October 30, 1864: Robert J. Breckinridge speaks

Robert Jefferson Breckinridge

The New York Times reports on the speech given by Robert J. Breckinridge* in Cincinnati. Breckinridge was the uncle of John Cabell Breckinridge, one of Lincoln’s opponents in the 1860 election and now a Confederate general. The uncle, though, had been a vocal abolitionist before the war, and was a staunch unionist. In Cincinnati he denounced the Democratic peace platform and advocated a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.


DR. BRECKINRIDGE ON THE STATE OF THE COUNTRY;

Having heard that Dr. BRECKINRIDGE was to speak at Cincinnati, I took the cars and was carried there with the velocity of a locomotive. When you can get a new idea or hear a really great man, it is worth while to take a journey. Factitious great men — men made by blowing trumpets or puffing paragraphs — we have all round us. But a man whom nature made great by giving him strong moral and intellectual qualities, is a rare being. But nature did not make ROBERT J. BRECKINRIDGE altogether. The chief hand in making him was his mother, who was a strong-minded, intellectual, religious woman. There are few men, worth anything in the world, whose characters have not been formed by their mother. What is the worth of fame? Who ought to be famous: the mother, or the son? Another mother of BRECKINRIDGE was his Alma Mater — Princeton College. He was rather an unruly son of hers, (so says Dame Rumor,) but it matters not, he got a good education, and has become an eminent lawyer and a more eminent Divine. An intimate friend of HENRY CLAY, he could hardly hesitate, in taking sides with his country, against this dark and iniquitous rebellion. If the spirits of the dead come back to interfere in the affairs of men, we could easily imagine with what a lofty look, and defiant air, and uplifted arm HENRY CLAY would now be defending his country, or denouncing the recreants in Kentucky who go for MCCLELLAN.

BRECKINRIDGE is a man of inflexible will and indomitable courage. Hence it matters not to him that his nephew, JOHN C. and half his family are on the rebel side. He goes, like the Spartan hero, for his country. He asks not for slavery, for trade or for friends; but cries “My country forever!” When the rebel gangs came to his farm and wanted his fine horses, they offered to buy them. “No,” said he, “you can steal my horses, but you cannot buy them.”

Well, I went to Cincinnati, and on entering that magnificent Opera House, found three thousand of the most intelligent people in the West already assembled. Every aisle, and corner, and nook was full, and hundreds were going away, unable to come within sight of the platform. Such an assembly is rarely found. Intelligent, enthusiastic, and yet calm; not a single noise or interruption, except applause, disturbed the entertainment of the evening. Besides the orations, MURDOCH, the tragedian, recited patriotic poetry, and MERTEN’s Band furnished music.

But the point to which I would come is the doctrine put forth by Dr. BRECKINRIDGE. He considers the Chicago platform the meanest thing ever produced by the politics of this country — as expressly double-faced — but as meaning, and intended to produce an armistice, which would result in the triumph of the rebels and the dismemberment of the country; that MCCLELLAN, whatever his personal character may be, is unable to resist the influences which surround him, and could do no good thing whatever. He says, justly, that neither the President nor JEFFERSON DAVIS have any power whatever to make peace; that there is no power in the Constitution for the Government to make peace with, or to dismember a part of the country on any terms whatever. And he says, beyond this, that even a minority have a right to resist any such attempt, because a clear, undeniable usurpation; and that it would then be the duty of loyal citizens to take up arms in revolution.

In this, Dr. BRECKINRIDGE is right. Nothing is more certain than that the idea put forth at Chicago, that we can make an armistice and peace with the rebel Confederacy, is at direct war with the Constitution and the whole spirit of our institutions. The Constitution recognizes an insurrection, and the power of the Government to put it down; but the Constitution does not recognize the separation of a part, and the right of that part to set up a government and make a treaty. A hundred years will not change the fact that the secession is, in the eyes of the Constitution, a mere insurrection to be suppressed by force, and with that insurrection the Government has no power to treat. The whole idea is nonsense, manufactured by VALLANDIGHAM, and imposed upon the convention.

The next question is the slave question. “Now,” says Dr. BRECKINRIDGE, “if you want to get rid of slavery, you must meet it boldly, openly and manfully. You must amend the Constitution and strike it down, root and branch, forever!” This sentiment was received with the loudest applause. The Western people do mean to get rid of slavery, and strike the accursed thing down forever. To do this, they mean to send enough anti-slavery members of Congress to do it. We must have two-thirds of the next Congress, and I think we shall.

