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HIST 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877
- "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies
After finishing with his survey of the manner in which historians have explained the coming of the Civil War, Professor Blight focuses on Fort Sumter. After months of political maneuvering, the Civil War began when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, in the harbor outside Charleston, SC. The declaration of hostilities prompted four more states–Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas–to secede. Professor Blight closes the lecture with a brief discussion of some of the forces that motivated Americans–North and South–to go to war.
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The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877
HIST 119 - Lecture 12 - "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies
Chapter 1. Introduction: The Advent of War [00:00:00]
Professor David Blight: I suppose every war, the short ones and the long ones, the ones that get televised and the ones that don’t, the ones where we get to see the coffins and the ones where we don’t, have their romance and their reality. It seems to be an endless — in the face of whatever, modernization of war, media coverage of war, the devastating critique of war as an individual human experience by so many great poets and writers for a century and a half — it doesn’t seem to matter what changes or what happens, but youth grow up to be excited about war. Ambrose Bierce once wrote that only — I quote him — “Only fools forget the causes of war.” [the quote is actually Albion W. Tourgee’s] But then it’s the same Ambrose Bierce, one of the most — certainly I think, the unique American writer about the Civil War in so many ways — a kind of bitter, brutal realist who was wounded three times in the war, hit in the head with a shell shot from a cannon, should’ve died — crushed in part of his skull, which may explain Ambrose Bierce actually — but it’s Bierce who also wrote that lovely little line where he said, “the soil of peace is thickly sewn with the seeds of war.” Get too much peace for awhile and people get anxious.
Americans, when this war broke out, embraced it with a fever, that is, an enthusiasm, an almost indefinable joy, that may be a little tough to understand today or appreciate. It’s only in the wake of war, or in the face of real war, of course, that people get reflective. At the end of it all, in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, is this famous passage; and by the way, there may be more book titles drawn from this one page and a half speech than any other piece of prose ever penned by an American; you can just start ticking off the book titles that come out of phrases. The latest is Jim McPherson’s latest book of essays called This Mighty Scourge of War. At some point we will run out, it’s only a page and a half after all. “On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago” — this is Lincoln, March, 1865, remembering March 1861 — “all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the Inaugural Address was being delivered from this place devoted altogether to saving the Union without war,” — yeah — “insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it, without war, seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war, rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war, rather than let it perish. And the war came.” Well, now that’s Lincoln’s argument, isn’t it? One side would make war, the other side would accept war. We’re going to revisit that moment in just a minute, Lincoln’s so-called April Policy of April 1861, his maneuvers against Jefferson Davis’s maneuvers about the single fort in Charleston Harbor where the Civil War would actually begin. Did Lincoln maneuver the South into the first shot? Always been a question unanswered.
Chapter 2. A Meaningless War? Postwar Thoughts on the Civil War [00:05:06]
Quickly, let me revisit with you — [technical adjustment] — this question of causation. I left that in a bit of abeyance. There was a school of interpretation of this war that it had a tiny, an interesting little revival of late, in the hands of great historians, people I greatly admire like Edward Ayers — and you’ve read two of his essays for this week, “Worrying About the Civil War — and my colleague here, Skip Stout, in a different way. There’s been a kind of a little revival of this notion that the Civil War might have been preventable, that it might have been needless. No one is arguing that as vigorously as James G. Randall and Avery Craven and a host of other American historians did in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, up to World War Two. World War Two is going to really reshape that interpretation and put it on the run. But I wanted to just visit it a moment because it shows us not only the historical interpretations, as will be yours, are influenced by one’s own times, one’s own experiences, one’s own assumptions, one’s own sentiments, and how the world shapes us; sometimes it comes out of conviction.
The needless war school of interpretation was led by James Randall and Avery Craven. In Avery Craven’s case he was a Quaker. But these were men deeply influenced by the utter disillusionment of World War One. They came of age and cut their teeth on history at a time when the world had collapsed into what seemed to be in the end an inexplicable meaningless war. There’s that unforgettable scene at the very beginning of The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. No one reads her anymore. She was at one point the most popular historian in America. She wrote about the Middle Ages, she wrote about world wars, she wrote about all kinds of things. Anyway, at the very opening of The Guns of August is a scene where a German general meets a French general, somewhere in the mid- or late-1920s, and the one general says to the other, “Sir, why did it happen?” And the other general says, “I don’t know, I really don’t know.” In the wake of the Bay of Pigs, and before the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John Kennedy gave a copy of The Guns of August and ordered every member of his National Security Council and his cabinet to read it. And he quoted that passage, and he said “never will we, never shall we be caught having to answer that question about war.” I don’t know.
