April 19, 1865: Wade Hampton won’t give up

Wade Hampton III

Wade Hampton writes to Jefferson Davis to tell him that he plans to fight on across the Mississippi, and if necessary to go to Mexico to avoid ever surrendering. ” I shall never take the ‘oath of allegiance.'” In fact, he’ll be back as governor of South Carolina a decade or so, thanks to a campaign of violent disenfranchisement of black voters.

Official Records:

HILLSBOROUGH, April 19, 1865.
His Excellency President DAVIS:

MY DEAR SIR: Having seen the terms upon which it is proposed to negotiate, I trust that I may be pardoned for writing to you in relation to them. Most of our officers look only at the military side of the picture at present, but you will regard it in other aspects also. The military situation is very gloomy, I admit, but it is by no means desperate, and endurance and determination will produce a change. There are large numbers of the Army of Northern Virginia who have escaped, and of these many will return to our standard if they are allowed to enter the cavalry service. Many of the cavalry who escaped will also join us if they find that we are still making head against the enemy.

There are now not less than 40,000 to 50,000 men in arms on this side of the Mississippi; on the other there are as many more. Now the question presents itself, shall we disband these men at once, or shall we endeavor [to] concentrate them? If we disband we give up at once and forever all hope of foreign intervention. Europe will say, and say justly, “Why should we interfere if you choose to re-enter the Union?” but if we keep any organization, however small, in the field, we give Europe the opportunity of aiding us.

The main reason urged for negotiation is to spare the infliction of any further suffering on the people. Nothing could be more fallacious than this reasoning. No suffering which can be inflicted by the passage over our country of the Yankee armies can equal what would fall on us if we return to the Union. In this latter event I look for a war between the United States and England and France, when we of the South, under a more rigorous conscription than has yet obtained here, shall be forced to fight by the side of our own negroes and under Yankee States in this war, and we shall live under a base and vulgar tyranny. No sacrifice would be too great to escape this train of horrors, and I think it far better for us to fight to the extreme limits of our country rather than to reconstruct the Union upon any terms.

If we cannot use our infantry here, let it disband, calling upon them for volunteers for the cavalry, collect all our mounted force, and move toward the Mississippi. When we cross that river we can get large accessions to the cavalry, and we can hold Texas. As soon as forces can be organized and equipped, send this heavy cavalry force into the country of the enemy, and they will soon show that we are not conquered. If I had 20,000 mounted men here I could force Sherman to retreat in twenty days. Give me a good force of cavalry and I will take them safely across the Mississippi, and if you desire to go in that direction it will give me great pleasure to escort you. My own mind is made up as to my course. I shall fight as long as my Government remains in existence; when that ceases to live I shall seek some other country, for I shall never take the “oath of allegiance. ”

I am sorry that we paused to negotiate, for to my apprehension no evil can equal that of a return to the Union. I write to you, my dear sir, that you may know the feelings which actuate many of the officers of my command. They are not subdued, nor do they despair. For myself I beg to express my heartfelt sympathy with you, and to give you the assurance that my confidence in your patriotism has never been shaken. If you will allow me to do so, I can bring to your support many strong arms and brave hearts-men who will fight to Texas, and who, if forced from that State, will seek refuge in Mexico rather than in the Union.

With my best wishes, I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,

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