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“The Yankee proper hate all foreigners”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Posted on 06/23/2016

The current release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several accounts of the war from the perspective of citizens and sympathizers of the Confederacy. We look at a diary of a young clergyman who served as a North Carolina company chaplain throughout the war, an account by an Englishman who enlisted in the CSA Army, and a personal account of the Union occupation of New Orleans by an outraged lady of that city.

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Experience of a Confederate Chaplain, 1861-1864. By Rev. A.D. Betts, D.D., N.C. Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church (1900)

The Reverend A.D. Betts was a member of the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He served as the chaplain for the 30th North Carolina Troops during the Civil War. He introduced his personal history of this service by noting that

The chronicles of a Confederate Chaplain’s diary will doubtless furnish the staple for weaving a most engaging story when the true historian shall find them

The perusal of these plain annals will surely revive in the memory of many a Confederate Veteran the vivid panorama of that unequalled and heroic struggle for the perpetuation of certain principles that underlie the purest and best form of government in the estimation of loyal Southrons [sic].

Betts includes a quote from Dr. S.A. Steel of Richmond, Virginia, who argues that the term civil war is wrong because the enemies were not contending for control of the same government. Rather, they were two sovereign nations at war. Hence, it was a revolution.

While our friends, the enemy, persist in calling us “Rebels,” and refer to that struggle for Southern independence as “The Rebellion,” we are content to bear the obloquy, knowing the injustice of it; yea, we glory in it, as did the now largest of protestant religious denominations accept and wear the term of reproach designating them “Methodists.” But let us not forget that “We be brethren!”

Most of the diary consists of relatively brief, dated entries. A few examples will convey their flavor.

July 6th—Letter from wife: she may come next Tuesday! Walk, walk, walk, visit wounded soldiers, Camp Winder and other Hospitals, Thos. Whitted and Captain Sykes of Bladen, many friends and many poor strangers. Some will live, others will die. Reach camp late, very tired. Cough and cold very bad.

Sunday, July 13th—In camp. Overtax my strength.

July 14th—Feeble. Visit a few wounded.

July 15th—Ride to camp and visit my sick. Daniel McDugald, my school-mate three years at Summerville and my class-mate three years at Chapel Hill, has died of wounds.

July 16th—Keep close. Suffer with cough. Married Thos. E. Amos and Sarah G. Davis, in Clay St. Church, Richmond.

Aug. 6—Visit all my sick at Division Hospital. Thence to Richmond. Visit Samuel Wescott and Rev. W.C. Power, Chaplain 14th Regiment, sick

Visit my many sick at Winder. Some will die. Return to camp late.

Aug. 7—Fever all day. May the Lord restore me soon so that I may administer to others.

Entry after entry is a sad litany of the dead and dying which include some of his fellow chaplains. Betts was frequently ill with colds and fevers. It seems he exhausted himself in attending to his often tragic duties. Frequently it fell to him to write to parents or wives of the fallen soldiers. And he sometimes doubts himself, writing on August 25, 1862:

My birthday! Thirty years old! And yet how little knowledge I have acquired! How little grace! How little good have I done! God help me in time to come! Get marching orders at nine tonight.

For nearly four years Reverend Betts went about his mission with evident compassion for all including some wounded Union soldiers. He preached, he comforted, and he prayed. His final entry was written on April 9, 1865, when news of the surrender was rapidly circulating.

In little, sad groups they softly talked of the past, the present and the future. Old men were there, who would have cheerfully gone on, enduring the hardship of war, and protracted absence from their families, for the freedom of their country. Middle aged men were there, who had been away from wives and children for years, had gone through many battles, had lost much on their farms or stores or factories or professional business; but would that night have been glad to shoulder the gun and march forward for the defense of their “native land.” Young men and boys were there, who loved their country and were unspeakably sad at the thought of the failure to secure Southern Independence…

There was patriotism! There may have been in that camp that night generals, colonels, and other officers who had been by a desire for worldly honor. Owners of slaves and of lands may have hoped for financial benefit from Confederate success. But these boys felt they had a country that ought to be free! I wish I had taken their names. And I wonder if they still live. They are good citizens, I am sure.