In that kind of disillusionment an interpretation that finds sheer politics and fanaticism and aggressive emotionalism, an overblown kind of — what did Randall call it — unctuous fury as the essential explanation of why the war came in 1861, can make a certain sense. There’s a beguiling quality to that argument, when we look at the folly of human history and the folly of human nature. That all changed in so many ways in the wake of the Second World War, a war that was all about ideology, all about racism, all about the survival of Enlightenment ideas against fascism and so on and so on; and a generation led by such historians as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and many, many, many others, came to see the American Civil War’s coming, when they started writing in the 1950s and ’60s and into the ’70s, as what they would call an “irrepressible conflict.” And this array of arguments, they all get kind of lumped under this heading, irrepressible conflict thesis, began to flow from American historians. Don Fehrenbacher may have captured that interpretation best in a line when he said, “The Civil War came and it was fought to bring” — how did he put it — “to bring great national progress at great national cost.” I’ve never been entirely comfortable with that idea, you know, “well it all had to happen, it was bloody horrible and terrible, and all those people died, but we all got better for it.” That never, never, never sits very well with me, especially when you study the memory of the war and the aftermath. But what happened in post-World War Two scholarship — and it’s still there, it’s still at the heart of how we try to explain this most pivotal event, one of the most pivotal events of American history — is a certain respect for moral questions, a certain respect for ideas, and the notion that politics is sometimes about something.
Now that’s an utterly horribly streamlined way of saying — you don’t find many historians anymore who argue from a needless war perspective, although what you do find is a kind of rollercoaster ride through American scholarship about the Civil War, sometimes deeply influenced by Vietnam and sometimes deeply influenced, even today — some have argued about Skip Stout’s book; if you know Professor Stout. He has a remarkable new book out about whether the American Civil War was a just war. And I will re-visit that question at the end, near the end of this course, and use a couple of his arguments. It’s a controversial book, it’s an interesting book. It’s a question we’ve never truly asked about this good war. Was it just? Does it fit? Does it fulfill the principles of just war doctrine? Can it? Does it matter?
Chapter 3. April 1861: The Situation at Fort Sumter [00:12:15]
All right, but back to April, 1861. Whether it was just, and just why it became so bloody and so prolonged, we’re going to take up over and over. But it surely did happen, and it began — I don’t know if that map works terribly well, it probably doesn’t; it’s the best I can do this morning. It is a map of Charleston Harbor, which had the last remaining federal installation, fort, around the coast of the American South still in federal hands by March and April of 1861. The seven states of the seceded South, the Deep South, had begun to seize coastal forts, they’d begun to seize federal arsenals. They seized post offices and they seized federal courts. Now I guarantee you today if you seized a federal court office building, and particularly if you killed anybody in the act, or if you took over a U.S. Post Office — I know nobody cares about post offices because you do everything online. Those people down there on Elm Street, they’re such sweet people; the idea of somebody taking over that post office at gunpoint is not a thought. But if you did that today you’d be in federal prison in no time and you could be charged with treason. Now, we can come back to that issue of treason when the course ends and revisit it, if you want, about this war.
But by and large every federal installation in a seceded state, the seven seceded states, had been seized by those states, Confederate states, except Fort Sumter. And Fort Sumter was a brand new fort; oh God, it can’t be more than 200, maybe 300 yards across in diameter. It had just been built in the late 1850s as part of the coastal fort system. Big, huge, high stone walls, about 20 feet high. It sits out at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, here. It is nearly a mile from Fort Sumter to the tip of the town of Charleston, which is here; from the Battery Park in Charleston to the fort is nearly a mile. You can almost not see it. There is today a monument — I wish I had a slide of it to show you. It’s one of my favorite, for strange reasons, Civil War monuments; thousands upon thousands of Civil War monuments. Many of them are so generic you don’t even notice them. This one you notice. It’s right at the tip of Battery Park in Charleston, where they used to hang pirates. It looks right out at Fort Sumter. It was put up in the early twentieth century. It’s a Confederate monument of a winged Roman soldier — I think Roman because the helmet, I’m told, is Roman. He’s some combination of a winged creature and a soldier. He’s about four times the size of life. He is looking out at Fort Sumter, and the inscription around the bottom says, “To the defenders of Charleston,” quote, “Count them happy who for their faith and courage endured a great fight.” I’m going to repeat that: “Count them happy who for their faith and courage endured a great fight.” On our monuments of this war, almost all of them, you will find almost nothing about what caused the war or even about what its consequences were — almost all of them. It was just a great fight, and the dead are happy.
