Sunday, December 29, 2013

'I'se broke my chains, I'se broke my chains'

Inside Fort Fisher, a Confederate bastion that protected the busy port of Wilmington, N.C. , for most of the Civil War.
This is a tale of two New Hampshire colonels and their military exploits on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina during the closing months of the Civil War. One was killed; the other lived to tell about his experience there.

Fort Fisher stood on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, 29 miles downstream from Wilmington, N.C. Ships running a federal blockade used Wilmington as a port almost throughout the war. There the South traded cotton and tobacco to British smugglers for vital munitions and food. Fort Fisher, whose mounds and other fortifications were built mainly by slaves and American Indians, protected the port's batteries.

Louis Bell, who led a brigade at Fort Fisher.
In early 1865, the guns of Union ships’ pounded Fort Fisher for 2½ days to prepare for a landing and attack on Jan. 15 by 8,000 Union troops. Among the assault force’s leaders was Louis Bell, son of a New Hampshire governor and husband of Mary Anne “Mollie” Bouton, whose father, Nathaniel Bouton, was a prominent Concord pastor, abolitionist and historian. Bell, a native of Chester, N.H., who practiced law before the war, served as a captain in the 1st New Hampshire Volunteers and later as colonel of the 4th New Hampshire and as a brigade commander. At Fort Fisher, while leading his men, he was hit in the shoulder. The ball moved downward into his torso, and he died the next day of internal injuries.

The capture of Fort Fisher opened the way to Wilmington. Another New Hampshire colonel, Samuel A. Duncan of Meriden, commanded a brigade of African-Americans who helped take the port city after an 11-day standoff with Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate defenders. Duncan wrote a vivid letter to his brother describing the historic event. The narrative begins with the men leaving their entrenchments near Fort Fisher on “Sun. morning last” – Feb. 19, 1865.

“We moved out from our entrenched line six miles north of Fort Fisher on Sun. morning last, in pursuit of the enemy who had evacuated the works in our front the night preceding. We pressed him on Sun. & Mon., losing 60 or 70 men from the Division in a charge upon his earthworks on Mon. Eve.

“Tues. night Bragg again hastily decamped, leaving the very strong line of fortifications which, well defended, would have made Wilmington almost impregnable. In these works, which encircle the town from the river above to the river below, and are built upon commanding elevations behind broad ravines and swamps and artificial ponds, the retreating rebels left all their heavy siege guns, from 30 to 50 in number, not even stopping to spike them.

Samuel A. Duncan
“On Wednes. we made 15 miles, passing thro’ Wilmington and reaching this point, the crossing of the Wil’n & Weldon road over the N.E. River. At this point we found the R.R. Bridge in flames, & had a smart little skirmish with the rear guard of the enemy, the firing pretty heavy tho’ casualties not large.

“Our passage thro’ Wilmington is an experience long to be remembered. Several Union flags were displayed; and the joy of the colored population was enthusiastic and unbounded. I have talked with many of the colored people of Wil’n & the contrabands coming daily into our camp, and am perfectly satisfied that the rebels can derive but little, if any, advantage from the arming of their slaves. The slaves comprehend the great question at issue, and invariably assert that they would not fight for their masters, but are ready to fight n our side.. They knew full well what our army signified to them as we passed into the city. They had hid away from the fleeing rebels, but all turned out to welcome us; and many a little wooly headed darkie came jumping & dancing along the street & shouting ‘I’se broke my chains; I’se broke my chains’ while the women were bowing and scraping and tossing their arms in the air and cryng, ‘Bress de Lord; Bress de Lord. De year of jubilee hab come.’ . . .

“A force moving out from New Berne has, I suppose, cut the railroad near Goldsboro’. Sherman’s cavalry advance is rumored to be in possession of Fayetteville, which if true secures us the entire right bank of the Cape Fear River. This leaves Bragg but a narrow chance to escape. Certain it is that he finds himself under these circumstances much encumbered by the prisoners which have been sent to him from Florence and elsewhere. Finding it impossible to keep these and save his army, he has made an unconditional surrender – not an exchange – of his prisoners who are now 9 miles ahead of us, and who are expected back here to-night or to-morrow morning. There are supposed to be from 5000 to 10000 of them.

“This is another feather for [Maj. Gen. Alfred] Terry [commander of Union forces in the expedition], who seems to be the luckiest man in the world, for I can not but look upon his marvelous successes as pure luck, and not by any means as indicative of extraordinary military initiative. Circumstances always seem to favor him. . . .

“I can not see how the rebellion can long survive.”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

For a colonel at Fort Wagner, 'distinction' came at a price

Col. Haldimand Sumner Putnam’s last letter to his father brims with confidence. He wrote it from Morris Island on the morning of July 18, 1863, as he prepared his brigade to storm Fort Wagner, a Confederate artillery battery on Charleston Bay. He told of the landing on Morris Island, site of the fort, on July 10 and of the failed assault on the fort on July 11. 

“You have no doubt before this seen by the prints that we crossed to this island on Friday last after an engagement of about three hours in which we were completely successful, capturing about two hundred prisoners and ten large cannons, driving the enemy to its stronghold Fort Wagner, directly under the guns of Fort Sumter,” Putnam wrote to John Putnam, a farmer and probate judge in Cornish, N.H., the colonel's native town. “Our loss was slight. The next morning at dawn an attempt was made to carry Fort Wagner by storm and we were repulsed with considerable loss.

Col. Haldimand S. Putnam
“Immediately after landing I was ordered to the front and held the position for two days, most of the time under a very severe fire of artillery from Forts Sumter & Wagner but made the men dig holes in the sand hills where they lay comparatively safe.”

Putnam had gone to West Point at the age of 16 and graduated with honors in 1857. He was serving as a lieutenant in an engineering unit when the Civil War broke out. In late 1861, he took command of the 7th New Hampshire Volunteers.

Like many other soldiers in the regiment, Sgt. Calvin Shedd of Enfield, N.H., liked Putnam’s hard drilling, strict discipline and profane tongue. In the spring of 1862, after the 7th was sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Shedd commanded the color guard that welcomed Putnam. As the colonel entered the fort “through the Sally Port he raised his cap to us & looked Bully & pleased. The Regt think more of him than all the rest of the Officers.” Not long afterward, Putnam chastised his officers after a sloppy drill. “What the hell are you about?” he shouted,  “You don’t know as much as your men do.” “That suited the Boys,” Shedd wrote home.

