JULY 2017

JULY  2017
Greed and Monopolies Take Over the Ship

Translate

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Friday, June 06, 2014

CROSSING THE BORDER LINE

I think we have all seen his photo, but I doubt if many of you have seriously gazed into the chubby self satisfied face of President Chester A. Arthur and wondered what made him such a clothes horse? You ought to. “Elegant Arthur” was a vain, shallow, mutton chopped political hack who owned 80 pairs of trousers, and who rarely wore the same pair twice. “Chet”, as his friends liked to call the 6 foot 2 inch dandy raconteur, spent more on hats annually than most Americans earned in a year. Chester was a product of the spoils system. In six years as the Collector of the Port of New York, with a salary of $6,500 a year, Chester amassed a fortune of $3 million. And yet it was not his sticky fingers which endangers his reputation to this day . It was his massive ego, which inspired him to tell one little white lie . He fibbed about how old he was.
Chester had never held elected office before joining the Republican national ticket in 1880. He was the choice of Senator Roscoe Conkling, boss of the Stalwarts, the renamed Tammany Hall graft machine. In exchange for a promise to get-out-the-vote in New York “Lord Roscoe” had forced James Garfield to accept Chester Arthur as his Vice President. The Republicans needed the help. During the campaign Democrats spread the rumor that Chester had actually been born in Canada, and thus was not eligible to serve as Vice President. Chester refused to even dignify the charge with a response, even tho at least one Republican pol wondered why Chester didn't just “say where he was born, and put an end to all this mystery.”
It might have made a difference. Out of 4 million votes cast that November 8, 1880, Garfield and Chester Arthur received just 1,898 more votes than Civil War hero Winfield Scott Hancock and Indiana banker William English, running for the Democrats. The close defeat was a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow, and they stayed bitter. In mid-December, the New York Times noted that a Democratic operative had arrived in St. Albans, Vermont, investigating Chester's ancestry. The Democrats had tried this tract before, claiming Chester had been born in Ireland. That smear fell apart quickly, but evidently they were were not willing to let it go. If Chester noticed that small item in the paper, and I bet he did, he must have been more than a little nervous.
According to the Times, the operative's name was Arthur P. Hinman. Shortly after the 1880 election members of the Democratic National committee had walked into Hinman's offices at 14 Wall Street, offering to pay his expenses to investigate the persistent rumors that Vice President-elect Chester Arthur was not “a native born citizen” as required by the Constitution. They had picked their man well. Besides being a loyal Democrat, Hinman had written a poem recently published in Harper’s Magazine. It began, "My back is to the wall, My face is to my foes, That surge and gather around me, Like waves that winter blows”.  And it was this combative and contentious bull dog who traveled to the town of St. Albans, 15 miles south of the Canadian border, and further, to the little villages beyond, on both sides of the political line.
Interviewed by the Times in the American Hotel at the corner of Main and Lake Streets, in St. Albans, Himman claimed his investigation had uncovered that Chester A. Arthur was actually, “born in Canada....that he was 50 years old in July instead of October...and generally that he is an alien and ineligible to the office of Vice-President.” It was hard to disprove the allegation. Vermont did not begin recording and issuing birth certificates until 1857. Yet, the tiny article, printed under the headline “Material For a Democratic Lie”, caused barely a hiccup back in Washington. After all Chester was just the vice president. He did not matter.
Still, it was just one more reason why, after taking the oath in March of 1881, President Garfield had bared Chester from even entering the White House. Garfield had decided on civil service reform, doing away with the profitable spoils system, and that meant figuratively castrating Senator Conkling and freezing his “Stalwarts”, like Chester, out of the government. Then, on July 2nd , President Garfield was shot in a Washington, D.C. train station. As the deranged assassin was arrested he shouted, "I am a Stalwart, and Arthur will be President!”. In September, 88 days later, Garfield died of blood poisoning, and abruptly, the charming but vapid Chester A. Arthur was President, and the assassin had publicly tied the new POTUS to the murder.
And what happened next did not improve the trouser snake's public image. Chester refused to occupy the executive mansion until Lewis Comfort Tiffany had spent two months and lots of public money redecorating it, with pomegranate plush drapes and a floor to ceiling ornate wood and glass screen (above) jammed into the main entrance hall. To complete the grotesque gilded age transformation of a national monument, 24 wagon loads of historical paintings, furniture and furnishings accumulated by Presidents John Adams through Ulysses Grant were sold at auction. It was just one more reason why a journalist would later write, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur.”
