Notwithstanding his frightful loss at Franklin, Hood followed the enemy to Nashville, and took position south of the place, where he remained ten days or more. It is difficult to imagine what objects he had in view. The town was open to the north, whence the Federal commander, Thomas, was hourly receiving reenforcements, while he had none to hope for. His plans perfected and his reenforcements joined, Thomas moved, and Hood was driven off; and, had the Federal general possessed dash equal to his tenacity and caution, one fails to see how Hood could have brought man or gun across the Tennessee River. It is painful to criticise Hood's conduct of this campaign. Like Ney, "the bravest of the brave," he was a splendid leader in battle, and as a brigade or division commander unsurpassed; but, arrived at higher rank, he seems to have been impatient of control, and openly disapproved of Johnston's conduct of affairs between Dalton and Atlanta. Unwillingness to obey is often interpreted by governments into capacity for command.
Reaching the southern bank of the Tennessee, Hood asked to be relieved, and a telegraphic order assigned me to the duty. At Tupelo, on the Mobile and Ohio Railway, a hundred and odd miles north of Meridian, I met him and the remains of his army. Within my experience were assaults on positions, in which heavy losses were sustained without success; but the field had been held—retreats, but preceded by repulse of the foe and followed by victory. This was my first view of a beaten army, an army that for four years had shown a constancy worthy of the "Ten Thousand"; and a painful sight it was. Many guns and small arms had been lost, and the ranks were depleted by thousands of prisoners and missing. Blankets, shoes, clothing, and accouterments were wanting. I have written of the unusual severity of the weather in the latter part of November, and it was now near January. Some men perished by frost; many had the extremities severely bitten. Fleming, the active superintendent mentioned, strained the resources of his railway to transport the troops to the vicinity of Meridian, where timber for shelter and fuel was abundant and supplies convenient; and every energy was exerted to reequip them.
Sherman was now in possession of Savannah, but an interior line of rail by Columbus, Macon, and Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, was open. Mobile was not immediately threatened, and was of inferior importance as compared with the safety of Lee's army at Petersburg. Unless a force could be interposed between Sherman and Lee's rear, the game would be over when the former moved. Accordingly, I dispatched to General Lee the suggestion of sending the "Army of Tennessee" to North Carolina, where Johnston had been restored to command. He approved, and directed me to send forward the men as rapidly as possible. I had long dismissed all thought of the future. The duty of a soldier in the field is simple—to fight until stopped by the civil arm of his government, or his government has ceased to exist; and military men have usually come to grief by forgetting this simple duty.
Forrest had fought and worked hard in this last Tennessee campaign, and his division of cavalry was broken down. By brigades it was distributed to different points in the prairie and cane-brake regions, where forage could be had, and I hoped for time to restore the cattle and refit the command. With our limited resources of transportation, it was a slow business to forward troops to Johnston in North Carolina; but at length it was accomplished, and the month of March came round to raise the curtain for the last act of the bloody drama. Two clouds appeared on the horizon of my department. General Canby, a steady soldier, whom I had long known, had assumed command of all the Federal forces in the southwest, and was concentrating fifty thousand men at Fort Morgan and Pensacola against Mobile. In northern Alabama General Wilson had ten thousand picked mounted men ready for an expedition. At Selma was a foundry, where the best ordnance I have seen was made of Briarsfield iron, from a furnace in the vicinity; and, as this would naturally attract the enemy's attention to Selma, I endeavored to prepare for him. The Cahawba River, from the northeast, enters the Alabama below Selma, north of which it separates the barren mineral region from the fertile lands of the river basin; and at its crossing I directed Forrest to concentrate.
Wilson, with the smallest body, would probably move first; and, once disposed of, Forrest could be sent south of the Alabama River to delay Canby and prolong the defense of Mobile. For a hundred miles north of the gulf the country is sterile, pine forest on a soil of white sand; but the northern end of the Montgomery and Pensacola Railway was in our possession, and would enable us to transport supplies. In a conference with Maury at Mobile I communicated the above to him, as I had previously to Forrest, and hastened to Selma. Distributed for forage, and still jaded by hard work, Forrest ordered his brigades to the Cahawba crossing, leading one in person. His whole force would have been inferior to Wilson's, but he was a host in himself, and a dangerous adversary to meet at any reasonable odds.
Our information of the enemy had proved extremely accurate; but in this instance the Federal commander moved with unusual rapidity, and threw out false signals. Forrest, with one weak brigade, was in the path; but two of his brigadiers permitted themselves to be deceived by reports of the enemy's movements toward Columbus, Mississippi, and turned west, while another went into camp under some misconception of orders. Forrest fought as if the world depended on his arm, and sent to advise me of the deceit practiced on two of his brigades, but hoped to stop the enemy if he could get up the third, the absence of which he could not account for. I directed such railway plant as we had to be moved out on the roads, retaining a small yard engine to take me off at the last moment. There was nothing more to be done. Forrest appeared, horse and man covered with blood, and announced the enemy at his heels, and that I must move at once to escape capture. I felt anxious for him, but he said he was unhurt and would cut his way through, as most of his men had done, whom he had ordered to meet him west of the Cahawba. My engine started toward Meridian, and barely escaped. Before headway was attained the enemy was upon us, and capture seemed inevitable. Fortunately, the group of horsemen near prevented their comrades from firing, so we had only to risk a fusillade from a dozen, who fired wild. The driver and stoker, both negroes, were as game as possible, and as we thundered across Cahawba bridge, all safe, raised a loud "Yah! yah!" of triumph, and smiled like two sable angels. Wilson made no delay at Selma, but, crossing the Alabama River, pushed on to Montgomery, and thence into Georgia. I have never met this General Wilson, whose soldierly qualities are entitled to respect; for of all the Federal expeditions of which I have any knowledge, his was the best conducted.
It would have been useless to pursue Wilson, had there been troops disposable, as many hundred miles intervened between him and North Carolina, where Johnston commanded the nearest Confederate forces, too remote to be affected by his movements. Canby was now before the eastern defenses of Mobile, and it was too late to send Forrest to that quarter. He was therefore directed to draw together and reorganize his division near Meridian.
CLOSING OPERATIONS OF THE WAR—SURRENDER.
On the 26th of March Canby invested Spanish Fort, and began the siege by regular approaches, a part of his army investing Blakeley on the same day. General R.L. Gibson, now a member of Congress from Louisiana, held Spanish Fort with twenty-five hundred men. Fighting all day and working all night, Gibson successfully resisted the efforts of the immense force against him until the evening of April 8, when the enemy effected a lodgment threatening his only route of evacuation. Under instructions from Maury, he withdrew his garrison in the night to Mobile, excepting his pickets, necessarily left. Gibson's stubborn defense and skillful retreat make this one of the best achievements of the war. Although invested on the 26th of March, the siege of Blakeley was not pressed until April 1, when Steele's corps of Canby's army joined the original force before it. Here, with a garrison of twenty-eight hundred men, commanded General Liddell, with General Cockrell, now a Senator from Missouri, as his second. Every assault of the enemy, who made but little progress, was gallantly repulsed until the afternoon of the 9th, when, learning by the evacuation of Spanish Fort how small a force had delayed him, he concentrated on Blakeley and carried it, capturing the garrison. Maury intended to withdraw Liddell during the night of the 9th. It would have been more prudent to have done so on the night of the 8th, as the enemy would naturally make an energetic effort after the fall of Spanish Fort; but he was unwilling to yield any ground until the last moment, and felt confident of holding the place another day. After dismantling his works, Maury marched out of Mobile on the 12th of April, with forty-five hundred men, including three field batteries, and was directed to Cuba Station, near Meridian. In the interest of the thirty thousand non-combatants of the town, he properly notified the enemy that the place was open. During the movement from Mobile toward Meridian occurred the last engagement of the civil war, in a cavalry affair between the Federal advance and our rear guard under Colonel Spence. Commodore Farrand took his armed vessels and all the steamers in the harbor up the Tombigby River, above its junction with the Alabama, and planted torpedoes in the stream below. Forrest and Maury had about eight thousand men, but tried and true. Cattle were shod, wagons overhauled, and every preparation for rapid movement made.
From the North, by wire and courier, I received early intelligence of passing events. Indeed, these were of a character for the enemy to disseminate rather than suppress. Before Maury left Mobile I had learned of Lee's surrender, rumors of which spreading among the troops, a number from the neighboring camps came to see me. I confirmed the rumor, and told them the astounding news, just received, of President Lincoln's assassination. For a time they were silent with amazement, then asked if it was possible that any Southern man had committed the act. There was a sense of relief expressed when they learned that the wretched assassin had no connection with the South, but was an actor, whose brains were addled by tragedies and Plutarch's fables.