The 7th  New Hampshire moved from Fort Jefferson up the Atlantic coast to Beaufort, S.C. From there Putnam privately expressed his displeasure at the too rapid pace of emancipation.

“The Abolitionists have sent down some men & women, who have been in a measure recognized by the government to take charge of the plantations & negroes & raise cotton & corn,” he wrote his father. “They devote themselves mostly to instructing the negroes that all men were born free & equal except negroes who were born a great deal better than white folks. The consequence is that the amount of work done by them is small.” He approved of “Honest Old Abe’s” countermanding an order by Gen. David Hunter to “liberate all the slaves in the country.”

Putnam longed for glory and did not expect to find it at Beaufort. “From all this you will see that my prospects for distinction are not much better than they were at Tortugas,” he wrote.

A year later, on Morris Island, Putnam’s regiment still had not seen battle. He was an acting general by then, leading a brigade that included the 7th New Hampshire, the 100th New York and two Ohio regiments, the 62nd and the 67th.

On July 18 federal artillery fired on Fort Wagner for hours, but, despite the Union soldiers’ wishful thinking, the barrage did little damage. Two brigades were assigned to attack and take the fort, with a third in reserve. George Strong’s brigade, led by the 54th Massachusetts, the African-American regiment under Col. Robert Gould Shaw, was to open the attack, followed by Putnam’s brigade.

Sgt. Ferdinand Davis
Because of the 1989 movie Glory!, the story of the 54th is well-known. The charge was brave but ill-conceived, and the men suffered huge losses.

The same fate awaited the 7th New Hampshire. I told this lesser-known story in Our War through the experience of Ferdinand Davis, a sergeant from Lebanon, N.H. He wrote that during the landing a week earlier two men spooked by the first shelling went to Putnam and asked if they could go to the rear. “To one he gave a kick under the coat tail so vigorous as to nearly lift the fellow off his feet,” Davis wrote.

When the men were ordered forward on July 18, the march to the fort across a narrow neck of sand seemed endless, even at the double-quick. Fort Wagner’s defenders fired solid shell, grapeshot, canister and minie balls at the approaching ranks. “The air was filled with horrors, and the conviction that the damned had broken loose and were holding high carnival on that fated plain was forced upon us,” Davis wrote.

The regiment made it to the fort, and most of Col Putnam's brigade scaled the sand walls. The colnel's horse had been shot out from other him during the advance, and he climbed into the fort with his men. He gathered a small force to lead a charge across the roof of the bombproof inside. In the darkness and confusion he was shot in the head and killed. He was 27 years old.

The 7th New Hampshire lost 41 killed, 119 wounded and 56 missing during the assault on Fort Wagner. Its casualties were similar to those of the 54th Massachusetts, which numbered 34 killed, 146 wounded and 92 captured or missing. This led some white soldiers to complain when the northern press singled out the bravery of the 54th. Calvin Shedd, who missed the battle because of illness, was among them.

Col. Shaw was famously buried with his African-American soldiers, but Putnam’s father wanted his son's body returned to Cornish. William W. Brown, the 59-year-old Manchester doctor who served as the 7th New Hampshire’s surgeon, described the effort to recover it.

“Could I have procured his body and sent it to you I should have felt better about it but that could not be done owing to the savage proclivities of the enemy we are fighting against,” Brown wrote John Putnam 3½ weeks after the battle. “He was buried with the others killed of our men. After his body was asked for under a flag of truce, they found one that resembled him and sent it to our Lt. Col. As such but on examination it was readily discovered to be that of another person and we were obliged to abandon the undertaking.”

[Haldimand S. Putnam's letters to his father are in the Rauner special collections at Dartmouth College. Calvin Shedd's letters are in libraries at the University of Miami and the University of South Carolina. Some of his papers are also at Rauner. The letters quoted here are from Miami digital collection, available online here. Ferdinand Davis's memoir and letters are at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.]

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A gift from the heart

"Sisters," by Monique Pride, has a poignant story behind it.
A woman we know found a gift so special this year that she gave it last week so that the recipient would not cry on Christmas. The woman is Tammy Cloutier, who many years ago looked after our middle son in a nursery school at the YMCA in Concord, N.H. She is now the hairdresser of my wife Monique.

Monique continues to tell people she is a dabbler in painting, but I think she has become an artist. One day when she went to have her hair done, she showed Tammy her painting of one of our grandchildren, the son of the son Tammy had once taught.

Before Monique knew it, she had her first commission, which was at once scary and thrilling. Tammy asked her to make a painting from a photograph of a moment in the lives of two sisters, one of whom is Tammy’s son’s fiancée. She wanted to give the painting to the fiancée – her daughter-in-law-to-be – for Christmas.

The commission was daunting because so much was going on in the photograph. It was a scenic picture, with the two sisters holding hands with their backs to the camera. Just beyond them, a stretch of blue ocean thrashed, and on the island beyond, the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, known popularly as the Nubble Light, loomed above a rocky cliff. The top half of the lighthouse was missing from the photograph.

The sisters, the water, the rocks, the grass, the lighthouse and its surrounding buildings – what a challenge!

But there was more, and it was in the poignancy of the story behind the picture. Tammy’s son’s fiancée and her sister lost the third sister in the family last year. This spot in York, Maine, with its view of the ocean and the lighthouse was a favorite of the sister who died. The two surviving sisters and their family went there to celebrate her life. When the picture was taken, they had just scattered her ashes in a place she loved, and the sisters were holding hands as they bade her goodbye.

I watched Monique make this painting over a period of six weeks. She used techniques she learned from painting classes – even one from Vincent Van Gogh – but the reason I say she has crossed a threshold and become an artist has only a little to do with technique. What I see in her paintings now is vision. She has gained the confidence to paint what she sees rather than be a slave to what is there.

Monique and I have spoken about the painting often as it progressed and as she tried to get each element right without losing sight of the whole.The painting, which she titled “Sisters,” is thus a Christmas gift to Tammy and the sisters and their family and also to Monique and to me.

The gift has been given and tears were indeed shed. Now the painting is in the hands of one for whom on this Christmas and henceforth, it will commemorate not a death too soon but a lovely and loving farewell.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas! A greased pig, a sack race, oysters for supper

Col. Edward E. Cross
The men of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers were feeling pretty good about themselves in the days leading up to Christmas of 1861. They were settling in to their encampment on a hill near Alexandria, Va.

