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8-08-2015, 23:42

The War Economies

THE ENTIRE Confederacy had been based on a succession of presuppositions. The North would not fight; Cotton was king; Europe would recognize the new nation and intervene; the South would prove invincible upon the field of battle; the Union would ultimately acknowledge the futility of the war; Northerners would not fight to end slavery. One after another these cherished shibboleths were proven false; the illusions were stripped away, and reality forced itself on Southern consciousness. There were of course ups and downs, and this was hardly a straight linear progression. In late 1862 and early 1863 it did indeed look as if the South were militarily invincible, and as if the Union war effort were a failure. Fredericksburg and then Chancellorsville seemed to demonstrate the triumph of Southern valor, but then came, in a rush in July, Vicksburg and Gettysburg; Confederate morale took a downturn, and Union morale correspondingly improved. So the seesaw went back and forth, and good news for one side was bad for the other. Few men had the length of view, in the middle of such an allconsuming struggle, to realize what all these victories and losses for either side really meant, which was, sadly, not much at all. Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville attested to the skill of Robert E. Lee and his army, or to the incompetence of his opponents. Gettysburg equally demonstrated the inability of the Confederacy to sustain an invasion, or a large-scale raid—they were never entirely certain which it had been—of the North. But none of the three had significantly altered the military balance, except to remove several thousand healthy young men from the rolls of either side. Even Vicksburg, the one battle of the four mentioned here that actually had some strategic significance, served essentially to strengthen an already established situation, the isolation of the western portion of the Confederacy. So in geostrategic or purely military terms, none of the four battles was as decisive as they each were dramatic. In the sense of morale, of course, Vicksburg and Gettysburg can now be recognized as significant turning points, the beginning of a long painful decline for the Confederacy, the sense for men in the North that yes, they would win if only they could stick to it long enough to do so. Since up to that time there had been almost as many doubters as there had been believers, in the morale sense they were extremely important battles. What all this really shows is that the war was assuming a different character from that anticipated by those who first partook of it. Almost all wars do that, of course; in the case of the individual, few of the people who go off to war find that it is what they expected it to be, and in the collective sense, few states or peoples get out of war what they thought they would get when they entered it. The Civil War was thus hardly unique in this respect, but its effects were profound beyond all expectation. Not only was it the first modern war, a thing its participants could hardly have been expected to realize, but it also hastened the great transformation of American life. The war brought about the very triumph of "Northern," or "modern," values that the Southerners who seceded hoped to prevent. Many scholars for this reason have called the Civil War a second American Revolution. None of this would have happened had the war been won or lost by the end of 1862—had it been possible, that is, to achieve the fondly anticipated and long-sought battlefield decision. Since it was not, more mundane factors became increasingly important. Staying power was not simply a matter of how many men were willing to fight and die, but to what extent their societies could sustain them while they did so. Could the Confederacy, while fighting for its life, build a sufficiently viable polity that it could maintain the struggle through to victory? Or could the North so mobilize its superior resources, and receive enough support from enough of its citizens, that it could successfully complete its self-imposed task of the destruction of the Confederacy? We now know, of course, the answer to both of these questions. But the men and women of 1863 could no more know the end of their endeavors than we can know the end of ours. Scholars have differed mightily on the question of why the war took the course it did; they have, indeed, agreed upon little more than who won and who lost. Of all the areas of argument, none has been more fertile than that of the running of the Confederacy. Was it a noble effort that simply attempted a task beyond its strength, or was it a ramshackle hodgepodge of incompetent, selfish men, making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons? The simple answer is, it was both. Like all human institutions, it had nobility and baseness in it. In the classic example, or personification, take Jefferson Davis; few men had more nobility of mind or a higher character than did Jefferson Davis, and few could be more petty or small-minded than he. At least one authority has suggested that if Davis and Lincoln had changed places, the Confederacy would have won the war. But of course there was more right, and more wrong, with the Confederate government than the personality of its president. One of its chief failings, oddly enough, was the lack of an organized party system. The idea of political parties, or "factions" as they were originally called, developed in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and they were for a long time thought to be invidious. Southerners still tended to regard them in that light. In