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The Day of the Confederacy by Nathaniel W. Stephenson

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New Haven: Yale University Press
Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Co.
London: Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
















Chapter I. The Secession Movement

The secession movement had three distinct stages. The first,
beginning with the news that Lincoln was elected, closed with the
news, sent broadcast over the South from Charleston, that Federal
troops had taken possession of Fort Sumter on the night of the
28th of December. During this period the likelihood of secession
was the topic of discussion in the lower South. What to do in
case the lower South seceded was the question which perplexed the
upper South. In this period no State north of South Carolina
contemplated taking the initiative. In the Southeastern and Gulf
States immediate action of some sort was expected. Whether it
would be secession or some other new course was not certain on
the day of Lincoln's election. Various States earlier in the year
had provided for conventions of their people in the event of a
Republican victory. The first to assemble was the convention of
South Carolina, which organized at Columbia, on December 17,
1860. Two weeks earlier Congress had met. Northerners and
Southerners had at once joined issue on their relation in the
Union. The House had appointed its committee of thirty-three to
consider the condition of the country. So unpromising indeed from
the Southern point of view had been the early discussions of this
committee that a conference of Southern members of Congress had
sent out their famous address To Our Constituents: "The argument
is exhausted. All hope of relief in the Union . . . is
extinguished, and we trust the South will not be deceived by
appearances or the pretense of new guarantees. In our judgment
the Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that
will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor,
safety, and independence of the Southern people require the
organization of a Southern Confederacy--a result to be obtained
only by separate state secession." Among the signers of this
address were the two statesmen who had in native talent no
superiors at Washington--Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana and
Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.

The appeal To Our Constituents was not the only assurance of
support tendered to the convention of South Carolina. To
represent them at this convention the governors of Alabama and
Mississippi had appointed delegates. Mr. Hooker of Mississippi
and Mr. Elmore of Alabama made addresses before the convention on
the night of the 17th of December. Both reiterated views which
during two days of lobbying they had disseminated in Columbia "on
all proper occasions." Their argument, summed up in Elmore's
report to Governor Moore of Alabama, was "that the only course to
unite the Southern States in any plan of cooperation which could
promise safety was for South Carolina to take the lead and secede
at once without delay or hesitation...that the only effective
plan of cooperation must ensue after one State had seceded and
presented the issue when the plain question would be presented to
the other Southern States whether they would stand by the
seceding State engaged in a common cause or abandon her to the
fate of coercion by the arms of the Government of the United

Ten years before, in the unsuccessful secession movement of 1850
and 1851, Andrew Pickens Butler, perhaps the ablest South
Carolinian then living, strove to arrest the movement by exactly
the opposite argument. Though desiring secession, he threw all
his weight against it because the rest of the South was averse.
He charged his opponents, whose leader was Robert Barnwell Rhett,
with aiming to place the other Southern States "in such
circumstances that, having a common destiny, they would be
compelled to be involved in a common sacrifice." He protested
that "to force a sovereign State to take a position against its
consent is to make of it a reluctant associate.... Both
interest and honor must require the Southern States to take
council together."

That acute thinker was now in his grave. The bold enthusiast whom
he defeated in 1851 had now no opponent that was his match. No
great personality resisted the fiery advocates from Alabama and
Mississippi. Their advice was accepted. On December 20, 1860,
the cause that ten years before had failed was successful. The
convention, having adjourned from Columbia to Charleston, passed
an ordinance of secession.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, at a hundred meetings, the secession issue
was being hotly discussed. But there was not yet any certainty
which way the scale would turn. An invitation from South Carolina
to join in a general Southern convention had been declined by the
Governor in November. Governor Brown has left an account
ascribing the comparative coolness and deliberation of the hour
to the prevailing impression that President Buchanan had pledged
himself not to alter the military status at Charleston. In an
interview between South Carolina representatives and the
President, the Carolinians understood that such a pledge was
given. "It was generally understood by the country," says
Governor Brown, "that such an agreement...had been entered
Into...and that Governor Floyd of Virginia, then Secretary of
War, had expressed his determination to resign his position in
the Cabinet in case of the refusal of the President to carry out
the agreement in good faith. The resignation of Governor Floyd
was therefore naturally looked upon, should it occur, as a signal
given to the South that reinforcements were to be sent to
Charleston and that the coercive policy had been adopted by the
Federal Government."

While the "canvass in Georgia for members of the State convention
was progressing with much interest on both sides," there came
suddenly the news that Anderson had transferred his garrison from
Fort Moultrie to the island fortress of Sumter. That same day
commissioners from South Carolina, newly arrived at Washington,
sought in vain to persuade the President to order Anderson back
to Moultrie. The Secretary of War made the subject an issue
before the Cabinet. Unable to carry his point, two days later he

* The President had already asked for Floyd's resignation because
of financial irregularities, and Floyd was shrewd enough to use
Anderson's coup as an excuse for resigning. See Rhodes, "History
of the United States," vol. II pp. 225, 236 (note).

The Georgia Governor, who had not hitherto been in the front rank
of the aggressives, now struck a great blow. Senator Toombs had
telegraphed from Washington that Fort Pulaski, guarding the
Savannah River, was "in danger." The Governor had reached the
same conclusion. He mustered the state militia and seized Fort
Pulaski. Early in the morning on January 3,1861, the fort was
occupied by Georgia troops. Shortly afterward, Brown wrote to a
commissioner sent by the Governor of Alabama to confer with him:
"While many of our most patriotic and intelligent citizens in
both States have doubted the propriety of immediate secession, I
feel quite confident that recent events have dispelled those
doubts from the minds of most men who have, till within the past
few days, honestly sustained them." The first stage of the
secession movement was at an end; the second had begun.

A belief that Washington had entered upon a policy of aggression
swept the lower South. The state conventions assembling about
this time passed ordinances of secession--Mississippi, January 9;
Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19;
Louisiana, January 26; Texas, February 1. But this result was not
achieved without considerable opposition. In Georgia the
Unionists put up a stout fight. The issue was not upon the right
to secede--virtually no one denied the right--but upon the wisdom
of invoking the right. Stephens, gloomy and pessimistic, led the
opposition. Toombs came down from Washington to take part with
the secessionists. From South Carolina and Alabama, both
ceaselessly active for secession, commissioners appeared to lobby
at Milledgeville, as commissioners of Alabama and Mississippi had
lobbied at Columbia. Besides the out-and-out Unionists, there
were those who wanted to temporize, to threaten the North, and to
wait for developments. The motion on which these men and the
Unionists made their last stand together went against them 164 to
133. Then at last came the square question: Shall we secede? Even
on this question, the minority was dangerously large. Though the
temporizers came over to the secessionists, and with them came
Stephens, there was still a minority of 89 irreconcilables
against the majority numbering 208.

"My allegiance," said Stephens afterwards, "was, as I considered
it, not due to the United States, or to the people of the United
States, but to Georgia, in her sovereign capacity. Georgia had
never parted with her right to demand the ultimate allegiance of
her citizens."

The attempt in Georgia to restrain impetuosity and advance with
deliberation was paralleled in Alabama, where also the
aggressives were determined not to permit delay. In the Alabama
convention, the conservatives brought forward a plan for a
general Southern convention to be held at Nashville in February.
It was rejected by a vote of 54 to 45. An attempt to delay
secession until after the 4th of March was defeated by the same

The determination of the radicals to precipitate the issue
received interesting criticism from the Governor of Texas, old
Sam Houston. To a commissioner from Alabama who was sent out to
preach the cause in Texas the Governor wrote, in substance, that
since Alabama would not wait to consult the people of Texas he
saw nothing to discuss at that time, and he went on to say:

Recognizing as I do the fact that the sectional tendencies of the
Black Republican party call for determined constitutional
resistance at the hands of the united South, I also feel that the
million and a half of noble-hearted, conservative men who have
stood by the South, even to this hour, deserve some sympathy and
support. Although we have lost the day, we have to recollect that
our conservative Northern friends cast over a quarter of a
million more votes against the Black Republicans than we of the
entire South. I cannot declare myself ready to desert them as
well as our Southern brethren of the border (and such, I believe,
will be the sentiment of Texas) until at least one firm attempt
has been made to preserve our constitutional rights within the

Nevertheless, Houston was not able to control his State.
Delegates from Texas attended the later sessions of a general
Congress of the seceding States which, on the invitation of
Alabama, met at Montgomery on the 4th of February. A contemporary
document of singular interest today is the series of resolutions
adopted by the Legislature of North Carolina, setting forth that,
as the State was a member of the Federal Union, it could not
accept the invitation of Alabama but should send delegates for
the purpose of persuading the South to effect a readjustment on
the basis of the Crittenden Compromise as modified by the
Legislature of Virginia. The commissioners were sent, were
graciously received, were accorded seats in the Congress, but
they exerted no influence on the course of its action.

The Congress speedily organized a provisional Government for the
Confederate States of America. The Constitution of the United
States, rather hastily reconsidered, became with a few inevitable
alterations the Constitution of the Confederacy.* Davis was
unanimously elected President; Stephens, Vice-President.
Provision was made for raising an army. Commissioners were
dispatched to Washington to negotiate a treaty with the United
States; other commissioners were sent to Virginia to attempt to
withdraw that great commonwealth from the Union.

* To the observer of a later age this document appears a thing of
haste. Like the framers of the Constitution of 1787, who omitted
from their document some principles which they took for granted,
the framers of 1861 left unstated their most distinctive views.
The basal idea upon which the revolution proceeded, the right of
secession, is not to be found in the new Constitution. Though the
preamble declares that the States are acting in their sovereign
and independent character, the new Confederation is declared
"permanent." In the body of the document are provisions similar
to those in the Federal Constitution enabling a majority of
two-thirds of the States to amend at their pleasure, thus
imposing their will upon the minority. With three notable
exceptions the new Constitution, subsequent to the preamble, does
little more than restate the Constitution of 1787 rearranged so
as to include those basal principles of the English law added to
the earlier Constitution by the first eight amendments. The three
exceptions are the prohibitions (1) of the payment of bounties,
(2) of the levying of duties to promote any one form of industry,
and (3) of appropriations for internal improvements. Here was a
monument to the battle over these matters in the Federal
Congress. As to the mechanism of the new Government it was the
same as the old except for a few changes of detail. The
presidential term was lengthened to six years and the President
was forbidden to succeed himself. The President was given the
power to veto items in appropriation bills. The African
slave-trade was prohibited.

The upper South was thus placed in a painful situation. Its
sympathies were with the seceding States. Most of its people felt
also that if coercion was attempted, the issue would become for
Virginia and North Carolina, no less than for South Carolina and
Alabama, simply a matter of self-preservation. As early as
January, in the exciting days when Floyd's resignation was being
interpreted as a call to arms, the Virginia Legislature had
resolved that it would not consent to the coercion of a seceding
State. In May the Speaker of the North Carolina Legislature
assured a commissioner from Georgia that North Carolina would
never consent to the movement of troops "from or across" the
State to attack a seceding State. But neither Virginia nor North
Carolina in this second stage of the movement wanted to secede.
They wanted to preserve the Union, but along with the Union they
wanted the principle of local autonomy. It was a period of tense
anxiety in those States of the upper South. The frame of mind of
the men who loved the Union but who loved equally their own
States and were firm for local autonomy is summed up in a letter
in which Mrs. Robert E. Lee describes the anguish of her husband
as he confronted the possibility of a divided country.

