Beyond the 13th Amendment: Ending Slavery in the Indian Territory

Emerging Civil War welcomes back guest author Neil P. Chatelain

When exactly did legal slavery end in the United States? Many Americans unfamiliar with the particulars of the Civil War respond with 1863 and the issuing of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Still others respond with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, a statement that is largely true. The systematic targeting of the peculiar institution continued throughout the conflict, culminating in its death throes by the end of the fighting and its formal abolishment during the Johnson Administration. Slavery however, continued as a protected institution in the Indian Territory, despite the 13th Amendment. Recognizing such, the Department of the Interior took steps that culminated in the signing of treaties with numerous Native American tribes, in order to both introduce reconstruction across the Indian Territory and move beyond the 13th Amendment and finally end slavery in all parts of the United States.

Slavery in the Indian Territory, 1860
Author’s Creation

During the secession crisis following Abraham Lincoln’s election, great speculation resounded concerning the intentions of the Native American tribes located on reservations within the Indian Territory. The so called “Five Civilized Tribes” – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole – each sought to adopt American customs in an effort to stave off their eventual relocation from their ancestral homelands to the Indian Territory. Among the efforts included the formation of a written alphabet by the Cherokee, the adoption of tribal constitutions among numerous tribes, and the adoption of the institution of slavery. Though relocation eventually occurred despite these efforts, the changes they espoused, including the adoption of slavery, remained firmly in place. By 1860, the populations of these five tribes included no less than 7,000 documented slaves, with numerous unrecorded cases raising some estimates to as high as 10,000, spread out between over 1,000 tribal slaveholders.

Principal Chief John Ross of the Cherokee
US Library of Congress LC-USZC4-11120

Wishing to gain favor with the different tribes, in the spring of 1861 the fledgling Confederacy dispatched Albert Pike as an emissary to the Indian Territory. Debate raged, but one by one, the “Five Civilized Tribes” each signed a treaty of alliance with the new Confederate government, doing so in a fractured manner with elements of each tribe’s population instead choosing to depart the territory as Unionist refugees.[1]

The Cherokee emerged as the most fragmented of tribes. Principal Chief John Ross, the recognized leader of the Cherokee, grew increasingly apprehensive about allying with the Confederacy. After learning that members of his tribe had already enlisted in Southern armies, Ross grudgingly acquiesced, forging an alliance via treaty in October 1861. Just a few months later, and based on his original concerns, Ross fled the territory and proceeded to Washington, where he met with President Lincoln and proclaimed both his loyalty as well as that of the Cherokee people. Lincoln was skeptical of Ross, but allowed him to remain in Washington, where he spent the remainder of the war attempting to garner support for his faction of the tribe.

Brigadier General Stand Watie of the Cherokee
Chronicles of Oklahoma, vol. 10, no. 4, p. 540

The war waged across the territory just as it did across the continent and thousands of Native Americans enlisted on both sides, the majority under the Confederate flag. Union forays in 1862 and 1863 took control over most of the territory, but campaigns further east forced most troops to relocate east and activity in the territory devolved into a series of small guerrilla conflicts in the latter half of the war. At the close of hostilities, Brigadier General Stand Watie, the leader of the Southern wing of the Cherokee, became the last general to give up the fight.

The Northern faction of the Cherokee took steps to end slavery in areas of their control. Just a few weeks after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, they signed their own proclamation of emancipation, declaring an end to slavery within the Cherokee Nation. Unsurprisingly, the majority of Cherokee, within Confederate lines and siding with the Southern faction, ignored the document. Northern Creeks similarly adopted Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but most tribal members, also within Confederate lines, likewise ignored the stance.[3]Throughout the war, slavery continued to remain a major issue within the Lincoln administration. The Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862 became the first steps taken against the institution by the government, providing the ability for soldiers to confiscate the property of people taking part in the rebellion – including property in the form of slaves. In 1862, the national government passed an act outlawing slavery in all United States territories, excepting federally designated protected Native American lands under tribal autonomy. The Emancipation Proclamation emerged as the major step forward in the battle to end slavery, but it too failed to take the Indian Territory into consideration, instead applying only to “any State, or designated part of a State” in rebellion.[2]

Dennis N. Cooley, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleveland Families. Vol. II, Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood, and Brainard, 1899, 1256

At the end of the war, the reconstruction process commenced and the Indian Territory was not exempt. Though Abraham Lincoln desired, and the Johnson Administration advocated for, a soft peace and quick reconstruction of the Union, a different stance was taken when it came to relations with native tribes that had sided with the Confederacy. In the opinion of the Johnson administration, all Native American tribes that made formal alliances with the Confederacy had their official treaties with the United States declared null and void; new treaties would have to be written and adopted to reestablish formal relations with the national government. To oversee the reconstruction of these tribes, the Department of the Interior organized a gathering at Fort Smith Arkansas, overseen by Dennis N. Cooley, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The Southern Treaty Commission convened in September 1865 and included representatives from over fifteen tribes, including members of each of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” Once again, the different tribal factions vied for power, unsurprisingly and most notably within the Cherokee. Former Confederate General Stand Watie and Principal Chief John Ross both claimed to represent their nation and squabbling continued throughout the process until the national government refused to officially recognize Ross, who soon after died while appealing the decision.

Numerous treaties were drawn up regarding each tribe assembled at the commission. Regarding the “Five Civilized Tribes,” four major treaties were negotiated and formally signed in 1866 – one with the Cherokee, one with the Creek, one with the Seminole, and a combined treaty with the Chickasaw and Choctaw. These treaties each contained four major provisions. To begin with, as punishment for aiding the Confederate rebellion, each tribe forfeited lands amounting to about half of their designated protected territory. The forfeited lands would be used for both the laying of railroads and for the concentration of numerous Plains tribes onto their own reservations within the Indian Territory, opening more of the West for settlement. The second provision of these treaties declared a general amnesty for all Native Americans who had violated previous treaties, broken laws, or joined in the Southern rebellion.

The final two provisions concerned ending slavery. Language identical to that in the 13th Amendment was written into each treaty, guaranteeing a final end to the institution of slavery. The final provision provided for the adoption of all freed slaves as immediate and recognized citizens within their respective tribes. Each of the “Five Civilized Tribes” voiced their concerns regarding these provisions, but ultimately, all approved their respective treaties. The nations each ratified final drafts in the spring and summer of 1866 and they went into effect in July and August of the same year, providing a final end to legal slavery within the Indian Territory, fully nine months after the 13th Amendment took effect across the rest of the United States.[4]

Treaty negotiation meant nothing to the slaves still in bondage across the Indian Territory, continuing as if the war had never occurred. R.C. Smith’s family had been enslaved for generations, with both his grandfather and father at one point being owned by John Ross himself. Seeking to keep his property from being confiscated, at the start of the war, Smith’s owner sent him to Texas, far away from Union lines. His father remained in the Indian Territory and eventually escaped to Union lines, joining a regiment in Kansas. Towards the end of the war, Smith was returned to his master in the Cherokee Nation’s territory. There he remained even after the 13th Amendment went into effect. “I was 17 or 18 years old when Abe Lincoln declared us free,” Smith later recalled, “but I never got my freedom till August 4, 1866,” fully eight days after the Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty was ratified and went into effect.[5]

These reconstruction treaties marked a profound impact in relations between the United States Government and Native Americans across the country. The reestablishment of relations with tribes allied with the Confederacy became an important first step, with the forfeiture of certain lands as a consequence needed to further the government’s agenda of concentration of Native Americans across the Plains onto reservations. Most importantly, a final end to slavery in North America became finally realized with the ratification of these documents, bringing a terminus to the outlines and desires of Abraham Lincoln, and ensuring freedmen received rights as citizens, presaging the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This did not solve all issues however, as decades of squabbling continued between Native Americans and the freedmen members of their tribes, echoing the strife faced by freed slaves and their descendants across the rest of the country into the twentieth century and beyond.[6]

Neil P. Chatelain is an Instructor at Lone Star College-North Harris and a Social Studies Teacher at Carl Wunsche Senior High School in Spring, Texas. A former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer, he is a graduate of the University of New Orleans, the University of Houston, and the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Neil researches US Naval History, with a particular emphasis on naval operations of the Confederacy.


[1] Joseph C.G. Kennedy, Population of the United States in 1860; Compiled from the Original Returns of the Eighth Census (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1864), 161.

[2] Abraham Lincoln, “Emancipation Proclamation,” Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. by John G. Nicolay and John Hay (Harrogate, TN: Lincoln Memorial University, 1894), xv.

[3] Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, vol. 2, ed. by Charles J. Kappler (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904), 944.

[4] Each of the treaties with the “Five Civilized Tribes” can be found in Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. 2 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904), 910-916, 918-937, 942-950

[5] T. Lindsay Baker and Julie P. Baker, eds., The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 401.

[6] Claudio Saunt, “The paradox of Freedom: Tribal Sovereignty and Emancipation during the Reconstruction of Indian Territory,” Journal of Southern History, vol. 70, no. 1 (January 2004), 75-76.

SC’s Constitutional Convention @ the Charleston Club

Walking down Meeting Street in Charleston the other day, I passed the site of the former Charleston Club. The spot is marked with a historical sign that tells the story of South Carolina’s first postwar Constitutional Convention.

SC Convention 01 

Alas, as the other side of the sign reveals, South Carolina’s progressive postwar constitution was superseded in 1895 by a much harsher, less visionary, racism-based document.

SC Convention 02

In the bottom photo, that’s the steeple of St. Michael’s Church in the background. The church, which has two signers of the U.S. Constitution buried in its churchyard, sits at the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street.

“The Last Notable American Duel”: California and its influence on the Civil War

The obelisk marking the general area of the duel

Part of a series about California & The Civil War

Lately, there has been a rumble here in California that cannot be attributed to another earthquake. As Civil War historians widen their scope, it must be observed that the real West had a great deal to do with the American Civil War. Writers such as Alvin M. Josephy (The Civil War in the American West), Jerry Thompson (Civil War in the Southwest: Recollections of the Sibley Brigade), and Glenna Matthews (The Golden State in the Civil War: Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California) are teasing this important information out of the national fabric bit by bit. Even the American Battlefields Trust has honored California by including the Golden State in their series of broadcasts about important places.

Because I live in California, I have been asked by several folks why I don’t write about the influence my home state had during the Civil War. I usually just mumble something about Elmer Ellsworth and pivot the conversation, but the time has come for me to take this topic in hand and see how badly I can mangle it.

California was far away from the seat of the fighting in the Civil War, but it had its own issues going on. Compare the map of California to the East Coast and take a guess as to which end of Cali was pro-Union and which was pro-Confederate. Additionally, the same divisions that split the East split the West, especially the issue of slavery. California was admitted to the Union as a free state, but that didn’t stop Californians from disagreeing.  This post will focus on two men who were both Democrats but on opposite ends of that party.

David Broderick

David C. Broderick came to California from Washington, D.C. where he was born in 1820 to a stonemason who worked on the Capitol Building. Choosing opportunity and politics over stonemasonry, Broderick left the East in 1849, joining the California Gold Rush. He settled in San Francisco and quickly made a fortune in real estate.[1]As a Democrat Broderick was elected to the California state senate in 1850 and rapidly became a power broker within the antislavery wing of the California Democratic Party. In 1857 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.[2]


David Terry

David S. Terry was also a Forty-niner, coming to California from Texas, where his family had moved from Kentucky. He was nominated for a seat on the California State Supreme Court as a Know-Nothing in 1855 and served as the 4th Chief Justice of California from September 1857. At some point during his term, he became a Democrat. On June 25, 1859, the State Democratic Party nominated another man over Terry, as Terry’s pro-slavery views became better known.[3]

For a while, Broderick and Terry were friends. However, Senator Broderick was a Douglas Dem (anti-slavery) while Judge Terry was pro-slavery. They supported each other’s political efforts until Terry ran for reelection to the state bench in 1859. He was defeated and very bitter about it. He publically accused Broderick of marshaling Democratic support against him. This led to bitter words between the two men. According to a 1905 edition of Munsey’s Magazine, a popular-though-not-necessarily-historically-accurate publication of stories and articles, Broderick replied to Terry’s vitriol with some of his own:

I see now that Terry has been abusing me. I now take back the remark I once made that he is the only honest judge in the (state) supreme court. I was his friend when he was in need of friends, for which I am sorry. Had the vigilance committee disposed of him as they did of others, they would have done a      righteous act.[4]

The incident to which Senator Broderick referred was one in which Judge Terry was accused of knifing a man in order to free another man from arrest. Since no one died, Terry–with the help of the press, the Masons and, apparently, Broderick–was released.[5]

Terry and Broderick fought back and forth in the press. Things got worse when Judge Terry tried to gain a re-nomination to the California Supreme Court, an unpleasant occurrence in which Terry ascribed his failure to obtain the re-nomination to the efforts of his former friend, who had actively been speaking about the Kansas-based Lecompton Constitution and its possible influence in California. Terry made a speech accusing convention delegates of following orders issued by Broderick and denying him the bench.[6]Gossip ensued and feelings were hurt all around. “Betrayal” was the epithet being used on both sides. After Broderick lost the 1859 senatorial bid to William M. Gwin, things got even worse . . . if that is imaginable.

This letter was sent from Terry to Broderick:

            Oakland, September 8, 1859.

Hon. D. C. Broderick—Sir: Some two months since, at the public table of the International Hotel, in San Francisco, you saw fit to indulge in certain remarks concerning me, which were offensive in their nature. Before I had heard of the        circumstance, your note of 20th of June, addressed to Mr. D. W. Perley, in which you declared that you would not respond to any call of a personal character during the political canvass just concluded, had been published.

I have, therefore, not been permitted to take any notice of those remarks until the expiration of the limit fixed by yourself. I now take the earliest opportunity to require of you a retraction of those remarks. This note will be handed to you by my friend, Calhoun Benham, Esq., who is acquainted with its contents, and will receive your reply. D. S. Terry.[7]

Both men were easily able to identify the offensive remarks, and things escalated. A duel was scheduled. The infamous Code Duello was alive and well, even 3,000 miles west of the eastern end of the Mason-Dixon line.

The California State Marker for the Broderick-Terry Duel

The odd thing about the duel was that it had to be scheduled twice. The first attempt was scheduled to take place in early September but was halted by the San Francisco Chief of Police, Martin J. Burke. Although the police arraigned the would-be duelists, they were discharged on the grounds that there had been no active misdemeanor.[8]

Terry and Broderick, miffed that they had been denied their duel, made plans to continue the hostilities. They agreed to move the place of the duel to an area near Lake Merced. The date was set for September 13, and the chosen weapons were Belgian .58 caliber pistols. The type of gun was Terry’s choice, and he spent some time before the duel practicing, whereas Broderick did not see the guns until the appointed time. It was reported by onlookers that, at the moment of the duel, Broderick’s gun fired into the dirt. Terry then took aim at Broderick’s chest and pulled the trigger. Although Judge Terry later claimed that he had only grazed Broderick, the bullet entered Broderick’s chest and lungs. The wounded senator was rushed to the nearby home of Leonidas Haskell and despite the best efforts of a doctor, David Broderick succumbed to his wound three days later. He reportedly claimed that “They killed me because I am opposed to the extension of slavery and a corrupt administration.”[9]

