Neither Snow nor Rain nor a Nation Divided

David Schuler

Professors Cloke & McKeown

American Civilization II

13 May 2011

A Note:  The following is the same note that both James McPherson and Chandra Manning use, so I will mimic their style with respect and deference—A note about letters:

All misspellings, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and other issues of mechanics are as originally put down by the author of the letter.

Neither Snow nor Rain nor a Nation Divided

The American Civil War, or the War Between the States, represented the first time that many of the country’s men saw their country.  As one of the historians of Ken Burns’ magnum opus, The Civil War (1990), pointed out:

“They walked its roads; they saw its fields… It made their country an actuality.”

And maybe it did, but while they walked those roads and by those fields, their minds floated back to the Vermont farms, the Cincinnati storefronts and the Alabama plantations they had left behind with their mothers, fathers, and maybe wives and children.

“I can only think of home.  And but for those at home I might feel less like serving my country,”[1] John Barnett, a private in the 39th Indiana told his sister in a letter.

The soldiers’ minds were on home and the sentiment Barnett expressed was not unique; men missed home but they fought for it, as well.  What connected those soldiers to home and reinforced morale was the postal service, and the stream of letters it had sent between troops and their loved ones back on those farms and small towns was crucial to the war effort.

“An efficient mail service played a large part in maintaining morale.  Both armies understood this and made strong efforts to provide one,” (McPherson 132).  The mail was the “brightest part of a soldier’s day” so said an officer in the 11th Georgia, writing in a letter to his fiancée.  It is in these letters that lie the thoughts and cares and concerns of the men who fought the battles for the Great Men in this Great Man’s War.  Ken Burns, James McPherson and many other historians cite these and the diaries of hundreds of other soldiers who were front-and-center of the commotion—and also the boredom—of what has become the most powerful part of American history in their works.

But historians did not always mind the privates and sergeants and cavalry men in the telling of this segment of history.  Civil War history and lore was and remains in large part a war about the Great Men who led it.  The stories and mystique surrounding Lee, Grant, Jackson and others drowned out the letters and reflections of the men who fought under them.  It was only relatively recently that historians began fishing around the family collections stowed away in the attics of the great-great grandchildren of these veterans, trying to sort through what the common soldier was thinking, what he thought he was fighting for, if he thought it was worth fighting for at all.  It is true that numerous letters were collected and anthologized, but genuine historical analysis seemed to escape writers in the first one hundred years.

“Other than [Bell] Wiley, most historians concentrated on officers or political leaders until the 1980s and 1990s, by which time social history’s emphasis on history from the ‘bottom up’ prompted increased attention to the lot of common soldiers,” (Manning 7).  This should probably not come as a surprise.  The War made, and ruined, the men who ran it, and it is largely true that their talents and faults, decisions and indecisions, made the war, so the cult of personality that surrounded them after it that continues up to today is warranted at least in part.

Yet on the other hand, the Civil War is remarkable for its literacy rates among common soldiers.  Letters were only written at all because somewhere between 88 to 90 percent of all white soldiers who fought in it had the ability to.  The loss again, of course, is that only some 30 percent of black soldiers were literate, with the majority of those being free northern blacks[2]. But compared to the Crimean War, which ended only four years before this one began, these figures are astounding.  According to official figures only about 0.2 percent of troops fighting on the Russian side were able to read and write[3].

One would think that historians would have been quicker to notice and take advantage of the great opportunity that literacy among troops, along with largely efficient postal services, provided.  The War was, much more so than the Crimean War, a deeply personal war for those who both fought in it and ran the farms and stores while men were swept up in it.  The war was fueled by the passions and feelings of those who joined its efforts.  Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow![4] Many men heeded the call.

DELIVERING THE MAIL

“And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.”

These words weren’t written during the Civil War but appeared in the USPS 2001 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations– an update on the legendary Postal Service creed– to reflect the resolve of the Postal Service after the September 11 terrorist attacks and issues of anthrax mailings.  But they could easily have been on the USPS 1861 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations report.

