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The Day of the Confederacy by Nathaniel W. Stephenson

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whole anti-Davis tendencies. The Confederate Administration had
failed to carry the day in the North Carolina elections; and in
Georgia there were even more sweeping evidences of unrest. Of the
ten representatives chosen for the Second Congress nine had not
sat in the First, and Georgia now was in the main frankly
anti-Davis. There had been set up at Richmond a new organ of the
Government called the Sentinel, which was more entirely under the
presidential shadow than even the Enquirer and the Courier.
Speaking of the elections, the Sentinel deplored the "upheaval of
political elements" revealed by the defeat of so many tried
representatives whose constituents had not returned them to the
Second Congress.

What was Davis doing while the ground was thus being cut from
under his feet? For one thing he gave his endorsement to the
formation of "Confederate Societies" whose members bound
themselves to take Confederate money as legal tender. He wrote a
letter to one such society in Mississippi, praising it for
attempting "by common consent to bring down the prices of all
articles to the standard of the soldiers' wages" and adding that
the passion of speculation had "seduced citizens of all classes
from a determined prosecution of the war to an effort to amass
money." The Sentinel advocated the establishment of a law fixing
maximum prices. The discussion of this proposal seems to make
plain the raison d'etre for the existence of the Sentinel. Even
such stanch government organs as the Enquirer and the Courier
shied at the idea, but the Mercury denounced it vigorously,
giving long extracts from Thiers, and discussed the mistakes, of
the French Revolution with its "law of maximum."

Davis, however, did not take an active part in the political
campaign, nor did the other members of the Government. It was not
because of any notion that the President should not leave the
capital that Davis did not visit the disaffected regions of North
Carolina when the startled populace winced under its first
experience with taxation. Three times during his Administration
Davis left Richmond on extended journeys: late in 1862, when
Vicksburg had become a chief concern of the Government, he went
as far afield as Mississippi in order to get entirely in touch
with the military situation in those parts; in the month of
October, 1863, when there was another moment of intense military
anxiety, Davis again visited the front; and of a third journey
which he undertook in 1864, we shall hear in time. It is to be
noted that each of these journeys was prompted by a military
motive; and here, possibly, we get an explanation of his
inadequacy as a statesman. He could not lay aside his interest in
military affairs for the supremely important concerns of civil
office; and he failed to understand how to ingratiate his
Administration by personal appeals to popular imagination.

In October, 1863,--the very month in which his old rival Rhett
suffered his final defeat,--Davis undertook a journey because
Bragg, after his great victory at Chickamauga, appeared to be
letting slip a golden opportunity, and because there were reports
of dissension among Bragg's officers and of general confusion in
his army. After he had, as he thought, restored harmony in the
camp, Davis turned southward on a tour of appeal and inspiration.
He went as far as Mobile, and returning bent his course through
Charleston, where, at the beginning of November, less than two
weeks after Rhett's defeat, Davis was received with all due
formalities. Members of the Rhett family were among those who
formally received the President at the railway station. There was
a parade of welcome, an official reception, a speech by the
President from the steps of the city hall, and much applause by
friends of the Administration. But certain ominous signs were not
lacking. The Mercury, for example, tucked away in an obscure
column its account of the event, while its rival, the Courier,
made the President's visit the feature of the day.

Davis returned to Richmond, early in November, to throw himself
again with his whole soul into problems that were chiefly
military. He did not realize that the crisis had come and gone
and that he had failed to grasp the significance of the internal
political situation. The Government had failed to carry the
elections and to secure a working majority in Congress. Never
again was it to have behind it a firm and confident support, The
unity of the secession movement had passed away. Thereafter the
Government was always to be regarded with suspicion by the
extreme believers in state sovereignty and by those who were
sullenly convinced that the burdens of the war were unfairly
distributed. And there were not wanting men who were ready to
construe each emergency measure as a step toward a coup d'etat.

Chapter VI. Life In The Confederacy

When the fortunes of the Confederacy in both camp and council
began to ebb, the life of the Southern people had already
profoundly changed. The gallant, delightful, carefree life of the
planter class had been undermined by a war which was eating away
its foundations. Economic no less than political forces were
taking from the planter that ideal of individual liberty as dear
to his heart as it had been, ages before, to his feudal
prototype. One of the most important details of the changing
situation had been the relation of the Government to slavery. The
history of the Confederacy had opened with a clash between the
extreme advocates of slavery--the slavery-at-any-price men--and
the Administration. The Confederate Congress had passed a bill
ostensibly to make effective the clause in its constitution
prohibiting the African slave-trade. The quick eye of Davis had
detected in it a mode of evasion, for cargoes of captured slaves
were to be confiscated and sold at public auction. The President
had exposed this adroit subterfuge in his message vetoing the
bill, and the slavery-at-any-price men had not sufficient
influence in Congress to override the veto, though they muttered
against it in the public press.

The slavery-at-any-price men did not again conspicuously show
their hands until three years later when the Administration
included emancipation in its policy. The ultimate policy of
emancipation was forced upon the Government by many
considerations but more particularly by the difficulty of
securing labor for military purposes. In a country where the
supply of fighting men was limited and the workers were a class
apart, the Government had to employ the only available laborers
or confess its inability to meet the industrial demands of war.
But the available laborers were slaves. How could their services
be secured? By purchase? Or by conscription? Or by temporary

Though Davis and his advisers were prepared to face all the
hazards involved in the purchase or confiscation of slaves, the
traditional Southern temper instantly recoiled from the
suggestion. A Government possessed of great numbers of slaves,
whether bought or appropriated, would have in its hands a
gigantic power, perhaps for industrial competition with private
owners, perhaps even for organized military control. Besides, the
Government might at any moment by emancipating its slaves upset
the labor system of the country. Furthermore, the opportunities
for favoritism in the management of state-owned slaves were
beyond calculation. Considerations such as these therefore
explain the watchful jealousy of the planters toward the
Government whenever it proposed to acquire property in slaves.

It is essential not to attribute this social-political dread of
government ownership of slaves merely to the clutch of a wealthy
class on its property. Too many observers, strangely enough, see
the latter motive to the exclusion of the former. Davis himself
was not, it would seem, free from this confusion. He insisted
that neither slaves nor land were taxed by the Confederacy, and
between the lines he seems to attribute to the planter class the
familiar selfishness of massed capital. He forgot that the tax in
kind was combined with an income tax. In theory, at least, the
slave and the land--even non-farming land--were taxed. However,
the dread of a slave-owning Government prevented any effective
plan for supplying the army with labor except through the
temporary impressment of slaves who were eventually to be
returned to their owners. The policy of emancipation had to wait.

Bound up in the labor question was the question of the control of
slaves during the war. In the old days when there were plenty of
white men in the countryside, the roads were carefully patrolled
at night, and no slave ventured to go at large unless fully
prepared to prove his identity. But with the coming of war the
comparative smallness of the fighting population made it likely
from the first that the countryside everywhere would be stripped
of its white guardians. In that event, who would be left to
control the slaves? Early in the war a slave police was provided
for by exempting from military duty overseers in the ratio
approximately of one white to twenty slaves. But the marvelous
faithfulness of the slaves, who nowhere attempted to revolt, made
these precautions unnecessary. Later laws exempted one overseer
on every plantation of fifteen slaves, not so much to perform
patrol duty as to increase the productivity of plantation labor.

This "Fifteen Slave" Law was one of many instances that were
caught up by the men of small property as evidence that the
Government favored the rich. A much less defensible law, and one
which was bitterly attacked for the same reason, was the
unfortunate measure permitting the hiring of substitutes by men
drafted into the army. Eventually, the clamor against this law
caused its repeal, but before that time it had worked untold harm
as apparent evidence of "a rich man's war and a poor man's
fight." Extravagant stories of the avoidance of military duty by
the ruling class, though in the main they were mere fairy tales,
changed the whole atmosphere of Southern life. The old glad
confidence uniting the planter class with the bulk of the people
had been impaired. Misapprehension appeared on both sides. Too
much has been said lately, however, in justification of the
poorer classes who were thus wakened suddenly to a distrust of
the aristocracy; and too little has been said of the proud recoil
of the aristocracy in the face of a sudden, credulous perversion
of its motives--a perversion inspired by the pinching of the
shoe, and yet a shoe that pinched one class as hard as it did
another. It is as unfair to charge the planter with selfishness
in opposing the appropriation of slaves as it is to make the same
charge against the small farmers for resisting tithes. In face of
the record, the planter comes off somewhat the better of the two;
but it must be remembered that he had the better education, the
larger mental horizon.

The Confederacy had long recognized women of all classes as the
most dauntless defenders of the cause. The women of the upper
classes passed without a tremor from a life of smiling ease to a
life of extreme hardship. One day, their horizon was without a
cloud; another day, their husbands and fathers had gone to the
front. Their luxuries had disappeared, and they were reduced to
plain hard living, toiling in a thousand ways to find provision
and clothing, not only for their own children but for the poorer
families of soldiers. The women of the poor throughout the South
deserve similar honor. Though the physical shock of the change
may not have been so great, they had to face the same deep
realities--hunger and want, anxiety over the absent soldiers,
solicitude for children, grief for the dead. One of the pathetic
aspects of Confederate life was the household composed of several
families, all women and children, huddled together without a man
or even a half-grown lad to be their link with the mill and the
market. In those regions where there were few slaves and the
exemption of overseers did not operate, such households were

The great privations which people endured during the Confederacy
have passed into familiar tradition. They are to be traced mainly
to three causes: to the blockade, to the inadequate system of
transportation, and to the heartlessness of speculators. The
blockade was the real destroyer of the South. Besides ruining the
whole policy based on King Cotton, besides impeding to a vast
extent the inflow of munitions from Europe, it also deprived
Southern life of numerous articles which were hard to
relinquish--not only such luxuries as tea and coffee, but also
such utter necessities as medicines. And though the native herbs
were diligently studied, though the Government established
medical laboratories with results that were not inconsiderable,
the shortage of medicines remained throughout the war a
distressing feature of Southern life. The Tredegar Iron Works at
Richmond and a foundry at Selma, Alabama,were the only mills in
the South capable of casting the heavy ordnance necessary for
military purposes. And the demand for powder mills and gun
factories to provide for the needs of the army was scarcely
greater than the demand for cotton mills and commercial foundries
to supply the wants of the civil population. The Government
worked without ceasing to keep pace with the requirements of the
situation, and, in view of the immense difficulties which it had
to face, it was fairly successful in supplying the needs of the
army. Powder was provided by the Niter and Mining Bureau; lead
for Confederate bullets was collected from many sources--even
the window-weights of the houses; iron was brought from the mines
of Alabama; guns came from newly built factories; and machines
and tools were part of the precious freight of the
blockade-runners. Though the poorly equipped mills turned a
portion of the cotton crop into textiles, and though everything
that was possible was done to meet the needs of the people, the
supply of manufactures was sadly inadequate. The universal
shortage was betrayed by the limitation of the size of most
newspapers to a single sheet, and the desperate situation clearly
and completely revealed by the way in which, as a last resort,
the Confederates were compelled to repair their railroads by
pulling up the rails of one road in order to repair another that
the necessities of war rendered indispensable.