The Democrats saw a quick opening, but Hinman rushed his shot and he missed. His new conspiracy theory presented in the fall and winter of 1881, was a repeat of what he had told the Times, with a few more details. But again the story fell apart. This time there was the testimony of Chester Abell, the doctor who delivered the future President. The boy was even named after him. Dr. Abel insisted Chester had been born in Fairfield, Vermont, about half way between St Albans and the Canadian border. And although the father, William Arthur, had not become a naturalized American citizen until 1843, there was no doubt that he married Chester's mother Malvina in 1821, and she was blatantly American born. Her grandfather had even fought in the American Revolutionary Army, for crying out loud. So when Chester Arthur was born in October of 1830, he was automatically an American citizen, like his mother, no matter what his father's status. And once President Chester Arthur began to crusade for the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, his public image improved and most people forgot the Democratic smear. In fact the public began to notice that Chester was just so likeable. It even began to look as if he might even run for re-election. And that meant that Arthur Hinman would be back.
Lawyer Hineman's third theory still insisted that Chester had indeed been born in Canada. Malvina's parents had lived in Dunham, Quebec for years, just 8 miles north of the border. William and Malvina had met and eloped in Dunham. It would have been natural, in the fall of 1830, for Malvina to seek her mother's help in minding her four older children when it came time to deliver Chester. And as for Dr. Abel's testimony, well, the old man was just confused. See, Chester Alan Arthur had been born in Dunham, Quebec, but in 1828. Then there had been another son, named Chester Abel Arthur, born in 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont. That was the baby Dr. Abel had remembered. But, said Hinman's research, Chester Abel had died before his first birth day. And years later, when applying to Union College in Schenectady New York, Chester Alan Arthur had appropriated his dead brother's birth date and location, making him an American citizen and qualifying him for student aid. It was such a good story that Hinman put it all down in a book, “How A British Subject Became President of the United States”, and in the summer of 1884, with another Presidential election looming, summarized it in an article he wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper.
It might have caught on. It might have become a majestic conspiracy, like the rabbit Alice followed. And the Democratic party might have fallen down that rabbit hole in the election of 1884. The American people have always been drawn to conspiracy theories, be it FDR sacrificing Pearl Harbor in 1941, or the Lee Harvey Oswald's claim he was a patsy in November of 1963, or the black helicopters hiding in National Parks in the 1990's, or even President Obama being born in Africa.  But reality intervened in 1884 when President Chester Arthur fell ill and decided not to run for re-election. And as quickly as that, Arthur Hinman lost his livelihood. He had become irrelevant, the Donald Trump of his age, leaving behind a brown smudge as his only contribution to the historical record.
Chester Alan Arthur left the White House in March of 1885 a very sick man. On November 16, 1886 he ordered his son to burn all his personal papers, reducing to ashes all the shady deals he had cut while a loyal Stalwart for Senator Conkling.  And then on November 18, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and died. Mark Twain, the man who had invented the title “Gilded Age”, offered a powerful obituary; “It would hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration”
After his work as a hatched man dried up, Arthur Hinman suffered the roller coaster life a political flunky, in with one administration, out with the next. His law business fell off and his was forced to move his office to cheaper space at 644 Hancock street in Brooklyn. But then the worm turned again and by 1901 he was back at 375 Fulton Street, just blocks from City Hall in Manhattan.   But he never lost his pugnaciousness. In October of 1904, the now aging lawyer got into a fist fight with an undertaker, a Mr. Joseph P. Pouch. Hinman had represented Pouch's  wife in their divorce case, and when the judge awarded her custody of their 7 year old child, Arthur Hinman offered to effect the transfer, to avoid a confrontation. With any other lawyer that might have worked. But Hinman was never one to suffer an insult. He belted Joe in the eye, and Joe pounded Himman in the face and head. Poor Joe got arrested for contempt of court, and Mrs. Pouch got her child. And Arthur Hinman got the fight he always relished. It was straight out of  the final stanza of his poem, where Arthur recalls his “life of combat”; "I stand, poor speck of dust, Defiant, self reliant, To die – if die I must.” 
And the mystery of Chester Alan Arthur's birth would not be finally be answered until 1949 when Chester A. Arthur III donated the family bible to the New York Public Library. And there, recorded in William Arthur's own handwriting are listed in order, the births of all nine of his children. The name of the first male and fifth child is Chester Alan Arthur. But the birth date is October 5, 1829. It was the same year William Arthur was elected to the school board in Fairfield, Vermont. And all the great mystery and drama compounded by politicians over the birth place of President Chester Alan Arthur, boiled down to a  vain man's vanity about his age. He want to appear a year younger than he actually was.
- 30 -  