It was but right to tell these gallant, faithful men the whole truth concerning our situation. The surrender of Lee left us little hope of success; but while Johnston remained in arms we must be prepared to fight our way to him. Again, the President and civil authorities of our Government were on their way to the south, and might need our protection. Granting the cause for which we had fought to be lost, we owed it to our own manhood, to the memory of the dead, and to the honor of our arms, to remain steadfast to the last. This was received, not with noisy cheers, but solemn murmurs of approval, showing that it was understood and adopted. Forrest and Maury shared my opinions and objects, and impressed them on their men. Complete order was maintained throughout, and public property protected, though it was known later that this would be turned over to the Federal authorities. A considerable amount of gold was near our camps, and safely guarded; yet it is doubtful if our united means would have sufficed to purchase a breakfast.
Members of the Confederate Congress from the adjoining and more western States came to us. These gentlemen had left Richmond very hurriedly, in the first days of April, and were sorely jaded by fatigue and anxiety, as the presence of Wilson's troops in Georgia had driven them to by-paths to escape capture. Arrived at a well-ordered camp, occupied by a formidable-looking force, they felt as storm-tossed mariners in a harbor of refuge, and, ignorant of recent events, as well as uncertain of the future, were eager for news and counsel. The struggle was virtually over, and the next few days, perhaps hours, would decide my course. In my judgment it would speedily become their duty to go to their respective homes. They had been the leaders of the people, had sought and accepted high office at their hands, and it was for them to teach the masses, by example and precept, how best to meet impending troubles. Possibly they might suffer annoyance and persecution from Federal power, but manhood and duty required them to incur the risk. To the credit of these gentlemen it should be recorded that they followed this advice when the time for action came. There was one exception which deserves mention.
Ex-Governor Harris, now a United States Senator from Tennessee, occupied the executive chair of his State in 1862, and withdrew from Nashville when the army of General Sidney Johnston retreated to the Tennessee River in the spring of that year. By the death of President Lincoln, Andrew Johnson had succeeded to power, and he was from Tennessee, and the personal enemy of Governor Harris. The relations of their State with the Federal Union had been restored, and Harris's return would be productive of discord rather than peace. I urged him to leave the country for a time, and offered to aid him in crossing the Mississippi River; but he was very unwilling to go, and only consented after a matter was arranged, which I anticipate the current of events to relate. He had brought away from Nashville the coin of the Bank of Tennessee, which, as above mentioned, was now in our camp. An official of the bank had always been in immediate charge of this coin, but Harris felt that honor was involved in its safe return. At my request, General Canby detailed an officer and escort to take the coin to Nashville, where it arrived intact; but the unhappy official accompanying it was incarcerated for his fidelity. Had he betrayed his trust, he might have received rewards instead of stripes. 'Tis dangerous to be out of harmony with the practices of one's time.
Intelligence of the Johnston-Sherman convention reached us, and Canby and I were requested by the officers making it to conform to its terms until the civil authorities acted. A meeting was arranged to take place a few miles north of Mobile, where the appearance of the two parties contrasted the fortunes of our respective causes. Canby, who preceded me at the appointed spot, a house near the railway, was escorted by a brigade with a military band, and accompanied by many officers in "full fig." With one officer, Colonel William Levy, since a member of Congress from Louisiana, I made my appearance on a hand-car, the motive power of which was two negroes. Descendants of the ancient race of Abraham, dealers in cast-off raiment, would have scorned to bargain for our rusty suits of Confederate gray. General Canby met me with much urbanity. We retired to a room, and in a few moments agreed upon a truce, terminable after forty-eight hours' notice by either party. Then, rejoining the throng of officers, introductions and many pleasant civilities passed. I was happy to recognize Commodore (afterward Admiral) James Palmer, an old friend. He was second to Admiral Thatcher, commanding United States squadron in Mobile Bay, and had come to meet me. A bountiful luncheon was spread, of which we partook, with joyous poppings of champagne corks for accompaniment, the first agreeable explosive sounds I had heard for years. The air of "Hail Columbia," which the band in attendance struck up, was instantly changed by Canby's order to that of "Dixie"; but I insisted on the first, and expressed a hope that Columbia would be again a happy land, a sentiment honored by many libations.
There was, as ever, a skeleton at the feast, in the person of a general officer who had recently left Germany to become a citizen and soldier of the United States. This person, with the strong accent and idioms of the Fatherland, comforted me by assurances that we of the South would speedily recognize our ignorance and errors, especially about slavery and the rights of States, and rejoice in the results of the war. In vain Canby and Palmer tried to suppress him. On a celebrated occasion an Emperor of Germany proclaimed himself above grammar, and this earnest philosopher was not to be restrained by canons of taste. I apologized meekly for my ignorance, on the ground that my ancestors had come from England to Virginia in 1608, and, in the short intervening period of two hundred and fifty-odd years, had found no time to transmit to me correct ideas of the duties of American citizenship. Moreover, my grandfather, commanding the 9th Virginia regiment in our Revolutionary army, had assisted in the defeat and capture of the Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, and I lamented that he had not, by association with these worthies, enlightened his understanding. My friend smiled blandly, and assured me of his willingness to instruct me. Happily for the world, since the days of Huss and Luther, neither tyranny nor taste can repress the Teutonic intellect in search of truth or exposure of error. A kindly, worthy people, the Germans, but wearing on occasions.
The party separated, Canby for Mobile, I for Meridian, where within two days came news of Johnston's surrender in North Carolina, the capture of President Davis in Georgia, and notice from Canby that the truce must terminate, as his Government disavowed the Johnston-Sherman convention. I informed General Canby that I desired to meet him for the purpose of negotiating a surrender of my forces, and that Commodore Farrand would accompany me to meet Admiral Thatcher. The military and civil authorities of the Confederacy had fallen, and I was called to administer on the ruins as residuary legatee. It seemed absurd for the few there present to continue the struggle against a million of men. We could only secure honorable interment for the remains of our cause—a cause that for four years had fixed the attention of the world, been baptized in the blood of thousands, and whose loss would be mourned in bitter tears by countless widows and orphans throughout their lives. At the time, no doubts as to the propriety of my course entered my mind, but such have since crept in. Many Southern warriors, from the hustings and in print, have declared that they were anxious to die in the last ditch, and by implication were restrained from so doing by the readiness of their generals to surrender. One is not permitted to question the sincerity of these declarations, which have received the approval of public opinion by the elevation of the heroes uttering them to such offices as the people of the South have to bestow; and popular opinion in our land is a court from whose decisions there is no appeal on this side of the grave.
On the 8th of May, 1865, at Citronelle, forty miles north of Mobile, I delivered the epilogue of the great drama in which I had played a humble part. The terms of surrender demanded and granted were consistent with the honor of our arms; and it is due to the memory of General Canby to add that he was ready with suggestions to soothe our military pride. Officers retained their side arms, mounted men their horses, which in our service were private property; and public stores, ordnance, commissary, and quartermaster, were to be turned over to officers of the proper departments and receipted for. Paroles of the men were to be signed by their officers on rolls made out for the purpose, and I was to retain control of railways and river steamers to transport the troops as nearly as possible to their homes and feed them on the road, in order to spare the destitute people of the country the burden of their maintenance. Railways and steamers, though used by the Confederate authorities, were private property, and had been taken by force which the owners could not resist; and it was agreed that they should not be seized by civil jackals following the army without special orders from Washington. Finally, I was to notify Canby when to send his officers to my camp to receive paroles and stores.
Near the Tombigby River, to the east of Meridian, were many thousands of bales of cotton, belonging to the Confederate Government and in charge of a treasury agent. It seemed to me a duty to protect public property and transfer it to the United States, successors by victory to the extinct Confederacy. Accordingly, a guard had been placed over this cotton, though I hated the very name of the article, as the source of much corruption to our people. Canby remarked that cotton had been a curse to his side as well, and he would send to New Orleans for a United States Treasury agent, so that we might rid ourselves of this at the earliest moment. The conditions of surrender written out and signed, we had some conversation about the state of the country, disposition of the people, etc. I told him that all were weary of strife, and he would meet no opposition in any quarter, and pointed out places in the interior where supplies could be had, recommending him to station troops at such places. I was persuaded that moderation by his officers and men would lead to intercourse, traffic, and good feeling with the people. He thanked me for the suggestions, and adopted them.
The Governors of Mississippi and Alabama, Clarke and Watts, had asked for advice in the emergency produced by surrender, which they had been informed was impending, and I thought their best course would be to summon their State Legislatures. These would certainly provide for conventions of the people to repeal ordinances of secession and abolish slavery, thus smoothing the way for the restoration of their States to the Union. Such action would be in harmony with the theory and practice of the American system, and clear the road of difficulties. The North, by its Government, press, and people, had been declaring for years that the war was for the preservation of the Union and for nothing else, and Canby and I, in the innocence of our hearts, believed it. As Canby thought well of my plan, I communicated with the Governors, who acted on it; but the Washington authorities imprisoned them for abetting a new rebellion.