There was war, but the mail still needed delivering.  The National Postal Museum describes the delivery of soldiers’ mail, “irregular at best”[5], with some soldiers feeling up for making quips about it:  “We have moved so often that letters couldn’t find us. Write often, and I will run the risk of getting the letters,” Union soldier Herman Clarke wrote to his father in June of 1863.  But this service represented a connection to home; perhaps a trace of those “mystic chords of memory” to simpler and certainly less dramatic lives before the War began.  Indeed the postal service was to most Americans the only tangible connection to a federal government whose power in the consciousness of Americans of the time was vague and fleeting.

“The old federal republic in which the national government had rarely touched the average citizen except through the post-office gave way to a more centralized polity…” (859) McPherson reflects in the epilogue of his single volume masterpiece, Battle Cry of Freedom.  Of course, at the outset of war many millions began to feel the power of centralized government and it was more than just picking up letters at the local post office.  Thousands joined McClellan’s famed Army of the Potomac or saw the troops march, and sometimes fight, through their towns and fields.

And suddenly the postal service became these citizens’ connection to their families.  The Post Office Department employed somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people before and during the war, making it the largest civil service branch in the government, in order to keep the mail running[6].

The Union officially ceased mail traffic to the rebellious south on August 26, 1861, but mail continued to make its way south (and north) through flag-of-truce and blockade runners[7].  Legally, mail crossed the dividing line primarily at two points: City Point, Virginia, for mail going from the North to the South and Fortress Monroe, Virginia, for mail going from the South to the North[8].  The issue of postage for the troops was especially difficult, as soldiers did not often carry stamps with them because they would become soggy and ruined—in July 1861, the Post Office Department allowed soldiers to write “Soldier’s Letter” and the recipient would pay the postage (3 cents for a half ounce letter in 1861, or about 77 cents in today’s dollars), or soldiers could write their name rank and division, and postage would be docked from their pay[9].

The Confederacy had an especially difficult time with its postage.  The Union redesigned and demonetized all of its postage to prevent the Confederacy from using the stockpiles of stamps it had in the South.  Customers were given six days (though New York City customers were given six weeks) to exchange their old stamps for the new ones[10].  The Confederate States of America initially formed their own Post Office Department on February 21, 1861, and initially all postage was paid using Union postage (at a higher rate of 5 cents for a half ounce letter, about $1.30 today) until Confederate postage was available beginning in October 1861[11].  And they did so with an eye to nation building; the very first stamp featured the profile of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.  He was not yet a recognizable figure throughout the South and his image was made prominent in postage in order to increase his recognition and unite the South around it[12].

THE MEN IN CHARGE

Those who ran the postal service of both the North and the South, much like the rank and file soldiers, have been largely drowned out by the shadows of the Great Men, but their stories are just as important as those contained in the hundreds of thousands of soldiers’ letters they guided from home front to battlefront.

The man in charge of this operation for the Union was Montgomery Blair, of the prominent Blair family and powerful Democratic turned Republican powerhouse family.  Their mansion in Washington is now the centerpiece of the Blair House complex, the official residence for guests of the White House (the Blairs never wanted to be too far from the locus of power).  His enthusiasm (coupled with his father’s, Francis Preston Blair) along with his residence in the border state of Maryland led Lincoln to be insistent on his nomination as Postmaster General despite arguments against him coming from the top lieutenants of soon-to-be Secretary of State William Seward[13].  As Postmaster, he held one of the central positions within the Lincoln cabinet, a position that has since fallen from prominence, but was still prestigious at the time of the War thanks to the fact that the position existed before the United States officially began and its first office holder was none other than founding father Benjamin Franklin.

On the other side, former U.S. Congressman (he resigned with the secession of Texas) John Henninger Reagan was eventually coaxed into taking the reins of establishing the Post Office Department of the CSA.

