Monthly Archives: August 2016

Secession Without Civil War

Since most modern historians agree that the South seceded to protect slavery they conclude that the Civil War was “all about” slavery. The inference, however, overlooks the possibility that the Southern states could have been allowed to depart in peace. Within the lifetimes of most readers, for example, the Soviet Union peacefully disintegrated into its constituent countries as did Czechoslovakia.

Even though it was partly motivated to defend slavery, one secession example from American history demonstrates that such action need not have led to war. Moreover, it questions the underlying assumption that the immorality of slavery alone was sufficiently repellant to Northerners that they would fight secessionists for trying to protect it.

In 1846 about one third of the District of Columbia seceded. Originally the District was a ten-mile-by-ten-mile square. About a third of the one hundred square miles were southwest of the Potomac River in what was originally—and presently—Virginia. Most of the sector’s residents wanted to secede from the District for two reasons. First, they were not treated fairly from an economic perspective. Public buildings, for example, could only be erected on the “Maryland” side of the Potomac. Second, they correctly anticipated that the District might someday outlaw slavery.


In February 1846 the Virginia legislature agreed to absorb the District’s southwest sector if Congress approved. Five months later Congress authorized that the region could be returned to Virginia if its voters agreed by a referendum. The referendum vote was affirmative and the land returned to Virginia in September 1846. Continue reading

Vanderbilt Pretends

In 1935 the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) constructed Confederate Memorial Hall as a residence for girls at Nashville’s Peabody College. Originally residents who were descendants of Confederate veterans and agreed to become teachers were granted free room and board. The school and dormitory were acquired by Vanderbilt University in 1979. Earlier this month university chancellor, Nicholas Zeppos, announced that the name “Confederate” will be sandblasted off of the building.

Ironically, it is unlikely that Zeppos would be paid anything close to his $2.2 million salary except for the Confederate sympathies of Cornelius’s second wife, Frank Crawford Vanderbilt, and the contributions of countless Confederate descendants over the years. It is equally unlikely that any of the school’s prominent graduates—including Board of Trust members— would have even attended the university.

Frank Vanderbilt

Through the husband of one of her cousins, the Mobile, Alabama native persuaded the Commodore to donate $1 million to fund the university in 1873. Among the few who attended their wedding was a former Attorney General of the Confederacy and a former Confederate lieutenant general. Six years earlier the Commodore was among several prominent Northerners who posted bail for the prison release of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Removal of the residence hall name signals the death of the spirit of reconciliation the Commodore himself advocated when writing that his donation was intended to “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.” Erasing symbols of Frank’s love for her fellow Confederates as well as the contributions of their descendants and the UDC to the school’s progress is cultural genocide and actually promotes diversity intolerance. It pretends that none of the above happened.

Zeppos was appointed by the Board of Trust, whose members are listed here.

Fox sports announcer, Clay Travis, is one Vandy graduate who is objecting to the sandblasting. Consequently, the Jack Daniels distillery has revoked a modest advertising contract with him.  The distillery is owned by Brown-Forman.

Mr. Garvin Brown IV
Board Chairman
Brown-Forman Distillery
850 Dixie Highway
Louisville, Kentucky 40210-1038


My Amazon Author Page

The Truth About Lincoln

The 45-minute YouTube video below is provided by Stefan Molyneux who has a regular podcast titled Freedomain Radio, which he started eleven years ago.

Prior to starting the podcast, Stefan was a software entrepreneur who sold his company at the turn of the century. Most of his podcasts are on relationships, politics, and economics. While I do not agree with some of his analysis of President Lincoln I was impressed by the trenchant and fresh perspective he brings to the 16th president who has otherwise been overly deified.

Stefan was born in Ireland and moved to Canada when he was eleven years old. He has a BA in History from McGill University and a MA in History from the University of Toronto. He is married and fifty years old.

Sample Chapter: Trading With the Enemy

Provided below is a free copy of the Introduction for my book, Trading With the Enemywhich is about intersectional commerce between the North and South during the Civil War.    Abundant footnotes are provided in the book, but not in this free sample.

The ways of the dollar are always devious. — Walter Tevis, The Hustler


On June 7, 1863, the Confederate commerce raider Clarence forced the US flagged Alfred H. Partridge to stop off the North Carolina coast. The raider anticipated the Partridge would be the second of an eventual string of twenty-one prizes. Normally, seized merchant ships were burned or used to transport previously captured crews to a safe harbor. But upon boarding the schooner, the Rebels discovered it was bound for Matamoras, Mexico, out of New York with a cargo of arms and clothing for Texas Confederates. Consequently, the Partridge was set free.

Since Matamoras was a neutral Mexican port, federal warships could not blockade it. Before the Civil War, only about one ship annually cleared New York for the Mexican town. However, a year after the war’s first important battle at Bull Run, the average was about one per week. Ships to Matamoras were also cleared from Boston, Philadelphia, and other Northern harbors. Cargoes included a multitude of Northern-made items that would have been considered contraband if shipped directly into the Confederacy. They encompassed weapons, munitions, and military uniforms, among other articles. For Northerners willing to help arm the Confederacy for a profit, Matamoras was little more than a legal fig leaf to cover dubious, if not treasonable, conduct.

In exchange, Southern planters provided cotton from fields as far away as Arkansas, Louisiana, and east Texas. They typically loaded wagons with twenty cotton bales and set out in caravans over crude trails ending in Brownsville, Texas, across the shallow Rio Grande River from Matamoras. En route teamsters were vulnerable to unpredictable water shortages and attack from hostile Native Americans, and outlaws of all types. Next to specie (gold and silver coins), cotton was the most acceptable international exchange medium available to North Americans, whether in the Union or Confederacy. Adroit, clever, and sometimes ruthless contraband-for-cotton traders accumulated fortunes in Matamoras and Brownsville.