Another thing Dr. BRECKINRIDGE said, which don’t agree with the ideas of many persons, both Republican and Democratic. He says, that Mr. Lincoln, in his opinion, is the ablest and fittest man in the nation to be President at this time. The Chicago Convention says the war is a failure. A failure in what? Certainly, peace is not yet, if that is meant. But the war, said he, is the most successful war ever recorded for the same length of time. This is true. We have conquered half their territory and half their strength, and they are now reduced to such an extremity that their fall seems inevitable. I should like to know what REVERDY JOHNSON would say to BRECKINRIDGE’s account of LINCOLN?

I feel sorry that men like FILLMORE, WINTHROP, REVERDY JOHNSON, should have no more sense than to fix political infamy upon their names. Can they not see that the storm is gathering for the destruction of Copperheads? That their notion of conservatism is only a poor device to save the rebellion and slavery from its eternal doom? We look to men of their age and consideration for sagacity, if not wisdom. But they have learned nothing by experience. Like Ephraim, they have joined themselves to their idols, and like Ephraim will be scattered and cast out. There is a strange feeling, in old politicians like these, of dislike to the novi homines. They think, and perhaps with justice, that more respect should have been paid to men of their standing, and they should have been looked to for the high places of the land. This idea is anti-republican, for the novi homines, as they rise up, must have this place and their consideration, and the best thing conservatives can do is to yield gracefully to the coming generations.

I remarked, as one of the incidents of the evening, that the most radical sentiments were most applauded, and that by the most intelligent. It is seen clearly, by all intelligent men. that slavery and secesion must perish, or this nation cannot stand. If this revolution is carried out constitutionally, the Constitution must be amended. Revolutions never leave things as they were. The “Constitution as it is” (meaning that as understood by BUCHANAN, FLOYD and DAVIS,) is in spirit gone. Let us put that fact in form. The Constitution is elastic. Let us amend it. Let us conform it to the Public Will.

A VETERAN OBSERVER.

*As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not wholly objective on the subject of Dr. Breckinridge, as he was my wife’s GG-Grandfather. She has living relatives who refer to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression”, but she prefers the “War of Southern Recalcitrance.”

Posted in Clement L. Vallandigham, George McClellan, Ohio, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge | Leave a comment

October 29, 1864: Smashing things generally

Sherman and men in Atlanta

Beauregard has taken charge of the western rebel operations, and Sherman is making sure that Thomas has the resources to defend Tennessee against him. But Sherman isn’t going north — ” I propose myself to push straight down into the heart of Georgia, smashing thinks generally.”

Official Records 79:494


HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Rome, Ga., October 29, 1864.
Major-General ROSECRANS,
Warrensburg, Mo.:

I have your dispatches to-day. I have pushed Beauregard to the WEST of Decatur, but I know he is pledged to invade Tennessee and Kentucky, having his base on the old Mobile and Ohio road. I have put Thomas in Tennessee and given him as many troops as he thinks necessary, but I don’t want to leave it to chance, and therefore would like to have Smith’s and Mower’s DIVISIONS up the Tennessee River as soon as possible. Could you get them on board of boats at Booneville or higher up and let the boats run to Paducah where orders would meet them! I propose myself to push straight down into the heart of Georgia, smashing things generally.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

Posted in Georgia, John Bell Hood, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Sherman's March, Tennessee, William Rosecrans, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 28, 1864: Not going after Hood

William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman tells Halleck that he’s not going back northwest after Hood.

Official Records 79:476


ROME, GA., October 28, 1864-8. 30 p. m.
(Received 12 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:

The rebel army is now before Decatur, Ala. I think the place strong and can hold out, and that it will delay Beauregard till General Thomas can make his preparations. I have sent Stanley’s corps to Chattanooga, and may also send Schofield’s; but I do not want to go back myself with the whole army, as that is what the enemy wants. if you can re-enforce Thomas and enable him to hold Tennessee I will soon make Hood let go, for when I get my sick and wounded to the rear I will start for Macon. The railroad is now done.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

Posted in Georgia, Henry Halleck, John Bell Hood, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 27, 1864: Sherman pares down his forces

Sherman in Atlanta, 1864

Thomas needs troops to defend Tennessee in Sherman’s rear, and in any case Sherman has to have a highly mobile force for his planned march. Here Sherman sends the Fourth Corps to the rear, as well as other troops who aren’t physically up to a long slog. He’s still worrying about what Hood is up to, but he really doesn’t want to be diverted from his plans now.


