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In Defense of Lincoln

I always find it ironic when I am in a position defending President Lincoln; however, Tom at It’s My Blog has drank too much Libertarian Kool-Aid on this holiday weekend and launched an anti-Lincoln attack in “honor” of Lincoln’s birthday.

Tom likens Lincoln to a fascist tyrant…really?  Lincoln is like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco?  Really?

Tom’s principle points are:
(1) Lincoln is more responsible than anyone else for the enslavement of all citizens to the federal government,
(2) Lincoln suppressed liberty for the sake of collecting taxes and enriching Northern moneyed interests,
(3) Lincoln supported slavery, and
(4) Secession is wonderful and we should try it again.

Given their prima facie error, summarizing his points is a sufficient refutation of them.

Further, his citation of Libertarian sources (Thomas DiLorenzo and Cato) demonstrates a strong unreconstructed confederate ideology within Libertarian politics; translated this means opposition to the incorporation of the Bill of Rights through the 14th Amendment, thus courts would not apply federal constitutional protections when an individual challenges state laws or conduct.  Frankly, this position is an attack on constitutional protections enjoyed by individuals within our country.  As an example, this would mean that the state could prohibit your purchase of a condom [Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965].

One side point that I find extremely funny was the logical disconnect of attacking Lincoln for not being like Jefferson, while also attacking Lincoln on federal funding of internal improvements, which was a policy championed by Jefferson.

I have previously debunked similar anti-Lincoln arguments in an eight part video series:  “Dialogue: Confederate Apologist v. Unionist.”  The primary value of this dialogue is not the specific responses, but the analysis of the deficiencies in the thought process exhibited by the confederate apologist.

Note, the text of the dialogue follows each video within this post.

Update 2/14/2010:  Trey Givens also comments upon Tom’s post.  Trey focuses upon the validity of secession, and determines that it can not be a right.

Updates 2/15/2010: Diana Hsieh has recommended two books by historian James McPherson related to the central role of slavery in Southern war motives :  This Mighty Scourge (especially the first chapter) and Battle Cry of Freedom.

In Feb. 2006, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville released a survey of worst presidential blunders.  Incidents were nominated by historians and selected by the public.  The worst presidential mistake:  President Buchanan’s failure to prevent the Civil War.  Prof. Gary Gregg who directs the Center stated, “By the time Lincoln took office, it was all but impossible to avoid a conflict between North and South.”

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** Unionist **

There is one apology that I think is long over due: the Democratic Party should apologize for its defense of slavery, causing the Civil War, and installing Jim Crow laws….just for starters.

** Confederate Apologist **

The Republicans defended it too. Let me point out that four states in the Union were slave states and when Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, they were exempt from it. Additionally, after waging the most brutal war in the history of humankind over an issue that was settled peacefully in every other civilized Western nation, the Republican leadership in Washington launched a campaign to wipe out Indians along their railways (the GOP was more than in bed w/ the rail industry, they WERE the rail industry) using, no less, the likes of Sherman and other Union generals.

Just the facts. Be careful when you talk about Democrats and Republicans of the 19th century. In many ways, both parties were the polar opposites of what they are today. Democrats were anti-tax and anti-corporate welfare (called Mercantilism back in those days).

I would rather be a man of Jackson than Lincoln any day. And I’m a right wing nut.

** Unionist **

Interesting, please name a prominent national Republican figure that defended slavery, per se. Also, the 1860 Republican platform was explicitly anti-slavery.

In 1860, zero of the slave border states supported Lincoln. The Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure, and Lincoln did not have constitutional power to free slaves within the Union. However, affecting those states, he did advocate a national buyout and colonization, and amending the Constitution to abolish slavery, as was done after his death.

The South started the war; and the North responded in order to maintain the Union. Perhaps you are unfamiliar the violent revolution in French Haiti to end slavery there.

IMHO, in general, the violent pacification of the Indian tribes was fully justified. Their alliances with foreign powers against America were a long standing national security threat. I praise Jackson for giving them the choice of submitting to state sovereignty or migrating west. It should not be forgotten that our victory against Mexico was facilitated by Indian depopulation of the northern Mexican frontier, which the Mexican government failed to quell.

Next time, put your facts in context so that you stop drawing wrong conclusions.