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

MONEY AND PATRIOTISM


I understand why Republicans have such a naive faith in capitalists. Certainly, the businessmen or women who risk their own futures on the vagaries of markets and customers deserve respect. But the farther you get from the pain of your own mistakes the less you are a capitalist, and the more an elitist. As proof,  I present to you a German flute maker who made his fortune in England, and then doubled it by investing in the American fur trade; John Jacob Astor (above). He made in his life time the modern equivalent of $110 billion - so much money that his fortune survived two hundred years. It survived the great depression, four generations of 20th century “death taxes” and two world wars, so that his distant heirs are still enjoying its benefits. Astor’s “genius” was that he saw the American fur trade was not about fur, it was about dope.
See, post-revolutionary war American did not have enough customers to support a native industry. America had to be an exporter. Her nearest customers were in Europe. But by 1810, hunters had so decimated eastern populations of beaver, otter, squirrel and fox, that trappers were shipping furs fifteen hundred miles just to reach an Atlantic port. Overland transportation costs now made American fur a luxury item in Europe. But, and this was Astor’s genius, the west coast of North America was still filled with fur, swimming and walking around. And just across the Pacific were millions of Chinese opium addicts. And Astor saw the connection between those two.
Plugged into the global English banking system, Astor realized he could buy furs in the Pacific Northwest from native Americans for the price of some fish hooks and axes, sell them in China and Japan for working capital, with which he could buy Afghanistan opium, which could be sold in China at an enormous profit. All he had to do was buy enough British politicians to send the Royal Navy to force the Chinese to leave his opium fleets alone. That was what the British meant by Freedom of the Seas. And the real magic was that Astor never had to go to any of those places himself and look dead otters or dead addicts in the face. He hired others to do that. Of course, it turns out, working at a distance has its own price.
To put his plan in motion Astor hired two men. First he dispatched Wilson Hunt, who was a New Jersey businessman (and a junior partner), at the head of 64 French Canadian trappers, to head overland for the Columbia River. And then he convinced the U.S. Navy to loan him Lieutenant Jonathan Thorn, hero of the battle of Tripoli. And it turns out neither of these guys had any business running anything.
Thorn left first, on September 8, 1810 in command of the 290 ton, 10 gun ship, the Tonquin. She carried 34 seamen, French Canadian trappers and clerks, and everything needed to set up Astor’s fur collecting station at the mouth of the Columbia River. But barely had they passed out onto the Atlantic when Captain Thorn turned into Captain Bligh. He cursed the crew for singing a sea ditty. And when Alexander McKay, another junior partner in the venture, commented on the lousy food, Thorn called him “the most worthless human who ever broke a sea biscuit.” That night McKay wrote in his notebook “I fear we are in the hands of a maniac” McKay had no idea. 
Wilson Hunt and his party left St. Louis on October 21, 1810, but traveled only 450 miles up the Missouri River before winter forced him to camp just south of present day St. Joseph, Missouri. They were in birch bark canoes and the plan was to follow the Lewis and Clark trail over the Rocky Mountains. But over the long dark winter months Hunt started to think for himself, a mistake which was to prove disastrous.
By early December, when the Tonquin stopped for fresh water in the Falkland Islands, the passengers had begun speaking only French in the presence of Captain Thorn, because they knew he did not speak French and it drove him crazy. He paid them back by acting the petty tyrant. When five of his passengers went sightseeing and missed his deadline to return, Thorn weighed anchor and set sail, leaving them desperately rowing for three hours to catch up. He would have abandoned them to their fate, had not the wind fortuitously shifted and allowed the exhausted Canadians to collapse, vomiting, back on board. Everybody now had a thorn in their side; Captain Thorn
On Christmas day this happy ship rounded Cape Horn, at the southern tip of South America. And on the 12th of February 1811, after sailing across the Pacific Ocean, and stops in India and China to confirm business arrangements, the Tonquin anchored off Hawaii, for pork and water and to pick up a few additional workers. Thorn had by now convinced himself there was going to be an armed rebellion at any moment. His opportunity for dealing with this perceived threat arrived on March 22, 1811, when the Tonquin stood off the mouth of the Columbia River, at a cape with attractive title of Desperation Bay.