The real tragedy of the time lay in the failure of the advocates
of these two great principles--each so necessary to a far-flung
democratic country in a world of great powers!--the failure to
coordinate them so as to insure freedom at home and strength
abroad. The principle for which Lincoln stood has saved Americans
in the Great War from playing such a trembling part as that of
Holland. The principle which seemed to Lee even more essential,
which did not perish at Appomattox but was transformed and not
destroyed, is what has kept us from becoming a western Prussia.
And yet if only it had been possible to coordinate the two
without the price of war! It was not possible because of the
stored up bitterness of a quarter century of recrimination. But
Virginia made a last desperate attempt to preserve the Union by
calling the Peace Convention. It assembled at Washington the day
the Confederate Congress met at Montgomery. Though twenty-one
States sent delegates, it was no more able to effect a working
scheme of compromise than was the House committee of thirty-three
or the Senate committee of thirteen, both of which had striven,
had failed, and had gone their ways to a place in the great
company of historic futilities.

And so the Peace Convention came and went, and there was no
consolation for the troubled men of the upper South who did not
want to secede but were resolved not to abandon local autonomy.
Virginia was the key to the situation. If Virginia could be
forced into secession, the rest of the upper South would
inevitably follow. Therefore a Virginia hothead, Roger A. Pryor,
being in Charleston in those wavering days, poured out his heart
in fiery words, urging a Charleston crowd to precipitate war, in
the certainty that Virginia would then have to come to their aid.
When at last Sumter was fired upon and Lincoln called for
volunteers, the second stage of the secession movement ended in a
thunderclap. The third period was occupied by the second group of
secessions: Virginia on the 17th of April, North Carolina and
Arkansas during May, Tennessee early in June.

Sumter was the turning-point. The boom of the first cannon
trained on the island fortress deserves all the rhetoric it has
inspired. Who was immediately responsible for that firing which
was destiny? Ultimate responsibility is not upon any person. War
had to be. If Sumter had not been the starting-point, some other
would have been found. Nevertheless the question of immediate
responsibility, of whose word it was that served as the signal to
begin, has produced an historic controversy.

When it was known at Charleston that Lincoln would attempt to
provision the fort, the South Carolina authorities referred the
matter to the Confederate authorities. The Cabinet, in a fateful
session at Montgomery, hesitated--drawn between the wish to keep
their hold upon the moderates of the North, who were trying to
stave off war, and the desire to precipitate Virginia into the
lists. Toombs, Secretary of State in the new Government, wavered;
then seemed to find his resolution and came out strong against a
demand for surrender. "It is suicide, murder, and will lose us
every friend at the North.... It is unnecessary; it puts us
in the wrong; it is fatal," said he. But the Cabinet and the
President decided to take the risk. To General Pierre Beauregard,
recently placed in command of the militia assembled at
Charleston, word was sent to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter.

On Thursday, the 7th of April, besides his instructions from
Montgomery, Beauregard was in receipt of a telegram from the
Confederate commissioners at Washington, repeating newspaper
statements that the Federal relief expedition intended to land a
force "which will overcome all opposition." There seems no doubt
that Beauregard did not believe that the expedition was intended
merely to provision Sumter. Probably every one in Charleston
thought that the Federal authorities were trying to deceive them,
that Lincoln's promise not to do more than provision Sumter was a
mere blind. Fearfulness that delay might render Sumter
impregnable lay back of Beauregard's formal demand, on the 11th
of April, for the surrender of the fort. Anderson refused but
"made some verbal observations" to the aides who brought him the
demand. In effect he said that lack of supplies would compel him
to surrender by the fifteenth. When this information was taken
back to the city, eager crowds were in the streets of Charleston
discussing the report that a bombardment would soon begin. But
the afternoon passed; night fell; and nothing was done. On the
beautiful terrace along the sea known as East Battery, people
congregated, watching the silent fortress whose brick walls rose
sheer from the midst of the harbor. The early hours of the night
went by and as midnight approached and still there was no flash
from either the fortress or the shore batteries which threatened
it, the crowds broke up.

Meanwhile there was anxious consultation at the hotel where
Beauregard had fixed his headquarters. Pilots came in from the
sea to report to the General that a Federal vessel had appeared
off the mouth of the harbor. This news may well explain the hasty
dispatch of a second expedition to Sumter in the middle of the
night. At half after one, Friday morning, four young men, aides
of Beauregard, entered the fort. Anderson repeated his refusal to
surrender at once but admitted that he would have to surrender
within three days. Thereupon the aides held a council of war.
They decided that the reply was unsatisfactory and wrote out a
brief note which they handed to Anderson informing him that the
Confederates would open "fire upon Fort Sumter in one hour from
this time." The note was dated 3:20 A.M. The aides then proceeded
to Fort Johnston on the south side of the harbor and gave the
order to fire.

The council of the aides at Sumter is the dramatic detail that
has caught the imagination of historians and has led them, at
least in some cases, to yield to a literary temptation. It is so
dramatic--that scene of the four young men holding in their
hands, during a moment of absolute destiny, the fate of a people;
four young men, in the irresponsible ardor of youth, refusing to
wait three days and forcing war at the instant! It is so dramatic
that one cannot judge harshly the artistic temper which is unable
to reject it. But is the incident historic? Did the four young
men come to Sumter without definite instructions? Was their
conference really anything more than a careful comparing of notes
to make sure they were doing what they were intended to do? Is
not the real clue to the event a message from Beauregard to the
Secretary of War telling of his interview with the pilots? *

*A chief authority for the dramatic version of the council of the
aides is that fiery Virginian, Roger A. Pryor. He and another
accompanied the official messengers, the signers of the note to
Anderson, James Chestnut and Stephen Lee. Years afterwards Pryor
told the story of the council in a way to establish its dramatic
significance. But would there be anything strange if a veteran
survivor, looking back to his youth, as all of us do through more
or less of mirage yielded to the unconscious artist that is in us
all and dramatized this event unaware?

Dawn was breaking gray, with a faint rain in the air, when the
first boom of the cannon awakened the city. Other detonations
followed in quick succession. Shells rose into the night from
both sides of the harbor and from floating batteries. How lightly
Charleston slept that night may be inferred from the accounts in
the newspapers. "At the report of the first gun," says the
Courier, "the city was nearly emptied of its inhabitants who
crowded the Battery and the wharves to witness the conflict."

The East Battery and the lower harbor of the lovely city of
Charleston have been preserved almost without alteration. What
they are today they were in the breaking dawn on April 12, 1861.
Business has gone up the rivers between which Charleston lies and
has left the point of the city's peninsula, where East Battery
looks outward to the Atlantic, in its perfect charm. There large
houses, pillared, with high piazzas, stand apart one from another
among gardens. With few exceptions they were built before the
middle of the century and all, with one exception, show the
classical taste of those days. The mariner, entering the spacious
inner sea that is Charleston Harbor, sights this row of stately
mansions even before he crosses the bar seven miles distant.
Holding straight onward up into the land he heads first for the
famous little island where, nowadays, in their halo of thrilling
recollection, the walls of Sumter, rising sheer from the bosom of
the water, drowse idle. Close under the lee of Sumter, the
incoming steersman brings his ship about and chooses, probably,
the eastward of two huge tentacles of the sea between which lies
the city's long but narrow peninsula. To the steersman it shows a
skyline serrated by steeples, fronted by sea, flanked southward
by sea, backgrounded by an estuary, and looped about by a sickle
of wooded islands. This same scene, so far as city and nature
go, was beheld by the crowds that swarmed East Battery, a
flagstone marine parade along the seaward side of the boulevard
that faces Sumter; that filled the windows and even the
housetops; that watched the bombardment with the eagerness of an
audience in an amphitheater; that applauded every telling shot
with clapping of hands and waving of shawls and handkerchiefs.
The fort lay distant from them about three miles, but only some
fifteen hundred yards from Fort Johnston on one side and about a
mile from Fort Moultrie on the other. From both of these latter,
the cannon of those days were equal to the task of harassing
Sumter. Early in the morning of the 12th of April, though not
until broad day had come, did Anderson make reply. All that day,
at first under heavily rolling cloud and later through curiously
misty sunshine, the fire and counterfire continued. "The
enthusiasm and fearlessness of the spectators," says the
Charleston Mercury, "knew no bounds." Reckless observers even put
out in small boats and roamed about the harbor almost under the
guns of the fort. Outside the bar, vessels of the relieving
squadron were now visible, and to these Anderson signaled for
aid. They made an attempt to reach the fort, but only part of the
squadron had arrived; and the vessels necessary to raise the
siege were not there. The attempt ended in failure. When night
came, a string of rowboats each carrying a huge torch kept watch
along the bar to guard against surprise from the sea.

On that Friday night the harbor was swept by storm. But in spite
of torrents of rain East Battery and the rooftops were thronged.
"The wind was inshore and the booming was startlingly distinct."
At the height of the bombardment, the sky above Sumter seemed to
be filled with the flashes of bursting shells. But during this
wild night Sumter itself was both dark and silent. Its casements
did not have adequate lamps and the guns could not be used except
by day. When morning broke, clear and bright after the night's
storm, the duel was resumed.

The walls of Sumter were now crumbling. At eight o'clock Saturday
morning the barracks took fire. Soon after it was perceived from
the shore that the flag was down. Beauregard at once sent offers
of assistance. With Sumter in flames above his head, Anderson
replied that he had not surrendered; he declined assistance; and
he hauled up his flag. Later in the day the flagstaff was shot in
two and again the flag fell, and again it was raised. Flames had
been kindled anew by red-hot shot, and now the magazine was in
danger. Quantities of powder were thrown into the sea. Still the
rain of red-hot shot continued. About noon, Saturday, says the
Courier, "flames burst out from every quarter of Sumter and
poured from many of its portholes...the wind was from the
west driving the smoke across the fort into the embrasures where
the gunners were at work." Nevertheless, "as if served with a new
impulse," the guns of Sumter redoubled their fire. But it was not
in human endurance to keep on in the midst of the burning fort.
This splendid last effort was short. At a quarter after one,
Anderson ceased firing and raised a white flag. Negotiations
followed ending in terms of surrender--Anderson to be allowed to
remove his garrison to the fleet lying idle beyond the bar and to
salute the flag of the United States before taking it down. The
bombardment had lasted thirty-two hours without a death on either
side. The evacuation of the fort was to take place next day.