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Battle-fields of the South, from Bull Run to Fredericksburgh: With Sketches of the Confederate Commanders, and Gossip of the Camp. By an English Combatant, Lieutenant of Artillery on the Field Staff (1864)

The title page identifies the author only as “An English Combatant, Lieutenant of Artillery of the Field Staff.” His introduction reveals that “the impulse by which he was prompted in bearing arms for the Southern cause, was simply that inherent love of liberty which animates every English heart.”

With all to lose and naught to gain in opposing the tyranny of Federal rule, and with no legal or political tie to North or South, he could not, in manhood, stand idly by, and gaze upon the despotism which a blind and fanatical majority sought to thrust upon an unoffending and almost helpless minority.

He avers that based on his extensive travels and residency in the United States and his close observations of the “national characteristics,” he was not surprised by the dissolution of the Union.

Rather, his surprise has been that Southerners should so long have refrained from rising in arms against the accumulated insults and injuries which, for a long series of years, have been heaped upon them. They would have been unworthy of their origin, and must have shown themselves less than men, had they longer submitted to the degradation of being deprived of free speech and action amongst a people whose prosperity had been fostered by their industry, and whose history they had ennobled by heroic deeds.

The English Combatant has little more than scorn for the citizens of the northern states.

The real source of Northern prosperity has been misunderstood; so, in the author’s opinion, has the real character of the Yankee people. The nasal-toned, tobacco-chewing, and long-limbed gentlemen of the present day inhabiting the New-England States, speaks the English language, it is true, in his own peculiar way, but Indian, Canadian, Irish, Dutch, French, and other bloods, course through his veins; and from his extraordinary peculiarities of habit and character displayed in this present war, it is extremely difficult to imagine which caste or shade predominates in him. He is a volatile, imaginative, superficial, theatrically-inclined individual, possessing uncommon self-confidence, and is very self-willed, arrogant, and boastful. His self-conceit is boundless: any one who disputes his ideas is a fool.

He is also derisive about the generals of the Union Army. He details the failures, the vanities, and the political activities of the military officers which he alleges beset the Union and doomed its chance for success. He understands these internecine disputes to be further evidence of the corrupt Yankee character.

The Yankee proper hate all foreigners, when any thing is to be gained or given away. It is conceded, indeed, that Europeans are serviceable as food for powder, and great pains are taken to keep up a plentiful supply of this food by numerous agents, who are busily engaged for this purpose in Europe. But, although they cannot deny that the foreign element has been the stepping-stone to all their past prosperity, and that it has proved itself superior to native blood upon every battlefield, they will unblushingly protest on all occasions that “we Americans” are the great rulers and master-minds, capable of achieving any thing and every thing of which a mortal man might dream. Poor unfortunate foreigners may sweat and toil, and fight or bleed for them; but, were the war to cease to-morrow, hundreds would be shot down in the public streets, as happened in Louisville and Baltimore: and for no other reason, perhaps, save that they dare to think for themselves in the use of the suffrage.

Finally, the author, who wrote this account in 1864, makes a resounding endorsement of the Confederacy and a bold prediction.

The valor and triumphs of the south by land and sea, under the most adverse circumstances, are recorded in these volumes. No people, no nation has struggled more manfully for freedom; and could England truly know the privations, sufferings, and patriotic self-sacrifice of the women and children in that far distant land, compassion would assume some material form to relieve the necessities of these descendants of her ancient and noble emigrants.

Yet the South is just as far from subjugation as when the strife began, despite the almost superhuman exertions of her enemies; and there is little doubt but that she will ere long claim recognition from the European Powers as an independent nation.

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“Beauty and Booty,” The Watchword of New Orleans. By Marion Southwood, a Lady of New Orleans (1867)

Mrs. Southwood includes a quote from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure on her title page:

Man, proud man!

Dress’d in a little brief authority,

Plays such fantastic tricks, before high heaven,

As make the angels weep.

