Wy, it's just ez clear ez Aggers, Clear ez one an' one make two, Chaps thet make black slaves o' niggers, Want to make wite slaves o' you




НазваниеWy, it's just ez clear ez Aggers, Clear ez one an' one make two, Chaps thet make black slaves o' niggers, Want to make wite slaves o' you
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War drastically altered the lives of millions of Ameri­cans. Many young men found in soldiering a combina­tion of comradeship, devotion, boredom, and horror. Winslow Homer gave the ironic title Home, Sweet, Home to this painting of Union soldiers in camp about 1863. (Private Collection, photograph courtesy of Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York)

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Chapter 15 Transforming Fire: The Civil War, 1861-1865

lyrical letters to his mother and sisters, Brewster, who rose to lieutenant and adjutant of his regiment, left a trove of commentary on the meaning of war, the char­acter of slavery and why it had to be destroyed, and especially the values of common, mid-nineteenth-century American men.

Brewster was as racist as many southerners in his perceptions of blacks. He was no "desperate hero" about battlefield courage, and he nearly died of dysen­tery more than once. He was personally eager for rank and recognition, and he eventually held only contempt for civilians who stayed at home. He was often miser­ably lonely and homesick, and he described battlefield carnage with an honest realism. The early romantic was transformed into a mature veteran by what he called the "terrible, terrible business" of war.

Most tellingly, Brewster grew in his attitudes about race. In 1862 he defied orders and took in a seventeen-year-old ex-slave as his personal servant, patronizingly clothing him with his own old pants sent from home. In 1864, after surviving some of the worst battles of the war in Virginia, which destroyed his regiment, and frightened of civilian life, Brewster reenlisted to be a recruiter of black troops. In this new role, Brewster worked from an office in Norfolk, Vir­ginia, where his principal job was writing "love let­ters" for illiterate black women to their soldier husbands at the front. In imagining Brewster sitting at a table with a lonely freedwoman, swallowing his prej­udices toward blacks and women, and repeatedly writ­ing or reciting the phrases "give my love to . . ." and "your Husband untall Death," we can glimpse the enormous potential for human transformation at work in this war.

The Civil War brought astonishing, unexpected changes not only to Charles Brewster but everywhere in both North and South. Countless southern soldiers experienced similar transformations. But they, and their families, also experienced what few other groups of Americans have—utter defeat. For some Americans, wealth changed to poverty and hope to despair; for others, the suffering of war spelled opportunity. Con­trasts abounded, between noble and crass motives and between individuals seeking different goals. Even the South's slaves, who hoped that they were witnessing God's "Holy War"—the "coming of the jubilee"—en­countered unsympathetic liberators. When a Yankee soldier ransacked a slave woman's cabin, stealing her best quilts, she denounced him as a "nasty, stinkin' ras­cal" who had betrayed his cause of freedom. Angrily the soldier contradicted her, saying, "I'm fightin' for $14 a month and the Union."

Northern troops were not the only ones to feel anger over their sacrifices. Impoverished by the war, one southern farmer had endured inflation, taxes, and shortages to support the Confederacy. Then an im­pressment agent arrived to take still more from him— grain and meat, horses and mules, and wagons. In return, the agent offered only a certificate promising repayment sometime in the future. Bitter and dis­gusted, the farmer spoke for many by declaring, "The sooner this damned Government falls to pieces, the better it will be for us."

Many northern businessmen, however, viewed the economic effects of the war with optimistic antic­ipation. The conflict ensured vast government expen­ditures, a heavy demand for goods, and lucrative federal contracts. Harpers Monthly reported that an eminent financier expected a long war—the kind of war that would mean huge purchases, paper money, active speculation, and rising prices. "The battle of Bull Run," predicted the financier, "makes the fortune of every man in Wall Street who is not a natural id­iot."

For millions, the Civil War was a life-changing event. It obliterated the normal patterns and circum­stances of life. Millions of men were swept away into training camps and battle units. Armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands marched over the South, devastating once-peaceful countrysides. Fami­lies struggled to survive without their men; businesses tried to cope with the loss of workers. Women in both North and South took on extra responsibilities in the home and moved into new jobs in the work force. Many women joined the ranks of nurses and hospital workers. No sphere of life was untouched.

Change was most drastic in the South, where the leaders of the secession movement had launched a conservative revolution for their section's national in­dependence. Born of states' rights doctrine, their break with the Union now had to be transformed into a centralized nation to fight a vast war. Never were men more mistaken: their revolutionary means were fundamentally incompatible with their conservative purpose. Southern whites had feared that a peacetime government of Republicans would interfere with sla­very and upset the routine of plantation life. Instead their own actions led to a war that turned southern life upside down and imperiled the very existence of sla­very. Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, devised policies more objectionable to the elite than any proposed by President-elect Lin­coln. Life in the Confederacy proved to be a shock­ingly unsouthern experience.

America Goes to War, 1861-1862 3 89

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War altered the North as well, but less sharply. Because most of the fighting took place on southern soil, northern farms and factories remained virtually unscathed. The drafting of workers and the changing need for products slowed the pace of industrialization somewhat, but factories and businesses remained busy. Workers lost ground to inflation, but the economy hummed. A new pro-business atmosphere dominated Congress, where the seats of southern representatives were empty. To the alarm of many, the powers of the federal government and of the president increased during the war.

The war created social strains in both North and South. Disaffection was strongest in the Confederacy, where poverty and class resentment fed a lower-class antagonism to the war that threatened the Confeder­acy from within as federal armies assailed it from with­out. In the North, dissent also flourished, and antiwar sentiment occasionally erupted into violence.