Well, what to do about Fort Sumter? In his First Inaugural of March 4, 1861, Lincoln promised, he said — promised to, quote, “hold, occupy and possess remaining federal property.” Now think about it. If Lincoln and the Republicans are going to make a stand against secession — and once he finally comes into office — by the way the day he entered office all that federal property had been taken by those seven states, it’s already done; he inherits this situation. Now he could’ve backed away and continued to try to negotiate — and there was a compromise negotiation under John J. Crittenden, a Kentucky Senator, in Washington, for awhile going on in late February. It never came up with anything new. They were going to try again a geographic boundary out in the West with slavery; although don’t forget the Dred Scott decision had declared that illegal. They were going to try to rev up something again about fugitive slaves to satisfy the South. They just couldn’t come up with any new ideas. And Lincoln could’ve tried to continue the whole compromise negotiation conventions, he could have. Or he could’ve held firm to the Republican position that secession was illegal and impossible and unconstitutional, and had to be stopped. But if he lets Fort Sumter go — there was a garrison there led by a colonel named Anderson — he just lets it go, in effect he’s saying, “well, maybe all that seizure of federal property is legitimate, maybe secession is possible,” right? It was about the only place he could’ve taken a stand, if he was going to take a stand.
Well, Lincoln was buying time, and he took a whole month of time before he acted. He was hoping for what he called privately, quote, “voluntary reconstruction.” He was hoping for saner minds in the South to — a Union spirit in the South to somehow take hold. And there’s much been said over the years about Lincoln over-estimating Union sentiment across the South. He may have indeed over-estimated Union sentiment. But there was a good deal of it. There were a lot of frightened people. In the upstate counties of Virginia and Western Virginia and in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia, those unionist pockets of the South were scared about this, because they have to make terrible decisions now. If this goes to war, who do they go with? Can’t stay home.
Well, Major Robert Anderson had about eighty men. He was from Kentucky. There’s some slaveholding in his background but he’ll never end up with the South. Commissioners from South Carolina had come to Washington as early as January of 1861 to negotiate that specific fort’s release; they wanted it. The federal government had basically stonewalled it. President Buchanan, the lame duck president, tried actually to re-enforce the fort; and by re-enforce the fort I mean send food to the garrison of troops. Between January 5 and 9, of 1861, Buchanan — the only act Buchanan even tried to make about secession, he was just begging to get out of office — Buchanan sent a ship called the Star of the West, full of supplies down the coast of Fort Sumter to feed the men. Shore batteries around the harbor actually opened up fire, and one had a direct hit on the ship, but nothing came of it. Note, it’s January 5 to 9. South Carolina was the only seceded state. It wasn’t until the 11th that Mississippi went and then Georgia and then about six others, in the next three weeks.
Lincoln’s April Policy, if you like, was a process of trying to buy time, and if there was to be war or firing or shooting about Fort Sumter, he was trying to make sure the shots were fired by the South. Now, there were hawks in his administration, there were hawks in the Republican Party who wanted him to act faster. One of them wrote to Lincoln privately and said, quote, “Give up Sumter, sir, and you are as dead politically as John Brown is physically.” Newspapers across the North, strongly Republican newspapers, started to print headlines like: “Do We Have a Government?;” “Wanted, a Policy;” or, “Come to the Point Mr. Lincoln.” And so on. People were ready now — do something!
Now his Secretary of State, duly appointed in great part, as Doris Kearns Goodwin has shown and argued in a recent best-selling book, Team of Rivals, was William H. Seward, Lincoln’s principle rival for the nomination of the Republican Party. Lincoln not only put a few of his enemies in his own cabinet to control them and use them politically — in the end made an absolute best friend out of William Seward — but not yet. Seward was a dove on this. Seward wanted to negotiate. He urged evacuation of the fort and then he said leave the door open to voluntary reconstruction as it might take hold around the South, as southerners might see that this new Lincoln administration was willing to talk. And that isn’t all that Seward did. Seward launched a crazy plan to declare war on Spain and France to direct America’s attention outward to the world and therefore cause national unity. [Laughter] Wag the Dog — did you see the movie? Let’s just go to war with Spain and France and all those crazy southerners will realize, “oh, the nation is at risk!” Lincoln immediately rejected this idea, although unfortunately it got out there and the foreign ministers of Spain and France needed explanations, thank you very much. [Laughter] Seward also made private promises as Secretary of State to southerners that Sumter would ultimately be evacuated; just hang in there, just wait. When Lincoln found that out he said to Seward — in effect — shut up.