The Table of Contents reveals the authors’ concerns and her political sympathies. Here are a few chapter titles:

IV. Arrival of “Picayune Butler”

IX. Tribute to General Beauregard

XI. Description of a Ball

XVII. Atrocities of Butler in New Orleans

XVIII. Atrocities of Butler continued

She writes a brief introduction declaring that she never thought to be an authoress and does not expect ever to have her name appear in public again. She has been waiting for someone to document “the dire events of the war, during our season of affliction in New Orleans, while we were blockaded, and while General Butler was ‘Commander-in-chief of the Department of the Gulf,’ and also of his successor in command.” She reckons this absence may be because

the hearts of the people were too deeply bowed down and crushed by oppression to undertake the task, or, perhaps, most persons wish to draw a veil over our misfortunes.

Others are so perfectly sick of hearing of the war, that they turn with disgust from the subject. Not so with me. When I hear the “nations afar off” praising the culprit who robbed us of our homes, our comforts, our good name, and every thing which makes life enviable, my blood boils within my veins, I seize my pen, and although but a meagre sketch in comparison with what another might indite, yet it is but right to let the world know some of the atrocities we were subjected to, and how our Southern friends were treated.

Mrs. Southwood contrasts the older men of New Orleans with their peers in New York City.

The old gentlemen were organized into a battalion for a “home guard”—“a defence [sic] of the city”—and they certainly succeeded so far as to allay our fears, and to keep us from feeling that that we were not deserted in our hour of need…

Their Springfield muskets glistened in the sun. They were not very expert upon the double-quick; and some, when in camp, suffered from gout, neuralgia, etc., most exceedingly.

Their tents, in La Fayette Square, were beautiful to behold. They dined and toasted there.

The ladies visited them, and they went through the drill with great eclat…

How different must have been the feelings of those whose description was given in a paragraph taken from the Providence Post, New York. We give it verbatim:

“A class of men, who still remain in this city, have been seized very suddenly with old age and other infectious diseases. They were young enough, and ‘wide-awake’ enough, too, in 1860. Now, they are short-sighted, and deaf, knock-kneed, and spavined, etc., and older than the everlasting hills.”

The author relates a detailed account of Farragut’s fleet as it swarmed the waters around the city and demanded a surrender and to fly the American flag over public buildings. A correspondence ensued between Farragut and the mayor. Excerpts from the mayor’s last letter include the following:

The city is yours by the power of brutal force, and not by any choice or consent of its inhabitants. It is for you to determine what shall be the fate that awaits her.

As to hoisting of any flag than the flag of our own adoption and allegiance, let me say to you, sir, that the man lives not in our midst whose hand and heart would not be palsied at the mere thought of such an act; nor could I find in my entire constituency so wretched and desperate a renegade as would dare to profane with his hand the sacred emblem of your aspirations.

He further cautions Farragut that:

You will have a gallant people to administer during your occupation of this city—a people sensitive of all that can in the least affect its dignity and self-respect….

Peace and order may be preserved without a resort to measures which could not fail to wound their susceptibilities and fire up their passions….

You may trust their honor, though you ought not to count on their submission to unmerited wrong.

Southwood’s utter contempt for General Butler is manifest.

So the days passed by until the 1st of May, when the cry arose that “Picayune Butler” had come to town.

One of his adherents gives the following description of the latter part of the voyage from the North:

“The troops had a joyful trip up the river, among the verdant sugar-fields, welcomed, as the fleet had been, by capering negroes.”….

What a delightful time they must have had, to be sure, and to think their golden dreams were so soon to be realized;—their thieving propensities gratified in the El Dorado of America! To imagine that creatures, such as are seldom seen, unless paying a visit to the penitentiary, should be turned loose upon a wealthy, refined, and enlightened community! Oh, such looking objects as they were! with old light-blue slouched hats, and clothes to match—looking as though they had slept in them, and water was scarce; their daguerreotypes should have been taken, and sent to Barnum’s Museum.

It seems fair to say that Mrs. Southwood is just getting warmed up for her sustained attack on almost every aspect of Butler’s occupation. She is scathing. This cartoon of Butler preceding the title page depicts piles of loot which he and his troops are alleged to have confiscated. This is the essence of the author’s main assertion as perfectly captured in her title: Beauty and booty. The superior beauty of New Orleans and her citizens has been systematically looted by the barbarians of the North.

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