On March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln delivered his first Inaugural Address amidst the crisis of the Southern States seceding from the Union. Lincoln felt that not only was his duty, but it was also his right to hold the Union together by whatever means were at his disposal; including an armed invasion of the South, “I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.”
After 4 long years of bloody fighting, on April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee met with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, where he formally surrendered; officially ending hostilities between the two nations. From that point forward the undivided nation went about the business of healing the wounds inflected by the war and getting about the business of building America into the greatest economic power the world had ever seen.
Or that’s how the story is taught anyway…
It amazes me that people can think that a couple of chapters in a modern history book can cover the entire history of the Civil War; the causes that led to it, the events that took place, both in the South AND the North during it, and the period immediately following it; known as Reconstruction.
You would be surprised at just how much you could learn about the Civil War if you would just do a little bit of research on your own. You might even begin to despise your government as much as I do if you ventured too far down the rabbit hole of factually accurate history. However, if you don’t, you will probably remain indoctrinated by the textbook, or ‘official’, version of the period before, during, and after the Civil War.
If you are one of those whose beliefs regarding this period of our history is limited to what you have learned in school, or based upon the words of modern day pundits and scholars, then you probably think that the war was fought over the issue of slavery; with the North being the good guys who sought to end that evil institution.
Okay, let’s run with that theory for just a minute. Did you know that in 1861 the North was predominantly Republican and it was the South that was the stronghold of the Democrats? So, according to your theory, it was the Republicans who wanted to end slavery and the Democrats who wanted to perpetuate it. Bet you never looked at it from THAT perspective!
Then for those of you who truly believe that Lincoln was acting solely to keep the Union together; that his actions were in accordance with, and in support of, the Constitution; my argument against that theory will be a bit more detailed.
The argument is that the South was committing treason when they took up arms against the North and that the North was simply adhering to the Constitution by putting down a rebellion. Aside from the attack upon Fort Sumter, (which was instigated by the North, and technically was the attempt by the South of preventing a foreign nation from landing troops and supplies upon their sovereign soil), the Fort Sumter event does not count as an attack upon either the North, nor does it count as an effort to overthrow the government of the North. The first actual battle came when Northern troops invaded the South; which in any other instance between sovereign nations would be considered an act of war against them. The North sent troops into their country, and the South took up arms to defend themselves and their country. So who was the aggressor if not the North?
From all accounts I’ve read of this period of America History, the South never sought to topple the government of the United States; nor provide aid to its enemies; it only sought to sever the ties that had bound them to the Union; just as their ancestors had done in 1776. Yes they sent troops into the North, but only after they themselves had been invaded by Northern Troops, and then only to force the Lincoln administration to put an end to hostilities against them and recognize their independence.
So Lincolns said he was defending the Union; the Constitution. Okay, let’s run with that idea for a moment. If what Lincoln said is true, then the leaders of the Confederacy were probably engaged in treason. Why were none of them ever brought to trial?
Did you know that at the end of the Civil War Confederate President Jefferson Davis was arrested and imprisoned at Fort Monroe; and I’ll get to his treatment while he was there in a bit. Aside from my Civil War buff friends, how many of you know anything at all about Fort Monroe?
Fort Monroe sits in the Chesapeake River; connected to Virginia by a tiny land mass; making it an isthmus; and if you don’t know what that is, LOOK IT UP! Fort Monroe was, at the time it was an active fort, known as the Gibraltar of the Chesapeake due to the fact that there was only one way you could approach it by land and the fact that it was so heavily constructed and surrounded by water.
The fort had a 1.25 mile moat surrounding it, it’s walls were 30 ft thick in some places, and up to 90 ft thick in others. It was almost impenetrable with the armaments in possession at the time of the Civil War. That’s where Jefferson Davis was taken at the end of the Civil War; and to top it off he was confined to a casemate; or a fortified room that had previously held a battery of cannon. A thick steel door was the only way in or out, and it was guarded by upwards of 70 Union Soldiers – there was no escaping for Jefferson Davis.
The thing is, Jefferson Davis did not want to escape; he wanted to be given the chance to plead his case before a courtroom; believing that he could prove that the Confederacy was justified, and that the North would be found to be the aggressors. Now comes the truly interesting part. That fact was addressed by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, who said, “If you bring these [Confederate] leaders to trial it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution secession is not rebellion.” (July 1867, Foote, The Civil War, Vol. 3, p. 765)
One of the ways they kept Davis from testifying in a courtroom was by isolating him in Fort Monroe under military jurisdiction; very similar to how we treat suspected terrorists today, denying them their rights.
A Northern lawyer from New York, Charles O’Conor, offered to represent Davis should he ever go to trial; but O’Conor was denied access to the prisoner, and Davis’s letters to him were either re-submitted back to Davis for editing, or thrown away or lost and neither O’conor or Davis got their day in court. Davis was eventually freed without ever standing trial for treason, but not until he had undergone torture and isolation from friends and family for two years.
As I’ve already mentioned, Davis was kept locked away in, what was probably, the most secure fortress in America; without possibility of escaping the casemate that had been converted into a prison cell. Yet upon orders from the prison commander, Nelson Miles, under direct orders from Northern Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Davis was also put into leg irons as a means to either humiliate him or break his spirit so that he would more readily admit to having committed treason; we may never know exactly why. Nevertheless, the orders came directly from Stanton, stating, “[Nelson] Miles is hereby authorized and directed to place manacles and fetters upon the hands and feet of Jefferson Davis and Clement C. Clay whenever he may think it advisable in order to render their imprisonment more secure By order of [Edwin Stanton].”
Apparently the commandant of this prison, Miles, thought there was the possibility that Davis could break through the granite walls, or break down a steel door, swim the moat, swim the Chesapeake, and make an escape without being captured; for he immediately carried out the order. It was only when word of the leg irons reached the press, and sympathy for the prisoner was expressed in both Northern and Southern papers, that the order to have Davis shackled was rescinded.
Davis also suffered from a degenerative eye malady that caused bright lights to bother him intensely; so the commander of the prison ensured that Davis received no time in complete darkness; keeping a candle burning in his cell the entire time he was imprisoned. Also, troops were made to continually march around in his cell, with the constant clomping of their boots making it difficult, if not impossible, for Davis to get any sleep.
These Northerners wanted to punish the South for their insolence; their having the audacity to challenge the authority of the federal government, and what better example to set than the isolation and torture of the former president of the Confederacy.
Yet what about the Constitution Lincoln claimed to have been supporting when he waged his war against the South; did not their protections of the rights of all men apply to Jeff Davis? Did not Davis deserve a speedy and fair trial, as secured by the 5th Amendment? What about the 8th Amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, did it not apply to Jeff Davis?
That’s just what they did to Jefferson Davis after the war ended; one would do well to study what Lincoln did during the war which violated the Constitution and Bill of Rights; like suspending the Maryland Legislature so that it could not vote on the issue of secession; or how he shut down the press when they wrote editorials critical of his war; or how his plan of total war targeted civilians and resulted in the destruction of wide swaths of land – Sherman’s March to the Sea and the burning of the Shenandoah Valley.
What about how, after the war, the North violated Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution by denying the Southern States a ‘republican’ form of government; placing them under military rule instead. What about how Southern men were not allowed to vote, or how the former States of the Confederacy were made to re-write their State Constitutions; or how they would not be allowed to have their representatives resume their status in Congress until they had ratified the 14th Amendment; coercion, bribery or duress if ever there was an example of it.
Pennsylvania Republican Thaddeus Stevens is quoted as saying this about the South, “The talk of restoring the Union like it was, and the Constitution as it is, is one of the absurdities which I have heard repeated until I have become sick of it. There are many things which make such an event impossible. This Union never shall, with my consent, be restored under the constitution as it is … The Union as it was and the Constitution as it is–God forbid it. We must conquer the Southern states and hold them as conquered provinces.”
One hundred twenty two years after the end of the Civil War Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshal summed up the entire Civil War in one precise sentence, “While the Union survived the Civil War, the Constitution did not. In its place arose… the Fourteenth Amendment.”
I have but scratched the surface of the truth, and yet there are those who will still denounce the South and those who still hold on to the principles she fought for. These are those who bow down today and worship at the altar of big government; the same ones who now call in phone tips about their friends and neighbors violating self-isolation protocol.
These are not the remnant, or followers of men like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee who fought for the rights, liberty, and ability of a people to determine who shall be their governors. These are not patriots, they are willing slaves; and they seek to impose servitude upon all and extinguish the fire of liberty that still burns bright in those who can, justly, call themselves the modern day Sons and Daughters of Liberty. These are those who commit treason against the principles this country once stood for; and may ye rot in hell for it!