One example was Connecticut-born Charles Stillman, who sold Rebel cotton out of Matamoras to buyers in Northern states, including the US government. His chief cotton supplier was a putative Confederate-loyal Texan who changed sides after federal troops temporarily occupied Brownsville in November 1863. In order to prevent interference from the newly arrived Yankee soldiers, he swore an oath of loyalty to the Union.

After the war, Stillman was one of the wealthiest Americans and a major shareholder in New York’s National City Bank. His son, a grandson, and a great-grandson each served as National City’s board chairman, the great-grandson as late as 1967. Presently, the bank is known as Citicorp. Two of Charles Stillman’s granddaughters married into the Rockefeller family.

Despite its legal circumvention advantage, Matamoras was a comparatively minor part of Civil War interbelligerent trade. More often, the exchange was directly across enemy lines. The practice became important about a year after the opening shots at Fort Sumter, in spring 1862, as the cotton-trading centers at New Orleans and Memphis were captured.

When Union Major General Benjamin Butler arrived in New Orleans with fifteen thousand occupation soldiers in May 1862, his net worth was about $150,000, but six years later it was $3 million. Although the lawyer-general was too shrewd to incriminate himself, there is little doubt the gain was primary achieved by trade with the enemy.

By summer 1862, Union Major General William T. Sherman at Memphis complained that Northern traders were buying Southern cotton for gold, which he believed the Rebels next used to buy weapons at Nassau in the Bahamas and even in Cincinnati. In an August 1862 letter to his brother US Senator John Sherman of Ohio, General Sherman wrote, “Cincinnati furnishes more contraband goods than [leading blockade-running port] Charleston, and has done more to prolong the war than the state of South Carolina.” A few months later, Major General Ulysses Grant captured Confederate cavalry in northern Mississippi armed with modern carbines evidently purchased at occupied Memphis.

Trading Cover
Ladies were not excluded from such trade and were sometimes especially effective. They were generally held less accountable for violations, and soldiers were hesitant to physically search them. For example, while Union Captain Julius Ochs was assigned to a unit guarding the St. Louis-to-Cincinnati railroad, his wife was caught trying to smuggle quinine in a baby carriage across an Ohio River bridge to Rebels in Kentucky. Somehow Captain Ochs got the charges dropped, but his wife’s dedication to the South persisted. After the war, she joined the United Daughters of the Confederacy while her husband became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans organization. Their eldest son, Adolph, became a Chattanooga, Tennessee, newspaperman. Shortly before the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, Adolph bought a failing New York newspaper, added the words “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to its masthead, and launched the New York Times toward national prominence. Continue reading

Did Lincoln Want a Slave Rebellion?

Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is the most memorable result of the American Civil War, most students of the era fail to realize that many period contemporaries—North and South— suspected the President of sinister motives.

After Lincoln read a first draft to his cabinet in July 1862, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase advised caution even though he was one of the Union’s most resolute abolitionists. He felt it would be better to let the generals in the field implement emancipation as they advanced through the South sector-by-sector, partly in order to avoid the “depredation and massacre” of civilians.

Chase’s comment suggests that a number of important Northerners recognized that emancipation might prompt a slave uprising. In fact, President Lincoln was among them.

On September 13, 1862 a delegation of Chicago abolitionists visited the White House to urge immediate emancipation. Lincoln first clarified that  he did not object to their proposal based upon any argument that he lacked the legal authority to do so. Next he added that he did not object based upon the possibility that it could lead to a bloody slave uprising in the South. Whatever the moral benefits—or immoral consequences—of emancipation he considered the matter to be exclusively a war measure.

Understand, I raise no objections against it [the delegation’s emancipation proposal] on legal or constitutional grounds, for, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of war I suppose I have a right to take any measures which may best subdue the enemy; nor do I urge objections of a moral nature, in view of possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South. I view this matter as a practical war-measure, to be decided on according to the advantages and disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion. [Italics added.]

Such an uprising would almost certainly have compelled Confederate soldiers to desert in order to go home to protect their families. Even if they were among the 70% of families that did not own slaves, such a rebellion could trigger a race war. The danger was most  threatening in states like South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi where slaves represented over half, or nearly half, of the population. The Confederacy would have little chance of surviving a widespread servile insurrection that would require it to fight both the slaves and the Union armies.

#2_Confederacy at Flood Tide

Although there were few prior American slave rebellions, Nat Turner’s 1831 Virginia uprising confirmed they could be merciless racial conflicts. During their brief summer rampage Turner’s rebels killed nearly every white they encountered. A total of about sixty were massacred, mostly women and children.

Continue reading

Final Word on the Civil War

Just kidding….but the fifteen minute YouTube recording below may be the last audio sample of an actual veteran who provides a meaningful narrative instead of a mere sound bite.

The speaker is Julius Franklin Howell who enlisted in the 24th Virginia Cavalry at age 16 in 1862. The surprisingly lucid recording was made when he was 98 years old. He also addressed Congress for a single minute in 1947 when he was 101 years old.

Howell was born near the Holy Neck section of Suffolk in southeastern Virginia. He was the youngest of 16 children and the son of a Baptist minister. He saw action guarding the Blackwater River until his regiment left to help defend Richmond in 1864. By then, he was a corporal and courier for two generals. Howell was wounded once during the war.

After the war he attended the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University and became the President of a now-defunct Virginia College. He also served at least one term as Commander & Chief of the United Confederate Veterans. He was awarded the honorary rank of “General” long after the war ended.