. But it was not denied. The tense
listeners noted two sentences which formed an admission that the
situation was grave: "A million men, it is estimated, are now
standing in hostile array and waging war along a frontier of
thousands of miles. Battles have been fought, sieges have been
conducted, and although the contest is not ended, and the tide
for the moment is against us, the final result in our favor is
not doubtful."

Behind these carefully guarded words lay serious alarm, not only
with regard to the operations at the front but as to the
composition of the army. It had been raised under various laws
and its portions were subject to conflicting classifications; it
was partly a group of state armies, partly a single Confederate
army. None of its members had enlisted for long terms. Many
enlistments would expire early in 1862. The fears of the
Confederate Administration with regard to this matter, together
with its alarm about the events at the front, were expressed by
Davis in a frank message to the Southern Congress, three days
later. "I have hoped," said he, "for several days to receive
official reports in relation to our discomfiture at Roanoke
Island and the fall of Fort Donelson. They have not yet reached
Me.... The hope is still entertained that our reported losses
at Fort Donelson have been greatly exaggerated...." He went
on to condemn the policy of enlistments for short terms, "against
which," said he, "I have steadily contended"; and he enlarged
upon the danger that even patriotic men, who intended to
reenlist, might go home to put their affairs in order and that
thus, at a critical moment, the army might be seriously reduced.
The accompanying report of the Confederate Secretary of War
showed a total in the army of 340,250 men. This was an inadequate
force with which to meet the great hosts which were being
organized against it in the North. To permit the slightest
reduction of the army at that moment seemed to the Southern
President suicidal.

But Davis waited some time longer before proposing to the
Confederate Congress the adoption of conscription. Meanwhile, the
details of two great reverses, the loss of Roanoke Island and the
loss of Fort Donelson, became generally known. Apprehension
gathered strength. Newspapers began to discuss conscription as
something inevitable. At last, on March 28, 1862, Davis sent a
message to the Confederate Congress advising the conscription of
all white males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. For
this suggestion Congress was ripe, and the first Conscription Act
of the Confederacy was signed by the President on the 16th of
April. The age of eligibility was fixed as Davis had advised; the
term of service was to be three years; every one then in service
was to be retained in service during three years from the date of
his original enlistment.

This statute may be thought of as a great victory on the part of
the Administration. It was the climax of a policy of
centralization in the military establishment to which Davis had
committed himself by the veto, in January, of "A bill to
authorize the Secretary of War to receive into the service of the
Confederate States a regiment of volunteers for the protection of
the frontier of Texas." This regiment was to be under the control
of the Governor of the State. In refusing to accept such troops,
Davis laid down the main proposition upon which he stood as
military executive to the end of the war, a proposition which
immediately set debate raging: "Unity and cooperation by the
troops of all the States are indispensable to success, and I must
view with regret this as well as all other indications of a
purpose to divide the power of States by dividing the means to be
employed in efforts to carry on separate operations."

In these military measures of the early months of 1862 Davis's
purpose became clear. He was bent upon instituting a strong
government, able to push the war through, and careless of the
niceties of constitutional law or of the exact prerogatives of
the States. His position was expressed in the course of the year
by a Virginia newspaper: "It will be time enough to distract the
councils of the State about imaginary violations of
constitutional law by the supreme government when our
independence is achieved, established, and acknowledged. It will
not be until then that the sovereignty of the States will be a
reality." But there were many Southerners who could not accept
this point of view. The Mercury was sharply critical of the veto
of the Texas Regiment Bill. In the interval between the Texas
veto and the passing of the Conscription Act, the state
convention of North Carolina demanded the return of North
Carolina volunteers for the defense of their own State. No sooner
was the Conscription Act passed than its constitutionality was
attacked. As the Confederacy had no Supreme Court, the question
came up before state courts. One after another, several state
supreme courts pronounced the act constitutional and in most of
the States the constitutional issue was gradually allowed to

Nevertheless, Davis had opened Pandora's box. The clash between
State and Confederate authority had begun. An opposition party
began to form. In this first stage of its definite existence, the
opposition made an interesting attempt to control the Cabinet.
Secretary Benjamin, though greatly trusted by the President,
seems never to have been a popular minister. Congress attempted
to load upon Benjamin the blame for Roanoke Island and Fort
Donelson. In the House a motion was introduced to the effect that
Benjamin had "not the confidence of the people of the Confederate
States nor of the army...and that we most respectfully
request his retirement" from the office of Secretary of War.
Friends of the Administration tabled the motion. Davis extricated
his friend by taking advantage of Hunter's retirement and
promoting Benjamin to the State Department. A month later a
congressional committee appointed to investigate the affair of
Roanoke Island exonerated the officer in command and laid the
blame on his superiors, including "the late Secretary of War."

With Benjamin safe in the Department of State, with the majority
in the Confederate Congress still fairly manageable, with the
Conscription Act in force, Davis seemed to be strong enough in
the spring of 1862 to ignore the gathering opposition. And yet
there was another measure, second only in the President's eyes to
the Conscription Act, that was to breed trouble. This was the
first of the series of acts empowering him to suspend the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Under this act he was
permitted to set up martial law in any district threatened with
invasion. The cause of this drastic measure was the confusion and
the general demoralization that existed wherever the close
approach of the enemy created a situation too complex for the
ordinary civil authorities. Davis made use of the power thus
given to him and proclaimed martial law in Richmond, in Norfolk,
in parts of South Carolina, and elsewhere. It was on Richmond
that the hand of the Administration fell heaviest. The capital
was the center of a great camp; its sudden and vast increase in
population bad been the signal for all the criminal class near
and far to hurry thither in the hope of a new field of
spoliation; to deal with this immense human congestion, the local
police were powerless; every variety of abominable contrivance to
entrap and debauch men for a price was in brazen operation. The
first care of the Government under the new law was the cleansing
of the capital. General John H. Winder, appointed military
governor, did the job with thoroughness. He closed the barrooms,
disarmed the populace, and for the time at least swept the city
clean of criminals. The Administration also made certain
political arrests, and even imprisoned some extreme opponents of
the Government for "offenses not enumerated and not cognizable
under the regular process of law." Such arrests gave the enemies
of the Administration another handle against it. As we shall see
later, the use that Davis made of martial law was distorted by a
thousand fault-finders and was made the basis of the charge that
the President was aiming at absolute power.

At the moment, however, Davis was master of the situation. The
six months following April 1, 1862, were doubtless, from his own
point of view, the most satisfactory part of his career as
Confederate President. These months were indeed filled with
peril. There was a time when McClellan's advance up the Peninsula
appeared so threatening that the archives of the Government were
packed on railway cars prepared for immediate removal should
evacuation be necessary. There were the other great disasters
during that year, including the loss of New Orleans. The
President himself experienced a profound personal sorrow in the
death of his friend, Albert Sidney Johnston, in the bloody fight
at Shiloh. It was in the midst of this time that tried men's
souls that the Richmond Examiner achieved an unenvied
immortality for one of its articles on the Administration. At a
moment when nothing should have been said to discredit in any way
the struggling Government, it described Davis as weak with fear
telling his beads in a corner of St. Paul's Church. This paper,
along with the Charleston Mercury, led the Opposition. Throughout
Confederate history these two, which were very ably edited, did
the thinking for the enemies of Davis. We shall meet them time
and again.

A true picture of Davis would have shown the President resolute
and resourceful, at perhaps the height of his powers. He
recruited and supplied the armies; he fortified Richmond; he
sustained the great captain whom he had placed in command while
McClellan was at the gates. When the tide had turned and the Army
of the Potomac sullenly withdrew, baffled, there occurred the one
brief space in Confederate history that was pure sunshine. In
this period took place the splendid victory of Second Manassas.
The strong military policy of the Administration had given the
Confederacy powerful armies. Lee had inspired them with victory.
This period of buoyant hope culminated in the great offensive
design which followed Second Manassas. It was known that the
Northern people, or a large part of them, had suffered a
reaction; the tide was setting strong against the Lincoln
Government; in the autumn, the Northern elections would be held.
To influence those elections and at the same time to drive the
Northern armies back into their own section; to draw Maryland and
Kentucky into the Confederate States; to fall upon the invaders
in the Southwest and recover the lower Mississippi--to accomplish
all these results was the confident expectation of the President
and his advisers as they planned their great triple offensive in
August, 1862. Lee was to invade Maryland; Bragg was to invade
Kentucky; Van Dorn was to break the hold of the Federals in the
Southwest. If there is one moment that is to be considered the
climax of Davis's career, the high-water mark of Confederate
hope, it was the moment of joyous expectation when the triple
offensive was launched, when Lee's army, on a brilliant autumn
day, crossed the Potomac, singing "Maryland, my Maryland".

Chapter III. The Fall Of King Cotton

While the Confederate Executive was building up its military
establishment, the Treasury was struggling with the problem of
paying for it. The problem was destined to become insoluble. From
the vantage-point of a later time we can now see that nothing
could have provided a solution short of appropriation and
mobilization of the whole industrial power of the country along
with the whole military power--a conscription of wealth of every
kind together with conscription of men. But in 1862 such an idea
was too advanced for any group of Americans. Nor, in that year,
was there as yet any certain evidence that the Treasury was
facing an impossible situation. Its endeavors were taken
lightly--at first, almost gaily-because of the profound illusion
which permeated Southern thought that Cotton was King. Obviously,
if the Southern ports could be kept open and cotton could
continue to go to market, the Confederate financial problem was
not serious. When Davis, soon after his first inauguration, sent
Yancey, Rost, and Mann as commissioners to Europe to press the
claims of the Confederacy for recognition, very few Southerners
had any doubt that the blockade, would be short-lived. "Cotton is
King" was the answer that silenced all questions. Without
American cotton the English mills would have to shut down; the
operatives would starve; famine and discontent would between them
force the British ministry to intervene in American affairs.
There were, indeed, a few far-sighted men who perceived that this
confidence was ill-based and that cotton, though it was a power
in the financial world, was not the commercial king. The majority
of the population, however, had to learn this truth from keen

Several events of 1861 for a time seemed to confirm this
illusion. The Queen's proclamation in the spring, giving the
Confederacy the status of a belligerent, and, in the autumn, the
demand by the British Government for the surrender of the
commissioners, Mason and Slidell, who had been taken from a
British packet by a Union cruiser--both these events seemed to
indicate active British sympathy. In England, to be sure, Yancey
became disillusioned. He saw that the international situation was
not so simple as it seemed; that while the South had powerful
friends abroad, it also had powerful foes; that the British
anti-slavery party was a more formidable enemy than he had
expected it to be; and that intervention was not a foregone
conclusion. The task of an unrecognized ambassador being too
annoying for him, Yancey was relieved at his own request and
Mason was sent out to take his place. A singular little incident
like a dismal prophecy occurred as Yancey was on his way home. He
passed through Havana early in 1862, when the news of the
surrender of Fort Donelson had begun to stagger the hopes and
impair the prestige of the Confederates. By the advice of the
Confederate agent in Cuba, Yancey did not call on the Spanish
Governor but sent him word that "delicacy alone prompted his
departure without the gratification of a personal interview." The
Governor expressed himself as "exceedingly grateful for the noble
sentiment which prevented" Yancey from causing international
complications at Havana.

The history of the first year of Confederate foreign affairs is
interwoven with the history of Confederate finance. During that
year the South became a great buyer in Europe. Arms, powder,
cloth, machinery, medicines, ships, a thousand things, had all to
be bought abroad. To establish the foreign credit of the new
Government was the arduous task of the Confederate Secretary of
the Treasury, Christopher G. Memminger. The first great campaign
of the war was not fought by armies. It was a commercial campaign
fought by agents of the Federal and Confederate governments and
having for its aim the cornering of the munitions market in
Europe. In this campaign the Federal agents had decisive
advantages: their credit was never questioned, and their enormous
purchases were never doubtful ventures for the European sellers.
In some cases their superior credit enabled them to overbid the
Confederate agents and to appropriate large contracts which the
Confederates had negotiated but which they could not hold because
of the precariousness of their credit. And yet, all things
considered, the Confederate agents made a good showing. In the
report of the Secretary of War in February, 1862, the number of
rifles contracted for abroad was put at 91,000, of which 15,000
had been delivered. The chief reliance of the Confederate
Treasury for its purchases abroad was at first the specie in the
Southern branch of the United States Mint and in Southern banks.
The former the Confederacy seized and converted to its own use.
Of the latter it lured into its own hands a very large proportion
by what is commonly called "the fifteen million loan"--an issue
eight percent bonds authorized in February, 1861. Most of this
specie seems to have been taken out of the country by the
purchase of European commodities. A little, to be sure, remained,
for there was some gold still at home when the Confederacy fell.
But the sum was small.

In addition to this loan Memminger also persuaded Congress on
August 19, 1861, to lay a direct tax--the "war tax," as it was
called--of one-half of one per cent on all property except
Confederate bonds and money. As required by the Constitution this
tax was apportioned among the States, but if it assumed its
assessment before April 1, 1862, each State was to have a
reduction of ten per cent. As there was a general aversion to the
idea of Confederate taxation and a general faith in loans, what
the States did, as a rule, was to assume their assessment, agree
to pay it into the Treasury, and then issue bonds to raise the
necessary funds, thus converting the war tax into a loan.

The Confederate, like the Union, Treasury did not have the
courage to force the issue upon taxation and leaned throughout
the war largely upon loans. It also had recourse to the perilous
device of paper money, the gold value of which was not
guaranteed. Beginning in March, 1861, it issued under successive
laws great quantities of paper notes, some of them interest
bearing, some not. It used these notes in payment of its domestic
obligations. The purchasing value of the notes soon started on a
disastrous downward course, and in 1864 the gold dollar was worth
thirty paper dollars. The Confederate Government thus became
involved in a problem of self-preservation that was but half
solved by the system of tithes and impressment which we shall
encounter later. The depreciation of these notes left
governmental clerks without adequate salaries and soldiers
without the means of providing for their families. During most of
the war, women and other noncombatants had to support the
families or else rely upon local charity organized by state or
county boards.

Long before all the evils of paper money were experienced, the
North, with great swiftness, concentrated its naval forces so as
to dominate the Southern ports which had trade relations with
Europe. The shipping ports were at once congested with cotton to
the great embarrassment of merchants and planters. Partly to
relieve them, the Confederate Congress instituted in May, 1861,
what is known today as "the hundred million loan." It was the
first of a series of "produce loans." The Treasury was authorized
to issue eight percent bonds, to fall due in twenty years, and
to sell them for specie or to exchange them for produce or
manufactured articles. In the course of the remaining months of
1861 there were exchanged for these bonds great quantities of
produce including some 400,000 bales of cotton.

In spite of the distress of the planters, however, the illusion
of King Cotton's power does not seem to have been seriously
impaired during 1861. In fact, strange as it now seems, the frame
of mind of the leaders appears to have been proof, that year,
against alarm over the blockade. For two reasons, the Confederacy
regarded the blockade at first as a blessing in disguise. It was
counted on to act as a protective tariff in stimulating
manufactures; and at the same time the South expected
interruption of the flow of cotton towards Europe to make England
feel her dependence upon the Confederacy. In this way there would
be exerted an economic coercion which would compel intervention.
Such reasoning lay behind a law passed in May forbidding the
export of cotton except through the seaports of the Confederacy.
Similar laws were enacted by the States. During the summer, many
cotton factors joined in advising the planters to hold their
cotton until the blockade broke down. In the autumn, the Governor
of Louisiana forbade the export of cotton from New Orleans. So
unshakeable was the illusion in 1861, that King Cotton had
England in his grip! The illusion died hard. Throughout 1862, and
even in 1863, the newspapers published appeals to the planters to
give up growing cotton for a time, and even to destroy what they
had, so as to coerce the obdurate Englishmen.

Meanwhile, Mason had been accorded by the British upper classes
that generous welcome which they have always extended to the
representative, of a people fighting gallantly against odds.
During the hopeful days of 1862--that Golden Age of
Confederacy--Mason, though not recognized by the English
Government, was shown every kindness by leading members of the
aristocracy, who visited him in London and received him at their
houses in the country. It was during this period of buoyant hope
that the Alabama was allowed to go to sea from Liverpool in July,
1862. At the same time Mason heard his hosts express undisguised
admiration for the valor of the soldiers serving under Jackson
and Lee. Whether he formed any true impression of the other side
of British idealism, its resolute opposition to slavery, may be
questioned. There seems little doubt that he did not perceive the
turning of the tide of English public opinion, in the autumn of
1862, following the Emancipation Proclamation and the great
reverses of September and October--Antietam-Sharpsburg,
Perryville, Corinth--the backflow of all three of the Confederate

The cotton famine in England, where perhaps a million people were
in actual want through the shutting down of cotton mills, seemed
to Mason to be "looming up in fearful proportions." "The public
mind," he wrote home in November, 1862, "is very much disturbed
by the prospect for the winter; and I am not without hope that it
will produce its effects on the councils of the government." Yet
it was the uprising of the British working people in favor of the
North that contributed to defeat the one important attempt to
intervene in American affairs. Napoleon III had made an offer of
mediation which was rejected by the Washington Government early
the next year. England and Russia had both declined to
participate in Napoleon's scheme, and their refusal marks the
beginning of the end of the reign of King Cotton.

At Paris, Slidell was even more hopeful than Mason. He had won
over Emile Erlanger, that great banker who was deep in the
confidence of Napoleon. So cordial became the relations between
the two that it involved their families and led at last to the
marriage of Erlanger's son with Slidell's daughter. Whether owing
to Slidell's eloquence, or from secret knowledge of the Emperor's
designs, or from his own audacity, Erlanger toward the close of
1862 made a proposal that is one of the most daring schemes of
financial plunging yet recorded. If the Confederate Government
would issue to him bonds secured by cotton, Erlanger would
underwrite the bonds, put the proceeds of their sale to the
credit of the Confederate agents, and wait for the cotton until
it could run the blockade or until peace should be declared. The
Confederate Government after some hesitation accepted his plan
and issued fifteen millions of "Erlanger bonds," bearing seven
percent, and put them on sale at Paris, London. Amsterdam, and

As a purchaser of these bonds was to be given cotton eventually
at a valuation of sixpence a pound, and as cotton was then
selling in England for nearly two shillings; the bold gamble
caught the fancy of speculators. There was a rush to take up the
bonds and to pay the first installment. But before the second
installment became due a mysterious change in the market took
place and the price of the bonds fell. Holders became alarmed and
some even proposed to forfeit their bonds rather than pay on May
1, 1863, the next installment of fifteen percent of the purchase
money. Thereupon Mason undertook to "bull" the market. Agents of
the United States Government were supposed to be at the bottom of
the drop in the bonds. To defeat their schemes the Confederate
agents bought back large amounts in bonds intending to resell.
The result was the expenditure of some six million dollars with
practically no effect on the market. These "Erlanger bonds" sold
slowly through 1863 and even in 1864, and netted a considerable
amount to the foreign agents of the Confederacy.

The comparative failure of the Erlanger loan marks the downfall
of King Cotton. He was an exploded superstition. He was unable,
despite the cotton famine, to coerce the English workingmen into
siding with a country which they regarded, because of its support
of slavery, as inimical to their interests. At home, the
Government confessed the powerlessness of King Cotton by a change
of its attitude toward export. During the latter part of the war,
the Government secured the meager funds at its disposal abroad by
rushing cotton in swift ships through the blockade. So important
did this traffic become that the Confederacy passed stringent
laws to keep the control in its own hands. One more cause of
friction between the Confederate and the State authorities was
thus developed: the Confederate navigation laws prevented the
States from running the blockade on their own account.

The effects of the blockade were felt at the ends of the earth.
India became an exporter of cotton. Egypt also entered the
competition. That singular dreamer, Ismail Pasha, whose reign
made Egypt briefly an exotic nation, neither eastern nor western,
found one of his opportunities in the American War and the
failure of the cotton supply.

