Monthly Archives: August 2018

Promotional Price for “Confederacy at Flood Tide”

(September 1, 2018) Update on promotional price: Amazon sold out of the $11 quantity of books. Therefore, from now until Thursday (September 6, 2018) I’ll sell them at that price directly to those of you  who email me and provide your postal address. My email is:

Presently Amazon is offering a 60% discount on my The Confederacy at Flood Tide book. A description of the book, as well as links to six reviews, are available here. Additionally, provided below is free copy of the first chapter, which excludes illustrations and footnotes.


The Confederacy at Flood Tide was selected as a title to distinguish this book from the popular notion of the Confederacy at high tide. The latter expression is generally associated with Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, or, secondarily, the Rebel attack on Starkweather’s Hill at Perryville, Kentucky. However, the story of the Confederacy’s most opportune period for winning independence involved developments in Europe, Virginia, Washington, Maryland, Kentucky, Mississippi, and even Missouri and Arkansas.

Although it lasted only six months, from June to December 1862, the rising tide flooded all theaters of the war. It was not an isolated surge in Maryland or Kentucky. For example, at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, in early December 1862, more Missourians fought to win their state for the South than fought to keep it in the Union. Moreover, the Confederacy’s flood tide was not limited to military factors. It also swelled within the sectors of diplomacy, politics, and espionage. For instance, on July 4, 1862, the Confederacy signed a secret contract with a leading British warship builder for two deep-water ironclads superior to anything in the US Navy and capable of crossing the Atlantic.

The Confederacy never came closer to diplomatic recognition than in autumn 1862. After learning of the Union rout at Second Bull Run—known as Second Manassas in the South—in mid-September British Prime Minister Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, advocated intervention. In an exchange of letters with the British foreign secretary, Earl John Russell—who held a post comparable to US secretary of state, albeit somewhat more prestigious—Palmerston wrote: “The Federals got a very complete smashing, and it seems not altogether unlikely that still greater disasters await them, and that even Washington or Baltimore may fall into the hands of the Confederates. If this should happen, would it not be time for us to consider whether . . . England and France might not address the contending parties and recommend an arrangement upon the basis of separation?” Russell agreed and added that if mediation failed, “we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern states as an independent state.”

US Secretary of State William H. Seward instructed his ambassador to Great Britain to inform Palmerston’s government that any attempt to intervene in America’s Civil War would result in a break in diplomatic relations with the United States, thereby implying that war between Britain and the United States would likely result. Such a war would have challenged both sides. Although it would be hard for Britain to maintain an army in America, its powerful navy might have ended the federal blockade of Southern ports and even blockaded Northern harbors. Contrary to popular belief, the Monitor and Merrimack   (CSS Virginia) were not the first ironclad warships. The British and French began building bigger and faster deep-water ironclads before America’s Civil War started.

As one of the weapons used by the Union to reverse the Confederate tide, the Emancipation Proclamation was more controversial than commonly supposed. Contrary to popular belief, many contemporaries were confused, critical, and frightened by its implications. Major General George McClellan, among others, believed it was a deliberate attempt to incite a slave rebellion in the South.

Even President Abraham Lincoln admitted the possibility of such insurrections before he issued the proclamation. On September 13, 1862, he replied to a delegation of Chicago abolitionists visiting Washington that he recognized the potential “consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South” that such a proclamation might provoke. Whatever the moral benefits, or immoral consequences, of emancipation, he “view[ed] the matter as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the [Confederate] rebellion.”

#2_Confederacy at Flood Tide

Whatever his intent, the proclamation led to an uproar about its potential to incite slave rebellions. Ultimately, however, there was a subtle but important difference in the language between the preliminary version—issued shortly after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862—and the final version issued on January 1, 1863. Lincoln added the following paragraph, which was altogether missing from the September version:

“And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.”

The first six months of 1862 provided a string of federal victories in the West. They began in January with a Rebel defeat at Mill Springs, Kentucky, and continued with the surrender of fourteen thousand Rebels at Fort Donelson in February, further advanced with Confederate ejection from Missouri in March after the battle of Pea Ridge, and culminated with the repulse of the supreme Confederate counteroffensive at Shiloh, Tennessee in April together with the surrender of the fortifications on Island Number 10 in the Mississippi River between Tennessee and Missouri.

In May, the South’s largest city, New Orleans, surrendered to a Union fleet that fought past the city’s downstream fortifications. When Memphis was occupied in early June, only a single Rebel outpost at Vicksburg prevented Union commerce from flowing down the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers to export markets through New Orleans. By June, Union armies threatened outnumbered Confederates in Mississippi and eastern Tennessee. Chattanooga, the gateway to Atlanta, appeared ready to fall. There was almost no organized Rebel force contesting the control of Missouri, which was the most important slave state entirely west of the Mississippi River.

Union prospects were also favorable in the East, where Major General George McClellan commanded the largest army ever assembled in the Western Hemisphere. His troops were so close to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, many set their watches by the city’s church bells. “Unless McClellan can be driven out of his entrenchments,” wrote Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, “he will move by positions under cover of his heavy guns within shelling distance of Richmond.” Thereafter it would only be a matter of time before Richmond would need to be evacuated.

But the unexpected happened. In a week of nearly continuous fighting starting on June 26, Lee’s smaller army relentlessly drove McClellan back twenty miles to a defensive redoubt on the James River under the protective guns of a Union naval flotilla. And in Europe, developments started to lean toward the Confederacy as the effects of a cotton shortage made textile interests, and their sizable ecosystem, eager to put an end to the war. The tide was rising.

Why Can’t Trump be More Like President Grant?

(August 29, 2018) Most recent biographers praise President Grant for supporting civil rights. In a recent interview, for example, biographer Ron Chernow said, “[Grant] was the single most important President in terms of civil rights between Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson . . .” In contrast, Trump’s critics often label today’s President a racist. Not only is Trump racist, they suggest, but they worry he will manipulate the justice department in order to avoid criminal convictions against himself and Administration allies. Vanity Fair compared Trump’s recent “flipping” remarks about plea bargaining to the language of mafia gangsters.

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But most modern biographers overestimate Grant’s morality. He limited his racial advocacy to the solitary minority group (blacks) that was reliably Republican-loyal. He did nothing for other racial minorities such as Chinese Americans. In addition to lacking potential as a GOP voting bloc, Asian Americans lived mainly in Republican-controlled states like California where whites refused to give them the vote or even citizenship. They were, in fact, hated. The biggest lynching in American history happened in Los Angeles during Grant’s presidency and all nineteen victims were Chinese Americans.  During his second year in office President Grant signed the 1870 Naturalization Act that permitted black immigrants to become naturalized citizens, but denied it to Chinese Americans and other “non-whites.” He also used the Act, and others, to “police” voting in the big cities of the North where white immigrants, such as the Irish, typically voted Democratic.

Grant also abused presidential powers to frustrate criminal prosecutions when they came too close for comfort. One example was the Whisky Ring Scandal. It involved tax evasion and bribery in the distilled spirits industry, which was then the top source of domestic federal tax revenue.

Ultimately, the treasury’s investigation led to the threshold of the presidency when Grant’s personal secretary, Orville Babcock, was indicted as a leading Ring conspirator. Grant responded by first trying to move the trial to a friendly military court since Babcock was also an army officer. But a justice department prosecutor blocked the move by noting the procedural violations that would result from taking evidence away from the court of jurisdiction. Second, he hired a spy to infiltrate the prosecutor’s office, but the mole eventually sided with the prosecution. Third, he fired an assistant prosecutor whose comments during a jury summation in an earlier related trial criticized the President. Fourth, he forbade prosecutors to plea bargain with low-level conspirators as a means to convict high-level participants. Along with other evidence, Grant’s obstruction were so suspicious that the treasury department’s chief clerk wrote a future Supreme Court justice two days before Babcock’s trial: “What has hurt [Treasury Secretary] Bristow worst of all & most disheartened him is the final conviction that Grant himself is in the Ring and knows all about [it.]”

Grant fans who wish that Trump could be more like their hero might want to reconsider their wish.

A Critical Assessment of Ulysses Grant

(August 24, 2018) Joseph Rose presents the Grant Under Fire video below wherein he reaches three conclusions.

First, Grant’s later remarks about the war, particularly in his end-of-life memoirs, surprisingly often contradict his statements at the time of the applicable events. One example involves his reasons for joining the army when the Civil War started. In 1878 he told the New York Times: “When the rebellion came I returned to service because of a duty. I had no thought of rank.” In contrast, during his trip to enlist he wrote his wife seventeen years earlier, “I will not go [to war] for a position . . .  inferior to that of a colonel.”