It was known as Camp California in honor of Gen. Bull Sumner, their division commander, who had come east from the Department of the Pacific to take command.. His division also included the Irish Brigade. In all, more than 10,000 men and officers gathered at Camp California.

By Christmas the 5th New Hampshire had been under arms for more than two months but had yet to see battle. Rations now included fresh bread, and the men were about to build warm, sturdy winter huts. On Christmas Eve, Private Charles N. Scott of Co. G, comprising men from Claremont and nearby towns, captured the regiment’s holiday spirits in a letter home.

“I am as fat as a possom and you would not know me if you saw me,” he wrote. “I think that the war is most done and i don’t think England will turn in and fite against the north, no way nor no shape. This afternoon i have been Chopping and driving two horses, drawing wood for the Cooks to Cook for the Company. Tomorrow is Christmas and we are goin to have a little funn.”

The move to Camp California had forced ol. Edward E. Cross’s to cancel a Thanksgiving celebration for the 5th. On Christmas the colonel decided to let “funn” rule the day.

Mark Travis, my co-author of My Brave Boys, a history of the 5th under Cross, wrote the chapter called “Winter Trials,” which included an account of the Christmas day festivities. Here it is:

James E. Larkin
“Drill was canceled on Christmas Day, and Cross ordered athletic entertainment in its place. It was the regiment’s first day off duty since gathering in Concord. At ten o’clock there was a five-hundred-yard footrace, with a first prize of four dollars and a second of two. A wrestling match followed, with prizes of its own. Dinner was oysters and bread, followed by a visit from the Fourth Rhode Island, which produced a contest, too. ‘The R.I. Regiment gave us a treat of fun in the shape of a “Race in a Bag,” ’ Lieutenant Moore wrote his father. ‘Five men from each wing of their Regiment were placed in a large bag which was made fast around their necks. – Taking their places in line, they started for the goal. Some went to the ground, “heels over head,” to the amusement of all present. Only two reached the goal and were worthy of prizes.’

“At three o’clock the Fifth formed for the day’s main event: the chase for a greased pig, provided by the colonel himself. ‘We formed in a square,’ wrote Private John McCrillis, ‘and poor piggy was let loose. After a few minutes he was seized by Pat Rowan, but escaped. Soon he was seized and carried away by a member of Company I.’ A jumping contest concluded the day.

“It was difficult to be so far from home on a holiday – ‘Oh, how I would like to be with you tonight,’ Lieutenant Larkin wrote his wife Jenny – but this was a Christmas that drew the Fifth together. Moore approved because the men never got out of hand. ‘There were no drunken broils or fights so common among a large concourse of men,’ he wrote home. The regiment’s song would be dated to this Christmas Day, twenty verses long and sung to the tune of ‘Camptown Races.’ One verse went like this:

Maj. William W. Cook
“Our colonel he’s a perfect brick, do da, do da,
And with him the boys are bound to stick, do da, do da day
Our major, too, his name is Cook, do da, do da.
Is a first rate man with an ugly look, do da, do da day

“We’re bound to march all night,
We’re bound to march all day,
We’re the boys from the Granite State,
Some hundred miles away.”

At Camp California Cross drilled and marched his men and imbued them with discipline and toughness, but the serious work of war was still remote on that happy, if strenuous, Christmas. One measure of the hard fighting the 5th would face beginning in 1862 is this brief recap of the careers of the men mentioned in this blogpost [ages given are from the fall of 1861, when the men signed up]:

Charles N. Scott, 25, was killed at Fair Oaks, the 5th’s first battle, on June 1, 1862.

William Moore, 20, of Littleton, N.H., was promoted to captain in November of 1862. He was killed at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862.

John McCrillis, 28, of Meredith, was wounded at Fredericksburg, wounded again at Chancellorsville and wounded severely at Ream’s Station. He made captain and survived to leave the army disabled in May of 1865.

Pat Rowan, or Rowen, 40, of Gilford, N.H., a native of Ireland, was wounded at Fair Oaks and never returned to arms.

James E. Larkin, 29, of Concord, eventually made lieutenant colonel and briefly commanded the regiment. But service took a huge toll on his health.

Col. Cross, 29, of Lancaster, was wounded at Fair Oaks, Antietam (slightly) and Fredericksburg and killed at Gettysburg.

William W. Cook, the major, was wounded at Fair Oaks and had to leave the regiment. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

History echoes in an old New Hampshire church

The Congregational Church is on Amherst's town green.
New England is rich in buildings that have witnessed history. Once you learn some of that history, you cannot stand in them without hearing its echoes.

I sensed this again last week as I gave a Civil War talk at the Congregational Church of Amherst, N.H.  Winter came to New Hampshire a little early this year, and snow and ice crunched under my feet as I entered the church hall. 
Although I had to check to make sure, I believed the funeral of a Civil War soldier whose epitaph is one of my favorites had been held in the sanctuary upstairs from where I was to speak. And I knew of another much-admired young Amherst man who had studied to be a Congregational minister before going off to his death during the war.

My friend Dave Morin had sent me a clip about the second soldiers funeral. It came from The Farmers’ Cabinet, the town’s weekly newspaper and main source of information from the front during the Civil War. The article, signed only “Signa,” was published on Oct. 29, 1863. The dead man was Lyman Beecher Sawtelle, named after the Calvinistic preacher who fathered Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher.

Lyman Beecher Sawtelle
Sawtelle began his working life in his early teens as an apprentice printer at the Cabinet office in town. He later moved to Boston, where he decided to become a Congregationalist pastor. He entered Kimball Union Academy in Meriden in 1858 and Dartmouth in 1861.

His Kimball Union principal, Cyrus Richards, wrote of Sawtelle’s three years there: “His religious character during all the time he was with us was consistent with his early consecration. His place was always filled in the religious meeting, public and private. . . . As a scholar, he soon showed, that he would take and maintain a high rank in a most excellent and talented class of forty or fifty. . . . At the time of his graduating, his class voluntarily chose him to pronounce the Valedictory address. He had a terse, manly, bold style of composition, and a truly eloquent and impressive manner of speaking, with one of the best modulated and most powerful voices that I ever heard in so young a man.”

After his freshman year at Dartmouth, Sawtelle joined the 10th New Hampshire Volunteers at the age of 22. He did not flourish as a soldier. His religious and scholarly ways and his physical slightness isolated him. Yet he saw value in what army service taught him.