Captain Torn ordered his first mate, Ebenezer Fox, to take four of the Canadians and find a route over the treacherous sand bar at the river’s mouth. (Even today, the U.S. Coast Guard station at Desperation Bay responds to 400 calls for help every year.) Fox begged to be allowed to replace the Frenchmen. “I am to be sent off, without seamen, in boisterous weather, and on the most perilous of missions.” Captain Thorn bellowed, “Mr. Fox, if you are afraid of water, you should have remained at Boston. I command here! Mr. Fox, do not be a coward. Put off!” At about 1:00 p.m. Mr. Fox and the Canadians did just that, and were never seen again.
The next day Captain Thorn dispatched another seaman and three unhappy Hawaiians to find a passage. They also disappeared into the surf. Only now, with the ranks of his opponents thinned, did the captain dispatch able seamen. With difficulty they found the opening in the bar, and led the ship to the safety of the bay. The survivors were overjoyed to be on dry land and away from the insane Jonathan Thorn. Wrote one of the party, “The loss of eight of us within two days was deeply felt.” They immediately began building a fort, which they christened with the name of the man who signed their pay checks (and who had hired Captain Thorn!); Fort Astor. 
Captain Thorn did not wait for the construction to be completed. Now that he had put the worst of the troublemakers ashore, and before the supplies had been completely unloaded, he sailed north, intending on returning in few weeks. Mr. McKay, ordered to accompany the madman north, handed over his journals and bade his friends goodbye. “If you ever see us again it will be a miracle”. 
There was no miracle. Off Vancouver Island Captain Thorn applied his powers of diplomacy to a local tribe, who in response butchered the entire crew (including Thorn). Somehow fire reached the ship’s magazine, and the resultant explosion killed most of the avenging natives as well. Thus ended the naval and diplomatic career of Lt. Jonathan Thorn, dispensing death to everything and everyone he touched. He also left 16 survivors back at Fort Astor, stranded on the lonely west coast of North America, without supplies and with no way of communicating their plight to anyone who cared to listen.
Meanwhile, as you may remember, Wilson Hunt was still leading a party of 65 French Canadian trappers out of Missouri. And after thinking the thing over carefully, Mr. Hunt decided not to follow the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark. With the arrival of spring, in April 1811, he bought horses from the local Indians and mounted up his French Canadian trappers, each of whom had been hired because of their skills in handling a canoe. 
By September of 1811, these miserable dudes had got as far as the North Fork of the Snake River (also called Henry’s Fork), in present day Idaho. Here Mr. Hunt faced an open rebellion from his French Canadians, who found their thighs badly chaffing. So they gave their horses as gifts to the local Indians, and the trappers set about constructing birch bark canoes. This proved to be a bad idea, as just two days after launching their tiny armada, two men drowned and two canoes were overturned (dumping all their food and supplies) as the river alternated between cascades, rapids and rock strewn shallows. Progress was so slow the party cleaned out every edible creature within reach of their river. In desperation, the starving Canadians split up into four groups. One turned back for civilisation, stumbling upon the broad South Pass through the Rockies along the way, while the other three groups headed further down “The accursed mad river.”
As they descended the Snake River they entered a narrow canyon. Quickly they were trapped in a quarter mile wide abyss, between 700 foot high walls of solid basalt. There was nothing to eat here beyond the fish in the river. As Richard Neuberger would write, “It was a winter of famine, and they boiled their buckskin foot gear and drank the fetid broth. Two more voyageurs were swallowed up by rapids and another went mad.”
The survivors finally exited this purgatory by climbing out of the canyon. Again under Mr. Hunt’s command, they scattered in search of food. Luckily they were stumbled upon by compassionate Indians, who fed and clothed the men before passing them on, tribe after tribe, until they were welcomed, each sad ragged party after the other, by the survivors of Astor’s ocean going disaster. Of the 64 who had set out from St. Louis in the fall of 1810, barely 45 staggered into Fort Astor, the last arriving in February of 1812…just in time for the war of 1812, between the United States and Great Britain.
Captain William Black, of HMS Raccoon, was startled at what he saw. “Is this the great Fort Astoria I have heard so much of around the world? Good God, I could batter it down with a four-pounder in two hours!” But he did not have to. The Astorians, as they referred to themselves, surrendered to reality, secure in the knowledge that whatever nation’s flag was flying over the fort it remained the private property of an English citizen who had hired mostly French Canadians to do his dirty work. The war was, at worst, an inconvenience.
When the Treaty of Ghent was signed in December of 1814, a special clause had been written in which specifically transferred Astoria from Britain back to the United States, where Mr. Astor had now taken up residence. Average men might occasionally die for a flag, but for elitists, money always trumps patriotism. 
- 30 -