The afternoon of Sunday, the 14th of April, was a gala day in the
harbor of Charleston. The sunlight slanted across the roofs of
the city, sparkled upon the sea. Deep and rich the harbor always
looks in the spring sunshine on bright afternoons. The filmy
atmosphere of these latitudes, at that time of year, makes the
sky above the darkling, afternoon sea a pale but luminous
turquoise. There is a wonderful soft strength in the peaceful
brightness of the sun. In such an atmosphere the harbor was
flecked with brilliantly decked craft of every description, all
in a flutter of flags and carrying a host of passengers in gala
dress. The city swarmed across the water to witness the ceremony
of evacuation. Wherry men did a thriving business carrying
passengers to the fort.

Anderson withdrew from Sumter shortly after two o'clock amid a
salute of fifty guns. The Confederates took possession. At half
after four a new flag was raised above the battered and
fire-swept walls.

Chapter II. The Davis Government

It has never been explained why Jefferson Davis was chosen
President of the Confederacy. He did not seek the office and did
not wish it. He dreamed of high military command. As a study in
the irony of fate, Davis's career is made to the hand of the
dramatist. An instinctive soldier, he was driven by circumstances
three times to renounce the profession of arms for a less
congenial civilian life. His final renunciation, which proved to
be of the nature of tragedy, was his acceptance of the office of
President. Indeed, why the office was given to him seems a
mystery. Rhett was a more logical candidate. And when Rhett,
early in the lobbying at Montgomery, was set aside as too much of
a radical, Toombs seemed for a time the certain choice of the
majority. The change to Davis came suddenly at the last moment.
It was puzzling at the time; it is puzzling still.

Rhett, though doubtless bitterly disappointed, bore himself with
the savoir faire of a great gentleman. At the inauguration, it
was on Rhett's arm that Davis leaned as he entered the hall of
the Confederate Congress. The night before, in a public address,
Yancey had said that the man and the hour were met. The story of
the Confederacy is filled with dramatic moments, but to the
thoughtful observer few are more dramatic than the conjunction of
these three men in the inauguration of the Confederate President.
Beneath a surface of apparent unanimity they carried, like
concealed weapons, points of view that were in deadly antagonism.
This antagonism had not revealed itself hitherto. It was destined
to reveal itself almost immediately. It went so deep and spread
so far that unless we understand it, the Confederate story will
be unintelligible.

A strange fatality destined all three of these great men to
despair. Yancey, who was perhaps most directly answerable of the
three for the existence of the Confederacy, lost influence almost
from the moment when his dream became established. Davis was
partly responsible, for he promptly sent him out of the country
on the bootless English mission. Thereafter, until his death in
1863, Yancey was a waning, overshadowed figure, steadily lapsing
into the background. It may be that those critics are right who
say he was only an agitator. The day of the mere agitator was
gone. Yancey passed rapidly into futile but bitter antagonism to
Davis. In this attitude he was soon to be matched by Rhett.

The discontent of the Rhett faction because their leader was not
given the portfolio of the State Department found immediate
voice. But the conclusion drawn by some that Rhett's subsequent
course sprang from personal vindictiveness is trifling. He was
too large a personality, too well defined an intellect, to be
thus explained. Very probably Davis made his first great blunder
in failing to propitiate the Rhett faction. And yet few things
are more certain than that the two men, the two factions which
they symbolized, could not have formed a permanent alliance. Had
Rhett entered the Cabinet he could not have remained in it
consistently for any considerable time. The measures in which,
presently, the Administration showed its hand were measures in
which Rhett could not acquiesce. From the start he was
predestined to his eventual position--the great, unavailing
genius of the opposition.

As to the comparative ignoring of these leaders of secession by
the Government which secession had created, it is often said that
the explanation is to be found in a generous as well as politic
desire to put in office the moderates and even the conservatives.
Davis, relatively, was a moderate. Stephens was a conservative.
Many of the most pronounced opponents of secession were given
places in the public service. Toombs, who received the portfolio
of State, though a secessionist, was conspicuously a moderate
when compared with Rhett and Yancey. The adroit Benjamin, who
became Attorney-General, had few points in common with the great
extremists of Alabama and South Carolina.

However, the dictum that the personnel of the new Government was
a triumph for conservatism over radicalism signifies little.
There was a division among Southerners which scarcely any of them
had realized except briefly in the premature battle over
secession in 1851. It was the division between those who were
conscious of the region as a whole and those who were not.
Explain it as you will, there was a moment just after the
secession movement succeeded when the South seemed to realize
itself as a whole, when it turned intuitively to those men who,
as time was to demonstrate, shared this realization. For the
moment it turned away from those others, however great their part
in secession, who lacked this sense of unity.

At this point, geography becomes essential. The South fell,
institutionally, into two grand divisions: one, with an old and
firmly established social order, where consciousness of the
locality went back to remote times; another, newly settled, where
conditions were still fluid, where that sense of the sacredness
of local institutions had not yet formed.

A typical community of the first-named class was South Carolina.
Her people had to a remarkable degree been rendered
state-conscious partly by their geographical neighbors, and
partly by their long and illustrious history, which had been
interwoven with great European interests during the colonial era
and with great national interests under the Republic. It is
possible also that the Huguenots, though few in numbers, had
exercised upon the State a subtle and pervasive influence through
their intellectual power and their Latin sense for institutions.

In South Carolina, too, a wealthy leisure class with a passion
for affairs had cultivated enthusiastically that fine art which
is the pride of all aristocratic societies, the service of the
State as a profession high and exclusive, free from vulgar taint.
In South Carolina all things conspired to uphold and strengthen
the sense of the State as an object of veneration, as something
over and above the mere social order, as the sacred embodiment of
the ideals of the community. Thus it is fair to say that what has
animated the heroic little countries of the Old World Switzerland
and Serbia and ever-glorious Belgium--with their passion to
remain themselves, animated South Carolina in 1861. Just as
Serbia was willing to fight to the death rather than merge her
identity in the mosaic of the Austrian Empire, so this little
American community saw nothing of happiness in any future that
did not secure its virtual independence.

Typical of the newer order in the South was the community that
formed the President of the Confederacy. In the history of
Mississippi previous to the war there are six great names--Jacob
Thompson, John A. Quitman, Henry S. Foote, Robert J. Walker,
Sergeant S. Prentiss, and Jefferson Davis. Not one of them was
born in the State. Thompson was born in North Carolina; Quitman
in New York; Foote in Virginia; Walker in Pennsylvania; Prentiss
in Maine; Davis in Kentucky. In 1861 the State was but forty-four
years old, younger than its most illustrious sons--if the paradox
may be permitted. How could they think of it as an entity
existing in itself, antedating not only themselves but their
traditions, circumscribing them with its all-embracing,
indisputable reality? These men spoke the language of state
rights. It is true that in politics, combating the North, they
used the political philosophy taught them by South Carolina. But
it was a mental weapon in political debate; it was not for them
an emotional fact.

And yet these men of the Southwest had an ideal of their own as
vivid and as binding as the state ideal of the men of the eastern
coast. Though half their leaders were born in the North, the
people themselves were overwhelmingly Southern. From all the
older States, all round the huge crescent which swung around from
Kentucky coastwise to Florida, immigration in the twenties and
thirties had poured into Mississippi. Consequently the new
community presented a composite picture of the whole South, and
like all composite pictures it emphasized only the factors common
to all its parts. What all the South had in common, what made a
man a Southerner in the general sense--in distinction from a
Northerner on the one hand, or a Virginian, Carolinian, Georgian,
on the other--could have been observed with clearness in
Mississippi, just before the war, as nowhere else. Therefore, the
fulfillment of the ideal of Southern life in general terms was
the vision of things hoped for by the new men of the Southwest.
The features of that vision were common to them all--country
life, broad acres, generous hospitality, an aristocratic system.
The temperaments of these men were sufficiently buoyant to enable
them to apprehend this ideal even before it had materialized.
Their romantic minds could see the gold at the end of the
rainbow. Theirs was not the pride of administering a
well-ordered, inherited system, but the joy of building a new
system, in their minds wholly elastic, to be sure, but still
inspired by that old system.

What may be called the sense of Southern nationality as opposed
to the sense of state rights, strictly speaking, distinguished
this brilliant young community of the Southwest. In that
community Davis spent the years that appear to have been the most
impressionable of his life. Belonging to a "new" family just
emerging into wealth, he began life as a West Pointer and saw
gallant service as a youth on the frontier; resigned from the
army to pursue a romantic attachment; came home to lead the life
of a wealthy planter and receive the impress of Mississippi; made
his entry into politics, still a soldier at heart, with the
philosophy of state rights on his lips, but in his heart that
sense of the Southern people as a new nation, which needed only
the occasion to make it the relentless enemy of the rights of the
individual Southern States. Add together the instinctive military
point of view and this Southern nationalism that even in 1861 had
scarcely revealed itself; join with these a fearless and haughty
spirit, proud to the verge of arrogance, but perfectly devoted,
perfectly sincere; and you have the main lines of the political
character of Davis when he became President. It may be that as he
went forward in his great undertaking, as antagonisms developed,
as Rhett and others turned against him, Davis hardened. He lost
whatever comprehension he once had of the Rhett type. Seeking to
weld into one irresistible unit all the military power of the
South, he became at last in the eyes of his opponents a monster,
while to him, more and more positively, the others became mere

It took about a year for this irrepressible conflict within the
Confederacy to reveal itself. During the twelve months following
Davis's election as provisional President, he dominated the
situation, though the Charleston Mercury, the Rhett organ, found
opportunities to be sharply critical of the President. He
assembled armies; he initiated heroic efforts to make up for the
handicap of the South in the manufacture of munitions and
succeeded in starting a number of munition plants; though
powerless to prevent the establishment of the blockade, he was
able during that first year to keep in touch with Europe, to
start out Confederate privateers upon the high seas, and to
import a considerable quantity of arms and supplies. At the
close of the year the Confederate armies were approaching
general efficiency, for all their enormous handicap, almost if
not quite as rapidly as were the Union armies. And the one great
event of the year on land, the first battle of Manassas, or Bull
Run, was a signal Confederate victory.

To be sure Davis was severely criticized in some quarters for
not adopting an aggressive policy. The Confederate Government,
whether wisely or foolishly, had not taken the people into its
confidence and the lack of munitions was not generally
appreciated. The easy popular cries were all sounded: "We are
standing still!" "The country is being invaded!" "The President
is a do-nothing!" From the coast regions especially, where the
blockade was felt in all its severity, the outcry was loud.

Nevertheless, the South in the main was content with the
Administration during most of the first year. In November, when
the general elections were held, Davis was chosen without
opposition as the first regular Confederate President for six
years, and Stephens became the Vice-President. The election was
followed by an important change in the Southern Cabinet. Benjamin
became Secretary of War, in succession to the first War
Secretary, Leroy P. Walker. Toombs had already left the
Confederate Cabinet. Complaining that Davis degraded him to the
level of a mere clerk, he had withdrawn the previous July. His
successor in the State Department was R. M. T. Hunter of
Virginia, who remained in office until February, 1862, when his
removal to the Confederate Senate opened the way for a further
advancement of Benjamin.