Returned to Meridian, I was soon ready for the Federal officers, who came quietly to our camp and entered on their appointed work; and I have now in my possession receipts given by them for public stores. Meanwhile, I received from Canby a letter informing me that he had directed two of his corps commanders, Generals Steele and Granger, to apply to me for instructions concerning the movement of their troops, as to time, places, and numbers. It was queer for one to be placed in quasi command of soldiers that he had been fighting for four years, and to whom he had surrendered; but I delicately made some suggestions to these officers, which were adopted.
With two or three staff officers, I remained at Meridian until the last man had departed, and then went to Mobile. General Canby most considerately took me, Tom, and my two horses on his boat to New Orleans; else I must have begged my way. The Confederate paper (not currency, for it was without exchangeable value) in my pocket would not have served for traveling expenses; and my battered old sword could hardly be relied on for breakfasts, dinners, and horse feed.
After an absence of four years, I saw my native place and home, New Orleans. My estate had been confiscated and sold, and I was without a penny. The man of Uz admitted that naked he came into the world, and naked must leave it; but to find himself naked in the midst of it tried even his patience. My first care was to sell my horses, and a purchaser was found who agreed to take and pay for them the following morning. I felt somewhat eager to get hold of the "greenbacks," and suffered for my avarice. The best horse, one that had carried me many a weary mile and day without failing, could not move a hoof when the purchaser came to take him. Like other veterans, long unaccustomed to abundance of prog, he had overfed and was badly foundered. Fortunately, the liveryman proposed to take this animal as a consideration for the keep of the two, and the price received for the other would suffice to bring my wife and children from the Red River to New Orleans, and was sent to them for that purpose.
Awaiting the arrival of my family, I had a few days of rest at the house of an old friend, when Generals Price, Buckner, and Brent came from Shreveport, the headquarters of the "Trans-Mississippi Department," under flag of truce, and sent for me. They reported a deplorable condition of affairs in that region. Many of the troops had taken up the idea that it was designed to inveigle them into Mexico, and were greatly incensed. Some generals of the highest rank had found it convenient to fold their tents and quietly leave for the Rio Grande; others, who remained, were obliged to keep their horses in their quarters and guard them in person; and numbers of men had disbanded and gone off. By a meeting of officers, the gentlemen present were deputed to make a surrender and ask for Federal troops to restore order. The officers in question requested me to be present at their interview with General Canby, who also invited me, and I witnessed the conclusion. So, from the Charleston Convention to this point, I shared the fortunes of the Confederacy, and can say, as Grattan did of Irish freedom, that I "sat by its cradle and followed its hearse."
For some weeks after my return to New Orleans, I had various occasions to see General Canby on matters connected with the surrender, and recall no instance in which he did not conform to my wishes. Narrow perhaps in his view, and harsh in discharge of duty, he was just, upright, and honorable, and it was with regret that I learned of his murder by a band of Modoc savages.
CRITICISMS AND REFLECTIONS.
The military collapse of the South was sudden and unexpected to the world without, but by no means so to some within. I happen to know that one or two of our ablest and most trusted generals concurred with me in opinion that the failure at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg in July, 1863, should have taught the Confederate Government and people the necessity of estimating the chances for defeat; but soldiers in the field can not give utterance to such opinions unless expressly solicited by the civil head of their government, and even then are liable to misconstruction.
Of many of the important battles of the civil war I have written, and desire to dwell somewhat on Shiloh, but will first say a few words about Gettysburg, because of recent publications there-anent.
Some facts concerning this battle are established beyond dispute. In the first day's fighting a part of Lee's army defeated a part of Meade's. Intending to continue the contest on that field, a commander not smitten by idiocy would desire to concentrate and push the advantage gained by previous success and its resultant morale. But, instead of attacking at dawn, Lee's attack was postponed until afternoon of the following day, in consequence of the absence of Longstreet's corps. Federal official reports show that some of Meade's corps reached him on the second day, several hours after sunrise, and one or two late in the afternoon. It is positively asserted by many officers present, and of high rank and character, that Longstreet was nearer to Lee on the first day than Meade's reenforcing corps to their chief, and even nearer than a division of Ewell's corps, which reached the field in time to share in the first day's success. Now, it nowhere appears in Lee's report of Gettysburg that he ordered Longstreet to him or blamed him for tardiness; but his report admits errors, and quietly takes the responsibility for them on his own broad shoulders. A recent article in the public press, signed by General Longstreet, ascribes the failure at Gettysburg to Lee's mistakes, which he (Longstreet) in vain pointed out and remonstrated against. That any subject involving the possession and exercise of intellect should be clear to Longstreet and concealed from Lee, is a startling proposition to those having knowledge of the two men. We have Biblical authority for the story that the angel in the path was visible to the ass, though unseen by the seer his master; but suppose, instead of smiting the honest, stupid animal, Balaam had caressed him and then been kicked by him, how would the story read? And thus much concerning Gettysburg.
Shiloh was a great misfortune. At the moment of his fall Sidney Johnston, with all the energy of his nature, was pressing on the routed foe. Crouching under the bank of the Tennessee River, Grant was helpless. One short hour more of life to Johnston would have completed his destruction. The second in command, Beauregard, was on another and distant part of the field, and before he could gather the reins of direction darkness fell and stopped pursuit. During the night Buell reached the northern bank of the river and crossed his troops. Wallace, with a fresh division, got up from below. Together, they advanced in the morning, found the Confederates rioting in the plunder of captured camps, and drove them back with loss. But all this was as nothing compared to the calamity of Johnston's death.
Educated at West Point, Johnston remained for eight years in the army of the United States, and acquired a thorough knowledge of the details of military duty. Resigning to aid the cause of the infant Republic of Texas, he became her Adjutant-General, Senior Brigadier, and Secretary of War. During our contest with Mexico, he raised a regiment of Texans to join General Zachary Taylor, and was greatly distinguished in the fighting around and capture of Monterey. General Taylor, with whom the early years of his service had been passed, declared him to be the best soldier he had ever commanded. More than once I have heard General Zachary Taylor express this opinion. Two cavalry regiments were added to the United States army in 1854, and to the colonelcy of one of these Johnston was appointed. Subsequently, a brigadier by brevet, he commanded the expedition against the Mormons in Utah.
Thus he brought to the Southern cause a civil and military experience surpassing that of any other leader. Born in Kentucky, descended from an honorable colonial race, connected by marriage with influential families in the West, where his life had been passed, he was peculiarly fitted to command western armies. With him at the helm, there would have been no Vicksburg, no Missionary Ridge, no Atlanta. His character was lofty and pure, his presence and demeanor dignified and courteous, with the simplicity of a child; and he at once inspired the respect and gained the confidence of cultivated gentlemen and rugged frontiersmen.
Besides, he had passed through the furnace of ignorant newspapers, hotter than that of the Babylonian tyrant. Commanding some raw, unequipped forces at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the habitual American exaggeration represented him as at the head of a vast army prepared and eager for conquest. Before time was given him to organize and train his men, the absurdly constructed works on his left flank were captured. At Fort Donelson on the Cumberland were certain political generals, who, with a self-abnegation worthy of Plutarch's heroes, were anxious to get away and leave the glory and renown of defense to others. Johnston was in no sense responsible for the construction of the forts, nor the assignment to their command of these self-denying warriors; but his line of communication was uncovered by their fall, and he was compelled to retire to the southern bank of the Tennessee River. From the enlighteners of public opinion a howl of wrath came forth, and Johnston, who had just been Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, was now a miserable dastard and traitor, unfit to command a corporal's guard. President Davis sought to console him, and some of the noblest lines ever penned by man were written by Johnston in reply. They even wrung tears of repentance from the pachyderms who had attacked him, and will be a text and consolation to future commanders, who serve a country tolerant of an ignorant and licentious press. Like pure gold, he came forth from the furnace above the reach of slander, the foremost man of all the South; and had it been possible for one heart, one mind, and one arm to save her cause, she lost them when Albert Sidney Johnston fell on the field of Shiloh.
As soon after the war as she was permitted, the Commonwealth of Texas removed his remains from New Orleans, to inter them in a land he had long and faithfully served. I was honored by a request to accompany the coffin from the cemetery to the steamer; and as I gazed upon it there arose the feeling of the Theban who, after the downfall of the glory and independence of his country, stood by the tomb of Epaminondas.
"Amid the clash of arms laws are silent," and so was Confederate statesmanship; or at least, of its objects, efforts, and expectations little is known, save the abortive mission of Messrs. Stevens, Hunter, and Campbell to Fortress Monroe in the last months of the struggle, and about this there has recently been an unseemly wrangle.
The followers of the Calhoun school, who controlled the Government, held the right of secession to be too clear for discussion. The adverse argument of Mr. Webster, approved by a large majority of the Northern people, was considered to be founded on lust of power, not on reason. The governments of western Europe, with judgments unclouded by selfishness, would at once acknowledge it. France, whose policy since the days of the eleventh Louis had been one of intense centralization, and Germany and Italy, whose hopes and aspirations were in the same direction, would admit it, while England would not be restrained by anti-slavery sentiment. Indeed, the statesmen of these countries had devoted much time to the study of the Constitution of the United States, knew that it was a compact, and were in complete harmony with the opinions of Mr. Calhoun. There was to be no revolution, for this, though justified by oppression, involved the recognition of some measure of obligation to the Union, from which the right to secede was manifest. Hence the haste to manufacture a paper constitution, in which the powers of different departments were as carefully weighed as are dangerous drugs by dispensing chemists. Hence two houses of Congress, refuge for mischievous twaddlers to worry the executive and embarrass the armies. Hence the Governor Browns, who, reasoning that one State had as much right to disagree with eleven as eleven with twenty, declared each of their hamlets of more importance than the cities of others. While the sections were marching through the streets, with pikes crowned by gory heads, and clamoring for more, Sieyes had his pockets stuffed with constitutions and felt that his country was safe. It is not pretended that these ideas were entertained by the larger part of the Southern people, or were confessed by the ruling minority; but they existed, nevertheless, under different forms.
Aggrieved by the action and tendencies of the Federal Government, and apprehending worse in the future, a majority of the people of the South approved secession as the only remedy suggested by their leaders. So travelers enter railway carriages, and are dragged up grades and through tunnels with utter loss of volition, the motive power, generated by fierce heat, being far in advance and beyond their control.
We set up a monarch, too, King Cotton, and hedged him with a divinity surpassing that of earthly potentates. To doubt his royalty and power was a confession of ignorance or cowardice. This potent spirit, at the nod of our Prosperos, the cotton-planters, would arrest every loom and spindle in New England, destroy her wealth, and reduce her population to beggary. The power of Old England, the growth of eight hundred years, was to wither as the prophet's gourd unless she obeyed its behests. And a right "tricksy spirit" it proved indeed. There was a complete mental derangement on this subject. The Government undertook to own all cotton that could be exported. Four millions of bales, belonging to many thousands of individuals, could be disposed of to better advantage by the Government than by the proprietors; and this was enforced by our authorities, whose ancestors for generations had been resisting the intrusion of governments into private business. All cotton, as well as naval stores, that was in danger of falling into the enemy's possession, was, by orders based on legislative enactment, to be burned; and this policy continued to the end. It was fully believed that this destruction would appall our enemies and convince the world of our earnestness. Possibly there was a lurking idea that it was necessary to convince ourselves.
In their long struggle for independence, the Dutch trafficked freely with the Spaniards, got rich by the trade, paid enormous taxes to support the war, and achieved their liberty. But the Dutch fought to rid themselves of a tyrant, while our first care was to set up one, Cotton, and worship it. Rules of common sense were not applicable to it. The Grand Monarque could not eat his dinners or take his emetics like ordinary mortals. Our people were much debauched by it. I write advisedly, for during the last two and a half years of the war I commanded in the State of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the great producing States. Out-post officers would violate the law, and trade. In vain were they removed; the temptation was too strong, and their successors did the same. The influence on the women was dreadful, and in many cases their appeals were heartrending. Mothers with suffering children, whose husbands were in the war or already fallen, would beseech me for permits to take cotton through the lines. It was useless to explain that it was against law and orders, and that I was without authority to act. This did not give food and clothing to their children, and they departed, believing me to be an unfeeling brute. In fact, the instincts of humanity revolted against this folly.
It is with no pleasure that I have dwelt on the foregoing topics, but the world can not properly estimate the fortitude of the Southern people unless it understands and takes account of the difficulties under which they labored. Yet, great as were their sufferings during the war, they were as nothing compared to those inflicted upon them after its close.
Extinction of slavery was expected by all and regretted by none, although loss of slaves destroyed the value of land. Existing since the earliest colonization of the Southern States, the institution was interwoven with the thoughts, habits, and daily lives of both races, and both suffered by the sudden disruption of the accustomed tie. Bank stocks, bonds, all personal property, all accumulated wealth, had disappeared. Thousands of houses, farm-buildings, work-animals, flocks and herds, had been wantonly burned, killed, or carried off. The land was filled with widows and orphans crying for aid, which the universal destitution prevented them from receiving. Humanitarians shuddered with horror and wept with grief for the imaginary woes of Africans; but their hearts were as adamant to people of their own race and blood. These had committed the unpardonable sin, had wickedly rebelled against the Lord's anointed, the majority. Blockaded during the war, and without journals to guide opinion and correct error, we were unceasingly slandered by our enemies, who held possession of every avenue to the world's ear.
Famine and pestilence have ever followed war, as if our Mother Earth resented the defilement of her fair bosom by blood, and generated fatal diseases to punish humanity for its crimes. But there fell upon the South a calamity surpassing any recorded in the annals or traditions of man. An article in the "North American Review," from the pen of Judge Black, well describes this new curse, the carpet-baggers, as worse than Attila, scourge of God. He could only destroy existing fruits, while, by the modern invention of public credit, these caterans stole the labor of unborn generations. Divines, moralists, orators, and poets throughout the North commended their thefts and bade them God-speed in spoiling the Egyptians; and the reign of these harpies is not yet over. Driven from the outworks, they hold the citadel. The epithet of August, first applied to the mighty Julius and to his successor Octavius, was continued, by force of habit, to the slobbering Claudius; and so of the Senate of the United States, which august body contained in March last several of these freebooters. Honest men regarded them as monsters, generated in the foul ooze of a past era, that had escaped destruction to linger in a wholesomer age; and their speedy extinction was expected, when another, the most hideous of the species, was admitted. This specimen had been kept by force of bayonets for four years upon the necks of an unwilling people, had no title to a seat in the Senate, and was notoriously despised by every inhabitant of the State which he was seated to misrepresent. The Senators composing the majority by which this was done acted under solemn oaths to do the right; but the Jove of party laughs at vows of politicians. Twelve years of triumph have not served to abate the hate of the victors in the great war. The last presidential canvass was but a crusade of vengeance against the South. The favorite candidate of his party for the nomination, though in the prime of vigor, had not been in the field, to which his eloquent appeals sent thousands, but preferred the pleasanter occupation of making money at home. He had converted the power of his great place, that of Speaker of the House of Representatives, into lucre, and was exposed. By mingled chicanery and audacity he obtained possession of his own criminating letters, flourished them in the face of the House, and, in the Cambyses vein, called on his people to rally and save the luster of his loyalty from soil at the hands of rebels; and they came. From all the North ready acclaims went up, and women shed tears of joy, such as in King Arthur's day rewarded some peerless deed of Galahad. In truth, it was a manly thing to hide dishonorable plunder beneath the prostrate body of the South. The Emperor Commodus, in full panoply, met in the arena disabled and unarmed gladiators. The servile Romans applauded his easy victories. Ancient Pistol covers with patches the ignoble scabs of a corrupt life. The vulgar herd believes them to be wounds received in the Gallic wars, as it once believed in the virtue and patriotism of Marat and Barrere.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Divine Moralist instructed his hearers to forgive those who had injured them; but He knew too well the malice of the human heart to expect them to forgive those whom they had injured. The leaders of the radical masses of the North have inflicted such countless and cruel wrongs on the Southern people as to forbid any hope of disposition or ability to forgive their victims; and the land will have no rest until the last of these persecutors has passed into oblivion.
During all these years the conduct of the Southern people has been admirable. Submitting to the inevitable, they have shown fortitude and dignity, and rarely has one been found base enough to take wages of shame from the oppressor and maligner of his brethren. Accepting the harshest conditions and faithfully observing them, they have struggled in all honorable ways, and for what? For their slaves? Regret for their loss has neither been felt nor expressed. But they have striven for that which brought our forefathers to Runnymede, the privilege of exercising some influence in their own government. Yet we fought for nothing but slavery, says the world, and the late Vice-President of the Confederacy, Mr. Alexander Stephens, reechoes the cry, declaring that it was the corner-stone of his Government.
RECONSTRUCTION UNDER JOHNSON.
The following considerations induced me to make a pilgrimage to Washington, where, by accident of fortune, I had a larger acquaintance with influential politicians than other Southern commanders. When the Whig party dissolved, most of its Northern members joined the Republicans, and now belonged to the reigning faction; and I had consorted with many of them while my father was President and afterward.