Ultimately, the Civil War forced on the nation a social and political revolution regarding race. Its greatest effect was to compel leaders and citizens to deal direcdy with the issue they had struggled over but had been unable to resolve: slavery. This issue, in com­plex and indirect ways, had caused the war. Now the scope and demands of the war forced reluctant Ameri­cans to confront it. And blacks themselves embraced what was for them the most fundamental turning point in their experience as Americans. M

America Goes to War, 1861-1862

Few Americans understood what they were getting into when the war began. The onset of hostilities sparked patriotic sentiments, optimistic speeches, and joy­ous ceremonies in both North and South. Northern communities, large and small, raised companies of

Chapter 15 Transforming Fire: The Civil War, 1861-1865

In Departure of the Seventh Regiment (1861), flags and the spectacle of thousands of young men from New York marching off to battle give a decep­tively gay appearance to the beginning of the Civil War. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; M. and M. Karolik Collec­tion)

volunteers eager to save the Union and sent them off with fanfare (a scene captured in the painting Depar­ture of the Seventh Regiment). In the South, confident recruits boasted of whipping the Yankees and return­ing home at least before Christmas. Southern women sewed dashing uniforms for men who soon would be lucky to wear drab gray or butternut homespun. Americans went to war in 1861 with decidedly roman­tic notions of what they would experience.

Through the spring of 1861 both sides scrambled to organize and train their undisciplined armies. On July 21, 1861, the first battle took ^^^^^mmmm place outside Manassas Junction, of Bull Run Virginia, near a stream called Bull Run. General Irvin McDowell and 30,000 Union troops attacked Gen­eral R G. T. Beauregard's 22,000 southerners (see Map 15.1 on page 394). As raw recruits struggled amid the confusion of their first battle, federal forces began to gain ground. Then they ran into a line of Virginia troops under General Thomas Jackson. "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall," shouted one Con­federate. "Stonewall" Jackson's line held, and the ar­rival of 9,000 Confederate reinforcements won the day for the South. Union troops fled back to Washington and shocked northern congressmen and spectators, who had watched the battle from a point 2 miles away; a few of them were actually captured for their folly.

The unexpected rout at Bull Run gave northern­ers their first hint of the nature of the war to come. While the United States enjoyed an enormous advan­tage in resources, victory would not be easy. Pro-Union feeling was growing in western Virginia, and loyalties were divided in the four border slave states— Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. But the rest of the Upper South, the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas, had joined the Confederacy in the wake of the attack on Fort Sumter. Moved by an outpouring of regional loyalty, half a mil­lion southerners volunteered to fight, so many that the Confederate government could hardly arm them all. The United States therefore undertook a massive mo­bilization of troops around Washington, D.C.

Lincoln gave command of the army to General George B. McClellan, an officer who proved to be bet­ter at organization and training than at fighting. Mc­Clellan put his growing army into camp and devoted the fall and winter of 1861 to readying a formidable force of a quarter-million men whose mission would be to take Richmond, established as the Confederate capital by July 1861. "The vast preparation of the en­emy," wrote one southern soldier, produced a "feeling

America Goes to War, 1861-1862

of despondency" in the South for the first time. But

southern morale remained high early in the war.

While McClellan prepared, the Union began to

implement other parts of its overall strategy, which

called for a blockade of southern

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Mississippi River. Like a constricting

snake, this "Anaconda plan" would strangle the Confederacy (see Map 15.2 on page 412). At first the Union Navy had too few ships to patrol 3,550 miles of coastline and block the Confederacy's avenues of commerce and supply. Gradually, however, the navy increased the blockade's effectiveness, though it never stopped southern commerce completely.

Confederate strategy was essentially defensive. A defensive posture was not only consistent with the South's claim of independence, but acknowledged the North's advantage in resources (see Figure 15.1). Fur­thermore, communities all across the South demanded their defense. Jefferson Davis, however, wisely re­jected a static or wholly defensive strategy. The South would pursue an "offensive defensive," taking advan­tage of opportunities to attack and using its interior lines of transportation to concentrate troops at crucial points. In its war aims, the Confederacy did not need to conquer the North; the Union effort, however, as time would tell, required conquest of the South.

Strategic thinking on both sides slighted the im­portance of "the West," that vast expanse of territory between Virginia and the Mississippi River. When the war began, both sides were unprepared for large-scale operations in the West, but before the end of the war they would prove to be decisive. Guerrilla warfare broke out in 1861 in the politically divided state of

Missouri, and key locations along the Mississippi and other major rivers in the West would prove to be cru­cial prizes in the North's eventual victory. In the Far West, beyond the Mississippi River, the Confederacy hoped to gain an advantage by negotiating treaties with the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, and smaller tribes of Plains Indians. Al­though early strategy evolved haphazardly, both sides would soon know they were in a war the scale of which few people had ever imagined.

The last half of 1861 brought no major land bat­tles, but the North made gains by sea. Late in the summer Union naval forces captured

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few months later, similar operations secured vital coastal points in North Carolina, as well as Fort Pulaski, which defended Savannah. Federal naval operations established significant beachheads along the Confederate coastline (see Map 15.2).

The coastal victories off South Carolina foreshad­owed a revolution in slave society. At the federal gun­boats' approach, frightened planters abandoned their lands and fled. For a while, Confederate cavalry tried to round up slaves and move them to the interior as well. But thousands of slaves greeted what they hoped to be freedom with rejoicing and broke the hated cotton gins. Some entered their masters' homes and ab­sconded with clothing and furniture, which they con­spicuously displayed. Their jubilation and the growing stream of runaways who poured into the Union lines eliminated any doubt about which side slaves would support, given the opportunity. Unwilling at first to
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