Chapter 4. Lincoln’s Reaction and the Secession of the Upper South [00:24:28]
Now, Lincoln tried in his approach to Sumter to separate reinforcement of these troops, a military act, from provisions, a humanitarian act, and he wanted to stress the latter. He notified finally southern officials — he never referred to them as Confederate governments, he just notified South Carolina, he said — that he was going to send food and provisions to hungry soldiers. Now who could be against that? He’s going to feed some people. He called it “a mission of humanity, bringing food to hungry men,” quote/unquote. But the Confederate leadership took this as a direct challenge. And Lincoln did indeed send a ship down the coast about the 8th or 9th — no 6th or 7th of April, 1861, and the prolonged suspense finally came to an end. That one ship was provisioned with food. Now, the truth is there were some arms and some weapons in the hold as well. In the end it isn’t going to matter a lot. The Confederate Cabinet met under Jefferson Davis on the 9th of April and they made a decision that if Lincoln tried to sail that ship into Charleston Harbor they would fire on it.
On the 11th of April Major Anderson, in the fort, was given a chance to surrender by the authorities in Charleston. He refused, and at 4:30 in the morning, in the dark of night, April 12, 1861, about 100 cannon from all around Charleston Harbor — 100 federal cannons originally, now seized by the Confederate States of America — opened up and bombarded Fort Sumter for thirty-five hours. Anderson’s men hid underground, in dugouts. They’d been well prepared for this. And none of them died in the bombardment of thousands of shells lobbed into the fort. The relief expedition arrived out at the mouth of the harbor during the firing, and it never got to the fort. On the 14th of April, after the bombardment ended, Anderson was forced to surrender the fort, to take down the United States flag. A brand new Confederate States flag with stars and bars was put up. And then Anderson’s men held a gun salute, 21-gun salute, and the first casualties of the war occurred when two of Anderson’s troops were killed on a powder keg that blew up because it was too close to one of the muskets. Four Aprils later — 620,000 dead and 1.2 million wounded — the flag will go back up at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1862 [should be April 14, 1865]. It’ll be attended by William Lloyd Garrison and 3000 freed people. But that’s a long way away.
The day after the firing on Fort Sumter all across the country the headline was “War.” And Lincoln sent an Executive Order, not declaring war — Lincoln’s position on this was clear, to him anyway, that no nation can declare war on itself. He’d never accepted secession as legally constitutional or appropriate. But he called for 75,000 volunteers to, quote, “put down a domestic insurrection.” And in the Constitution, the President of the United States is given control over the military to put down domestic insurrection. He called it a rebellion.
Now, the most important immediate result of the firing on Fort Sumter, of course, was the secession of the Upper South, part of the Upper South. Where’s my map? Oh I apologize, I should’ve had that map right. Well, you remember the map. Four more southern states, slave states, will secede in the wake of Sumter. The most pivotal, of course, was Virginia. But note, Virginia had held a secession convention back in February and decisively voted against secession. After Fort Sumter, in this state of war hysteria and fever and fear, and under now this new argument that what the Lincoln Administration had really done was an act of coercion against the South — coercion — now the feeding of some 80 soldiers in a fort was being interpreted as coercion — okay. But Virginia quickly, overnight, held a new secession convention — actually the State Legislature held it — and it voted eighty-eight to fifty-five — note the vote — eighty-eight to fifty-five; lots of those “no” votes, almost all of those “no” votes coming from the western part of Virginia — West Virginia didn’t exist yet — the western part of Virginia where there was very little slavery, and some of the upper counties of Virginia. April 17th, only three days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Virginia seceded from the Union. By May 6thArkansas seceded by a vote of sixty-nine to one, in secession convention. North Carolina, on May 20th, voted to — and look where North Carolina is now, it’s between Virginia and South Carolina; what are they going to do? They voted unanimously in convention to secede. And finally on June 8th, by a two to one vote of a popular referendum — these were done in different ways in different states — in a popular referendum Tennessee, in a two to one vote, approximately, seceded from the Union.
The Confederacy was now eleven states. It would never really be any more than that. But there was great tension about what Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri would actually do. Lincoln is reported to have said that he hoped to have God on his side, but he was certain he wanted Kentucky. Now, there’s been a whole flurry of emails recently on the Slavery and History Network of historians online trying to trace that quote, just in the past couple of weeks. And the truth is nobody can actually find it anywhere. It’s one of those many, many, many, probably apocryphal Lincoln quotes. He probably said something like it, somewhere, but I just couldn’t resist using it; I’ve used it for so many years. So footnote, might be apocryphal — okay? He did need Kentucky, whatever he said. All of those states were deeply divided about what to do, and what they will do, and the war will prove that, and they will be terrible, horrible places to be, geographically, emotionally, physically in the war. Maryland was horribly divided. Note where it is, it’s right above Washington, D.C. Approximately 50,000 white men fought for the Union, in Maryland, in the Civil War. Approximately — I’m sorry, about 50,000 white men in Maryland fought in the Civil War; 30,000 on the Union side, 20,000 on the Confederate side; and of those 30,000 on the Union side, 9000 of them were African-Americans. Kentucky had about 50,000 men fight for the Union and about 35,000 men fight for the Confederacy, and per capita Kentucky produced more African-American soldiers for the Union Army than any other state, 24,000 total. Missouri, the numbers are even greater. In Missouri, about 80,000 men fought for the Union, about 30,000 fought for the Confederacy, and there were about 3,000 that weren’t on either side, they were guerillas looking for the best payday — early versions of Jesse James, without ideology. Later Jesse James got real ideology though; that’s another story.
And folks, especially in those states, this was immediately — you’ve heard all the clichés about how it was a fratricidal conflict and a brothers’ war — immediately it was a brothers’ war, and thousands of families, in April and May and June of 1861, brothers and fathers looked each other in the eye and had to decide what they would do. Henry Clay had seven grandsons in Kentucky — three fought for the Union and four fought for the Confederacy. John J. Crittenden of Kentucky — he’s the senator of the Crittenden Compromise efforts, in the secession winter — had one son who became a general in the Union Army and one son who became a general in the Confederate Army. Both survived, and I’ve always wanted to know about Crittenden family reunions; but I’ve never looked into it. Mrs. Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, who was of course born and raised in Kentucky, had four brothers who all fought for the Confederacy, and three brothers-in-law who fought for the Confederacy. It will lead later to all kinds of charges of — well some charges about treason against her and so on, sympathies for the South and so on and so on. John C. Pemberton from Pennsylvania became a Confederate general and was ultimately the general who surrendered Vicksburg to Grant in 1863. George Thomas was Virginia born, old slaveholding family, but he never resigned his commission and he became known as the Rock of Chickamauga; the Union general who won the Battle of Chickamauga was a Virginian. And these stories go on and on and on. There’s the story of Clifton and William Prentice. One of them fought in the 6th Maryland Infantry, a Union regiment. The other fought in the 2nd Maryland Infantry, a Confederate regiment. Both were wounded at Petersburg on April 2, on the same day, 1865, in the last week of the war, and they died in cots right next to each other in a field hospital. And the list goes on and on. Now —
Chapter 5. Why Did I Go to War? Personal Motivations from the North and South [00:37:01]
When people went to war in 1861, what did they say they were doing? What did they say were their aims? What were their reasons? We have thousands of diary entries and letters and editorials and all sorts of things to draw upon. But on the northern side what you find that summer is not only this sense that this will be a short war — and that’s a preface worth pointing out — but people would say over and over they were fighting for the flag, they were fighting for the Union, they were fighting for the Constitution, they were fighting to save the Republic, they were fighting to, quote, “save the government.” And you keep hearing those phrases and you keep thinking, “oh man, these are abstractions, what were they really doing?” You keep reading and you keep hearing them say the same damn thing.
Well, there’s a lot of good scholarship on this now that shows us that in 1860s America the U.S. Constitution was important to people. They saw it as a kind of protection; they saw it as a source of social order. They saw the American nation as now something they were directly experiencing; millions were directly experiencing the government as never before in those debates of the 1850s. And as I’ve said before now, voter turnout just zoomed in the 1850s, to seventy-five and eighty percent, in each general election from 1852 on. Phillip Paludan, in a marvelous book about this, has said that the Constitution and the government, for so many northerners, was like a shield of protection, and that southern secession now was not just a threat to this government, it was a threat to social order itself, and it therefore had to be stopped. A New Hampshire farmer who became a buck private in 1861 said, quote, “The question now is country or no country, liberty or slavery?” There’s a beautiful clarity to that isn’t there? Now I don’t know what he said, after Bull Run or after Antietam, or after Spotsylvania, if he survived. A fifty year-old railroad contractor named Robert McAllister threw down his lucrative job in 1861 and enlisted, at age fifty, quote, “to help us put down this wicked and unjustifiable rebellion. Our country and property is worth nothing if we don’t, nor will life be secure.” This is all over people’s letters. They said they were fighting for liberty; of course, so did southerners.