GAYLESVILLE, ALA., October 27, 1864-10 a. m.

(Received 2 a. m. 28th.)

Major General H. W. HALLECK,

Chief of Staff:

I have sent the Fourth Corps, General Stanley, back to Stevenson. This corps is about 15,000 strong. I will also send all the men not suited to our long march, but they will answer for defending posts. These, with what General Thomas has, will enable him to hold Tennessee, and in a few days I hope to be all ready to carry into effect my original plan. no doubt Hood has gone off toward the west, about Decatur, and may attempt and succeed in crossing the Tennessee, although that river is high and patrolled by gun-boats. If he attacks fortified places he will soon cripple his army, so that Thomas can dispose of him. I will await a few days to hear what head he makes about Decatur, and may yet turn to Tennessee; but it would be a great pity to take a step backward. I think it would be better even to let him ravage the State of Tennessee, provided he does not gobble up too many of our troops. General Thomas is well alive to the occasion, and better suited to the emergency that any man I have. He should be strengthened as much as possible, as the successful defense of Tennessee should not be left to chance.

W. T. SHERMAN,

Major-General.

Posted in George Thomas, Georgia, Henry Halleck, John Bell Hood, Sherman's March, Tennessee, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 27, 1864: Sherman pares down his ranks

Sherman in Atlanta, 1864

Thomas needs troops to defend Tennessee in Sherman’s rear, and in any case Sherman has to have a highly mobile force for his planned march. Here Sherman sends the Fourth Corps to the rear, as well as other troops who aren’t physically up to a long slog. He’s still worrying about what Hood is up to, but he really doesn’t want to be diverted from his plans now.


GAYLESVILLE, ALA., October 27, 1864-10 a. m.

(Received 2 a. m. 28th.)

Major General H. W. HALLECK,

Chief of Staff:

I have sent the Fourth Corps, General Stanley, back to Stevenson. This corps is about 15,000 strong. I will also send all the men not suited to our long march, but they will answer for defending posts. These, with what General Thomas has, will enable him to hold Tennessee, and in a few days I hope to be all ready to carry into effect my original plan. no doubt Hood has gone off toward the west, about Decatur, and may attempt and succeed in crossing the Tennessee, although that river is high and patrolled by gun-boats. If he attacks fortified places he will soon cripple his army, so that Thomas can dispose of him. I will await a few days to hear what head he makes about Decatur, and may yet turn to Tennessee; but it would be a great pity to take a step backward. I think it would be better even to let him ravage the State of Tennessee, provided he does not gobble up too many of our troops. General Thomas is well alive to the occasion, and better suited to the emergency that any man I have. He should be strengthened as much as possible, as the successful defense of Tennessee should not be left to chance.

W. T. SHERMAN,

Major-General.

Posted in George Thomas, Georgia, Henry Halleck, John Bell Hood, Sherman's March, Tennessee, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 26, 1864: No, Sherman hasn’t endorsed McClellan for president

George B. McClellan

The New York Times prints a letter from John C. Hamilton along with his correspondence with Sherman. There is a rumor that Sherman is persuading soldiers to vote for McClellan. Sherman denies vehemently doing anything to influence the votes of his men, and gives Lincoln a rather tepid endorsement.

General Sherman and the Presidential Election.
Published: October 26, 1864

No. 17 WEST TWENTIETH-STREET, NEW-YORK, Oct. 24, 1864.

To the Editor of the Herald:

Having noticed in the Herald of the 20th of September last, the subjoined paragraph, I transmitted it to Gen. SHERMAN, with the remark: “I feel that an expression of opinion by you contradictory of the inclosed statement, in a form avoiding everything personal, would be of importance.” I give you his reply, marked with all the elevation of his noble character. You will be so kind as to make it public.

JOHN C. HAMILTON.

“But we have heard a statement relative to a private letter from Gen. SHERMAN, containing the following words, or words to this effect: ‘I believe that ninety-nine out of every hundred soldiers in this army’ — the laurelled army of Atlanta — ‘would vote for Gen. MCCLELLAN, whether with or without my consent; but if my influence can suffice to make the hundreth man cast his vote the same way it shall not be wanting.’ This report we give as one known to us to be prevalent in army circles, but without vouching for its accuracy.”

HEADQUARTERS, MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD, KINGSTON, GA., Oct. 11, ’64.