** Confederate Apologist **

“please name a prominent national Republican figure that defended slavery”

Sure: Abraham Lincoln

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
– First Inaugural Address, March 4th 1861.

“the 1860 Republican platform was explicitly anti-slavery”

Edward Bates, who was considered #4 behind Lincoln and Salmon Chase for the nomination, wanted to extend slavery into the territories.

Don’t confuse “anti-slavery” with “pro-federalism” or even “statism.” Northeastern Republicans were less concerned with slavery as a human rights issue and more concerned with yoking the South with huge tariffs to pay Northern public works projects as per the GOP’s plan to follow Henry Clay’s “American System” – it was a tariff war, but above all iit was central authority vs the idea of a collection of states with limited central govt.

Let me also point out that Lincoln was a Whig (tax and spend socialist party of the early 19th century) first, and a Republican only by necessity. When the Whigs imploded in the mid-1850s, Lincoln switched to the GOP and had to assure his Illinois constituents that there was no difference between the two. Up until that point he had labored for 25 years on behalf of the Henry Clay’s American System, the Whig agenda, which was basically a strong centralized govt with central control over economic development.

Lincoln could have pushed for a peaceful emancipation of slavery as did the European states. The war was never caused nor fought for slavery. It was only a side-issue used to further weaken the southern states.

Nor was it even a civil war, which by definition is fought to win the capital and control of a nation. The South could care less about the capital even though they could have taken it after the first major battle. It was a war between states and it was fought as such.

** Unionist **

Really, your studied opinion is that Lincoln was an arch defender of slavery, per se, on par with Democrats who advocated the institution as an affirmative good.

Please note that your Lincoln quote is clearly consistent with the limited constitutional role of the President and was directed towards achieving one of the chief aims of that office, preservation of the Union, while the speech is from his inauguration as President. Focus on context, and then you will make fewer gross errors.

William Bates (Lincoln’s Attorney General from the slave state of Missouri) was a free-soil advocate, who freed his own slaves. When Lincoln proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, it was Bates who spoke first to endorse the concept, and he began by noting that it was well known that he (Bates) was opposed to slavery.

In general, your attacks on Whig and Republican policies (including more errors on your part) are non-sequiturs that go far a field, as my initial point related to the hypocrisy of an unapologetic Democratic Party demanding apologies from others including the United States for public policies that were chiefly championed by Democrats. Meanwhile, your initial point was to advocate an equivalency between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of slavery. Given your untenable position, I can understand why you attempt to distract with tangents.

Finally, you say, “Lincoln could have pushed for a peaceful emancipation of slavery…” What fantasy world, totally disconnected from reality, are you talking about? When Lincoln became President, states had already seceded and federal installations had been seized or besieged. Further, pre-Lincoln Administration, a negotiated settlement had been attempted and FAILED.

Essentially your points come down to sympathy with the Democrats over transition of federal executive power to a new political party, championing secession, and advocating that states should be able to violate individual rights without federal protections.

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** Confederate Apologist **


My sympathies “come down” to the over half million men and boys that marched to their deaths, not to mention a generation of cripples (because this was pre-modern medicine, doctors were praised on their ability to amputate quickly), and murdered and injured civilians, all for a war Lincoln championed to consolidate power within the Federal government.

I’m not sure you even grasp how utterly divided this nation was over this. New York City itself tabled the idea of secession on the basis of sympathy with the south. The editor of the New York Daily News was imprisoned in a gulag Lincoln set up in Brooklyn simply for editorializing against the war. Thousands were imprisoned for YEARS over their opposition to it, habeas corpus was suspended, millions were conscripted and marched off to death or life-altering wounds for Lincoln’s war of Centralization.

Adjusted for population Civil War deaths are the equivalent of executing every man,woman, and child in Wyoming, Louisiana, and Maine.

Another fact you may want to consider before further embracing your “war to free the slaves” myth is the fact that when the seven states of the lower south seceded, Lincoln was happy to have Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee in the Union as slave states. When the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, there were more slave states in the Union than not. The aforementioned states only seceded after Lincoln invaded their sister states.