The railway system, if such it can be called, was one of the
weaknesses of the Confederacy. Before the war the South had not
felt the need of elaborate interior communication, for its
commerce in the main went seaward, and thence to New England or
to Europe. Hitherto the railway lines had seen no reason for
merging their local character in extensive combinations. Owners
of short lines were inclined by tradition to resist even the
imperative necessities of war and their stubborn conservatism was
frequently encouraged by the shortsighted parochialism of the
towns. The same pitiful narrowness that led the peasant farmer to
threaten rebellion against the tax in kind led his counterpart in
the towns to oppose the War Department in its efforts to
establish through railroad lines because they threatened to
impair local business interests. A striking instance of this
disinclination towards cooperation is the action of Petersburg.
Two railroads terminated at this point but did not connect, and
it was an ardent desire of the military authorities to link the
two and convert them into one. The town, however, unable to see
beyond its boundaries and resolute in its determination to save
its transfer business, successfully obstructed the needs of the

* See an article on "The Confederate Government and the
Railroads" in the "American Historical Review," July, 1917, by
Charles W. Ramsdell.

As a result of this lack of efficient organization an immense
congestion resulted all along the railroads. Whether this, rather
than a failure in supply, explains the approach of famine in the
latter part of the war, it is today very difficult to determine.
In numerous state papers of the time, the assertion was
reiterated that the yield of food was abundant and that the
scarcity of food at many places, including the cities and the
battle fronts, was due to defects in transportation. Certain it
is that the progress of supplies from one point to another was
intolerably slow.

All this want of coordination facilitated speculation. We shall
see hereafter how merciless this speculation became and we shall
even hear of profits on food rising to more than four hundred per
cent. However, the oft-quoted prices of the later years--when,
for instance, a pair of shoes cost a hundred dollars--signify
little, for they rested on an inflated currency. None the less
they inspired the witticism that one should take money to market
in a basket and bring provisions home in one's pocketbook.
Endless stories could be told of speculators hoarding food and
watching unmoved the sufferings of a famished people. Said Bishop
Pierce, in a sermon before the General Assembly of Georgia, on
Fast Day, in March, 1863: "Restlessness and discontent
Extortion, pitiless extortion is making havoc in the land.
We are devouring each other. Avarice with full barns puts the
bounties of Providence under bolts and bars, waiting with eager
longings for higher prices.... The greed of gain...stalks
among us unabashed by the heroic sacrifice of our women or the
gallant deeds of our soldiers. Speculation in salt and bread and
meat runs riot in defiance of the thunders of the pulpit, and
executive interference and the horrors of threatened famine." In
1864, the Government found that quantities of grain paid in under
the tax as new-grown were mildewed. It was grain of the previous
year which speculators had held too long and now palmed off on
the Government to supply the army.

Amid these desperate conditions the fate of soldiers' families
became everywhere, a tragedy. Unless the soldier was a land-owner
his family was all but helpless. With a depreciated currency and
exaggerated prices, his pay, whatever his rank, was too little to
count in providing for his dependents. Local charity, dealt out
by state and county boards, by relief associations, and by the
generosity of neighbors, formed the barrier between his family
and starvation. The landless soldier, with a family at home in
desperate straits, is too often overlooked when unimaginative
people heap up the statistics of "desertion" in the latter half
of the war.

It was in this period, too, that amid the terrible shrinkage of
the defensive lines "refugeeing" became a feature of Southern
life. From the districts over which the waves of war rolled back
and forth helpless families--women, children, slaves--found
precarious safety together with great hardship by withdrawing to
remote places which invasion was little likely to reach. An
Odyssey of hard travel, often by night and half secret, is part
of the war tradition of thousands of Southern families. And here,
as always, the heroic women, smiling, indomitable, are the center
of the picture. Their flight to preserve the children was no
small test of courage. Almost invariably they had to traverse
desolate country, with few attendants, through forests, and
across rivers, where the arm of the law was now powerless to
protect them. Outlaws, defiant of the authorities both civil and
military,--ruthless men of whom we shall hear again,--roved those
great unoccupied spaces so characteristic of the Southern
countryside. Many a family legend preserves still the sense of
breathless caution, of pilgrimage in the night-time intently
silent for fear of these masterless men. When the remote
rendezvous had been reached, there a colony of refugees drew
together in a steadfast despair, unprotected by their own
fighting men. What strange sad pages in the history of American
valor were filled by these women outwardly calm, their children
romping after butterflies in a glory of sunshine, while horrid
tales drifted in of deeds done by the masterless men in the
forest just beyond the horizon, and far off on the soul's
horizon fathers, husbands, brothers, held grimly the lines of
last defense!

Chapter VII. The Turning Of The Tide

The buoyancy of the Southern temper withstood the shock of
Gettysburg and was not overcome by the fall of Vicksburg. Of the
far-reaching significance of the latter catastrophe in particular
there was little immediate recognition. Even Seddon, the
Secretary of War, in November, reported that "the communication
with the Trans-Mississippi, while rendered somewhat precarious
and insecure, is found by no means cut off or even seriously
endangered." His report was the same sort of thing as those
announcements of "strategic retreats" with which the world has
since become familiar. He even went so far as to argue that on
the whole the South had gained rather than lost; that the control
of the river was of no real value to the North; that the loss of
Vicksburg "has on our side liberated for general operations in
the field a large army, while it requires the enemy to maintain
cooped up, inactive, in positions insalubrious to their soldiers,
considerable detachments of their forces."

Seddon attempted to reverse the facts, to show that the
importance of the Mississippi in commerce was a Northern not a
Southern concern. He threw light upon the tactics of the time by
his description of the future action of Confederate sharpshooters
who were to terrorize such commercial crews as might attempt to
navigate the river; he also told how light batteries might move
swiftly along the banks and, at points commanding the channel,
rain on the passing steamer unheralded destruction. He was silent
upon the really serious matter, the patrol of the river by
Federal gunboats which rendered commerce with the
Trans-Mississippi all but impossible.

This report, dated the 26th of November, gives a roseate view of
the war in Tennessee and enlarges upon that dreadful battle of
Chickamauga which "ranks as one of the grandest victories of the
war." But even as the report was signed, Bragg was in full
retreat after his great disaster at Chattanooga. On the 30th of
November the Administration at Richmond received from him a
dispatch that closed with these words: "I deem it due to the
cause and to myself to ask for relief from command and an
investigation into the causes of the defeat." In the middle of
December, Joseph E. Johnston was appointed to succeed him.

Whatever had been the illusions of the Government, they were now
at an end. There was no denying that the war had entered a new
stage and that the odds were grimly against the South. Davis
recognized the gravity of the situation, and in his message to
Congress in December, 1863, he admitted that the
Trans-Mississippi was practically isolated. This was indeed a
great catastrophe, for hereafter neither men nor supplies could
be drawn from the far Southwest. Furthermore, the Confederacy had
now lost its former precious advantage of using Mexico as a means
of secret trade with Europe.

These distressing events of the four months between Vicksburg and
Chattanooga established also the semi-isolation of the middle
region of the lower South. The two States of Mississippi and
Alabama entered upon the most desperate chapter of their history.
Neither in nor out of the Confederacy, neither protected by the
Confederate lines nor policed by the enemy, they were subject at
once to the full rigor of the financial and military demands of
the Administration of Richmond and to the full ruthlessness of
plundering raids from the North. Nowhere can the contrast between
the warfare of that day and the best methods of our own time be
observed more clearly than in this unhappy region. At the opening
of 1864 the effective Confederate lines drew an irregular zigzag
across the map from a point in northern Georgia not far below
Chattanooga to Mobile. Though small Confederate commands still
operated bravely west of this line, the whole of Mississippi and
a large part of Alabama were beyond aid from Richmond. But the
average man did not grasp the situation. When a region is
dominated by mobile armies the appearance of things to the
civilian is deceptive. Because the powerful Federal armies of the
Southwest, at the opening of 1864, were massed at strategic
points from Tennessee to the Gulf, and were not extended along an
obvious trench line, every brave civilian would still keep up his
hope and would still insist that the middle Gulf country was far
from subjugation, that its defense against the invader had not
become hopeless.

Under such conditions, when the Government at Richmond called
upon the men of the Southwest to regard themselves as mere
sources of supply, human and otherwise, mere feeders to a theater
of war that did not include their homes, it was altogether
natural that they should resent the demand. All the tragic
confusion that was destined in the course of the fateful year
1864 to paralyze the Government at Richmond was already apparent
in the middle Gulf country when the year began. Chief among these
was the inability of the State and Confederate Governments to
cooperate adequately in the business of conscription. The two
powers were determined rivals struggling each to seize the major
part of the manhood of the community. While Richmond, looking on
the situation with the eye of pure strategy, wished to draw
together the full man-power of the South in one great unit, the
local authorities were bent on retaining a large part of it for
home defense.

In the Alabama newspapers of the latter half of 1863 strange
incidents are to be found throwing light on the administrative
duel. The writ of habeas corpus, as was so often the case in
Confederate history, was the bone of contention. We have seen
that the second statute empowering the President to proclaim
martial law and to suspend the operation of the writ had expired
by limitation in February, 1863. The Alabama courts were
theoretically in full operation, but while the law was in force
the military authorities had acquired a habit of arbitrary
control. Though warned from Richmond in general orders that they
must not take unto themselves a power vested in the President
alone, they continued their previous course of action. It
thereupon became necessary to issue further general orders
annulling "all proclamations of martial law by general officers
and others" not invested by law with adequate authority.

Neither general orders nor the expiration of the statute,
however, seemed able to put an end to the interference with the
local courts on the part of local commanders. The evil apparently
grew during 1863. A picturesque instance is recorded with extreme
fullness by the Southern Advertiser in the autumn of the year. In
the minutely circumstantial account, we catch glimpses of one
Rhodes moving heaven and earth to prove himself exempt from
military service. After Rhodes is enrolled by the officers of the
local military rendezvous, the sheriff attempts to turn the
tables by arresting the Colonel in command. The soldiers rush to
defend their Colonel, who is ill in bed at a house some distance
away. The judge who had issued the writ is hot with anger at this
military interference in civil affairs. Thereupon the soldiers
seize him, but later, recognizing for some unexplained reason the
majesty of the civil law, they release him. And the hot-tempered
incident closes with the Colonel's determination to carry the
case to the Supreme Court of the State.