MY DEAR SIR — There is not one word of truth in the paragraph you sent me cut from the New York Herald of September 20. I never thought, said or wrote that MCCLELLAN would get “ninety-nine out of every one hundred” votes in the army. I am as ignorant of the political bias of the men of this army as you are at a distance of a thousand miles, and I would as soon think of tampering with a soldier’s religion as with his preference for men. I have not and shall not attempt to influence a vote in the coming struggle. I believe Mr. LINCOLN has done the best he could. With respect, &c.,

JOHN C. HAMILTON, Esq. W.T. SHERMAN.

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, George McClellan, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 25, 1864: Sherman on black troops.

27th regiment USCT

Sherman writes to the secretary of war about black troops. If black men fight, they’ll insist on equality. Sherman doesn’t think they’re ready for it. He also thinks that white men should all be fighting for their country, and then there would be no necessity for black troops. But if the government is set on enlisting black men, Sherman will arm the ones that come into his lines.

Official Records 79:428


HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Gaylesville, Ala., October 25, 1864.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: I do not wish to be considered as in any way adverse to the organization of negro regiments, further than as to its effects on the white race. I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America; but if they prefer trade and gain, and leave to bought substitutes and negroes the fighting (the actual conflict), of course the question is settled, for those who hold the swords and muskets at the end of this war (which has but fairly begun) will have something to say. If negroes are to fight, they, too, will not be content with sliding back into the status of slave or free negro. I much prefer to keep negroes yet for some time to come in a subordinate state, for our prejudices, yours as well as mine, are not yet schooled for absolute equality.

Jeff. Davis has succeeded perfectly in inspiring his people with the truth that liberty and government are worth fighting for, that pay and pensions are silly nothings compared to the prize fought for. Now, I would aim to inspire our people also with the same idea -that it is not right to pay $1,000 to some fellow, who will run away, to do his fighting, or to some poor negro, who is thinking of the day of jubilee, but that every young and middle-aged man should be proud of the chance to fight for the stability of his country, without profit and without price; and I would like to see all trade, commerce, and manufactures absolutely cease until this fight is over, and I have no hesitation or concealment in saying that there is not, and should not be, the remotest chance of peace again on this continent till all this is realized, save the peace which would result from the base and cowardly submital to Jeff. Davis’ terms.

I would use negroes as surplus, but not spare a single white man, no one. Any white man who don’t or won’t fight now should be killed, banished, or denationalized, and then we would discriminate among the noisy patriots and see who really should vote. If the negroes fight and the whites don’t, of course the negroes will govern. They won’t ask you or me for the privilege, but will simply take it, and probably reserve the relation hitherto existing, and they would do right. If, however, the Government has determined to push the policy to the end, it is both my duty and pleasure to assist, and in that event I should like to have Colonel Bowman, now commanding the District of Wilmington, Del., to organize and equip such as may fall into the custody of the army I command.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.

Posted in Edwin M. Stanton, U.S. Colored Troops, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

October 24, 1864: Hitchcock says states’ rights are bunk

Maj. Gen. E. A. Hitchcock

General Hitchcock writes to the Times to refute Alexander Stephens’ claims about states’ rights. The constitution, he argues, was framed as an antidote to the problems caused by the excessive rights granted to states under the Articles of Confederation. And he concludes by pointing out that the Democrats are working for disunion, and should be voted down.


To the Editor of the New-York Times:

I noticed a statement in the recently published letter of Mr. STEPHENS, which needs contradiction; and yet I meet with no contradiction of it in the various comments upon that letter which have fallen under my eye, although the statement touches a point of vital character in the history of our country.

Mr. STEPHENS, as the Vice-President of the so-called Confederate States of the South, may feel bound to assert what he does in his letter, on the point to which I refer; but how he can protect himself from the accusation of having made a willful misstatement — except on the plea of downright ignorance — it is difficult to perceive; and ignorance, in his position, is not be supposed on the point referred to.

Mr. STEPHENS, in defence of the State Rights doctrine, so-called, asserts not only the original independence of the States, as a doctrine recognized in the Confederation under which the independence of the country was achieved, as established in the treaty of 1783, but he asserts, in addition, that the same doctrine was recognized in the formation of the present Constitution of the United States.

It is with regard to this latter assertion that the statement of Mr. STEPHENS needs correction. This is an old question, as I am well aware, and nothing new can be said about it; but something true can be asserted of it, in direct contradiction of the statement of Mr. STEPHENS.