Chapter IV. The Reaction Against Richmond

A popular revulsion of feeling preceded and followed the great
period of Confederate history--these six months of Titanic effort
which embraced between March and September, 1862, splendid
success along with catastrophes. But there was a marked
difference between the two tides of popular emotion. The wave of
alarm which swept over the South after the surrender of Fort
Donelson was quickly translated into such a high passion for
battle that the march of events until the day of Antietam
resounded like an epic. The failure of the triple offensive which
closed this period was followed in very many minds by the
appearance of a new temper, often as valiant as the old but far
more grim and deeply seamed with distrust. And how is this
distrust, of which the Confederate Administration was the object,
to be accounted for?

Various answers to this question were made at the time. The laws
of the spring of 1862 were attacked as unconstitutional. Davis
was held responsible for them and also for the slow equipment of
the army. Because the Confederate Congress conducted much of its
business in secret session, the President was charged with a love
of mystery and an unwillingness to take the people into his
confidence. Arrests under the law suspending the writ of habeas
corpus were made the texts for harangues on liberty. The right of
freedom of speech was dragged in when General Van Dorn, in the
Southwest, threatened with suppression any newspaper that
published anything which might impair confidence in a commanding
officer. How could he have dared to do this, was the cry, unless
the President was behind him? And when General Bragg assumed a
similar attitude toward the press, the same cry was raised.
Throughout the summer of victories, even while the thrilling
stories of Seven Pines, the Peninsula, Second Manassas, were
sounding like trumpets, these mutterings of discontent formed an
ominous accompaniment.

Yancey, speaking of the disturbed temper of the time, attributed
it to the general lack of information on the part of Southern
people as to what the Confederate Government was doing. His
proposed remedy was an end of the censorship which that
Government was attempting to maintain, the abandonment of the
secret sessions of its Congress, and the taking of the people
into its full confidence. Now a Senator from Alabama, he
attempted, at the opening of the congressional session in the
autumn of 1862, to abolish secret sessions, but in his efforts he
was not successful.

There seems little doubt that the Confederate Government had
blundered in being too secretive. Even from Congress, much
information was withheld. A curious incident has preserved what
appeared to the military mind the justification of this
reticence. The Secretary of War refused to comply with a request
for information, holding that be could not do so "without
disclosing the strength of our armies to many persons of
subordinate position whose secrecy cannot be relied upon." "I beg
leave to remind you," said he, "of a report made in response to a
similar one from the Federal Congress, communicated to them in
secret session, and now a part of our archives."

How much the country was in the dark with regard to some vital
matters is revealed by an attack on the Confederate
Administration which was made by the Charleston Mercury, in
February. The Southern Government was accused of unpardonable
slowness in sending agents to Europe to purchase munitions. In
point of fact, the Confederate Government had been more prompt
than the Union Government in rushing agents abroad. But the
country was not permitted to know this. Though the Courier was a
government organ in Charleston, it did not meet the charges of
the Mercury by disclosing the facts about the arduous attempts of
the Confederate Government to secure arms in Europe. The reply of
the Courier to the Mercury, though spirited, was all in general
terms. "To shake confidence in Jefferson Davis," said the
Courier, " bring 'hideous ruin and combustion' down
upon our dearest hopes and interests." It made "Mr. Davis and his
defensive policy" objects of all admiration; called Davis "our
Moses." It was deeply indignant because it had been "reliably
informed that men of high official position among us" were
"calling for a General Convention of the Confederate States to
depose him and set up a military Dictator in his place." The
Mercury retorted that, as to the plot against "our Moses," there
was no evidence of its existence except the Courier's assertion.
Nevertheless, it considered Davis "an incubus to the cause." The
controversy between the Mercury and the Courier at Charleston was
paralleled at Richmond by the constant bickering between the
government organ, the Enquirer, and the Examiner, which shares
with the Mercury the first place among the newspapers hostile to

* The Confederate Government did not misapprehend the attitude of
the intellectual opposition. Its foreign organ, The Index,
published in London, characterized the leading Southern papers
for the enlightenment of the British public. While the Enquirer
and the Courier were singled out as the great champions of the
Confederate Government, the Examiner and the Mercury were
portrayed as its arch enemies. The Examiner was called the
"Ishmael of the Southern press." The Mercury was described as
"almost rabid on the subject of state rights."

Associated with the Examiner was a vigorous writer having
considerable power of the old-fashioned, furious sort, ever ready
to foam at the mouth. If he had had more restraint and less
credulity, Edward A. Pollard might have become a master of the
art of vituperation. Lacking these qualities, he never rose far
above mediocrity. But his fury was so determined and his
prejudice so invincible that his writings have something of the
power of conviction which fanaticism wields. In midsummer, 1862,
Pollard published a book entitled The First Year of the War,
which was commended by his allies in Charleston as showing no
"tendency toward unfairness of statement" and as expressing views
"mainly in accordance with popular opinion."

This book, while affecting to be an historical review, was
skillfully designed to discredit the Confederate Administration.
Almost every disaster, every fault of its management was
traceable more or less directly to Davis. Kentucky had been
occupied by the Federal army because of the "dull expectation" in
which the Confederate Government had stood aside waiting for
things somehow to right themselves. The Southern Congress had
been criminally slow in coming to conscription, contenting itself
with an army of 400,000 men that existed "on paper." "The most
distressing abuses were visible in the ill-regulated hygiene of
our camps." According to this book, the Confederate
Administration was solely to blame for the loss of Roanoke
Island. In calling that disaster "deeply humiliating," as he did
in a message to Congress, Davis was trying to shield his favorite
Benjamin at the cost of gallant soldiers who had been sacrificed
through his incapacity. Davis's promotion of Benjamin to the
State Department was an act of "ungracious and reckless defiance
of popular sentiment." The President was "not the man to consult
the sentiment and wisdom of the people; he desired to signalize
the infallibility of his own intellect in every measure of the
revolution and to identify, from motives of vanity, his own
personal genius with every event and detail of the remarkable
period of history in which he had been called upon to act. This
imperious conceit seemed to swallow up every other idea in his
mind." The generals "fretted under this pragmatism" of one whose
"vanity" directed the war "from his cushioned seat in Richmond"
by means of the one formula, "the defensive policy."

One of Pollard's chief accusations against the Confederate
Government was its failure to enforce the conscription law. His
paper, the Examiner, as well as the Mercury, supported Davis in
the policy of conscription, but both did their best, first, to
rob him of the credit for it and, secondly, to make his conduct
of the policy appear inefficient. Pollard claimed for the
Examiner the credit of having originated the policy of
conscription; the Mercury claimed it for Rhett.

In other words, an aggressive war party led by the Examiner and
the Mercury had been formed in those early days when the
Confederate Government appeared to be standing wholly on the
defensive, and when it had failed to confide to the people the
extenuating circumstance that lack of arms compelled it to stand
still whether it would or no. And yet, after this Government had
changed its policy and had taken up in the summer of 1862 an
offensive policy, this party--or faction, or what you
will--continued its career of opposition. That the secretive
habit of the Confederate Government helped cement the opposition
cannot be doubted. It is also likely that this opposition gave a
vent to certain jealous spirits who had missed the first place in

Furthermore, the issue of state sovereignty had been raised. In
Georgia a movement had begun which was distinctly different from
the Virginia-Carolina movement of opposition, a movement for
which Rhett and Pollard had scarcely more than disdainful
tolerance, and not always that. This parallel opposition found
vent, as did the other, in a political pamphlet. On the subject
of conscription Davis and the Governor of Georgia--that same
Joseph E. Brown who had seized Fort Pulaski in the previous
year--exchanged a rancorous correspondence. Their letters were
published in a pamphlet of which Pollard said scornfully that it
was hawked about in every city of the South. Brown, taking alarm
at the power given the Confederate Government by the Conscription
Act, eventually defined his position, and that of a large
following, in the extreme words: "No act of the Government of the
United States prior to the secession of Georgia struck a blow at
constitutional liberty so fell as has been stricken by the
conscript acts."

There were other elements of discontent which were taking form as
early as the autumn of 1862 but which were not yet clearly
defined. But the two obvious sources of internal criticism just
described were enough to disquiet the most resolute
administration. When the triple offensive broke down, when the
ebb-tide began, there was already everything that was needed to
precipitate a political crisis. And now the question arises
whether the Confederate Administration had itself to blame. Had
Davis proved inadequate in his great undertaking?

The one undeniable mistake of the Government previous to the
autumn of 1862 was its excessive secrecy. As to the other
mistakes attributed to it at the time, there is good reason to
call them misfortunes. Today we can see that the financial
situation, the cotton situation, the relations with Europe, the
problem of equipping the armies, were all to a considerable
degree beyond the control of the Confederate Government. If there
is anything to be added to its mistaken secrecy as a definite
cause of irritation, it must be found in the general tone given
to its actions by its chief directors. And here there is
something to be said.

With all his high qualities of integrity, courage, faithfulness,
and zeal, Davis lacked that insight into human life which marks
the genius of the supreme executive. He was not an artist in the
use of men. He had not that artistic sense of his medium which
distinguishes the statesman from the bureaucrat. In fact, he had
a dangerous bent toward bureaucracy. As Reuben Davis said of him,
"Gifted with some of the highest attributes of a statesman, he
lacked the pliancy which enables a man to adapt his measures to
the crisis." Furthermore, he lacked humor; there was no
safety-valve to his intense nature; and he was a man of delicate
health. Mrs. Davis, describing the effects which nervous
dyspepsia and neuralgia had upon him, says he would come home
from his office "fasting, a mere mass of throbbing nerves, and
perfectly exhausted." And it cannot be denied that his mind was
dogmatic. Here are dangerous lines for the character of a leader
of revolution--the bureaucratic tendency, something of rigidity,
lack of humor, physical wretchedness, dogmatism. Taken together,
they go far toward explaining his failure in judging men, his
irritable confidence in himself.

It is no slight detail of a man's career to be placed side by
side with a genius of the first rank without knowing it. But
Davis does not seem ever to have appreciated that the man
commanding in the Seven Days' Battles was one of the world's
supreme characters. The relation between Davis and Lee was always
cordial, and it brought out Davis's character in its best light.
Nevertheless, so rooted was Davis's faith in his own abilities
that he was capable of saying, at a moment of acutest anxiety,
"If I could take one wing and Lee the other, I think we could
between us wrest a victory from those people." And yet, his
military experience embraced only the minor actions of a young
officer on the Indian frontier and the gallant conduct of a
subordinate in the Mexican War. He had never executed a great
military design. His desire for the military life was, after all,
his only ground for ranking himself with the victor of Second
Manassas. Davis was also unfortunate in lacking the power to
overcome men and sweep them along with him--the power Lee showed
so conspicuously. Nor was Davis averse to sharp reproof of the
highest officials when he thought them in the wrong. He once
wrote to Joseph E. Johnston that a letter of his contained
"arguments and statements utterly unfounded" and "insinuations as
unfounded as they were unbecoming."

Davis was not always wise in his choice of men. His confidence in
Bragg, who was long his chief military adviser, is not sustained
by the military critics of a later age. His Cabinet, though not
the contemptible body caricatured by the malice of Pollard, was
not equal to the occasion. Of the three men who held the office
of Secretary of State, Toombs and Hunter had little if any
qualification for such a post, while the third, Benjamin, is the
sphinx of Confederate history.

In a way, Judah P. Benjamin is one of the most interesting men in
American politics. By descent a Jew, born in the West Indies, he
spent his boyhood mainly at Charleston and his college days at
Yale. He went to New Orleans to begin his illustrious career as a
lawyer, and from Louisiana entered politics. The facile keenness
of his intellect is beyond dispute. He had the Jewish clarity of
thought, the wonderful Jewish detachment in matters of pure mind.
But he was also an American of the middle of the century. His
quick and responsive nature--a nature that enemies might call
simulative--caught and reflected the characteristics of that
singular and highly rhetorical age. He lives in tradition as the
man of the constant smile, and yet there is no one in history
whose state papers contain passages of fiercer violence in days
of tension. How much of his violence was genuine, how much was a
manner of speaking, his biographers have not had the courage to
determine. Like so many American biographers they have avoided
the awkward questions and have glanced over, as lightly as
possible, the persistent attempts of Congress to drive him from

Nothing could shake the resolution of Davis to retain Benjamin in
the Cabinet. Among Davis's loftiest qualities was his sense of
personal loyalty. Once he had given his confidence, no amount of
opposition could shake his will but served rather to harden him.
When Benjamin as Secretary of War passed under a cloud, Davis led
him forth resplendent as Secretary of State. Whether he was wise
in doing so, whether the opposition was not justified in its
distrust of Benjamin, is still an open question. What is certain
is that both these able men, even before the crisis that arose in
the autumn of 1862, had rendered themselves and their Government
widely unpopular. It must never be forgotten that Davis entered
office without the backing of any definite faction. He was a
"dark horse," a compromise candidate. To build up a stanch
following, to create enthusiasm for his Administration, was a
prime necessity of his first year as President. Yet he seems not
to have realized this necessity. Boldly, firmly, dogmatically, he
gave his whole thought and his entire energy to organizing the
Government in such a way that it could do its work efficiently.
And therein may have been the proverbial rift within the lute. To
Davis statecraft was too much a thing of methods and measures,
too little a thing of men and passions.

During the autumn of 1862 and the following winter the disputes
over the conduct of the war began to subside and two other themes
became prominent: the sovereignty of the States, which appeared
to be menaced by the Government, and the personality of Davis,
whom malcontents regarded as a possible despot. Contrary to
tradition, the first note of alarm over state rights was not
struck by its great apostle Rhett, although the note was sounded
in South Carolina in the early autumn. There existed in this
State at that time an extra assembly called the "Convention,"
which had been organized in 1860 for the general purpose of
seeing the State through the "revolution." In the Convention, in
September, 1862, the question of a contest with the Confederate
Government on the subject of a state army was definitely raised.
It was proposed to organize a state army and to instruct the
Legislature to "take effectual measures to prevent the agents of
the Confederate Government from raising troops in South Carolina
except by voluntary enlistment or by applying to the Executive of
the State to call out the militia as by law organized, or some
part of it to be mustered into the Confederate service." This
proposal brought about a sharp debate upon the Confederate
Government and its military policy. Rhett made a remarkable
address, which should of itself quiet forever the old tale that
he was animated in his opposition solely by the pique of a
disappointed candidate for the presidency. Though as sharp as
ever against the Government and though agreeing wholly with the
spirit of the state army plan, he took the ground that
circumstances at the moment rendered the organization of such an
army inopportune. A year earlier he would have strongly supported
the plan. In fact, in opposition to Davis he had at that time, he
said, urged an obligatory army which the States should be
required to raise. The Confederate Administration, however, had
defeated his scheme. Since then the situation had changed and had
become so serious that now there was no choice but to submit to
military necessity. He regarded the general conscription law as
"absolutely necessary to save" the Confederacy "from utter
devastation if not final subjugation. Right or wrong, the policy
of the Administration had left us no other alternative...."

The dominant attitude in South Carolina in the autumn of 1862 is
in strong contrast, because of its firm grasp upon fact, with the
attitude of the Brown faction in Georgia. An extended history of
the Confederate movement--one of those vast histories that
delight the recluse and scare away the man of the world--would
labor to build up images of what might be called the
personalities of the four States that continued from the
beginning to the end parts of the effective Confederate
system--Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia. We are prone to
forget that the Confederacy was practically divided into separate
units as early as the capture of New Orleans by Farragut, but a
great history of the time would have a special and thrilling
story of the conduct of the detached western unit, the isolated
world of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas--the "Department of the
Trans-Mississippi"--cut off from the main body of the Confederacy
and hemmed in between the Federal army and the deep sea. Another
group of States--Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama--became so soon,
and remained so long, a debatable land, on which the two armies
fought, that they also had scant opportunity for genuine
political life. Florida, small and exposed, was absorbed in its
gallant achievement of furnishing to the armies a number of
soldiers larger than its voting population.

Thus, after the loss of New Orleans, one thing with another
operated to confine the area of full political life to Virginia
and her three neighbors to the South. And yet even among these
States there was no political solidarity or unanimity of opinion,
for the differences in their past experience, social structure,
and economic conditions made for distinct points of view. In
South Carolina, particularly, the prevailing view was that of
experienced, disillusioned men who realized from the start that
secession had burnt their bridges, and that now they must win the
fight or change the whole current of their lives. In the midst of
the extraordinary conditions of war, they never talked as if
their problems were the problems of peace. Brown, on the other
hand, had but one way of reasoning--if we are to call it
reasoning--and, with Hannibal at the gates, talked as if the
control of the situation were still in his own hands.

While South Carolina, so grimly conscious of the reality of war
and the danger of internal discord, held off from the issue of
state sovereignty, the Brown faction in Georgia blithely pressed
it home. A bill for extending the conscription age which was
heartily advocated by the Mercury was as heartily condemned by
Brown. To the President he wrote announcing his continued
opposition to a law which he declared "encroaches upon the
reserved rights of the State and strikes down her sovereignty at
a single blow." Though the Supreme Court of Georgia pronounced
the conscription acts constitutional, the Governor and his
faction did not cease to condemn them. Linton Stephens, as well
as his famous kinsman, took up the cudgels. In a speech before
the Georgia Legislature, in November, Linton Stephens borrowed
almost exactly the Governor's phraseology in denying the
necessity for conscription, and this continued to be the note of
their faction throughout the war. "Conscription checks
enthusiasm," was ever their cry; "we are invincible under a
system of volunteering, we are lost with conscription."

Meanwhile the military authorities looked facts in the face and
had a different tale to tell. They complained that in various
parts of the country, especially in the mountain districts, they
were unable to obtain men. Lee reported that his army melted away
before his eye and asked for an increase of authority to compel
stragglers to return. At the same time Brown was quarreling with
the Administration as to who should name the officers of the
Georgia troops. Zebulon B. Vance, the newly elected Governor of
North Carolina and an anti-Davis man, said to the Legislature:
"It is mortifying to find entire brigades of North Carolina
soldiers commanded by strangers, and in many cases our own brave
and war-worn colonels are made to give place to colonels from
distant States." In addition to such indications of discontent a
vast mass of evidence makes plain the opposition to conscription
toward the close of 1862 and the looseness of various parts of
the military system.

It was a moment of intense excitement and of nervous strain. The
country was unhappy, for it had lost faith in the Government at
Richmond. The blockade was producing its effect. European
intervention was receding into the distance. One of the
characteristics of the editorials and speeches of this period is
a rising tide of bitterness against England. Napoleon's proposal
in November to mediate, though it came to naught, somewhat
revived the hope of an eventual recognition of the Confederacy
but did not restore buoyancy to the people of the South. The
Emancipation Proclamation, though scoffed at as a cry of
impotence, none the less increased the general sense of crisis.

Worst of all, because of its immediate effect upon the temper of
the time, food was very scarce and prices had risen to
indefensible heights. The army was short of shoes. In the
newspapers, as winter came on, were to be found touching
descriptions of Lee's soldiers standing barefoot in the snow. A
flippant comment of Benjamin's, that the shoes had probably been
traded for whiskey, did not tend to improve matters. Even though
short of supplies themselves, the people as a whole eagerly
subscribed to buy shoes for the army.