The much harassed people of Alabama had still other causes of
complaint during this same year. Again the newspapers illumine
the situation. In the troubled autumn, Joseph Wheeler swept
across the northern counties of Alabama and in a daring ride,
with Federal cavalry hot on his trail, reached safety beyond the
Tennessee River. Here his pursuers turned back and, as their
horses had been broken by the swiftness of the pursuit, returning
slowly, they "gleaned the country" to replace their supplies.
Incidentally they pounced upon the town of Huntsville. "Their
appearance here," writes a local correspondent, "was so sudden
and...the contradictory reports of their whereabouts" had
been so baffling that the townspeople had found no time to
secrete things. The whole neighborhood was swept clean of cattle
and almost clean of provision. "We have not enough left," the
report continues, "to haul and plow with...and milch cows are
non est." Including "Stanley's big raid in July," this was the
twenty-first raid which Huntsville had endured that year. The
report closes with a bitter denunciation of the people of
southern Alabama who as yet do not know what war means, who are
accused of complete hardness of heart towards their suffering
fellow-countrymen and of caring only to make money out of war

When Davis sent his message to the Southern Congress at the
opening of the session of 1864, the desperate plight of the
middle Gulf country was at once a warning and a menace to the
Government. If the conditions of that debatable land should
extend eastward, there could be little doubt that the day of the
Confederacy was nearing its close. To remedy the situation west
of the main Confederate line, to prevent the growth of a similar
condition east of it, Davis urged Congress to revive the statute
permitting martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas
corpus. The President told Congress that in parts of the
Confederacy "public meetings have been held, in some of which a
treasonable design is masked by a pretense of devotion of state
sovereignty, and in others is openly avowed...a strong
suspicion is entertained that secret leagues and associations are
being formed. In certain localities men of no mean position do
not hesitate to avow their disloyalty and hostility to our cause,
and their advocacy of peace on the terms of submission and the
abolition of slavery."

This suspicion on the part of the Confederate Government that it
was being opposed by organized secret societies takes us back to
debatable land and to the previous year. The Bureau of
Conscription submitted to the Secretary of War a report from its
Alabama branch relative to "a sworn secret organization known to
exist and believed to have for its object the encouragement of
desertion, the protection of deserters from arrest, resistance to
conscription, and perhaps other designs of a still more dangerous
character." To the operations of this insidious foe were
attributed the shifting of the vote in the Alabama elections, the
defeat of certain candidates favored by the Government, and the
return in their stead of new men "not publicly known." The
suspicions of the Government were destined to further
verification in the course of 1864 by the unearthing of a
treasonable secret society in southwestern Virginia, the members
of which were "bound to each other for the prosecution of their
nefarious designs by the most solemn oaths. They were under
obligation to encourage desertions from the army, and to pass and
harbor all deserters, escaped prisoners, or spies; to give
information to the enemy of the movements of our troops, of
exposed or weakened positions, of inviting opportunities of
attack, and to guide and assist the enemy either in advance or
retreat." This society bore the grandiloquent name "Heroes of
America" and had extended its operations into Tennessee and North

In the course of the year further evidence was collected which
satisfied the secret service of the existence of a mysterious and
nameless society which had ramifications throughout Tennessee,
Alabama, and Georgia. A detective who joined this "Peace
Society," as it was called, for the purpose of betraying its
secrets, had marvelous tales to tell of confidential information
given to him by members, of how Missionary Ridge had been lost
and Vicksburg had surrendered through the machinations of this

* What classes were represented in these organizations it is
difficult if not impossible to determine. They seem to have been
involved in the singular "peace movement" which is yet to be
considered. This fact gives a possible clue to the problem of
their membership. A suspiciously large number of the "peace" men
were original anti-secessionists, and though many, perhaps most,
of these who opposed secession became loyal servants of the
Confederacy, historians may have jumped too quickly to the
assumption that the sincerity of all of these men was above

In spite of its repugnance to the suspension of the writ of
habeas corpus, Congress was so impressed by the gravity of the
situation that early in 1864 it passed another act "to suspend
the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in certain cases."
This was not quite the same as that sweeping act of 1862 which
had set the Mercury irrevocably in opposition. Though this act of
1864 gave the President the power to order the arrest of any
person suspected of treasonable practices, and though it released
military officers from all obligation to obey the order of any
civil court to surrender a prisoner charged with treason, the new
legislation carefully defined a list of cases in which alone this
power could be lawfully used. This was the last act of the sort
passed by the Confederate Congress, and when it expired by
limitation ninety days after the next meeting of Congress it was
not renewed.

With regard to the administration of the army, Congress can
hardly be said to have met the President more than half way. The
age of military service was lowered to seventeen and was raised
to fifty. But the President was not given--though he had asked
for it--general control over exemptions. Certain groups, such as
ministers, editors, physicians, were in the main exempted; one
overseer was exempted on each plantation where there were fifteen
slaves, provided he gave bond to sell to the Government at
official prices each year one hundred pounds of either beef or
bacon for each slave employed and provided he would sell all his
surplus produce either to the Government or to the families of
soldiers. Certain civil servants of the Confederacy were also
exempted as well as those whom the governors of States should
"certify to be necessary for the proper administration of the
State Government." The President was authorized to detail for
nonmilitary service any members of the Confederate forces "when
in his judgment, justice, equity, and necessity, require such

This statute retained two features that had already given rise to
much friction, and that were destined to be the cause of much
more. It was still within the power of state governors to impede
conscription very seriously. By certifying that a man was
necessary to the civil administration of a State, a Governor
could place him beyond the legal reach of the conscripting
officers. This provision was a concession to those who looked on
Davis's request for authority over exemption as the first step
toward absolutism. On the other hand the statute allowed the
President a free hand in the scarcely less important matter of
"details." Among the imperative problems of the Confederacy,
where the whole male population was needed in the public service,
was the most economical separation of the two groups, the
fighters and the producers. On the one hand there was the
constant demand for recruits to fill up the wasted armies; on the
other, the need for workers to keep the shops going and to secure
the harvest. The two interests were never fully coordinated.
Under the act of 1864, no farmer, mechanic, tradesman, between
the ages of seventeen and fifty, if fit for military service,
could remain at his work except as a "detail" under orders of the
President: he might be called to the colors at a moment's notice.
We shall see, presently, how the revoking of details, toward the
end of what may truly be called the terrible year, was one of the
major incidents of Confederate history.

Together with the new conscription act, the President approved on
February 17, 1864, a reenactment of the tax in kind, with some
slight concessions to the convenience of the farmers. The
President's appeal for a law directly taxing slaves and land had
been ignored by Congress, but another of his suggestions had been
incorporated in the Funding Act. The state of the currency was
now so grave that Davis attributed to it all the evils growing
out of the attempts to enforce impressment. As the value of the
paper dollar had by this time shrunk to six cents in specie and
the volume of Confederate paper was upward of seven hundred
millions, Congress undertook to reduce the volume and raise the
value by compelling holders of notes to exchange them for bonds.
By way of driving the note-holders to consent to the exchange,
provision was made for the speedy taxation of notes for one-third
their face value.

Such were the main items of the government program for 1864.
Armed with this, Davis braced himself for the great task of
making head against the enemies that now surrounded the
Confederacy. It is an axiom of military science that when one
combatant possesses the interior line, the other can offset this
advantage only by exerting coincident pressure all round, thus
preventing him from shifting his forces from one front to
another. On this principle, the Northern strategists had at last
completed their gigantic plan for a general envelopment of the
whole Confederate defense both by land and sea. Grant opened
operations by crossing the Rapidan and telegraphing Sherman to
advance into Georgia.

The stern events of the spring of 1864 form such a famous page in
military history that the sober civil story of those months
appears by comparison lame and impotent. Nevertheless, the
Confederate Government during those months was at least equal to
its chief obligation: it supplied and recruited the armies. With
Grant checked at Cold Harbor, in June, and Sherman still unable
to pierce the western line, the hopes of the Confederates were

In the North there was corresponding gloom. This was the moment
when all Northern opponents of the war drew together in their
last attempt to shatter the Lincoln Government and make peace
with the Confederacy. The value to the Southern cause of this
Northern movement for peace at any price was keenly appreciated
at Richmond. Trusted agents of the Confederacy were even then in
Canada working deftly to influence Northern sentiment. The
negotiations with those Northern secret societies which
befriended the South belong properly in the story of Northern
politics and the presidential election of 1864. They were
skillfully conducted chiefly by Jacob Thompson and C. C. Clay.
The reports of these agents throughout the spring and summer were
all hopeful and told of "many intelligent men from the United
States" who sought them out in Canada for political
consultations. They discussed "our true friends from the Chicago
(Democratic) convention" and even gave names of those who, they
were assured, would have seats in McClellan's Cabinet. They were
really not well informed upon Northern affairs, and even after
the tide had turned against the Democrats in September, they were
still priding themselves on their diplomatic achievement, still
confident they had helped organize a great political power, had
"given a stronger impetus to the peace party of the North than
all other causes combined, and had greatly reduced the strength
of the war party."

While Clay and Thompson built their house of cards in Canada, the
Richmond Government bent anxious eyes on the western battlefront.
Sherman, though repulsed in his one frontal attack at Kenesaw
Mountain, had steadily worked his way by the left flank of the
Confederate army, until in early July he was within six miles of
Atlanta. All the lower South was a-tremble with apprehension.
Deputations were sent to Richmond imploring the removal of
Johnston from the western command. What had he done since his
appointment in December but retreat? Such was the tenor of public
opinion. "It is all very well to talk of Fabian policy," said one
of his detractors long afterward, "and now we can see we were
rash to say the least. But at the time, all of us went wrong
together. Everybody clamored for Johnston's removal." Johnston
and Davis were not friends; but the President hesitated long
before acting. And yet, with each day, political as well as
military necessity grew more imperative. Both at Washington and
Richmond the effect that the fighting in Georgia had on Northern
opinion was seen to be of the first importance. Sherman was
staking everything to break the Confederate line and take
Atlanta. He knew that a great victory would have incalculable
effect on the Northern election. Davis knew equally well that the
defeat of Sherman would greatly encourage the peace party in the
North. But he had no general of undoubted genius whom he could
put in Johnston's place. However, the necessity for a bold stroke
was so undeniable, and Johnston appeared so resolute to continue
his Fabian policy, that Davis reluctantly took a desperate chance
and superseded him by Hood.

During August, though the Democratic convention at Chicago drew
up its platform favoring peace at any price, the anxiety of the
Southern President did not abate his activities. The safety of
the western line was now his absorbing concern. And in mid-August
that line was turned, in a way, by Farragut's capture of Mobile
Bay. As the month closed, Sherman, despite the furious blows
delivered by Hood, was plainly getting the upper hand. North and
South, men watched that tremendous duel with the feeling that the
foundations of things were rocking. At last, on the 2d of
September, Sherman, victorious, entered Atlanta.

Chapter VIII. A Game Of Chance

With dramatic completeness in the summer and autumn of 1864, the
foundations of the Confederate hope one after another gave way.
Among the causes of this catastrophe was the failure of the
second great attempt on the part of the Confederacy to secure
recognition abroad. The subject takes us back to the latter days
of 1862, when the center of gravity in foreign affairs had
shifted from London to Paris. Napoleon III, at the height of his
strange career, playing half a dozen dubious games at once, took
up a new pastime and played at intrigue with the Confederacy. In
October he accorded a most gracious interview to Slidell. He
remarked that his sympathies were entirely with the South but
added that, if he acted alone, England might trip him up. He
spoke of his scheme for joint intervention by England, France,
and Russia. Then he asked why we had not created a navy. Slidell
snapped at the bait. He said that the Confederates would be glad
to build ships in France, that "if the Emperor would give only
some kind of verbal assurance that the police would not observe
too closely when we wished to put on guns and men we would gladly
avail ourselves of it." To this, the imperial trickster replied,
"Why could you not have them built as for the Italian Government?
I do not think it would be difficult but will consult the
Minister of Marine about it."

Slidell left the Emperor's presence confident that things would
happen. And they did. First came Napoleon's proposal of
intervention, which was declined before the end of the year by
England and Russia. Then came his futile overtures to the
Government at Washington, his offer of mediation--which was
rejected early in 1863. But Slidell remained confident that
something else would happen. And in this expectation also he was
not disappointed. The Emperor was deeply involved in Mexico and
was busily intriguing throughout Europe. This was the time when
Erlanger, standing high in the favor of the Emperor, made his
gambler's proposal to the Confederate authorities about cotton.
Another of the Emperor's friends now enters the play. On January
7, 1863, M. Arman, of Bordeaux, "the largest shipbuilder in
France," had called on the Confederate commissioner: M. Arman
would be happy to build ironclad ships for the Confederacy, and
as to paying for them, cotton bonds might do the trick.

No wonder Slidell was elated, so much so that he seems to have
given little heed to the Emperor's sinister intimation that the
whole affair must be subterranean. But the wily Bonaparte had not
forgotten that six months earlier he had issued a decree of
neutrality forbidding Frenchmen to take commissions from either
belligerent "for the armament of vessels of war or to accept
letters of marque, or to cooperate in any way whatsoever in the
equipment or arming of any vessel of war or corsair of either
belligerent." He did not intend to abandon publicly this cautious
attitude--at least, not for the present. And while Slidell at
Paris was completely taken in, the cooler head of A. Dudley Mann,
Confederate commissioner at Brussels, saw what an international
quicksand was the favor of Napoleon. It was about this time that
Napoleon, having dispatched General Forey with a fresh army to
Mexico, wrote the famous letter which gave notice to the world of
what he was about. Mann wrote home in alarm that the Emperor
might be expected to attempt recovering Mexico's ancient areas
including Texas. Slidell saw in the Forey letter only "views...
which will not be gratifying to the Washington Government."

The adroit Arman, acting on hints from high officers of the
Government, applied for permission to build and arm ships of war,
alleging that he intended to send them to the Pacific and sell
them to either China or Japan. To such a laudable expression of
commercial enterprise, one of his fellows in the imperial ring,
equipped with proper authority under Bonaparte, hastened to give
official approbation, and Erlanger came forward by way of
financial backer. There were conferences of Confederate agents;
contracts were signed; plans were agreed upon; and the work was

There was no more hopeful man in the Confederate service than
Slidell when, in the full flush of pride after Chancellorsville,
he appealed to the Emperor to cease waiting on other powers and
recognize the Confederacy. Napoleon accorded another gracious
interview but still insisted that it was impossible for him to
act alone. He said that he was "more fully convinced than ever of
the propriety of a general recognition by the European powers of
the Confederate States but that the commerce of France and the
interests of the Mexican expedition would be jeopardized by a
rupture with the United States" and unless England would stand
by him he dared not risk such an eventuality. In point of fact,
he was like a speculator who is "hedging" on the stock exchange,
both buying and selling, and trying to make up his mind on which
cast to stake his fortune. At the same time he threw out once
more the sinister caution about the ships. He said that the
ships might be built in France but that their destination must
be concealed.

That Napoleon's choice just then, if England had supported him,
would have been recognition of the Confederacy, cannot be
doubted. The tangle of intrigue which he called his foreign
policy was not encouraging. He was deeply involved in Italian
politics, where the daring of Garibaldi had reopened the struggle
between clericals and liberals. In France itself the struggle
between parties was keen. Here, as in the American imbroglio, he
found it hard to decide with which party to break. The chimerical
scheme of a Latin empire in Mexico was his spectacular device to
catch the imagination, and incidentally the pocketbook, of
everybody. But in order to carry out this enterprise he must be
able to avert or withstand the certain hostility of the United
States. Therefore, as he told Slidell, "no other power than
England possessed a sufficient navy" to pull his chestnuts out
of the fire. The moment was auspicious, for there was a revival
of the "Southern party" in England. The sailing of the Alabama
from Liverpool during the previous summer had encouraged the
Confederate agents and their British friends to undertake
further shipbuilding.

While M. Arman was at work in France, the Laird Brothers were at
work in England and their dockyards contained two ironclad rams
supposed to outclass any vessels of the United States navy.
Though every effort had been made to keep secret the ultimate
destination of these rams, the vigilance of the United States
minister, reinforced by the zeal of the "Northern party,"
detected strong circumstantial evidence pointing toward a
Confederate contract with the Lairds. A popular agitation ensued
along with demands upon the Government to investigate. To mask
the purposes of the Lairds, Captain James Bullock, the able
special agent of the Confederate navy, was forced to fall lack
upon the same tactics that were being used across the Channel,
and to sell the rams, on paper, to a firm in France. Neither he
nor Slidell yet appreciated what a doubtful refuge was the shadow
of Napoleon's wing.

Nevertheless the British Government, by this time practically
alined with the North, continued its search for the real owner of
the Laird rams. The "Southern party," however, had not quite
given up hope, and the agitation to prevent the sailing of the
rams was a keen spur to its flagging zeal. Furthermore the
prestige of Lee never was higher than it was in June, 1863, when
the news of Chancellorsville was still fresh and resounding in
every mind. It had given new life to the Confederate hope: Lee
would take Washington before the end of the summer; the Laird
rams would go to sea; the Union would be driven to the wall. So
reasoned the ardent friends of the South. But one thing was
lacking--a European alliance. What a time for England to

While Slidell was talking with the Emperor, he had in his pocket
a letter from J. A. Roebuck, an English politician who wished to
force the issue in the House of Commons. As a preliminary to
moving the recognition of the Confederacy, he wanted authority to
deny a rumor going the rounds in London, to the effect that
Napoleon had taken position against intervention. Napoleon, when
he had seen the letter, began a negotiation of some sort with
this politician. It is needless to enter into the complications
that ensued, the subsequent recriminations, and the question as
to just what Napoleon promised at this time and how many of his
promises he broke. He was a diplomat of the old school, the
school of lying as a fine art. He permitted Roebuck to come over
to Paris for an audience, and Roebuck went away with the
impression that Napoleon could be relied upon to back up a new
movement for recognition. When, however, Roebuck brought the
matter before the Commons at the end of the month and encountered
an opposition from the Government that seemed to imply an
understanding with Napoleon which was different from his own, he
withdrew his motion (in July). Once more the scale turned against
the Confederacy, and Gettysburg was supplemented by the seizure
of the Laird rams by the British authorities. These events
explain the bitter turn given to Confederate feeling toward
England in the latter part of 1863. On the 4th of August Benjamin
wrote to Mason that "the perusal of the recent debates in
'Parliament satisfies the President" that Mason's "continued
residence in London is neither conducive to the interests nor
consistent with the dignity of this government," and directed him
to withdraw to Paris.

Confederate feeling, as it cooled toward England, warmed toward
France. Napoleon's Mexican scheme, including the offer of a
ready-made imperial crown to Maximilian, the brother of the
Emperor of Austria, was fully understood at Richmond; and with
Napoleon's need of an American ally, Southern hope revived. It
was further strengthened by a pamphlet which was translated and
distributed in the South as a newspaper article under the title
France, Mexico, and the Confederate States. The reputed author,
Michel Chevalier, was an imperial senator, another member of the
Napoleon ring, and highly trusted by his shifty master. The
pamphlet, which emphasized the importance of Southern
independence as a condition of Napoleon's "beneficent aims" in
Mexico, was held to have been inspired, and the imperial denial
was regarded as a mere matter of form.

What appeared to be significant of the temper of the Imperial
Government was a decree of a French court in the case of certain
merchants who sought to recover insurance on wine dispatched to
America and destroyed in a ship taken by the Alabama. Their plea
was that they were insured against loss by "pirates." The court
dismissed their suit and assessed costs against them. Further
evidence of Napoleon's favor was the permission given to the
Confederate cruiser Florida to repair at Brest and even to make
use of the imperial dockyard. The very general faith in
Napoleon's promises was expressed by Davis in his message to
Congress in December: "Although preferring our own government and
institutions to those of other countries, we can have no
disposition to contest the exercise by them of the same right of
self-government which we assert for ourselves. If the Mexican
people prefer a monarchy to a republic, it is our plain duty
cheerfully to acquiesce in their decision and to evince a sincere
and friendly interest in their prosperity.... The Emperor of
the French has solemnly disclaimed any purpose to impose on
Mexico a form of government not acceptable to the nation...."
In January, 1864, hope of recognition through support of
Napoleon's Mexican policy moved the Confederate Congress to adopt
resolutions providing for a Minister to the Mexican Empire and
giving him instructions with regard to a presumptive treaty. To
the new post Davis appointed General William Preston.

But what, while hope was springing high in America, was taking
place in France? So far as the world could say, there was little
if anything to disturb the Confederates; and yet, on the horizon,
a cloud the size of a man's hand had appeared. M. Arman had
turned to another member of the Legislative Assembly, a sound
Bonapartist like himself, M. Voruz, of Nantes, to whom he had
sublet a part of the Confederate contract. The truth about the
ships and their destination thus became part of the archives of
the Voruz firm. No phase of Napoleonic intrigue could go very far
without encountering dishonesty, and to the confidential clerk of
M. Voruz there occurred the bright idea of doing something for
himself with this valuable diplomatic information. One fine day
the clerk was missing and with him certain papers. Then there
ensued a period of months during which the firm and their
employers could only conjecture the full extent of their loss.

In reality, from the Confederate point of view, everything was
lost. Again the episode becomes too complex to be followed in
detail. Suffice it to say that the papers were sold to the United
States; that the secret was exposed; that the United States made
a determined assault upon the Imperial Government. In the midst
of this entanglement, Slidell lost his head, for hope deferred
when apparently within reach of its end is a dangerous councilor
of state. In his extreme anxiety, Slidell sent to the Emperor a
note the blunt rashness of which the writer could not have
appreciated. Saying that he feared the Emperor's subordinates
might play into the hands of Washington, he threw his fat in the
fire by speaking of the ships as "now being constructed at
Bordeaux and Nantes for the government of the Confederate States"
and virtually claimed of Napoleon a promise to let them go to
sea. Three days later the Minister of Foreign Affairs took him
sharply to task because of this note, reminding him that "what
had passed with the Emperor was confidential" and dropping the
significant hint that France could not be forced into war by
"indirection." According to Slidell's version of the interview
"the Minister's tone changed completely" when Slidell replied
with "a detailed history of the affair showing that the idea
originated with the Emperor." Perhaps the Minister knew more than
he chose to betray. From this hour the game was up. Napoleon's
purpose all along seems to have been quite plain. He meant to
help the South to win by itself, and, after it had won, to use it
for his own advantage. So precarious was his position in Europe
that he dared not risk an American war without England's aid, and
England had cast the die. In this way, secrecy was the condition
necessary to continued building of the ships. Now that the secret
was out, Napoleon began to shift his ground. He sounded the
Washington Government and found it suspiciously equivocal as to
Mexico. To silence the French republicans, to whom the American
minister had supplied information about the ships, Napoleon tried
at first muzzling the press. But as late as February, 1864, he
was still carrying water on both shoulders. His Minister of
Marine notified the builders that they must get the ships out of
France, unarmed, under fictitious sale to some neutral country.
The next month, reports which the Confederate commissioners sent
home became distinctly alarming. Mann wrote from Brussels:
"Napoleon has enjoined upon Maximilian to hold no official
relations with our commissioners in Mexico." Shortly after this
Slidell received a shock that was the beginning of the end:
Maximilian, on passing through Paris on his way to Mexico,
refused to receive him.

The Mexican project was now being condemned by all classes in
France. Nevertheless, the Government was trying to float a
Mexican loan, and it is hardly fanciful to think that on this
loan the last hope of the Confederacy turned. Despite the popular
attitude toward Mexico, the loan was going well when the House of
Representatives of the United States dealt the Confederacy a
staggering blow. It passed unanimous resolutions in the most grim
terms, denouncing the substitution of monarchical for republican
government in Mexico under European auspices. When this action
was reported in France, the Mexican loan collapsed.

Napoleon's Italian policy was now moving rapidly toward the
crisis which it reached during the following summer when he
surrendered to the opposition and promised to withdraw the French
troops from Rome. In May, when the loan collapsed, there was
nothing for it but to throw over his dear friends of the
Confederacy. Presently he had summoned Arman before him, "rated
him severely," and ordered him to make bona fide sales of the
ships to neutral powers. The Minister of Marine professed
surprise and indignation at Arman's trifling with the neutrality
of the Imperial Government. And that practically was the end of
the episode.

Equally complete was the breakdown of the Confederate
negotiations with Mexico. General Preston was refused
recognition. In those fierce days of July when the fate of
Atlanta was in the balance, the pride and despair of the
Confederate Government flared up in a haughty letter to Preston
reminding him that "it had never been the intention of this
Government to offer any arguments to the new Government of Mexico
...nor to place itself in any attitude other than that of
complete equality," and directing him to make no further
overtures to the Mexican Emperor.

And then came the debacle in Georgia. On that same 20th of
September when Benjamin poured out in a letter to Slidell his
stored-up bitterness denouncing Napoleon, Davis, feeling the last
crisis was upon him, left Richmond to join the army in Georgia.
His frame of mind he had already expressed when he said, "We have
no friends abroad."

Chapter IX. Desperate Remedies

The loss of Atlanta was the signal for another conflict of
authority within the Confederacy. Georgia was now in the
condition in which Alabama had found herself in the previous
year. A great mobile army of invaders lay encamped on her soil.
And yet there was still a state Government established at the
capital. Inevitably the man who thought of the situation from the
point of view of what we should now call the general staff, and
the man who thought of it from the point of view of a citizen of
the invaded State, suffered each an intensification of feeling,
and each became determined to solve the problem in his own way.
The President of the Confederacy and the Governor of Georgia
represented these incompatible points of view.

The Governor, Joseph E. Brown, is one of the puzzling figures of
Confederate history. We have already encountered him as a dogged
opponent of the Administration. With the whole fabric of Southern
life toppling about his ears, Brown argued, quibbled, evaded, and
became a rallying-point of disaffection. That more eminent
Georgian, Howell Cobb, applied to him very severe language, and
they became engaged in a controversy over that provision of the
Conscription Act which exempted state officials from military
service. While the Governor of Virginia was refusing certificates
of exemption to the minor civil officers such as justices of the
peace, Brown by proclamation promised his "protection" to the
most insignificant civil servants. "Will even your Excellency,"
demanded Cobb, "certify that in any county of Georgia twenty
justices of the peace and an equal number of constables are
necessary for the proper administration of the state
government?" The Bureau of Conscription estimated that Brown
kept out of the army approximately 8000 eligible men. The truth
seems to be that neither by education nor heredity was this
Governor equipped to conceive large ideas. He never seemed
conscious of the war as a whole, or of the Confederacy as a
whole. To defend Georgia and, if that could not be done, to make
peace for Georgia--such in the mind of Brown was the aim of the
war. His restless jealousy of the Administration finds its
explanation in his fear that it would denude his State of men.
The seriousness of Governor Brown's opposition became apparent
within a week of the fall of Atlanta. Among Hood's forces were
some 10,000 Georgia militia. Brown notified Hood that these
troops had been called out solely with a view to the defense of
Atlanta, that since Atlanta had been lost they must now be
permitted "to return to their homes and look for a time after
important interests," and that therefore he did "withdraw said
organizations" from Hood's command. In other words, Brown was
afraid that they might be taken out of the State. By proclamation
he therefore gave the militia a furlough of thirty days. Previous
to the issue of this proclamation, Seddon had written to Brown
making requisition for his 10,000 militia to assist in a pending
campaign against Sherman. Two days after his proclamation had
appeared, Brown, in a voluminous letter full of blustering
rhetoric and abounding in sneers at the President, demanded
immediate reinforcements by order of the President and threatened
that, if they were not sent, he would recall the Georgia troops
from the army of Lee and would command "all the sons of Georgia
to return to their own State and within their own limits to rally
round her glorious flag."

So threatening was the situation in Georgia that Davis attempted
to take it into his own hands. In a grim frame of mind he left
Richmond for the front. The resulting military arrangements do
not of course belong strictly to the subject matter of this
volume; but the brief tour of speechmaking which Davis made in
Georgia and the interior of South Carolina must be noticed; for
his purpose seems to have been to put the military point of view
squarely before the people. He meant them to see how the soldier
looked at the situation, ignoring all demands of locality, of
affiliation, of hardship, and considering only how to meet and
beat the enemy. In his tense mood he was not always fortunate in
his expressions. At Augusta, for example, he described
Beauregard, whom he had recently placed in general command over
Georgia and South Carolina, as one who would do whatever the
President told him to do. But this idea of military
self-effacement was not happily worded, and the enemies of Davis
seized on his phraseology as further evidence of his instinctive
autocracy. The Mercury compared him to the Emperor of Russia and
declared the tactless remark to be "as insulting to General
Beauregard as it is false and presumptuous in the President."

Meanwhile Beauregard was negotiating with Brown. Though they
came to an understanding about the disposition of the militia,
Brown still tried to keep control of the state troops. When
Sherman was burning Atlanta preparatory to the March to the Sea,
Brown addressed to the Secretary of War another interminable
epistle, denouncing the Confederate authorities and asserting
his willingness to fight both the South and the North if they
did not both cease invading his rights. But the people of
Georgia were better balanced than their Governor. Under the
leadership of such men as Cobb they rose to the occasion and did
their part in what proved a vain attempt to conduct a "people's
war." Their delegation at Richmond sent out a stirring appeal
assuring them that Davis was doing for them all it was possible
to do. "Let every man fly to arms," said the appeal. "Remove
your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from before
Sherman's army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges
and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in
front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no

The Richmond Government was unable to detach any considerable
force from the northern front. Its contribution to the forces in
Georgia was accomplished by such pathetic means as a general
order calling to the colors all soldiers furloughed or in
hospital, "except those unable to travel"; by revoking all
exemptions to farmers, planters, and mechanics, except munitions
workers; and by placing one-fifth of the ordnance and mining
bureau in the battle service.

All the world knows how futile were these endeavors to stop the
whirlwind of desolation that was Sherman's march. He spent his
Christmas Day in Savannah. Then the center of gravity shifted
from Georgia to South Carolina. Throughout the two desperate
months that closed 1864 the authorities of South Carolina had
vainly sought for help from Richmond. Twice the Governor made
official request for the return to South Carolina of some of her
own troops who were at the front in Virginia. Davis first evaded
and then refused the request. Lee had informed him that if the
forces on the northern front were reduced, the evacuation of
Richmond would become inevitable.

The South Carolina Government, in December, 1864, seems to have
concluded that the State must save itself. A State Conscription
Act was passed placing all white males between the ages of
sixteen and sixty at the disposal of the state authorities for
emergency duty. An Exemption Act set forth a long list of persons
who should not be liable to conscription by the Confederate
Government. Still a third act regulated the impressment of slaves
for work on fortifications so as to enable the state authorities
to hold a check upon the Confederate authorities. The
significance of the three statutes was interpreted by a South
Carolina soldier, General John S. Preston, in a letter to the
Secretary of War that was a wail of despair. "This legislation
is an explicit declaration that this State does not intend to
contribute another soldier or slave to the public defense, except
on such terms its may be dictated by her authorities. The example
will speedily be followed by North Carolina and Georgia, the
Executives of those States having already assumed the position."

The division between the two parties in South Carolina had now
become bitter. To Preston the men behind the State Exemption Act
appeared as "designing knaves." The Mercury, on the other hand,
was never more relentless toward Davis than in the winter of
1864-1865. However, none or almost none of the anti-Davis men in
South Carolina made the least suggestion of giving up the
struggle. To fight to the end but also to act as a check upon the
central Government--as the new Governor, Andrew G. Magrath, said
in his inaugural address in December, 1864,--was the aim of the
dominant party in South Carolina. How far the State Government
and the Confederate Government had drifted apart is shown by two
comments which were made in January, 1865. Lee complained that
the South Carolina regiments, "much reduced by hard service,"
were not being recruited up to their proper strength because of
the measures adopted in the southeastern States to retain
conscripts at home. About the same date the Mercury arraigned
Davis for leaving South Carolina defenseless in the face of
Sherman's coming offensive, and asked whether Davis intended to
surrender the Confederacy.

And in the midst of this critical period, the labor problem
pushed to the fore again. The revocation of industrial details,
necessary as it was, had put almost the whole male population--in
theory, at least--in the general Confederate army. How
far-reaching was the effect of this order may be judged from the
experience of the Columbia and Augusta Railroad Company. This
road was building through the interior of the State a new line
which was rendered imperatively necessary by Sherman's seizure of
the lines terminating at Savannah. The effect of the revocation
order on the work in progress was described by the president of
the road in a letter to the Secretary of War:

"In July and August I made a fair beginning and by October we had
about 600 hands. General Order No. 77 took off many of our
contractors and hands. We still had increased the number of hands
to about 400 when Sherman started from Atlanta. The military
authorities of Augusta took about 300 of them to fortify that
city. These contractors being from Georgia returned with their
slaves to their homes after being discharged at Augusta. We still
have between 500 and 600 hands at work and are adding to the
force every week.

"The great difficulty has been in getting contractors exempt or
definitely detailed since Order No. 77. I have not exceeded eight
or nine contractors now detailed. The rest are exempt from other
causes or over age."