Richmond, which had been designated as the capital soon after the
secession of Virginia, was the scene of the inauguration, on
February 22, 1862. Although the weather proved bleak and rainy,
an immense crowd gathered around the Washington monument, in
Capitol Square, to listen to the inaugural address. By this time
the confidence in the Government, which was felt generally at the
time of the election, had suffered a shock. Foreign affairs were
not progressing satisfactorily. Though England had accorded to
the Confederacy the status of a belligerent, this was poor
consolation for her refusal to make full recognition of the new
Government as an independent power. Dread of internal distress
was increasing. Gold commanded a premium of fifty percent.
Disorder was a feature of the life in the cities. It was known
that several recent military events had been victories for the
Federals. A rumor was abroad that some great disaster had taken
place in Tennessee. The crowd listened anxiously to hear the
rumor denied by the President. But it was not denied. The tense
listeners noted two sentences which formed an admission that the
situation was grave: "A million men, it is estimated, are now
standing in hostile array and waging war along a frontier of
thousands of miles. Battles have been fought, sieges have been
conducted, and although the contest is not ended, and the tide
for the moment is against us, the final result in our favor is
not doubtful."

Behind these carefully guarded words lay serious alarm, not only
with regard to the operations at the front but as to the
composition of the army. It had been raised under various laws
and its portions were subject to conflicting classifications; it
was partly a group of state armies, partly a single Confederate
army. None of its members had enlisted for long terms. Many
enlistments would expire early in 1862. The fears of the
Confederate Administration with regard to this matter, together
with its alarm about the events at the front, were expressed by
Davis in a frank message to the Southern Congress, three days
later. "I have hoped," said he, "for several days to receive
official reports in relation to our discomfiture at Roanoke
Island and the fall of Fort Donelson. They have not yet reached
Me.... The hope is still entertained that our reported losses
at Fort Donelson have been greatly exaggerated...." He went
on to condemn the policy of enlistments for short terms, "against
which," said he, "I have steadily contended"; and he enlarged
upon the danger that even patriotic men, who intended to
reenlist, might go home to put their affairs in order and that
thus, at a critical moment, the army might be seriously reduced.
The accompanying report of the Confederate Secretary of War
showed a total in the army of 340,250 men. This was an inadequate
force with which to meet the great hosts which were being
organized against it in the North. To permit the slightest
reduction of the army at that moment seemed to the Southern
President suicidal.

But Davis waited some time longer before proposing to the
Confederate Congress the adoption of conscription. Meanwhile, the
details of two great reverses, the loss of Roanoke Island and the
loss of Fort Donelson, became generally known. Apprehension
gathered strength. Newspapers began to discuss conscription as
something inevitable. At last, on March 28, 1862, Davis sent a
message to the Confederate Congress advising the conscription of
all white males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. For
this suggestion Congress was ripe, and the first Conscription Act
of the Confederacy was signed by the President on the 16th of
April. The age of eligibility was fixed as Davis had advised; the
term of service was to be three years; every one then in service
was to be retained in service during three years from the date of
his original enlistment.

This statute may be thought of as a great victory on the part of
the Administration. It was the climax of a policy of
centralization in the military establishment to which Davis had
committed himself by the veto, in January, of "A bill to
authorize the Secretary of War to receive into the service of the
Confederate States a regiment of volunteers for the protection of
the frontier of Texas." This regiment was to be under the control
of the Governor of the State. In refusing to accept such troops,
Davis laid down the main proposition upon which he stood as
military executive to the end of the war, a proposition which
immediately set debate raging: "Unity and cooperation by the
troops of all the States are indispensable to success, and I must
view with regret this as well as all other indications of a
purpose to divide the power of States by dividing the means to be
employed in efforts to carry on separate operations."

In these military measures of the early months of 1862 Davis's
purpose became clear. He was bent upon instituting a strong
government, able to push the war through, and careless of the
niceties of constitutional law or of the exact prerogatives of
the States. His position was expressed in the course of the year
by a Virginia newspaper: "It will be time enough to distract the
councils of the State about imaginary violations of
constitutional law by the supreme government when our
independence is achieved, established, and acknowledged. It will
not be until then that the sovereignty of the States will be a
reality." But there were many Southerners who could not accept
this point of view. The Mercury was sharply critical of the veto
of the Texas Regiment Bill. In the interval between the Texas
veto and the passing of the Conscription Act, the state
convention of North Carolina demanded the return of North
Carolina volunteers for the defense of their own State. No sooner
was the Conscription Act passed than its constitutionality was
attacked. As the Confederacy had no Supreme Court, the question
came up before state courts. One after another, several state
supreme courts pronounced the act constitutional and in most of
the States the constitutional issue was gradually allowed to

Nevertheless, Davis had opened Pandora's box. The clash between
State and Confederate authority had begun. An opposition party
began to form. In this first stage of its definite existence, the
opposition made an interesting attempt to control the Cabinet.
Secretary Benjamin, though greatly trusted by the President,
seems never to have been a popular minister. Congress attempted
to load upon Benjamin the blame for Roanoke Island and Fort
Donelson. In the House a motion was introduced to the effect that
Benjamin had "not the confidence of the people of the Confederate
States nor of the army...and that we most respectfully
request his retirement" from the office of Secretary of War.
Friends of the Administration tabled the motion. Davis extricated
his friend by taking advantage of Hunter's retirement and
promoting Benjamin to the State Department. A month later a
congressional committee appointed to investigate the affair of
Roanoke Island exonerated the officer in command and laid the
blame on his superiors, including "the late Secretary of War."

With Benjamin safe in the Department of State, with the majority
in the Confederate Congress still fairly manageable, with the
Conscription Act in force, Davis seemed to be strong enough in
the spring of 1862 to ignore the gathering opposition. And yet
there was another measure, second only in the President's eyes to
the Conscription Act, that was to breed trouble. This was the
first of the series of acts empowering him to suspend the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Under this act he was
permitted to set up martial law in any district threatened with
invasion. The cause of this drastic measure was the confusion and
the general demoralization that existed wherever the close
approach of the enemy created a situation too complex for the
ordinary civil authorities. Davis made use of the power thus
given to him and proclaimed martial law in Richmond, in Norfolk,
in parts of South Carolina, and elsewhere. It was on Richmond
that the hand of the Administration fell heaviest. The capital
was the center of a great camp; its sudden and vast increase in
population bad been the signal for all the criminal class near
and far to hurry thither in the hope of a new field of
spoliation; to deal with this immense human congestion, the local
police were powerless; every variety of abominable contrivance to
entrap and debauch men for a price was in brazen operation. The
first care of the Government under the new law was the cleansing
of the capital. General John H. Winder, appointed military
governor, did the job with thoroughness. He closed the barrooms,
disarmed the populace, and for the time at least swept the city
clean of criminals. The Administration also made certain
political arrests, and even imprisoned some extreme opponents of
the Government for "offenses not enumerated and not cognizable
under the regular process of law." Such arrests gave the enemies
of the Administration another handle against it. As we shall see
later, the use that Davis made of martial law was distorted by a
thousand fault-finders and was made the basis of the charge that
the President was aiming at absolute power.

At the moment, however, Davis was master of the situation. The
six months following April 1, 1862, were doubtless, from his own
point of view, the most satisfactory part of his career as
Confederate President. These months were indeed filled with
peril. There was a time when McClellan's advance up the Peninsula
appeared so threatening that the archives of the Government were
packed on railway cars prepared for immediate removal should
evacuation be necessary. There were the other great disasters
during that year, including the loss of New Orleans. The
President himself experienced a profound personal sorrow in the
death of his friend, Albert Sidney Johnston, in the bloody fight
at Shiloh. It was in the midst of this time that tried men's
souls that the Richmond Examiner achieved an unenvied
immortality for one of its articles on the Administration. At a
moment when nothing should have been said to discredit in any way
the struggling Government, it described Davis as weak with fear
telling his beads in a corner of St. Paul's Church. This paper,
along with the Charleston Mercury, led the Opposition. Throughout
Confederate history these two, which were very ably edited, did
the thinking for the enemies of Davis. We shall meet them time
and again.

A true picture of Davis would have shown the President resolute
and resourceful, at perhaps the height of his powers. He
recruited and supplied the armies; he fortified Richmond; he
sustained the great captain whom he had placed in command while
McClellan was at the gates. When the tide had turned and the Army
of the Potomac sullenly withdrew, baffled, there occurred the one
brief space in Confederate history that was pure sunshine. In
this period took place the splendid victory of Second Manassas.
The strong military policy of the Administration had given the
Confederacy powerful armies. Lee had inspired them with victory.
This period of buoyant hope culminated in the great offensive
design which followed Second Manassas. It was known that the
Northern people, or a large part of them, had suffered a
reaction; the tide was setting strong against the Lincoln
Government; in the autumn, the Northern elections would be held.
To influence those elections and at the same time to drive the
Northern armies back into their own section; to draw Maryland and
Kentucky into the Confederate States; to fall upon the invaders
in the Southwest and recover the lower Mississippi--to accomplish
all these results was the confident expectation of the President
and his advisers as they planned their great triple offensive in
August, 1862. Lee was to invade Maryland; Bragg was to invade
Kentucky; Van Dorn was to break the hold of the Federals in the
Southwest. If there is one moment that is to be considered the
climax of Davis's career, the high-water mark of Confederate
hope, it was the moment of joyous expectation when the triple
offensive was launched, when Lee's army, on a brilliant autumn
day, crossed the Potomac, singing "Maryland, my Maryland".

Chapter III. The Fall Of King Cotton

While the Confederate Executive was building up its military
establishment, the Treasury was struggling with the problem of
paying for it. The problem was destined to become insoluble. From
the vantage-point of a later time we can now see that nothing
could have provided a solution short of appropriation and
mobilization of the whole industrial power of the country along
with the whole military power--a conscription of wealth of every
kind together with conscription of men. But in 1862 such an idea
was too advanced for any group of Americans. Nor, in that year,
was there as yet any certain evidence that the Treasury was
facing an impossible situation. Its endeavors were taken
lightly--at first, almost gaily-because of the profound illusion
which permeated Southern thought that Cotton was King. Obviously,
if the Southern ports could be kept open and cotton could
continue to go to market, the Confederate financial problem was
not serious. When Davis, soon after his first inauguration, sent
Yancey, Rost, and Mann as commissioners to Europe to press the
claims of the Confederacy for recognition, very few Southerners
had any doubt that the blockade, would be short-lived. "Cotton is
King" was the answer that silenced all questions. Without
American cotton the English mills would have to shut down; the
operatives would starve; famine and discontent would between them
force the British ministry to intervene in American affairs.
There were, indeed, a few far-sighted men who perceived that this
confidence was ill-based and that cotton, though it was a power
in the financial world, was not the commercial king. The majority
of the population, however, had to learn this truth from keen

Several events of 1861 for a time seemed to confirm this
illusion. The Queen's proclamation in the spring, giving the
Confederacy the status of a belligerent, and, in the autumn, the
demand by the British Government for the surrender of the
commissioners, Mason and Slidell, who had been taken from a
British packet by a Union cruiser--both these events seemed to
indicate active British sympathy. In England, to be sure, Yancey
became disillusioned. He saw that the international situation was
not so simple as it seemed; that while the South had powerful
friends abroad, it also had powerful foes; that the British
anti-slavery party was a more formidable enemy than he had
expected it to be; and that intervention was not a foregone
conclusion. The task of an unrecognized ambassador being too
annoying for him, Yancey was relieved at his own request and
Mason was sent out to take his place. A singular little incident
like a dismal prophecy occurred as Yancey was on his way home. He
passed through Havana early in 1862, when the news of the
surrender of Fort Donelson had begun to stagger the hopes and
impair the prestige of the Confederates. By the advice of the
Confederate agent in Cuba, Yancey did not call on the Spanish
Governor but sent him word that "delicacy alone prompted his
departure without the gratification of a personal interview." The
Governor expressed himself as "exceedingly grateful for the noble
sentiment which prevented" Yancey from causing international
complications at Havana.