There was widespread and heartless speculation in the supplies.
Months previous the Courier had made this ominous editorial
remark: "Speculators and monopolists seem determined to force the
people everywhere to the full exercise of all the remedies
allowed by law." In August, 1862, the Governor of Florida wrote
to the Florida delegation at Richmond urging them to take steps
to meet the "nefarious smuggling" of speculators who charged
extortionate prices. In September, he wrote again begging for
legislation to compel millers, tanners, and saltmakers to offer
their products at reasonable rates. As these men were exempt from
military duty because their labor was held to be a public
service, feeling against them ran high. Governor Vance proposed a
state convention to regulate prices for North Carolina and by
proclamation forbade the export of provisions in order to prevent
the seeking of exorbitant prices in other markets. Davis wrote to
various Governors urging them to obtain state legislation to
reduce extortion in the food business. In the provisioning of the
army the Confederate Government had recourse to impressment and
the arbitrary fixing of prices. Though the Attorney-General held
this action to be constitutional, it led to sharp contentions;
and at length a Virginia court granted an injunction to a
speculator who had been paid by the Government for flour less
than it had cost him.

In an attempt to straighten out this tangled situation, the
Confederate Government began, late, in 1862, by appointing as its
new Secretary of War,* James A. Seddon of Virginia--at that time
high in popular favor. The Mercury hailed his advent with
transparent relief, for no appointment could have seemed to it
more promising. Indeed, as the new year (1863) opened the Mercury
was in better humor with the Administration than perhaps at any
other time during the war. To the President's message it gave
praise that was almost cordial. This amicable temper was
short-lived, however, and three months later the heavens had

* There were in all six Secretaries of War: Leroy P. Walker,
until September 16, 1861; Judah P. Benjamin, until March 18,
1862; George W. Randolph, until November 17, 1868; Gustavus W.
Smith (temporarily), until November 21, 1862; James A. Seddon,
until February 6, 1865; General John C. Breckinridge, again, for
the Government had entered upon a course that consolidated the
opposition in anger and distrust.

Early in 1863 the Confederate Government presented to the country
a program in which the main features were three. Of these the two
which did not rouse immediate hostility in the party of the
Examiner and the Mercury were the Impressment Act of March, 1863
(amended by successive acts), and the act known as the Tax in
Kind, which was approved the following month. Though the
Impressment Act subsequently made vast trouble for the
Government, at the time of its passage its beneficial effects
were not denied. To it was attributed by the Richmond Whig the
rapid fall of prices in April, 1863. Corn went down at Richmond
from $12 and $10 a bushel to $4.20, and flour dropped in North
Carolina from $45 a barrel to $25. Under this act commissioners
were appointed in each State jointly by the Confederate President
and the Governor with the duty of fixing prices for government
transactions and of publishing every two months an official
schedule of the prices to be paid by the Government for the
supplies which it impressed.

The new Tax Act attempted to provide revenues which should not be
paid in depreciated currency. With no bullion to speak of, the
Confederate Congress could not establish a circulating medium
with even an approximation to constant value. Realizing this
situation, Memminger had advised falling back on the ancient
system of tithes and the support of the Government by direct
contributions of produce. After licensing a great number of
occupations and laying a property tax and an income tax, the new
law demanded a tenth of the produce of all farmers. On this law
the Mercury pronounced a benediction in an editorial on The Fall
of Prices, which it attributed to "the healthy influence of the
tax bill which has just become law."* 

* The fall of prices was attributed by others to a funding act,
--one of several passed by the Confederate Congress--which, in
March, 1863, aimed by various devices to contract the volume of
the currency. It was very generally condemned, and it anticipated
the yet more drastic measure, the Funding Act of 1864, which will
be described later.

Had these two measures been the whole program of the Government,
the congressional session of the spring of 1863 would have had a
different significance in Confederate history. But there was a
third measure that provoked a new attack on the Government. The
gracious words of the Mercury on the tax in kind came as an
interlude in the midst of a bitter controversy. An editorial of
the 12th of March headed "A Despotism over the Confederate States
Proposed in Congress" amounted to a declaration of war. From this
time forward the opposition and the Government drew steadily
further and further apart and their antagonism grew steadily more

What caused this irrevocable breach was a bill introduced into
the House by Ethelbert Barksdale of Mississippi, an old friend of
President Davis. This bill would have invested the President with
authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
in any part of the Confederacy, whenever in his judgment such
suspension was desirable. The first act suspending the privilege
of habeas corpus had long since expired and applied only to such
regions as were threatened with invasion. It had served usefully
under martial law in cleansing Richmond of its rogues, and also
had been in force at Charleston. The Mercury had approved it and
had exhorted its readers to take the matter sensibly as an
inevitable detail of war. Between that act and the act now
proposed the Mercury saw no similarity. Upon the merits of the
question it fought a furious journalistic duel with the Enquirer,
the government organ at Richmond, which insisted that President
Davis would not abuse his power. The Mercury replied that if he
"were a second Washington, or an angel upon earth, the
degradation such a surrender of our rights implies would still be
abhorrent to every freeman." In retort the Enquirer pointed out
that a similar law had been enacted by another Congress with no
bad results. And in point of fact the Enquirer was right, for in
October, 1862, after the expiration of the first act suspending
the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Congress passed a
second giving to the President the immense power which was now
claimed for him again. This second act was in force several
months. Then the Mercury made the astounding declaration that it
had never heard of the second act, and thereupon proceeded to
attack the secrecy of the Administration with renewed vigor.

On this issue of reviving the expired second Habeas Corpus Act, a
battle royal was fought in the Confederate Congress. The forces
of the Administration defended the new measure on the ground
that various regions were openly seditious and that conscription
could not be enforced without it. This argument gave a new text
for the cry of "despotism." The congressional leader of the
opposition was Henry S. Foote, once the rival of Davis in
Mississippi and now a citizen of Tennessee. Fierce, vindictive,
sometimes convincing, always shrewd, he was a powerful leader of
the rough and ready, buccaneering sort. Under his guidance the
debate was diverted into a rancorous discussion of the conduct of
the general's in the execution of martial law. Foote pulled out
all the stops in the organ of political rhetoric and went in for
a chant royal of righteous indignation. The main object of this
attack was General Hindman and his doings in Arkansas. Those were
still the days of pamphleteering. Though General Albert Pike had
written a severe pamphlet condemning Hindman, to this pamphlet
the Confederate Government had shut its eyes. Foote, however,
flourished it in the face of the House. He thundered forth his
belief that Hindman was worse even than the man most detested in
the South, than "beast Butler himself, for the latter is only
charged with persecuting and oppressing the avowed enemies of his
Government, while Hindman, if guilty as charged, has practised
cruelties unnumbered" on his people. Other representatives spoke
in the same vein. Baldwin of Virginia told harrowing tales of
martial law in that State. Barksdale attempted to retaliate,
sarcastically reminding him of a recent scene of riot and
disorder which proved that martial law, in any effective form,
did not exist in Virginia. He alluded to a riot, ostensibly for
bread, in which an Amazonian woman had led a mob to the pillaging
of the Richmond jewelry shops, a riot which Davis himself had
quelled by meeting the rioters and threatening to fire upon them.
But sarcasm proved powerless against Foote. His climax was a
lurid tale of a soldier who while marching past his own house
heard that his wife was dying, who left the ranks for a last word
with her, and who on rejoining the command, "hoping to get
permission to bury her," was shot as a deserter. And there was no
one on the Government benches to anticipate Kipling and cry out
"flat art!" Resolutions condemning martial law were passed by a
vote of 45 to 27.

Two weeks later the Mercury preached a burial sermon over the
Barksdale Bill, which had now been rejected by the House.
Congress was about to adjourn, and before it reassembled
elections for the next House would be held. "The measure is dead
for the present," said the Mercury, "but power is ever restive
and prone to accumulate power; and if the war continues, other
efforts will doubtless be made to make the President a Dictator.
Let the people keep their eyes steadily fixed on their
representatives with respect to this vital matter; and should the
effort again be made to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, demand
that a recorded vote should show those who shall strike down
their liberties."

 Chapter V. The Critical Year

The great military events of the year 1863 have pushed out of
men's memories the less dramatic but scarcely less important
civil events. To begin with, in this year two of the greatest
personalities in the South passed from the political stage: in
the summer Yancey died; and in the autumn, Rhett went into

The ever malicious Pollard insists that Yancey's death was due
ultimately to a personal encounter with a Senator from Georgia on
the floor of the Senate. The curious may find the discreditable
story embalmed in the secret journal of the Senate, where are the
various motions designed to keep the incident from the knowledge
of the world. Whether it really caused Yancey's death is another
question. However, the moment of his passing has dramatic
significance. Just as the battle over conscription was fully
begun, when the fear that the Confederate Government had arrayed
itself against the rights of the States had definitely taken
shape, when this dread had been reenforced by the alarm over the
suspension of habeas corpus, the great pioneer of the secession
movement went to his grave, despairing of the country he had
failed to lead. His death occurred in the same month as the
Battle of Gettysburg, at the very time when the Confederacy was
dividing against itself.

The withdrawal of Rhett from active life was an incident of the
congressional elections. He had consented to stand for Congress
in the Third District of South Carolina but was defeated. The
full explanation of the vote is still to be made plain; it seems
clear, however, that South Carolina at this time knew its own
mind quite positively. Five of the six representatives returned
to the Second Congress, including Rhett's opponent, Lewis M.
Ayer, had sat in the First Congress. The subsequent history of
the South Carolina delegation and of the State Government shows
that by 1863 South Carolina had become, broadly speaking, on
almost all issues an anti-Davis State. And yet the largest
personality and probably the ablest mind in the State was
rejected as a candidate for Congress. No character in American
history is a finer challenge to the biographer than this powerful
figure of Rhett, who in 1861 at the supreme crisis of his life
seemed the master of his world and yet in every lesser crisis was
a comparative failure. As in Yancey, so in Rhett, there was
something that fitted him to one great moment but did not fit him
to others. There can be little doubt that his defeat at the polls
of his own district deeply mortified him. He withdrew from
politics, and though he doubtless, through the editorship of one
of his sons, inspired the continued opposition of the Mercury to
the Government, Rhett himself hardly reappears in Confederate
history except for a single occasion during the debate a year
later upon the burning question of arming the slaves.

The year was marked by very bitter attacks upon President Davis
on the part of the opposition press. The Mercury revived the
issue of the conduct of the war which had for some time been
overshadowed by other issues. In the spring, to be sure, things
had begun to look brighter, and Chancellorsville had raised Lee's
reputation to its zenith. The disasters of the summer, Gettysburg
and Vicksburg, were for a time minimized by the Government and do
not appear to have caused the alarm which their strategic
importance might well have created. But when in the latter days
of July the facts became generally known, the Mercury arraigned
the President's conduct of the war as "a vast complication of
incompetence and folly"; it condemned the whole scheme of the
Northern invasion and maintained that Lee should have stood on
the defensive while twenty or thirty thousand men were sent to
the relief of Vicksburg. These two ideas it bitterly reiterated
and in August went so far as to quote Macaulay's famous passage
on Parliament's dread of a decisive victory over Charles and to
apply it to Davis in unrestrained language that reminds one of

Equally unrestrained were the attacks upon other items of the
policy of the Confederate Government. The Impressment Law began
to be a target. Farmers who were compelled to accept the prices
fixed by the impressment commissioners cried out that they were
being ruined. Men of the stamp of Toombs came to their assistance
with railing accusations such as this: "I have heard it said that
we should not sacrifice liberty to independence, but I tell you,
my countrymen, that the two are inseparable....  If we lose
our liberty we shall lose our independence....  I would rather
see the whole country the cemetery of freedom than the habitation
of slaves." Protests which poured in upon the Government insisted
that the power to impress supplies did not carry with it the
power to fix prices. Worthy men, ridden by the traditional ideas
of political science and unable to modify these in the light of
the present emergency, wailed out their despair over the
"usurpation" of Richmond.

The tax in kind was denounced in the same vein. The licensing
provisions of this law and its income tax did not satisfy the
popular imagination. These provisions concerned the classes that
could borrow. The classes that could not borrow, that had no
resources but their crops, felt that they were being driven to
the wall. The bitter saying went around that it was "a rich man's
war and a poor man's fight." As land and slaves were not directly
taxed, the popular discontent appeared to have ground for its
anger. Furthermore, it must never be forgotten that this was the
first general tax that the poor people of the South were ever
conscious of paying. To people who knew the tax-gatherer as
little more than a mythical being, he suddenly appeared like a
malevolent creature who swept off ruthlessly the tenth of their
produce. It is not strange that an intemperate reaction against
the planters and their leadership followed. The illusion spread
that they were not doing their share of the fighting; and as rich
men were permitted to hire substitutes to represent them in the
army, this really baseless report was easily propped up in the
public mind with what appeared to be reason.

In North Carolina, where the peasant farmer was a larger
political factor than in any other State, this feeling against
the Confederate Government because of the tax in kind was most
dangerous. In the course of the summer, while the military
fortunes of the Confederacy were toppling at Vicksburg and
Gettysburg, the North Carolina farmers in a panic of
self-preservation held numerous meetings of protest and
denunciation. They expressed their thoughtless terror in
resolutions asserting that the action of Congress "in secret
session, without consulting with their constituents at home,
taking from the hard laborers of the Confederacy one-tenth of the
people's living, instead of taking back their own currency in
tax, is unjust and tyrannical." Other resolutions called the tax
"unconstitutional, anti-republican, and oppressive"; and still
others pledged the farmers "to resist to the bitter end any such
monarchical tax."

A leader of the discontented in North Carolina was found in W. W.
Holden, the editor of the Raleigh Progress, who before the war
had attempted to be spokesman for the men of small property by
advocating taxes on slaves and similar measures. He proposed as
the conclusion of the whole matter the opening of negotiations
for peace. We shall see later how deep-seated was this singular
delusion that peace could be had for the asking. In 1863,
however, many men in North Carolina took up the suggestion with
delight. Jonathan Worth wrote in his diary, on hearing that the
influential North Carolina Standard had come out for peace: "I
still abhor, as I always did, this accursed war and the wicked
men, North and South, who inaugurated it. The whole country at
the North and the South is a great military despotism." With such
discontent in the air, the elections in North Carolina drew near.
The feeling was intense and riots occurred. Newspaper offices
were demolished--among them Holden's, to destroy which a
detachment of passing soldiers converted itself into a mob. In
the western counties deserters from the army, combined in bands,
were joined by other deserters from Tennessee, and terrorized the
countryside. Governor Vance, alarmed at the progress which this
disorder was making, issued a proclamation imploring his
rebellious countrymen to conduct in a peaceable manner their
campaign for the repeal of obnoxious laws.

The measure of political unrest in North Carolina was indicated
in the autumn when a new delegation to Congress was chosen. Of
the ten who composed it, eight were new men. Though they did not
stand for a clearly defined program, they represented on the
whole anti-Davis tendencies. The Confederate Administration had
failed to carry the day in the North Carolina elections; and in
Georgia there were even more sweeping evidences of unrest. Of the
ten representatives chosen for the Second Congress nine had not
sat in the First, and Georgia now was in the main frankly
anti-Davis. There had been set up at Richmond a new organ of the
Government called the Sentinel, which was more entirely under the
presidential shadow than even the Enquirer and the Courier.
Speaking of the elections, the Sentinel deplored the "upheaval of
political elements" revealed by the defeat of so many tried
representatives whose constituents had not returned them to the
Second Congress.

What was Davis doing while the ground was thus being cut from
under his feet? For one thing he gave his endorsement to the
formation of "Confederate Societies" whose members bound
themselves to take Confederate money as legal tender. He wrote a
letter to one such society in Mississippi, praising it for
attempting "by common consent to bring down the prices of all
articles to the standard of the soldiers' wages" and adding that
the passion of speculation had "seduced citizens of all classes
from a determined prosecution of the war to an effort to amass
money." The Sentinel advocated the establishment of a law fixing
maximum prices. The discussion of this proposal seems to make
plain the raison d'etre for the existence of the Sentinel. Even
such stanch government organs as the Enquirer and the Courier
shied at the idea, but the Mercury denounced it vigorously,
giving long extracts from Thiers, and discussed the mistakes, of
the French Revolution with its "law of maximum."

Davis, however, did not take an active part in the political
campaign, nor did the other members of the Government. It was not
because of any notion that the President should not leave the
capital that Davis did not visit the disaffected regions of North
Carolina when the startled populace winced under its first
experience with taxation. Three times during his Administration
Davis left Richmond on extended journeys: late in 1862, when
Vicksburg had become a chief concern of the Government, he went
as far afield as Mississippi in order to get entirely in touch
with the military situation in those parts; in the month of
October, 1863, when there was another moment of intense military
anxiety, Davis again visited the front; and of a third journey
which he undertook in 1864, we shall hear in time. It is to be
noted that each of these journeys was prompted by a military
motive; and here, possibly, we get an explanation of his
inadequacy as a statesman. He could not lay aside his interest in
military affairs for the supremely important concerns of civil
office; and he failed to understand how to ingratiate his
Administration by personal appeals to popular imagination.

In October, 1863,--the very month in which his old rival Rhett
suffered his final defeat,--Davis undertook a journey because
Bragg, after his great victory at Chickamauga, appeared to be
letting slip a golden opportunity, and because there were reports
of dissension among Bragg's officers and of general confusion in
his army. After he had, as he thought, restored harmony in the
camp, Davis turned southward on a tour of appeal and inspiration.
He went as far as Mobile, and returning bent his course through
Charleston, where, at the beginning of November, less than two
weeks after Rhett's defeat, Davis was received with all due
formalities. Members of the Rhett family were among those who
formally received the President at the railway station. There was
a parade of welcome, an official reception, a speech by the
President from the steps of the city hall, and much applause by
friends of the Administration. But certain ominous signs were not
lacking. The Mercury, for example, tucked away in an obscure
column its account of the event, while its rival, the Courier,
made the President's visit the feature of the day.

Davis returned to Richmond, early in November, to throw himself
again with his whole soul into problems that were chiefly
military. He did not realize that the crisis had come and gone
and that he had failed to grasp the significance of the internal
political situation. The Government had failed to carry the
elections and to secure a working majority in Congress. Never
again was it to have behind it a firm and confident support, The
unity of the secession movement had passed away. Thereafter the
Government was always to be regarded with suspicion by the
extreme believers in state sovereignty and by those who were
sullenly convinced that the burdens of the war were unfairly
distributed. And there were not wanting men who were ready to
construe each emergency measure as a step toward a coup d'etat.

Chapter VI. Life In The Confederacy

When the fortunes of the Confederacy in both camp and council
began to ebb, the life of the Southern people had already
profoundly changed. The gallant, delightful, carefree life of the
planter class had been undermined by a war which was eating away
its foundations. Economic no less than political forces were
taking from the planter that ideal of individual liberty as dear
to his heart as it had been, ages before, to his feudal
prototype. One of the most important details of the changing
situation had been the relation of the Government to slavery. The
history of the Confederacy had opened with a clash between the
extreme advocates of slavery--the slavery-at-any-price men--and
the Administration. The Confederate Congress had passed a bill
ostensibly to make effective the clause in its constitution
prohibiting the African slave-trade. The quick eye of Davis had
detected in it a mode of evasion, for cargoes of captured slaves
were to be confiscated and sold at public auction. The President
had exposed this adroit subterfuge in his message vetoing the
bill, and the slavery-at-any-price men had not sufficient
influence in Congress to override the veto, though they muttered
against it in the public press.

The slavery-at-any-price men did not again conspicuously show
their hands until three years later when the Administration
included emancipation in its policy. The ultimate policy of
emancipation was forced upon the Government by many
considerations but more particularly by the difficulty of
securing labor for military purposes. In a country where the
supply of fighting men was limited and the workers were a class
apart, the Government had to employ the only available laborers
or confess its inability to meet the industrial demands of war.
But the available laborers were slaves. How could their services
be secured? By purchase? Or by conscription? Or by temporary

Though Davis and his advisers were prepared to face all the
hazards involved in the purchase or confiscation of slaves, the
traditional Southern temper instantly recoiled from the
suggestion. A Government possessed of great numbers of slaves,
whether bought or appropriated, would have in its hands a
gigantic power, perhaps for industrial competition with private
owners, perhaps even for organized military control. Besides, the
Government might at any moment by emancipating its slaves upset
the labor system of the country. Furthermore, the opportunities
for favoritism in the management of state-owned slaves were
beyond calculation. Considerations such as these therefore
explain the watchful jealousy of the planters toward the
Government whenever it proposed to acquire property in slaves.