fact they were, and are, essential to the parliamentary or republican system. They focused ideas, and created currents of policy, and enabled men to function in cohesive, and coherent, groups. They offered the possibility of alternative courses of action based upon policies rather than upon mere personalities. Davis and his fellow politicians eschewed them, thinking themselves too high-minded to descend to party politics. The result was that Davis could never build a secure political base in his Congress or in his country, and his opposition could never offer a different course based on anything more substantial than personal likes or dislikes. Confederate politics became a welter of individuals, all shouting against the wind, pulling this way and that, and ultimately reduced to supporting or opposing Davis simply because he was Davis. Even his own vice president, Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia, broke with the government, spent eighteen months of the war at home, and sat only rarely in the war cabinet through which Davis governed his country. This one example may be taken as more or less typical of the political confusion that reigned in Richmond. Equally contentious were the relations between the central government of the Confederacy and its component states. Philosophically, of course, the entire basis of the Confederacy was the denial by individual states of a larger spirit of voluntary cooperation; in practice, therefore, developing a central Confederate government was an uphill struggle. The several state governors jealously guarded their own prerogatives, and repudiated the actions and authority of the Richmond government whenever it suited their own interests. Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina was especially insistent upon his state's rights, and in Georgia a triumvirate of politicians, Vice President Stephens, Governor Joseph Brown, and Davis's defeated rival for the presidency, Robert Toombs, spent practically the entire war feuding with the central government and opposing its policies. The separate states held back troops and supplies for their own use, refused to enforce laws passed by the central government, and went their own ways whenever it suited them. The effect of all this is a bit uncertain; some historians have argued that in looking to their own interests, the states were merely accomplishing for themselves many of the tasks the central government would have had to do, or try to do, anyway. But others have argued that this particularism was the chief failing of the Confederacy, and that it cost the South the war, that the theory of states' rights, carried to a destructive extreme, was what caused it to fail. One writer suggested that on the Confederacy's tombstone should be engraved, "Died of a Theory." The southern part of the United States had always prided itself on the quality of national political figure it had produced, and it was something of a disappointment to find, when they were centered in Richmond rather than Washington, that Confederate politicians were such a mediocre lot. Idols when seen from afar, they were very much clay seen close up. And if the aspirant national government failed to develop a workable political system, it failed even more miserably in its attempt to finance a war. Fiscally, the new government got afloat on a wave of local patriotism, which saw Southerners oversubscribe bond issues and make loans and outright donations. But Richmond refused to set up a high tariff on imports, because high tariffs initiated by the hated Yankees had been one of the things Southerners objected to in the old union. And in addition to denying itself that source of income, the government also failed to tax its citizens for the first two years of the war. Instead, Confederates established a taxation system analogous to their military one, and after assessing the national property, they assigned the respective states quotas, and left them to meet the demand. The states, rather than taxing, simply borrowed the money; in other words, as we are doing today, the Confederates passed their debts on to their children. The central government did offer a number of bond issues, but except for the very early ones, they did not do well. The first was sold for specie, hard money; subsequent ones went for depreciated paper money, and eventually even for farm produce, as paper money became worthless and hard money disappeared. At one point the government was offering the very favorable rate of 8 percent return, compared with a mere 2.9 percent in the North, and still could find no subscribers, which meant, of course, that investors had no faith in the ultimate victory of the Confederacy. Foreign loans, which the early Confederacy had optimistically expected, proved even more disappointing. The only substantial one was offered by a French banking firm, Erlanger and Company of Paris. Erlanger offered a loan against imports of Confederate cotton, and then issued bonds on the projected profit to be derived from the imports. Most of the bonds were bought by British investors—in the 1860s Britain had a great deal of surplus capital, and Britons could be got to invest in almost any get-rich-quick scheme. In this case, Erlanger substantially discounted the loan they gave the Confederacy, relatively little of the cotton reached Europe, the bonds fell very quickly, the investors lost almost all of their money, and the only people to profit by the entire transaction were—Erlanger and Company of Paris, a result that would surprise no one who knew anything about stocks and bonds at the time. It was not until 1863 that the Confederate government made any serious attempt to tackle its revenue problems, and by then it was too late. In April it introduced a tax on naval stores and various agricultural products, a licensing tax on occupations, a sales tax of from 2 l/z to 8 percent, and an income tax that ranged from 1 percent on incomes of $1,000 to 15 percent on incomes of $10,000 or more. The government also introduced an agricultural tax in kind, and sent agents around to confiscate farmers' produce. As there was little ready coin in the country, the money taxes were fairly easy to evade, but the tax in kind was bitterly resented, and even when items were collected, they were so difficult to move that a great deal was wasted. Through the entire war, the Confederacy, according to estimates, paid for no more than 1 percent of its real expenses through taxation. If politics and fiscal policies were both Confederate failures, the issue of production of goods and services, both for the actual waging of the war and for the sustenance of the population as a whole, is more problematical. For one thing, this covers such a wide spectrum of items that any generalization is bound to be wrong in many particulars, and students of the wartime economy have therefore found it very difficult to reach a broad consensus. The Confederacy obviously created a satisfactory munitions industry, and for most of the war produced, or imported, the supplies needed to keep its armies in the field. It was less successful in other war-related endeavors. For example, the naval side of the war has story after story of Confederate vessels destroyed when near completion, or burned to avoid capture, or breaking down in action. Given the weakness of pre-war Southern shipbuilding capacity, this is hardly surprising. A similar failure was in railroad building and maintenance; the unexpected success of the Southern railroad system for much of the war has already been considered, but by the end of it, the system was indeed collapsing. The Confederacy did not, could not, produce enough rails or rolling stock to replace wear and war wastage, and as the war progressed, the system became more rickety. There were more wrecks and more delays, and badly needed goods sat idle on sidings for days and weeks. Once the Union forces began their large-scale incursions into the heart of the Confederacy, they did damage that simply could not be repaired. By then, of course, the whole Confederacy was teetering toward collapse anyway. How much derived from fundamental inadequacies, how much from the wastage of war itself, is a subject of considerable argument. The South possessed a great number of draft animals; but increasing numbers of these went for the war, impressed by supply officers from the army, first horses and then even mules and oxen. But a horse taken for the army meant one less to pull a plow, and therefore a diminution of the food crops that army, and also the civilian population, also needed. The government decreed that instead of planting cotton and tobacco, money-making export crops that could not be exported, planters should grow cereal crops instead. But there were still bread riots in the cities, notably Richmond in 1863, because poor working women could not afford to feed their families. Southern editors might attribute this unrest to "Northern hirelings" and "the lowest, base-born classes," but calling names did not lower the price of grain or put bread on the table. There were shortages of everything, both agricultural and man- ufactured goods. Needles were worth their weight in gold, Southern soldiers in captured Union supply depots were seen eating salt by the handful, and Confederates patriotically tried to convince themselves that a variety of drinks made from nuts or bark were the equivalent of coffee. There was one shortage, however, even more troublesome, more crucial, and more intrusive than any of these others—the shortage of bodies. Southerners had rushed to arms in 1861, but within a year, most of those willing to go to war had already done so. The Confederacy had the same hierarchy of military service as the Union did, local militia, state troops, and national army, with limitations upon the uses to which each level might be put. Very quickly, even before Shiloh in the west or the Peninsula campaign in the east, Southerners began to lose their enthusiasm; what had looked like a lark in the spring of 1861 looked like something far more difficult in the spring of 1862. The Confederate Congress replied to this growing sentiment with the first conscription law in American history. Officially, the law made eligible for conscription all white males between eighteen and thirty-five years of age, to be liable for three years' service. The law was actually meant less to conscript people than it was to encourage volunteering, and it was successful in the sense of achieving that. But there were several provisions that made the conscription act highly unpalatable; first of all, there was a large list of exemptions for various occupations, teachers, civil servants, industrial workers, and so on, and for certain pacifist religions. It was also possible to buy a substitute for fixed sums, which again meant that the poor had to go, while the rich might avoid service if they chose. And later an amendment offered exemption, or release from service, of planters or overseers with twenty slaves under their control. This naturally raised a howl of protest, that the slaveholders had caused the war, and now wanted other men to fight it for them. The government maintained that this provision was necessary for production purposes, as well as for preservation of internal order. Eventually thay had to give up both the slaveholding exemption and the substitutes, and to extend the age limits for eligibility. War service, or the avoidance of it, caused enormous bitterness, and one writer noted that by 1863 the South was full ofwomen sitting around parlors saying to each other, "Why doesn't your brother go to war?" Ironically, the presence of African slaves in the South seemed to exacerbate the whole issue. Slaves used as laborers for military fortifications, and as agricultural workers, and in some cases industrial ones, made a major contribution to the Confederate war economy. But they were arguably as great a drain on it as a support to it, and the whole Southern labor system broke down under the war itself. Slaves ran away, they followed the Union armies as they invaded the South, they worked slowly and unwillingly while their owners were away fighting. There were of course the loyal house servants who identified with their rulers, the stuff of subsequent romantic legend of the Old South, but the existence of that hostile servile class presented Confederates with virtually insurmountable dilemmas. As the horizon darkened, the inevitable question arose: Should the slaves be used as soldiers? The mere question itself illustrated how desperate the Confederacy finally was, and how divorced from reality were its perceptions. As the war went on, of course, increasing numbers of Southerners were prepared to face reality; in other words, they became ever more disillusioned with the war and its costs and sacrifices. Many had not wanted secession, and certainly not war, in the first place. Thousands of citizens from the South either fought openly for the Union, in what have come to be called "orphan" units, or exercised covert antagonism, or simply refused to support the cause of Southern independence. Western Virginia seceded from its parent state, and east Tennessee came close to doing likewise. In Louisiana there was a strong Unionist movement as early as 1863. Still, all of these people, who may be considered as passive Unionists, were less important than was the gradual erosion of support among those who really had been in favor of secession and Southern independence; these, after all, were the ones willing to fight the war. They were not ready to give up yet, but gradually they were being worn down. Men were away, often killed or maimed, farms were worked by women or not at all, shortages sapped the will to continue. The Confederacy, in spite of maintaining itself militarily, simply did not seem to be working well. The burden, as always, fell especially heavily on the poorer classes, and every sizable town in the South was filled with women and children who were in essence war refugees, driven in from the country not by Union action—the Federals had not yet developed their policy of penetrating raids—but simply by the inability of society to wage war, and provide adequately for the families of the soldiers doing the fighting. The Confederacy paid its private soldiers eleven or thirteen dollars a month, almost nothing in the face of upward-spiraling prices and lack of commodities. States and localities attempted to provide relief for destitute military families, but women who were proud that their men were fighting for their rights resented being reduced to charity by that sacrifice. As 1863 limped toward 1864, more and more soldiers received letters that said, "Why don't you come home? The children are sick, I have no money, we can't keep the farm going, what are we fighting for anyway?" Faced with such complaints, men would stay for a while longer, through loyalty to their friends or their units, through pride or principle or simple stubbornness. They were a long way from ready to give up yet. Early elation had been replaced by dogged determination; but unless there was some substantial gain to show, that determination would ultimately give way in turn to despair. The costs and sacrifices of the war lay far lighter upon the Union than upon the Confederacy. Not in the individual sense, of course; the Union soldier who lost a leg suffered every bit as much as the Confederate one; and the Union family whose son was killed mourned just as did their cousins in the South. And the wife of a working-class Union soldier may have had almost, but probably not quite, as hard a time as her Southern counterpart. But in terms of society at large, the Union managed to sustain its war effort and the associated costs far more readily than did the Confederacy. Writers, especially Southern ones, have often speculated that if the war had lain as heavily upon the North as it did upon the Confederacy, the North would have given up, a sort of retrospective apologia for the Confederacy's failure. Such an argument misses the point, however, which is that wars are fought not to see how much suffering can be endured, but to be won, and, to paraphrase George Patton, they are won not by enduring suffering yourself, but by inflicting suffering upon your opponent. The picture of the North at war is indeed substantially different from the picture of the South. Though both sides were forced by the demands of the war to do much the same thing—both brought in conscription, both suspended normal civil procedures (such as habeas corpus), both increasingly centralized their governments, and on and on—the North had more resources to work with, and in truth it mobilized and utilized them more effectively in the long run. President Lincoln, like his Confederate counterpart, faced opposition from a variety of sources. Much more successfully than Davis, however, Lincoln built a coalition of political support out of the party structure that still functioned in the North. Lincoln drew his support basically from moderate Republicans and from what were called "War Democrats," men who might be against him on party lines but were essentially committed to the war and the maintenance of the Union. This reduced the opposition to the two extremes: the Peace Democrats, known to their foes as "Copperheads" because they wore a copper penny in their lapels as an identifying badge, at one end of the spectrum; and the Radical Republicans at the other end. The former believed either that the war could not be won, or that it was not worth winning, and therefore wanted to give it up. They tended to be opposed particularly to emancipation, and generally to the increasingly vigorous prosecution of the war. After the Emancipation Proclamation, some of them went so far as to encourage soldiers to desert. They were strong especially in the Midwest, where the "butternut" southern counties of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were populated largely by people with Southern connections. In Indiana, Oliver P. Morton, the Republican governor and one of the strongest supporters of the war, ran his state for two years with no legislature, resorting to one political trick after another to keep his war effort going. Almost more troublesome to Lincoln than the Peace Democrats were those extreme members of his own party known as the Radical Republicans. They were talented, influential, intolerant, and very astute politically. They had supporters within the gate, as it were, in the persons of Chase and Stanton in the cabinet itself, but their greatest power lay in Congress, where Galusha Grow was the Speaker of the House, and Senators Charles Sumner and Benjamin Wade of Massachusetts, and Zachariah Chandler of Michigan, all were important committee members. Their most powerful instrument was the earlier-mentioned Committee on the Conduct of the War, set up to inquire into early military disasters, and dedicated thenceforth to getting rid of "soft" generals, notably George McClellan, and promoting its own faithful, who unfortunately included a number of incompetents, such as Fremont, Ben Butler, and Fighting Joe Hooker. With them, military skill was far less important than being correct on the great political questions of the day, especially abolition. They drew their strength largely from New England, and over the course of the war, much of the North grew to resent bitterly what it saw as New England's dominance of the war effort and policy. The Radical Republicans would have been a Committee of Public Safety if they could have managed it, and like Robespierre, they were willing to kill men to make them free. Lincoln found them very uncomfortable allies, but he could not do without them, and as the war intensified, he found himself perforce adopting some of their views. Washington politics, and state politics as well, given that the states were obviously more important then than they are now, were thus a constant Scylla and Charybdis act, with Lincoln and his gubernatorial counterparts trying to preserve their support in the middle. Still, in comparison to the fog in Richmond, they did very well. It was the same with paying for the war. Union finances remained remarkably sound, though there were temporary embarrassments as a result of military reverses. In fact, after a poor start, the war forced the federal government into modernizing its financial and banking system, and getting rid of the antiquated banking practices that were a legacy of the Jacksonian era. Before the war began, the federal government cost about 2 percent of the gross national product; during the war that cost rose to 15 percent. At first these expenses were covered by shortterm borrowing, but in late 1861 Congress brought in an income tax, to be collected starting in 1863, and of course they immediately began bond issues. The crisis also necessitated the introduction of paper money on a national level, though before the war the government had insisted that all its business be transacted in hard currency. The advent of the greenbacks was in fact a disguised blessing, for in I860 there had been more than seven thousand different banks circulating their own paper money throughout the country, and no one could be sure what a note was worth, as many of those seven thousand had gone bankrupt in the depression of the late fifties. By 1865 the United States was well on the way to a national banking system, a necessary precursor to the enormous national expansion of the next generation. In the matter of money, as in many other things, the flood of war swept away the deadwood. In mid- 1862, Congress introduced a heavy-handed revenue act that imposed taxes on almost every imaginable product or service, and Congress also hiked the import duties to protect American manufacturers. Americans were taxed as they never had been before, though not of course as they have been in the last fifty years. All of this was considered at the time to be enormously intrusive on the life of the citizen, but the war was used as its own excuse for these changes, and it developed its own momentum. The bond issues, for example, gave the one family out of every four who subscribed to them a personal financial stake in winning the war: if it was lost, those bonds would never be redeemed. The respective success or failure of the two competing governments is graphically illustrated by the inflation rate. Money is notorious for its lack of patriotism, so here was an honest yardstick of how well either side did. In the Union, wartime inflation, from 1861 to 1865, was about 80 percent, the same as in World War I and slightly higher than in World War II. In the Confederacy the wartime inflation was more than 9,000 percent. Economic historians have differed on