The history of the first year of Confederate foreign affairs is
interwoven with the history of Confederate finance. During that
year the South became a great buyer in Europe. Arms, powder,
cloth, machinery, medicines, ships, a thousand things, had all to
be bought abroad. To establish the foreign credit of the new
Government was the arduous task of the Confederate Secretary of
the Treasury, Christopher G. Memminger. The first great campaign
of the war was not fought by armies. It was a commercial campaign
fought by agents of the Federal and Confederate governments and
having for its aim the cornering of the munitions market in
Europe. In this campaign the Federal agents had decisive
advantages: their credit was never questioned, and their enormous
purchases were never doubtful ventures for the European sellers.
In some cases their superior credit enabled them to overbid the
Confederate agents and to appropriate large contracts which the
Confederates had negotiated but which they could not hold because
of the precariousness of their credit. And yet, all things
considered, the Confederate agents made a good showing. In the
report of the Secretary of War in February, 1862, the number of
rifles contracted for abroad was put at 91,000, of which 15,000
had been delivered. The chief reliance of the Confederate
Treasury for its purchases abroad was at first the specie in the
Southern branch of the United States Mint and in Southern banks.
The former the Confederacy seized and converted to its own use.
Of the latter it lured into its own hands a very large proportion
by what is commonly called "the fifteen million loan"--an issue
eight percent bonds authorized in February, 1861. Most of this
specie seems to have been taken out of the country by the
purchase of European commodities. A little, to be sure, remained,
for there was some gold still at home when the Confederacy fell.
But the sum was small.

In addition to this loan Memminger also persuaded Congress on
August 19, 1861, to lay a direct tax--the "war tax," as it was
called--of one-half of one per cent on all property except
Confederate bonds and money. As required by the Constitution this
tax was apportioned among the States, but if it assumed its
assessment before April 1, 1862, each State was to have a
reduction of ten per cent. As there was a general aversion to the
idea of Confederate taxation and a general faith in loans, what
the States did, as a rule, was to assume their assessment, agree
to pay it into the Treasury, and then issue bonds to raise the
necessary funds, thus converting the war tax into a loan.

The Confederate, like the Union, Treasury did not have the
courage to force the issue upon taxation and leaned throughout
the war largely upon loans. It also had recourse to the perilous
device of paper money, the gold value of which was not
guaranteed. Beginning in March, 1861, it issued under successive
laws great quantities of paper notes, some of them interest
bearing, some not. It used these notes in payment of its domestic
obligations. The purchasing value of the notes soon started on a
disastrous downward course, and in 1864 the gold dollar was worth
thirty paper dollars. The Confederate Government thus became
involved in a problem of self-preservation that was but half
solved by the system of tithes and impressment which we shall
encounter later. The depreciation of these notes left
governmental clerks without adequate salaries and soldiers
without the means of providing for their families. During most of
the war, women and other noncombatants had to support the
families or else rely upon local charity organized by state or
county boards.

Long before all the evils of paper money were experienced, the
North, with great swiftness, concentrated its naval forces so as
to dominate the Southern ports which had trade relations with
Europe. The shipping ports were at once congested with cotton to
the great embarrassment of merchants and planters. Partly to
relieve them, the Confederate Congress instituted in May, 1861,
what is known today as "the hundred million loan." It was the
first of a series of "produce loans." The Treasury was authorized
to issue eight percent bonds, to fall due in twenty years, and
to sell them for specie or to exchange them for produce or
manufactured articles. In the course of the remaining months of
1861 there were exchanged for these bonds great quantities of
produce including some 400,000 bales of cotton.

In spite of the distress of the planters, however, the illusion
of King Cotton's power does not seem to have been seriously
impaired during 1861. In fact, strange as it now seems, the frame
of mind of the leaders appears to have been proof, that year,
against alarm over the blockade. For two reasons, the Confederacy
regarded the blockade at first as a blessing in disguise. It was
counted on to act as a protective tariff in stimulating
manufactures; and at the same time the South expected
interruption of the flow of cotton towards Europe to make England
feel her dependence upon the Confederacy. In this way there would
be exerted an economic coercion which would compel intervention.
Such reasoning lay behind a law passed in May forbidding the
export of cotton except through the seaports of the Confederacy.
Similar laws were enacted by the States. During the summer, many
cotton factors joined in advising the planters to hold their
cotton until the blockade broke down. In the autumn, the Governor
of Louisiana forbade the export of cotton from New Orleans. So
unshakeable was the illusion in 1861, that King Cotton had
England in his grip! The illusion died hard. Throughout 1862, and
even in 1863, the newspapers published appeals to the planters to
give up growing cotton for a time, and even to destroy what they
had, so as to coerce the obdurate Englishmen.

Meanwhile, Mason had been accorded by the British upper classes
that generous welcome which they have always extended to the
representative, of a people fighting gallantly against odds.
During the hopeful days of 1862--that Golden Age of
Confederacy--Mason, though not recognized by the English
Government, was shown every kindness by leading members of the
aristocracy, who visited him in London and received him at their
houses in the country. It was during this period of buoyant hope
that the Alabama was allowed to go to sea from Liverpool in July,
1862. At the same time Mason heard his hosts express undisguised
admiration for the valor of the soldiers serving under Jackson
and Lee. Whether he formed any true impression of the other side
of British idealism, its resolute opposition to slavery, may be
questioned. There seems little doubt that he did not perceive the
turning of the tide of English public opinion, in the autumn of
1862, following the Emancipation Proclamation and the great
reverses of September and October--Antietam-Sharpsburg,
Perryville, Corinth--the backflow of all three of the Confederate

The cotton famine in England, where perhaps a million people were
in actual want through the shutting down of cotton mills, seemed
to Mason to be "looming up in fearful proportions." "The public
mind," he wrote home in November, 1862, "is very much disturbed
by the prospect for the winter; and I am not without hope that it
will produce its effects on the councils of the government." Yet
it was the uprising of the British working people in favor of the
North that contributed to defeat the one important attempt to
intervene in American affairs. Napoleon III had made an offer of
mediation which was rejected by the Washington Government early
the next year. England and Russia had both declined to
participate in Napoleon's scheme, and their refusal marks the
beginning of the end of the reign of King Cotton.

At Paris, Slidell was even more hopeful than Mason. He had won
over Emile Erlanger, that great banker who was deep in the
confidence of Napoleon. So cordial became the relations between
the two that it involved their families and led at last to the
marriage of Erlanger's son with Slidell's daughter. Whether owing
to Slidell's eloquence, or from secret knowledge of the Emperor's
designs, or from his own audacity, Erlanger toward the close of
1862 made a proposal that is one of the most daring schemes of
financial plunging yet recorded. If the Confederate Government
would issue to him bonds secured by cotton, Erlanger would
underwrite the bonds, put the proceeds of their sale to the
credit of the Confederate agents, and wait for the cotton until
it could run the blockade or until peace should be declared. The
Confederate Government after some hesitation accepted his plan
and issued fifteen millions of "Erlanger bonds," bearing seven
percent, and put them on sale at Paris, London. Amsterdam, and

As a purchaser of these bonds was to be given cotton eventually
at a valuation of sixpence a pound, and as cotton was then
selling in England for nearly two shillings; the bold gamble
caught the fancy of speculators. There was a rush to take up the
bonds and to pay the first installment. But before the second
installment became due a mysterious change in the market took
place and the price of the bonds fell. Holders became alarmed and
some even proposed to forfeit their bonds rather than pay on May
1, 1863, the next installment of fifteen percent of the purchase
money. Thereupon Mason undertook to "bull" the market. Agents of
the United States Government were supposed to be at the bottom of
the drop in the bonds. To defeat their schemes the Confederate
agents bought back large amounts in bonds intending to resell.
The result was the expenditure of some six million dollars with
practically no effect on the market. These "Erlanger bonds" sold
slowly through 1863 and even in 1864, and netted a considerable
amount to the foreign agents of the Confederacy.

The comparative failure of the Erlanger loan marks the downfall
of King Cotton. He was an exploded superstition. He was unable,
despite the cotton famine, to coerce the English workingmen into
siding with a country which they regarded, because of its support
of slavery, as inimical to their interests. At home, the
Government confessed the powerlessness of King Cotton by a change
of its attitude toward export. During the latter part of the war,
the Government secured the meager funds at its disposal abroad by
rushing cotton in swift ships through the blockade. So important
did this traffic become that the Confederacy passed stringent
laws to keep the control in its own hands. One more cause of
friction between the Confederate and the State authorities was
thus developed: the Confederate navigation laws prevented the
States from running the blockade on their own account.

The effects of the blockade were felt at the ends of the earth.
India became an exporter of cotton. Egypt also entered the
competition. That singular dreamer, Ismail Pasha, whose reign
made Egypt briefly an exotic nation, neither eastern nor western,
found one of his opportunities in the American War and the
failure of the cotton supply.

Chapter IV. The Reaction Against Richmond

A popular revulsion of feeling preceded and followed the great
period of Confederate history--these six months of Titanic effort
which embraced between March and September, 1862, splendid
success along with catastrophes. But there was a marked
difference between the two tides of popular emotion. The wave of
alarm which swept over the South after the surrender of Fort
Donelson was quickly translated into such a high passion for
battle that the march of events until the day of Antietam
resounded like an epic. The failure of the triple offensive which
closed this period was followed in very many minds by the
appearance of a new temper, often as valiant as the old but far
more grim and deeply seamed with distrust. And how is this
distrust, of which the Confederate Administration was the object,
to be accounted for?

Various answers to this question were made at the time. The laws
of the spring of 1862 were attacked as unconstitutional. Davis
was held responsible for them and also for the slow equipment of
the army. Because the Confederate Congress conducted much of its
business in secret session, the President was charged with a love
of mystery and an unwillingness to take the people into his
confidence. Arrests under the law suspending the writ of habeas
corpus were made the texts for harangues on liberty. The right of
freedom of speech was dragged in when General Van Dorn, in the
Southwest, threatened with suppression any newspaper that
published anything which might impair confidence in a commanding
officer. How could he have dared to do this, was the cry, unless
the President was behind him? And when General Bragg assumed a
similar attitude toward the press, the same cry was raised.
Throughout the summer of victories, even while the thrilling
stories of Seven Pines, the Peninsula, Second Manassas, were
sounding like trumpets, these mutterings of discontent formed an
ominous accompaniment.