“On March 6, much to my surprise, President Davis tendered me the portfolio of Postmaster General, which I declined.… My objection was, that our people under the Government of the United States had been accustomed to regular postal facilities… while I would gladly perform my duty to the Confederacy, I did not desire to become a martyr,” (Reagan 109) Reagan reflected in his memoirs.  He would decline the offer twice (so would at least two other candidates) before he reluctantly accepted.  His fears of becoming a “martyr” would prove to be all for naught in the end.

Once accepting the position, Reagan immediately began a serious effort to recruit, retain, and control as many of the resources as possible of the United States Post Office Department located within Confederate territory.  He managed to place under Confederate control 8,535 of the nation’s 28,586 post offices and enlist the help of a large number of southerners working for the federal Post Office Department[14].

In the breakdown of the Union and the buildup of the Confederacy, there was a quasi-cloak and dagger operation going on behind the scenes of the formation of armies and war planning for the precious maps and materials of the Post Office Department.  Reagan was only partially successful in retaining the internal documents of the Union’s Post Office, managing to recover numerous financial documents and planning documents, but only being able to commandeer the postal map of a single Southern state: his own precious Texas[15].

In the end, Reagan performed a successful job at establishing an independent postal operation from the grips of the U.S. Postal Department’s resources in the South; the Confederate Post Office Department made a profit during the war, though the cost to its patrons was more than double that of their Union counterparts[16], and it was only just double because of Reagan’s successful deal-making with Southern railroad operators and other service providers[17].

And in one of the ironies of this chapter of American history, Union Postmaster Blair’s career burned (along with his manor, Falkland) in the War while Confederate Henninger Reagan’s rebounded; he was pardoned after the war and eventually became a United States Senator for Texas and the first chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.  A model citizen for Reconstruction (his memoir doles out a healthy dose of criticism to Southern leaders which begs the question: Who was he traitor to in the end—the Union or his beloved South?), Reagan was quickly pardoned and welcomed back into the fold of Union governance.  He also shaved off his beard, perhaps to purge himself of his former rebel sins.

THE SOLDIERS

The soldiers of the Civil War may have been overlooked by most historians until the near the end of the twentieth century (with the notable exception of Bell Wiley and his The Life of Billy Yank and The Life of Johnny Reb), but when the tilt of historical analysis strayed to a social history approach that looked “bottom up”, what historians found was a deep well of reflection about politics and the meaning of the War mixed in with all the bellyaching over the less than accommodating living and eating conditions.

Honor was a common theme that ran through both the correspondence of officers and soldiers, though more frequently for the former and among both northerners and southerners.

“I came to war because I felt it to be my duty.  I am not going to run away if I never come home I had rather di without seeing them than for peple to tell them after I am dead that their father was a deserter… It is every Southern mans duty to fight against abolition misrule and preserve his Liberty untarnished which was won by our fore Fathers,” (McPherson 138) a private in the 18th Georgia wrote to his wife in 1863.

A Union private from the 14th Indiana wrote similar musings to his wife: “I would give anything in my possession to be with you but I am in the service of my country and I will serve it faithfully and do my duty and if I never see you more I will do nothing that will disgrace you or my Children,” (McPherson 139).

But one of the most important areas of insight that has come with the continued historical analysis of soldiers’ letters is their thoughts on slavery.

Historian Chandra Manning used her book and the letters contained to prove that slavery weighed heavy on the minds of the large majority of soldiers with one summing it up nicely for everyone by quickly saying, “any man who pretends to believe that this is not a war for the emancipation of the blacks… is either a fool or a liar,” (Manning 3).

From top to bottom, the American Civil War revolved around slavery and the mythology of the Revolutionary principles of Liberty and Freedom.  If there is any redemption to be sifted from these letters, it is that as the War progressed, many Union soldiers grew increasingly anti-slavery and increasingly more comfortable with its demise being a cause worth fighting for.  Manning reminds us that the majority of Union soldiers had never seen a black person before the War, let alone a slave.  To quote the historian from The Civil War again, “It made their country an actuality”.  It made slavery an actuality.