It is essential not to attribute this social-political dread of
government ownership of slaves merely to the clutch of a wealthy
class on its property. Too many observers, strangely enough, see
the latter motive to the exclusion of the former. Davis himself
was not, it would seem, free from this confusion. He insisted
that neither slaves nor land were taxed by the Confederacy, and
between the lines he seems to attribute to the planter class the
familiar selfishness of massed capital. He forgot that the tax in
kind was combined with an income tax. In theory, at least, the
slave and the land--even non-farming land--were taxed. However,
the dread of a slave-owning Government prevented any effective
plan for supplying the army with labor except through the
temporary impressment of slaves who were eventually to be
returned to their owners. The policy of emancipation had to wait.

Bound up in the labor question was the question of the control of
slaves during the war. In the old days when there were plenty of
white men in the countryside, the roads were carefully patrolled
at night, and no slave ventured to go at large unless fully
prepared to prove his identity. But with the coming of war the
comparative smallness of the fighting population made it likely
from the first that the countryside everywhere would be stripped
of its white guardians. In that event, who would be left to
control the slaves? Early in the war a slave police was provided
for by exempting from military duty overseers in the ratio
approximately of one white to twenty slaves. But the marvelous
faithfulness of the slaves, who nowhere attempted to revolt, made
these precautions unnecessary. Later laws exempted one overseer
on every plantation of fifteen slaves, not so much to perform
patrol duty as to increase the productivity of plantation labor.

This "Fifteen Slave" Law was one of many instances that were
caught up by the men of small property as evidence that the
Government favored the rich. A much less defensible law, and one
which was bitterly attacked for the same reason, was the
unfortunate measure permitting the hiring of substitutes by men
drafted into the army. Eventually, the clamor against this law
caused its repeal, but before that time it had worked untold harm
as apparent evidence of "a rich man's war and a poor man's
fight." Extravagant stories of the avoidance of military duty by
the ruling class, though in the main they were mere fairy tales,
changed the whole atmosphere of Southern life. The old glad
confidence uniting the planter class with the bulk of the people
had been impaired. Misapprehension appeared on both sides. Too
much has been said lately, however, in justification of the
poorer classes who were thus wakened suddenly to a distrust of
the aristocracy; and too little has been said of the proud recoil
of the aristocracy in the face of a sudden, credulous perversion
of its motives--a perversion inspired by the pinching of the
shoe, and yet a shoe that pinched one class as hard as it did
another. It is as unfair to charge the planter with selfishness
in opposing the appropriation of slaves as it is to make the same
charge against the small farmers for resisting tithes. In face of
the record, the planter comes off somewhat the better of the two;
but it must be remembered that he had the better education, the
larger mental horizon.

The Confederacy had long recognized women of all classes as the
most dauntless defenders of the cause. The women of the upper
classes passed without a tremor from a life of smiling ease to a
life of extreme hardship. One day, their horizon was without a
cloud; another day, their husbands and fathers had gone to the
front. Their luxuries had disappeared, and they were reduced to
plain hard living, toiling in a thousand ways to find provision
and clothing, not only for their own children but for the poorer
families of soldiers. The women of the poor throughout the South
deserve similar honor. Though the physical shock of the change
may not have been so great, they had to face the same deep
realities--hunger and want, anxiety over the absent soldiers,
solicitude for children, grief for the dead. One of the pathetic
aspects of Confederate life was the household composed of several
families, all women and children, huddled together without a man
or even a half-grown lad to be their link with the mill and the
market. In those regions where there were few slaves and the
exemption of overseers did not operate, such households were

The great privations which people endured during the Confederacy
have passed into familiar tradition. They are to be traced mainly
to three causes: to the blockade, to the inadequate system of
transportation, and to the heartlessness of speculators. The
blockade was the real destroyer of the South. Besides ruining the
whole policy based on King Cotton, besides impeding to a vast
extent the inflow of munitions from Europe, it also deprived
Southern life of numerous articles which were hard to
relinquish--not only such luxuries as tea and coffee, but also
such utter necessities as medicines. And though the native herbs
were diligently studied, though the Government established
medical laboratories with results that were not inconsiderable,
the shortage of medicines remained throughout the war a
distressing feature of Southern life. The Tredegar Iron Works at
Richmond and a foundry at Selma, Alabama,were the only mills in
the South capable of casting the heavy ordnance necessary for
military purposes. And the demand for powder mills and gun
factories to provide for the needs of the army was scarcely
greater than the demand for cotton mills and commercial foundries
to supply the wants of the civil population. The Government
worked without ceasing to keep pace with the requirements of the
situation, and, in view of the immense difficulties which it had
to face, it was fairly successful in supplying the needs of the
army. Powder was provided by the Niter and Mining Bureau; lead
for Confederate bullets was collected from many sources--even
the window-weights of the houses; iron was brought from the mines
of Alabama; guns came from newly built factories; and machines
and tools were part of the precious freight of the
blockade-runners. Though the poorly equipped mills turned a
portion of the cotton crop into textiles, and though everything
that was possible was done to meet the needs of the people, the
supply of manufactures was sadly inadequate. The universal
shortage was betrayed by the limitation of the size of most
newspapers to a single sheet, and the desperate situation clearly
and completely revealed by the way in which, as a last resort,
the Confederates were compelled to repair their railroads by
pulling up the rails of one road in order to repair another that
the necessities of war rendered indispensable.

The railway system, if such it can be called, was one of the
weaknesses of the Confederacy. Before the war the South had not
felt the need of elaborate interior communication, for its
commerce in the main went seaward, and thence to New England or
to Europe. Hitherto the railway lines had seen no reason for
merging their local character in extensive combinations. Owners
of short lines were inclined by tradition to resist even the
imperative necessities of war and their stubborn conservatism was
frequently encouraged by the shortsighted parochialism of the
towns. The same pitiful narrowness that led the peasant farmer to
threaten rebellion against the tax in kind led his counterpart in
the towns to oppose the War Department in its efforts to
establish through railroad lines because they threatened to
impair local business interests. A striking instance of this
disinclination towards cooperation is the action of Petersburg.
Two railroads terminated at this point but did not connect, and
it was an ardent desire of the military authorities to link the
two and convert them into one. The town, however, unable to see
beyond its boundaries and resolute in its determination to save
its transfer business, successfully obstructed the needs of the

* See an article on "The Confederate Government and the
Railroads" in the "American Historical Review," July, 1917, by
Charles W. Ramsdell.

As a result of this lack of efficient organization an immense
congestion resulted all along the railroads. Whether this, rather
than a failure in supply, explains the approach of famine in the
latter part of the war, it is today very difficult to determine.
In numerous state papers of the time, the assertion was
reiterated that the yield of food was abundant and that the
scarcity of food at many places, including the cities and the
battle fronts, was due to defects in transportation. Certain it
is that the progress of supplies from one point to another was
intolerably slow.

All this want of coordination facilitated speculation. We shall
see hereafter how merciless this speculation became and we shall
even hear of profits on food rising to more than four hundred per
cent. However, the oft-quoted prices of the later years--when,
for instance, a pair of shoes cost a hundred dollars--signify
little, for they rested on an inflated currency. None the less
they inspired the witticism that one should take money to market
in a basket and bring provisions home in one's pocketbook.
Endless stories could be told of speculators hoarding food and
watching unmoved the sufferings of a famished people. Said Bishop
Pierce, in a sermon before the General Assembly of Georgia, on
Fast Day, in March, 1863: "Restlessness and discontent
Extortion, pitiless extortion is making havoc in the land.
We are devouring each other. Avarice with full barns puts the
bounties of Providence under bolts and bars, waiting with eager
longings for higher prices.... The greed of gain...stalks
among us unabashed by the heroic sacrifice of our women or the
gallant deeds of our soldiers. Speculation in salt and bread and
meat runs riot in defiance of the thunders of the pulpit, and
executive interference and the horrors of threatened famine." In
1864, the Government found that quantities of grain paid in under
the tax as new-grown were mildewed. It was grain of the previous
year which speculators had held too long and now palmed off on
the Government to supply the army.

Amid these desperate conditions the fate of soldiers' families
became everywhere, a tragedy. Unless the soldier was a land-owner
his family was all but helpless. With a depreciated currency and
exaggerated prices, his pay, whatever his rank, was too little to
count in providing for his dependents. Local charity, dealt out
by state and county boards, by relief associations, and by the
generosity of neighbors, formed the barrier between his family
and starvation. The landless soldier, with a family at home in
desperate straits, is too often overlooked when unimaginative
people heap up the statistics of "desertion" in the latter half
of the war.

It was in this period, too, that amid the terrible shrinkage of
the defensive lines "refugeeing" became a feature of Southern
life. From the districts over which the waves of war rolled back
and forth helpless families--women, children, slaves--found
precarious safety together with great hardship by withdrawing to
remote places which invasion was little likely to reach. An
Odyssey of hard travel, often by night and half secret, is part
of the war tradition of thousands of Southern families. And here,
as always, the heroic women, smiling, indomitable, are the center
of the picture. Their flight to preserve the children was no
small test of courage. Almost invariably they had to traverse
desolate country, with few attendants, through forests, and
across rivers, where the arm of the law was now powerless to
protect them. Outlaws, defiant of the authorities both civil and
military,--ruthless men of whom we shall hear again,--roved those
great unoccupied spaces so characteristic of the Southern
countryside. Many a family legend preserves still the sense of
breathless caution, of pilgrimage in the night-time intently
silent for fear of these masterless men. When the remote
rendezvous had been reached, there a colony of refugees drew
together in a steadfast despair, unprotected by their own
fighting men. What strange sad pages in the history of American
valor were filled by these women outwardly calm, their children
romping after butterflies in a glory of sunshine, while horrid
tales drifted in of deeds done by the masterless men in the
forest just beyond the horizon, and far off on the soul's
horizon fathers, husbands, brothers, held grimly the lines of
last defense!

Chapter VII. The Turning Of The Tide

The buoyancy of the Southern temper withstood the shock of
Gettysburg and was not overcome by the fall of Vicksburg. Of the
far-reaching significance of the latter catastrophe in particular
there was little immediate recognition. Even Seddon, the
Secretary of War, in November, reported that "the communication
with the Trans-Mississippi, while rendered somewhat precarious
and insecure, is found by no means cut off or even seriously
endangered." His report was the same sort of thing as those
announcements of "strategic retreats" with which the world has
since become familiar. He even went so far as to argue that on
the whole the South had gained rather than lost; that the control
of the river was of no real value to the North; that the loss of
Vicksburg "has on our side liberated for general operations in
the field a large army, while it requires the enemy to maintain
cooped up, inactive, in positions insalubrious to their soldiers,
considerable detachments of their forces."

Seddon attempted to reverse the facts, to show that the
importance of the Mississippi in commerce was a Northern not a
Southern concern. He threw light upon the tactics of the time by
his description of the future action of Confederate sharpshooters
who were to terrorize such commercial crews as might attempt to
navigate the river; he also told how light batteries might move
swiftly along the banks and, at points commanding the channel,
rain on the passing steamer unheralded destruction. He was silent
upon the really serious matter, the patrol of the river by
Federal gunboats which rendered commerce with the
Trans-Mississippi all but impossible.

This report, dated the 26th of November, gives a roseate view of
the war in Tennessee and enlarges upon that dreadful battle of
Chickamauga which "ranks as one of the grandest victories of the
war." But even as the report was signed, Bragg was in full
retreat after his great disaster at Chattanooga. On the 30th of
November the Administration at Richmond received from him a
dispatch that closed with these words: "I deem it due to the
cause and to myself to ask for relief from command and an
investigation into the causes of the defeat." In the middle of
December, Joseph E. Johnston was appointed to succeed him.

Whatever had been the illusions of the Government, they were now
at an end. There was no denying that the war had entered a new
stage and that the odds were grimly against the South. Davis
recognized the gravity of the situation, and in his message to
Congress in December, 1863, he admitted that the
Trans-Mississippi was practically isolated. This was indeed a
great catastrophe, for hereafter neither men nor supplies could
be drawn from the far Southwest. Furthermore, the Confederacy had
now lost its former precious advantage of using Mexico as a means
of secret trade with Europe.

These distressing events of the four months between Vicksburg and
Chattanooga established also the semi-isolation of the middle
region of the lower South. The two States of Mississippi and
Alabama entered upon the most desperate chapter of their history.
Neither in nor out of the Confederacy, neither protected by the
Confederate lines nor policed by the enemy, they were subject at
once to the full rigor of the financial and military demands of
the Administration of Richmond and to the full ruthlessness of
plundering raids from the North. Nowhere can the contrast between
the warfare of that day and the best methods of our own time be
observed more clearly than in this unhappy region. At the opening
of 1864 the effective Confederate lines drew an irregular zigzag
across the map from a point in northern Georgia not far below
Chattanooga to Mobile. Though small Confederate commands still
operated bravely west of this line, the whole of Mississippi and
a large part of Alabama were beyond aid from Richmond. But the
average man did not grasp the situation. When a region is
dominated by mobile armies the appearance of things to the
civilian is deceptive. Because the powerful Federal armies of the
Southwest, at the opening of 1864, were massed at strategic
points from Tennessee to the Gulf, and were not extended along an
obvious trench line, every brave civilian would still keep up his
hope and would still insist that the middle Gulf country was far
from subjugation, that its defense against the invader had not
become hopeless.

Under such conditions, when the Government at Richmond called
upon the men of the Southwest to regard themselves as mere
sources of supply, human and otherwise, mere feeders to a theater
of war that did not include their homes, it was altogether
natural that they should resent the demand. All the tragic
confusion that was destined in the course of the fateful year
1864 to paralyze the Government at Richmond was already apparent
in the middle Gulf country when the year began. Chief among these
was the inability of the State and Confederate Governments to
cooperate adequately in the business of conscription. The two
powers were determined rivals struggling each to seize the major
part of the manhood of the community. While Richmond, looking on
the situation with the eye of pure strategy, wished to draw
together the full man-power of the South in one great unit, the
local authorities were bent on retaining a large part of it for
home defense.

In the Alabama newspapers of the latter half of 1863 strange
incidents are to be found throwing light on the administrative
duel. The writ of habeas corpus, as was so often the case in
Confederate history, was the bone of contention. We have seen
that the second statute empowering the President to proclaim
martial law and to suspend the operation of the writ had expired
by limitation in February, 1863. The Alabama courts were
theoretically in full operation, but while the law was in force
the military authorities had acquired a habit of arbitrary
control. Though warned from Richmond in general orders that they
must not take unto themselves a power vested in the President
alone, they continued their previous course of action. It
thereupon became necessary to issue further general orders
annulling "all proclamations of martial law by general officers
and others" not invested by law with adequate authority.

Neither general orders nor the expiration of the statute,
however, seemed able to put an end to the interference with the
local courts on the part of local commanders. The evil apparently
grew during 1863. A picturesque instance is recorded with extreme
fullness by the Southern Advertiser in the autumn of the year. In
the minutely circumstantial account, we catch glimpses of one
Rhodes moving heaven and earth to prove himself exempt from
military service. After Rhodes is enrolled by the officers of the
local military rendezvous, the sheriff attempts to turn the
tables by arresting the Colonel in command. The soldiers rush to
defend their Colonel, who is ill in bed at a house some distance
away. The judge who had issued the writ is hot with anger at this
military interference in civil affairs. Thereupon the soldiers
seize him, but later, recognizing for some unexplained reason the
majesty of the civil law, they release him. And the hot-tempered
incident closes with the Colonel's determination to carry the
case to the Supreme Court of the State.

The much harassed people of Alabama had still other causes of
complaint during this same year. Again the newspapers illumine
the situation. In the troubled autumn, Joseph Wheeler swept
across the northern counties of Alabama and in a daring ride,
with Federal cavalry hot on his trail, reached safety beyond the
Tennessee River. Here his pursuers turned back and, as their
horses had been broken by the swiftness of the pursuit, returning
slowly, they "gleaned the country" to replace their supplies.
Incidentally they pounced upon the town of Huntsville. "Their
appearance here," writes a local correspondent, "was so sudden
and...the contradictory reports of their whereabouts" had
been so baffling that the townspeople had found no time to
secrete things. The whole neighborhood was swept clean of cattle
and almost clean of provision. "We have not enough left," the
report continues, "to haul and plow with...and milch cows are
non est." Including "Stanley's big raid in July," this was the
twenty-first raid which Huntsville had endured that year. The
report closes with a bitter denunciation of the people of
southern Alabama who as yet do not know what war means, who are
accused of complete hardness of heart towards their suffering
fellow-countrymen and of caring only to make money out of war

When Davis sent his message to the Southern Congress at the
opening of the session of 1864, the desperate plight of the
middle Gulf country was at once a warning and a menace to the
Government. If the conditions of that debatable land should
extend eastward, there could be little doubt that the day of the
Confederacy was nearing its close. To remedy the situation west
of the main Confederate line, to prevent the growth of a similar
condition east of it, Davis urged Congress to revive the statute
permitting martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas
corpus. The President told Congress that in parts of the
Confederacy "public meetings have been held, in some of which a
treasonable design is masked by a pretense of devotion of state
sovereignty, and in others is openly avowed...a strong
suspicion is entertained that secret leagues and associations are
being formed. In certain localities men of no mean position do
not hesitate to avow their disloyalty and hostility to our cause,
and their advocacy of peace on the terms of submission and the
abolition of slavery."

This suspicion on the part of the Confederate Government that it
was being opposed by organized secret societies takes us back to
debatable land and to the previous year. The Bureau of
Conscription submitted to the Secretary of War a report from its
Alabama branch relative to "a sworn secret organization known to
exist and believed to have for its object the encouragement of
desertion, the protection of deserters from arrest, resistance to
conscription, and perhaps other designs of a still more dangerous
character." To the operations of this insidious foe were
attributed the shifting of the vote in the Alabama elections, the
defeat of certain candidates favored by the Government, and the
return in their stead of new men "not publicly known." The
suspicions of the Government were destined to further
verification in the course of 1864 by the unearthing of a
treasonable secret society in southwestern Virginia, the members
of which were "bound to each other for the prosecution of their
nefarious designs by the most solemn oaths. They were under
obligation to encourage desertions from the army, and to pass and
harbor all deserters, escaped prisoners, or spies; to give
information to the enemy of the movements of our troops, of
exposed or weakened positions, of inviting opportunities of
attack, and to guide and assist the enemy either in advance or
retreat." This society bore the grandiloquent name "Heroes of
America" and had extended its operations into Tennessee and North

In the course of the year further evidence was collected which
satisfied the secret service of the existence of a mysterious and
nameless society which had ramifications throughout Tennessee,
Alabama, and Georgia. A detective who joined this "Peace
Society," as it was called, for the purpose of betraying its
secrets, had marvelous tales to tell of confidential information
given to him by members, of how Missionary Ridge had been lost
and Vicksburg had surrendered through the machinations of this

* What classes were represented in these organizations it is
difficult if not impossible to determine. They seem to have been
involved in the singular "peace movement" which is yet to be
considered. This fact gives a possible clue to the problem of
their membership. A suspiciously large number of the "peace" men
were original anti-secessionists, and though many, perhaps most,
of these who opposed secession became loyal servants of the
Confederacy, historians may have jumped too quickly to the
assumption that the sincerity of all of these men was above

In spite of its repugnance to the suspension of the writ of
habeas corpus, Congress was so impressed by the gravity of the
situation that early in 1864 it passed another act "to suspend
the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in certain cases."
This was not quite the same as that sweeping act of 1862 which
had set the Mercury irrevocably in opposition. Though this act of
1864 gave the President the power to order the arrest of any
person suspected of treasonable practices, and though it released
military officers from all obligation to obey the order of any
civil court to surrender a prisoner charged with treason, the new
legislation carefully defined a list of cases in which alone this
power could be lawfully used. This was the last act of the sort
passed by the Confederate Congress, and when it expired by
limitation ninety days after the next meeting of Congress it was
not renewed.

With regard to the administration of the army, Congress can
hardly be said to have met the President more than half way. The
age of military service was lowered to seventeen and was raised
to fifty. But the President was not given--though he had asked
for it--general control over exemptions. Certain groups, such as
ministers, editors, physicians, were in the main exempted; one
overseer was exempted on each plantation where there were fifteen
slaves, provided he gave bond to sell to the Government at
official prices each year one hundred pounds of either beef or
bacon for each slave employed and provided he would sell all his
surplus produce either to the Government or to the families of
soldiers. Certain civil servants of the Confederacy were also
exempted as well as those whom the governors of States should
"certify to be necessary for the proper administration of the
State Government." The President was authorized to detail for
nonmilitary service any members of the Confederate forces "when
in his judgment, justice, equity, and necessity, require such

This statute retained two features that had already given rise to
much friction, and that were destined to be the cause of much
more. It was still within the power of state governors to impede
conscription very seriously. By certifying that a man was
necessary to the civil administration of a State, a Governor
could place him beyond the legal reach of the conscripting
officers. This provision was a concession to those who looked on
Davis's request for authority over exemption as the first step
toward absolutism. On the other hand the statute allowed the
President a free hand in the scarcely less important matter of
"details." Among the imperative problems of the Confederacy,
where the whole male population was needed in the public service,
was the most economical separation of the two groups, the
fighters and the producers. On the one hand there was the
constant demand for recruits to fill up the wasted armies; on the
other, the need for workers to keep the shops going and to secure
the harvest. The two interests were never fully coordinated.
Under the act of 1864, no farmer, mechanic, tradesman, between
the ages of seventeen and fifty, if fit for military service,
could remain at his work except as a "detail" under orders of the
President: he might be called to the colors at a moment's notice.
We shall see, presently, how the revoking of details, toward the
end of what may truly be called the terrible year, was one of the
major incidents of Confederate history.

Together with the new conscription act, the President approved on
February 17, 1864, a reenactment of the tax in kind, with some
slight concessions to the convenience of the farmers. The
President's appeal for a law directly taxing slaves and land had
been ignored by Congress, but another of his suggestions had been
incorporated in the Funding Act. The state of the currency was
now so grave that Davis attributed to it all the evils growing
out of the attempts to enforce impressment. As the value of the
paper dollar had by this time shrunk to six cents in specie and
the volume of Confederate paper was upward of seven hundred
millions, Congress undertook to reduce the volume and raise the
value by compelling holders of notes to exchange them for bonds.
By way of driving the note-holders to consent to the exchange,
provision was made for the speedy taxation of notes for one-third
their face value.

Such were the main items of the government program for 1864.
Armed with this, Davis braced himself for the great task of
making head against the enemies that now surrounded the
Confederacy. It is an axiom of military science that when one
combatant possesses the interior line, the other can offset this
advantage only by exerting coincident pressure all round, thus
preventing him from shifting his forces from one front to
another. On this principle, the Northern strategists had at last
completed their gigantic plan for a general envelopment of the
whole Confederate defense both by land and sea. Grant opened
operations by crossing the Rapidan and telegraphing Sherman to
advance into Georgia.

The stern events of the spring of 1864 form such a famous page in
military history that the sober civil story of those months
appears by comparison lame and impotent. Nevertheless, the
Confederate Government during those months was at least equal to
its chief obligation: it supplied and recruited the armies. With
Grant checked at Cold Harbor, in June, and Sherman still unable
to pierce the western line, the hopes of the Confederates were

In the North there was corresponding gloom. This was the moment
when all Northern opponents of the war drew together in their
last attempt to shatter the Lincoln Government and make peace
with the Confederacy. The value to the Southern cause of this
Northern movement for peace at any price was keenly appreciated
at Richmond. Trusted agents of the Confederacy were even then in
Canada working deftly to influence Northern sentiment. The
negotiations with those Northern secret societies which
befriended the South belong properly in the story of Northern
politics and the presidential election of 1864. They were
skillfully conducted chiefly by Jacob Thompson and C. C. Clay.
The reports of these agents throughout the spring and summer were
all hopeful and told of "many intelligent men from the United
States" who sought them out in Canada for political
consultations. They discussed "our true friends from the Chicago
(Democratic) convention" and even gave names of those who, they
were assured, would have seats in McClellan's Cabinet. They were
really not well informed upon Northern affairs, and even after
the tide had turned against the Democrats in September, they were
still priding themselves on their diplomatic achievement, still
confident they had helped organize a great political power, had
"given a stronger impetus to the peace party of the North than
all other causes combined, and had greatly reduced the strength
of the war party."

While Clay and Thompson built their house of cards in Canada, the
Richmond Government bent anxious eyes on the western battlefront.
Sherman, though repulsed in his one frontal attack at Kenesaw
Mountain, had steadily worked his way by the left flank of the
Confederate army, until in early July he was within six miles of
Atlanta. All the lower South was a-tremble with apprehension.
Deputations were sent to Richmond imploring the removal of
Johnston from the western command. What had he done since his
appointment in December but retreat? Such was the tenor of public
opinion. "It is all very well to talk of Fabian policy," said one
of his detractors long afterward, "and now we can see we were
rash to say the least. But at the time, all of us went wrong
together. Everybody clamored for Johnston's removal." Johnston
and Davis were not friends; but the President hesitated long
before acting. And yet, with each day, political as well as
military necessity grew more imperative. Both at Washington and
Richmond the effect that the fighting in Georgia had on Northern
opinion was seen to be of the first importance. Sherman was
staking everything to break the Confederate line and take
Atlanta. He knew that a great victory would have incalculable
effect on the Northern election. Davis knew equally well that the
defeat of Sherman would greatly encourage the peace party in the
North. But he had no general of undoubted genius whom he could
put in Johnston's place. However, the necessity for a bold stroke
was so undeniable, and Johnston appeared so resolute to continue
his Fabian policy, that Davis reluctantly took a desperate chance
and superseded him by Hood.

During August, though the Democratic convention at Chicago drew
up its platform favoring peace at any price, the anxiety of the
Southern President did not abate his activities. The safety of
the western line was now his absorbing concern. And in mid-August
that line was turned, in a way, by Farragut's capture of Mobile
Bay. As the month closed, Sherman, despite the furious blows
delivered by Hood, was plainly getting the upper hand. North and
South, men watched that tremendous duel with the feeling that the
foundations of things were rocking. At last, on the 2d of
September, Sherman, victorious, entered Atlanta.

Chapter VIII. A Game Of Chance

With dramatic completeness in the summer and autumn of 1864, the
foundations of the Confederate hope one after another gave way.
Among the causes of this catastrophe was the failure of the
second great attempt on the part of the Confederacy to secure
recognition abroad. The subject takes us back to the latter days
of 1862, when the center of gravity in foreign affairs had
shifted from London to Paris. Napoleon III, at the height of his
strange career, playing half a dozen dubious games at once, took
up a new pastime and played at intrigue with the Confederacy. In
October he accorded a most gracious interview to Slidell. He
remarked that his sympathies were entirely with the South but
added that, if he acted alone, England might trip him up. He
spoke of his scheme for joint intervention by England, France,
and Russia. Then he asked why we had not created a navy. Slidell
snapped at the bait. He said that the Confederates would be glad
to build ships in France, that "if the Emperor would give only
some kind of verbal assurance that the police would not observe
too closely when we wished to put on guns and men we would gladly
avail ourselves of it." To this, the imperial trickster replied,
"Why could you not have them built as for the Italian Government?
I do not think it would be difficult but will consult the
Minister of Marine about it."

Slidell left the Emperor's presence confident that things would
happen. And they did. First came Napoleon's proposal of
intervention, which was declined before the end of the year by
England and Russia. Then came his futile overtures to the
Government at Washington, his offer of mediation--which was
rejected early in 1863. But Slidell remained confident that
something else would happen. And in this expectation also he was
not disappointed. The Emperor was deeply involved in Mexico and
was busily intriguing throughout Europe. This was the time when
Erlanger, standing high in the favor of the Emperor, made his
gambler's proposal to the Confederate authorities about cotton.
Another of the Emperor's friends now enters the play. On January
7, 1863, M. Arman, of Bordeaux, "the largest shipbuilder in
France," had called on the Confederate commissioner: M. Arman
would be happy to build ironclad ships for the Confederacy, and
as to paying for them, cotton bonds might do the trick.

No wonder Slidell was elated, so much so that he seems to have
given little heed to the Emperor's sinister intimation that the
whole affair must be subterranean. But the wily Bonaparte had not
forgotten that six months earlier he had issued a decree of
neutrality forbidding Frenchmen to take commissions from either
belligerent "for the armament of vessels of war or to accept
letters of marque, or to cooperate in any way whatsoever in the
equipment or arming of any vessel of war or corsair of either
belligerent." He did not intend to abandon publicly this cautious
attitude--at least, not for the present. And while Slidell at
Paris was completely taken in, the cooler head of A. Dudley Mann,
Confederate commissioner at Brussels, saw what an international
quicksand was the favor of Napoleon. It was about this time that
Napoleon, having dispatched General Forey with a fresh army to
Mexico, wrote the famous letter which gave notice to the world of
what he was about. Mann wrote home in alarm that the Emperor
might be expected to attempt recovering Mexico's ancient areas
including Texas. Slidell saw in the Forey letter only "views...
which will not be gratifying to the Washington Government."

The adroit Arman, acting on hints from high officers of the
Government, applied for permission to build and arm ships of war,
alleging that he intended to send them to the Pacific and sell
them to either China or Japan. To such a laudable expression of
commercial enterprise, one of his fellows in the imperial ring,
equipped with proper authority under Bonaparte, hastened to give
official approbation, and Erlanger came forward by way of
financial backer. There were conferences of Confederate agents;
contracts were signed; plans were agreed upon; and the work was

There was no more hopeful man in the Confederate service than
Slidell when, in the full flush of pride after Chancellorsville,
he appealed to the Emperor to cease waiting on other powers and
recognize the Confederacy. Napoleon accorded another gracious
interview but still insisted that it was impossible for him to
act alone. He said that he was "more fully convinced than ever of
the propriety of a general recognition by the European powers of
the Confederate States but that the commerce of France and the
interests of the Mexican expedition would be jeopardized by a
rupture with the United States" and unless England would stand
by him he dared not risk such an eventuality. In point of fact,
he was like a speculator who is "hedging" on the stock exchange,
both buying and selling, and trying to make up his mind on which
cast to stake his fortune. At the same time he threw out once
more the sinister caution about the ships. He said that the
ships might be built in France but that their destination must
be concealed.

That Napoleon's choice just then, if England had supported him,
would have been recognition of the Confederacy, cannot be
doubted. The tangle of intrigue which he called his foreign
policy was not encouraging. He was deeply involved in Italian
politics, where the daring of Garibaldi had reopened the struggle
between clericals and liberals. In France itself the struggle
between parties was keen. Here, as in the American imbroglio, he
found it hard to decide with which party to break. The chimerical
scheme of a Latin empire in Mexico was his spectacular device to
catch the imagination, and incidentally the pocketbook, of
everybody. But in order to carry out this enterprise he must be
able to avert or withstand the certain hostility of the United
States. Therefore, as he told Slidell, "no other power than
England possessed a sufficient navy" to pull his chestnuts out
of the fire. The moment was auspicious, for there was a revival
of the "Southern party" in England. The sailing of the Alabama 
from Liverpool during the previous summer had encouraged the
Confederate agents and their British friends to undertake
further shipbuilding.

While M. Arman was at work in France, the Laird Brothers were at
work in England and their dockyards contained two ironclad rams
supposed to outclass any vessels of the United States navy.
Though every effort had been made to keep secret the ultimate
destination of these rams, the vigilance of the United States
minister, reinforced by the zeal of the "Northern party,"
detected strong circumstantial evidence pointing toward a
Confederate contract with the Lairds. A popular agitation ensued
along with demands upon the Government to investigate. To mask
the purposes of the Lairds, Captain James Bullock, the able
special agent of the Confederate navy, was forced to fall lack
upon the same tactics that were being used across the Channel,
and to sell the rams, on paper, to a firm in France. Neither he
nor Slidell yet appreciated what a doubtful refuge was the shadow
of Napoleon's wing.

Nevertheless the British Government, by this time practically
alined with the North, continued its search for the real owner of
the Laird rams. The "Southern party," however, had not quite
given up hope, and the agitation to prevent the sailing of the
rams was a keen spur to its flagging zeal. Furthermore the
prestige of Lee never was higher than it was in June, 1863, when
the news of Chancellorsville was still fresh and resounding in
every mind. It had given new life to the Confederate hope: Lee
would take Washington before the end of the summer; the Laird
rams would go to sea; the Union would be driven to the wall. So
reasoned the ardent friends of the South. But one thing was
lacking--a European alliance. What a time for England to

While Slidell was talking with the Emperor, he had in his pocket
a letter from J. A. Roebuck, an English politician who wished to
force the issue in the House of Commons. As a preliminary to
moving the recognition of the Confederacy, he wanted authority to
deny a rumor going the rounds in London, to the effect that
Napoleon had taken position against intervention. Napoleon, when
he had seen the letter, began a negotiation of some sort with
this politician. It is needless to enter into the complications
that ensued, the subsequent recriminations, and the question as
to just what Napoleon promised at this time and how many of his
promises he broke. He was a diplomat of the old school, the
school of lying as a fine art. He permitted Roebuck to come over
to Paris for an audience, and Roebuck went away with the
impression that Napoleon could be relied upon to back up a new
movement for recognition. When, however, Roebuck brought the
matter before the Commons at the end of the month and encountered
an opposition from the Government that seemed to imply an
understanding with Napoleon which was different from his own, he
withdrew his motion (in July). Once more the scale turned against
the Confederacy, and Gettysburg was supplemented by the seizure
of the Laird rams by the British authorities. These events
explain the bitter turn given to Confederate feeling toward
England in the latter part of 1863. On the 4th of August Benjamin
wrote to Mason that "the perusal of the recent debates in
'Parliament satisfies the President" that Mason's "continued
residence in London is neither conducive to the interests nor
consistent with the dignity of this government," and directed him
to withdraw to Paris.

Confederate feeling, as it cooled toward England, warmed toward
France. Napoleon's Mexican scheme, including the offer of a
ready-made imperial crown to Maximilian, the brother of the
Emperor of Austria, was fully understood at Richmond; and with
Napoleon's need of an American ally, Southern hope revived. It
was further strengthened by a pamphlet which was translated and
distributed in the South as a newspaper article under the title
France, Mexico, and the Confederate States. The reputed author,
Michel Chevalier, was an imperial senator, another member of the
Napoleon ring, and highly trusted by his shifty master. The
pamphlet, which emphasized the importance of Southern
independence as a condition of Napoleon's "beneficent aims" in
Mexico, was held to have been inspired, and the imperial denial
was regarded as a mere matter of form.

What appeared to be significant of the temper of the Imperial
Government was a decree of a French court in the case of certain
merchants who sought to recover insurance on wine dispatched to
America and destroyed in a ship taken by the Alabama. Their plea
was that they were insured against loss by "pirates." The court
dismissed their suit and assessed costs against them. Further
evidence of Napoleon's favor was the permission given to the
Confederate cruiser Florida to repair at Brest and even to make
use of the imperial dockyard. The very general faith in
Napoleon's promises was expressed by Davis in his message to
Congress in December: "Although preferring our own government and
institutions to those of other countries, we can have no
disposition to contest the exercise by them of the same right of
self-government which we assert for ourselves. If the Mexican
people prefer a monarchy to a republic, it is our plain duty
cheerfully to acquiesce in their decision and to evince a sincere
and friendly interest in their prosperity.... The Emperor of
the French has solemnly disclaimed any purpose to impose on
Mexico a form of government not acceptable to the nation...."
In January, 1864, hope of recognition through support of
Napoleon's Mexican policy moved the Confederate Congress to adopt
resolutions providing for a Minister to the Mexican Empire and
giving him instructions with regard to a presumptive treaty. To
the new post Davis appointed General William Preston.

But what, while hope was springing high in America, was taking
place in France? So far as the world could say, there was little
if anything to disturb the Confederates; and yet, on the horizon,
a cloud the size of a man's hand had appeared. M. Arman had
turned to another member of the Legislative Assembly, a sound
Bonapartist like himself, M. Voruz, of Nantes, to whom he had
sublet a part of the Confederate contract. The truth about the
ships and their destination thus became part of the archives of
the Voruz firm. No phase of Napoleonic intrigue could go very far
without encountering dishonesty, and to the confidential clerk of
M. Voruz there occurred the bright idea of doing something for
himself with this valuable diplomatic information. One fine day
the clerk was missing and with him certain papers. Then there
ensued a period of months during which the firm and their
employers could only conjecture the full extent of their loss.

In reality, from the Confederate point of view, everything was
lost. Again the episode becomes too complex to be followed in
detail. Suffice it to say that the papers were sold to the United
States; that the secret was exposed; that the United States made
a determined assault upon the Imperial Government. In the midst
of this entanglement, Slidell lost his head, for hope deferred
when apparently within reach of its end is a dangerous councilor
of state. In his extreme anxiety, Slidell sent to the Emperor a
note the blunt rashness of which the writer could not have
appreciated. Saying that he feared the Emperor's subordinates
might play into the hands of Washington, he threw his fat in the
fire by speaking of the ships as "now being constructed at
Bordeaux and Nantes for the government of the Confederate States"
and virtually claimed of Napoleon a promise to let them go to
sea. Three days later the Minister of Foreign Affairs took him
sharply to task because of this note, reminding him that "what
had passed with the Emperor was confidential" and dropping the
significant hint that France could not be forced into war by
"indirection." According to Slidell's version of the interview
"the Minister's tone changed completely" when Slidell replied
with "a detailed history of the affair showing that the idea
originated with the Emperor." Perhaps the Minister knew more than
he chose to betray. From this hour the game was up. Napoleon's
purpose all along seems to have been quite plain. He meant to
help the South to win by itself, and, after it had won, to use it
for his own advantage. So precarious was his position in Europe
that he dared not risk an American war without England's aid, and
England had cast the die. In this way, secrecy was the condition
necessary to continued building of the ships. Now that the secret
was out, Napoleon began to shift his ground. He sounded the
Washington Government and found it suspiciously equivocal as to
Mexico. To silence the French republicans, to whom the American
minister had supplied information about the ships, Napoleon tried
at first muzzling the press. But as late as February, 1864, he
was still carrying water on both shoulders. His Minister of
Marine notified the builders that they must get the ships out of
France, unarmed, under fictitious sale to some neutral country.
The next month, reports which the Confederate commissioners sent
home became distinctly alarming. Mann wrote from Brussels:
"Napoleon has enjoined upon Maximilian to hold no official
relations with our commissioners in Mexico." Shortly after this
Slidell received a shock that was the beginning of the end:
Maximilian, on passing through Paris on his way to Mexico,
refused to receive him.

The Mexican project was now being condemned by all classes in
France. Nevertheless, the Government was trying to float a
Mexican loan, and it is hardly fanciful to think that on this
loan the last hope of the Confederacy turned. Despite the popular
attitude toward Mexico, the loan was going well when the House of
Representatives of the United States dealt the Confederacy a
staggering blow. It passed unanimous resolutions in the most grim
terms, denouncing the substitution of monarchical for republican
government in Mexico under European auspices. When this action
was reported in France, the Mexican loan collapsed.