Yancey, speaking of the disturbed temper of the time, attributed
it to the general lack of information on the part of Southern
people as to what the Confederate Government was doing. His
proposed remedy was an end of the censorship which that
Government was attempting to maintain, the abandonment of the
secret sessions of its Congress, and the taking of the people
into its full confidence. Now a Senator from Alabama, he
attempted, at the opening of the congressional session in the
autumn of 1862, to abolish secret sessions, but in his efforts he
was not successful.

There seems little doubt that the Confederate Government had
blundered in being too secretive. Even from Congress, much
information was withheld. A curious incident has preserved what
appeared to the military mind the justification of this
reticence. The Secretary of War refused to comply with a request
for information, holding that be could not do so "without
disclosing the strength of our armies to many persons of
subordinate position whose secrecy cannot be relied upon." "I beg
leave to remind you," said he, "of a report made in response to a
similar one from the Federal Congress, communicated to them in
secret session, and now a part of our archives."

How much the country was in the dark with regard to some vital
matters is revealed by an attack on the Confederate
Administration which was made by the Charleston Mercury, in
February. The Southern Government was accused of unpardonable
slowness in sending agents to Europe to purchase munitions. In
point of fact, the Confederate Government had been more prompt
than the Union Government in rushing agents abroad. But the
country was not permitted to know this. Though the Courier was a
government organ in Charleston, it did not meet the charges of
the Mercury by disclosing the facts about the arduous attempts of
the Confederate Government to secure arms in Europe. The reply of
the Courier to the Mercury, though spirited, was all in general
terms. "To shake confidence in Jefferson Davis," said the
Courier, "is...to bring 'hideous ruin and combustion' down
upon our dearest hopes and interests." It made "Mr. Davis and his
defensive policy" objects of all admiration; called Davis "our
Moses." It was deeply indignant because it had been "reliably
informed that men of high official position among us" were
"calling for a General Convention of the Confederate States to
depose him and set up a military Dictator in his place." The
Mercury retorted that, as to the plot against "our Moses," there
was no evidence of its existence except the Courier's assertion.
Nevertheless, it considered Davis "an incubus to the cause." The
controversy between the Mercury and the Courier at Charleston was
paralleled at Richmond by the constant bickering between the
government organ, the Enquirer, and the Examiner, which shares
with the Mercury the first place among the newspapers hostile to

* The Confederate Government did not misapprehend the attitude of
the intellectual opposition. Its foreign organ, The Index,
published in London, characterized the leading Southern papers
for the enlightenment of the British public. While the Enquirer
and the Courier were singled out as the great champions of the
Confederate Government, the Examiner and the Mercury were
portrayed as its arch enemies. The Examiner was called the
"Ishmael of the Southern press." The Mercury was described as
"almost rabid on the subject of state rights."

Associated with the Examiner was a vigorous writer having
considerable power of the old-fashioned, furious sort, ever ready
to foam at the mouth. If he had had more restraint and less
credulity, Edward A. Pollard might have become a master of the
art of vituperation. Lacking these qualities, he never rose far
above mediocrity. But his fury was so determined and his
prejudice so invincible that his writings have something of the
power of conviction which fanaticism wields. In midsummer, 1862,
Pollard published a book entitled The First Year of the War,
which was commended by his allies in Charleston as showing no
"tendency toward unfairness of statement" and as expressing views
"mainly in accordance with popular opinion."

This book, while affecting to be an historical review, was
skillfully designed to discredit the Confederate Administration.
Almost every disaster, every fault of its management was
traceable more or less directly to Davis. Kentucky had been
occupied by the Federal army because of the "dull expectation" in
which the Confederate Government had stood aside waiting for
things somehow to right themselves. The Southern Congress had
been criminally slow in coming to conscription, contenting itself
with an army of 400,000 men that existed "on paper." "The most
distressing abuses were visible in the ill-regulated hygiene of
our camps." According to this book, the Confederate
Administration was solely to blame for the loss of Roanoke
Island. In calling that disaster "deeply humiliating," as he did
in a message to Congress, Davis was trying to shield his favorite
Benjamin at the cost of gallant soldiers who had been sacrificed
through his incapacity. Davis's promotion of Benjamin to the
State Department was an act of "ungracious and reckless defiance
of popular sentiment." The President was "not the man to consult
the sentiment and wisdom of the people; he desired to signalize
the infallibility of his own intellect in every measure of the
revolution and to identify, from motives of vanity, his own
personal genius with every event and detail of the remarkable
period of history in which he had been called upon to act. This
imperious conceit seemed to swallow up every other idea in his
mind." The generals "fretted under this pragmatism" of one whose
"vanity" directed the war "from his cushioned seat in Richmond"
by means of the one formula, "the defensive policy."

One of Pollard's chief accusations against the Confederate
Government was its failure to enforce the conscription law. His
paper, the Examiner, as well as the Mercury, supported Davis in
the policy of conscription, but both did their best, first, to
rob him of the credit for it and, secondly, to make his conduct
of the policy appear inefficient. Pollard claimed for the
Examiner the credit of having originated the policy of
conscription; the Mercury claimed it for Rhett.

In other words, an aggressive war party led by the Examiner and
the Mercury had been formed in those early days when the
Confederate Government appeared to be standing wholly on the
defensive, and when it had failed to confide to the people the
extenuating circumstance that lack of arms compelled it to stand
still whether it would or no. And yet, after this Government had
changed its policy and had taken up in the summer of 1862 an
offensive policy, this party--or faction, or what you
will--continued its career of opposition. That the secretive
habit of the Confederate Government helped cement the opposition
cannot be doubted. It is also likely that this opposition gave a
vent to certain jealous spirits who had missed the first place in

Furthermore, the issue of state sovereignty had been raised. In
Georgia a movement had begun which was distinctly different from
the Virginia-Carolina movement of opposition, a movement for
which Rhett and Pollard had scarcely more than disdainful
tolerance, and not always that. This parallel opposition found
vent, as did the other, in a political pamphlet. On the subject
of conscription Davis and the Governor of Georgia--that same
Joseph E. Brown who had seized Fort Pulaski in the previous
year--exchanged a rancorous correspondence. Their letters were
published in a pamphlet of which Pollard said scornfully that it
was hawked about in every city of the South. Brown, taking alarm
at the power given the Confederate Government by the Conscription
Act, eventually defined his position, and that of a large
following, in the extreme words: "No act of the Government of the
United States prior to the secession of Georgia struck a blow at
constitutional liberty so fell as has been stricken by the
conscript acts."

There were other elements of discontent which were taking form as
early as the autumn of 1862 but which were not yet clearly
defined. But the two obvious sources of internal criticism just
described were enough to disquiet the most resolute
administration. When the triple offensive broke down, when the
ebb-tide began, there was already everything that was needed to
precipitate a political crisis. And now the question arises
whether the Confederate Administration had itself to blame. Had
Davis proved inadequate in his great undertaking?

The one undeniable mistake of the Government previous to the
autumn of 1862 was its excessive secrecy. As to the other
mistakes attributed to it at the time, there is good reason to
call them misfortunes. Today we can see that the financial
situation, the cotton situation, the relations with Europe, the
problem of equipping the armies, were all to a considerable
degree beyond the control of the Confederate Government. If there
is anything to be added to its mistaken secrecy as a definite
cause of irritation, it must be found in the general tone given
to its actions by its chief directors. And here there is
something to be said.

With all his high qualities of integrity, courage, faithfulness,
and zeal, Davis lacked that insight into human life which marks
the genius of the supreme executive. He was not an artist in the
use of men. He had not that artistic sense of his medium which
distinguishes the statesman from the bureaucrat. In fact, he had
a dangerous bent toward bureaucracy. As Reuben Davis said of him,
"Gifted with some of the highest attributes of a statesman, he
lacked the pliancy which enables a man to adapt his measures to
the crisis." Furthermore, he lacked humor; there was no
safety-valve to his intense nature; and he was a man of delicate
health. Mrs. Davis, describing the effects which nervous
dyspepsia and neuralgia had upon him, says he would come home
from his office "fasting, a mere mass of throbbing nerves, and
perfectly exhausted." And it cannot be denied that his mind was
dogmatic. Here are dangerous lines for the character of a leader
of revolution--the bureaucratic tendency, something of rigidity,
lack of humor, physical wretchedness, dogmatism. Taken together,
they go far toward explaining his failure in judging men, his
irritable confidence in himself.

It is no slight detail of a man's career to be placed side by
side with a genius of the first rank without knowing it. But
Davis does not seem ever to have appreciated that the man
commanding in the Seven Days' Battles was one of the world's
supreme characters. The relation between Davis and Lee was always
cordial, and it brought out Davis's character in its best light.
Nevertheless, so rooted was Davis's faith in his own abilities
that he was capable of saying, at a moment of acutest anxiety,
"If I could take one wing and Lee the other, I think we could
between us wrest a victory from those people." And yet, his
military experience embraced only the minor actions of a young
officer on the Indian frontier and the gallant conduct of a
subordinate in the Mexican War. He had never executed a great
military design. His desire for the military life was, after all,
his only ground for ranking himself with the victor of Second
Manassas. Davis was also unfortunate in lacking the power to
overcome men and sweep them along with him--the power Lee showed
so conspicuously. Nor was Davis averse to sharp reproof of the
highest officials when he thought them in the wrong. He once
wrote to Joseph E. Johnston that a letter of his contained
"arguments and statements utterly unfounded" and "insinuations as
unfounded as they were unbecoming."

Davis was not always wise in his choice of men. His confidence in
Bragg, who was long his chief military adviser, is not sustained
by the military critics of a later age. His Cabinet, though not
the contemptible body caricatured by the malice of Pollard, was
not equal to the occasion. Of the three men who held the office
of Secretary of State, Toombs and Hunter had little if any
qualification for such a post, while the third, Benjamin, is the
sphinx of Confederate history.

In a way, Judah P. Benjamin is one of the most interesting men in
American politics. By descent a Jew, born in the West Indies, he
spent his boyhood mainly at Charleston and his college days at
Yale. He went to New Orleans to begin his illustrious career as a
lawyer, and from Louisiana entered politics. The facile keenness
of his intellect is beyond dispute. He had the Jewish clarity of
thought, the wonderful Jewish detachment in matters of pure mind.
But he was also an American of the middle of the century. His
quick and responsive nature--a nature that enemies might call
simulative--caught and reflected the characteristics of that
singular and highly rhetorical age. He lives in tradition as the
man of the constant smile, and yet there is no one in history
whose state papers contain passages of fiercer violence in days
of tension. How much of his violence was genuine, how much was a
manner of speaking, his biographers have not had the courage to
determine. Like so many American biographers they have avoided
the awkward questions and have glanced over, as lightly as
possible, the persistent attempts of Congress to drive him from

Nothing could shake the resolution of Davis to retain Benjamin in
the Cabinet. Among Davis's loftiest qualities was his sense of
personal loyalty. Once he had given his confidence, no amount of
opposition could shake his will but served rather to harden him.
When Benjamin as Secretary of War passed under a cloud, Davis led
him forth resplendent as Secretary of State. Whether he was wise
in doing so, whether the opposition was not justified in its
distrust of Benjamin, is still an open question. What is certain
is that both these able men, even before the crisis that arose in
the autumn of 1862, had rendered themselves and their Government
widely unpopular. It must never be forgotten that Davis entered
office without the backing of any definite faction. He was a
"dark horse," a compromise candidate. To build up a stanch
following, to create enthusiasm for his Administration, was a
prime necessity of his first year as President. Yet he seems not
to have realized this necessity. Boldly, firmly, dogmatically, he
gave his whole thought and his entire energy to organizing the
Government in such a way that it could do its work efficiently.
And therein may have been the proverbial rift within the lute. To
Davis statecraft was too much a thing of methods and measures,
too little a thing of men and passions.