In the first place, the original Colonies were in no sense free as independent States under the English Government; but when they threw off their dependence upon England, and the Confederation was formed, the original Colonies may be said to have asserted some of the elements of what is now claimed as the State Rights doctrine, though by no means to the extent subsequently claimed. But now comes the important consideration, that the present Constitution of the United States grew out of the fact, practically demonstrated, that in the Confederation the Colonies had set forth certain prerogatives or privileges, the exercise of which tended directly to the destruction of the Confederation. It was precisely because the Confederate system implied, or was based upon, if you please, too much State independence, that the whole country became aware of the necessity of establishing a constitutional Government, the direct effect of which was to correct the evils inherent in the confederate system; and, perhaps, no man in the United States is better acquainted with this fact than Mr. STEPHENS himself, though, situated as he now is, he finds it expedient to deny it.

There ought to be nothing better known in our country than the facts and the principles they involve, just set forth in the brief statement above. If any proof were wanted to show the wisdom of our fathers in repudiating the Confederate system, it may be seen in the monstrous fruits now exhibited in this country in the war of the rebellion, which is professedly based on what is called a State Rights doctrine — the right of secession — by which the people of one or more States, having solemnly entered into a compact, contract, agreement, or whatever it may be called, claim the right, on their own motion, to abrogate their own deliberately-assumed obligation.

The absurdity of this claim, most assuredly was never more clearly made visible than in the inaugural address of our Chief Magistrate, who, in view of the State Rights doctrine, asks the pertinent question, which answers itself: How can a Union be formed upon disunion principles? It remains for the present generation to give to posterity the final proof that our fathers were indeed wise in substituting a National Union in place of that rope of sand, a confederate system, which the southern portion of the country is disposed to reestablish, but which, if it could be done, would necessarily destroy the Republic, by plunging it into anarchy and endless civil war.

As between the two parties in the North, one of which is practically working for the South, and the other for the maintenance of the Union, I desire to take this opportunity of expressing the most earnest hope I am capable of forming, that the people of the country will adhere to the present Chief Magistrate, as the representative of all the good to be looked for in a government of this country. Very respectfully, your obedient servant.

[Major-General] E.A. HITCHCOCK.

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October 23, 1864: Good job, Slocum

Gen. Henry W. Slocum
General Slocum

**************************************************

Sherman is formulating a justification for his planned march already; if the rebels break his supply line, he’ll just have to forage on the countryside. Slocum is doing a fine job of it in preparation.

Official Records 79:406


HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Gaylesville, Ala., October 23, 1864.
General SLOCUM, Atlanta, Ga.:

Your dispatch of the 20th received. Am delighted at your success in foraging. Go on, pile up the forage, corn, and potatoes, and keep your artillery horses fat. Send back all unserviceable artillery, and at the last moment we can count up horses and see what we can haul, and send back all else. One gun per thousand men will be plenty to take along. Hood is doubtless now at Blue Mountain, and Forrest over about Corinth and Tuscumbia, hoping by threatening Tennessee to make me quit Georgia. We are piling up men in Tennessee, enough to attend to them and leave me free to go ahead. The railroad will be done in a day or two. We find abundance of corn and potatoes out here, and enjoy them much. They cost nothing a bushel. If Georgia can afford to break our railroads, she can afford to feel us. Please preach this doctrine to men who go forth, and are likely to spread it. All well.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.

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October 22, 1864: Sherman’s supplies

Sherman in Atlanta, 1864

The rebels are sending significant forces after Sherman’s communications, to besiege him in Atlanta. Meanwhile, supplies are accumulating in Chattanooga, and Sherman is preparing to stock up and cast loose.

Official Records 79:401.


WASHINGTON, October 22, 1864 – 4 p. m.
Major-General THOMAS:

Dispatches from Memphis, dated the 20th, state that Forrest, Lee, and other rebel generals, with a large force, are moving toward Tuscumbia, with the supposed intention of operating on Sherman’s communications. Sherman will find abundant supplies at the place indicated by General Grant.

H. W. HALLECK,
Major-General and Chief of Staff.
(Copy to General Sherman.)

********************************

NASHVILLE, TENN., October 22, 1864 – 10 p. m.
(Received 1 a. m. 23d.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:

Your dispatch of 4 p. m. to-day is received. Have ordered out scouts to ascertain the truth of the report from Memphis. Have not heard from General Sherman since my last dispatch. The railroad will be completed by the 26th instant. In the mean time supplies are being forwarded by Chattanooga, ready to throw in a large supply to Atlanta as soon as the road is open. There are supplies for three months in Chattanooga now.

GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General.

Posted in Chattanooga, Henry Halleck, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Tennessee, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment