‘The Sun of rebellion disappears behind the bulwark of Loyalty’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection
The newest release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a treatise on the rights to land, labor, and education; a very personal account of one Union soldier’s war; and a detailed account of the fate that befell soldiers from a small town in northern Vermont.
The American Crisis; or, Trial and Triumph of Democracy (1865)
By Warren Chase, author of “Life line of the lone one,” “Fugitive wife,” etc.
The title page of this imprint includes a quote from Shelley:
“War is the statesman’s game, the lawyer’s jest,
The priest’s delight, and the hired assassin’s trade.”
and the unattributed declaration:
We will defend the government that secures to all its children land, labor, and education.
Warren Chase (1813-1891) was an American idealist who associated himself with the philosophy of Charles Fourier of France. Fourier was an advocate of “utopian socialism” which was the impetus for the development of several intentional communities in the U.S., including Brook Farm in Massachusetts, a transcendentalist community founded by Nathaniel Hawthorne and others. In the 1840s, Chase was involved in establishing the Wisconsin Phalanx—an intentional community which subsequently evolved into the village of Ceresco, later annexed by the city of Ripon.
Of the Wisconsin community, Chase wrote in an 1845annual report that “the four great evils with which the world is afflicted—intoxication, lawsuits, quarreling, and profane swearing—never have, and with the present character and prevailing habits of our members, never can, find admittance into our society.” He was elected a state senator and subsequently ran for and lost the governorship as a Free Soil Party candidate. Ultimately, he moved to California and was elected a state senator again. This time he ran on the Workingmen’s Party ticket.
This imprint incorporates his political and social beliefs. His treatise contains three absolutes: The right to land, the right to labor and its products, and the right to education and its benefits.
If this little work needs an introduction, it may be given in a few words. It is the friend to the working man and woman, and the defence of true democracy,—showing the part they take, and the interest they have, in the American Rebellion of 1861 and 1862. Should it chance to fall into the hands of an aristocrat, he or she is kindly requested by the author to hand it to the hired man or woman.
Subsequent to this introduction, Chase lays out his arguments in support of his assertion of the three rights. He equates the right to land with…
…the right of each human being to breathe pure air and drink pure water, and never call it stealing in any one to take what he or she wants of either; nor is any one a trespasser who breathes the air pent up in the enclosure of another, nor who drinks the water from another’s spring or well. Not less essential is the right of all to the soil; and only the long line of judicial sanctions, starting in robbery of a natural right, which they have to purchase back from the descendants of the old robbers.
He compares the northern states, which he asserts constructed a progressive policy toward land distribution, with the southern states which he maintains deprived the majority of white citizens from possessing any land of their own while enslaving the black people in service to the planter’s greed.
A landed aristocracy of planters, many of whom sprang originally from the dregs of society in Europe, hold complete sway over the rebellion, and attempt to force the thousands of landless poor to fight and endure all sorts of privations and hardships, to sustain them in the monopoly, and if successful, will continue to rob and oppress them, and make from them the soldiers of a standing army, to assist in robbing their children of their natural rights, and monopolizing the land and all that is valuable in social life.
Chase posits that the “physiological law of labor” makes it inevitable that those who do not labor, the planters, will become ever more effete, while the slaves become increasingly robust:
Thus, under the monopolizing system of the cotton States, the planters and loafers become slender, and soon dwarf in muscle and form, while the laborers become muscular and athletic; and in a few generations the intellect will follow, and then those at the top go to the bottom, and the bottom goes to the top, and society is overturned….The planters can hardly have been blind to this fact, with the statistics before them of the rapid increase of slaves, both in numbers and muscular force, and the weakening muscular power of the whites, with its nervous and fractious irritability, which has been so prominent, in and out of Congress, for the last quarter of a century, and which has at last wrought itself up to the pitch of a fighting rebellion…
The author argues strenuously that slavery was not the real cause of the Civil War for either side, but it became the best means of arousing support in both regions. His position is that for the southern states the preservation of monopoly and aristocracy was the driving purpose for their rebellion. He believes that:
…the leaders of the rebellion have offered to sacrifice slavery, and to abolish it gradually, or at once, for a foreign recognition, and such assistance as would enable them to establish a nationality; and, it is said, even offered to establish a monarchy, with a titled aristocracy, and without slavery, for the aid of France and England to free them from the odious democratic government of the United States; showing plainly that it was not slavery, but this monopoly and aristocracy, they were in rebellion to sustain, and that their greatest enemy was the democracy of free land, free labor, and free schools.
Further, Chase believed that abolishing slavery in the Confederacy or supporting colonization movements or raising funds by taxing northern laborers to purchase slaves’ freedom were not likely to prove fruitful. Rather, he said:
I think we had better pay our debts; give lands to the poor, both black and white; build more school-houses for all children, and encourage white and free labor; sustain schools, pupils, speakers and authors over the whole Union; and thus sap the institutions, while we are by this means preparing both white and black for freedom.
He has little good to say about abolitionists, maintaining that their zealotry only served to flame the rebellion, and he equally disdains the press.
The abolition press had long been heated to a glow, but could not get a weld to either party, for want of sufficient heat in them. The terrific blowing of the southern editors soon carried many of their papers beyond a welding heat, and, in a liquid state, they ran out over the ignorant masses, read at the street corners, and in bar-rooms (which, in the absence of school-houses, were very numerous); and thus the southern people were educated on the character of the Yankees, and abolitionists, and the North generally, by the most potent instrument of education used in civilization, and which has been mainly in the hands of the most reckless and unscrupulous set of editors that could be raised from the whole nation, often without regard to literary ability, but with sufficient talent and recklessness to write without the least regard to truth, whatever would incite and excite the poor deluded masses of robbed whites to aid in the rebellion that was, if successful, to end in their ruin to the third or fourth generation, at least.
Chase has a similarly dismissive view of “the pulpit,” old political parties, and banks, and he writes about each institution with the same sardonic energy as he used on his other targets, He further comments on the Knights of the Golden Circle, foreign sympathy for the slave states, what he perceives as the hypocrisy of the use of the word “confederacy,” and the Underground Railroad. He writes with conviction and, at times, a certain brio.
M.L. Gordon’s Experiences in the Civil War: From His Narrative, Letters and Diary (1922)
Edited by Donald Gordon
Last month we featured several examples of the histories of Union regiments during the Civil War. This imprint is different and all the more interesting in contrast, as it is a very personal account of one soldier’s experience. Marquis LaFayette Gordon was born in 1848 in Greene County, Pennsylvania. He was still a teenager when he enlisted with his father, his uncle, two cousins, and many of his neighbors in Company G, 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
After being mustered out in late November 1864, he obtained a degree from Waynesburg College, an M.D. from Columbia College, and graduated from Andover (Mass.) Theological Seminary. He was ordained in the Congregational Church, married, and departed to Japan as a medical missionary. He later published an account of his time there entitled An American Missionary in Japan.
This imprint is well written, anecdotal, and largely concerned with the protean experience of a young soldier in an awful war. Having been debilitated by a persistent fever after days of heavy rain, he was transported in sequence to several hospitals. When departing Newport News to New York City he recounts:
Going down to the wharf at Newport News I thought I would slip out of the ranks and run to a shop and buy a loaf of the nice aerated bread which I knew was for sale there. I had taken but a few steps, however, when the ground suddenly flew up and hit me in the face, and I realized that I was not so strong as I had supposed myself to be.
For such a young person, he exhibited a lively perception of the world. On his way back to his regiment he met another young man in a soldier’s uniform who invited him to spend the night with a friend.
So, as his friend’s house was near, I went with him. Hs friend’s house proved to be a saloon, and I parted company with my new friend at once. No doubt he had been sent out to decoy unwary soldiers.
His service included interludes of relative ease which he embraced in a youthful manner.
Suffolk [Virginia] is a very pleasant old town, and our three months here were among the most enjoyable of our three years. The Rebels were about twenty miles away on the opposite side of the Blackwater River, and we made frequent raids out there, going out in the night, attacking them about daybreak, and coming leisurely back the next day.
Gordon includes lighthearted incidents in his account.
…I saw two soldiers of the 10th Connecticut walking back in the rear of us. One of them seemed to be sick or wounded, and finally the other one went off and left him lying there. I got the Captain’s permission and went back to the man, gave him a drink out of my canteen, asked him where he was hurt, etc. After several incoherent replies, he said, “The truth is I have been drinking too much applejack!” This was treasured up as a joke against me for quite a while afterward.