Sunday, June 01, 2014

VICKSBURG Fifth Week in May

FRIDAY MAY 29, 1863
Today in Georgia, the Macon Telegraph delivers the latest news from Vicksburg (above). It is already a week old. “From the Northern accounts as well as our own, it is clear that all our defenses on the Yazoo were abandoned to the enemy...and that the town proper is held only by Pemberton and his little force, closely invested by the Yankee fleet to the front and by Grant's army on the other three sides. We have not the slightest intimation of the whereabouts of General Johnston and the main Confederate Army...Unless Johnston can raise the siege by defeating Grant, or cutting his communications, it is evident that the fall of Vicksburg is a question only of time.” The next day the same newspaper will carry the Georgia Governor's call for citizens to collect weapons for home defense.
SATURDAY MAY 30, 1863
General John McClernard (above) issues his General Order 72.  It begins,  “Comrades: As your Commander, I am proud to congratulate you upon your constancy, valor and success. History affords no more brilliant example of soldierly qualities. Your victories have followed in such rapid succession that their echoes have not yet reached the country. They will challenge its grateful and enthusiastic applause....” He continues in this vein for several paragraphs, recounting the campaign exploits of his corps.
But then, running short of superlatives, McClernard begins to compare his men's exploits favorably over efforts by soldiers in the rest of the army. “Yourselves striking out a new path, your comrades of the army of the Tennessee followed, and a way was thus opened for them to redeem previous disappointments...General Logan's division came up in time to gallantly share in consummating the most valuable victory...The Forlorn Hopes of the Twenty-second ascertained, to their cost...they were still a long way from victory....and after a sanguinary and obstinate battle, with the assistance of Gen. McPherson's corps...”
It was classic McClernard; bombastic, hyperbolic, verbose and clumsy. But he was merely trying to raise the spirits of his own men, after their failed attacks on the 22nd. His General Order 72 closes with,  “I join with you, comrades, in your sympathy for the wounded and sorrow for the dead. May we not trust...that history will associate the martyrs of this sacred struggle for law and order, liberty and justice, with the honored martyrs of Monmouth and Bunker Hill. JOHN A. McCLERNAND, Major-General Commanding.”
Almost immediately, copies of the proclamation are then carried back up the Mississippi River to the newspapers nationwide. The staffs of General Sherman and McPherson are infuriated at the slights to their own men  in the proclamation. And as if in a choreographed dance, over the next week, several groups prepare infuriated protests. Sherman and McPherson each file their own personal denunciations of McClerand. Grant writes, "I cannot afford to quarrel with a man with whom I am obliged to command.” Still he patiently waits until June 18th, when excepts from McClernand's proclamation appear in the New York Times. Then Grant publicly takes the position that McClerand's proclamation is a direct violation of his standing order – clearly aimed at  McClernand – that all press releases are to be made through Grant's staff.  It is an unfair charge, as McClerand did not directly release his proclamation to the press. But the Illinois-politician-turned-General has played these games himself for two years. And now, like Vicksburg itself, he has been isolated and trapped. On June 18, 1863 Grant finally uses the power given to him by Hallack back in January, and relieves General McClernand. Lincoln's doppelganger and a thorn in Grant's hide,  is finally gone.
SUNDAY MAY 31, 1863
On this day, in a letter to his father, William Christie, serving in a Minnesota artillery unit, describes the siege of Vicksburg. “This morning at three o'clock, the batteries of Gen. Grant's army...opened at once on the doomed city... Now, just stand with me on the point where our battery is placed, and see the vivid flashes of the fuses, like lightning, and the showers of shell, as they made their quick curves through the air, hissing and hurtling, and finally exploding with a report almost as loud as the gun. The air waved like the sea, and vibrated with a hoarse murmuring sound...Boats on the river and the flash of their shots, were seen on the background exactly like lightning...we kept up the cannonading for over an hour....” William is not describing another grand assault, just the routine, methodical, daily, deadly business of a siege. The navy alone fires 22,000 shells into the city over the next 43 days. The army fires far more.
The citizens of Vicksburg dig 500 caves, large and small, into the sides of the gullies along the river shore. Union troops take to calling Vicksburg "Prairie Dog Town."  Food inside the city runs short. The garrison eats its horses and mules and dogs, and,  eventually,  even its shoes. Only about a dozen civilians are killed in the bombardment. But the anxiety and lost sleep drains the defenders. But in the end,  the ultimate limiting factor is water. The siege lasts 43 days. There is no sustained rain during that entire period.