Scholars are beginning to emerge into the light over this particularly egregious example of historical revisionism. Historians in the 19th and early 20th centuries got it right about Lincoln, but he was co-opted by the Civil Rights movement of the 60s as a sort of anti-slavery mythical figure and academe set about re-writing the facts (even the absurd notion of his birth in a log cabin, which was more common than not in the area Lincoln was born in). Anyway: Lincoln’s Tariff War

That’s a start.

** Unionist **

Way to continue to offer tangents, in your effort to evade your previous errors.

You claim sympathy with the casualties, but ally yourself with the rebels, who refused to accept the results of a constitutional election, and started the violent conflict.

You blame Lincoln who won with only 39.8% of the vote, but fail to account for the Democrats inability to offer a unified national candidate for president, when their separate candidates won 47.6% total.

Meanwhile, you exaggerate advocacy for federal funding of internal improvements to a collectivist Armageddon as if they were on par with the current congressional Democratic agenda. All the while, you ignore that the substantial growth in federal power did not occur until the 20th century with the rise of the Progressives.

As far as my knowledge of how divided the nation was, I am acutely aware as I am reminded of it daily by the battlefields and graves filling the landscape where I live. At one point, I lived blocks from the Bloody Lane off the Sunken Road in Fredericksburg, part of a battle in which the Federals bombarded an American city.

Now you degenerate into Straw Man arguments, I never characterized the Civil War as being to free the slaves, especially as there were many reasons which sometimes changed over the course of the war. However, essentially, the North and South had two different purposes: the North to preserve the Union; and the South to preserve slavery.

Why am I not surprised that you link to Libertarian drivel? What is next are you going to follow Ron Paul (and other unreconstructed confederates) and argue against the incorporation of the Bill of Rights through the 14th Amendment?

It is clear that your understanding of these issues is shallow and disintegrated. Further, you are beyond your depth in arguing with me. What is unclear is how long you will evade that fact? Note, if I have to continue to school you on your ignorance, then I will insist upon payment.

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** Confederate Apologist **

Contain your derogatory remarks and keep it mature. Now to address your inaccuracies:

“rebels, who…started the violent conflict”

It is common knowledge that Lincoln manipulated the first shots into being fired. He even wrote to his naval commander Gustavus Fox thanking him for drawing the first shots: “You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Forth Sumpter, even if it should fail”

You outright ignore the fact that the southern states threatened secession for DECADES due to unfair taxation and policies aimed at fleecing them for northern works projects (READ: tariffs and protectionism). Have you ever heard of the Tariff of Abominations? Do you truly believe that hundreds of thousands of men would tolerate casualty rates in excess of 70% for years so that 5% of those among them could keep slaves?

“Why am I not surprised that you link to Libertarian drivel”

Focus on facts, not political persuasions.

“essentially, the North and South had two different purposes: the North to preserve the Union; and the South to preserve slavery”

The Confederacy had already begun to phase out slavery in its very founding document, The Constitution of the Confederate States of America:

SECTION IX

“The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.”

Slavery was on the way via industrial farm equipment. The south was not clinging to slavery as you like to believe, they were pragmatic and slaves were expensive. If you study their Constitution you see it’s far, far more concerned with limited taxation.

** Unionist **

Re: derogatory remarks, begging for mercy does not work with me. I judge you according to your merits. If you want a better evaluation, then improve your performance.

How exactly is it that Lincoln manipulated the first shots? By attempting to provision a starving federal garrison?

How did he cause:
1) the Rebs to besiege the Fort?
2) the Buchanan Administration to create a policy that he subsequently followed as well?
3) the Rebs to attack the Star of the West during the Buchanan Administration?
4) the Southern papers to advocate an attack on the Fort to win support from border states?
5) Jefferson Davis to order an attack on the Fort before it could be supplied?

Given your criticism of Lincoln’s policy, I can only assume that you advocate that Lincoln contradict his inaugural address and surrender the forts.

Are there current American allies and principles that you would be willing to sell out so cheaply? Perhaps Obama would like to send you to negotiate with the Iranians.

Interesting that you blame Lincoln, when you also claims decades of federal deprivations against the South long before he arrived. During these decades of deprivations, Democrats dominated the executive and Southerner held substantial legislative power, as they would have in a Lincoln Administration. But, it is Lincoln’s fault and not all those bellicose Southerner who seceded before his presidency? It just doesn’t seem that your argument holds up, but that happens when you ignorantly repeat the analysis of others without independent evaluation.