Napoleon's Italian policy was now moving rapidly toward the
crisis which it reached during the following summer when he
surrendered to the opposition and promised to withdraw the French
troops from Rome. In May, when the loan collapsed, there was
nothing for it but to throw over his dear friends of the
Confederacy. Presently he had summoned Arman before him, "rated
him severely," and ordered him to make bona fide sales of the
ships to neutral powers. The Minister of Marine professed
surprise and indignation at Arman's trifling with the neutrality
of the Imperial Government. And that practically was the end of
the episode.

Equally complete was the breakdown of the Confederate
negotiations with Mexico. General Preston was refused
recognition. In those fierce days of July when the fate of
Atlanta was in the balance, the pride and despair of the
Confederate Government flared up in a haughty letter to Preston
reminding him that "it had never been the intention of this
Government to offer any arguments to the new Government of Mexico
...nor to place itself in any attitude other than that of
complete equality," and directing him to make no further
overtures to the Mexican Emperor.

And then came the debacle in Georgia. On that same 20th of
September when Benjamin poured out in a letter to Slidell his
stored-up bitterness denouncing Napoleon, Davis, feeling the last
crisis was upon him, left Richmond to join the army in Georgia.
His frame of mind he had already expressed when he said, "We have
no friends abroad."

Chapter IX. Desperate Remedies

The loss of Atlanta was the signal for another conflict of
authority within the Confederacy. Georgia was now in the
condition in which Alabama had found herself in the previous
year. A great mobile army of invaders lay encamped on her soil.
And yet there was still a state Government established at the
capital. Inevitably the man who thought of the situation from the
point of view of what we should now call the general staff, and
the man who thought of it from the point of view of a citizen of
the invaded State, suffered each an intensification of feeling,
and each became determined to solve the problem in his own way.
The President of the Confederacy and the Governor of Georgia
represented these incompatible points of view.

The Governor, Joseph E. Brown, is one of the puzzling figures of
Confederate history. We have already encountered him as a dogged
opponent of the Administration. With the whole fabric of Southern
life toppling about his ears, Brown argued, quibbled, evaded, and
became a rallying-point of disaffection. That more eminent
Georgian, Howell Cobb, applied to him very severe language, and
they became engaged in a controversy over that provision of the
Conscription Act which exempted state officials from military
service. While the Governor of Virginia was refusing certificates
of exemption to the minor civil officers such as justices of the
peace, Brown by proclamation promised his "protection" to the
most insignificant civil servants. "Will even your Excellency,"
demanded Cobb, "certify that in any county of Georgia twenty
justices of the peace and an equal number of constables are
necessary for the proper administration of the state
government?" The Bureau of Conscription estimated that Brown
kept out of the army approximately 8000 eligible men. The truth
seems to be that neither by education nor heredity was this
Governor equipped to conceive large ideas. He never seemed
conscious of the war as a whole, or of the Confederacy as a
whole. To defend Georgia and, if that could not be done, to make
peace for Georgia--such in the mind of Brown was the aim of the
war. His restless jealousy of the Administration finds its
explanation in his fear that it would denude his State of men.
The seriousness of Governor Brown's opposition became apparent
within a week of the fall of Atlanta. Among Hood's forces were
some 10,000 Georgia militia. Brown notified Hood that these
troops had been called out solely with a view to the defense of
Atlanta, that since Atlanta had been lost they must now be
permitted "to return to their homes and look for a time after
important interests," and that therefore he did "withdraw said
organizations" from Hood's command. In other words, Brown was
afraid that they might be taken out of the State. By proclamation
he therefore gave the militia a furlough of thirty days. Previous
to the issue of this proclamation, Seddon had written to Brown
making requisition for his 10,000 militia to assist in a pending
campaign against Sherman. Two days after his proclamation had
appeared, Brown, in a voluminous letter full of blustering
rhetoric and abounding in sneers at the President, demanded
immediate reinforcements by order of the President and threatened
that, if they were not sent, he would recall the Georgia troops
from the army of Lee and would command "all the sons of Georgia
to return to their own State and within their own limits to rally
round her glorious flag."

So threatening was the situation in Georgia that Davis attempted
to take it into his own hands. In a grim frame of mind he left
Richmond for the front. The resulting military arrangements do
not of course belong strictly to the subject matter of this
volume; but the brief tour of speechmaking which Davis made in
Georgia and the interior of South Carolina must be noticed; for
his purpose seems to have been to put the military point of view
squarely before the people. He meant them to see how the soldier
looked at the situation, ignoring all demands of locality, of
affiliation, of hardship, and considering only how to meet and
beat the enemy. In his tense mood he was not always fortunate in
his expressions. At Augusta, for example, he described
Beauregard, whom he had recently placed in general command over
Georgia and South Carolina, as one who would do whatever the
President told him to do. But this idea of military
self-effacement was not happily worded, and the enemies of Davis
seized on his phraseology as further evidence of his instinctive
autocracy. The Mercury compared him to the Emperor of Russia and
declared the tactless remark to be "as insulting to General
Beauregard as it is false and presumptuous in the President."

Meanwhile Beauregard was negotiating with Brown.  Though they
came to an understanding about the disposition of the militia,
Brown still tried to keep control of the state troops. When
Sherman was burning Atlanta preparatory to the March to the Sea,
Brown addressed to the Secretary of War another interminable
epistle, denouncing the Confederate authorities and asserting
his willingness to fight both the South and the North if they
did not both cease invading his rights. But the people of 
Georgia were better balanced than their Governor. Under the
leadership of such men as Cobb they rose to the occasion and did
their part in what proved a vain attempt to  conduct a "people's
war." Their delegation at Richmond sent out a stirring appeal
assuring them that Davis was doing for them all it was possible
to do. "Let every man fly to arms," said the appeal. "Remove
your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from before
Sherman's army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges
and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in
front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no

The Richmond Government was unable to detach any considerable
force from the northern front. Its contribution to the forces in
Georgia was accomplished by such pathetic means as a general
order calling to the colors all soldiers furloughed or in
hospital, "except those unable to travel"; by revoking all
exemptions to farmers, planters, and mechanics, except munitions
workers; and by placing one-fifth of the ordnance and mining
bureau in the battle service.

All the world knows how futile were these endeavors to stop the
whirlwind of desolation that was Sherman's march. He spent his
Christmas Day in Savannah. Then the center of gravity shifted
from Georgia to South Carolina. Throughout the two desperate
months that closed 1864 the authorities of South Carolina had
vainly sought for help from Richmond. Twice the Governor made
official request for the return to South Carolina of some of her
own troops who were at the front in Virginia. Davis first evaded
and then refused the request. Lee had informed him that if the
forces on the northern front were reduced, the evacuation of
Richmond would become inevitable.

The South Carolina Government, in December, 1864, seems to have
concluded that the State must save itself. A State Conscription
Act was passed placing all white males between the ages of
sixteen and sixty at the disposal of the state authorities for
emergency duty. An Exemption Act set forth a long list of persons
who should not be liable to conscription by the Confederate
Government. Still a third act regulated the impressment of slaves
for work on fortifications so as to enable the state authorities
to hold a check upon the Confederate authorities. The
significance of the three statutes was interpreted by a South
Carolina soldier, General John S. Preston, in a letter to the
Secretary of War that was a wail of despair. "This legislation
is an explicit declaration that this State does not intend to
contribute another soldier or slave to the public defense, except
on such terms its may be dictated by her authorities. The example
will speedily be followed by North Carolina and Georgia, the
Executives of those States having already assumed the position."

The division between the two parties in South Carolina had now
become bitter. To Preston the men behind the State Exemption Act
appeared as "designing knaves." The Mercury, on the other hand,
was never more relentless toward Davis than in the winter of
1864-1865. However, none or almost none of the anti-Davis men in
South Carolina made the least suggestion of giving up the
struggle. To fight to the end but also to act as a check upon the
central Government--as the new Governor, Andrew G. Magrath, said
in his inaugural address in December, 1864,--was the aim of the
dominant party in South Carolina. How far the State Government
and the Confederate Government had drifted apart is shown by two
comments which were made in January, 1865. Lee complained that
the South Carolina regiments, "much reduced by hard service,"
were not being recruited up to their proper strength because of
the measures adopted in the southeastern States to retain
conscripts at home. About the same date the Mercury arraigned
Davis for leaving South Carolina defenseless in the face of
Sherman's coming offensive, and asked whether Davis intended to
surrender the Confederacy.

And in the midst of this critical period, the labor problem
pushed to the fore again. The revocation of industrial details,
necessary as it was, had put almost the whole male population--in
theory, at least--in the general Confederate army. How
far-reaching was the effect of this order may be judged from the
experience of the Columbia and Augusta Railroad Company. This
road was building through the interior of the State a new line
which was rendered imperatively necessary by Sherman's seizure of
the lines terminating at Savannah. The effect of the revocation
order on the work in progress was described by the president of
the road in a letter to the Secretary of War:

"In July and August I made a fair beginning and by October we had
about 600 hands. General Order No. 77 took off many of our
contractors and hands. We still had increased the number of hands
to about 400 when Sherman started from Atlanta. The military
authorities of Augusta took about 300 of them to fortify that
city. These contractors being from Georgia returned with their
slaves to their homes after being discharged at Augusta. We still
have between 500 and 600 hands at work and are adding to the
force every week.

"The great difficulty has been in getting contractors exempt or
definitely detailed since Order No. 77. I have not exceeded eight
or nine contractors now detailed. The rest are exempt from other
causes or over age."

It was against such a background of economic confusion that
Magrath wrote to the Governor of North Carolina making a
revolutionary proposal. Virtually admitting that the Confederacy
had been shattered, and knowing the disposition of those in
authority to see only the military aspects of any given
situation, he prophesied two things: that the generals would soon
attempt to withdraw Lee's army south of Virginia, and that the
Virginia troops in that army would refuse to go. "It is natural
under the circumstances," said he, "that they would not." He
would prepare for this emergency by an agreement among the
Southeastern and Gulf States to act together irrespective of
Richmond, and would thus weld the military power of these States
into "a compact and organized mass."

Governor Vance, with unconscious subtlety, etched a portrait of
his own mind when he replied that the crisis demanded
"particularly the skill of the politician perhaps more than that
of the great general." He adroitly evaded saying what he really
thought of the situation but he made two explicit
counter-proposals. He suggested that a demand should be made for
the restoration of General Johnston and for the appointment of
General Lee to "full and absolute command of all the forces of
the Confederacy." On the day on which Vance wrote to Magrath, the
Mercury lifted up its voice and cried out for a Lee to take
charge of the Government and save the Confederacy. About the same
time Cobb wrote to Davis in the most friendly way, warning him
that he had scarcely a supporter left in Georgia, and that, in
view of the great popular reaction in favor of Johnston,
concessions to the opposition were an imperative necessity. "By
accident," said he, "I have become possessed of the facts in
connection with the proposed action of the Governors of certain
States." He disavowed any sympathy with the movement but warned
Davis that it was a serious menace.

Two other intrigues added to the general political confusion. One
of these, the "Peace Movement," will be considered in the next
chapter. The other was closely connected with the alleged
conspiracy to depose Davis and set up Lee as dictator. If the
traditional story, accepted by able historians, may be believed,
William C. Rives, of the Confederate Congress, carried in
January, 1865, to Lee from a congressional cabal an invitation to
accept the role of Cromwell. The greatest difficulty in the way
of accepting the tradition is the extreme improbability that any
one who knew anything of Lee would have been so foolish as to
make such a proposal. Needless to add, the tradition includes
Lee's refusal to overturn the Government. There can be no doubt,
however, that all the enemies of Davis in Congress and out of it,
in the opening months of 1865, made a determined series of
attacks upon his Administration. Nor can there be any doubt that
the popular faith in Lee was used as their trump card. To that
end, a bill was introduced to create the office of commanding
general of the Confederate armies. The bill was generally
applauded, and every one assumed that the new office was to be
given to Lee. On the day after the bill had passed the Senate the
Virginia Legislature resolved that the appointment of General Lee
to supreme command would "reanimate the spirit of the armies as
well as the people of the several States and...inspire
increased confidence in the final success of the cause." When the
bill was sent to the President, it was accompanied by a
resolution asking him to restore Johnston. While Davis was
considering this bill, the Virginia delegation in the House,
headed by the Speaker, Thomas S. Bocock, waited upon the
President, informed him what was really wanted was a change of
Cabinet, and told him that three-fourths of the House would
support a resolution of want of confidence in the Cabinet. The
next day Bocock repeated the demand in a note which Davis
described as a "warning if not a threat."

The situation of both President and country was now desperate.
The program with which the Government had entered so hopefully
upon this fated year had broken down at almost every point. In
addition to the military and administrative disasters, the
financial and economic situation was as bad as possible. So
complete was the financial breakdown that Secretary Memminger,
utterly disheartened, had resigned his office, and the Treasury
was now administered by a Charleston merchant, George A.
Trenholm. But the financial chaos was wholly beyond his control.
The government notes reckoned in gold were worth about three
cents on the dollar. The Government itself avoided accepting
them. It even bought up United States currency and used it in
transacting the business of the army. The extent of the financial
collapse was to be measured by such incidents as the following
which is recounted in a report that had passed under Davis's eye
only a few weeks before the "threat" of Bocock was uttered:
"Those holding the four per cent certificates complain that the
Government as far as possible discredits them. Fractions of
hundreds cannot be paid with them. I saw a widow lady, a few days
since, offer to pay her taxes of $1,271.31 with a certificate of
$1,300. The tax-gatherer refused to give her the change of
$28.69. She then offered the whole certificate for the taxes.
This was refused. This apparent injustice touched her far more
than the amount of the taxes."

A letter addressed to the President from Griffin, Georgia,
contained this dreary picture:

"Unless something is done and that speedily, there will be
thousands of the best citizens of the State and heretofore as
loyal as any in the Confederacy, that will not care one cent
which army is victorious in Georgia.... Since August last
there have been thousands of cavalry and wagon trains feeding
upon our cornfields and for which our quartermasters and officers
in command of trains, regiments, battalions, companies, and
squads, have been giving the farmers receipts, and we were all
told these receipts would pay our government taxes and tithing;
and yet not one of them will be taken by our collector....
And yet we are threatened with having our lands sold for taxes.
Our scrip for corn used by our generals will not be taken....
How is it that we have certified claims upon our Government, past
due ten months, and when we enter the quartermaster's office we
see placed up conspicuously in large letters "no funds." Some of
these said quartermasters [who] four years ago were not worth the
clothes upon their backs, are now large dealers in lands,
negroes, and real estate."

There was almost universal complaint that government contractors
were speculating in supplies and that the Impressment Law was
used by officials to cover their robbery of both the Government
and the people. Allowing for all the panic of the moment, one is
forced to conclude that the smoke is too dense not to cover a
good deal of fire. In a word, at the very time when local
patriotism everywhere was drifting into opposition to the general
military command and when Congress was reflecting this widespread
loss of confidence, the Government was loudly charged with
inability to restrain graft. In all these accusations there was
much injustice. Conditions that the Government was powerless to
control were cruelly exaggerated, and the motives of the
Government were falsified. For all this exaggeration and
falsification the press was largely to blame. Moreover, the
press, at least in dangerously large proportion, was schooling
the people to hold Davis personally responsible for all their
suffering. General Bragg was informed in a letter from a
correspondent in Mobile that "men have been taught to look upon
the President as an inexorably self-willed man who will see the
country to the devil before giving up an opinion or a purpose."
This deliberate fostering of an anti-Davis spirit might seem less
malicious if the fact were not known that many editors detested
Davis because of his desire to abolish the exemption of editors
from conscription. Their ignoble course brings to mind one of the
few sarcasms recorded of Lee--the remark that the great mistake
of the South was in making all its best military geniuses editors
of newspapers. But it must be added in all fairness that the
great opposition journals, such as the Mercury, took up this new
issue with the President because they professed to see in his
attitude toward the press a determination to suppress freedom of
speech, so obsessed was the opposition with the idea that Davis
was a monster! Whatever explanations may be offered for the
prevalence of graft, the impotence of the Government at Richmond
contributed to the general demoralization. In regions like
Georgia and Alabama, the Confederacy was now powerless to control
its agents. Furthermore, in every effort to assume adequate
control of the food situation the Government met the continuous
opposition of two groups of opponents--the unscrupulous parasites
and the bigots of economic and constitutional theory. Of the
activities of the first group, one incident is sufficient to tell
the whole story. At Richmond, in the autumn of 1864, the grocers
were selling rice at two dollars and a half a pound. It happened
that the Governor of Virginia was William Smith, one of the
strong men of the Confederacy who has not had his due from the
historians. He saw that even under the intolerable conditions of
the moment this price was shockingly exorbitant. To remedy
matters, the Governor took the State of Virginia into business,
bought rice where it was grown, imported it, and sold it in
Richmond at fifty cents a pound, with sufficient profit to cover
all costs of handling.

Nevertheless, when Smith urged the Virginia Legislature to assume
control of business as a temporary measure, be was at once
assailed by the second group--those martinets of
constitutionalism who would not give up their cherished
Anglo-Saxon tradition of complete individualism in government.
The Administration lost some of its staunchest supporters the
moment its later organ, the Sentinel, began advocating the
general regulation of prices. With ruin staring them in the face,
these devotees of tradition could only reiterate their ancient
formulas, nail their colors to the mast, end go down, satisfied
that, if they failed with these principles, they would have
failed still more terribly without them. Confronting the
practical question how to prevent speculators from charging 400
per cent profit, these men turned grim but did not abandon their
theory. In the latter part of 1864 they aligned themselves with
the opposition when the government commissioners of impressment
fixed an official schedule that boldly and ruthlessly cut under
market prices. The attitude of many such people was expressed by
the Montgomery Mail when it said:

"The tendency of the age, the march of the American people, is
toward monarchy, and unless the tide is stopped we shall reach
something worse than monarchy.

"Every step we have taken during the past four years has been in
the direction of military despotism.

"Half our laws are unconstitutional."

Another danger of the hour was the melting away of the
Confederate army under the very eyes of its commanders. The
records showed that there were 100,000 absentees. And though the
wrathful officials of the Bureau of Conscription labeled them all
"deserters," the term covered great numbers who had gone home to
share the sufferings of their families.

Such in brief was the fateful background of the congressional
attack upon the Administration in January, 1865. Secretary
Seddon, himself a Virginian, believing that he was the main
target of the hostility of the Virginia delegation, insisted upon
resigning. Davis met this determination with firmness, not to say
infatuation, and in spite of the congressional crisis, exhausted
every argument to persuade Seddon to remain in office. He denied
the right of Congress to control his Cabinet, but he was finally
constrained to allow Seddon to retire. The bitterness inspired by
these attempts to coerce the President may be gauged by a remark
attributed to Mrs. Davis. Speaking of the action of Congress in
forcing upon him the new plan for a single commanding general of
all the armies, she is said to have exclaimed, "I think I am the
proper person to advise Mr. Davis and if I were he, I would die
or be hung before I would submit to the humiliation."

Nevertheless the President surrendered to Congress. On January
26, 1865, he signed the bill creating the office of commanding
general and at once bestowed the office upon Lee. It must not be
supposed, however, that Lee himself had the slightest sympathy
with the congressional cabal which had forced upon the President
this reorganization of the army. In accepting his new position he
pointedly ignored Congress by remarking, "I am indebted alone to
the kindness of His Excellency, the President, for my nomination
to this high and arduous office."

The popular clamor for the restoration of Johnston had still to
be appeased. Disliking Johnston and knowing that the opposition
was using a popular general as a club with which to beat himself,
Davis hesitated long but in the end yielded to the inevitable. To
make the reappointment himself, however, was too humiliating. He
left it to the new commander-in-chief, who speedily restored
Johnston to command.

Chapter X. Disintegration

While these factions, despite their disagreements, were making
valiant efforts to carry on the war, other factions were
stealthily cutting the ground from under them. There were two
groups of men ripe for disaffection--original Unionists
unreconciled to the Confederacy and indifferentists conscripted
against their will.

History has been unduly silent about these disaffected men. At
the time so real was the belief in state rights that
contemporaries were reluctant to admit that any Southerner, once
his State had seceded, could fail to be loyal to its commands.
Nevertheless in considerable areas--such, for example, as East
Tennessee--the majority remained to the end openly for the Union,
and there were large regions in the South to which until quite
recently the eye of the student had not been turned. They were
like deep shadows under mighty trees on the face of a brilliant
landscape. When the peasant Unionist who had been forced into the
army deserted, however, he found in these shadows a nucleus of
desperate men ready to combine with him in opposition to the
local authorities.

Thus were formed local bands of free companions who pillaged the
civilian population. The desperadoes whom the deserters joined
have been described by Professor Dodd as the "neglected
byproducts" of the old regime. They were broken white men, or the
children of such, of the sort that under other circumstances have
congregated in the slums of great cities. Though the South lacked
great cities, nevertheless it had its slum--a widespread slum,
scattered among its swamps and forests. In these fastnesses were
the lowest of the poor whites, in whom hatred of the dominant
whites and vengeful malice against the negro burned like slow
fires. When almost everywhere the countryside was stripped of its
fighting men, these wretches emerged from their swamps and
forests, like the Paris rabble emerging from its dens at the
opening of the Revolution. But unlike the Frenchmen, they were
too sodden to be capable of ideas. Like predatory wild beasts
they revenged themselves upon the society that had cast them off,
and with utter heartlessness they smote the now defenseless
negro. In the old days, with the country well policed, the slaves
had been protected against their fury, but war now changed all.
The negro villages--or "streets," as the term was--were without
arms and without white police within call. They were ravaged by
these marauders night after night, and negroes were not the only
victims, for in remote districts even murder of the whites became
a familiar horror.

The antiwar factions were not necessarily, however, users of
violence. There were some men who cherished a dream which they
labeled "reconstruction"; and there were certain others who
believed in separate state action, still clinging to the illusion
that any State had it in its power to escape from war by
concluding a separate peace with the United States.

Yet neither of these illusions made much headway in the States
-that had borne the strain of intellectual leadership. Virginia
and South Carolina, though seldom seeing things eye to eye and
finally drifting in opposite directions, put but little faith in
either "reconstruction" or separate peace. Their leaders had
learned the truth about men and nations; they knew that life is a
grim business; they knew that war had unloosed passions that had
to spend themselves and that could not be talked away.

But there was scattered over the Confederacy a population which
lacked experience of the world and which included in the main
those small farmers and semi-peasants who under the old regime
were released from the burden of taxation and at the same time
excluded from the benefits of education. Among these people the
illusions of the higher classes were reflected without the
ballast of mentality. Ready to fight on any provocation, yet
circumscribed by their own natures, not understanding life,
unable to picture to themselves different types and conditions,
these people were as prone as children to confuse the world of
their own desire with the world of fact. When hardship came, when
taxation fell upon them with a great blow, when the war took a
turn that necessitated imagination for its understanding and
faith for its pursuit, these people with childlike simplicity
immediately became panic-stricken. Like the similar class in the
North, they had measureless faith in talk. Hence for them, as for
Horace Greeley and many another, sprang up the notion that if
only all their sort could be brought together for talk and talk
and yet more talk, the Union could be "reconstructed" just as it
used to be, and the cruel war would end. Before their eyes, as
before Greeley in 1864, danced the fata morgana of a convention
of all the States, talking, talking, talking.

The peace illusion centered in North Carolina, where the people
were as enthusiastic for state sovereignty as were any
Southerners. They had seceded mainly because they felt that this
principle had been attacked. Having themselves little if any
intention to promote slavery, they nevertheless were prompt to
resent interference with the system or with any other Southern
institution. Jonathan Worth said that they looked on both
abolition and secession as children of the devil, and he put the
responsibility for the secession of his State wholly upon Lincoln
and his attempt to coerce the lower South. This attitude was
probably characteristic of all classes in North Carolina. There
also an unusually large percentage of men lacked education and
knowledge of the world. We have seen how the first experience
with taxation produced instant and violent reaction. The peasant
farmers of the western counties and the general mass of the
people began to distrust the planter class. They began asking if
their allies, the other States, were controlled by that same
class which seemed to be crushing them by the exaction of tithes.
And then the popular cry was raised: Was there after all anything
in the war for the masses in North Carolina? Had they left the
frying-pan for the fire? Could they better things by withdrawing
from association with their present allies and going back alone
into the Union? The delusion that they could do so whenever they
pleased and on the old footing seems to have been widespread. One
of their catch phrases was "the Constitution as it is and the
Union as it was." Throughout 1863, when the agitation against
tithes was growing every day, the "conservatives" of North
Carolina, as their leaders named them, were drawing together in a
definite movement for peace. This project came to a head during
the next year in those grim days when Sherman was before Atlanta.
Holden, that champion of the opposition to tithes, became a
candidate for Governor against Vance, who was standing for
reelection. Holden stated his platform in the organ of his party
"If the people of North Carolina are for perpetual conscriptions,
impressments and seizures to keep up a perpetual, devastating and
exhausting war, let them vote for Governor Vance, for he is
for`fighting it out now; but if they believe, from the bitter
experience of the last three years, that the sword can never end
it, and are in favor of steps being taken by the State to urge
negotiations by the general government for an honorable and
speedy peace, they must vote for Mr. Holden."

As Holden, however, was beaten by a vote that stood about three
to one, Governor Vance continued in power, but just what he stood
for and just what his supporters understood to be his policy
would be hard to say. A year earlier he was for attempting to
negotiate peace, but though professing to have come over to the
war party he was never a cordial supporter of the Confederacy. In
a hundred ways he played upon the strong local distrust of
Richmond, and upon the feeling that North Carolina was being
exploited in the interests of the remainder of the South. To
cripple the efficiency of Confederate conscription was one of his
constant aims. Whatever his views of the struggle in which he was
engaged, they did not include either an appreciation of Southern
nationalism or the strategist's conception of war. Granted that
the other States were merely his allies, Vance pursued a course
that might justly have aroused their suspicion, for so far as he
was able he devoted the resources of the State wholly to the use
of its own citizens. The food and the manufactures of North
Carolina were to be used solely by its own troops, not by troops
of the Confederacy raised in other States. And yet, subsequent to
his reelection, he was not a figure in the movement to negotiate

Meanwhile in Georgia, where secession had met with powerful
opposition, the policies of the Government had produced
discontent not only with the management of the war but with the
war itself. And now Alexander H. Stephens becomes, for a season,
very nearly the central figure of Confederate history. Early in
1864 the new act suspending the writ of habeas corpus had aroused
the wrath of Georgia, and Stephens had become the mouthpiece of
the opposition. In an address to the Legislature, he condemned in
most exaggerated language not only the Habeas Corpus Act but also
the new Conscription Act. Soon afterward he wrote a long letter
to Herschel V. Johnson, who, like himself, had been an enemy of
secession in 1861. He said that if Johnson doubted that the
Habeas Corpus Act was a blow struck at the very "vitals of
liberty," then he "would not believe though one were to rise from
the dead." In this extraordinary letter Stephens went on "most
confidentially" to state his attitude toward Davis thus "While I
do not and never have regarded him as a great man or statesman on
a large scale, or a man of any marked genius, yet I have regarded
him as a man of good intentions, weak and vacillating, timid,
petulant, peevish, obstinate, but not firm. Am now beginning to
doubt his good intentions.... His whole policy on the
organization and discipline of the army is perfectly consistent
with the hypothesis that he is aiming at absolute power."

That a man of Stephens's ability should have dealt in fustian
like this in the most dreadful moment of Confederate history is a
psychological problem that is not easily solved. To be sure,
Stephens was an extreme instance of the martinet of
constitutionalism. He reminds us of those old-fashioned generals
of whom Macaulay said that they preferred to lose a battle
according to rule than win it by an exception. Such men find it
easy to transform into a bugaboo any one who appears to them to
be acting irregularly. Stephens in his own mind had so
transformed the President. The enormous difficulties and the
wholly abnormal circumstances which  surrounded Davis counted
with Stephens for nothing at all, and he reasoned about the
Administration as if it were operating in a vacuum. Having come
to this extraordinary position, Stephens passed easily into a
role that verged upon treason.*

* There can be no question that Stephens never did anything which
in his own mind was in the least disloyal. And yet it was
Stephens who, in the autumn of 1864, was singled out by artful
men as a possible figurehead in the conduct of a separate peace
negotiation with Sherman. A critic very hostile to Stephens and
his faction might here raise the question as to what was at
bottom the motive of Governor Brown, in the autumn of 1864, in
withdrawing the Georgia militia from Hood's command. Was there
something afoot that has never quite revealed itself on the broad
pages of history? As ordinarily told, the story is simply that
certain desperate Georgians asked Stephens to be their ambassador
to Sherman to discuss terms; that Sherman had given them
encouragement; but that Stephens avoided the trap, and so nothing
came of it. The recently published correspondence of Toombs,
Stephens, and Cobb, however, contains one passage that has rather
a startling sound. Brown, writing to Stephens regarding his
letter refusing to meet Sherman, says, "It keeps the door open
and I think this is wise." At the same time he made a public
statement that "Georgia has power to act independently but her
faith is pledged by implication to her Southern sisters...
will triumph with her Southern sisters or sink with them in
common ruin." It is still to be discovered what "door" Stephens
was supposed to have kept open.  Peace talk was now in the air,
and especially was there chatter about reconstruction. The
illusionists seemed unable to perceive that the reelection of
Lincoln had robbed them of their last card. These dreamers did
not even pause to wonder why after the terrible successes of the
Federal army in Georgia, Lincoln should be expected to reverse
his policy and restore the Union with the Southern States on the
old footing. The peace mania also invaded South Carolina and was
espoused by one of its Congressmen, Mr. Boyce, but he made few
converts among his own people. The Mercury scouted the idea;
clear-sighted and disillusioned, it saw the only alternatives to
be victory or subjugation. Boyce's argument was that the South
had already succumbed to military despotism and would have to
endure it forever unless it accepted the terms of the invaders.
News of Boyce's attitude called forth vigorous protest from the
army before Petersburg, and even went so far afield as New York,
where it was discussed in the columns of the Herald.

In the midst of the Northern elections, when Davis was hoping
great things from the anti-Lincoln men, Stephens had said in
print that he believed Davis really wished the Northern peace
party defeated, whereupon Davis had written to him demanding
reasons for this astounding charge. To the letter, which had
missed Stephens at his home and had followed him late in the year
to Richmond, Stephens wrote in the middle of December a long
reply which is one of the most curious documents in American
history. He justified himself upon two grounds. One was a
statement which Davis had made in a speech at Columbia, in
October, indicating that he was averse to the scheme of certain
Northern peace men for a convention of all the States. Stephens
insisted that such a convention would have ended the war and
secured the independence of the South. Davis cleared himself on
this charge by saying that the speech at Columbia "was delivered
after the publication of McClellan's letter avowing his purpose
to force reunion by war if we declined reconstruction when
offered, and therefore warned the people against delusive hopes
of peace from any other influence than that to be exerted by the
manifestation of an unconquerable spirit."

As Stephens professed to have independence and not reconstruction
for his aim, he had missed his mark with this first shot. He
fared still worse with the second. During the previous spring a
Northern soldier captured in the southeast had appealed for
parole on the ground that he was a secret emissary to the
President from the peace men of the North. Davis, who did not
take him seriously, gave orders to have the case investigated,
but Stephens, whose mentality in this period is so curiously
overcast, swallowed the prisoner's story without hesitation. He
and Davis had a considerable amount of correspondence on the
subject. In the fierce tension of the summer of 1864 the War
Department went so far as to have the man's character
investigated, but the report was unsatisfactory. He was not
paroled and died in prison. This episode Stephens now brought
forward as evidence that Davis had frustrated an attempt of the
Northern peace party to negotiate. Davis contented himself with
replying, "I make no comment on this."

The next step in the peace intrigue took place at the opening of
the next year, 1865. Stephens attempted to address the Senate on
his favorite topic, the wickedness of the suspension of habeas
corpus; was halted by a point of parliamentary law; and when the
Senate sustained an appeal from his decision, left the chamber in
a pique. Hunter, now a Senator, became an envoy to placate him
and succeeded in bringing him back. Thereupon Stephens poured out
his soul in a furious attack upon the Administration. He ended by
submitting resolutions which were just what he might have
submitted four years earlier before a gun had been fired, so
entirely had his mind crystallized in the stress of war! These
resolutions, besides reasserting the full state rights theory,
assumed the readiness of the North to make peace and called for a
general convention of all the States to draw up some new
arrangement on a confessed state rights basis. More than a month
before, Lincoln had been reelected on an unequivocal
nationalistic platform. And yet Stephens continued to believe
that the Northerners did not mean what they said and that in
congregated talking lay the magic which would change the world of
fact into the world of his own desire.

At this point in the peace intrigue the ambiguous figure of
Napoleon the Little reappears, though only to pass ghostlike
across the back of the stage. The determination of Northern
leaders to oppose Napoleon had suggested to shrewd politicians a
possible change of front. That singular member of the Confederate
Congress, Henry S. Foote, thought he saw in the Mexican imbroglio
means to bring Lincoln to terms. In November he had introduced
into the House resolutions which intimated that "it might become
the true policy of...the Confederate States to consent to the
yielding of the great principle embodied in the Monroe Doctrine."
The House referred his resolutions to the Committee on Foreign
Affairs, and there they slumbered until January.

Meanwhile a Northern politician brought on the specter of
Napoleon for a different purpose. Early in January, 1865, Francis
P. Blair made a journey to Richmond and proposed to Davis a plan
of reconciliation involving the complete abandonment of slavery,
the reunion of all the States, and an expedition against Mexico
in which Davis was to play the leading role. Davis cautiously
refrained from committing himself, though he gave Blair a letter
in which he expressed his willingness to enter into negotiations
for peace between "the two countries." The visit of Blair gave
new impetus to the peace intrigue. The Confederate House
Committee on Foreign Affairs reported resolutions favoring an
attempt to negotiate with the United States so as to "bring into
view" the possibility of cooperation between the United States
and the Confederacy to maintain the Monroe Doctrine. The same day
saw another singular incident. For some reason that has never
been divulged Foote determined to counterbalance Blair's visit to
Richmond by a visit of his own to Washington. In attempting to
pass through the Confederate lines he was arrested by the
military authorities. With this fiasco Foote passes from the
stage of history.

The doings of Blair, however, continued to be a topic of general
interest throughout January. The military intrigue was now
simmering down through the creation of the office of commanding
general. The attempt of the congressional opposition to drive the
whole Cabinet from office reached a compromise in the single
retirement of the Secretary of War. Before the end of the month
the peace question was the paramount one before Congress and the
country. Newspapers discussed the movements of Blair, apparently
with little knowledge, and some of the papers asserted hopefully
that peace was within reach. Cooler heads, such as the majority
of the Virginia Legislature, rejected this idea as baseless. The
Mercury called the peace party the worst enemy of the South. Lee
was reported by the Richmond correspondent of the Mercury as not
caring a fig for the peace project. Nevertheless the rumor
persisted that Blair had offered peace on terms that the
Confederacy could accept. Late in the month, Davis appointed
Stephens, Hunter, and John A. Campbell commissioners to confer
with the Northern authorities with regard to peace.

There followed the famous conference of February 3, 1865, in the
cabin of a steamer at Hampton Roads, with Seward and Lincoln. The
Confederate commissioners represented two points of view: that of
the Administration, unwilling to make peace without independence;
and that of the infatuated Stephens who clung to the idea that
Lincoln did not mean what he said, and who now urged "an
armistice allowing the States to adjust themselves as suited
their interests. If it would be to their interests to reunite,
they would do so." The refusal of Lincoln to consider either of
these points of view--the refusal so clearly foreseen by
Davis--put an end to the career of Stephens. He was "hoist with
his own petard."

The news of the failure of the conference was variously received.
The Mercury rejoiced because there was now no doubt how things
stood. Stephens, unwilling to cooperate with the Administration,
left the capital and went home to Georgia. At Richmond, though
the snow lay thick on the ground, a great public meeting was held
on the 6th of February in the precincts of the African Church.
Here Davis made an address which has been called his greatest and
which produced a profound impression. A wave of enthusiasm swept
over Richmond, and for a moment the President appeared once more
to be master of the situation. His immense audacity carried the
people with him when, after showing what might be done by more
drastic enforcement of the conscription laws, he concluded: "Let
us then unite our hands and our hearts, lock our shields
together, and we may well believe that before another summer
solstice falls upon us, it will be the enemy that will be asking
us for conferences and occasions in which to make known our

Chapter XI. An Attempted Revolution

Almost from the moment when the South had declared its
independence voices had been raised in favor of arming the
negroes. The rejection of a plan to accomplish this was one of
the incidents of Benjamin's tenure of the portfolio of the War
Department; but it was not until the early days of 1864, when the
forces of Johnston lay encamped at Dalton, Georgia, that the
arming of the slaves was seriously discussed by a council of
officers. Even then the proposal had its determined champions,
though there were others among Johnston's officers who regarded
it as "contrary to all true principles of chivalric warfare," and
their votes prevailed in the council by a large majority.

From that time forward the question of arming the slaves hung
like a heavy cloud over all Confederate thought of the war. It
was discussed in the army and at home around troubled firesides.
Letters written from the trenches at Petersburg show that it was
debated by the soldiers, and the intense repugnance which the
idea inspired in some minds was shown by threats to leave the
ranks if the slaves were given arms.

Amid the pressing, obvious issues of 1864, this project hardly
appears upon the face of the record until it was alluded to in
Davis's message to Congress in November, 1864, and in the annual
report of the Secretary of War. The President did not as yet ask
for slave soldiers. He did, however, ask for the privilege of
buying slaves for government use--not merely hiring them from
their owners as had hitherto been done--and for permission, if
the Government so desired, to emancipate them at the end of their
service. The Secretary of War went farther, however, and
advocated negro soldiers, and he too suggested their emancipation
at the end of service.