General Johnston slowly gathers men in Jackson and eventually edges towards the Big Black River. But along the river he is faced by Sherman's reinforced corps. Johnston is cautiously probing for an opening in Sherman's defenses when Vicksburg surrenders, on July 3, 1863. Five days later Port Hudson also surrenders. And two weeks after that, General Sherman's men retake Jackson, Mississippi for the final time. For Grant it is a clean sweep.
In the siege of Vicksburg, Union causalities were about 10,000 dead and wounded, mostly because of the costly early assaults. Rebel dead, wounded, missing and captured were almost 33,000 .  Grant has also won 172 cannon and 60,000 rifles, which could never again be used to defy Federal authority. In one exhuberant month of movement and aggression, Grant has achieved what seemed 5 weeks earlier to be impossible.
Grant began his own account of his campaign with the following words; “The campaign of Vicksburg was suggested and developed by circumstances.”  There was no detailed plan. There was only Grant's reasoned determination to come to grips with his enemy and fight him. When matched with Grant's mastery of the fundamentals of logistics - supplying and supporting troops in the field - it was simply an unbeatable combination.
Others have been more impressed. “During the 17 day period after the landing at Burinsburg, Grant’s Army…marched 180 miles and won five major engagements…inflicting 7,200 casualties to 4,300 of his own, pinned Pemberton’s army inside the defenses of Vicksburg, and with his right flank now anchored on the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers north of the city, reestablished his communications and supply…Those who think of Grant as a butcher need to examine this masterpiece of operational art.” (Mackubin T. Owens, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.)
Grant would later observe; “All of (Pemberton’s) troops had to be met. We were fortunate, to say the least, in meeting them in detail…”  This was, of course no fortunate accident. Grant achieved this amazing feat because he never lost sight of his objective. Grant could not have known before he crossed the Mississippi that Pemberton would play into his hands, although he may  have suspected it,  given Pemberton’s reactions to Union maneuvering during April.  Still, the resolve to make the crossing was all Grant's. And the drive to move and keep moving after the initial landing, was all Grant's as well.
There was a fundamental mistake made in the defense of Vicksburg, and (among others) General Joe Johnston; thought he knew what it was  “An immense entrenched camp requiring an army to hold it, had been made,  instead of a fort requiring only a small garrison." But Port Hudson had been just such a small fort with a small garrison, and it met the same fate as Vicksburg.. 
The core problem in defending Vicksburg is the same faced by all fortresses, even Gibraltar itself. They require an army in the field to defend them – generals and soldiers and teamsters and railroads supply trains carrying all the sinew of war. And Vicksburg had little of that sinew. The destruction of so much as one mile of irreplaceable track on the Vicksburg and Jackson railroad reduced the value of Vicksburg. Pemberton knew this. But why did he not abandon the position, as General Joe Johnston urged him to do?
What hindered Pemberton was Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In the words of a recent historian, Davis was, “a poor judge of character…” I would go further and say that Davis was a martinet, with a blind adherence to the form rather than the function of command. All that Davis could see was that Vicksburg must be held. And if that was an impossible task, it was still a task the Confederate President was required to ask of his generals. But Davis had been in Washington when the war had started. In the words of Bruce Catton, he was one of those men who helped to bring on the firestorm, but could do little once it had arrived.
Once the fire had been started there were impossible choices Davis would face, choices he was responsible for creating. In the pantheon of “Southern Heroes” Jefferson Davis should not be praised. If, as he said, the Confederacy died of a theory, it was his theory. It was the theory he had determinedly built the entire structure of the Confederacy upon. His only excuse for being so blind and foolish, was that the irrational immoral defense of slavery denied him a rational morality. All the dead of Vicksburg, on both sides, can be laid at the front door of every slave holder's mansion, even more than at the doorstep of  their enabler generals like Pemberton,  Johnston or Lee.
The hero of this story is much simpler to identify, Ulysess Grant.  Between April Fools day and July 4 of 1863, the two opposing armies suffered 19,232 dead and wounded, a slight majority of whom were Union dead.  But at Vicksburg, six weeks after Grant and Sherman achieved Haynes Bluff , a Confederate army of 31,600 men, with 172 cannon and 60,000 muskets were surrendered to the Union. And Grant was the man who conceived and directed that campaign and who eventually brought the entire war to an end.  He was quite simply a military genius, far the superior to any rebel commander he faced.
- 30 -

Blog Archive

Amazon Deals