This is not to say that fierce racism among northern troops died out.  There was an instance of Kentucky Union soldiers destroying a black church in Bowling Green for no apparent reason beyond spite[18].  What historians have used these letters to reveal, though, is that as the War progressed the awareness of white northern bigotry and increased abhorrence of slavery became more prominent among soldiers, especially after the Gettysburg and Vicksburg[19].

The intertwining of God and the War for many black soldiers is another discovery through the letters of African American soldiers:

“Specifically, black troops believed that God would use the war and their participation in it to achieve four main goals: the salvation of the Union and the realization of the legacy of the American Revolution, the destruction of slavery, that attainment of equal rights and justice for black Americans, and the establishment of what black soldiers called the ‘manhood of the race,’” (Manning 125).

Perhaps that is why so many black soldiers welcomed the war, with one orderly sergeant from South Carolina writing it was “a medium through which God is helping us,” (Manning 125).  Another black soldier from Tennessee wrote, “We thank God for it,” (Manning 125).

The sadness is that so many died for our nation’s “Original Sin” but what so many black soldiers (and a significant number of white soldiers) were fighting for would not be achieved in large part for one hundred more years, with that battle still far from being won.

MAIL CALL

“I never see a blue mailbox without a spark of warmth and wonder and gratitude that this intricate and extensive service is maintained for my benefit” ­-John Updike

The Post Office Department was not the focal point of the War and the men who ran it and the thousands of workers who processed, stamped, and delivered the mail do not have any statues or shrines.  There is no 35th Regimental Post Office memorial on the battlefields anywhere (that I could find, at least), but there is a certain disbelief and satisfaction, best expressed by John Updike’s quote above, about the idea that these men fighting in foreign corners of their native lands could put down their thoughts and send them off down the roads they just traveled and back to the homes they just left.

And even the way people mailed their letters says something about how this War affected people.  Patriotic envelopes were used by both northerners and southerners to express their national pride.  The devastation of war also came through.  As Sherman marched to the sea and a war-exhausted South soldiered on, legitimate envelopes disappeared along with the livestock and the crops.  People turned to using the wallpaper from their own homes to mail their letters, tearing it off square by square[20].

There is something more than news from the front in these letters.  “From such writings I(McPherson) have come to know these men better than I know most of my living acquaintances, for in their personal letters written in a time of crisis that might end their lives at any moment they revealed more of their inner selves than we do in our normal everyday lives,” (McPherson x).

And they did reveal “more of themselves”; collectively they revealed in part what they were actually all fighting for, what the nation was thinking about slavery and about an entire race of people that was soon to have freedom but nowhere to go, and about whether our Revolutionary principles and rhetoric meant anything at all.  They sat down at camp, stopped joking with their buddies for a moment, maybe looked up at the sky or out over the fields of a part of their country they had just discovered, and they took time to write a letter.  The shell of the unthinking soldier broke for a moment and most put genuine reflection into what they had to say about this moment in history that they had all been swept up into and had the course of their lives altered by.  Pen to paper.

Works Cited

The Civil War. Dir. Ken Burns.” PBS: 1990, DVD.

“The Confederate Postal System.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011.             <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6c_confederatepost.html>.

“Crossing the Border.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011.             <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6b_border.html>.

“Ex Post Fact-O”. National Postal Museum. 5. Web. 8 May 2011.             http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/educators/we.pdf

Figes, Orlando. The Crimean War: A History. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. eBook.

Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. New     York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. Print.

McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University       Press, 1988. Print.

McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York:       Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.

Reagan, John Henninger. Memoirs, with special reference to secession and the Civil War. New      York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906. eBook.

“Soldiers’ Mail.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011.             <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6a_soldiersmail.html>.