During the autumn of 1862 and the following winter the disputes
over the conduct of the war began to subside and two other themes
became prominent: the sovereignty of the States, which appeared
to be menaced by the Government, and the personality of Davis,
whom malcontents regarded as a possible despot. Contrary to
tradition, the first note of alarm over state rights was not
struck by its great apostle Rhett, although the note was sounded
in South Carolina in the early autumn. There existed in this
State at that time an extra assembly called the "Convention,"
which had been organized in 1860 for the general purpose of
seeing the State through the "revolution." In the Convention, in
September, 1862, the question of a contest with the Confederate
Government on the subject of a state army was definitely raised.
It was proposed to organize a state army and to instruct the
Legislature to "take effectual measures to prevent the agents of
the Confederate Government from raising troops in South Carolina
except by voluntary enlistment or by applying to the Executive of
the State to call out the militia as by law organized, or some
part of it to be mustered into the Confederate service." This
proposal brought about a sharp debate upon the Confederate
Government and its military policy. Rhett made a remarkable
address, which should of itself quiet forever the old tale that
he was animated in his opposition solely by the pique of a
disappointed candidate for the presidency. Though as sharp as
ever against the Government and though agreeing wholly with the
spirit of the state army plan, he took the ground that
circumstances at the moment rendered the organization of such an
army inopportune. A year earlier he would have strongly supported
the plan. In fact, in opposition to Davis he had at that time, he
said, urged an obligatory army which the States should be
required to raise. The Confederate Administration, however, had
defeated his scheme. Since then the situation had changed and had
become so serious that now there was no choice but to submit to
military necessity. He regarded the general conscription law as
"absolutely necessary to save" the Confederacy "from utter
devastation if not final subjugation. Right or wrong, the policy
of the Administration had left us no other alternative...."

The dominant attitude in South Carolina in the autumn of 1862 is
in strong contrast, because of its firm grasp upon fact, with the
attitude of the Brown faction in Georgia. An extended history of
the Confederate movement--one of those vast histories that
delight the recluse and scare away the man of the world--would
labor to build up images of what might be called the
personalities of the four States that continued from the
beginning to the end parts of the effective Confederate
system--Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia. We are prone to
forget that the Confederacy was practically divided into separate
units as early as the capture of New Orleans by Farragut, but a
great history of the time would have a special and thrilling
story of the conduct of the detached western unit, the isolated
world of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas--the "Department of the
Trans-Mississippi"--cut off from the main body of the Confederacy
and hemmed in between the Federal army and the deep sea. Another
group of States--Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama--became so soon,
and remained so long, a debatable land, on which the two armies
fought, that they also had scant opportunity for genuine
political life. Florida, small and exposed, was absorbed in its
gallant achievement of furnishing to the armies a number of
soldiers larger than its voting population.

Thus, after the loss of New Orleans, one thing with another
operated to confine the area of full political life to Virginia
and her three neighbors to the South. And yet even among these
States there was no political solidarity or unanimity of opinion,
for the differences in their past experience, social structure,
and economic conditions made for distinct points of view. In
South Carolina, particularly, the prevailing view was that of
experienced, disillusioned men who realized from the start that
secession had burnt their bridges, and that now they must win the
fight or change the whole current of their lives. In the midst of
the extraordinary conditions of war, they never talked as if
their problems were the problems of peace. Brown, on the other
hand, had but one way of reasoning--if we are to call it
reasoning--and, with Hannibal at the gates, talked as if the
control of the situation were still in his own hands.

While South Carolina, so grimly conscious of the reality of war
and the danger of internal discord, held off from the issue of
state sovereignty, the Brown faction in Georgia blithely pressed
it home. A bill for extending the conscription age which was
heartily advocated by the Mercury was as heartily condemned by
Brown. To the President he wrote announcing his continued
opposition to a law which he declared "encroaches upon the
reserved rights of the State and strikes down her sovereignty at
a single blow." Though the Supreme Court of Georgia pronounced
the conscription acts constitutional, the Governor and his
faction did not cease to condemn them. Linton Stephens, as well
as his famous kinsman, took up the cudgels. In a speech before
the Georgia Legislature, in November, Linton Stephens borrowed
almost exactly the Governor's phraseology in denying the
necessity for conscription, and this continued to be the note of
their faction throughout the war. "Conscription checks
enthusiasm," was ever their cry; "we are invincible under a
system of volunteering, we are lost with conscription."

Meanwhile the military authorities looked facts in the face and
had a different tale to tell. They complained that in various
parts of the country, especially in the mountain districts, they
were unable to obtain men. Lee reported that his army melted away
before his eye and asked for an increase of authority to compel
stragglers to return. At the same time Brown was quarreling with
the Administration as to who should name the officers of the
Georgia troops. Zebulon B. Vance, the newly elected Governor of
North Carolina and an anti-Davis man, said to the Legislature:
"It is mortifying to find entire brigades of North Carolina
soldiers commanded by strangers, and in many cases our own brave
and war-worn colonels are made to give place to colonels from
distant States." In addition to such indications of discontent a
vast mass of evidence makes plain the opposition to conscription
toward the close of 1862 and the looseness of various parts of
the military system.

It was a moment of intense excitement and of nervous strain. The
country was unhappy, for it had lost faith in the Government at
Richmond. The blockade was producing its effect. European
intervention was receding into the distance. One of the
characteristics of the editorials and speeches of this period is
a rising tide of bitterness against England. Napoleon's proposal
in November to mediate, though it came to naught, somewhat
revived the hope of an eventual recognition of the Confederacy
but did not restore buoyancy to the people of the South. The
Emancipation Proclamation, though scoffed at as a cry of
impotence, none the less increased the general sense of crisis.

Worst of all, because of its immediate effect upon the temper of
the time, food was very scarce and prices had risen to
indefensible heights. The army was short of shoes. In the
newspapers, as winter came on, were to be found touching
descriptions of Lee's soldiers standing barefoot in the snow. A
flippant comment of Benjamin's, that the shoes had probably been
traded for whiskey, did not tend to improve matters. Even though
short of supplies themselves, the people as a whole eagerly
subscribed to buy shoes for the army.

There was widespread and heartless speculation in the supplies.
Months previous the Courier had made this ominous editorial
remark: "Speculators and monopolists seem determined to force the
people everywhere to the full exercise of all the remedies
allowed by law." In August, 1862, the Governor of Florida wrote
to the Florida delegation at Richmond urging them to take steps
to meet the "nefarious smuggling" of speculators who charged
extortionate prices. In September, he wrote again begging for
legislation to compel millers, tanners, and saltmakers to offer
their products at reasonable rates. As these men were exempt from
military duty because their labor was held to be a public
service, feeling against them ran high. Governor Vance proposed a
state convention to regulate prices for North Carolina and by
proclamation forbade the export of provisions in order to prevent
the seeking of exorbitant prices in other markets. Davis wrote to
various Governors urging them to obtain state legislation to
reduce extortion in the food business. In the provisioning of the
army the Confederate Government had recourse to impressment and
the arbitrary fixing of prices. Though the Attorney-General held
this action to be constitutional, it led to sharp contentions;
and at length a Virginia court granted an injunction to a
speculator who had been paid by the Government for flour less
than it had cost him.

In an attempt to straighten out this tangled situation, the
Confederate Government began, late, in 1862, by appointing as its
new Secretary of War,* James A. Seddon of Virginia--at that time
high in popular favor. The Mercury hailed his advent with
transparent relief, for no appointment could have seemed to it
more promising. Indeed, as the new year (1863) opened the Mercury
was in better humor with the Administration than perhaps at any
other time during the war. To the President's message it gave
praise that was almost cordial. This amicable temper was
short-lived, however, and three months later the heavens had

* There were in all six Secretaries of War: Leroy P. Walker,
until September 16, 1861; Judah P. Benjamin, until March 18,
1862; George W. Randolph, until November 17, 1868; Gustavus W.
Smith (temporarily), until November 21, 1862; James A. Seddon,
until February 6, 1865; General John C. Breckinridge, again, for
the Government had entered upon a course that consolidated the
opposition in anger and distrust.

Early in 1863 the Confederate Government presented to the country
a program in which the main features were three. Of these the two
which did not rouse immediate hostility in the party of the
Examiner and the Mercury were the Impressment Act of March, 1863
(amended by successive acts), and the act known as the Tax in
Kind, which was approved the following month. Though the
Impressment Act subsequently made vast trouble for the
Government, at the time of its passage its beneficial effects
were not denied. To it was attributed by the Richmond Whig the
rapid fall of prices in April, 1863. Corn went down at Richmond
from $12 and $10 a bushel to $4.20, and flour dropped in North
Carolina from $45 a barrel to $25. Under this act commissioners
were appointed in each State jointly by the Confederate President
and the Governor with the duty of fixing prices for government
transactions and of publishing every two months an official
schedule of the prices to be paid by the Government for the
supplies which it impressed.

The new Tax Act attempted to provide revenues which should not be
paid in depreciated currency. With no bullion to speak of, the
Confederate Congress could not establish a circulating medium
with even an approximation to constant value. Realizing this
situation, Memminger had advised falling back on the ancient
system of tithes and the support of the Government by direct
contributions of produce. After licensing a great number of
occupations and laying a property tax and an income tax, the new
law demanded a tenth of the produce of all farmers. On this law
the Mercury pronounced a benediction in an editorial on The Fall
of Prices, which it attributed to "the healthy influence of the
tax bill which has just become law."*

* The fall of prices was attributed by others to a funding act,
--one of several passed by the Confederate Congress--which, in
March, 1863, aimed by various devices to contract the volume of
the currency. It was very generally condemned, and it anticipated
the yet more drastic measure, the Funding Act of 1864, which will
be described later.