Sawtelle's gravestone
“The Sophomore year of my class has passed by, and I am no wiser for it, in one sense,” he said after returning home during the summer of 1863. “My Freshman year in the U.S. service will soon be over, and this so far as experience and discipline for life’s work is concerned, will perhaps prove no bad equivalent.”

When Sawtelle fell ill in Virginia, he was sent to the hospital in Hampton, where he found a place to read and write. “Take away my books, papers, &c, and you take away a part of my existence,” he had written home. The assistant surgeon wrote later that Sawtelle had been a patient, a nurse and a ward master at the hospital and that “he stood among the first in my regard, and that of all my officers.”

Sawtelle came home to Amherst and died on Sept. 23, 1863.

For his funeral, Signa wrote, the Congregational meetinghouse in Amherst was “well-nigh filled with mourners.” The young man “who lay before us robed for the grave [was] so changed that those who saw him a year since, buoyant, hopeful, cheerful, full of vigor, failed to recognize their associate and friend. . . . It was not the first gathering in that sacred place, to bury the youthful, noble, patriotic soldier, whose previous life had been offered as a sacrifice upon our country's altar.”

Charles Phelps
Signa was referring, among others, to Charles Phelps, who had recently been sent to the grave from the same church.

Phelps, a 5th New Hampshire sergeant and one of the first volunteers from Amherst, was a good soldier and had risen quickly in the ranks. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, he killed the rebel marksman who had shot Col. Edward E. Cross. The 5th’s monument on the battlefield marks the spot where Cross fell mortally wounded. If you look out from the face of it, you can easily see the boulder behind which the marksman fired. Lt. Col. Charles Hapgood, an Amherst merchant before the war, was talking with Cross when he was hit. He ordered Phelps to shoot the marksman, and Phelps complied. Later that day Phelps was himself shot and killed.

I first visited Phelps’s grave years ago at Amherst’s Meadow View Cemetery, where Sawtelle also lies. Phelps died at 21. His gravestone is tall and white and carries this epitaph: “A young man, but an old soldier.”

As I had hoped, my friend Bob Korkuc arrived early for my talk at Amherst. Bob is the resident expert on Phelps, and he confirmed for me that Phelps’s funeral had been held in this very church a century and a half ago.

During my talk I was able to pause, point upstairs and say that the words on Phelps’s tombstone had come from the eulogy given by the pastor at his funeral. I have found a few earlier uses of the phrase, but I first saw it on Phelps’s grave. It struck me then – and strikes me now – as a particularly apt way of describing the soldier’s experience in Phelps’s war or any other.

Phelps's gravestone at Meadow View Cemetery

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The future of this blog

Two posts from my November trip to Ireland gained the most hits of the blog’s entries of the last two months. continues to focus primarily on the Civil War with an emphasis on New Hampshire's experience, but I have begun expanding the content in recent weeks. Four posts since Oct. 15 on the top 10 list are non-Civil War.

My immediate future as a blogger is somewhat cloudy. In the new year, I might begin following the New Hampshire presidential primary campaign closely, using the blog as the medium. As a working journalist (not that I'm not one now, in a different sense), I took part in the coverage of eight presidential primaries, from 1980 through 2008. I might have the stomach for one more.

I am also negotiating to begin work on the third book in a trilogy on New Hampshire’s Civil War experience. I’ve been thinking about this prospect for more than a year. Last week, on an icy, drizzly night, I spoke to a large and engaged audience at the Amherst Historical Society. The questions were challenging and interesting and led me to think such a book would find an audience. If I pursue this, I will probably use to share research in progress, as I've done from time to time during the last year.

Here are the 10 posts from the last two months with the most reader traffic since Nov. 15:


And here are the top 25 all-time, ranging in hits from 128 to 526. The numbers in parentheses are last month’s rankings:


14. My friend Chester (14)

22. A gruesome death (20)

23. (tie) ‘Curses to Old Abe’ (25)

             One school’s proud Civil War heritage (–)

Friday, December 13, 2013

When past meets present

I was given some books from the library of David Herbert Donald, the teacher, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Lincoln biographer, after his death in 2009. Lacking shelf space myself, I chose with care. At the time I was researching the antislavery movement in New Hampshire and was pleased but not surprised to find a good run of relevant books in Donald’s library. He had, after all, grown up on a Mississippi cotton farm before developing a national perspective and a sterling reputation as an American historian.

Many of his books about slavery now fill a shelf on a bookcase upstairs, and I sometimes pull one out. I’d love to read them all cover-to-cover, but that’s a pipe dream.

David H. Donald (1920-2009) in the library at his house in Lincoln, Mass.
In this regard, Donald did far better than I expect to, as most of the books bear his neat penciled markings. His habit was to draw a vertical line down the outside margin of a passage and place a small check mark beside the line. When I come to one of these, I pause to wonder why he checked that particular sentence or phrase. Because he agreed with it? Because it gave him an aha moment? Because it caught the heart of the author’s judgment? I wish he were still around so I could ask him.

The other day I took out Donald's copy of American Negro Slavery by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, a leading early 20th century historian. Like Donald, Phillips had southern roots, a lucid writing style and an Ivy League pedigree.

An ambitious researcher in original records of large southern plantations, Phillips concluded that “plantation slavery was not very profitable, had about reached its limits in 1860, and would probably have faded away without the American Civil War, which he considered a needless conflict,” according to his Wikipedia entry. “He praised the entrepreneurship of plantation owners and denied they were brutal. Phillips argued that they provided adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care and training in modern technology – that they formed a ‘school’ which helped ‘civilize’ the slaves. He admitted the failure was that no one graduated from this school.”

The Wikipedia entry also assesses where Phillips’s work fits into scholarship on slavery. “The Phillips school asked, what did slavery do for the slaves? [The answer] was that slavery lifted the slaves out of the barbarism of Africa, Christianized them, protected them, and generally benefited them. Scholarship in the 1950s then moved to the question, what did slavery do to the slaves, and concluded it was a harsh and profitable system. More recently, scholars . . . asked, ‘What did slaves do for themselves?’ They concluded [that] through family, community and religion, slaves struggled for a measure of independence and dignity.”