United States. Mail Service and the Civil War. 2011.  Web. 8 May 2011.             <http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2011/pr11_034civilwar.pdf>.

Whitman, Walt. “Beat! Beat! Drums!” 1861. Print.

Wilson, Mark. The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861-1865. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Print.


[1] McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 131. Print.

[2] McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. viii-ix. Print.

[3] Figes, Orlando. The Crimean War: A History. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 117. eBook.

[4] Whitman, Walt. “Beat! Beat! Drums!” 1861.

[5] “Soldiers’ Mail.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6a_soldiersmail.html>.

[6] Wilson, Mark. The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861-1865. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. 78. Print.

[7] “Crossing the Border.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6b_border.html>.

[8] Kaufmann, Patricia. “Civilian Flag of Truce Covers.” Arago: People Postage and the Post (2006). Web. 8 May 2011. <http://arago.si.edu/index.asp?con=1&cmd=1&tid=2028296>.

[9] United States. Mail Service and the Civil War. 2011.  Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2011/pr11_034civilwar.pdf>.

[10] United States. Mail Service and the Civil War. 2011.  Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2011/pr11_034civilwar.pdf>.

[11] “The Confederate Postal System.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6c_confederatepost.html>.

[12] “Ex Post Fact-O”. National Postal Museum. 5. Web. 8 May 2011. http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/educators/we.pdf

[13] Kearns Goodwin , Doris. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. 288. Print.

[14] “The Confederate Postal System.” National Postal Museum. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2a6c_confederatepost.html>.

[15] Reagan, John Henninger. Memoirs, with special reference to secession and the Civil War. New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906. 125. eBook.

[16] “Ex Post Fact-O”. National Postal Museum. 5. Web. 8 May 2011. http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/educators/we.pdf

[17] Reagan, John Henninger. Memoirs, with special reference to secession and the Civil War. New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906. 134. eBook.

[18] Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 119. Print.

[19] Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 121. Print.

[20] “Ex Post Fact-O”. National Postal Museum. 5. Web. 8 May 2011. http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/educators/we.pdf

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Commonplace Introduction

Conflict was inevitable. The results were not.

The war over the war continues.  Historians and Americans at large continue to debate the reasons we went to war, what we fought for during the war, and what the meaning of it all is after the war.  And everyone stops to ask “what if”.  While the inevitability of war was certainly not clear to the people in the midst of the debate, a serious north vs. south conflict was inevitable.  The old southern guard stuck to their guns to the bitter end, with Sen. Calhoun giving his valedictory defending southern honor and the institution of slavery.  Compromise after compromise was struck but with no permanently stabilizing effects.  Then the cannons went off at Fort Sumter and the script was blown out of the water.  From here, people were chosen for roles and those people made decisions (or failed to) and the war played out, but none of the results were inevitable.  McClellan had so many opportunities to take action but failed to, the noted anti-Lincoln national mood in August of ’64 could have perpetuated through November if it were not for some key victories, and countless other “turning points” could have easily turned another way.  The constitutional convention set the national divide and pre-arranged the script, but the Civil War truly threw everything into chaos, with no one being able to predict a clear result—neither in the thick of the conflict then nor with the benefit of hindsight now.  The war over the war continues.

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Dimension of Contingency

One small step... could have changed the result of the war

The Epilogue of Battle Cry of Freedom explores several of the lenses through which historians view the Civil War and how it ended with the result that it did.  And the conclusion seems to be that there is no conclusion.  The epilogue is littered with “perhaps”, “only then”, and “if the outcome had been reversed…”  If the outcome had been reversed seems to be the best phrase.  All I drew from this was that the war really could have gone either way.  Historical evidence seems to mark the Civil War as “inevitable” (though a certain sect of analysis disagrees), but the result was from it.  Actors without a script.  Results not pre-ordained. Far from conclusive.