Close-up of the name engraved on the place marker for David Terry


Close-up of the name engraved on the place marker for David Broderick

Senator Broderick was remembered in the California Police Gazette, September 17, 1859:

           Not only does a State mourn for its champion and defender, not only does the population of the Pacific slope wail for the loss of its favorite, but a whole confederacy—a whole people, are full of sorrow and regret for his death. As was aid of another, “The heart of a nation is throbbing heavily at the portals of his tomb.”[10]

Senator Broderick’s funeral was held in San Francisco, attended by thousands of mourners. Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, a friend of Abraham Lincoln who would later be killed at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, presented a moving eulogy. The duel drew national attention, turning Broderick into a martyr for the antislavery movement. Terry and his supporters were accused of assassination.[11]The duel reflected the more violent divisions afflicting the entire nation, and many count this tragedy in “far-away California” as one of the events that pushed the country into war by 1861.

Where each man stood–Terry was on the right, Broderick on the left


[1]United States Senate, “Senator Killed in Duel,” (accessed May 14, 2018).


[3]”The Late Affair in San Francisco,” Sacramento Daily Union, June 28, 1859. California Digital newspaper Collection,–20–1–txt-txIN-broderick+terry—-1859—1 (accessed May 15, 2018).

[4]Cyrus Townsend Brady, “Famous American Duels,” Munsey’s Magazine, Frank A. Munsey and Company, January 1, 1905, Vol. 33, 615-616. (accessed May 16, 2018).


[6]”Senator David Colbreth Broderick 1820-1859,” The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco Francisco, (accessed May 16, 2018).

[7]Thomas Samuel Duke, Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, (San Francisco, CA: John H. Barry Company, 1910), 53. (accessed May 17, 2018).

8″Chiefs of the SFPD,” website of the City and County of San Francisco, (accessed May 18, 2018).

[9]”The Broderick-Terry Duel,” National Park Service-Golden Gate National Recreation Area–California, (accessed May 14, 2018).

[10]Senator David Colbreth Broderick 1820-1859,” The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco Francisco, (accessed May 16, 2018).


Symposium Spotlight: The Twisting Turns of the Election of ’64—The Point of No Return


Rea Andrew Reddby ECW Correspondent Josh Svetz

Rea Andrew Redd has loved the Civil War all his life. Starting with reading Life magazine’s six-part series on the Civil War as a kid, Redd gets as much of a thrill from delving into the Civil War now as he did then. A hobby concerning the ghosts of the past may confuse some. Intrigue is one thing; obsession another. But Redd’s wife gave him some insight, at least, the closest thing he can think of to explain the fascination.

“I have the Civil War DNA,” Redd said. “When you find a hobby you’ve loved since nine years old, where does that come from? I guess I was just born with it.”

Redd will get to showcase his love for the Civil War Aug. 3-5 at the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia. 

Redd’s presentation will explore his chapter in ECW’s Turning Points of the American Civil War, “The Election of 1864: The Point of No Return,” will explore the pivotal presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan, how Lincoln won the election and the impact of Lincoln’s win on the Confederacy and its ultimate demise.

Redd, the director of Eberly Library and an adjunct history professor at Waynesburg University, had attended previous Symposiums, but never got the call to present, until this year.

Redd’s friend and a fellow author at ECW Kris White nominated Redd to provide a chapter when ECW needed a fresh take on Lincoln. Redd, a civil war reenactor since 1993, who usually plays the part of Lincoln, fit the bill.

“I’m a Lincoln hobbyist,” Redd said. “I don’t have Lincoln bobble heads, but I have plenty of books. You get me in the right mood with the right lighting and I can pull off a decent Lincoln.”

Outside of Redd’s tendency to become the former president that fascinates him, he knows quite a bit about Lincoln’s biggest struggles, especially in 1864. Redd’s read through countless books, documents and essays all to answer one question: Was the election of 1864 the turning point of the war and did it doom the Confederacy? But answering such a question can’t happen without understanding the stakes.

In 1864, Lincoln’s popularity was low. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had died, families were starving and the American people wanted the war to be over. Lincoln went up for re-election against McClellan, one of his former generals. If McClellan had won, Redd said he planned to finish the war with an armistice, leaving the Confederacy intact.

“Everything goes back to 1860,” Redd said. “The slaves are still the slaves. If there’s no surrender by the confederacy there’d be no emancipation proclamation, probably no new amendments. Slaves that Lincoln declared free would go back to being slaves. Things would be different.”

In fact, Redd said there’d be a good chance that the Confederacy could exist to this very day.

“All the way through the 1900s’ there’d be two parts of the United States, the Union and the Confederacy,” he said. “Every once in a while they’d get together and fight over the west. They’d fight over, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California would be split in half, northern California for the Union, southern California for the Confederacy. The Confederacy really could have survived the war if McClellan wins.”

But putting revisionist history aside, there were some interesting stories that came from this chaotic time for Lincoln and the America, one in particular involving an envelope.

“Lincoln writes a letter, seals the envelope and passes it to his cabinet and tells them to sign it,” he said. “They sign the envelope and Lincoln puts it in his desk drawer. What the envelope says is that if Lincoln loses the election we, his cabinet, will do everything that’s possible to end the war before McClellan is inaugurated.”

But the cabinet had no idea the stakes contained in that envelope, until Lincoln actually won.

“Once Lincoln wins the election, he takes out the envelope and lets his cabinet read it. They realize if Lincoln had lost they would have had to try and end the war as quickly as possible because they unknowingly took an oath to do so. That’s a 90-day period to try and turn the heat up on the confederacy. It would have been crazy.”

While Redd, a two-time author, is excited about his presentation, he’s just happy to be included with many great minds and enthusiasts of Civil War research.

“I’ve written books before, so I’ve gotten past that thrill,” Redd said. “But for a jury of my peers to cosign me, to let me be published with them, it feels pretty good.”

As for his talk, Redd said to be prepared for a fun and informative time.

“I’m not just going to get up and read my chapter,” Redd said. “I’m searching for new information. I want to make this worthwhile.”


Tickets for the Symposium are $155 each and are still available. For more information about the line-up of events, Aug. 3-5, click here.

Congressman Wheeler Speaks in the House on Causes of the War


Major General Joseph Wheeler

Jack Melton, publisher of Civil War News, often talks with me about little-known sources and items in Civil War history. Recently he pointed me to one such: a speech by Joseph Wheeler, later Confederate major general, then U. S. Representative from the 8th Congressional District of Alabama. Wheeler spoke on the House floor, July 13, 1894.

The House was considering a bill concerning a Union veteran. Wheeler, a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, addressed the body in a speech that touched on a number of matters, including the causes of the late civil war. 

Wheeler recalled that at a “Peace Conference” held in February 1861, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase had told the assembled delegates (not including representatives of the seven seceded states, which boycotted the convention) that the recent presidential election “must be regarded as a triumph of principles cherished in the hearts of the people of the free States.” Wheeler took this to mean that “the Northern States would not, and ought not, to comply with the obligations of the Federal Constitution,” which since 1789 had sanctioned slavery in the Southern states.

Thus Wheeler and other Southerners were justified in believing that Abraham Lincoln and the Black Republicans were out to get them, and would trample the Constitution in order to do so.

In the course of his remarks, the congressman from Alabama reviewed causes of the war. Besides slavery, “the doctrine of State rights, protective tariff [and] internal improvements” all figured as sources of sectional disagreement between North and South. As for slavery, “the New England ship owners amassed fortunes by plying the business of buying negroes in Africa, transporting them to the United States, and selling them for the most part to southern people.” In the Constitutional convention of 1787, it was the South that called for an end of the slave trade in twenty years; Northerners only turned against slavery when they found it unprofitable in their region. Then, in defiance of the Constitution, Northern states enacted laws protecting fugitive slaves. The famed Daniel Webster, speaking in Buffalo in May 1851, had predicted that if the North persisted in violating the Constitution, “the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact” (hinting at secession).

Yet, Wheeler continued, early instances of resistance to federal authority had occurred in the North: Shays’ Rebellion in New York, the whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania. “The Southern people loved the Union,” he contended, and only with the rise of the Republican Party “they reluctantly succumbed to the conviction that the party about to take control would have no respect for their rights.”

Then, when Lincoln’s election in November 1860 spurred talk of secession, Wheeler pointed to sensible conservative Northerners who understood why. “If the cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace” (Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, November 9–the day after Lincoln’s election). Two weeks later the New York Herald agreed that the South should not be coerced: “A union held together by the bayonet would be nothing better than a military despotism.” In late December, while South Carolinians were in convention, Greeley held forth that “if it (the Declaration of Independence) justifies the secession from the British Empire of three million colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of five millions of southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” As late as March 1861, following Lincoln’s inauguration and after seven Southern states had indeed left the Union, the Cincinnati Commercial declared, “We are not in favor of blockading the southern coast. We are not in favor of retaking by force the property of the United States now in possession of the seceders. We would recognize the existence of a government formed of all the slave-holding States, and attempt to cultivate amicable relations with it.” Gen. Gen. Winfield Scott was often quoted as saying, “Wayward sisters, part in peace.”

Obviously, Wheeler concluded, the “wayward sisters” were not allowed to go in peace. As a consequence, “the most stupendous war recorded in modern history” ensued. To illustrate its frightful casualties, Wheeler posited that Grant’s casualties from May 5 to May 12, 1864 in Virginia totaled 9,774 killed, 41,150 wounded and 13,254 missing—a number “greater than the loss in killed and wounded in all the battles of all the wars in this country prior to 1861.”

Thus Wheeler ended his address. He spoke unabashedly “from the standpoint of one whose feelings were and are in entire sympathy with the southern people.” From his remarks we can distinctly see that Southerners viewed the coming of the war from a perspective we don’t often think of today. To understand why three million Americans went to war against each other—and why a fifth of them died—we would do well to turn from time to time to such documentary sources as the Southern Historical Society Papers.


Reference: Joseph Wheeler, “Causes of the War. Great Speech of Hon. Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama,” Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 22, (1894), 24-41.


Maryland, My Maryland? Jefferson Davis and the Maryland Campaign of September 1862

Confederate soldiers splashing across the Potomac River in early September 1862 jubilantly bellowed out the tune “Maryland, My Maryland” as they marched into the Old Line State. Just months earlier, with the war escalating around the Confederate capital of Richmond, this feat seemed impossible. As the Southern army placed its collective foot on the soil of Maryland, one of the Confederacy’s early war aims was about to be realized.

Recognizing Maryland’s status as a border state caught between North and South, the Confederate Congress issued a series of resolutions on December 8, 1861 about the state’s status and their desire to join it with their fledgling nation. “[I]t is the desire of this government, by appropriate measures, to facilitate the accession of Maryland, with the free consent of her people, to the Confederate States,” the Congress resolved. Confederate successes in the summer of 1862 now made this goal a possibility.

Despite the joyous mood of the Confederate soldiers entering Maryland, Robert E. Lee, commanding those soldiers, remained skeptical that Maryland’s citizens would return the favor in kind. “I do not anticipate any general rising of the people in our behalf,” Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis on September 7. The general sought Davis’ assistance days before, requesting that the President send former Maryland governor and Southern supporting exile Enoch Lowe to rouse Marylanders to the Confederate cause.