For his groundbreaking work, Ulrich Bonnell
Phillips (1877-1934)  found and used plantation
records other  historians had ignored.
I have just begun reading American Negro Slavery, but I found an arresting paragraph in Phillips’s preface. The book was published in 1918, and Phillips wrote the preface at Camp Gordon, Ga. When he was there, Jim Crow ruled the South, and the United States was engaged in World War I. Here is the passage, which reminds us as readers to consider how a historian’s view of the present might affect how he or she sees the past:

“My sojourn in a National Army Camp in the South while this book has been going through the press has reinforced my earlier conviction that Southern racial asperities are mainly superficial, and that the two great elements are fundamentally in accord. That the harmony is not a new thing is evinced by the very tone of the camp. The men of the two races are of course quartered separately; but it is a daily occurrence for white Georgian troops to go to the negro companies to seek out their accustomed friends and compare home news and experiences. The negroes themselves show the same easy-going, amiable, serio-comic obedience and the same personal attachments to white men, as well as the same sturdy light-heartedness and the same love of laughter and of rhythm, which distinguished their forbears. The non-commissioned officers among them show a punctilious pride of place which matches that of the plantation foremen of old; and the white officers who succeed best in the command of these companies reflect the planter’s admixture of tact with firmness of control, the planter’s firmness of instruction, and his crisp though cordial reciprocation of sentiment. The negroes are not enslaved but drafted; they dwell not in cabins but in barracks; they shoulder the rifle, not the hoe; but the visitor to their company streets in evening hours enters nevertheless a plantation atmosphere. A hilarious party dashes in pursuit of a fugitive, and gives him lashes with a belt ‘moderately laid on.’ When questioned, the explanation is given that the victim is ‘a awnrooly nigger’ whose ways must be mended. In the quiet which follows, a throng fills the quarter with an old-time unmartial refrain:

I ain’ go’ study war no mo’,
I ain’ go’ study war no mo’,
Study war no mo’.

“. . . It may be that the change of African nature by plantation slavery has been exaggerated. At any rate a generation of freedom has wrought less transformation in the bulk of the blacks than might casually be supposed.”

Professor David’s copy of Phillips’s book was a 1952 reprint, not the 1918 edition. He put one of his pencil marks beside the last two quoted sentences. What did those lines evince in him? Agreement? Skepticism? An assertion to be weighed against the text to come? I don’t know the answer.

I can tell you what stopped me in the passage: the word freedom. I understand that the word was used simply as the opposite of slavery, but I wonder if Professor Phillips, a Georgian himself, really believed that the freedom he took for granted was the same as the freedom he claimed for African-Americans. For them separate was not equal. Educational opportunity was not equal. Voting rights were denied or at least proscribed. Fear and intimidation were common. To display evidence of material success or intelligence was dangerous. The Ku Klux Klan was riding high. Whites perpetrated and tolerated lynching.

In fact, 64 African-Americans were lynched in the South in 1918, the year Phillips wrote his preface. Eighteen lynchings occurred in Georgia, including a mid-May rampage in Valdosta during which 10 were lynched.

One of the 10 was Mary Turner, eight months pregnant, who had the audacity to protest the innocence of her husband after he was lynched. Local whites set out to “teach her a lesson.” On May 19, 1918, a mob of hundreds hanged her by the ankles from a bridge, doused her with gasoline and ignited her. Before she died, a man in the mob slit open her belly, and the fetus fell to the ground, where the mob stomped it to death.

I don’t mean to suggest that Phillips accepted or condoned this state of affairs, but his reading of the jovial “plantation atmosphere” he witnessed at Camp Gordon strikes me as the work of a historian wearing blinders.

His book has a few passages on lynching. He traces its roots to antebellum times, using as one of several examples a Georgia case in which a judge condemned an African-American defendant to death. White residents who believed the jury got the verdict wrong petitioned the governor, who bought their argument and pardoned the convict. A lynch mob quickly turned the pardon into a death warrant.

Later in the book, in what seems to me a casual, rationalizing, almost forgiving assessment, Phillips wrote: “Rural Southern lynch law in that period . . . was in large part a special product of the sparseness of population and the resulting weakness of legal machinery, for as Olmsted* justly remarked in the middle ’fifties, the whole South was virtually in a frontier condition. In the post bellum decades, on the other hand, an increase of racial antipathy has offset the effect of the densification of settlement and has abnormally prolonged the liability to the lynching impulse.”

Living in times when memories of the immediate past are fresh can be enabling for historians. Phillips took full advantage of his chance to research slavery in the South while some of the old plantations were still active and documents about them were readily available. But living in their own times can also limit historians. Phillips seemed unable to see that what he called “freedom” for African-Americans in the South was a woefully debased version of the freedom he himself enjoyed.

I am not surprised to know as I wade into American Negro Slavery that Phillips concluded that slave-owners were benevolent, not brutal, and that slavery would have withered away without the Civil War. These opinions are consistent with his rosy view of life in the South half a century after slavery was abolished.

*Frederick Law Olmsted, a renowned 19th century landscape architect and social critic.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Glorifying the past

Jackson and Grace in the replica of the Oval Office at the Jimmy Carter museum in Atlanta.
On a visit to Atlanta last month we spent an afternoon at the museum at Jimmy Carter’s presidential library. We took two of our grandchildren, Grace and Jackson, who endure their grandfather’s history bug with patience and sometimes even enthusiasm.

This was the first time they had accompanied Monique and me to a historical site where we had lived through the history being presented, and it introduced a new dynamic. As we viewed the blowups of the grinning Carter and his family, videotape of his finest moments and displays heralding his admirable post-presidency, I kept wanting to stop and say to the kids, “Yes, but . . .”

The museum does not ignore the crises of the Carter presidency: double-digit inflation, long lines at gas stations, the taking of American hostages in Iran. But neither does it convey what it was like, as a citizen, to endure the Carter presidency.

Jimmy and Rosalynn and Grace and Jackson
The malaise speech” sums up the frustration. Before this televised address in the summer of 1979, Carter had literally gone to the mountain. He invited politicians and experts to Camp David to speak their minds in private and help him decide what to do about energy and the economy. As Carter closeted with his advisers, public anticipation grew. What would he say?

The speech included ideas about energy independence, but for the most part Carter delivered a ruminative talk about the “crisis of confidence” of the American people, the scourge of materialism, the lack of faith and togetherness. Despite the president’s urging, the speech left people not rolling up their sleeves but rolling their eyes and scratching their heads.