If only McClellan had taken any of the umpteenth chances he had to pursue, fight, and defeat the Confederate army, the war may have ended with he same result but far sooner.  If the United States held elections in August instead of November, Lincoln could easily have lost the vote and Americans could have lost themselves the war.

People made mistakes and decisions– but the result, and even many of the theories of explanation, are far from conclusive.  People made choices–Events aligned by chance– those choices and chances birthed the result that it did.

“The terms of that peace and the dimensions of black freedom would preoccupy the country for a decade or more.  Meanwhile the process of chronicling the war and reckoning its consequences began immediately and has never ceased.” -James McPherson

“The war over the war continues.” -Edward Rothstein

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Neither Snow nor Rain

“And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.”

Civil War Letter: the post must go on.

These words weren’t written during the Civil War but appeared in the USPS 2001 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations– an update on the legendary Postal Service creed– to reflect the resolve of the Postal Service after the September 11 terrorist attacks and issues of anthrax mailings. (If one is interested, the “comprehensive statement” can be read in its entirety here: Postal Service publications

But they could easily have been on the USPS 1861 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations report, as well.

Ken Burns and James McPherson often cite letters between soldiers and their families as first-person accounts of the war.  But how did the postal service operate in the Civil War? Did neither sleet nor rain, nor Rebel war cries, stay them from completing their appointed rounds, too?  And how did the Confederates send their sweet nothings back to their southern belles?

Away from the focal point of the larger war stood two Postmasters General:


Montgomery Blair: 20th United States Postmaster General

John Henninger Reagan: 1st Confederate States Postmaster General

In an ironic twist of fate in this Civil War, Union Postmaster Blair’s career burned (along with his manor, Falkland) while Confederate Henninger Reagan’s rebounded: he was pardoned after the war and eventually became a United States Senator for Texas and the first chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.  A model citizen for Reconstruction.  He also shaved off the beard, perhaps to purge himself of his former rebel sins.

A dapper and dignified John Henninger Reagan sans beard

But what work did the Postal services of these two respective bodies do for the people using it during the war?

As the website of the National Postal Museum points out, this was the first time many of these farm boys and homebodies ventured more than 15 miles from their homes.  This was a journey– an epic one.  What did these letters between them and their families mean to boys who hadn’t been past the horizon of their birthplaces before?  Did it magnify the distance and the power of their journey and their adventure?  Or did it bring them closer to the people they left behind?

Some of these letters have been used to try to explain exactly what Union soldiers thought they were fighting for in the war.  The answer to that question is still unresolved, but the postal services that delivered petty news and passionate love notes between soldiers and families played a unique role in understanding the war.

An excerpt from the famous Sullivan Ballou letter which tried to communicate so much across so many miles– (ironically, it was never mailed):

I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt

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The Civil War: Fate & Choice

“A slight twist in the chain of events might have enabled [the secessionist factions] to prevail in any of [the border states]” (284).

Is it really true?  In retrospect, everything about the Civil War seems so certain and clear-cut, but things were in chaos at the time.

Though, not for everyone:

Robert E. Lee & Sash

“A gentleman in every sense of the word”  He thought slavery a “moral and political evil” and spoke against secession, but he seemed guided by destiny and fate rather than politics or emotion.  He had no choice in which side he would choose– he chose blood and home over army loyalty and union.  You also get a sense he had a flair for the dramatic; his meeting with Gen. Scott couldn’t have been better scripted by Hollywood.  I’m certain a dramatic Hans Zimmer soundtrack played in the background as Scott and Lee met in a foggy open field to discuss and shake hands.

“I foresee that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for our national sins,” (281).

The whole history has been fairly macro up until this point, but now it seemingly dissolves into a strange matrix of fate, chance, human choices, and dumb luck.

Maj. Anderson’s skillful tactics at Sumter, Lincoln’s even shrewder political moves, Mayor Brown of Baltimore inciting secession fires… it goes on.  Who knows what would have happened had John W. Garrett of the B&O RR not been so keen on unionism– would the Union troops into D.C. have been even more delayed?