Mention has been made of the imprisonment of Governors Clarke and Watts for adopting my advice, and it was but right for me to make an effort to have them released. Moreover, Jefferson Davis was a prisoner in irons, and it was known that his health was feeble. Lee, Johnston, and I, with our officers and men, were at large, protected by the terms of our surrenders—terms which General Grant had honorably prevented the civil authorities from violating. If Mr. Davis had sinned, we all were guilty, and I could not rest without making an attempt for his relief.
At the time, it was understood that prisoners on parole should not change their residence without military permission, and leave to go to New York was asked and obtained of General Canby. By steamer I reached that place in a week, and found that General Dix had just been relieved by General Hooker, to whom I at once reported. He uttered a shout of welcome (we were old acquaintances), declared that he was more pleased to see me than to see a church (which was doubtless true), made hospitable suggestions of luncheon, champagne, etc., and gave me a permit to go to Washington, regretting that he could not keep me with him. A warm-hearted fellow is "fighting Joe," who carried on war like a soldier.
In Washington, at Willard's—a huge inn, filled from garret to cellar with a motley crowd—an acquaintance, whom I chanced to meet, informed me that a recent disturbance had induced the belief of the existence of a new plot for assassination, and an order had been published forbidding rebels to approach the capital without the permission of the War Secretary. Having been at sea for a week, I knew nothing of this, and Hooker had not mentioned it when he gave me the permit to come to Washington. My informant apprehended my arrest, and kindly undertook to protect me. Through his intervention I received from the President, Andrew Johnson, permission to stay or go where I chose, with an invitation to visit him at a stated time.
Presenting myself at the "White House," I was ushered in to the President—a saturnine man, who made no return to my bow, but, after looking at me, asked me to take a seat. Upon succeeding to power Mr. Johnson breathed fire and hemp against the South, proclaimed that he would make treason odious by hanging traitors, and ordered the arrest of General Lee and others, when he was estopped by the action of General Grant. He had now somewhat abated his wolfish desire for vengeance, and asked many questions about the condition of the South, temper of the people, etc. I explained the conduct of Governors Clarke and Watts, how they were imprisoned for following my advice, submitted to and approved by General Canby, who would hardly have abetted a new rebellion; and he made memoranda of their cases, as well as of those of many other prisoners, confined in different forts from Boston to Savannah, all of whom were released within a short period. Fearing to trespass on his time, I left with a request that he would permit me to call again, as I had a matter of much interest to lay before him, and was told the hours at which I would be received.
Thence to the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, who in former Whig times, as Senator from New York, had been a warm supporter of my father's administration. He greeted me cordially, and asked me to dine. A loin of veal was the piece de resistance of his dinner, and he called attention to it as evidence that he had killed the fatted calf to welcome the returned prodigal. Though not entirely recovered from the injuries received in a fall from his carriage and the wounds inflicted by the knife of Payne, he was cheerful, and appeared to sympathize with the objects of my mission—at least, so far as I could gather his meaning under the cloud of words with which he was accustomed to cover the slightest thought. One or two other members of the Cabinet, to whom Mr. Seward presented me, were also favorably inclined. One, the War Secretary, I did not meet. A spy under Buchanan, a tyrant under Lincoln, and a traitor to Johnson, this man was as cruel and crafty as Domitian. I never saw him. In the end conscience, long dormant, came as Alecto, and he was not; and the temple of Justice, on whose threshold he stood, escaped profanation.
In a second interview, President Johnson heard the wish I had so much at heart, permission to visit Jefferson Davis. He pondered for some time, then replied that I must wait and call again.
Meantime, an opportunity to look upon the amazing spectacle presented by the dwellers at the capital was afforded. The things seen by the Pilgrims in a dream were at this Vanity Fair visible in the flesh: "all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, states, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, greenbacks, pearls, precious stones, and what not." The eye of the inspired tinker had pierced the darkness of two hundred years, and seen what was to come. The martial tread of hundreds of volunteer generals, just disbanded, resounded in the streets. Gorged with loot, they spent it as lavishly as Morgan's buccaneers after the sack of Panama. Their women sat at meat or walked the highways, resplendent in jewels, spoil of Southern matrons. The camp-followers of the army were here in high carnival, and in character and numbers rivaled the attendants of Xerxes. Courtesans swarmed everywhere, about the inns, around the Capitol, in the antechambers of the "White House," and were brokers for the transaction of all business. Of a tolerant disposition and with a wide experience of earthly wickedness, I did not feel called upon to cry aloud against these enormities, remembering the fate of Faithful; but I had some doubts concerning divine justice; for why were the "cities of the Plain" overthrown and this place suffered to exist?
The officers of the army on duty at Washington were very civil to me, especially General Grant, whom I had known prior to and during the Mexican war, as a modest, amiable, but by no means promising lieutenant in a marching regiment. He came frequently to see me, was full of kindness, and anxious to promote my wishes. His action in preventing violation of the terms of surrender, and a subsequent report that he made of the condition of the South—a report not at all pleasing to the radicals—endeared him to all Southern men. Indeed, he was in a position to play a role second only to that of Washington, who founded the republic; for he had the power to restore it. His bearing and conduct at this time were admirable, modest and generous; and I talked much with him of the noble and beneficent work before him. While his heart seemed to respond, he declared his ignorance of and distaste for politics and politicians, with which and whom he intended to have nothing to do, but confine himself to his duties of commander-in-chief of the army. Yet he expressed a desire for the speedy restoration of good feeling between the sections, and an intention to advance it in all proper ways. We shall see when and under what influences he adopted other views.
The President put me off from day to day, receiving me to talk about Southern affairs, but declining to give an answer to my requests. I found that he always postponed action, and was of an obstinate, suspicious temper. Like a badger, one had to dig him out of his hole; and he was ever in one except when on the hustings, addressing the crowd. Of humble birth, a tailor by trade, nature gave him a strong intellect, and he had learned to read after his marriage. He had acquired much knowledge of the principles of government, and made himself a fluent speaker, but could not rise above the level of the class in which he was born and to which he always appealed. He well understood the few subjects laboriously studied, and affected to despise other knowledge, while suspicious that those possessing such would take advantage of him. Self-educated men, as they are called, deprived of the side light thrown on a particular subject by instruction in cognate matters, are narrow and dogmatic, and, with an uneasy consciousness of ignorance, soothe their own vanity by underrating the studies of others. To the vanity of this class he added that of the demagogue (I use the term in its better sense), and called the wise policy left him by his predecessor "my policy." Compelled to fight his way up from obscurity, he had contracted a dislike of those more favored of fortune, whom he was in the habit of calling "the slave-aristocracy," and became incapable of giving his confidence to any one, even to those on whose assistance he relied in a contest, just now beginning, with the Congress.
President Johnson never made a dollar by public office, abstained from quartering a horde of connections on the Treasury, refused to uphold rogues in high places, and had too just a conception of the dignity of a chief magistrate to accept presents. It may be said that these are humble qualities for a citizen to boast the possession of by a President of the United States. As well claim respect for a woman of one's family on the ground that she has preserved her virtue. Yet all whose eyes were not blinded by partisanship, whose manhood was not emasculated by servility, would in these last years have welcomed the least of them as manna in the desert.
The President, between whom and the Congressional leaders the seeds of discord were already sown, dallied with me from day to day, and at length said that it would spare him embarrassment if I could induce Stevens, Davis, and others of the House, and Sumner of the Senate, to recommend the permission to visit Jefferson Davis; and I immediately addressed myself to this unpleasant task.
Thaddeus Stevens received me with as much civility as he was capable of. Deformed in body and temper like Caliban, this was the Lord Hategood of the fair; but he was frankness itself. He wanted no restoration of the Union under the Constitution, which he called a worthless bit of old parchment. The white people of the South ought never again to be trusted with power, for they would inevitably unite with the Northern "Copperheads" and control the Government. The only sound policy was to confiscate the lands and divide them among the negroes, to whom, sooner or later, suffrage must be given. Touching the matter in hand, Johnson was a fool to have captured Davis, whom it would have been wiser to assist in escaping. Nothing would be done with him, as the executive had only pluck enough to hang two poor devils such as Wirtz and Mrs. Surratt. Had the leading traitors been promptly strung up, well; but the time for that had passed. (Here, I thought, he looked lovingly at my neck, as Petit Andre was wont to do at those of his merry-go-rounds.) He concluded by saying that it was silly to refuse me permission to visit Jefferson Davis, but he would not say so publicly, as he had no desire to relieve Johnson of responsibility.