Re: political persuasions, as Libertarians are generally ignorant about politics, history, and thinking, I found that identification significant as you cited it as a source for your errors.

Re: non-importation in the Confederate Constitution, this was no innovation as it had already been law effective 1808. In all seriousness, how can you cite that as evidence that the South was ending slavery? Further, how can you explain Supreme Court cases after the war in which Southern laws were found unconstitutional for creating badges of slavery by interfering with freemen’s right to contract?

Have you given this stuff any thought or are you just mindlessly repeating without understanding?

Note, as I stated previously, I would start charge a fee for correcting your errors; therefore, send $5 to the Red Cross.

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** Confederate Apologist **

Oh and one more pertinent point: the very idea of secession goes back to this nation’s founding, it’s not some hair-brained idea concocted by a fractious minority of “rebels.” It’s no great leap to regard the American Revolution as a secession of sorts.

Even one of our greatest (my personal favorite) founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, got serious with the idea of secession after what he felt to be unfair federal encroachments (the Alien and Sedition Acts passed during the Quasi-War with France).

Even as President, after Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase he stated that should the inhabitants of the new territories wish to secede he was perfectly sympathetic to them.

Another point is the sheer stupidity and recklessness of Lincoln even dragging the country into war. Confederate troops routed Union soldiers in the first major battle and the Confederates could have taken the White House but Jefferson Davis told them to stand down, a move that would become his greatest regret.

** Unionist **

More tangents and evasions?

The issue with secession is that the Southern states secession was unconstitutional. This is more than my opinion as the Supreme Court agrees with me, see Texas v. White. In this ruling, a constitutional path to secession is possible, but not chosen by the Southern states. Hence, they never legally seceded. As they were in rebellion, the federal government followed its constitutional mandate to end the rebellion.

If you disagree with the Court, make a constitutional argument instead of appealing to your whims or the authority of others’ whims.

Re: the American Revolution as equivalent to secession, one would have to be completely ignorant of the constitutional arguments used by the Founders to make the error of that comparison.

Re: Confederates easily taking Washington after Manassas I, being familiar with that geography and the Union defenses, I find that to be unsubstantiated wishful thinking on your part. Do you really think that they would have made it past Centreville?

Fee assessed for this lesson, another $5 for the Red Cross.

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** Confederate Apologist **

I never said the South was “ending slavery.” I said it’s clear from their Constitution that slavery was not their number one priority and that by imposing a ban on all new slaves, it’s wasn’t even something they saw a future in.

Lincoln could care less about the slaves and said as much. You either A) dodge this, or B) are simply ignorant of it. . Personally Lincoln wanted all blacks deported out of the country, a common desire then especially in the new territories where there was widespread belief that blacks should not be allowed period, slave or otherwise.

Secession was controversial, no argument there. But it was avoidable. Even the South didn’t want war. Jefferson Davis sent a peace delegation to Washington immediately to offer pay for any Federal property and settle the Southern portion of the national debt. It was Lincoln that wanted war, wanted the unfair taxation that was then heaped upon the south and that he ran on as a campaign promise. Peace was not his aim.

Again, deadliest war in American history. More casualties than the Revolution, War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, both Iraq wars COMBINED, not to mention an undocumented number of civilian casualties. It’s absurd to look at those stark facts and still drone on about “they were rebels” the “federal govt was doing it’s job” yada yada yada. Secession could have been prevented but I think this is beyond you and you never question the motives of northeastern politicos and their industrialist cronies. I think the very notion that Lincoln and others could possibly be motivated by power and money to be something beyond what you can grasp. As far as Lincoln was concerned, Southern slavery was secure. He was fine with it. Several northern states amended their constitutions to prohibit emigration of blacks into tor them.

As for the First Battle of Manassas (Confederate name for the battle, the Union called it, as you know from your high school text books, the First Battle of Bull Run), yes, the Confederates routed the Union troops who were, ironically, on their way to try and take the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.

Now, since you’re such an expert the “geography” and “Union defenses” (next you’ll say you were there), you know that the Union attacked the Confederate left flank, the Confederates counterattacked and the Union troops panicked and ran to nearby Washington D.C.