the effect of the war on production in the North. Some point out that if a yardstick several generations long is employed, the decade of the sixties actually shows a drop in production, compared with those before and after it. Others counter that this is misleading, because for the war years, the productive performance of only the Union is counted, against that for the entire United States in the preceding and succeeding decades; in other words, during the war, the Union was producing almost as much as the entire country before or after the war. One of the reasons for this is that war, as much as necessity, is the mother of inventions. It happened that many of the technological advances that transformed industry and agriculture in the nineteenth century, gadgets such as sewing machines for both clothes and shoes, mechanical reapers and harvesters, and machines for canning and preserving food, had all been developed just before the war. Then the sudden demand of the war itself brought these machines and processes to the fore. Ironically, this demand existed at the same time as there was a labor shortage, because so many men went into the armed services, so during the war years there was an increase in mechanization, and in the level of production in the North, and at the same time a decrease in the skill and aptitude of workers. Far more children were brought into the workforce, the percentage of unskilled foreign-born workers increased, and women's share went from a fifth to nearly a third of the manufacturing population. And this in turn was reflected in a fall in income for the Northern worker. His, or her, wages went up but did not keep pace with the inflation rate of the war years, so while many manufacturers made large amounts of money, they did it at the expense of the working class. Thus in spite of a graduated income tax, there was the time-honored phenomenon of the rich getting richer, while the poor and middle classes not only got to fight the war, they got to pay for it as well. It truly was a modern war. One of its unintended effects was to free up a great deal of capital, through war production, profits, and investment, and also, because of the absence from the national government of those conservative Southerners whose presence would have resisted this trend, in allowing far freer play to those capital forces. The legislative foundations of the Gilded Age and the great postwar boom period and western expansion were laid during the war years. In 1862, for example, Congress passed the Homestead Act; the Morrill Act, which provided for land-grant colleges in the western territories; and the Pacific Railroad Act, which culminated after the war in the completion of the transcontinental railroad. While thousands of young men were fighting the war, thousands of others were still able to move into manufacturing jobs, or to move west and take up new land. The economic and geographic horizons continued to broaden even as the military situation remained uncertain. One of the reasons for that uncertainty, aside from the continued skill and tenacity displayed by the Confederacy, was the matter of manpower. Just like its opponent, the Union found that men were less willing to volunteer for war once they had some idea of what it was like. Given their greater manpower pool, it took the North a year longer than the South to reach this stage, but by 1863 the issue was becoming acute. Indeed, in late 1862 volunteering had slowed so significantly that the federal government resorted to a draft of the state militias for a nine-month period, which was a thinly disguised form of conscription. This was but a stopgap measure, however, and in the next year, in March, Congress passed the Enrollment Act, making every white male between twenty and forty-five liable for conscription. As usual, the act was full of loopholes for various categories of men, and it also allowed the purchase of substitutes. By the time the war was over, 46,000 men had been drafted, and 118,000 had hired substitutes to go in their places. The two figures together were less than 10 percent of the total in the Union armies, and the draft has r he re torebeen considered a failure. The fact was, however, just as in the Con- federacy, that the conscription acts were designed less for their ostensible purpose than they were designed to stimulate volunteering. Any state that could fulfill its quota by volunteering did not have to draft men, so the relatively small proportion of draftees in fact testified to the success of the policy in its hidden intent. This subtlety was lost on many men, and the four draft calls by the president, the first in July of 1863 and three more in 1864, produced a great deal of bitterness, as well as real violence. The worst reaction came with the draft riots in New York City in July 1863. The largest city of the North was always peculiarly volatile, and especially so in 1863. It was packed with immigrants and native working- class people who resented the poor conditions under which they lived and labored, and the anti-foreign sentiment that was a feature of the daily lives of the entire populace. Besides that, both the city and the state were firmly in Democratic hands, and Governor Horatio Seymour was bitterly opposed to President Lincoln. When the president issued his draft call, Seymour challenged its constitutionality, almost openly urging resistance. And when the names of the first draftees, drawn on Saturday, July 1 1 , were published in the newspapers the next day, mobs quickly gathered and began parading up and down the streets of the poorer sections. For three days they were out of control, and the city cowered under their rampage. The rioters