It seems the war was started by larger forces (or “national sins”) while it played out under fate, chance, and individual actors.

KEYWORDS to track: blood, honor

With paying special attention to intertwining relationships and how quick choices caused crucial outcomes

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Butternuts, Senators, and “Is Florida so south it’s not even the South?”

Cincinnati

1815:  Cincinnati to New York  = “a minimum of three weeks”  (My bet is it was usually a fair bit longer)

1860: Cincinnati is porkopolis

Somewhere in between 1815 & 1860: Miami River Valley = Butternuts (very Democratic)?

What’s a Butternut?  Google says (shows) this:

Butternuts

Trains: “Racing at BREAKNECK speeds of thirty miles an hour, the iron horse cut travel time between New York and Chicago from three weeks to two days”  (Aside: Wait a minute– what happened to using the Queen city as the reference point?  I guess we missed the boat (train?) on the railroad revolution).

“Train wrecks soon exceeded steamboat explosions as a prime cause of accidental death.”  Break-neck progress, indeed.  How to know your industry is a rising star in the United States: it becomes a leading cause of death.  “Progress or Perish!” OR “Perish for Progress!”

Also, other great creations of the time period:

Department Stores!

AND

Childhood... "as a separate stage of life"

—-

“Who ain’t a slave?”

Wage Worker

Slave Worker

Southern Gentry. ("Financially we are more enslaved than our negroes")

The Old Guard:

Sen. John C. Calhoun (D-SC)

A dying and weathered Calhoun sits in the Senate while Sen. Mason of Virginia gives Calhoun’s “valedictory to the nation”.  He sits and listens to his legacy speech.  What does he choose to have said?  “No more equilibrium… states’ rights… southern honor… southern honor… slavery is A. OK…. southern honor”

He completely ignores a point that, despite the unpredictability and hub-bub of pre-Civil War compromising and name calling, should have been apparent: that slavery simply could not go on forever and that eventually it would be viewed as a moral evil.  This was his ‘grand finale’, the final showdown… and he chose to stay on that side.  Why?

He covers his support of slavery in a states’ rights argument, but his final speech to the nation was completely unoriginal… pity.

Trinkets to carry around:

John L. O’Sullivan: inventor of the phrase “Manifest Destiny”

Mormonism

John C. Fremont (accent over the “e”): Senatorial son-in-law, Bear Flag Republic, Member of the army topographical corps (is that still around?  Google search result: NO. Ended in 1863.)  Quietly merged into the Army Corps of Engineers.  http://topogs.org/History.htm.  They mapped the country… then immediately just started building…

Emerson got it right: “Mexico will poison us”

John Sutter: All he wanted was a sawmill… and he got a goldrush instead

Fun with the Compass Rose:  “upper North… lower South… upper South… lower North” (p. 73)

The Mormons legalized slavery. 1852.

Showdown:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin vs. Uncle Robin in His Cabin in Virginia and Tom Without One in Boston.  Winner: UTC  (“you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war”)

Lamar and his slave schooner Wanderer
And…. What is the political climate of Florida and what exactly is going on down there?

Florida


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The Altar of Liberty

Item:  Memphis Enquirer article after the “Fall” of the Alamo

“We have been opposed to the Texas war from first to last, but our feelings we cannot express– some of our own bosom friends have fallen in the Alamo.  We would avenge their death and spill the last drop of our blood upon the altar of liberty.”

Museum Tag:  News of the battle at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio spread quickly throughout the United States.  Instead of being received as insignificant news in the ongoing struggle between independent minded Anglo-Texans and the Mexican forces led by Santa Anna, the news dominated headlines in America for several days.  The newspaper accounts of the battle and the “Fall” of the Alamo galvanized American public opinion on the side of the rebel Texans, and iconic Davy Crockett’s legendary status only grew as the tales of his heroism at the Alamo spread and grew grander and grander with each re-telling.

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