There was no excuse for longer sporting with this radical Amaryllis either in shade or in sunshine; so I sought Henry Winter Davis. Like the fallen angel, Davis preferred to rule in hell rather than serve in heaven or on earth. With the head of Medusa and the eye of the Basilisk, he might have represented Siva in a Hindoo temple, and was even more inaccessible to sentiment than Thaddeus Stevens. Others, too numerous and too insignificant to particularize, were seen. These were the cuttle-fish of the party, whose appointed duty it was to obscure popular vision by clouds of loyal declamation. As Sicilian banditti prepare for robberies and murders by pious offerings on shrines of favorite saints, these brought out the altar of the "nation," and devoted themselves afresh, whenever "Credits Mobiliers" and kindred enormities were afoot, and sharpened every question of administration, finance, law, taxation, on the grindstone of sectional hate. So sputtering tugs tow from her moorings the stately ship, to send her forth to winds and waves of ocean, caring naught for the cargo with which she is freighted, but, grimy in zeal to earn fees, return to seek another.
Hopeless of obtaining assistance from such statesmen, I visited Mr. Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, who received me pleasantly. A rebel, a slave-driver, and, without the culture of Boston, ignorant, I was an admirable vessel into which he could pour the inexhaustible stream of his acquired eloquence. I was delighted to listen to beautiful passages from the classic as well as modern poets, dramatists, philosophers, and orators, and recalled the anecdote of the man sitting under a fluent divine, who could not refrain from muttering, "That is Jeremy Taylor; that, South; that, Barrow," etc. It was difficult to suppress the thought, while Mr. Sumner was talking, "That is Burke, or Howard, Wilberforce, Brougham, Macaulay, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Exeter Hall," etc.; but I failed to get down to the particular subject that interested me. The nearest approach to the practical was his disquisition on negro suffrage, which he thought should be accompanied by education. I ventured to suggest that negro education should precede suffrage, observing that some held the opinion that the capacity of the white race for government was limited, although accumulated and transmitted through many centuries. He replied that "the ignorance of the negro was due to the tyranny of the whites," which appeared in his view to dispose of the question of the former's incapacity. He seemed over-educated—had retained, not digested his learning; and beautiful flowers of literature were attached to him by filaments of memory, as lovely orchids to sapless sticks. Hence he failed to understand the force of language, and became the victim of his own metaphors, mistaking them for facts. He had the irritable vanity and weak nerves of a woman, and was bold to rashness in speculation, destitute as he was of the ordinary masculine sense of responsibility. Yet I hold him to have been the purest and most sincere man of his party. A lover, nay, a devotee of liberty, he thoroughly understood that it could only be preserved by upholding the supremacy of civil law, and would not sanction the garrison methods of President Grant. Without vindictiveness, he forgave his enemies as soon as they were overthrown, and one of the last efforts of his life was to remove from the flag of a common country all records of victories that perpetuated the memory of civil strife.
Foiled in this direction, I worried the President, as old Mustard would a stot, until he wrote the permission so long solicited. By steamer from Baltimore I went down Chesapeake Bay, and arrived at Fortress Monroe in the early morning. General Burton, the commander, whose civility was marked, and who bore himself like a gentleman and soldier, received me on the dock and took me to his quarters to breakfast, and to await the time to see Mr. Davis.
It was with some emotion that I reached the casemate in which Mr. Davis was confined. There were two rooms, in the outer of which, near the entrance, stood a sentinel, and in the inner was Jefferson Davis. We met in silence, with grasp of hands. After an interval he said, "This is kind, but no more than I expected of you." Pallid, worn, gray, bent, feeble, suffering from inflammation of the eyes, he was a painful sight to a friend. He uttered no plaint, and made no allusion to the irons (which had been removed); said the light kept all night in his room hurt his eyes a little, and, added to the noise made every two hours by relieving the sentry, prevented much sleep; but matters had changed for the better since the arrival of General Burton, who was all kindness, and strained his orders to the utmost in his behalf. I told him of my reception at Washington by the President, Mr. Seward, and others, of the attentions of Generals Grant and Humphreys, who promoted my wish to see him, and that with such aid I was confident of obtaining permission for his wife to stay with him. I could solicit favors for him, having declined any for myself. Indeed, the very accident of position, that enabled me to get access to the governing authorities, made indecent even the supposition of my acceptance of anything personal while a single man remained under the ban for serving the Southern cause; and therefore I had no fear of misconstruction. Hope of meeting his family cheered him much, and he asked questions about the condition and prospects of the South, which I answered as favorably as possible, passing over things that would have grieved him. In some way he had learned of attacks on his character and conduct, made by some Southern curs, thinking to ingratiate themselves with the ruling powers. I could not deny this, but remarked that the curse of unexpected defeat and suffering was to develop the basest passions of the human heart. Had he escaped out of the country, it was possible he might have been made a scapegoat by the Southern people, and, great as were the sufferings that he had endured, they were as nothing to coward stabs from beloved hands. The attacks mentioned were few, and too contemptible for notice; for now his calamities had served to endear him to all. I think that he derived consolation from this view.
The day passed with much talk of a less disturbing character, and in the evening I returned to Baltimore and Washington. After some delay Mr. Davis's family was permitted to join him, and he speedily recovered strength. Later I made a journey or two to Richmond, Virginia, on business connected with his trial, then supposed to be impending.
The slight service, if simple discharge of duty can be so called, I was enabled to render Mr. Davis, was repaid ten thousand fold. In the month of March, 1875, my devoted wife was released from suffering, long and patiently endured, originating in grief for the loss of her children and exposure during the war. Smitten by this calamity, to which all that had gone before seemed as blessings, I stood by her coffin, ere it was closed, to look for the last time upon features that death had respected and restored to their girlish beauty. Mr. Davis came to my side, and stooped reverently to touch the fair brow, when the tenderness of his heart overcame him and he burst into tears. His example completely unnerved me for the time, but was of service in the end. For many succeeding days he came to me, and was as gentle as a young mother with her suffering infant. Memory will ever recall Jefferson Davis as he stood with me by the coffin.
Duty to imprisoned friends and associates discharged, I returned to New Orleans, and remained for some weeks, when an untoward event occurred, productive of grave consequences. The saints and martyrs who have attained worldly success have rarely declined to employ the temporal means of sinners. While calling on Hercules, they put their own shoulders to the wheel, and, in the midst of prayer, keep their powder dry. To prepare for the reelection of President Lincoln in 1864, pretended State governments had been set up by the Federal military in several Southern States, where fragments of territory were occupied. In the event of a close election in the North, the electoral votes in these manufactured States would be under the control of the executive authority, and serve to determine the result. For some years the Southern States were used as thimble-riggers use peas: now they were under the cup of the Union, and now they were out. During his reign in New Orleans the Federal General Banks had prepared a Louisiana pea for the above purpose.
At this time negro suffrage, as yet an unaccomplished purpose, was in the air, and the objective point of radical effort. To aid the movement, surviving accomplices of the Banks fraud were instigated to call a "State Convention" in Louisiana, though with no more authority so to do than they had to call the British Parliament. The people of New Orleans regarded the enterprise as those of London did the proposed meeting of tailors in Tooley street; and just before this debating society was to assemble, the Federal commander, General Sheridan, selected especially to restrain the alleged turbulent population of the city, started on an excursion to Texas, proving that he attached no importance to the matter and anticipated no disturbance.
Living in close retirement, I had forgotten all about the "Convention." Happening to go to the center of the town, from my residence in the upper suburb, the day on which it met, on descending from the carriage of the tramway I heard pistol shots and saw a crowd of roughs, Arabs, and negroes running across Canal Street. I walked in the direction of the noise to inquire the cause of excitement, as there was nothing visible to justify it. The crowd seemed largely composed of boys of from twelve to fifteen, and negroes. I met no acquaintance, and could obtain no information, when a negro came flying past, pursued by a white boy, certainly not above fifteen years of age, with a pistol in hand. I stopped the boy without difficulty, and made him tell what he was up to. He said the niggers were having a meeting at Mechanics' Institute to take away his vote. When asked how long he had enjoyed that inestimable right of a freeman, the boy gave it up, pocketed his "Derringer," and walked off.
By this time the row appeared to be over, so I went on my way without seeing the building called Mechanics' Institute, as it was around the corner near which the boy was stopped. Speedily the town was filled with excitement, and Baird, the Federal commander in the absence of Sheridan, occupied the streets with troops and arrested the movements of citizens. Many poor negroes had been killed most wantonly, indignation ran high among decent people, and the perpetrators of the bloody deeds deserved and would have received swift, stern punishment had civil law been permitted to act. But this did not suit the purposes of the radicals, who rejoiced as Torquemada might have done when the discovery of a score of heretics furnished him an excuse to torment and destroy a province. Applying the theory of the detective police, that among the beneficiaries of crime must be sought the perpetrators, one would conclude that the radical leaders prompted the assassination of Lincoln and the murder of negroes; for they alone derived profit from these acts.