caused a million and a half dollars' worth of property damage, and worse, they burned a black orphanage and lynched a number of unfortunate blacks caught in the wrong place. The city and state authorities responded weakly, and it was not until the arrival of Federal troops that the mob was suppressed. The soldiers came right from the battlefield at Gettysburg; men who had recently been shot at by Longstreet's Rebels had little sympathy for New York rioters. The soldiers opened fire on the mob, killing some hundreds, but quickly solving the problem. Under their iron blue hand, order was soon restored. New York in the summer of 1863 was only the most famous of numerous riots throughout the North, at this draft call and others, and the outbursts illustrate once again the fragility of the coalition Lincoln and the Republicans had built to support the war. There was one more opposing force as well, outside the spectrum of legitimate opposition, and it is best seen in the odd person of Clement L. Vallandigham. An Ohio lawyer and congressman, Vallandigham was bitterly opposed to the war, which he believed was, among other evil things, an abolitionist conspiracy. He was also an outspoken foe of President Lincoln, and when he was maneuvered out of his congressional seat by the War Democrats of his own party in 1862, he began a campaign to win the governorship of Ohio. He stumped the state, speaking against the war, against conscription, and against Lincoln. All of this was legitimate, but Vallandigham was a born plotter, one of those typical men of his day who sought refuge from the advance of modernity in secret societies, lodge meetings, hidden messages, and silly handshakes. He was thought incorrectly to be a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, the pre-war, largely Southern, secret society dedicated to the annexation of Mexico and the creation of a great slave-holding empire around the Caribbean. This group had numbers of cells, "Castles," in the border and Great Lakes states, and no one knew—then or now—how many members it had, or how great a threat it was, or if it was indeed a threat at all. It was certainly real to some extent, but probably more so in the mind of Edwin M. Stanton than in objective reality. To the government, anyway, Copperheads, Knights of the Golden Circle, and Clement Vallandigham were all of a piece—they were traitors. Into this volatile mix enter Ambrose Burnside, appointed commander of the Department of the Ohio after leaving the Army of the Potomac. Burnside, concerned over possible sedition, issued Order No. 38, making it a crime to speak against the war effort or express sympathy for the Confederate cause. On April 30, 1863, Vallandigham made a speech calculated to get himself arrested, and five days later, Burnside obliged him. Denied the right of habeas corpus, Vallandigham was tried by a military court and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Burnside happily thought he had done a good bit of work. In fact, he had created a teapot tempest. Vallandigham may well have been a nuisance, a gadfly, and possibly a fool, but none of those was really illegal. What was illegal was seizing a civilian and trying him by military court when martial law had not been proclaimed, and the government was in a fair way to making Vallandigham the political martyr he so desperately wanted to be. To keep the man prisoner would be bad, and to release him might be even worse. Fortunately, there was Lincoln with his wry sense of humor, and he solved the dilemma. Vallandigham dearly loved the Confederacy—perfect; President Lincoln commuted his sentence from imprisonment to banishment. Two and a half weeks after his military trial, Vallandigham was delivered under a flag of truce to the Confederate lines in Tennessee, and turned over by the amused Yankees to the bemused Rebels. The Democrats professed to be enraged by all this, and in Ohio they nominated their exiled hero for the governorship. He himself soon found the Confederacy no more to his taste than the Union, left for Bermuda, and from there went to Canada, where he took up residence in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, to carry on his absentee political campaign. Most of the country thought it hilarious, however, that a man who professed to be so opposed to life in the Union as it then was should be so anxious to return to it. He was defeated for the governorship by more than 100,000 votes, and in 1864 returned to Ohio in disguise. From then on the government left him alone, but his fangs were drawn, and for the rest of the war he was more of an embarrassment to his friends than to his enemies. So many things were happening in the America of the 1860s that the times would have been difficult enough even without the war, as men and women strove to adjust to demographic, economic, technological, and societal change. The war, of course, submerged all those things under the more immediate issue of the Union and its survival or disruption. But they kept burbling up to the surface; the immigrant ships kept coming into the American ports, families gave up farms and moved west to take up new land, or were drawn into the cities growing up along New England's rivers, to the mills and the shoe factories; poor men rioted against the draft in Wisconsin and New York. It was all of a piece; the country was changing, and what men at the time saw as desperation—what at the time was indeed desperation—was also the ferment of a great new nation being born, a nation that could fight an immense war, and still grow by leaps and bounds while doing it. It was exciting—but it was not easy.

 

 

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