After the rout, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson approached Confederate President Jefferson Davis and said “Give me ten thousand men and I will take Washington tomorrow!” Jefferson refused and would refer to this decision throughout the rest of his days as “one of the great mistakes of the war.”

Let’s see….your version or Jackson’s (who, incidentally, was THERE, your “geography” knowledge notwithstanding)…hmmm..

Little more Civil War history for you (free of charge of course):

“I found no preparations whatever for defense, not even to the extent of putting the troops in military position. Not a regiment was properly encamped, not a single avenue of approach guarded. All was chaos, and the streets, hotels, and bar-rooms were filled with drunken officers and men, absent from their regiments without leave, a perfect pandemonium. Many had even gone to their homes, their flight from Bull Run terminating in New York, or even in New Hampshire and Maine. There was really nothing to prevent a small cavalry force from riding into the city. A determined attack would doubtless have carried Arlington Heights and placed the city at the mercy of a battery of rifled guns. If the Secessionists attached any value to the possession of Washington, they committed their greatest error in not following up the victory of Bull Run.”

General George B. McClellan, Washington DC five days after the battle

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** Unionist **

You wrote, “The Confederacy had already begun to phase out slavery…”; then claimed, “I never said the South was ‘ending slavery.’” How do you square that circle? Or are you in fact conceding that the South planned to maintain their slavery status quo, without acknowledging your error? Or do you just hope that no one will notice your contradictions?

Citing a single similarity in the Confederate constitution to U.S. law, without consideration of the broad similarities it had to the U.S. Constitution and more importantly the differentia, does not identify Confederate priorities.

Re: Lincoln caring about the slaves, I addressed this already by reference to the role of the presidency, his superior value being union, and specific reforms he recommended to Congress. Meanwhile, you claim I ignored your point then repeat back something that I already said; perhaps you are ignorant that colonization means sending black Freemen outside the country, which would make it hard for you to follow historical accounts of the issue.

Stop hedging on secession; it was not controversial, but unconstitutional as the South did it. Then while still a part of the U.S., the Southern states made war on the U.S. by attacking federal military installation. Evading these clear facts, you then blame the victim for starting the conflict. Do you make the same error with al Qaeda and its numerous attacks on the US before the invasion of Afghanistan?

If secession was avoidable, then why did the Southerners fail to avoid it? Since it started during the Democratic Buchanan Administration, why did he fail to avoid it? In your mind, all Lincoln had to do was abandon the principles of free soil and free labor thus turning the entire US into slave territory? A concession you would have embraced, no doubt.

Given the horrors of the war carnage, why are you such an apologist for the rebels, who started the war?

I am not susceptible to conspiracy theories like you are. When I consider allegations that the war was caused by “northeastern politicos and their industrialist cronies” who were “motivated by power and money,” I weigh the facts and determine that such an assertion is absurd, detached from reality, and ideologically driven in a way that would make Karl Mannheim proud.

I have walked the Manassas battlefield many times, and do not rely solely upon a few facts from high school and cursory reading. The Union objective was to seize the railroad juncture to prevent Confederate troop movements from the Valley into northern Virginia via rail. If they were simply and thoughtlessly making a run on Richmond, there would have been no need to go so far west.

Re: the boast you attribute to Jackson, it is debunked with one obvious question, “General, how are your troops going to cross the Potomac?”

Near Washington, the river is wider and deeper, while the southern bluffs would generally negate efforts to use cannon on any federal ships defending against crossing.

In his northern invasions, Lee crossed in the west at Point of Rock which would have delayed Jackson by days; Early also crossed in the west. Baker’s fatal crossing for the Union at the much narrower Ball’s Bluff was a disaster that caused federal dead to wash up down river at the Capital. Consider the losses Burnside suffered from a few snipers during the crossing of the narrower Rappahannock in his attack on Fredericksburg.

Additionally, immediately after their first major battle, how exactly is Jackson going to march these disorganized troops 30 miles against hostiles, cross the river, and fight a battle all before dark the next day. Sounds over optimistic at the least.

On these points, and another later, my geography does trump Jackson’s boast.

On McClellan, you really need to invest more time in finding credible sources. I know that you probably love him because he wanted to surrender in 1864. However, his endless planning and failure to act caused him to be removed from command. Even when he enjoyed numerical and tactical advantages, he judged his troops inadequate for battle.

