Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
March 8, 2011
The View from Park RowBy Greyhawk
Having heard from those who for months prior to the 1860 elections were anticipating (perhaps even preparing for) secession and civil war - it's appropriate to acknowledge that theirs wasn't a universal view. There are other historical records supporting Haswell's recollection (his Reminiscences was published in 1896) of the mood of the day:
Initially, many Republicans scoffed at Democratic warnings that Lincoln's election would lead to secession of the South. As late as November 29, 1860, William Cullen Bryant, poet and owner-editor of the Evening Post, declared that "nobody but a few silly people expect it will happen."
In this case silly proved to be the opposite of wrong - but Bryant was no fool. He may have acquired a New Yorker's definition of everybody and nobody, but his lifetime's experience - throughout which he stayed true to his progressive political views - can be seen as a travel guide through the changing political landscape of the decades immediately prior to the Civil War. He was an original free soil Democrat, and had introduced Abraham Lincoln to the crowd at Cooper Union in February, 1860. By then his Evening Post could rightly be called one of three influential Republican-leaning papers in New York City. (The others were Greeley's Tribune and a relative newcomer on the scene: the New York Times, a paper founded by former Tribune man Henry Jarvis Raymond in 1851.)
If the people generally refused to believe in the likelihood of secession and civil war that's attributable at least in part to desire - people generally don't want war. Unfortunately that's a part of the human condition that (depending on its manifestation) has led to as many wars as any of the less desirable (greed, for example) human traits have through history. Two nations often go to war when only one wants to - if the other is sufficiently "non-militaristic." (A truth to which older citizens of Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Holland, and a host of other European nations can attest.) But that one-sided aggressiveness wasn't the case in the American Civil War. Remarkably - if Haswell is correct in his next line, too - the South didn't want war either: "In short, it was almost universally held in the North that the South never would secede, just as the South believed that in case of secession the North would not fight for the Union."
The history of the United States to 1860 had already been one of fractious, sometimes bloody political battles. But if that everything will be just fine delusion was somehow rampant among specially those of Republican politics, it may be because those who saw their own anti-slavery stance as a moral campaign conducted under the blessing of God (one would be hard-pressed to identify a cause in American history more worthy of the claim) didn't realize the full nature of the contribution slave labor made to the wealth of so many of their fellow citizens (the sort of wealth that can buy any number of moral justifications for any argument, or at least assuage any excessive feelings of guilt) and vastly underestimated the degree (beyond murderous) of hatred and contempt in which thus-threatened Democrats subsequently held them. If so, (at least, if one accepts deeds as more indicative of feelings than words) the feelings would be mutual soon enough.
But if the Times' day-after-the-elections coverage is any example of the mood of Republicans in 1860, Haswell was right and Bryant wasn't kidding - they really didn't see it coming.
We searched in vain for some one that could tell us of the feelings of the defeated. Every one declared himself a Lincoln man, or else said nothing... At length passing through Nassau-street we met an acquaintance, -- one whom we had heard during the campaign expressing his predilections for DOUGLAS, and his blissful anticipations of Arcadian Winters in office at Washington under the Douglas dynasty. We hailed him; he was in a great hurry and couldn't stop, -- bank just closing, -- all that sort of thing. We took him by the button; that is the shot across the bows that will always bring one to. He stopped, and, after a moment's attention to our inquiries. "My dear Sir," he said, "I'm a Lincoln man, and always was!'' We pursued our investigations in that direction no further. In all seriousness, we heard less about Disunion yesterday than we have heard any day in a month past ... and we learned nothing that would lead us to suppose that the people of the fairly beaten parties will acquiesce now in the expressed, will of the people a whit less gracefully than the Republicans submitted when they were overborne four years ago.
"That any calamity threatened the Union," they added for good measure, "seemed as far from everybody's thoughts, as the idea that a volcano might break out in the Central Park, and by its eruption convert our Empire City into another Pompeii..."
Less than six weeks later, South Carolina seceded from the Union. ("A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery," read the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. "On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government...") Of course, no one in New York City was surprised.
Charles Haynes Haswell's Reminiscences offers wonderful insight into a bygone era. Not intended as a history, it's a chronological series of brief descriptions of life in New York City during first half of his.
In its pages he captured an era of great and small changes in the city, like this one from 1856:
May 25, the last services were held in the old "Brick Church," which yielded its site to the Times building, the purchase having been made, despite the assertion that a condition of the gift to the church of the site, was that it should ever be occupied for a church.
Next: The End of Edmund Ruffin
Posted by Greyhawk / March 8, 2011 5:46 PM | Permalink
ANTICIPATIONS OF THE FUTURE ****** Washington, D. C, Nov. 11th, 1864. Edmund Ruffin The complete election reports have now been received. As anticipated, California, Oregon, Washington, and also Sonora (the new Pacific free state, formed of territory ... Read More
So there I was, writing about the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (though the story of Fernando Wood has obvious parallels to our modern world...), when all of a sudden we got involved in the Libyan Civil War, and captured Osama bin Laden.... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com