It was against such a background of economic confusion that
Magrath wrote to the Governor of North Carolina making a
revolutionary proposal. Virtually admitting that the Confederacy
had been shattered, and knowing the disposition of those in
authority to see only the military aspects of any given
situation, he prophesied two things: that the generals would soon
attempt to withdraw Lee's army south of Virginia, and that the
Virginia troops in that army would refuse to go. "It is natural
under the circumstances," said he, "that they would not." He
would prepare for this emergency by an agreement among the
Southeastern and Gulf States to act together irrespective of
Richmond, and would thus weld the military power of these States
into "a compact and organized mass."

Governor Vance, with unconscious subtlety, etched a portrait of
his own mind when he replied that the crisis demanded
"particularly the skill of the politician perhaps more than that
of the great general." He adroitly evaded saying what he really
thought of the situation but he made two explicit
counter-proposals. He suggested that a demand should be made for
the restoration of General Johnston and for the appointment of
General Lee to "full and absolute command of all the forces of
the Confederacy." On the day on which Vance wrote to Magrath, the
Mercury lifted up its voice and cried out for a Lee to take
charge of the Government and save the Confederacy. About the same
time Cobb wrote to Davis in the most friendly way, warning him
that he had scarcely a supporter left in Georgia, and that, in
view of the great popular reaction in favor of Johnston,
concessions to the opposition were an imperative necessity. "By
accident," said he, "I have become possessed of the facts in
connection with the proposed action of the Governors of certain
States." He disavowed any sympathy with the movement but warned
Davis that it was a serious menace.

Two other intrigues added to the general political confusion. One
of these, the "Peace Movement," will be considered in the next
chapter. The other was closely connected with the alleged
conspiracy to depose Davis and set up Lee as dictator. If the
traditional story, accepted by able historians, may be believed,
William C. Rives, of the Confederate Congress, carried in
January, 1865, to Lee from a congressional cabal an invitation to
accept the role of Cromwell. The greatest difficulty in the way
of accepting the tradition is the extreme improbability that any
one who knew anything of Lee would have been so foolish as to
make such a proposal. Needless to add, the tradition includes
Lee's refusal to overturn the Government. There can be no doubt,
however, that all the enemies of Davis in Congress and out of it,
in the opening months of 1865, made a determined series of
attacks upon his Administration. Nor can there be any doubt that
the popular faith in Lee was used as their trump card. To that
end, a bill was introduced to create the office of commanding
general of the Confederate armies. The bill was generally
applauded, and every one assumed that the new office was to be
given to Lee. On the day after the bill had passed the Senate the
Virginia Legislature resolved that the appointment of General Lee
to supreme command would "reanimate the spirit of the armies as
well as the people of the several States and...inspire
increased confidence in the final success of the cause." When the
bill was sent to the President, it was accompanied by a
resolution asking him to restore Johnston. While Davis was
considering this bill, the Virginia delegation in the House,
headed by the Speaker, Thomas S. Bocock, waited upon the
President, informed him what was really wanted was a change of
Cabinet, and told him that three-fourths of the House would
support a resolution of want of confidence in the Cabinet. The
next day Bocock repeated the demand in a note which Davis
described as a "warning if not a threat."

The situation of both President and country was now desperate.
The program with which the Government had entered so hopefully
upon this fated year had broken down at almost every point. In
addition to the military and administrative disasters, the
financial and economic situation was as bad as possible. So
complete was the financial breakdown that Secretary Memminger,
utterly disheartened, had resigned his office, and the Treasury
was now administered by a Charleston merchant, George A.
Trenholm. But the financial chaos was wholly beyond his control.
The government notes reckoned in gold were worth about three
cents on the dollar. The Government itself avoided accepting
them. It even bought up United States currency and used it in
transacting the business of the army. The extent of the financial
collapse was to be measured by such incidents as the following
which is recounted in a report that had passed under Davis's eye
only a few weeks before the "threat" of Bocock was uttered:
"Those holding the four per cent certificates complain that the
Government as far as possible discredits them. Fractions of
hundreds cannot be paid with them. I saw a widow lady, a few days
since, offer to pay her taxes of $1,271.31 with a certificate of
$1,300. The tax-gatherer refused to give her the change of
$28.69. She then offered the whole certificate for the taxes.
This was refused. This apparent injustice touched her far more
than the amount of the taxes."

A letter addressed to the President from Griffin, Georgia,
contained this dreary picture:

"Unless something is done and that speedily, there will be
thousands of the best citizens of the State and heretofore as
loyal as any in the Confederacy, that will not care one cent
which army is victorious in Georgia.... Since August last
there have been thousands of cavalry and wagon trains feeding
upon our cornfields and for which our quartermasters and officers
in command of trains, regiments, battalions, companies, and
squads, have been giving the farmers receipts, and we were all
told these receipts would pay our government taxes and tithing;
and yet not one of them will be taken by our collector....
And yet we are threatened with having our lands sold for taxes.
Our scrip for corn used by our generals will not be taken....
How is it that we have certified claims upon our Government, past
due ten months, and when we enter the quartermaster's office we
see placed up conspicuously in large letters "no funds." Some of
these said quartermasters [who] four years ago were not worth the
clothes upon their backs, are now large dealers in lands,
negroes, and real estate."

There was almost universal complaint that government contractors
were speculating in supplies and that the Impressment Law was
used by officials to cover their robbery of both the Government
and the people. Allowing for all the panic of the moment, one is
forced to conclude that the smoke is too dense not to cover a
good deal of fire. In a word, at the very time when local
patriotism everywhere was drifting into opposition to the general
military command and when Congress was reflecting this widespread
loss of confidence, the Government was loudly charged with
inability to restrain graft. In all these accusations there was
much injustice. Conditions that the Government was powerless to
control were cruelly exaggerated, and the motives of the
Government were falsified. For all this exaggeration and
falsification the press was largely to blame. Moreover, the
press, at least in dangerously large proportion, was schooling
the people to hold Davis personally responsible for all their
suffering. General Bragg was informed in a letter from a
correspondent in Mobile that "men have been taught to look upon
the President as an inexorably self-willed man who will see the
country to the devil before giving up an opinion or a purpose."
This deliberate fostering of an anti-Davis spirit might seem less
malicious if the fact were not known that many editors detested
Davis because of his desire to abolish the exemption of editors
from conscription. Their ignoble course brings to mind one of the
few sarcasms recorded of Lee--the remark that the great mistake
of the South was in making all its best military geniuses editors
of newspapers. But it must be added in all fairness that the
great opposition journals, such as the Mercury, took up this new
issue with the President because they professed to see in his
attitude toward the press a determination to suppress freedom of
speech, so obsessed was the opposition with the idea that Davis
was a monster! Whatever explanations may be offered for the
prevalence of graft, the impotence of the Government at Richmond
contributed to the general demoralization. In regions like
Georgia and Alabama, the Confederacy was now powerless to control
its agents. Furthermore, in every effort to assume adequate
control of the food situation the Government met the continuous
opposition of two groups of opponents--the unscrupulous parasites
and the bigots of economic and constitutional theory. Of the
activities of the first group, one incident is sufficient to tell
the whole story. At Richmond, in the autumn of 1864, the grocers
were selling rice at two dollars and a half a pound. It happened
that the Governor of Virginia was William Smith, one of the
strong men of the Confederacy who has not had his due from the
historians. He saw that even under the intolerable conditions of
the moment this price was shockingly exorbitant. To remedy
matters, the Governor took the State of Virginia into business,
bought rice where it was grown, imported it, and sold it in
Richmond at fifty cents a pound, with sufficient profit to cover
all costs of handling.

Nevertheless, when Smith urged the Virginia Legislature to assume
control of business as a temporary measure, be was at once
assailed by the second group--those martinets of
constitutionalism who would not give up their cherished
Anglo-Saxon tradition of complete individualism in government.
The Administration lost some of its staunchest supporters the
moment its later organ, the Sentinel, began advocating the
general regulation of prices. With ruin staring them in the face,
these devotees of tradition could only reiterate their ancient
formulas, nail their colors to the mast, end go down, satisfied
that, if they failed with these principles, they would have
failed still more terribly without them. Confronting the
practical question how to prevent speculators from charging 400
per cent profit, these men turned grim but did not abandon their
theory. In the latter part of 1864 they aligned themselves with
the opposition when the government commissioners of impressment
fixed an official schedule that boldly and ruthlessly cut under
market prices. The attitude of many such people was expressed by
the Montgomery Mail when it said:

"The tendency of the age, the march of the American people, is
toward monarchy, and unless the tide is stopped we shall reach
something worse than monarchy.

"Every step we have taken during the past four years has been in
the direction of military despotism.

"Half our laws are unconstitutional."

Another danger of the hour was the melting away of the
Confederate army under the very eyes of its commanders. The
records showed that there were 100,000 absentees. And though the
wrathful officials of the Bureau of Conscription labeled them all
"deserters," the term covered great numbers who had gone home to
share the sufferings of their families.

Such in brief was the fateful background of the congressional
attack upon the Administration in January, 1865. Secretary
Seddon, himself a Virginian, believing that he was the main
target of the hostility of the Virginia delegation, insisted upon
resigning. Davis met this determination with firmness, not to say
infatuation, and in spite of the congressional crisis, exhausted
every argument to persuade Seddon to remain in office. He denied
the right of Congress to control his Cabinet, but he was finally
constrained to allow Seddon to retire. The bitterness inspired by
these attempts to coerce the President may be gauged by a remark
attributed to Mrs. Davis. Speaking of the action of Congress in
forcing upon him the new plan for a single commanding general of
all the armies, she is said to have exclaimed, "I think I am the
proper person to advise Mr. Davis and if I were he, I would die
or be hung before I would submit to the humiliation."

Nevertheless the President surrendered to Congress. On January
26, 1865, he signed the bill creating the office of commanding
general and at once bestowed the office upon Lee. It must not be
supposed, however, that Lee himself had the slightest sympathy
with the congressional cabal which had forced upon the President
this reorganization of the army. In accepting his new position he
pointedly ignored Congress by remarking, "I am indebted alone to
the kindness of His Excellency, the President, for my nomination
to this high and arduous office."

The popular clamor for the restoration of Johnston had still to
be appeased. Disliking Johnston and knowing that the opposition
was using a popular general as a club with which to beat himself,
Davis hesitated long but in the end yielded to the inevitable. To
make the reappointment himself, however, was too humiliating. He
left it to the new commander-in-chief, who speedily restored
Johnston to command.

Chapter X. Disintegration

While these factions, despite their disagreements, were making
valiant efforts to carry on the war, other factions were
stealthily cutting the ground from under them. There were two
groups of men ripe for disaffection--original Unionists
unreconciled to the Confederacy and indifferentists conscripted
against their will.

History has been unduly silent about these disaffected men. At
the time so real was the belief in state rights that
contemporaries were reluctant to admit that any Southerner, once
his State had seceded, could fail to be loyal to its commands.
Nevertheless in considerable areas--such, for example, as East
Tennessee--the majority remained to the end openly for the Union,
and there were large regions in the South to which until quite
recently the eye of the student had not been turned. They were
like deep shadows under mighty trees on the face of a brilliant
landscape. When the peasant Unionist who had been forced into the
army deserted, however, he found in these shadows a nucleus of
desperate men ready to combine with him in opposition to the
local authorities.

Thus were formed local bands of free companions who pillaged the
civilian population. The desperadoes whom the deserters joined
have been described by Professor Dodd as the "neglected
byproducts" of the old regime. They were broken white men, or the
children of such, of the sort that under other circumstances have
congregated in the slums of great cities. Though the South lacked
great cities, nevertheless it had its slum--a widespread slum,
scattered among its swamps and forests. In these fastnesses were
the lowest of the poor whites, in whom hatred of the dominant
whites and vengeful malice against the negro burned like slow
fires. When almost everywhere the countryside was stripped of its
fighting men, these wretches emerged from their swamps and
forests, like the Paris rabble emerging from its dens at the
opening of the Revolution. But unlike the Frenchmen, they were
too sodden to be capable of ideas. Like predatory wild beasts
they revenged themselves upon the society that had cast them off,
and with utter heartlessness they smote the now defenseless
negro. In the old days, with the country well policed, the slaves
had been protected against their fury, but war now changed all.
The negro villages--or "streets," as the term was--were without
arms and without white police within call. They were ravaged by
these marauders night after night, and negroes were not the only
victims, for in remote districts even murder of the whites became
a familiar horror.

The antiwar factions were not necessarily, however, users of
violence. There were some men who cherished a dream which they
labeled "reconstruction"; and there were certain others who
believed in separate state action, still clinging to the illusion
that any State had it in its power to escape from war by
concluding a separate peace with the United States.

Yet neither of these illusions made much headway in the States
-that had borne the strain of intellectual leadership. Virginia
and South Carolina, though seldom seeing things eye to eye and
finally drifting in opposite directions, put but little faith in
either "reconstruction" or separate peace. Their leaders had
learned the truth about men and nations; they knew that life is a
grim business; they knew that war had unloosed passions that had
to spend themselves and that could not be talked away.

But there was scattered over the Confederacy a population which
lacked experience of the world and which included in the main
those small farmers and semi-peasants who under the old regime
were released from the burden of taxation and at the same time
excluded from the benefits of education. Among these people the
illusions of the higher classes were reflected without the
ballast of mentality. Ready to fight on any provocation, yet
circumscribed by their own natures, not understanding life,
unable to picture to themselves different types and conditions,
these people were as prone as children to confuse the world of
their own desire with the world of fact. When hardship came, when
taxation fell upon them with a great blow, when the war took a
turn that necessitated imagination for its understanding and
faith for its pursuit, these people with childlike simplicity
immediately became panic-stricken. Like the similar class in the
North, they had measureless faith in talk. Hence for them, as for
Horace Greeley and many another, sprang up the notion that if
only all their sort could be brought together for talk and talk
and yet more talk, the Union could be "reconstructed" just as it
used to be, and the cruel war would end. Before their eyes, as
before Greeley in 1864, danced the fata morgana of a convention
of all the States, talking, talking, talking.

The peace illusion centered in North Carolina, where the people
were as enthusiastic for state sovereignty as were any
Southerners. They had seceded mainly because they felt that this
principle had been attacked. Having themselves little if any
intention to promote slavery, they nevertheless were prompt to
resent interference with the system or with any other Southern
institution. Jonathan Worth said that they looked on both
abolition and secession as children of the devil, and he put the
responsibility for the secession of his State wholly upon Lincoln
and his attempt to coerce the lower South. This attitude was
probably characteristic of all classes in North Carolina. There
also an unusually large percentage of men lacked education and
knowledge of the world. We have seen how the first experience
with taxation produced instant and violent reaction. The peasant
farmers of the western counties and the general mass of the
people began to distrust the planter class. They began asking if
their allies, the other States, were controlled by that same
class which seemed to be crushing them by the exaction of tithes.
And then the popular cry was raised: Was there after all anything
in the war for the masses in North Carolina? Had they left the
frying-pan for the fire? Could they better things by withdrawing
from association with their present allies and going back alone
into the Union? The delusion that they could do so whenever they
pleased and on the old footing seems to have been widespread. One
of their catch phrases was "the Constitution as it is and the
Union as it was." Throughout 1863, when the agitation against
tithes was growing every day, the "conservatives" of North
Carolina, as their leaders named them, were drawing together in a
definite movement for peace. This project came to a head during
the next year in those grim days when Sherman was before Atlanta.
Holden, that champion of the opposition to tithes, became a
candidate for Governor against Vance, who was standing for
reelection. Holden stated his platform in the organ of his party
"If the people of North Carolina are for perpetual conscriptions,
impressments and seizures to keep up a perpetual, devastating and
exhausting war, let them vote for Governor Vance, for he is
for`fighting it out now; but if they believe, from the bitter
experience of the last three years, that the sword can never end
it, and are in favor of steps being taken by the State to urge
negotiations by the general government for an honorable and
speedy peace, they must vote for Mr. Holden."

As Holden, however, was beaten by a vote that stood about three
to one, Governor Vance continued in power, but just what he stood
for and just what his supporters understood to be his policy
would be hard to say. A year earlier he was for attempting to
negotiate peace, but though professing to have come over to the
war party he was never a cordial supporter of the Confederacy. In
a hundred ways he played upon the strong local distrust of
Richmond, and upon the feeling that North Carolina was being
exploited in the interests of the remainder of the South. To
cripple the efficiency of Confederate conscription was one of his
constant aims. Whatever his views of the struggle in which he was
engaged, they did not include either an appreciation of Southern
nationalism or the strategist's conception of war. Granted that
the other States were merely his allies, Vance pursued a course
that might justly have aroused their suspicion, for so far as he
was able he devoted the resources of the State wholly to the use
of its own citizens. The food and the manufactures of North
Carolina were to be used solely by its own troops, not by troops
of the Confederacy raised in other States. And yet, subsequent to
his reelection, he was not a figure in the movement to negotiate

Meanwhile in Georgia, where secession had met with powerful
opposition, the policies of the Government had produced
discontent not only with the management of the war but with the
war itself. And now Alexander H. Stephens becomes, for a season,
very nearly the central figure of Confederate history. Early in
1864 the new act suspending the writ of habeas corpus had aroused
the wrath of Georgia, and Stephens had become the mouthpiece of
the opposition. In an address to the Legislature, he condemned in
most exaggerated language not only the Habeas Corpus Act but also
the new Conscription Act. Soon afterward he wrote a long letter
to Herschel V. Johnson, who, like himself, had been an enemy of
secession in 1861. He said that if Johnson doubted that the
Habeas Corpus Act was a blow struck at the very "vitals of
liberty," then he "would not believe though one were to rise from
the dead." In this extraordinary letter Stephens went on "most
confidentially" to state his attitude toward Davis thus "While I
do not and never have regarded him as a great man or statesman on
a large scale, or a man of any marked genius, yet I have regarded
him as a man of good intentions, weak and vacillating, timid,
petulant, peevish, obstinate, but not firm. Am now beginning to
doubt his good intentions.... His whole policy on the
organization and discipline of the army is perfectly consistent
with the hypothesis that he is aiming at absolute power."

That a man of Stephens's ability should have dealt in fustian
like this in the most dreadful moment of Confederate history is a
psychological problem that is not easily solved. To be sure,
Stephens was an extreme instance of the martinet of
constitutionalism. He reminds us of those old-fashioned generals
of whom Macaulay said that they preferred to lose a battle
according to rule than win it by an exception. Such men find it
easy to transform into a bugaboo any one who appears to them to
be acting irregularly. Stephens in his own mind had so
transformed the President. The enormous difficulties and the
wholly abnormal circumstances which surrounded Davis counted
with Stephens for nothing at all, and he reasoned about the
Administration as if it were operating in a vacuum. Having come
to this extraordinary position, Stephens passed easily into a
role that verged upon treason.*

* There can be no question that Stephens never did anything which
in his own mind was in the least disloyal. And yet it was
Stephens who, in the autumn of 1864, was singled out by artful
men as a possible figurehead in the conduct of a separate peace
negotiation with Sherman. A critic very hostile to Stephens and
his faction might here raise the question as to what was at
bottom the motive of Governor Brown, in the autumn of 1864, in
withdrawing the Georgia militia from Hood's command. Was there
something afoot that has never quite revealed itself on the broad
pages of history? As ordinarily told, the story is simply that
certain desperate Georgians asked Stephens to be their ambassador
to Sherman to discuss terms; that Sherman had given them
encouragement; but that Stephens avoided the trap, and so nothing
came of it. The recently published correspondence of Toombs,
Stephens, and Cobb, however, contains one passage that has rather
a startling sound. Brown, writing to Stephens regarding his
letter refusing to meet Sherman, says, "It keeps the door open
and I think this is wise." At the same time he made a public
statement that "Georgia has power to act independently but her
faith is pledged by implication to her Southern sisters...
will triumph with her Southern sisters or sink with them in
common ruin." It is still to be discovered what "door" Stephens
was supposed to have kept open. Peace talk was now in the air,
and especially was there chatter about reconstruction. The
illusionists seemed unable to perceive that the reelection of
Lincoln had robbed them of their last card. These dreamers did
not even pause to wonder why after the terrible successes of the
Federal army in Georgia, Lincoln should be expected to reverse
his policy and restore the Union with the Southern States on the
old footing. The peace mania also invaded South Carolina and was
espoused by one of its Congressmen, Mr. Boyce, but he made few
converts among his own people. The Mercury scouted the idea;
clear-sighted and disillusioned, it saw the only alternatives to
be victory or subjugation. Boyce's argument was that the South
had already succumbed to military despotism and would have to
endure it forever unless it accepted the terms of the invaders.
News of Boyce's attitude called forth vigorous protest from the
army before Petersburg, and even went so far afield as New York,
where it was discussed in the columns of the Herald.

In the midst of the Northern elections, when Davis was hoping
great things from the anti-Lincoln men, Stephens had said in
print that he believed Davis really wished the Northern peace
party defeated, whereupon Davis had written to him demanding
reasons for this astounding charge. To the letter, which had
missed Stephens at his home and had followed him late in the year
to Richmond, Stephens wrote in the middle of December a long
reply which is one of the most curious documents in American
history. He justified himself upon two grounds. One was a
statement which Davis had made in a speech at Columbia, in
October, indicating that he was averse to the scheme of certain
Northern peace men for a convention of all the States. Stephens
insisted that such a convention would have ended the war and
secured the independence of the South. Davis cleared himself on
this charge by saying that the speech at Columbia "was delivered
after the publication of McClellan's letter avowing his purpose
to force reunion by war if we declined reconstruction when
offered, and therefore warned the people against delusive hopes
of peace from any other influence than that to be exerted by the
manifestation of an unconquerable spirit."

As Stephens professed to have independence and not reconstruction
for his aim, he had missed his mark with this first shot. He
fared still worse with the second. During the previous spring a
Northern soldier captured in the southeast had appealed for
parole on the ground that he was a secret emissary to the
President from the peace men of the North. Davis, who did not
take him seriously, gave orders to have the case investigated,
but Stephens, whose mentality in this period is so curiously
overcast, swallowed the prisoner's story without hesitation. He
and Davis had a considerable amount of correspondence on the
subject. In the fierce tension of the summer of 1864 the War
Department went so far as to have the man's character
investigated, but the report was unsatisfactory. He was not
paroled and died in prison. This episode Stephens now brought
forward as evidence that Davis had frustrated an attempt of the
Northern peace party to negotiate. Davis contented himself with
replying, "I make no comment on this."

The next step in the peace intrigue took place at the opening of
the next year, 1865. Stephens attempted to address the Senate on
his favorite topic, the wickedness of the suspension of habeas
corpus; was halted by a point of parliamentary law; and when the
Senate sustained an appeal from his decision, left the chamber in
a pique. Hunter, now a Senator, became an envoy to placate him
and succeeded in bringing him back. Thereupon Stephens poured out
his soul in a furious attack upon the Administration. He ended by
submitting resolutions which were just what he might have
submitted four years earlier before a gun had been fired, so
entirely had his mind crystallized in the stress of war! These
resolutions, besides reasserting the full state rights theory,
assumed the readiness of the North to make peace and called for a
general convention of all the States to draw up some new
arrangement on a confessed state rights basis. More than a month
before, Lincoln had been reelected on an unequivocal
nationalistic platform. And yet Stephens continued to believe
that the Northerners did not mean what they said and that in
congregated talking lay the magic which would change the world of
fact into the world of his own desire.

At this point in the peace intrigue the ambiguous figure of
Napoleon the Little reappears, though only to pass ghostlike
across the back of the stage. The determination of Northern
leaders to oppose Napoleon had suggested to shrewd politicians a
possible change of front. That singular member of the Confederate
Congress, Henry S. Foote, thought he saw in the Mexican imbroglio
means to bring Lincoln to terms. In November he had introduced
into the House resolutions which intimated that "it might become
the true policy of...the Confederate States to consent to the
yielding of the great principle embodied in the Monroe Doctrine."
The House referred his resolutions to the Committee on Foreign
Affairs, and there they slumbered until January.

Meanwhile a Northern politician brought on the specter of
Napoleon for a different purpose. Early in January, 1865, Francis
P. Blair made a journey to Richmond and proposed to Davis a plan
of reconciliation involving the complete abandonment of slavery,
the reunion of all the States, and an expedition against Mexico
in which Davis was to play the leading role. Davis cautiously
refrained from committing himself, though he gave Blair a letter
in which he expressed his willingness to enter into negotiations
for peace between "the two countries." The visit of Blair gave
new impetus to the peace intrigue. The Confederate House
Committee on Foreign Affairs reported resolutions favoring an
attempt to negotiate with the United States so as to "bring into
view" the possibility of cooperation between the United States
and the Confederacy to maintain the Monroe Doctrine. The same day
saw another singular incident. For some reason that has never
been divulged Foote determined to counterbalance Blair's visit to
Richmond by a visit of his own to Washington. In attempting to
pass through the Confederate lines he was arrested by the
military authorities. With this fiasco Foote passes from the
stage of history.

The doings of Blair, however, continued to be a topic of general
interest throughout January. The military intrigue was now
simmering down through the creation of the office of commanding
general. The attempt of the congressional opposition to drive the
whole Cabinet from office reached a compromise in the single
retirement of the Secretary of War. Before the end of the month
the peace question was the paramount one before Congress and the
country. Newspapers discussed the movements of Blair, apparently
with little knowledge, and some of the papers asserted hopefully
that peace was within reach. Cooler heads, such as the majority
of the Virginia Legislature, rejected this idea as baseless. The
Mercury called the peace party the worst enemy of the South. Lee
was reported by the Richmond correspondent of the Mercury as not
caring a fig for the peace project. Nevertheless the rumor
persisted that Blair had offered peace on terms that the
Confederacy could accept. Late in the month, Davis appointed
Stephens, Hunter, and John A. Campbell commissioners to confer
with the Northern authorities with regard to peace.

There followed the famous conference of February 3, 1865, in the
cabin of a steamer at Hampton Roads, with Seward and Lincoln. The
Confederate commissioners represented two points of view: that of
the Administration, unwilling to make peace without independence;
and that of the infatuated Stephens who clung to the idea that
Lincoln did not mean what he said, and who now urged "an
armistice allowing the States to adjust themselves as suited
their interests. If it would be to their interests to reunite,
they would do so." The refusal of Lincoln to consider either of
these points of view--the refusal so clearly foreseen by
Davis--put an end to the career of Stephens. He was "hoist with
his own petard."

The news of the failure of the conference was variously received.
The Mercury rejoiced because there was now no doubt how things
stood. Stephens, unwilling to cooperate with the Administration,
left the capital and went home to Georgia. At Richmond, though
the snow lay thick on the ground, a great public meeting was held
on the 6th of February in the precincts of the African Church.
Here Davis made an address which has been called his greatest and
which produced a profound impression. A wave of enthusiasm swept
over Richmond, and for a moment the President appeared once more
to be master of the situation. His immense audacity carried the
people with him when, after showing what might be done by more
drastic enforcement of the conscription laws, he concluded: "Let
us then unite our hands and our hearts, lock our shields
together, and we may well believe that before another summer
solstice falls upon us, it will be the enemy that will be asking
us for conferences and occasions in which to make known our

Chapter XI. An Attempted Revolution

Almost from the moment when the South had declared its
independence voices had been raised in favor of arming the
negroes. The rejection of a plan to accomplish this was one of
the incidents of Benjamin's tenure of the portfolio of the War
Department; but it was not until the early days of 1864, when the
forces of Johnston lay encamped at Dalton, Georgia, that the
arming of the slaves was seriously discussed by a council of
officers. Even then the proposal had its determined champions,
though there were others among Johnston's officers who regarded
it as "contrary to all true principles of chivalric warfare," and
their votes prevailed in the council by a large majority.

From that time forward the question of arming the slaves hung
like a heavy cloud over all Confederate thought of the war. It
was discussed in the army and at home around troubled firesides.
Letters written from the trenches at Petersburg show that it was
debated by the soldiers, and the intense repugnance which the
idea inspired in some minds was shown by threats to leave the
ranks if the slaves were given arms.

Amid the pressing, obvious issues of 1864, this project hardly
appears upon the face of the record until it was alluded to in
Davis's message to Congress in November, 1864, and in the annual
report of the Secretary of War. The President did not as yet ask
for slave soldiers. He did, however, ask for the privilege of
buying slaves for government use--not merely hiring them from
their owners as had hitherto been done--and for permission, if
the Government so desired, to emancipate them at the end of their
service. The Secretary of War went farther, however, and
advocated negro soldiers, and he too suggested their emancipation
at the end of service.

This feeling of the temper of the country, so to speak, produced
an immediate response. It drew Rhett from his retirement and
inspired a letter in which he took the Government severely to
task for designing to remove from state control this matter of
fundamental importance. Coinciding with the cry for more troops
with which to confront Sherman, the topic of negro soldiers
became at once one of the questions of the hour. It helped to
focus that violent anti-Davis movement which is the conspicuous
event of December, 1864, and January, 1865. Those who believed
the President unscrupulous trembled at the thought of putting
into his hands a great army of hardy barbarians trained to
absolute obedience. The prospect of such a weapon held in one
firm hand at Richmond seemed to those opponents of the President
a greater menace to their liberties than even the armies of the
invaders. It is quite likely that distrust of Davis and dread of
the use he might make of such a weapon was increased by a letter
from Benjamin to Frederick A. Porcher of Charleston, a supporter
of the Government, who had made rash suggestions as to the
extra-constitutional power that the Administration might be
justified by circumstances in assuming. Benjamin deprecated such
suggestions but concluded with the unfortunate remark: "If the
Constitution is not to be our guide I would prefer to see it
suppressed by a revolution which should declare a dictatorship
during the war, after the manner of ancient Rome, leaving to the
future the care of reestablishing firm and regular government."
In the State of Virginia, indeed, the revolutionary suggestions
of the President's message and the Secretary's report were
promptly taken up and made the basis of a political program,
which Governor Smith embodied in his message to the
Legislature--a document that will eventually take its place among
the most interesting state papers of the Confederacy. It should
be noted that the suggestions thrown out in this way by the
Administration to test public feeling involved three distinct
questions: Should the slaves be given arms? Should they, if
employed as soldiers, be given their freedom? Should this
revolutionary scheme, if accepted at all, be handled by the
general Government or left to the several States? On the last of
the three questions the Governor of Virginia was silent; by
implication he treated the matter as a concern of the States.
Upon the first and second questions, however, he was explicit and
advised arming the slaves. He then added:

"Even if the result were to emancipate our slaves, there is not a
man who would not cheerfully put the negro into the Army rather
than become a slave himself to our hated and vindictive foe. It
is, then, simply a question of time. Has the time arrived when
this issue is fairly before us? ...For my part standing before
God and my country, I do not hesitate to say that I would arm
such portion of our able-bodied slave population as may be
necessary, and put them in the field, so as to have them ready
for the spring campaign, even if it resulted in the freedom of
those thus organized. Will I not employ them to fight the negro
force of the enemy? Aye, the Yankees themselves, who already
boast that they have 200,000 of our slaves in arms against us.
Can we hesitate, can we doubt, when the question is, whether the
enemy shall use our slaves against us or we use them against him;
when the question may be between liberty and independence on the
one hand, or our subjugation and utter ruin on the other?"

With their Governor as leader for the Administration, the
Virginians found this issue the absorbing topic of the hour. And
now the great figure of Lee takes its rightful place at the very
center of Confederate history, not only military but civil, for
to Lee the Virginia politicians turned for advice.* In a letter
to a State Senator of Virginia who had asked for a public
expression of Lee's views because "a mountain of prejudices,
growing out of our ancient modes of regarding the institution of
Southern slavery will have to be met and overcome" in order to
Attain unanimity, Lee discussed both the institution of slavery
and the situation of the moment. He plainly intimated that
should be placed under state control; and, assuming such control,

he considered "the relation of master and slave...the best that
can exist between the black and white races while intermingled as
at present in this country." He went on to show, however, that
military necessity now compelled a revolution in sentiment on
this subject, and he came at last to this momentous conclusion:

* Lee now revealed himself in his previously overlooked capacity
of statesman. Whether his abilities in this respect equaled his
abilities as a soldier need not here be considered; it is said
that he himself had no high opinion of them. However, in the
advice which he gave at this final moment of crisis, he expressed
a definite conception of the articulation of civil forces in such
a system as that of the Confederacy. He held that all initiative
upon basal matters should remain with the separate States, that
the function of the general Government was to administer, not to
create conditions, and that the proper power to constrain the
State Legislatures was the flexible, extra-legal power of public

"Should the war continue under existing circumstances, the enemy
may in course of time penetrate our country and get access to a
large part of our negro population. It is his avowed policy to
convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to
emancipate all.... His progress will thus add to his numbers,
and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious
to the welfare of our people. Their negroes will be used to hold
them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free
to extend his conquest. Whatever may be the effect of our
employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If
it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by
ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil
consequences to both races. I think, therefore, we must decide
whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the
slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of

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