In November 1979, Iranians took 52 Americans hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and the Carter presidency began to drip away. A mission to rescue them the following April ended with U.S. helicopters twisted and broken in the desert and eight servicemen dead. Newspapers, including the Union Leader in Manchester, N.H., ran a front-page box each morning with a count of how many days the hostages had been held.

Because of the crisis, Carter remained in Washington rather than hitting the campaign trail. This became known as “the Rose Garden strategy,” and it failed. Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged Carter from the left in the primaries, and Ronald Reagan easily beat him in the 1980 election. The hostages in Iran were freed on the last full day of Carter’s presidency.

At the museum in Atlanta, Carter’s voice speaks in good-natured tones about how his presidency ended four years before he had hoped it would. I suppose it is a blessing that he was able to move on from the desperation and frustration of his presidency. Possibly he adopted the same rosy, self-forgiving view that dominates the museum display. 

Carter came to office as a healer, one who would help America move beyond Watergate and Vietnam. Instead, I remember him, especially in the second half of his term, as the central figure in a country that was adrift and rudderless.

I’ve been to many presidential libraries, museums and homes, including the Carter museum at Plains, Ga. It’s only natural that these sites accentuate the positive. I just hadn’t realized the extent of that glorification until I visited the Carter museum in Atlanta.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

For some, the battle of Olustee rages on

Nearly two years ago, while researching Our War, I visited the battlefield at Olustee, Fla. After seeing its shabby state, I wrote a column for the Tampa Bay Times suggesting improvements and additions. The column, which ran on April 1, 2012, caused a stir. Reaction to it is typified by these remarks on the Jacksonville Fox television station’s website:

The Farrand brothers of Fisherville, N.H.,
(now Penacook) were both wounded at
Olustee while fighting with the 7th New
Hampshire Volunteers. Joseph (below)
died on the way to Andersonville. Robert
(above) was blinded but survived several
months at the prison camp and made it
Their stories are told in Our War.
From Grandma12: “Please read the article from the Tampa Bay Times entitled, “Florida’s one-sided Civil War Battlefield” written by Mike Pride. . . . After reading, no doubt will remain with most readers that Mr. Pride has alternative motives in his opinions & goals. He is one of the driving forces behind the attempt to have another Union monument erected in front of a long standing marker honoring Confederate soldiers.”

From Chuck: “Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga Battlefield both have monuments to units fighting for both sides.”

From Pat Hines: “The Yankee murderers killed over 500,000 of my people. Any memorial to them is no different than having a memorial to any other serial killer in the last 50 years. Even the idea of honoring the thugs that came into our land disgusts me.”

From Chantel66:Where can I go to sign the petition to get a Union memorial there too? Both sides died there, and their sacrifices should be recognized. If the south wants to keep fighting the war, then fight fair and have both sides involved.” 

I have not followed the ins and outs of what has happened since the column appeared, but the Florida Legislature is now involved. As far as I know, there is no chance anything significant will be done to improve the battlefield interpretation by the 150th anniversary of the battle, now 2½ months away.

In a later post on this blog, I’ll share the little I know about recent debate over Olustee. But for now, here’s the column as it ran:

Florida’s biggest Civil War battle was fought at Olustee, a settlement between Lake City and Jacksonville. The battlefield, which became Florida’s first state park a century ago, is sacred ground. You just wouldn’t know this by the looks of the place.

The battle was fought on Feb. 20, 1864. Union Gen. Truman Seymour led a force of 5,500 soldiers, including three black regiments, inland from Jacksonville. Confederate Gen. James Finegan knew Seymour was coming and assembled a force of nearly equal size to meet his. Finegan’s troops, mainly Georgians, turned the Yankees back after a four-hour battle fought at close range.

Seymour lost more than 1,800 men killed, wounded and captured; the rebels more than 900. Although these numbers were small compared to casualties at places like Antietam and Gettysburg, Seymour had lost nearly a third of his force. Dozens of his wounded and captured died at Andersonville prison in Georgia.

I grew up and worked in Florida before moving to New Hampshire in 1978. For years I have been researching a book about my adopted state’s Civil War experience. Whenever possible, I walk in the footsteps of the soldiers I write about. Because the 7th New Hampshire Infantry regiment fought at Olustee, I visited the battlefield in early March.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy
placed this tablet at Olustee in honor of Joseph
Finnegan, the general who won the battle.
The Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is on U.S. Route 90. You turn north off the highway and drive across the railroad tracks and into the park. In a small building there, you can see a film about the battle. Behind the building are a large obelisk and two stone monuments erected during the first half of the 20th century.

To a transplanted Northerner, the words on the monuments were the first shock. They were written during a time when many Southerners embraced the lost cause. On one facade of the obelisk a Confederate flag was engraved. I figured that in the spirit of postwar reunion, Old Glory would be carved on the other side, but in fact all the engraved flags were Confederate.

Then I read the inscription: “To the men who fought and triumphed here in defense of their homes and firesides, this monument is erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in commemoration of their devotion to liberty and state sovereignty.”

Liberty? Hmmmm. Liberty for all? Hardly. And state sovereignty? This was at issue in the war, but leading secessionists used the idea mainly to preserve slavery and break up the union. Hadn’t the Union victory settled the constitutional line between state and national sovereignty? Hadn’t thousands of Northern soldiers sacrificed their lives for the idea that Southern views on state sovereignty were treasonous?

As for the battlefield, it didn’t look as it did in 1864. Then, it was mainly open ground with a few pines. Now, as part of the Osceola National Forest, it is thickly planted. On the marked trail through the field, the plaques with battle information are weather-worn and hard to read. Many of them face the wrong direction.

The Olustee battlefield should be restored to its 1864 appearance. The interpretation of the battle should be updated and enhanced, as it has been on the park’s terrific website. With both state and federal jurisdiction, the bureaucratic hurdles to such change might be high, but with the 150th anniversary of the battle nearly two years away, now is the time to start.

A new interpretation of the battle should seek to answer several questions. Two come to mind: How did black and white Union soldiers regard each other as they fought side by side? After the battle, how extensive was the Confederate soldiers’ killing of wounded black soldiers?

When Seymour’s force retreated, it left most of its dead and wounded. Following the custom for both armies, the rebels stripped the Union dead and buried them in shallow graves on the field. Two years later, an army detachment was sent to Olustee to find the Union graves. Roving wild pigs had dug up many of them, and bleached bones littered the field. The soldiers gathered two wagon-loads of bones and buried them in a mass grave. Either vandals or the weather long ago erased any trace of this burial spot.

Thus somewhere near the Olustee battlefield is a truly hallowed place. It contains the mingled dust of black soldiers and white who lost a battle together. Like the Southern defenders at Olustee, these soldiers, whoever and wherever they are, deserve a far fuller and more fitting remembrance than the battlefield now provides.

[Here is a link to an earlier post that includes info about the 7th New Hampshire at Olustee.]

Friday, December 6, 2013

'The whole face of nature smiled at harvest-time'

14th New Hampshire camp near Berryville, Va. Winchester and the regiment's first trial by fire were a 10-mile march away.
As Private Francis H. Buffum sat in the 14th New Hampshire regiment’s camp nursing a minor wound on the night of Sept. 19, 1864, he overheard a soldier telling others about a body he had seen on the battlefield. The dead man was Francis H. Buffum.

Such was the aftermath of battle, a new experience for the 14th, which in two years under arms had never fought before this day.

Cap of a Co. K soldier. Nine members of this company
were killed at Winchester, most of any in the 14th.
The morning had begun in the moonlight of almost-autumn in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The men of the regiment rose at 2 a.m., ate breakfast, broke camp near Berryville and set out for Winchester, ten miles away.

It was a leisurely march. Lt. Carroll D. Wright, a native of Dunbarton, N.H., who lived in Swanzey, was serving that day as acting assistant adjutant general on the brigade staff. He heard joking and laughter as the men marched off. When the sun rose, Wright noted that “the whole face of nature smiled at harvest-time.”

The men fell still when they encountered wounded cavalry skirmishers returning from somewhere up ahead, but what struck Wright was the beauty of the advance and of an army poised for battle. He saw the brigade cross a creek and disappear into a hollow. At around 11 a.m. the men came to a halt on open ground and formed in two ranks.

Before them was a lovely landscape: a wood, an uneven field, another belt of trees in the distance. In the second wood the rebel infantry stood ready to meet the Yankees.

Brig. Gen. Henry W. Birge
Bugles heralded the grand advance at noon. “The old, but infinitely beautiful, panorama of all battlefields, made still more impressive by the natural aspects of this most lovely of valleys, was spread before and around,” Wright wrote. “Away to the bases of the Blue Ridge and the Cumberland faded stretches of forest, and fields dotted by dwellings, sparkling with streams, and glowing with the kisses of approaching autumn.”

On the advance, Brigadier General Henry W. Birge’s brigade of the Second Division of the 19th Corps surged ahead of the rest. This was the 14th New Hampshire’s brigade, and the regiment began to lose men in the open field even before it reached the rebel line. Once it entered the second wood, the fighting became fierce. Wright watched as the Second Division was “hurled back into the clearing, stunned, mangled, and shattered.”

But it was the rebel line that broke that day, and to cries of “Forward!” the Union troops pursued the enemy.

The Union victory at what became known as the Third Battle of Winchester, or Opequon, was bittersweet for the 14th New Hampshire. Flag-bearers and officers had been particular targets during its charge, and the regiment had lost 53 men and officers killed or mortally wounded. Ninety others had been wounded.

Because the regiment moved on with the rest of the troops in pursuit of the rebels, there was no time to sort out the bodies. Many comrades were wounded and lay either on the field or in hospitals. Twenty-nine members of the 14th were buried in a mass grave on the battlefield.  Later they were dug up and moved to the national cemetery in Winchester. Not until 1868 did veterans of the regiment gather to dedicate an obelisk to them.

Alexander Gardiner, colonel of the 14th N.H.
Alexander Gardiner had been mustered as a colonel and the 14th’s commanding officer just the day before the battle. Gardiner was a 31-year-old lawyer from Claremont, N.H., a graduate of Kimball Union Academy in Meriden who had brought a printing press to Kansas during the troubles there in the 1850s. During the battle he had been shot trying to re-form the regiment’s line in the field between the two woods. He lived until Oct. 8 and was buried in Claremont.

After the battle, the regiment bivouacked along a stream just south of Winchester, expecting to move out again the next morning. As darkness fell, soldiers straggled in and their comrades greeted them with relief. It was from one of these late-comers that Private Buffum overheard the news of his own death.

At 10 o’clock that night the men were called into line for a company roll call. “It was almost cruel,” Buffum later wrote. As the long alphabetical lists were read, men called out, “Dead!” or “Killed!” or “Wounded!” Sometimes a name was called, and there was only silence in response.  

The headcount made things seem even worse than they were. As it turned out, a quarter of the living unwounded had not yet come in.

When Buffum wrote the regimental history nearly 20 years later, he tried to produce not just an accurate count but also to honor the dead with brief accounts of who they were and how they died.

The first man hit was Cpl. Charles A. Ball, a 22-year-old color-bearer from Winchester, N.H. He died after a month in the hospital. Another member of the color guard, Cpl. George W. Hazen of Dublin, N.H., was shot in the neck carrying the state flag and died quickly.

In addition to Gardiner, the 14th lost seven officers. Like the colonel, Capt. William Henry Chaffin and Lt. Henry S. Paul were from Claremont, a Connecticut River town that suffered enormous loss during the war.
Chaffin was a graduate of Kimball Union and also attended Norwich Military Academy in Vermont. He was shot through the head early in the battle. His father died a day or two later at home. Even though Chaffin’s body did not make it to Claremont, both men were honored at a single funeral service.

Capt. William A. Fosgate of Winchester, N.H.,
died  leading Co. B of the 14th to battle. While
home on furlough eight months earlier, he had
married Frances Hosmer of Fisherville, N.H.
His promotion to captain followed shortly.
Paul, who had been in the meat business before the war, was shot in the leg, but as a private helped him from the field, a second Minié ball hit him in the head. He had initially served under Chaffin. They were buried together on the field.

Two of the dead had come to the regiment by circuitous routes. Private Sidney H. Young, a Rochester native, lived in New Orleans when war broke out and was conscripted into the rebel army. He deserted in June 1862 and fell in with the Bucktails, the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves. Later that summer, he came north to Westmoreland and joined the 14th. Conrad Webber was a 55-year-old veteran of the Swiss army with a bullet in his arm to prove it. He had emigrated from Switzerland and settled in Stoddard, N.H., in 1852. His son, also named Conrad, died of disease serving with the 2nd New Hampshire in 1863. Wounded and captured at Winchester, the elder Pvt. Webber died in Salisbury prison three months later.

Three men each from Claremont, Dublin and Winchester were killed and four from Richmond. One of the Richmond dead was 21-year-old Pvt. Otis A. Barrus, who had joined the regiment on Sept. 17, two days before marching to battle.

Now he lies with comrades he scarcely knew, men buried first on the field and later at the monument in the National Cemetery in Winchester.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Remembering Lincoln: 'With all this rough exterior, he had a character of singular goodness, beauty and force.'

Andrew Johnson
President Andrew Johnson proclaimed June 1, 1865, “a day of humiliation and mourning” for Abraham Lincoln. He bade Americans to “assemble in their respective places of worship, there to unite in solemn service to Almighty God in memory of the good man who has been removed, so that all shall be occupied at the same time in contemplation of his virtues and in sorrow for his sudden and violent end.”

All across the North, citizens complied with this proclamation. They gathered in statehouses, city halls and churches to hear politicians, pastors, priests and rabbis deliver long, florid eulogies for the martyred president.

In Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, the eulogist was U.S. Sen. Daniel Clark, who had been a lawyer in the city and had known Lincoln. He was almost exactly Lincoln's age, having been born in Stratham, N.H., on Oct. 24, 1809. A loyal Republican, Clark had opposed the extension of slavery into the territories before the war. During Senate debates late in the war, he had described abolition as a just and natural war objective.

With the New Hampshire Legislature now poised to take up the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, Clark used his eulogy for Lincoln to make a political point.

Sen. Daniel Clark
He argued that the slave power had been trying to kill Lincoln from the beginning of his presidency. He did not claim that Confederate leaders had hired John Wilkes Booth for the job, only that the South’s actions had incited him. “Twice, certainly, it had sought his life before – at Baltimore and at the second inauguration – for he had been slavery’s sturdiest foe.”

Clark described what he saw as a serious plot to kill the president as he came through Baltimore on the way to Washington for his first inauguration in 1861. The reference to the second inauguration is a bit mysterious, but one possibility is that Clark’s fellow New Hampshireman, Benjamin Brown French, had told him about an encounter with Booth at the Capitol on inauguration day, March 4, 1865.

French, Lincoln’s commissioner of public buildings, was responsible for security at the inauguration. In a letter six weeks after the assassination, he wrote that he and one of his police officers had stopped a man he now realized was Booth. You can read about my discovery of this letter here and read the letter here.

In his eulogy, Clark said that political assassination had until now been a European phenomenon.  The southern passion for slavery, he said, had brought it to American shores. His argument for abolishing slavery ran like this: “Will men hang the drapery of mourning about their doors and in their windows for the President slain, and still plead for or excuse an institution which sought his life from the day of his first election to the day of his death, which is finally accomplished?”

Clark also talked about the Lincoln he had known, although he began by saying: “Many of you have seen him, and need no description.” This was a reference to Lincoln’s speech at Smyth Hall in Manchester on March 1, 1860, three days after Cooper Union. Frederick Smyth, a banker, former mayor and owner of the city block that included the hall, introduced Lincoln that night as “the next president of the United States.”

The Manchester Daily American reported that one of Lincoln's best points that night was his response to this question: “What will satisfy the demands of the South upon the subject of Slavery?”

“We must not only let them alone, but we must convince them that we do let them alone,” Lincoln said. “This is no easy task. In all our speeches, resolutions and platforms, we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but it has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

“These natural and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join with them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly. We must place ourselves avowedly with them.”

Clark had seen Lincoln often in Washington. His description of him reinforced the idea of a man whose almost comical ugliness belied his big mind and even bigger heart. “His figure was large, his limbs large, and, as someone said of Chief Justice John Marshall’s, hung loosely as if strung on wires,” Clark said. “His muscles were small, joints angular, features large and marked, motions ungraceful, posture unseemly, and his carriage and general appearance undignified.

“But with all this rough exterior, he had a character of singular goodness, beauty and force. . . . He was mirthful as a child, gentle as a woman, resolute as a man, sagacious as a statesman, grave as a judge and merciful as an angel in Heaven. . . . There was an apparent complexity of character, and yet such was its wondrous simplicity, or rather transparency, that one could not be with him a single half hour and not feel that he was a man upon whom the utmost reliance could be placed – who said what he thought and meant what he said.”

Edwin M. Stanton
Clark recalled a fretful visit with Lincoln on July 2, 1862. Public anxiety consumed Washington. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s great army was retreating across the Virginia Peninsula, and rumors filled the air. The last of the Seven Days battles, at Malvern Hill, had been fought the previous day, but in the capital reliable news of the fate of the army was nowhere to be heard.

Clark went directly to the war department, where he found Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Lincoln looked dejected, but initially neither man would tell Clark what he knew. It was Lincoln who finally recognized he was dealing with a reliable colleague and relented. For an hour he told Clark about “the fearful disaster” on the Peninsula.

When they met much later, Lincoln took him aside and said of this encounter: “You are the man to whom I came nearer to telling a lie than to any other man in my life. The truth is, affairs were so bad I did not at first dare to tell you.”

By he time gave his eulogy, the tide of history had probably turned toward abolition with such force that the 13th Amendment would have been ratified even without Lincoln’s martyrdom. But speeches like Clark's, given all across the North on this national day of mourning, no doubt discouraged dissenting voices.

Frederick Smyth
Smyth, Lincoln’s introducer in 1860, was New Hampshire’s governor-elect when Clark spoke in 1865. A week later, in his inaugural address, he took up Clark’s call for ratification of the 13th Amendment. Then he went a step further.

“I shall feel that the great purpose of this war is not attained, the great lesson of this punishment not learned until free schools, free churches and a free ballot are established wherever the federal authority extends,” Smyth said. “Let us take courage and make the brutal assassination of our most noble President – that most wicked fruit of a barbarous system – a synonym for universal suffrage, under such safeguards as wise legislation may provide.”

The Legislature ratified the 13th Amendment on July 1, its first day in session, a month to the day after Clark’s eulogy and three weeks after Smyth’s inauguration.

Clark resigned from the Senate a year later after losing a re-election bid and came home to New Hampshire, where President Johnson appointed him to a federal judgeship. He served as the U.S. district judge in New Hampshire until his death in 1891 at the age of 81.