Himself excited by Confederate fortunes north of the Potomac River, Davis told Lee to issue a proclamation to the people of Maryland declaring “the motives and purposes of your presence among them at the head of an invading army.” The President then listed out a blueprint of eight resolutions and statements Lee could draw from for the proclamation he ultimately issued on September 8.

Jefferson Davis’ enthusiasm for Confederate advances in the summer of 1862 did not end with the stroke of his pen, however. Seizing on Lee’s request for Enoch Lowe to aid the Confederate effort in Maryland, President Davis decided to accompany Lowe to the Potomac River as far north as Leesburg. Perhaps Davis could join his troops in Maryland next.

A “special train” carrying Davis and Lowe left Richmond on September 7 and made its way to Rapidan Station, where Davis notified Lee of his journey. Davis’ September 7 correspondence with Lee is unfortunately lost to history. Thus, his true intentions in traveling north are unknown. Southern newspapers theorized the purpose of Lowe’s visit, though: “placing Maryland within the political association of the Confederate States.” Correspondents in Richmond could only surmise what the departure of Davis truly meant.

Robert E. Lee also could not divine Davis’ reasons for heading north. Regardless, the general did not believe Maryland was a good place for his commander-in-chief. “While I should feel the greatest satisfaction in having an interview with you,” Lee said, “I cannot but feel great uneasiness for your safety should you undertake to reach me.” The trek would be “very disagreeable,” the general warned. It would also expose Davis to the risk of capture by Federal patrols ranging throughout northern Virginia. Exercising extreme caution in this case, words alone on paper would not do for Lee. To further convince Davis of the dangers plaguing his northern excursion, Lee sent his staffer Walter Taylor to intercept the President before he reached Leesburg.Taylor departed the Confederate camps outside Frederick, Maryland at midday on September 9. That night, he slept at the Harrison home in downtown Leesburg, which served as Lee’s quarters shortly before crossing into Maryland. Walter Taylor reached Warrenton on September 10 and found that his journey was for naught: Davis turned around on September 8, headed back to the Confederate capital.

Enoch Lowe continued his efforts to bring Maryland into the folds of the Confederacy even though Davis no longer traveled with him. It is possible that Walter Taylor met Lowe and the two traveled to Winchester together. From the Shenandoah Valley town, Lowe continued to champion Maryland’s supposed dormant Confederate sympathies. “He said Maryland, long disappointed, had been perfectly taken by surprise on the entrance of our army, and that when it was seen to be no mere raid, 25,000 men would flock to our standard, and a provisional government would be formed,” wrote one eyewitness. The lofty goal of 25,000 Marylanders rising to fight under the Confederate banner never materialized, as Lee predicted. Perhaps as few as 200 men signed up with the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate foray into Maryland failed to fulfill Southern hopes for a fourteenth star on its flag.

Confederate efforts to bring another state under the country’s flag came off on October 4, 1862 in Frankfort, Kentucky but did not amount to much except a great deal of fanfare. Southerners held similar hopes for Maryland, but their dreams fizzled before there was a chance. The Charleston Mercury quickly denounced Davis’ trip north as nothing more than “merely for recreation and to have a quiet talk with the Governor [Lowe]. If Lowe is to be proclaimed Provisional Governor, it is to be hoped the people will rally to him, and our army keep in front of him, otherwise the affair will resemble the Provisional Government of Kentucky, which was rather a farce, tending to alienate rather than encourage the inhabitants.”

Establishing a provisional government in Maryland, it turned out, was the least of the Confederacy’s worries in the Old Line State in September 1862 and the Southern nation’s dreams of enticing more states to its cause and expanding its boundary to the Mason-Dixon Line never came to fruition. Maybe September 1862 represented the best odds for that to happen, or perhaps by then it was a foregone conclusion and Jefferson Davis, Enoch Lowe, and the Confederate Congress were only whistling into the wind.