Here is where my knowledge of the terrain trumps your quote mining and cursory reading. I asked you how would the rebs get past Centreville, because I knew that the Union could hold there just a couple miles from Manassas. IN FACT, not in your fantasy scenarios, immediately after the Manassas rout, Confederates were turned back outside of Centreville leaving the Union in control of the road to Washington.

As McPherson notes in Battle Cry of Freedom, “McDowell formed a defensive line of unbloodied reserves at Centreville.” Further, heavy rain the next day would have blocked a Confederate advance. Meanwhile, they lacked the provisioning required to advance.

Finally, you ignore that General Johnston judged his army too disorganized after the battle to advance. Further, according to McPherson’s scholarship, Jefferson Davis did call for an immediate advance to press their advantage; citing Johnston, “Responsibilities of the First Bull Run,” Battles and Leaders, I, 252.

I assess an additional $10 for you to pay to the Red Cross.

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** Confederate Apologist **

“Near Washington, the river is wider and deeper, while the southern bluffs would generally negate…”

You just dig yourself deeper and deeper:

“The capture of Washington seems now to be inevitable; during the whole of Monday and Tuesday [July 22 and 23] it might have been taken without resistance. The rout, overthrow, and demoralisation of the whole army were complete.” – Sec of War Edwin M. Stanton on July 26th, 5 days after battle.

I suppose next you’ll tell me about the mud and the rain and blah blah, because you were there, right? Or no wait, your “geography” is so great, historians should disregard Civil War generals on both side and the Secretary of War, right? Watching you twist on this is priceless.

** Unionist **

Looking at your last post, you really have trouble dealing with facts in reality. Too much primacy of consciousness, as if wishing makes it so.

Based upon quotes from several officers of doom and gloom after defeat, you judge those to be unchallengeable facts of an order higher than reality. Yet those Union officials before Manassas, predicted easy Federal victory in a short period of time, but reality proved them to be wrong. Just as you frequently say that things that actually NEVER happened in reality could have been done easily: peacefully ending secession and the Confederate capture of Washington.

While you fantasize whim fulfillment without regard to reality, those historical actors had to actually confront all the facts of reality.

Here are several inconvenient facts that you evade:
1) the Federals controlled the road to Washington,
2) weather the day after the battle made effective Confederate troop movements impossible (yes, the mud would have been a major obstacle and the area is prone to flash flooding; with a little bit of rain, Cub Run was overflowing when I crossed it this evening),
3) the Confederate generals judged their forces too disorganized to advance,
4) the Rebs lacked provisions to sustain the Army in an advance,
5) crossing the river would have been a major obstacle.

So deal with one of those, the riving crossing. I can’t recall the Confederates ever executing an unfordable river crossing while under fire. How do you easily get those hungry, exhausted, and disorganized forces over the river to get to Washington, after they finished fighting through McDowell‘s forces to get down the road? Remember, in addition to your plan being effective, you also said it would be easy.

Ruins of Cub Run Bridge (Library of Congress)

Ruins of Cub Run Bridge (Library of Congress)


** Confederate Apologist **

The capital was clearly at risk, Lincoln and his staff (on their own admission) clearly miscalculated. This is Civil War 101. Here’s Secretary of State Seward to Lincoln after having just gotten news directly from the front:

“The battle is lost. McDowell is in full retreat and calls on General Scott to save the capital.”

Seward then produced a telegram from a captain at the front informing his superiors that they could not get the federals troops to reform. Even biographers sympathetic to Lincoln admit it. From “The Lincolns in the White House” by Jerrold M. Packard:

“Unquestionably…the defeat had represented a grievous injury, a message that no light of victory shone at the end of the tunnel, and that Washington and its hinterland stood in direct and immediate danger of invasion from Jefferson Davis’s soldiery.”

It is Civil War 101 to know that Lincoln expected the war to be over in weeks. It is Civil War 101 to know that Lincoln’s expectations were disastrous

Oh, and by the way, Manassas was such a disaster for the Commander-In-Chief that Congress passed the Critendam-Johnson Resolution days afterwards that essentially promised other states that the Union was fighting not to end slavery. They were fearful of other states dropping out, as well they should have been.

Lincoln and crew spent OVER HALF A YEAR after Manassas collecting themselves and regrouping. It is clear to anyone that Lincoln blundered into the war. It was a strategic disaster and Lincoln was lucky the South was fighting a defensive war, not a true civil war in which they wanted to seize the capital.

One has to be an idiot to trot an army into danger to seize an enemy’s capital only to have your own capital at risk that same day. Lincoln’s very belief that the war would end in weeks is a glaring display of his recklessness and irresponsibility. From the White House they could hear the thud of canon from across the river. It was FUBAR, plain and simple.

** Unionist **

Your reference to Civil War 101 is a confession on your part that you fail to think independently and instead parrot the conclusions of others.

In contrast to your naming your analysis Civil War 101, Civil War historian James McPherson characterized an easy opportunity for the Rebs to take Washington as an illusion created by southern newspapers weeks following Manassas during which time a scapegoat was sought. Partisans for Davis, Johnston, and Beauregard pointed fingers at the others. The faux controversy was continued even after the war in their respective memoirs.

Meanwhile, you continue to evade the actual fact that McDowell repelled the Reb advances before Centreville, then fell back in stages to better cover approaches to Washington by both road and rail, until he repositioned to essentially where he began before the advance on Manassas. Thus, Rebs attacking Washington directly would have had to defeat McDowell a second time to get there, which they IN FACT failed to do. McDowell’s army did not actually disappear into thin air as you fantasize.

IN FACT, Washington was in no more ACTUAL risk after Manassas than it had been before Manassas. Perceptions may have changed, but perception is not reality.

AGAIN, if it was so easy, how were the Rebs going to cross the Potomac? Come on, you said it was going to be sooooo easy, man up and tell us how.

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** Confederate Apologist **

“Thus, Rebs attacking Washington directly would have…”

..could have, should have. Look, the outcome of a southern advance on Washington after federal troops turned tail and ran is something we can only guess at, although I’ll take Jackson’s and McClellan’s word for it, they were there, you were not. Regardless, the point you can’t seem to grasp, or willingly want to remain ignorant of, is that it was an absolute surprise to Lincoln and others, such as senators and representatives who showed up with picnic baskets to watch the fight, some of whom (I’m sure you have absolutely zero knowledge of this) were captured by the Confederates and held in POW camps.

It was a strategic DISASTER. Thousands of dead bodies were being brought into Washington on horse-drawn carts. Lincoln thought it was going to be over in weeks. Instead, the idiot plunged this nation into an abyss of blood and death worse than anything before or since.

** Unionist **

Again, when I pin down the absurdity of your unsubstantiated claims, you run to the defense of uncertainty and everybody can have an opinion without being proven wrong. Very pathetic and intellectually dishonest of you. However, this exchange demonstrates significant defects in your process: appeals to authority, out of context points, and relying upon the thinking of others without independence. In contrast, I look at available facts in context, consider evaluations by others on both sides, and integrate these with my own independent judgment to draw my own conclusions.

Do you have a reading disability? You claim that I can’t comprehend that Northern leaders were “absolutely surprised” by the Union defeat at Manassas; yet, to debunk your buy-in to over pessimistic quotes, I cited the Unionist error of being overly optimism before the battle. In your habitual error of being unable to focus and instead going off on ever new tangents, you demonstrate your incapacity for recognizing facts in reality.

You claim that Manassas was a strategic disaster for the Union; that must be why they lost the war? No wait…they did not lose the war; so more unrealistic exaggeration on your part. The Manassas defeat led to an immediate million man call up for three year terms, in which the Union initiating its successful strategy of overwhelming the Reb forces by leveraging the North’s superior resources.

Further, as the official federal inquiry found re: Manassas, Patterson’s failure to execute his orders to hold Johnston in the Valley had allowed Beauregard’s re-enforcement, which undermined the significant advantage McDowell had gained over Beauregard on the field. Personally, I think that the Union battle plan was sound, but failed in execution, as happens in war. A contingency for Patterson to torch the Valley (a la Sheridan) if Johnston escaped would have been prudent, but the North was not yet ready for such sensible tactics against Virginia’s breadbasket.