However, the young man also found himself in deadly conflicts.
On the 20th of May, the Rebels came down in strong force and tried to drive us from our line. Here we had the hardest direct fighting of my whole experience. They advanced within a hundred yards of us determined to drive us, but we were determined to hold our ground. I here shot so fast as to make my gun-barrel so hot that it was uncomfortable to hold—the only time I ever had such an experience. Corporal George Kinney was killed at my side, as were some others of our company, but the enemy for the most part fired over our heads. One of their brigadier-generals was captured by our brigade.
At times Gordon seems quite matter of fact about the carnage he witnesses.
One day I was standing in camp, talking to a friend named Myers Titus, when a cannon-ball came over, struck in a tent near us, where “Skeety” Atkinson was writing, cut his right arm off near the shoulder, and passed on between my friend and me as we were talking.
The next day, or at least soon afterwards, we attacked again and had some severe fighting, in which the soldier I have just spoken of [Titus] was wounded. I helped him to an ambulance while the battle was going on. The wound did not seem serious, and he said if we got off as easily as he had, we would be fortunate. A few days later he died of the wound, which had become gangrenous.
[In a letter home] I suppose you have heard of Tom Knisely’s death. He died near a week ago. His “Discharge Papers” were received a day or two ago but he did not need them.
He includes his opinions of his command structure and of the political decisions being made by his Commander-in-Chief. He is disgruntled by his Brigade’s new leader’s decision to ask permission to join the brigade with an assault at Wilmington (or Charleston.)
While we are far from fearing to expose ourselves when our Country demands it, we think it unfair that a Reg’t which has seen as much hard service as ours, and which has not been paid for nearly Seven months, should constantly run into everything, while others whose service has been a mere burlesque should be left in comfortable Barracks.
Occasionally the young soldier expresses his political views in confidential letters home.
We are laboring for the restoration of a Union bought by the blood of freemen, for our Homes—for all that makes life dear. The course of the President has been to totally annihilate any Union feeling in the South (whether intended or not) and to destroy confidence in the North. He has adopted measures which we believe ruinous, yet for his misdeeds shall we desert our Country [?] While we (being powerless) differ with him in regard to the means, let us not forget that we have as great a birthright as any man be his station ever so high.
I say this because they are my [h]onest sentiments, not that I would want to make any one believe them.
At one point he encounters an American legend.
[Relating the plight of a wounded friend] I was with [him] all night Sunday. Away in the night Miss Barton (who is the Florence Nightingale of this department) came in and went round among the wounded, talking to them in such a nice way, that I could hardly repress the mental “God bless you!” that came to my lips, and if I had followed the prompting of my heart would have went up & kissed her right there before them all! Oh! These women! What enigmas they are! Here they are light-hearted, careless creatures, caring for nothing, nor nobody, and the perpetual torment of the men generally, and again we find them forsaking the comforts and luxuries of home to sooth & comfort him, and to watch over him in his affliction with angelic tenderness.
Gordon wades into the political situation again in another letter.
Weak kneed Bigler, The R.R. Glancy Jones, Searight &&. The Serpent himself is dead, but the body (Bigler, Hughes, Welch & Co.) and the tail (Searight, Gilmore, Crawford & Waddell) still keeps up a wriggling, but will end as soon as the Sun of rebellion disappears behind the bulwark of Loyalty.
There are many of Gordon’s letters that were preserved by his family and are further included here. A final section of his account is made up of sections of the diary he kept. These entries are relatively brief. A few examples:
April 1: Broke up Camp on St. Helena and embarked on the “Ranger”
2d: At Sunset steamed out of the harbor.
3d: Put into “North Edisto Inlet.” Went out about noon and at dark were safely anchored in Stone Inlet
4th: Debarked on Cole[‘]s Island. It is evident that an attack on Charleston is intended what the result will be God only knows Oh, that our trust may be in Him if it be his will may we be successful.
May 21st: On Fatigue duty Heavy firing Attacked by the Rebels at 11 P.M. After a hot engagement the rebels are repulsed with heavy loss. Our artillery firing the most splendid I ever witnessed. On guard.
Soldiers’ Record. Town of Craftsbury, Vermont. 1861-1865 (1914)
By George F. Sprague
Craftsbury was a small northern Vermont town at the time of the Civil War. In 1860 the population was 1,413. This imprint is an account of the men who went to war. It was prompted by an act of the State Legislature. There follows a number of extracts from the record without comment.
SEC. 2 [Of the act] Said record shall consist of the name of every soldier and sailor furnished by the town during the present war, his age at the time of his enlistment, birth-place, date of muster into the service of the United States, rank, promotions, re-enlistment, (if re-enlisted), date of discharge and cause thereof (if discharged), date of pension and amount (if received), date of death and cause (if deceased), date, place and nature of wounds (if wounded), bounty received from the town, bounty, if any, received from individuals, and any other facts relating to the military history of every soldier and sailor of said town, which may come to the knowledge of the person making the record.
Bagley, George W. Born in Craftsbury, October 18, 1845. Age 17.
Enlisted July 7, 1862, at Hyde Park, Vt., for three years. Mustered in July 9, 1862, in Company H, 9th Regiment, at Brattleboro as Musician Fifer. Taken prisoner at Harper’s Ferry September 15, 1862, was paroled the 16th and went to Annapolis on foot, without rations, marching mostly by day and night, then by boat to Baltimore, Md., then on cars to Chicago, where we had quarters in horse stalls on a fair ground for some two months. Then to Camp Douglass, guarding Rebel prisoners until exchanged. Had the smallpox there, with very many others. After exchange was sent to Suffolk, Va., then to Yorktown. Was in the battle of Newport Barracks, February 2, 1864, and in battle at Chapin’s Farm the 29th of September, 1864, and at Fair Oaks, October 27, 1864, being in all the engagements of his regiment. Went into Richmond April 3, 1865. The 9th Regiment claims being the first regiment in the city. Went home with the regiment and was mustered out June 13, 1865.
Bickford, Samuel C. Born in Epsom, N.H. Age 31
Enlisted September 3, 1862, at Barton, Vt., in Company I, 15th Regiment. Received of private subscription $25.00. Died July 25, 1863, at Mount Pleasant Hospital, Washington, D.C., of chronic diarrhoea. [sic]
Boutwell, Robert Thurston. Born in Craftsbury, February 5, 1837. Age 25.
Enlisted August 14, 1862, at Irasburgh, Vt. For three years. Mustered September 22, 1862, at Burlington, Vt., in Company D, 4th Regiment. Was shot through the knee May 12, 1864, in action at Spottsylvania, Va. The leg was amputated at Field Hospital the 13th of May, and he immediately died, as was supposed, from effects of chloroform.
Bridges, Alfred. Age 20
…Discharged July 19, 1862, for physical disability, and sent to David’s Island Hospital, where he died July 26, 1862, of quick consumption.
Brown, Elijah C. Age 22.
…Died February 4, 1863, at Point Lookout Hospital, Ward 8, of chronic diarrhoea [sic].
Cowles, Leonard. Age 30.
…Is supposed to have been in all the engagements of his company until the last of June, 1864, when, in a raid upon the Weldon railroad, near Pike’s Station, his horse was shot under him and he with several others were taken prisoners. He was first taken to Libby prison, and then to Andersonville, and finally to Millen, Ga., where he died November 12, 1864.
Flanders, Taylor N. Age 22
…Promoted Corporal. Deserted December 9, 1863. Report says Flanders was from Canada. Went home on furlough and did not return.
Garvin, Charles. Age 26.
…Died December 31, 1861, at General Hospital, at Baltimore, Md., of chronic diarrhoea [sic].
Hemenway, George W. Age 18.
…He was shot from his horse by a bullet through the body, at or near the heart, and instantly killed…
Smith, George W. Age 21.
…Smith was wounded with a pick, in the hands of another man, by accident, in his arm, while engaged in erecting breastworks in the night… he was carried to Hampton Hospital, near Fortress Monroe, where he died of said wound…
Sprague, Dexter M. Age 33.
…Received town bounty of $300. Deserted June, 1864. Returned under the President’s proclamation. Dishonorably discharged June 12, 1865. Receives pension of $6.00 per month.
There are many more encapsulated accounts of the tribulations that the men from this small community underwent in the course of the war, including acts of heroism. Taken as a whole, this imprint provides an intimate and personal record of the war.