Now, another argument here, and again Phil Paludan has made this better than anyone I think, is he’s argued that southerners and northerners have sort of come to view the U.S. Constitution, this document we live under, in different ways; that northerners had come to see the Constitution as a kind of protector, much violated now by Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott decision, et cetera, whereas southerners had come to see that constitution more as a destroyer, as something to fear, that might, if the wrong people get hold of it, begin to attack or erode their society. There were a lot of people, particularly in the North but then quickly in the South as well, who when this war broke out began to see it in terms of cosmic dualism, good and evil — God was entering history. Right away, Christian America began to interpret this in millennial terms. God had a quarrel with America, people started arguing; and they’re going to really be arguing this after the enormous bloodshed of ‘62 and ‘63 when they have to try to explain why this is happening. They’re going to say God has an appointment with America and he’s going to decide whose sins are worse.
Now, on the southern side, as I said, people have to make tough choices, horrible choices. Who do they go with? They join their neighbors or oppose their neighbors? Mary Chesnut, the great diarist from South Carolina who indeed kept the most famous diary by a southern woman — there are many of them. She remembered March and April 1861 this way — and here we have another kind of beautiful clarity. “We separated,” said Mary Chesnut, “because of incompatibility of temper. We are divorced, North from South, because we hate each other so much.” Okay Mary, I get it — divorce papers — you hate us. Walter Nugent, a Mississippi lawyer, who did not own slaves, nevertheless declared in 1861 that without slave labor — now the slaveholder is arguing this — that without slave labor the country would be, quote, in his words, “a barren waste and desolate plane. We can only live and exist by this species of labor and hence I am willing to continue the fight to the last.” Well, Nugent hadn’t seen any fight yet, but never mind.
Well, in the end the South, from the highest ranks of Jefferson Davis on down to buck privates, are all going to say they were fighting for their liberty; everybody was fighting for their liberty. And when blacks get into this thing in ‘62 and ‘63, they’re fighting for their liberty too. “Everybody,” as Lincoln later said, “everybody declared for liberty.” Now make no mistake, I love to quote my friend Uriah over there on the stone wall in Woolsey, and I walk — every time — every morning on the way over here to class I go by and I rub my finger on his name for, I don’t know, good luck or something; if I teach here long enough it’s probably going to wear off. But everybody in the Union Army wasn’t a Uriah Parmelee; in fact, the vast majority were not going to free the slaves just yet. There’s a story of a Yankee soldier in Virginia in 1861 who encounters a slave woman and he’s taken that woman’s goods and that woman says, “Well wait a minute, aren’t you coming here to help us?” And he answered her and said — . No, the woman says, “We were told you were coming here to help us and instead you steal from us.” And the soldier replied, “You’re a god-damn liar. I’m fighting for $14.00 a month and the Union.” Well there’s a beautiful clarity in that too — I ain’t here to free you.
Chapter 6. Conclusion [00:44:48]
Oh, I got behind on this outline, didn’t I? That’s okay, that’s actually just fine. When we resume — don’t leave yet — when we resume next Tuesday I will talk a little bit about West Point and what happened at West Point when Union and Confederate, or southern and northern men begin to leave. And then we’ll begin the war. We’ll talk about comparative strengths and so on. But let me leave you for today and the weekend, if you don’t mind, with Walt Whitman again. Whitman’s opening poem of his immortal collection called Drum Taps, in a kind of agonizing way may have captured what was in the heads of most Americans in 1861. “To the drum-taps prompt,” he writes, “the young men falling in and arming; the mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmith’s hammer, tost aside with precipitation;). The blood of the city is up — arm’d, arm’d!, the cry everywhere; The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and stores; The tearful parting — the mother kisses her son — the son kisses the mother; (Loth is the mother to part — yet not a word does she speak to detain him;). War, an armed race is advancing; the welcome for battle. No turning away now. War, be it weeks, months or years, an armed race is advancing and it welcomes it.”
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