Had these two measures been the whole program of the Government,
the congressional session of the spring of 1863 would have had a
different significance in Confederate history. But there was a
third measure that provoked a new attack on the Government. The
gracious words of the Mercury on the tax in kind came as an
interlude in the midst of a bitter controversy. An editorial of
the 12th of March headed "A Despotism over the Confederate States
Proposed in Congress" amounted to a declaration of war. From this
time forward the opposition and the Government drew steadily
further and further apart and their antagonism grew steadily more

What caused this irrevocable breach was a bill introduced into
the House by Ethelbert Barksdale of Mississippi, an old friend of
President Davis. This bill would have invested the President with
authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
in any part of the Confederacy, whenever in his judgment such
suspension was desirable. The first act suspending the privilege
of habeas corpus had long since expired and applied only to such
regions as were threatened with invasion. It had served usefully
under martial law in cleansing Richmond of its rogues, and also
had been in force at Charleston. The Mercury had approved it and
had exhorted its readers to take the matter sensibly as an
inevitable detail of war. Between that act and the act now
proposed the Mercury saw no similarity. Upon the merits of the
question it fought a furious journalistic duel with the Enquirer,
the government organ at Richmond, which insisted that President
Davis would not abuse his power. The Mercury replied that if he
"were a second Washington, or an angel upon earth, the
degradation such a surrender of our rights implies would still be
abhorrent to every freeman." In retort the Enquirer pointed out
that a similar law had been enacted by another Congress with no
bad results. And in point of fact the Enquirer was right, for in
October, 1862, after the expiration of the first act suspending
the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Congress passed a
second giving to the President the immense power which was now
claimed for him again. This second act was in force several
months. Then the Mercury made the astounding declaration that it
had never heard of the second act, and thereupon proceeded to
attack the secrecy of the Administration with renewed vigor.

On this issue of reviving the expired second Habeas Corpus Act, a
battle royal was fought in the Confederate Congress. The forces
of the Administration defended the new measure on the ground
that various regions were openly seditious and that conscription
could not be enforced without it. This argument gave a new text
for the cry of "despotism." The congressional leader of the
opposition was Henry S. Foote, once the rival of Davis in
Mississippi and now a citizen of Tennessee. Fierce, vindictive,
sometimes convincing, always shrewd, he was a powerful leader of
the rough and ready, buccaneering sort. Under his guidance the
debate was diverted into a rancorous discussion of the conduct of
the general's in the execution of martial law. Foote pulled out
all the stops in the organ of political rhetoric and went in for
a chant royal of righteous indignation. The main object of this
attack was General Hindman and his doings in Arkansas. Those were
still the days of pamphleteering. Though General Albert Pike had
written a severe pamphlet condemning Hindman, to this pamphlet
the Confederate Government had shut its eyes. Foote, however,
flourished it in the face of the House. He thundered forth his
belief that Hindman was worse even than the man most detested in
the South, than "beast Butler himself, for the latter is only
charged with persecuting and oppressing the avowed enemies of his
Government, while Hindman, if guilty as charged, has practised
cruelties unnumbered" on his people. Other representatives spoke
in the same vein. Baldwin of Virginia told harrowing tales of
martial law in that State. Barksdale attempted to retaliate,
sarcastically reminding him of a recent scene of riot and
disorder which proved that martial law, in any effective form,
did not exist in Virginia. He alluded to a riot, ostensibly for
bread, in which an Amazonian woman had led a mob to the pillaging
of the Richmond jewelry shops, a riot which Davis himself had
quelled by meeting the rioters and threatening to fire upon them.
But sarcasm proved powerless against Foote. His climax was a
lurid tale of a soldier who while marching past his own house
heard that his wife was dying, who left the ranks for a last word
with her, and who on rejoining the command, "hoping to get
permission to bury her," was shot as a deserter. And there was no
one on the Government benches to anticipate Kipling and cry out
"flat art!" Resolutions condemning martial law were passed by a
vote of 45 to 27.

Two weeks later the Mercury preached a burial sermon over the
Barksdale Bill, which had now been rejected by the House.
Congress was about to adjourn, and before it reassembled
elections for the next House would be held. "The measure is dead
for the present," said the Mercury, "but power is ever restive
and prone to accumulate power; and if the war continues, other
efforts will doubtless be made to make the President a Dictator.
Let the people keep their eyes steadily fixed on their
representatives with respect to this vital matter; and should the
effort again be made to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, demand
that a recorded vote should show those who shall strike down
their liberties."

Chapter V. The Critical Year

The great military events of the year 1863 have pushed out of
men's memories the less dramatic but scarcely less important
civil events. To begin with, in this year two of the greatest
personalities in the South passed from the political stage: in
the summer Yancey died; and in the autumn, Rhett went into

The ever malicious Pollard insists that Yancey's death was due
ultimately to a personal encounter with a Senator from Georgia on
the floor of the Senate. The curious may find the discreditable
story embalmed in the secret journal of the Senate, where are the
various motions designed to keep the incident from the knowledge
of the world. Whether it really caused Yancey's death is another
question. However, the moment of his passing has dramatic
significance. Just as the battle over conscription was fully
begun, when the fear that the Confederate Government had arrayed
itself against the rights of the States had definitely taken
shape, when this dread had been reenforced by the alarm over the
suspension of habeas corpus, the great pioneer of the secession
movement went to his grave, despairing of the country he had
failed to lead. His death occurred in the same month as the
Battle of Gettysburg, at the very time when the Confederacy was
dividing against itself.

The withdrawal of Rhett from active life was an incident of the
congressional elections. He had consented to stand for Congress
in the Third District of South Carolina but was defeated. The
full explanation of the vote is still to be made plain; it seems
clear, however, that South Carolina at this time knew its own
mind quite positively. Five of the six representatives returned
to the Second Congress, including Rhett's opponent, Lewis M.
Ayer, had sat in the First Congress. The subsequent history of
the South Carolina delegation and of the State Government shows
that by 1863 South Carolina had become, broadly speaking, on
almost all issues an anti-Davis State. And yet the largest
personality and probably the ablest mind in the State was
rejected as a candidate for Congress. No character in American
history is a finer challenge to the biographer than this powerful
figure of Rhett, who in 1861 at the supreme crisis of his life
seemed the master of his world and yet in every lesser crisis was
a comparative failure. As in Yancey, so in Rhett, there was
something that fitted him to one great moment but did not fit him
to others. There can be little doubt that his defeat at the polls
of his own district deeply mortified him. He withdrew from
politics, and though he doubtless, through the editorship of one
of his sons, inspired the continued opposition of the Mercury to
the Government, Rhett himself hardly reappears in Confederate
history except for a single occasion during the debate a year
later upon the burning question of arming the slaves.

The year was marked by very bitter attacks upon President Davis
on the part of the opposition press. The Mercury revived the
issue of the conduct of the war which had for some time been
overshadowed by other issues. In the spring, to be sure, things
had begun to look brighter, and Chancellorsville had raised Lee's
reputation to its zenith. The disasters of the summer, Gettysburg
and Vicksburg, were for a time minimized by the Government and do
not appear to have caused the alarm which their strategic
importance might well have created. But when in the latter days
of July the facts became generally known, the Mercury arraigned
the President's conduct of the war as "a vast complication of
incompetence and folly"; it condemned the whole scheme of the
Northern invasion and maintained that Lee should have stood on
the defensive while twenty or thirty thousand men were sent to
the relief of Vicksburg. These two ideas it bitterly reiterated
and in August went so far as to quote Macaulay's famous passage
on Parliament's dread of a decisive victory over Charles and to
apply it to Davis in unrestrained language that reminds one of

Equally unrestrained were the attacks upon other items of the
policy of the Confederate Government. The Impressment Law began
to be a target. Farmers who were compelled to accept the prices
fixed by the impressment commissioners cried out that they were
being ruined. Men of the stamp of Toombs came to their assistance
with railing accusations such as this: "I have heard it said that
we should not sacrifice liberty to independence, but I tell you,
my countrymen, that the two are inseparable.... If we lose
our liberty we shall lose our independence.... I would rather
see the whole country the cemetery of freedom than the habitation
of slaves." Protests which poured in upon the Government insisted
that the power to impress supplies did not carry with it the
power to fix prices. Worthy men, ridden by the traditional ideas
of political science and unable to modify these in the light of
the present emergency, wailed out their despair over the
"usurpation" of Richmond.

The tax in kind was denounced in the same vein. The licensing
provisions of this law and its income tax did not satisfy the
popular imagination. These provisions concerned the classes that
could borrow. The classes that could not borrow, that had no
resources but their crops, felt that they were being driven to
the wall. The bitter saying went around that it was "a rich man's
war and a poor man's fight." As land and slaves were not directly
taxed, the popular discontent appeared to have ground for its
anger. Furthermore, it must never be forgotten that this was the
first general tax that the poor people of the South were ever
conscious of paying. To people who knew the tax-gatherer as
little more than a mythical being, he suddenly appeared like a
malevolent creature who swept off ruthlessly the tenth of their
produce. It is not strange that an intemperate reaction against
the planters and their leadership followed. The illusion spread
that they were not doing their share of the fighting; and as rich
men were permitted to hire substitutes to represent them in the
army, this really baseless report was easily propped up in the
public mind with what appeared to be reason.

In North Carolina, where the peasant farmer was a larger
political factor than in any other State, this feeling against
the Confederate Government because of the tax in kind was most
dangerous. In the course of the summer, while the military
fortunes of the Confederacy were toppling at Vicksburg and
Gettysburg, the North Carolina farmers in a panic of
self-preservation held numerous meetings of protest and
denunciation. They expressed their thoughtless terror in
resolutions asserting that the action of Congress "in secret
session, without consulting with their constituents at home,
taking from the hard laborers of the Confederacy one-tenth of the
people's living, instead of taking back their own currency in
tax, is unjust and tyrannical." Other resolutions called the tax
"unconstitutional, anti-republican, and oppressive"; and still
others pledged the farmers "to resist to the bitter end any such
monarchical tax."

A leader of the discontented in North Carolina was found in W. W.
Holden, the editor of the Raleigh Progress, who before the war
had attempted to be spokesman for the men of small property by
advocating taxes on slaves and similar measures. He proposed as
the conclusion of the whole matter the opening of negotiations
for peace. We shall see later how deep-seated was this singular
delusion that peace could be had for the asking. In 1863,
however, many men in North Carolina took up the suggestion with
delight. Jonathan Worth wrote in his diary, on hearing that the
influential North Carolina Standard had come out for peace: "I
still abhor, as I always did, this accursed war and the wicked
men, North and South, who inaugurated it. The whole country at
the North and the South is a great military despotism." With such
discontent in the air, the elections in North Carolina drew near.
The feeling was intense and riots occurred. Newspaper offices
were demolished--among them Holden's, to destroy which a
detachment of passing soldiers converted itself into a mob. In
the western counties deserters from the army, combined in bands,
were joined by other deserters from Tennessee, and terrorized the
countryside. Governor Vance, alarmed at the progress which this
disorder was making, issued a proclamation imploring his
rebellious countrymen to conduct in a peaceable manner their
campaign for the repeal of obnoxious laws.

The measure of political unrest in North Carolina was indicated
in the autumn when a new delegation to Congress was chosen. Of
the ten who composed it, eight were new men. Though they did not
stand for a clearly defined program, they represented on the

Book of the day: