Saturday, June 30, 2012

Controversy in Lecompton, Kansas

A couple of weeks ago, I drove north on a research trip; my destination was Topeka, the site of the Kansas Historical Society. This was my first time to conduct research at that facility, and I enjoyed my time there. Not far from Topeka is the small town of Lecompton that was the site of a number of controversial actions in the late 1850s. When I teach American History to 1877, I spend quite a bit of time talking about events in Lecompton. Of course, I had to visit.
Although there are several historic buildings in Lecompton, the Constitution Hall State Historic Site was my favorite. Constructed in 1855, the building served as a Land Office as well as the meeting place of the territorial legislature. 

The Kansas Territory became the focal point for the struggle between proslavery and antislavery supporters. Would Kansas become a free territory or a slave territory? The national media flocked in to report on the action in Lecompton. In Constitution Hall, legislators drafted the Lecompton Constitution, a document that offered protections to slavery. Following a boycott by many Kansans of the referendum on the proposed constitution, the controversy spilled over into the U. S. Congress. After heated debates, a compromise was devised that required the Lecompton Constitution to be resubmitted to Kansans; Congress made it clear that if the Constitution was rejected then statehood would be delayed. Kansans rejected the Constitution by a wide margin and elected a number of free-soilers to the territorial legislature. The tide had turned.
Constitution Hall is a frame building that rather remarkably still contains much of the original flooring. It was a neat experience to walk on the same flooring as many prominent (and not so prominent) Americans of the 1850s. To see some additional photographs of Constitution Hall, including that flooring, check out the Kansas Sampler website.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Confederate Army Surrenders, and It Wasn't Lee's Army

Oops, I am tardy; June 23rd was the 147th anniversary of the surrender of the last Confederate force. Here is a quick review of the surrender dates of Confederate armies:
April 9, 1865: surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General Robert E. Lee
April 26, 1865: surrender of forces commanded by Joseph E. Johnston
May 4, 1865: surrender of Departments of Alabama, Mississippi, and east Louisiana by Lt. General Richard Taylor
May 26, 1865: surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department by Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith
June 23, 1865: surrender of Indian tribes by Brigadier General Stand Watie near Fort Towson, Indian Territory. The Historical Marker Database includes photographs of the marker near the site of Watie’s surrender, and the News in website has a transcription of an 1865 newspaper article about the surrender proceedings.
One of my pet peeves is the implication (often made by the national media) that the war ended with the surrender of Lee’s army. This is an Eastern-centric view of the war implying that Lee’s army embodied everything of importance. The surrender of Lee’s army started the process of surrenders by other Confederate armies, but the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia did not necessarily mean that the war’s end would be a quick or an inevitable process.
Well, I feel better now that I’ve vented about this…

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cherokee Response

Reading both sides of a correspondence is important, and in that spirit this posting contains John Ross’ response to Governor Henry Rector. Ross’ letter is rather intriguing; on the one hand, he pledges loyalty to the United States but, yet, he does not entirely close off the possibility of some type of relationship with the slave States. Indeed, he attempted to maintain Cherokee neutrality, but that venture turned out to be short lived. The Cherokee Nation sided with the Confederacy in October 1861.
 “Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, February 22, 1861.
 His Excellency Henry M. Rector, Governor of Arkansas:
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s communication of the 29th ultimo, per your aide-de-camp, Lieut. Col. J. J. Gaines.
            The Cherokees cannot but feel a deep regret and solicitude for the unhappy differences which at present disturb the peace and quietude of the several States, especially when it is understood that some of the slave States have already separated themselves and withdrawn from the Federal Government and that it is probable others will also pursue the same course.
            But may we not yet hope and trust in the dispensation of Divine power to overrule the discordant elements for good, and that, by the counsel of the wisdom, virtue, and patriotism of the land, measures may happily be adopted for the restoration of peace and harmony among the brotherhood of States within the Federal Union.
            The relations which the Cherokee people sustain toward their white brethren have been established by subsisting treaties with the United States Government, and by them they have placed themselves under ‘the protection of the United States and of no other sovereign whatever.’ They are bound to hold no treaty with any foreign power, or with any individual State, nor with citizens of any State. On the other hand, the faith of the United States is solemnly pledged to the Cherokee Nation for the protection of the right and title in the lands, conveyed to them by patent, within their territorial boundaries, as also for protection of all other of their national and individual rights and interests of person and property. Thus the Cherokee people are inviolably allied with their white brethren of the United States in war and friends in peace. Their institutions, locality, and natural sympathies are unequivocally with the slave-holding States. And the contiguity of our territory to your State, in connection with the daily, social, and commercial intercourse between our respective citizens, forbids the idea that they should ever be otherwise than steadfast friends.
            I am surprised to be informed by your Excellency that ‘it is well established that the Indian country west of Arkansas is looked to by the incoming administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, free-soilers, and Northern mountebanks.’ As I am sure that the laborers will be greatly disappointed, if they shall expect in the Cherokee country ‘fruitful fields ripe for the harvest of abolitionism,’ &c., you may rest assured that the Cherokee people will never tolerate the propagation of any obnoxious fruit upon their soil.
            And in conclusion I have the honor to reciprocate the salutations of friendship.
            I am, sir, very respectfully, Your Excellency’s obedient servant,
Principal Chief Cherokee Nation.” (Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies, ser. I, vol. 13:491-492)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Arkansas Overture

