Monthly Archives: January 2016

Book Review: Lee’s Lost Dispatch

Earlier this week Civil War author and book reviewer, Fred Ray, wrote the review of my Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies provided below:

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies

By Philip Leigh
Illustrated, photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 224 pp. softcover $18.95
Westholme Publishing 2015
http://www.westholmepublishing.com

Philip Leigh, whose last book, Trading With the Enemy, I reviewed a while back, has produced another volume for the Civil War reader. This one is a series of essays on various controversies, mysteries, and other aspects of the war. Briefly, they are:

LeeLost

• The Biggest Confederate Error. Leigh sees this as Jefferson Davis’ decision to hold Southern cotton off the market to put pressure on England and France to intervene. In retrospect, however, Davis missed a golden opportunity to supplement his meagre war chest while he still could. Had the cotton been sold and the money put into European banks, the Confederacy would have had more money than the United States to buy badly needed war materiel. Once the blockade became effective, it was too late.

To read the rest of the review, please go to the TOCWOC Blog where Ray posts his reviews. 

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Signatures Sold $122,500

Today I learned the subject manuscript of yesterday’s post still exists and sold at a Christie’s auction five years ago for $122,500. The single document has the signatures of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, which both signed in their presidential capacities.

As may be recalled, in the final weeks of the Civil War a Baptist minister personally acquainted with Lincoln approached the president seeking permission to sell cotton owned by a Mississippi orphanage in order to buy supplies for the children. He had a petition from the orphanage’s board of trustees describing the destitute conditions.

Teasdale

President Davis endorsed the back of the petition with a note permitting the minister to pass through enemy lines in order to meet with Lincoln. After initial reluctance, Lincoln wrote a note below Davis’s authorizing the Union occupation commander in New Orleans, Major General Edward Canby, to assist the minister.

Prior to the latest Christie’s auction the document had three owners. First was the applicable Baptist minister, Thomas C. Teasdale. The next owner was Gilbert Colgate of the Colgate-Palmolive and Colgate University family. He apparently wrote a Civil War Times Illustrated article about the incident shortly before he died in 1965. The most recent seller was evidently a Colgate family descendent.

Prior to discovering the auction, I would have guessed that Teasdale’s petition would have brought a higher price because I don’t think there is another document having both the Lincoln and Davis signatures, particularly in their presidential capacities. Moreover, the petition itself partly tells the interesting background story. Finally, according to the Christie notes, it also has General Canby’s signature and endorsement.

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Rare Signatures

The following story suggests there may be at least one document with the signatures of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis signed in their capacities of President for their respective nations. Please let me know if you are aware of the document’s present location.

During the final months of the war, desperate conditions in the South also led humanitarian instincts to authorize contraband trade that might otherwise have been denied. In one instance, Lincoln was approached directly by a Baptist minister, Rev. Thomas Teasdale, who was a representative of the Mississippi State Orphans Home. Before the war, Teasdale had served temporarily at a church in Lincoln’s hometown and was warmly recognized by the president.

Lin-Davis

Teasdale asked permission to ship cotton purchased with Confederate money through the lines to New York, where it could be sold to purchase supplies for the orphanage. The pastor formalized his request by presenting a petition by the orphanage board describing the impoverished conditions and endorsed on the back by President Jefferson Davis. Evidently offended by the Davis endorsement, Lincoln responded by explaining that economic shortages were intentionally employed to motivate Southerners “to give up this wicked rebellion.” Teasdale replied that “the hapless little ones” were not perpetrators of the war but merely victims of it. Lincoln softened, replying, “That is true and I must do something for you.”

Lincoln wrote a note to Union General Canby in New Orleans, authorizing—but not ordering—the general to accommodate Teasdale. The president then endorsed the back of the orphanage petition, encouraging the secretaries of War and the Treasury to meet with Teasdale regarding his “praiseworthy effort.” Lincoln wrote his endorsement below that of Davis, thereby transforming the document into perhaps the only one to have the signatures of both Davis and Lincoln in their capacities as presidents.*
*Philip Leigh Trading With the Enemy (Yardley, Penna.: Westholme Publishing, 2014), 136-7

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Never Again?

Due to growing hostility toward the Confederacy the U. S. Postal service may never again issue stamps that include an image of the Confederate battle flag. Only two such examples exist. Both with issued in 1976 as part of our country’s bicentennial. Sheets of fifty stamps were printed with one stamp on each sheet representing the state flag of each state in use at the time. As pictured below, both the Georgia and Mississippi flags included images of the Confederate battle flag.