From this time forth the entire white race of the South devoted itself to the killing of negroes. It appeared to be an inherent tendency in a slave-driver to murder a negro. It was a law of his being, as of the monkey's to steal nuts, and could not be resisted. Thousands upon thousands were slain. Favorite generals kept lists in their pockets, proving time, place, and numbers, even to the smallest piccaninny. Nay, such was the ferocity of the slave-drivers, that unborn infants were ripped from their mothers' wombs. Probably these sable Macduffs were invented to avenge the wrongs of their race on tyrants protected by Satanic devices from injury at the hands of Africans of natural birth. Individual effort could not suffice the rage for slaughter, and the ancient order of "assassins" was revived, with an "Old Man" of the swamps at its head. Thus "Ku-Klux" originated, and covered the land with a network of crime. Earnest, credulous women in New England had their feelings lacerated by these stories, in which they as fondly believed as their foremothers in Salem witches.
As crocodiles conceal their prey until it becomes savory and tender and ripe for eating, so the Radicals kept these dark corpses to serve up to the public when important elections approached, or some especial villainy was to be enacted by the Congress. People who had never been south of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers knew all about this "Ku-Klux"; but I failed, after many inquiries, to find a single man in the South who ever heard of it, saving in newspapers. Doubtless there were many acts of violence. When ignorant negroes, instigated by pestilent emissaries, went beyond endurance, the whites killed them; and this was to be expected. The breed to which these whites belong has for eight centuries been the master of the earth wherever it has planted its foot. A handful conquered and holds in subjection the crowded millions of India. Another and smaller bridles the fierce Caffre tribes of South Africa. Place but a score of them on the middle course of the Congo, and they will rule unless exterminated; and all the armies and all the humanitarians can not change this, until the appointed time arrives for Ham to dominate Japhet.
Two facts may here be stated. Just in proportion as the whites recovered control of their local governments, in that proportion negroes ceased to be killed; and when it was necessary to Radical success to multiply negro votes, though no census was taken, formal statistics were published to prove large immigration of negroes into the very districts of slaughter. Certainty of death could not restrain the colored lambs, impelled by an uncontrollable ardor to vote the radical ticket, from traveling to the wolves. Such devotion deserved the tenderest consideration of Christian men and women, and all means of protection and loving care were due to this innocent, credulous race. A great bureau, the Freedmen's, was established, and in connection with it, at the seat of government, a bank. It was of importance to teach the freedmen, unused to responsibility, industry and economy; and the bank was to encourage these virtues by affording a safe place of deposit for their small savings. To make assurance doubly sure, the "Christian soldier of the United States army" was especially selected to keep the money, and he did—so securely, in point of fact, that it is to be apprehended the unfortunate depositors will never see it more. After so brilliant an experience in banking, prudence might have suggested to this officer the wisdom of retiring from public view. Fortune is sometimes jealous of great reputations and fresh laurels. The success of his first speech prevented "Single-speech Hamilton" from rising again in the House of Commons; Frederick failed to repeat Rossbach, and Napoleon, Austerlitz; but the "Christian soldier" rushed on his fate, and met it at the hands of the Nez Perces. The profound strategy, the skillful tactics, the ready valor that had extinguished bank balances, all failed against this wily foe.
While the excitement growing out of the untoward event mentioned was at its height, President Johnson summoned me to Washington, where I explained all the circumstances, as far as I knew them, of the recent murders, and urged him to send General Hancock to command in New Orleans. He was sent, and immediately restored order and confidence. A gentleman, one of the most distinguished and dashing officers of the United States army, General Hancock recognizes both the great duties of a soldier of the Republic—to defend its flag and obey its laws, discharging the last with a fidelity equal to his devotion to the first in front of battle.
The contest between the Congress and the President now waxed fierce, and Thaddeus Stevens, from his place in the House, denounced "the man at the other end of the avenue." The President had gone back to wise, lawful methods, and desired to restore the Union under the Constitution; and in this he was but following the policy declared in his last public utterance by President Lincoln. Mr. Johnson could establish this fact by members of his predecessor's Cabinet whom he had retained, and thus strengthen his position; but his vanity forbade him, so he called it "my policy," as if it were something new.
At his instance, I had many interviews with him, and consulted influential men from different parts of the country. His Secretary of War was in close alliance with his enemies in the Congress, and constantly betraying him. This was susceptible of proof, and I so informed the President, and pointed out that, so far from assisting the people of the South, he was injuring them by inaction; for the Congress persecuted them to worry him. He was President and powerful; they were weak and helpless. In truth, President Johnson, slave to his own temper and appetites, was unfit to control others.
General Grant yet appeared to agree with me about "reconstruction," as it was called; and I was anxious to preserve good feeling on his part toward the President. In the light of subsequent events, it is curious to recall the fact that he complained of Stanton's retention in the Cabinet, because the latter's greed of power prevented the Commander-in-Chief of the army from controlling the most minute details without interference. I urged this on the President as an additional motive for dismissing his War Secretary and replacing him by some one agreeable to General Grant; but all in vain. This official "old man of the sea" kept his seat on the Presidential neck, never closing crafty eye nor traitorous mouth, and holding on with the tenacity of an octopus.
Many moderate and whilom influential Republicans determined to assemble in convention at Philadelphia, and invited delegates from all parts, North and South, to meet them. The object was to promote good feeling and an early restoration of the Union, and give aid to the President in his struggle with extremists. Averse to appearing before the public, I was reluctant to go to this Convention; but the President, who felt a deep interest in its success, insisted, and I went. It was largely attended, and by men who had founded and long led the Freesoil party. Ex-members of Lincoln's first Cabinet, Senators and members of the Congress, editors of Republican newspapers (among whom was Henry J. Raymond, the ablest political editor of the day and an eminent member of Congress as well), Southern men who had fought for the Confederacy, were there. Northern Republicans and Democrats, long estranged, buried the political hatchet and met for a common purpose, to restore the Union. Negro-worshipers from Massachusetts and slave-drivers from South Carolina entered the vast hall arm in arm. The great meeting rose to its feet, and walls and roof shook with applause. General John A. Dix of New York called the Convention to order, and, in an eloquent and felicitous speech, stated the objects of the assembly—to renew fraternal feeling between the sections, heal the wounds of war, obliterate bitter memories, and restore the Union of the fathers. Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin was chosen permanent president, and patriotic resolutions were adopted by acclamation. All this was of as little avail as the waving of a lady's fan against a typhoon. Radical wrath uprose and swept these Northern men out of political existence, and they were again taught the lesson that is ever forgotten, namely, that it is an easy task to inflame the passions of the multitude, an impossible one to arrest them. From selfish ambition, from thoughtless zeal, from reckless partisanship, from the low motives governing demagogues in a country of universal suffrage, men are ever sowing the wind, thinking they can control the whirlwind; and the story of the Gironde and the Mountain has been related in vain.
The President was charmed with the Convention. Believing the people—his god—to be with him, his crest rose, and he felt every inch a President. Again I urged him to dismiss his War Secretary and replace Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, now in disfavor with his own creation, the Radical party, by General Dix, who was rewarded for his services at Philadelphia by the appointment of Naval Officer at New York. He was an exception to the rule above mentioned. A more cautious pilot than Palinurus, this respectable person is the "Vicar of Bray" of American politics; and like that eminent divine, his creeds sit so lightly as to permit him to take office under all circumstances. Secretary of the Treasury in the closing weeks of President Buchanan, he aroused the North by sending his immortal dispatch to the commander of a revenue cutter: "If any man attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." This bespoke the heart of the patriot, loving his country's banner, and the arm of the hero, ready to defend it; and, clad in this armor of proof, he has since been invulnerable. The President took kindly to the proposition concerning General Dix, and I flattered myself that it would come off, when suddenly the General was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to France. I imagine that Mr. Seward had got wind of the project and hurried Dix out of the way. Thus, in a few days General Dix had the offer of the Netherlands, Naval Office, and France. "Glamis, and thane of Cawdor"; and his old age is yet so green, mayhap "the greatest is behind."
To air his eloquence and enlighten the minds of his dear people, the President made a tour through the North and West, in which his conduct and declarations were so extraordinary as to defeat any hopes of success for "my policy."
A circumstance connected with the Philadelphia Convention made an impression on me at the time. Mr. Raymond was editor of the "New York Times," the most powerful Republican journal in the North. Among many who had gained large wealth by speculations during the war was Mr. Leonard Jerome, a Republican in politics. This gentleman spent his fortune so lavishly that his acquaintances and the public shared its enjoyment. With other property, Mr. Jerome owned the controlling interest in the "Times," then very valuable. Dining in New York with him and Mr. Raymond, the latter told me it was useless to support the President, who was daily becoming more unpopular, and that the circulation and influence of his paper were rapidly diminishing in consequence of his adherence to "my policy." Whereupon Mr. Jerome replied: "I know but little about politics; but if you think it right to stand by the President, I will pay all losses that the 'Times' may suffer to the other proprietors." This was unselfish and patriotic; and I record it with the more pleasure, because Mr. Jerome has lost much of his wealth, and I fear, like many another Timon, some friends with it.