Similarly, his memoirs claim that he could have captured the Rebel base at Corinth “in a two days campaign” if he hand not been replaced by Major General Henry Halleck as commander of the Army of Tennessee after the Battle of Shiloh. But his contemporary remarks, such as “we do well to approach [Corinth] a few miles every day,” suggest he was satisfied with Halleck’s inchworm advance.

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Second, the general often tried to shift blame for failure to subordinates and credit himself with the successes of others. At Shiloh, for example, he blamed Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss for surrendering 2,200 soldiers. He claimed that Prentiss should have retreated with the rest of the federal defense line that the Rebels had steadily been pushing back in other sectors on the first day of the two day battle. In reality Grant had ordered Prentiss to hold his position, which left the 2,200 men surrounded by Rebels as the Union defense lines to the left and right of Prentiss withdrew.

On the second day at Shiloh Grant’s mostly battle-weakened six divisions were reinforced by three fresh divisions from Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio. Although all divisions performed well that day, Buell’s men did most of the fighting (under Buell’s leadership) that drove the Rebels into retreat. Grant, however, claimed credit for the victory and minimized Buell’s contribution.

Third, Grant was not as good a commander as modern biographers and historians typically assert. Most of his big victories in the Western Theater, such as Vicksburg and Fort Donelson, benefitted from assistance by Union Naval flotillas. When he lacked the Naval advantage in the overland campaign against Robert E. Lee in the spring of 1864 he was unable to win a single victory despite a two-to-one numerical majority.

Perhaps the biggest blot on his reputation came in the aftermath of Lee’s victory at Cold Harbor. Grant left his wounded soldiers stranded between the battle lines for four days before he agreed to a truce. By the time litter bearers got into the field few of the injured remained alive.

A Yankee’s Perspective of the Rebel Soldier

(August 23, 2018) Although retired Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters is best known as a contemporary military intelligence contributor for CNN, he has also authored many Civil War novels. The sixty-six year old Pennsylvania native says that the Civil War has haunted him from childhood. He regards it as a nearly inexhaustible source of stories.

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He marked the Sesquicentennial of the end of the war three years ago by writing an article for Armchair General to comment upon the myths and realities of the era. Like most modern historians he concludes that slavery caused the war, but he also feels that the typical Rebel solider merits respect.

The myth of Johnny Reb, the greatest of infantrymen, happens to be true. Not only the courage and combat skill, but the sheer endurance of the Confederate foot soldier may have been equaled in a few other armies over the millennia, but none could claim the least superiority. Especially (but not only) in the Army of Northern Virginia, the physical toughness, fighting ability and raw determination of those men remains astonishing. Billy Yank showed plenty of courage, too, and yes, the Southern armies had their share of shirkers and deserters, but the fact that most Johnnies fought on against crushing odds, hungry, louse-infested and flea-bitten, clothed in rags and exposed to the elements, often sick and usually emaciated . . . the more I study those men, the more I admire them.

The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of bravery, not slavery. I’m a Yankee, born and bred, and my personal sympathies lie with the Northern cause (although, in writing, I strive to be even-handed). To me, though, that red flag with the blue St. Andrews cross strewn with white stars does not symbolize slavery—that’s nonsense—but the stunning bravery of those who fought beneath it. I object to flying the flag of the Confederate States of America, but not to displaying that battle flag. Let me be clear: I don’t believe the battle flag should be prostituted to politics or misused for bigotry. But its legacy is one of heroism, not hatred, and deserving of respect.

His most significant point, however, is one that too many modern historians ignore or suppress: “There’s always another side to the story.”

Who Lynched Silent Sam?

(August 22, 2018) Notwithstanding that the majority of Americans want Confederate statues to remain standing, two days ago a student mob illegally toppled the 105 year-old Silent Sam infantryman sculpture at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina. A couple of self-appointed expert groups encouraged student hostility toward Sam. One was the university’s faculty and administrators. The other was the “Make It Right” initiative of the Independent Media Institute.