1976 Mississippi State Flag

1976 Mississippi State Flag

1976 Georgia State Flag

1976 Georgia State Flag

Other stamps featuring Confederate icons were issued as early as 1937 and as late as 1995.

  1. First was a Lee-Jackson stamp from 1937
  2. Second, was a 1949 Washington & Lee University issue.
  3. Third, was a 1951 Confederate Veterans stamp issued together with a GAR stamp.
  4. Fourth, was a 1955 Lee definitive.
  5. Fifth, was a 1970 Stone Mountain commemorative.
  6. Sixth, was a 1995 sheet of twenty 32-cent stamps honoring various Civil War personalities including seven Southerners.

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Confiscation Acts

During the Civil War’s first important battle at First Bull Run in July 1861, Union observers saw thousands of slaves doing supportive work for the Confederate army. Since the Union force was defeated at the battle, Northerners concluded that they were not going to end the war as quickly as previously supposed. Consequently, a property confiscation bill targeted at Southerners was passed and signed by Lincoln the following month. It permitted the Union army to confiscate property, including slaves, used in the service the Confederate government. Generally court proceedings were required before property could be condemned. In the case of slaves, however, no legal proceedings were required.

Before the end of the year Radical Republicans wanted to strengthen the act so that the private property of disloyal citizens could be seized even if such property was not directly used to support the Confederacy. They also wanted to impose potentially mortal penalties for disloyalty. Democrats and moderate Republicans, including President Lincoln, were concerned about the impact of such measures on the loyalties of the border-states where slavery was still legal and many families had members serving under Confederate arms. They also questioned the constitutionality of a more liberal seizure policy.

confiscation

The result was the Second Confiscation Act, which was adopted on July 17, 1862 partly in response to the reverses of McClellan’s army on the York-James peninsula. It essentially declared that any Southerner who served in the Confederate government or military could be convicted of treason, punishable by death. Other persons who merely aided the rebellion could be imprisoned for up to ten years. The property, including slaves, of both guilty categories was subject to confiscation. Before signing the bill, however, Lincoln stipulated that confiscation of real property could only be temporary as implied by the Constitution. It could not extend beyond the life of the offender. Thus, the property rights of a Confederate soldier’s wife and children would be restored upon the soldier’s death. A plantation, for example, would revert back to the owner’s heirs, even if he died years after the war. The U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution agreeing to Lincoln’s limitations. Continue reading

Untold Story of Reconstruction

Provided below is my review of Gene Dattel’s article “The Untold Story of Reconstruction” in the September 2015 edition of The New Criterion.

Widely praised for his 2009 Cotton and Race in the Making of America, author Gene Dattel’s recent article titled “The Untold Story of Reconstruction,” takes a different tack.

Although predicting that the present Reconstruction Sesquicentennial shall result in “reams of material blaming the South for our racial conundrum” Dattel concludes that all the “issues of Reconstruction circle back” to the toxic “attitudes of the white North toward blacks.” After commenting upon how the present demonization of Confederate symbols contrasts with the respectful reconciliation of opposing leaders such a Grant and Lee, he cogently observes that while white Northerners may have opposed race-based slavery they were contemptuous of free blacks and wanted them excluded from society.

Even though blacks represented less than 2% of the Northern states population, as compared to 40% in the Confederate states, most white Northerners wanted blacks concentrated in the South. As Connecticut was freeing its slaves fifty years before the Civil War, Yale President Timothy Dwight wrote “[free blacks]…are generally neither able, nor inclined, to make their freedom a blessing. When they first become free, they are turned out into the world…fitted to make them only nuisances to society…[where] they waste much of what they earn…[and] are left as miserable victims to sloth…poverty, ignorance and vice.” Nearly sixty years later Connecticut voted against the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted male blacks the right to vote in all states.

Although Yale students forcefully proclaim a “need” to change the name of the John Calhoun residential college on their campus because of his racism, they seem to be silent about changing the name of the Timothy Dwight residential college despite Dwight’s racism.

Dattel

Another anti-slavery advocate holding low opinions of blacks was Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William H. Seward. When speaking in Detroit in 1860 he said, “The great fact is now fully realized that the African race here is…incapable of assimilation.” He only supported black suffrage in New York “because their numbers were negligible,” but he opposed it in Washington City where the blacks were numerous. Dattel sagaciously observes that the number of blacks in a locale became “the critical fact throughout the African-American experience.” Continue reading