After this period I saw little of President Johnson, who fought his fight in his own way, had his hands completely tied, and barely escaped impeachment; the Congress, meanwhile, making a whipping-post of the South, and inflicting upon it every humiliation that malignity could devise.
RECONSTRUCTION UNDER GRANT.
Before the conventions to nominate candidates for the Presidency met in 1868, I had much intercourse with General Grant, and found him ever modest and determined to steer clear of politics, or at least not permit himself to be used by partisans; and I have no doubt that he was sincere. But the Radical Satan took him up to the high places and promised him dominion over all in view. Perhaps none but a divine being can resist such temptation. He accepted the nomination from the Radicals, and was elected; and though I received friendly messages from him, I did not see him until near the close of his first administration. As ignorant of civil government as of the characters on the Moabitish stone, President Grant begun badly, and went from bad to worse. The appointments to office that he made, the associates whom he gathered around him, were astounding. All his own relatives, all his wife's relatives, all the relatives of these relatives, to the remotest cousinhood, were quartered on the public treasury. Never, since King Jamie crossed the Tweed with the hungry Scotch nation at his heels, has the like been seen; and the soul of old Newcastle, greatest of English nepotists, must have turned green with envy. The influence of this on the public was most disastrous. Already shortened by the war, the standard of morality, honesty, and right was buried out of sight.
For two or three years I was much in the North, and especially in New York, where I had dear friends. The war had afforded opportunity and stimulated appetite for reckless speculation. Vast fortunes had been acquired by new men, destitute of manners, taste, or principles. The vulgar insolence of wealth held complete possession of public places and carried by storm the citadels of society. Indeed, society disappeared. As in the middle ages, to escape pollution, honorable men and refined women (and there are many such in the North) fled to sanctuary and desert, or, like early Christians in the catacombs, met secretly and in fear. The masses sank into a condition that would disgrace Australian natives, and lost all power of discrimination.
The Vice-President of the United States accepted bribes, and perjured himself in vain to escape exposure. President Grant wrote him a letter to assure him of his continued esteem and confidence, and this Vice-President has since lectured before "Young Men's Christian Associations." Plunderings by members of the Congress excited no attention so long as they were confined to individuals or corporations. It was only when they voted themselves money out of taxes paid by the people, that these last growled and frightened some of the statesmen into returning it. A banker, the pet of the Government, holding the same especial relation to it that the Bank of England held to William of Orange, discovered that "a great national debt was a blessing," and was commended and rewarded therefor. With a palace on the shores of the Delaware, this banker owned a summer retreat on a lovely isle amid the waters of Lake Erie. A pious man, he filled this with many divines, who blessed all his enterprises. He contributed largely, too, to the support of an influential Christian journal to aid in disseminating truth to Jew, Gentile, and heathen. The divines and the Christian journal were employed to persuade widows and weak men to purchase his rotten securities, as things too righteous to occasion loss.
The most eloquent preacher in the land, of a race devoted to adoration of negroes, as Hannibal to hatred of Rome, compromised the wife of a member of his congregation. Discovered by the husband, he groveled before him in humiliation as before "his God" (his own expression). Brought before the public, he swore that he was innocent, and denied the meaning of his own written words. The scandal endured for months and gave an opportunity to the metropolitan journals to display their enterprise by furnishing daily and minute reports of all details to their readers. The influence of the preacher was increased by this. His congregation flocked to him as the Anabaptists to John of Leyden, and shopkeepers profitably advertised their wares by doubling their subscriptions to augment his salary. Far from concealing this wound inflicted on his domestic honor, the injured husband proclaimed it from the housetops, clothed himself in it as in a robe of price, and has successfully used it to become a popular lecturer.
To represent the country at the capital of an ancient monarchy, a man was selected whom, it is no abuse of language to declare, Titus Oates after his release from the pillory would have blushed to recognize. On the eve of his departure, as one may learn from the newspapers of the day, all that was richest and best in New York gathered around a banquet in his honor, congratulated the country to which he was accredited, and lamented the misfortune of their own that it would be deprived, even temporarily, of such virtue. Another was sent to an empire which is assured by our oft-succeeding envoys that it is the object of our particular affection. To the aristocracy of the realm this genial person taught the favorite game of the mighty West. A man of broad views, feeling that diplomatic attentions were due to commons as well as to crown and nobles, he occasionally withdrew himself from the social pleasures of the "West End" to inform the stags of Capel Court of the value of American mines. Benefactors are ever misjudged. Aristocracy and the many-antlered have since united to defame him; but Galileo in the dungeon, Pascal by his solitary lamp, More, Sidney, and Russell on the scaffold, will console him; and in the broad bosom of his native Ohio he has found the exception to the rule that prophets are not without honor but in their own country.
The years of Methuselah and the pen of Juvenal would not suffice to exhaust the list, or depict the benighted state into which we had fallen; but it can be asserted of the popular idols of the day that unveiled, they resemble Mokanna, and can each exclaim:
"Here, judge if hell, with all its power to damn, Can add one curse to the foul thing I am!"
The examples of thousands of pure and upright people in the North were as powerless to mitigate the general corruption as song of seraphim to purify the orgies of harlots and burglars; for they were not in harmony with the brutal passions of the masses.
In Boston, July, 1872, as co-trustees of the fund left by the late Mr. Peabody for the education of the poor in the Southern States, President Grant and I met for the first time since he had accepted the nomination from the Radical party. He was a candidate for reelection, and much worshiped; and, though cordial with me, his general manner had something of "I am the State." Stopping at the same inn, he passed an evening in my room, to which he came alone; and there, avoiding public affairs, we smoked and chatted about the Nueces, Rio Grande, Palo Alto, etc.—things twenty-five years agone, when we were youngsters beginning life. He was reelected in November by a large majority of electoral votes; but the people of Louisiana elected a Democratic Governor and Assembly. When, in January following, the time of meeting of the Assembly arrived, the country, habituated as it was to violent methods, was startled by the succeeding occurrences.
The night before the Assembly was to meet, the Federal Judge in the city of New Orleans, a drunken reprobate, obtained from the commander of the United States troops a portion of his force, and stationed it in the State House. In the morning the members elect were refused admittance, and others not elected, many not even candidates during the election, were allowed to enter. One Packard, Marshal of the Federal Court, a bitter partisan and worthy adjunct of such a judge, had provided for an Assembly to suit himself by giving tickets to his friends, whom the soldiers passed in, excluding the elected members. The ring-streaked, spotted, and speckled among the cattle and goats, and the brown among the sheep, were turned into the supplanters' folds, which were filled with lowing herds and bleating flocks, while Laban had neither horn nor hoof. There was not a solitary return produced in favor of this Packard body, nor of the Governor subsequently installed; but the Radicals asserted that their friends would have been elected had the people voted as they wished, for every negro and some whites in the State upheld their party. By this time the charming credulity of the negroes had abated, and they answered the statement that slave-drivers were murdering their race in adjacent regions by saying that slave-drivers, at least, did not tell them lies nor steal their money.
All the whites and many of the blacks in Louisiana felt themselves cruelly wronged by the action of the Federal authorities. Two Assemblies were in session and two Governors claiming power in New Orleans. Excitement was intense, business arrested, and collision between the parties imminent. As the Packard faction was supported by Federal troops, the situation looked grave, and a number of worthy people urged me to go to Washington, where my personal relations with the President might secure me access to him. It was by no means a desirable mission, but duty seemed to require me to undertake it.
Accompanied by Thomas F. Bayard, Senator from Delaware, my first step in Washington was to call on the leader of the Radicals in the Senate, Morton of Indiana, when a long conversation ensued, from which I derived no encouragement. Senator Morton was the Couthon of his party, and this single interview prepared me for one of his dying utterances to warn the country against the insidious efforts of slave-driving rebels to regain influence in the Government. The author of the natural history of Ireland would doubtless have welcomed one specimen, by describing which he could have filled out a chapter on snakes; and there is temptation to dwell on the character of Senator Morton as one of the few Radical leaders who kept his hands clean of plunder. But it may be observed that one absorbing passion excludes all others from the human heart; and the small portion of his being in which disease had left vitality was set on vengeance. Death has recently clutched him, and would not be denied; and he is bewailed throughout the land as though he had possessed the knightly tenderness of Sir Philip Sidney and the lofty patriotism of Chatham.