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UNC’s History Department previously announced that it wanted the statue removed because Sam’s 1913 “creators . . . shared a veneration of slavery . . . and the ideology of white supremacy.” In truth, it’s more likely that Sam’s “creators” chose the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War to honor the rapidly fading numbers of Confederate veterans—not for their supposed “veneration of slavery,” but for defending their homes against invaders. Consider, for example, that the former Confederate states had outlawed slavery in 1865 under leaders of their own choosing, three years before the Republican Party imposed corrupt carpetbag regimes upon the region. UNC’s History Department also suggests that Sam was not representative of North Carolina’s residents during the Civil War because “many ” in the state did not support the Confederacy. Nonetheless, North Carolina supplied more Confederate troops than any other state, except possibly Tennessee.

Finally, UNC’s History Department fails to mention a couple of points that are contrary to the “veneration of slavery” trope. First, North Carolina did not secede in order to protect slavery. She remained Union-loyal until the federal government required that she contribute soldiers to coerce the seven Gulf states that had earlier seceded back into the Union. Second, less than 6% of North Carolinians owned slaves distributed among only 29% of her families.*

Earlier this year the “Make it Right” initiative announced the targeting of ten Confederate monuments for removal. Silent Sam was second on the list behind the Dallas Confederate War Memorial. According to project manager Kali Holloway, “Confederate monuments were never about recognizing history, but were instead put up to ensure . . . a white supremacist future. . . With few exceptions, these structures were hastily built at the dawn of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement to intimidate and terrorize African-American communities as they struggled toward racial equality and political empowerment.”

Holloway’s assertions rely upon data supplied by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showing that most statues were erected during the decade of the 1910s and in the early 1960s. The true reasons for the statue concentration in those years, however, is that they represented the fiftieth and centennial anniversaries of the war, respectively.

Holloway also wants to remove the Confederate engravings at Stone Mountain, Georgia and the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jan Frel manages “Make it Right’s” parent company where he has worked for fifteen years. Prior to that he was on Democrat Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign. During much of that period the Independent Media Institute owned AlterNet and was funded by many charitable organizations. Among them were the gift-giving foundations of Craig’s List and the founders of Sara Lee and RealNetworks.

*  J. G. Randall and David Donald The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1961), 68

Silent Sam Confederate Statue

(August 21, 2018)  Yesterday a mob of 250 students illegally toppled a statue of a Confederate infantryman known as “Silent Sam” that stood for 105 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The state’s governor and a university chancellor only mildly criticized the action, which they coupled with sympathy for the opinions of those who participated.

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Notwithstanding that government and educational leaders promote such cultural genocide by yielding to political correctness, most Americans want Confederate statues to remain. A year ago, for example, a survey commissioned by the Public Broadcasting System disclosed that 62% of the public wanted the statues to stay as historical symbols whereas only 27% wanted them removed. The remaining 11% were undecided.

Silent Sam

Likewise, a survey released earlier this year among readers of The Civil War Trust’s Hallowed Ground magazine showed a preference for keeping the statues. Only 17% of respondents wanted the monuments removed from public places “if that’s what the local community wants to do.” The other 83% felt that the statues should remain although 50% would support adding interpretive plaques “if needed,” while 33% felt the statues should stay without any changes. Only 22% of respondents were from former Confederate states whereas a combined 52% were evenly split between the Northeast and Midwest.

When I was reading Silent Sam’s story in the  Washington Post before eight o’clock  (EDT) this morning, about half the reader comments were opposed to the destruction and half favored it. After the slackers and trust babies had rolled out of bed around noon they dominated the comment’s section with remarks such as:

  1. Good Riddance!!!!
  2. What’s deplorable is that there are still people today who share the values of the men of these statues.
  3. The statues were erected . . . to intimidate black Americans as the racists established Jim Crow.
  4. Every single person who posts that this Statute should have remained . . . is nothing more than a bigot and racist!
  5. Racists used to hide behind “States Rights” now they are hiding behind “Remembering History.”
  6. Carolina—couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of a-holes.
  7. Someone explain to me the Right’s obsession with memorializing losers.

Although Confederate statue critics often label them hate symbols, the above comments reveal that the hateful remarks come from the critics, not the memorial defenders. Moreover, their remarks shout a subtext: “If you don’t join us in demanding an end to Confederate monuments, you are not merely wrong, you are evil.” Few of the statue critics commenting in the Post made any original points. They merely repeated what they learned from the Pious Cause Mythology of the Civil War taught by the American History departments of many of our colleges and universities during the past thirty years.