Unlike your wild assertions about Rebs and Washington, I proposed actions for which the Union had the means, had actually in fact done historically, recognized the distribution of enemy forces, and fully considered why hindsight is 20-20 and contradicts the actual conditions. Further, instead of unsubstantiated claims of it being easy, I described such contingency planning as prudent, sensible, and conditional upon facts in reality.

One more thing about your habit of playing fast and loose with what you claim to be facts. You write, “…thousands of dead bodies brought into Washington…” How many Union dead at Manassas? Look it up, doing some fact checking would be good for you.

** Confederate Apologist **

If you refuse to even get Manassas right, how are you suppose to even bother trying to comprehend the very causes of the war? I give you quotes from Jackson, McClellan, Davis, Lincoln’s own Sec of War and Sec of State, and yet you still refuse to believe that Washington was at risk. Read any one of the number of Lincoln bios or Civil War books that are public domain and PDFed on the Web.

One of the more striking things to notice in the literature of that battle is how Union troops in Washington were ridiculed by northerners sympathetic to the south. They were jeered at in the capital by anti-war civilians.At least Lincoln didn’t have the troops open up on them as they did in New York City later down the line.

** Unionist **

Actually, I do have Manassas correct and I validated my facts with several detailed authorities.

Demonstrating your continued illiteracy, you state, that I “refused to believe that Washington was at risk.” Yet I previously clearly stated that the risk to Washington was no more than it was before McDowell marched to Washington; in contrast to your hysterical assessment.

I do not generally read public domain accounts of the Civil War free from the Web as I buy books that I value. Previously, I have quoted from and cited points within one of those books by a well regarded Civil War historian. Checking my personal library, I found a primary source from a battle participant, William T. Sherman’s Memoirs, which confirms many of my prior points.

Sherman calls reports by Johnston reliable, which I cited previously.

Further, he confirms me on the point that Manassas was “one of the best-planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought.”

Refuting your ignorant point that the Rebs could have easily taken Washington after Manassas, he wrote, “Though the North was overwhelmed with mortification and shame, the South really had not much to boast of, for in three or four hours of fighting their organization was so broken up that they did not and could not follow our army, when it was known to be in a state of disgraceful and causeless flight.”

Supporting my point about Centreville, Sherman wrote, “I saw General McDowell in Centreville, and understood that several of his divisions had not been engaged at all, that he would reorganize them at Centreville, and there await the enemy.” At Manassas 18% of Sherman’s troops were killed (24% of the Union dead), his command was encamped at Centreville but the Rebs did not engage.

Sherman also documents the ill effects of rain after Manassas on troop organization and movements, which I previously noted.

Sherman’s forces relocated to Fort Corcoran in Arlington, Va as part of the defensive fortifications around Washington. Such manned fortification demonstrates my point that Washington was not easy for the taking. Also, it was the balloon recon stationed at Fort Corcoran that was tracking Reb troop movements.

You should spend more time reading military history and less on ideologically driven polemics, if you insist on planning fictional military campaigns.

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4 Comments

  1. Mark

    It’s not “either/or” here, the choice isn’t just between Lincoln and the Confederacy. One can criticize, in whole or in part, the Confederacy without embracing Lincoln.

    At one point you have your confederate say (emphasis removed):

    “The editor of the New York Daily News was imprisoned in a gulag Lincoln set up in Brooklyn simply for editorializing against the war. Thousands were imprisoned for years over their opposition to it, habeas corpus was suspended, millions were conscripted and marched off to death or life-altering wounds for Lincoln’s war of Centralization.”

    That part of your dialog is true. He/you also could have added Lincoln’s arrest of congressmen. All these are hallmarks of facism.

    “Tom likens Lincoln to a fascist tyrant…really?”

    Yes, really. You can read more about it at the following collection of links:

    The Civil War

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    • Jim

      @Mark,

      You are guilty of evading context.

      Re: “you have your confederate say,” this is from an actual dialogue where the apologist said what he choose to.

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  2. Elizabeth Tombrello

    Pretty cool post – raises some interesting points for debate. I just stumbled upon your blog this morning and wanted to say that I have really liked browsing some of the posts. Anyways, I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope to read more very soon!

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  3. Kay

    Jim, you are now my new hero. Thanks for this enlightening commentary/debate.

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