This feeling of the temper of the country, so to speak, produced
an immediate response. It drew Rhett from his retirement and
inspired a letter in which he took the Government severely to
task for designing to remove from state control this matter of
fundamental importance. Coinciding with the cry for more troops
with which to confront Sherman, the topic of negro soldiers
became at once one of the questions of the hour. It helped to
focus that violent anti-Davis movement which is the conspicuous
event of December, 1864, and January, 1865. Those who believed
the President unscrupulous trembled at the thought of putting
into his hands a great army of hardy barbarians trained to
absolute obedience. The prospect of such a weapon held in one
firm hand at Richmond seemed to those opponents of the President
a greater menace to their liberties than even the armies of the
invaders. It is quite likely that distrust of Davis and dread of
the use he might make of such a weapon was increased by a letter
from Benjamin to Frederick A. Porcher of Charleston, a supporter
of the Government, who had made rash suggestions as to the
extra-constitutional power that the Administration might be
justified by circumstances in assuming. Benjamin deprecated such
suggestions but concluded with the unfortunate remark: "If the
Constitution is not to be our guide I would prefer to see it
suppressed by a revolution which should declare a dictatorship
during the war, after the manner of ancient Rome, leaving to the
future the care of reestablishing firm and regular government."
In the State of Virginia, indeed, the revolutionary suggestions
of the President's message and the Secretary's report were
promptly taken up and made the basis of a political program,
which Governor Smith embodied in his message to the
Legislature--a document that will eventually take its place among
the most interesting state papers of the Confederacy. It should
be noted that the suggestions thrown out in this way by the
Administration to test public feeling involved three distinct
questions: Should the slaves be given arms? Should they, if
employed as soldiers, be given their freedom? Should this
revolutionary scheme, if accepted at all, be handled by the
general Government or left to the several States? On the last of
the three questions the Governor of Virginia was silent; by
implication he treated the matter as a concern of the States.
Upon the first and second questions, however, he was explicit and
advised arming the slaves. He then added:

"Even if the result were to emancipate our slaves, there is not a
man who would not cheerfully put the negro into the Army rather
than become a slave himself to our hated and vindictive foe. It
is, then, simply a question of time. Has the time arrived when
this issue is fairly before us? ...For my part standing before
God and my country, I do not hesitate to say that I would arm
such portion of our able-bodied slave population as may be
necessary, and put them in the field, so as to have them ready
for the spring campaign, even if it resulted in the freedom of
those thus organized. Will I not employ them to fight the negro
force of the enemy? Aye, the Yankees themselves, who already
boast that they have 200,000 of our slaves in arms against us.
Can we hesitate, can we doubt, when the question is, whether the
enemy shall use our slaves against us or we use them against him;
when the question may be between liberty and independence on the
one hand, or our subjugation and utter ruin on the other?"

With their Governor as leader for the Administration, the
Virginians found this issue the absorbing topic of the hour. And
now the great figure of Lee takes its rightful place at the very
center of Confederate history, not only military but civil, for
to Lee the Virginia politicians turned for advice.* In a letter
to a State Senator of Virginia who had asked for a public
expression of Lee's views because "a mountain of prejudices, 
growing out of our ancient modes of regarding the institution of 
Southern slavery will have to be met and overcome" in order to 
Attain unanimity, Lee discussed both the institution of slavery 
and the situation of the moment. He plainly intimated that
should be placed under state control; and, assuming such control,

he considered "the relation of master and slave...the best that
can exist between the black and white races while intermingled as
at present in this country." He went on to show, however, that
military necessity now compelled a revolution in sentiment on
this subject, and he came at last to this momentous conclusion:

* Lee now revealed himself in his previously overlooked capacity
of statesman. Whether his abilities in this respect equaled his
abilities as a soldier need not here be considered; it is said
that he himself had no high opinion of them. However, in the
advice which he gave at this final moment of crisis, he expressed
a definite conception of the articulation of civil forces in such
a system as that of the Confederacy. He held that all initiative
upon basal matters should remain with the separate States, that
the function of the general Government was to administer, not to
create conditions, and that the proper power to constrain the
State Legislatures was the flexible, extra-legal power of public

"Should the war continue under existing circumstances, the enemy
may in course of time penetrate our country and get access to a
large part of our negro population. It is his avowed policy to
convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to
emancipate all.... His progress will thus add to his numbers,
and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious
to the welfare of our people. Their negroes will be used to hold
them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free
to extend his conquest. Whatever may be the effect of our
employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If
it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by
ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil
consequences to both races. I think, therefore, we must decide
whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the
slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of
the effects which may be produced upon our social

"The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of negro
troops at all render the effect of the measures...upon
slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing
the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to
accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and
general emancipation. As that will be the result of the
continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy
succeed, it seems to me most advisable to adopt it at once, and
thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause..."

"I can only say in conclusion, that whatever measures are to be
adopted should be adopted at once. Every day's delay increases
the difficulty. Much time will be required to organize and
discipline the men, and action may be deferred until it is too

Lee wrote these words on January 11, 1865. At that time a fresh
wave of despondency had gone over the South because of Hood's
rout at Nashville; Congress was debating intermittently the
possible arming of the slaves; and the newspapers were
prophesying that the Administration would presently force the
issue. It is to be observed that Lee did not advise Virginia to
wait for Confederate action. He advocated emancipation by the
State. After all, to both Lee and Smith, Virginia was their

During the next sixty days Lee rejected two great
opportunities--or, if you will, put aside two great temptations.
If tradition is to be trusted, it was during January that Lee
refused to play the role of Cromwell by declining to intervene
directly in general Confederate politics. But there remained open
the possibility of his intervention in Virginia politics, and the
local crisis was in its own way as momentous as the general
crisis. What if Virginia had accepted the views of Lee and
insisted upon the immediate arming of the slaves? Virginia,
however, did not do so; and Lee, having made public his position,
refrained from further participation. Politically speaking, he
maintained a splendid isolation at the head of the armies.

Through January and February the Virginia crisis continued
undetermined. In this period of fateful hesitation, the
"mountains of prejudice" proved too great to be undermined even
by the influence of Lee. When at last Virginia enacted a law
permitting the arming of her slaves, no provision was made for
their manumission.

Long before the passage of this act in Virginia, Congress had
become the center of the controversy. Davis had come to the point
where no tradition however cherished would stand, in his mind,
against the needs of the moment. To reinforce the army in great
strength was now his supreme concern, and he saw but one way to
do it. As a last resort he was prepared to embrace the bold plan
which so many people still regarded with horror and which as late
as the previous November he himself had opposed. He would arm the
slaves. On February 10, 1865, bills providing for the arming of
the slaves were introduced both in the House and in the Senate.

On this issue all the forces both of the Government and the
opposition fought their concluding duel in which were involved
all the other basal issues that had distracted the country since
1862. Naturally there was a bewildering criss-cross of political
motives. There were men who, like Smith and Lee, would go along
with the Government on emancipation, provided it was to be
carried out by the free will of the States. There were others who
preferred subjugation to the arming of the slaves; and among
these there were clashings of motive. Then, too, there were those
who were willing to arm the slaves but were resolved not to give
them their freedom.

The debate brings to the front of the political stage the figure
of R. M. T. Hunter. Hitherto his part has not been conspicuous
either as Secretary of State or as Senator from Virginia. He now
becomes, in the words of Davis, "a chief obstacle" to the passage
of the Senate bill which would have authorized a levy of negro
troops and provided for their manumission by the War Department
with the consent of the State in which they should be at the time
of the proposed manumission. After long discussion, this bill was
indefinitely postponed. Meanwhile a very different bill had
dragged through the House. While it was under debate, another
appeal was made to Lee. Barksdale, who came as near as any one to
being the leader of the Administration, sought Lee's aid. Again
the General urged the enrollment of negro soldiers and their
eventual manumission, but added this immensely significant

"I have no doubt that if Congress would authorize their [the
negroes'] reception into service, and empower the President to
call upon individuals or States for such as they are willing to
contribute, with the condition of emancipation to all enrolled, a
sufficient number would be forthcoming to enable us to try the
experiment [of determining whether the slaves would make good
soldiers]. If it proved successful, most of the objections to the
measure would disappear, and if individuals still remained
unwilling to send their negroes to the army, the force of public
opinion in the States would soon bring about such legislation as
would remove all obstacles. I think the matter should be left, as
far as possible, to the people and to the States, which alone can
legislate as the necessities of this particular service may

The fact that Congress had before it this advice from Lee
explains why all factions accepted a compromise bill, passed on
the 9th of March, approved by the President on the 13th of March,
and issued to the country in a general order on the 23d of March.
It empowered the President to "ask for and accept from the owners
of slaves" the service of such number of negroes as he saw fit,
and if sufficient number were not offered to "call on each State
...for her quota of 300,000 be raised from
such classes of the population, irrespective of color, in each
State as the proper authorities thereof may determine." However,
"nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in
the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their
owners, except by consent of the owners and of the States in
which they may reside and in pursuance of the laws thereof."

The results of this act were negligible. Its failure to offer the
slave-soldier his freedom was at once seized upon by critics as
evidence of the futility of the course of the Administration. The
sneer went round that the negro was to be made to fight for his
own captivity. Pollard--whose words, however, must be taken with
grain of salt--has left this account of recruiting under the new
act: "Two companies of blacks, organized from some negro
vagabonds in Richmond, were allowed to give balls at the Libby
Prison and were exhibited in fine fresh uniforms on Capitol
Square as decoys to obtain recruits. But the mass of their
colored brethren looked on the parade with unenvious eyes, and
little boys exhibited the early prejudices of race by pelting the
fine uniforms with mud."

Nevertheless both Davis and Lee busied themselves in the endeavor
to raise black troops. Governor Smith cooperated with them. And
in the mind of the President there was no abandonment of the
program of emancipation, which was now his cardinal policy. Soon
after the passage of the act, he wrote to Smith: "I am happy to
receive your assurance of success [in raising black troops], as
well as your promise to seek legislation to secure unmistakable
freedom to the slave who shall enter the Army, with a right to
return to his old home, when he shall have been honorably
discharged from military service."

While this final controversy was being fought out in Congress,
the enthusiasm for the Administration had again ebbed. Its
recovery of prestige had run a brief course and was gone, and now
in the midst of the discussion over the negro soldiers' bills,
the opposition once more attacked the Cabinet, with its old
enemy, Benjamin, as the target. Resolutions were introduced into
the Senate declaring that "the retirement of the Honorable Judah
P. Benjamin from the State Department will be subservient of the
public interests"; in the House resolutions were offered
describing his public utterances as "derogatory to his position
as a high public functionary of the Confederate Government, a
reflection on the motives of Congress as a deliberative body, and
an insult to public opinion."

So Congress wrangled and delayed while the wave of fire that was
Sherman's advance moved northward through the Carolinas. Columbia
had gone up in smoke while the Senate debated day after
day--fifteen in all--what to do with the compromise bill sent up
to it from the House. It was during this period that a new
complication appears to have been added to a situation which was
already so hopelessly entangled, for this was the time when
Governor Magrath made a proposal to Governor Vance for a league
within the Confederacy, giving as his chief reason that
Virginia's interests were parting company with those of the lower
South. The same doubt of the upper South appears at various times
in the Mercury. And through all the tactics of the opposition
runs the constant effort to discredit Davis. The Mercury scoffed
at the agitation for negro soldiers as a mad attempt on the part
of the Administration to remedy its "myriad previous blunders."

In these terrible days, the mind of Davis hardened. He became
possessed by a lofty and intolerant confidence, an absolute
conviction that, in spite of all appearances, he was on the
threshold of success. We may safely ascribe to him in these days
that illusory state of mind which has characterized some of the
greatest of men in their over-strained, concluding periods. His
extraordinary promises in his later messages, a series of vain
prophecies beginning with his speech at the African Church,
remind one of Napoleon after Leipzig refusing the Rhine as a
boundary. His nerves, too, were all but at the breaking point. He
sent the Senate a scolding message because of its delay in
passing the Negro Soldiers' Bill. The Senate answered in a report
that was sharply critical of his own course. Shortly afterward
Congress adjourned refusing his request for another suspension of
the writ of habeas corpus.

Davis had hinted at important matters he hoped soon to be able to
submit to Congress. What he had in mind was the last, the
boldest, stroke of this period of desperation. The policy of
emancipation he and Benjamin had accepted without reserve. They
had at last perceived, too late, the power of the anti-slavery
movement in Europe. Though they had already failed to coerce
England through cotton and had been played with and abandoned by
Napoleon, they persisted in thinking that there was still a
chance for a third chapter in their foreign affairs.

The agitation to arm the slaves, with the promise of freedom, had
another motive besides the reinforcement of Lee's army: it was
intended to serve as a basis for negotiations with England and
France. To that end D. J. Kenner was dispatched to Europe early
in 1865. Passing through New York in disguise, he carried word of
this revolutionary program to the Confederate commissioners
abroad. A conference at Paris was held by Kenner, Mason, and
Slidell. Mason, who had gone over to England to sound Palmerston
with regard to this last Confederate hope, was received on the
14th of March. On the previous day, Davis had accepted temporary
defeat, by signing the compromise bill which omitted
emancipation. But as there was no cable operating at the time,
Mason was not aware of this rebuff. In his own words, he "urged
upon Lord P. that if the President was right in his impression
that there was some latent, undisclosed obstacle on the part of
Great Britain to recognition, it should be frankly stated, and we
might, if in our power to do so, consent to remove it."
Palmerston, though his manner was "conciliatory and kind,"
insisted that there was nothing "underlying" his previous
statements, and that he could not, in view of the facts then
existing, regard the Confederacy in the light of an independent
power. Mason parted from him convinced that "the most ample
concessions on our part in the matter referred to would have
produced no change in the course determined on by the British
Government with regard to recognition." In a subsequent interview
with Lord Donoughmore, he was frankly told that the offer of
emancipation had come too late.

The dispatch in which Mason reported the attitude of the British
Government never reached the Confederate authorities. It was
dated the 31st of March. Two days later Richmond was evacuated by
the Confederate Government.

Chapter XII. The Last Word

The evacuation of Richmond broke the back of the Confederate
defense. Congress had adjourned. The legislative history of the
Confederacy was at an end. The executive history still had a few
days to run. After destroying great quantities of records, the
government officials had packed the remainder on a long train
that conveyed the President and what was left of the civil
service to Danville. During a few days, Danville was the
Confederate capital. There, Davis, still unable to conceive
defeat, issued his pathetic last Address to the People of the
Confederate States. His mind was crystallized. He was no longer
capable of judging facts. In as confident tones as ever he
promised his people that they should yet prevail; he assured
Virginians that even if the Confederate army should withdraw
further south the withdrawal would be but temporary, and that
"again and again will we return until the baffled and exhausted
enemy shall abandon in despair his endless and impossible task of
making slaves of a people resolved to be free."

The surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, compelled another
migration of the dwindling executive company. General Johnston
had not yet surrendered. A conference which he had with the
President and the Cabinet at Greensboro ended in giving him
permission to negotiate with Sherman. Even then Davis was still
bent on keeping up the fight; yet, though he believed that
Sherman would reject Johnston's overtures, he was overtaken at
Charlotte on his way South by the crushing news of Johnston's
surrender. There the executive history of the Confederacy came to
an end in a final Cabinet meeting. Davis, still blindly resolute
to continue the struggle, was deeply distressed by the
determination of his advisers to abandon it. In imminent danger
of capture, the President's party made its way to Abbeville,
where it broke up, and each member sought safety as best he
could. Davis with a few faithful men rode to Irwinsville,
Georgia, where, in the early morning of the l0th of May, he was
surprised and captured. But the history of the Confederacy was
not quite at an end. The last gunshots were still to be fired far
away in Texas on the 13th of May. The surrender of the forces of
the Trans-Mississippi on May 26, 1865, brought the war to a
definite conclusion.

There remains one incident of these closing days, the
significance of which was not perceived until long afterward,
when it immediately took its rightful place among the determining
events of American history. The unconquerable spirit of the Army
of Northern Virginia found its last expression in a proposal
which was made to Lee by his officers. If he would give the word,
they would make the war a duel to the death; it should drag out
in relentless guerrilla struggles; and there should be no
pacification of the South until the fighting classes had been
exterminated. Considering what those classes were, considering
the qualities that could be handed on to their posterity, one
realizes that this suicide of a whole people, of a noble fighting
people, would have maimed incalculably the America of the future.
But though the heroism of this proposal of his men to die on
their shields had its stern charm for so brave a man as Lee, he
refused to consider it. He would not admit that he and his people
had a right thus to extinguish their power to help mold the
future, no matter whether it be the future they desired or not.
The result of battle must be accepted. The Southern spirit must
not perish, luxuriating blindly in despair, but must find a new
form of expression, must become part of the new world that was to
be, must look to a new birth under new conditions. In this spirit
he issued to his army his last address:

"After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed
courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been
compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need
not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have
remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the
result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and
devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the
loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I
determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past
services have endeared them to their countrymen.... I bid you
an affectionate farewell."

How inevitably one calls to mind, in view of the indomitable
valor of Lee's final decision, those great lines from Tennyson:

"Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will." 


There is no adequate history of the Confederacy. It is rumored
that a distinguished scholar has a great work approaching
completion. It is also rumored that another scholar, well
equipped to do so, will soon bring out a monumental life of
Davis. But the fact remains that as yet we lack a comprehensive
review of the Confederate episode set in proper perspective.
Standard works such as the "History of the United States from the
Compromise of 1850", by J. F. Rhodes (7 vols., 1893-1908), even
when otherwise as near a classic as is the work of Mr. Rhodes,
treat the Confederacy so externally as to have in this respect
little value. The one searching study of the subject, "The
Confederate States of America," by J. C. Schwab (1901), though
admirable in its way, is wholly overshadowed by the point of view
of the economist. The same is to be said of the article by
Professor Schwab in the 11th edition of "The Encyclopaedia

Two famous discussions of the episode by participants are: "The
Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government," by the President of
the Confederacy (2 vols., 1881), and "A Constitutional View of
the Late War Between the States," by Alexander H. Stephens (2
vols., 1870). Both works, though invaluable to the student, are
tinged with controversy, each of the eminent authors aiming to
refute the arguments of political antagonists.

The military history of the time has so overshadowed the civil,
in the minds of most students, that we are still sadly in need of
careful, disinterested studies of the great figures of
Confederate civil affairs. "Jefferson Davis," by William E. Dodd
("American Crisis Biographies," 1907), is the standard life of
the President, superseding older ones. Not so satisfactory in the
same series is "Judah P. Benjamin," by Pierce Butler (1907), and
"Alexander H. Stephens," by Louis Pendleton (1907). Older works
which are valuable for the material they contain are: "Memoir of
Jefferson Davis," by his Wife (1890); "The Life and Times of
Alexander H. Stephens," by R. M. Johnston and W. M. Browne
(1878); "The Life and Times of William Lowndes Yancey," by J. W.
Du Bose (1891); "The Life, Times, and Speeches of Joseph E.
Brown," by Herbert Fielder (1883); "Public Life and Diplomatic
Correspondence of James M. Mason," by his Daughter (1903); "The
Life and Time of C. G. Memminger," by H. D. Capers (1893). The
writings of E. A. Pollard cannot be disregarded, but must be
taken as the violent expression of an extreme partisan. They
include a "Life of Jefferson Davis" (1869) and "The Lost Cause"
(1867). A charming series of essays is "Confederate Portraits,"
by Gamaliel Bradford (1914). Among books on special topics that
are to be recommended are: "The Diplomatic History of the
Southern Confederacy" by J. M. Callahan (1901); "France and the
Confederate Navy," by John Bigelow (1888); and "The Secret
Service of the Confederate States in Europe," by J. D. Bulloch (2
vols., 1884). There is a large number of contemporary accounts of
life in the Confederacy. Historians have generally given
excessive attention to "A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the
Confederate States Capital," by J. B. Jones (2 vols., 1866) which
has really neither more nor less value than a Richmond newspaper.
Conspicuous among writings of this type is the delightful "Diary
from Dixie," by Mrs. Mary B. Chestnut (1905) and "My Diary, North
and South," by W. H. Russell (1861).

The documents of the civil history, so far as they are accessible
to the general reader, are to be found in the three volumes
forming the fourth series of the "Official Records of the Union
and Confederate Armies" (128 vols., 1880-1901); the "Journals of
the Congress of the Confederate States" (8 vols., 1904) and
"Messages and Papers of the Confederacy," edited by J. D.
Richardson (2 vols., 1905). Four newspapers are of first
importance: the famous opposition organs, the Richmond Examiner
and the Charleston Mercury, which should be offset by the two
leading organs of the Government, the Courier of Charleston and
the Enquirer of Richmond. The Statutes of the Confederacy have
been collected and published; most of them are also to be found
in the fourth series of the Official Records.

Additional bibliographical references will be found appended to
the articles on the "Confederate States of America," "Secession,"
and "Jefferson Davis," in "The Encyclopaedia Britannica," 11th

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Day of the Confederacy
by Nathaniel W. Stephenson


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