The fate of the Indian tribes in the trans-Mississippi is one of the most tragic, yet one of the most relatively overlooked, features of the War. Early on, the federal government made a significant error by not actively reaching out to the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole) and other tribes (such as the Osage and Wichita) in the Indian Territory. This left an opening for secessionists to reach out to these tribes. Even before his State’s secession, Arkansas Governor Henry M. Rector penned the following letter to Cherokee Chief John Ross:
“…Little Rock January 29, 1861.
SIR: It may now be regarded as almost certain that the States having slave property within their borders will, in consequence of repeated Northern aggressions, separate themselves and withdraw from the Federal Government….
Your people, in their institutions, productions, latitude, and natural sympathies, are allied to the common brotherhood of the slaveholding States. Our people and yours are natural allies in war and friends in peace. Your country is salubrious and fertile, and possesses the highest capacity for future progress and development by the application of slave labor. Besides this, the contiguity of our territory with yours induces relations of so intimate a character as to preclude the idea of discordant or separate action.
It is well established that the Indian country west of Arkansas is looked to by the incoming administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields, ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, freesoilers, and Northern mountebanks.
We hope to find in your people friends willing to co-operate with the South in defense of her institutions, her honor, and her firesides, and with whom the slaveholding States are willing to share a common future, and to afford protection commensurate with your exposed condition and your subsisting monetary interests with the General Government.
As a direct means of expressing to you these sentiments, I have dispatched my aide-de-camp, Lieut. Col. J. J. Gaines, to confer with you confidentially upon these subjects, and to report to me any expressions of kindness and confidence that you may see proper to communicate to the governor of Arkansas, who is your friend and the friend of your people.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Henry M. Rector, Governor of Arkansas” (Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies, ser. I, vol. 1:683-684)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

William T. Sherman: Trans-Mississippian

No matter your personal feelings about Sherman, it cannot be denied that this controversial figure was one of the giants of the Civil War. Over the years, I have read many books that deal with Sherman in some fashion, but it was not until reading John F. Marszalek’s Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion For Order that a key fact about his life suddenly dawned on me; he sure spent a lot of time in the trans-Mississippi! In 1846, the young professional soldier was dispatched to California, a place where he lived frequently until 1860. His activities there were varied, and the details about them can be found in any standard biography. Besides California, though, he lived also in St. Louis as well as New Orleans and Pineville, Louisiana. After the war, he remained in the military with his duties taking him to the West on inspection tours and negotiations with the Indians. There is little doubt that the trans-Mississippi had a powerful impact on his life. Fittingly, he is buried west of the Mississippi in St. Louis, a city that the General loved.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Texans Memorialized at Corinth

Corinth, Mississippi, was one of the many places that I visited recently while on the “other side” of the Mississippi, and, yes, trans-Mississippians were prominently involved in the campaigning around that town. Most of the recognition at the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park is given to Texans who were involved in heavy fighting on October 3-4, 1862.  The Corinth NPS visitor center is on the site of Battery Robinette, the scene of a savage struggle; here, for a brief time some men of the 2nd Texas Infantry led by Colonel William P. Rogers planted their banner on the earthworks. According to Ralph A. Wooster’s Lone Star Regiments In Gray, the 2nd Texas Infantry “sustained 116 casualties out of 314 troops who were in the battle” (p. 96).
The State of Texas has memorialized the deeds of Texans at Corinth:

The Texas monument with the reconstruction of Battery Robinette in the background:

A monument to Joseph Lewis Hogg, a brigade commander from Texas, who died as the result of dysentery in the spring of 1862:

Hogg’s monument is in the foreground, several markers to unknown soldiers are in the middle, and the large monument recognizes the valor of Colonel William P. Rogers who died in front of Battery Robinette.

A transcription of the unusual inscription on Rogers’ monument:

Fell leading Moore's Brigade
Fort Robinette Oct. 4, 1862
"He was one of the bravest men that ever led a charge. Bury him with military honors."
Maj. Gen'l. W. S. Rosecrans.
Commanding Army of Cumberland U. S. A.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Trans-Mississippi Monuments at Shiloh

Last month, I enjoyed a splendid outing to Shiloh National Military Park. Trans-Mississippi soldiers made a significant contribution during the battle as I mentioned in an earlier posting. Here is a pictorial overview of monuments honoring trans-Mississippi units at Shiloh.
Arkansas: [10 infantry units and 4 batteries were present at Shiloh]

Louisiana: [11 infantry units and 2 batteries] The state of Louisiana never erected a monument in honor of its soldiers at Shiloh, however, Yves R. Lemonnier, a private soldier in the Crescent Regiment sponsored the following monument in honor of his own unit.

The reverse of the Crescent Monument:

Texas: [2 infantry units, 1 cavalry unit]

Iowa: [11 infantry units]
The State of Iowa sponsored a massive monument in honor of its troops at Shiloh:

On this State monument, a figure representing Fame pens the deeds of Iowans at Shiloh:

Iowa also funded individual monuments for each of the eleven infantry units. The state seal appears on each of these monuments:

Minnesota: [1 artillery battery]

Nebraska: [1 infantry unit] The State of Nebraska did not fund a monument for the 1st Nebraska Infantry.
Missouri: [Union: 7 infantry units and 5 batteries; Confederate: 1 infantry unit] Missouri is unique in having both Union and Confederate units at Shiloh; fittingly this monument recognizes the contributions of Missouri units from both sides. Interestingly, a group of Missouri Boy Scouts raised the money, selected the design, and dedicated the monument!

And, the reverse of the Missouri monument:

The information about individual monuments is from Stacy W. Reaves, A History & Guide To The Monuments of Shiloh National Park, (Charleston, SC: History Press), 2012.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Crime Scene: Vicksburg, Mississippi

This is a personal indulgence posting—a bit off the subject of the blog but on a topic that I wanted to write about. In recent years, I have written two short biographical pieces about Confederate Brigadier General Daniel Weisiger Adams. The shorter piece appeared in Kentuckians in Gray edited by Bruce S. Allardice and Lawrence Lee Hewitt, and the longer essay was published in Confederate Generals in the Western Theater (volume 3), edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr. Adams moved to New Orleans in the late 1850s, entered into business, and quickly made a number of important connections. For part of the war, Adams commanded the Louisiana brigade of the Army of Tennessee, and later became a district commander in Alabama; his brother, Wirt, also became a brigadier general.
Adams, a native Kentuckian, grew up in Mississippi where his father, George, served as a federal judge. In 1843, not long after the younger Adams started practicing law, Vicksburg newspaper editor, Dr. James Hagan, published an editorial hinting at improprieties by Judge George Adams during a sensational investigation of alleged embezzlement by Mississippi’s state treasurer. Infuriated, Daniel Adams traveled from Jackson, Mississippi, to Vicksburg where he armed himself at the urging of friends. On June 7th, the 22 year old Adams accosted James Hagan. What follows is a transcription from the June 14, 1843 edition of The Southron newspaper published in Jackson:
“Mr. A. met with Dr. H. while the latter was returning from his boarding house to his office. When within a few yards of him, he called to Dr. H. and stated that a scurrilous article against his father had appeared in the Sentinel, which he then held in his hand, and he desired to know the author of it. Dr. H., without making any further reply, advanced upon Mr. A., who at the same time raised his walking cane and struck at Dr. H., who caught the blow on his arm, and immediately seized Mr. A. around the waist. They grappled with each other and after a short struggle both came to the ground, side by side, but Mr. A. being farther down on the slope of the hill, Dr. H. succeeded in getting on top and fixing his hand upon the throat of Mr. A. While in this position, Mr. A. drew a pistol from his side pocket and shot Dr. H., the ball entering just below the left shoulder blade and ranging along the spine to the back part of the head. He died immediately.
            Mr. A. surrendered himself to the civil authorities….said without the least hesitation that HE had done the deed….The body was in Walnut Street, south of Jackson about forty feet towards Grove Street.”
A jury acquitted Daniel Adams of murder charges.
On a recent trip to Vicksburg, I visited the crime scene. The first view is looking across the intersection of Walnut and Jackson toward the southeast. Adams and Hagan started fighting somewhere near this intersection.

Adams killed Hagan close to this area: